Vienna, February 17, 1863.
My Dearest Little Mary: I hope that you will accept this note from me as the family contribution for to-day.
I assure you, when you know Vienna as well as we do, you will agree that to screw out a letter once a week is a Kunststück to be proud of. I can't very well write to you, as I write to the State Department, about the movements in Montenegro, the Polish insurrection, or the Prussian-French treaty of commerce, although I dare say these things would amuse you about as much as they do the people at Washington just now, where they have so much other fish to fry. To-day is the last day of the carnival, which we celebrate by remaining calmly within doors in the bosom of our respected family. The great ball at Prince Schwarzenberg's took place last Sunday, so that we were obliged respectfully but firmly to decline. Soon begins the season of “salons.” Now, if there is one thing more distasteful to me than a ball, it is a salon. Of course I don't object to young people liking to dance, and the few balls in the great houses here are as magnificent festivals as could be got up anywhere, and Lily had always plenty of partners and danced to her heart's content, notwithstanding that nearly all the nice youths of the French and English embassies have been transplanted to other realms. But I think that no reasonable being ought to like a salon. There are three topics — the Opera, the Prater, the Burg Theater; when these are exhausted, you are floored. Conversazioni where the one thing that does not exist is conversation are not the most cheerful of institutions.
The truth is that our hostile friends the English spoil me for other society. There is nothing like London or England in the social line on the Continent. The Duke of Argyll writes to me pretty constantly, and remains a believer in the justice of our cause, although rather desponding as to the issue; and Mr. John Stuart Mill, who corresponds with me regularly and is as enthusiastic as I am, tells me that the number of men who agree with him in wishing us success is daily increasing. Among others he mentioned our old friend the distinguished Dr. Whewell, Master of Trinity (with whom we stayed three days at Cambridge when I received my degree there), who, he says, is positively rude to those who talk against the North. He won't allow the “Times” to come into the house. Well, I hope the recent and remarkable demonstrations in England will convince the true lovers of union and liberty in America where our true strength lies, and who our true lovers are.
We have given four diplomatic dinners. The last was five days ago. Sixteen guests, beginning with Count Rechberg and the Prince and Princess Callimaki (Turkish ambassador), and ending with a French and Belgian attache or two. The French and English ambassadors and secretaries dined with us the week before. I think we shall give no more at present, unless we have a smaller one, to which we shall invite the Rothschild of the period, as we have had several good dinners at his house. I am very glad that you are to dine with Mrs. Amory to meet General McClellan. We feel very grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Amory and S—— for their kindness to you. Pray never forget to give all our loves to them. Did Mrs. Amory ever get a letter I wrote her? Its date was May 12. Pray remember us most kindly to Mr. and Mrs. Ritchie. I am so glad that you have been seeing so much of them lately. It is impossible for you not to be fond of them when you know them. Give my love also to Miss “Pussie,” and to my Nahant contemporary, who I hope continues on the rampage as delightfully as ever. You will tell us, of course, what impression General McClellan makes upon you. Personally there seems much that is agreeable, almost fascinating, about him. I only saw him for a single moment, but was much impressed by his manner. I wish it had been his destiny to lead our armies to victory, for I don't see that we have any better man. But no one man will ever end this war except he be an abolitionist heart and soul, and a man of military genius besides.
Things have gone a million miles beyond compromise. Pray tell me what you learn of Hooker.
We all join in kindest love to you, my darling, and to your grandmama and grandpapa, and all at home.
SOURCE: George William Curtis, editor, The Correspondence of John Lothrop Motley in Two Volumes, Library Edition, Volume 2, p. 314-6