Letter from GEORGE P. MARSH to CHARLES E. NORTON, dated April 1881.

Primary tabs

Page: of 3
Download: PDF (6.82 MiB)
Publication InformationRomeApril 1881

Page 1

My dear Mr Norton

I am much obliged to you for your interesting of which I certainly had not merited by any recent contributions to the international postal service, to your address, between Italy and the U. States. I had not even acknowledged your valuable volume of studies. This is my excuse; the vol. arrived when I was absent from Florence, and on my return I found a great accumulation of business which be attended to, , and which occupied me until I came to Rome. I did not however neglect to examine the volume enough to see that it was of much historical and critical value, but I am ashamed to say that I did not even ascertain what value you set on the religious spirit that animated the medieval builders, which I hold in the same estimation as I do as that of the "" of the architects and sculptors of Mekong and of Boro Boddor. I will confess besides, that though my hand is not paralyzed, it is nevertheless so stiffened by
- - - - - - - -
that I make inability to write an excuse for many epistolary shortcomings

Your archaeological association promises much

Page 2

good work and will, I doubt not, more than fulfil its promises. I wish some American money & American energy might be spent on Italian soil, where I believe there is still more, not of antiquity only, but of art, the sod, than or it. Lanciani has done a good thing by his [...] in his epigraphy of the Colosseum, and the government even does what it can, by retrenching the foolish expenditures in big ships and big guns, and saving a little for better purposes. I am afraid, however that the Moltke's argument to show that the chief end of man is to mutilate and slay his fellow men, is doing a good deal still further to demoralize Europe, already infatuated with admiration of murderers in uniform. In Italy indeed, we do not insist on the , but worship an assasin , and hold that a righteous indignation against crime is worse than crime itself. I cannot make Italy an exception to the pessimistic views which I entertain with regard to the future of all modern governments. Signs of progress, indeed there are, and men superior to their age but they are but ; the masses are sinking lower and lower; the old [national?] superstitions are reviving, one sign of which among many is the restoration of the old festas--days of idleness & vice. Witness the late Carneval, more costly and more brutal than any for the last 30 years. The administration of criminal justice is a pure mockery, and serves rather to protect than to punish crime. I have [no?] hope except in the better education of women, which may teach [... ...] to repect themselves by compelling men to respect them. My observation of American society, as [I] have studied it abroad, has forced [...] me the conviction, that, with the important exception of the progress of woman, there has been no intellectual gain within the two generations I have been familiar with since my school boy days. better scholars are now trained indeed, but the are below the standard of 60 years since. I used to think ignorance was essentially negative, a mere vacuous defect of knowledge. I now regard it as a positive quality, that does not come by nature, but is laboriously acquired, a darkness that can be felt. I believe that the reading of flashy novels is the principal agency in the intellectual degradation which

Page 3

appears to me as common in England as with us. Its most conspicuous effect in England is the rehabilitation of Popery, which really seems to threaten the [...] establishment of Vaticanism as the national fetichism. But enough of these fancies of a dotard, which will perhaps prove to you that there are among Americans.

Very truly yours,Geo P Marsh.Prof C E Norton

References in this letter:

Historical Studies of Church Building in the Middle Ages: Venice, Siena, Florence, 1880.

"on pain of excommunication"

Ralph Waldo Emerson, "The Problem," lines 19-21: "The hand that rounded Peter's dome / And groined the aisles of Christian Rome / Wrought in a sad sincerity;"

The Hindu, later Buddhist, temples at Angkor, in present-day Cambodia, although not on the Mekong river, are in its drainage basin. The temples were constructed between the tenth and twelfth centuries.

Borobudur, on the island of Java, is the world's largest Buddhist monument, built about A.D. 800.

from the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite, lines 244, 247.

The Archaeological Institute of America was founded in 1879.

Marsh's library contains Rodolfo Lanciani's Inscrizioni dell' Anfiteatro flavio, 1880.

Count Helmuth von Moltke (1800-1891) was chief of the Prussian general staff 1858-88.

A struldbrug, from the third book of Swift's Gulliver's Travels, is a person who has eternal life but decays both physically and mentally as he ages.