Letter from Charles S. Peirce to his mother Sarah Mills
(Chambéry, 16.11.1870)



Spanish translation & annotations

Chambéry 1870 16 November

Dearest mother- I continue the letter I began to you a few days ago in the car. I was compelled to stop over one day at Narbonne by excessive fatigue. These European railway journeys are very fatiguing unless the carriage is nearly empty & you have the best seat. Last night I rode all night with nobody in the carriage but a very pretty young  lady going to her home in Grenoble. When we arrived there she was kind enough to see that I got a good breakfast looking out for me for the runner of a particular restaurant. I didn’t happen to want any breakfast but of course after that I had to take some. Today I saw Mt. Blanc but not much of him her or it as the gender may be because of clouds afterwards rain. I arrived here at noon & it was raining hard & so I have seen but little of the town.

But let me devote a line or two to Narbonne because probably no one ever went there before. The country inn was very comfortable. The room carpeted, spring bed nice furniture & waring blazing crackling wood fire in my room –much needed for it was cold. The streets quite entertaining & novel but not much like the caricatures of provincial life in the journal Amusant. I saw the church -the choir of what would have been a  great affair but no more finished. Late gothic. Flamboyant. Also a museum very very much beyond the one at Southampton really good & interesting yet you could not help thinking that if the families who contributed to it had kept their things the sum of the interest of their various collections would have been greater than when they were collected together. It made too many things. Some of the modern pictures there



were extremely good. By the way at Madrid there is a statue half reclining of a woman by an artist now living Marissa I think is the name which is one of the most beautiful things I have seen. Canova’s statues & some few pieces of modern art make one feel that all this age needs in order quite to eclipse all others in art is the Motive –but that you see is totally wanting. Art is a mere plaything or luxury now. What are our artists! Are they the representative men of our age at all or do they even at all comprehend it? The difficulty is our age has no belief; it doesn’t half believe in itself even. As long as that is so it yet asks for critics & scientific men & not artists.

Since I have been in Europe I have heard no less than eighteen totally distinct languages spoken. 1 English. 2 Dutch. 3 German. 4 Bohemian a very strange tongue. 5 Hungarian equally strange but no relation to Bohemian. 6 Slavic. 7 Wallachian. 8 Turkish. 9 Arabic the most inarticulate of all. 10 Persian. 11 Armenian. 12 Greek. 13 Malayan the sweetest & most musical of all. 14 Italian. 15 French. 16 Spanish. 17 Gypsy. 18 Basque a language having no relation to any other in the world. With the exception of the Malay I have been in places where all these are habitually spoken. The Spanish speak as if they had pebbles in their mouth which makes it very difficult to catch the distinction of their sounds. Aunt Mary Stanton would speak good Spanish perhaps.

Tomorrow I start about 11 1/2 for Turin which I reach about the same time at night. Next morning early to Milan where twelve hours from 10 AM to 10 PM. Then to Venice where about the same space of time. Then to Gratz which I reach the  next PM & then to Vienna so that I reach Vienna Monday 21st 5 1/2 PM. I left Florence on this Spanish hurry-skurry Oct. 28.

This travelling about alone is good to teach a man the gift of silence. You wont find me such a rattle pate when I return.

I made three purchases in Spain. First a blanket very hideous but very comfortable of Spanish wool with coarse & ugly Gypsy embroidery in worsted on it. Good to keep me warm in the Cars. Second a handsome old fan. Sticks of mother of pearl. Richly not very finely painted. Third a dozen photographs of the originals of pictures in Madrid. I saw some things in Spain which almost broke

my heart. It is a great place & a wonderful for all antique rarities. Two exquisite medieval manuscripts –beautiful miniatures on every other leaf– wonderfully beautiful & exquisite things to look at for hours. One had been bought by a gentleman at Madrid for $200 the other by an eminent French artist in Granada for $125. Either of them would sell for $700 in London (150 pounds) I will venture to say. Both were books of scriptural extracts in Latin. The taste for decoration at the end of the thirteenth & early part of the 14th centuries was wonderful certainly.



Transcription by Sara Barrena (2009)
Una de las ventajas de los textos en formato electrónico respecto de los textos impresos es que pueden corregirse con gran facilidad mediante la colaboración activa de los lectores que adviertan erratas, errores o simplemente mejores transcripciones. En este sentido agradeceríamos que se enviaran todas las sugerencias y correcciones a sbarrena@unav.es
Proyecto de investigación "La correspondencia europea de C. S. Peirce: creatividad y cooperación científica (Universidad de Navarra 2007-09)

Fecha del documento: 18 de mayo 2009
Última actualización: 14 de septiembre 2017
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