January 27, 1864.
My Dearest Mother: Since I last wrote I have had the pleasure of receiving your kind letter of 28th December. Although I regret to find that you are still so much a sufferer from neuralgia and rheumatism, it is a great satisfaction that your eyesight is so much improved, and that you are able to read as much as you like.
Fortunately you have it in your power to see all the new books, whereas we are obliged very much to do without them. Vienna is probably the city in the world where the least reading is done in proportion to the population, and the most dancing. Yet, strange to say, in the upper society there are but very few balls this carnival. Lily wrote you an account of ours, and on the following week there was a ball at the French ambassador's, the Duc de Gramont.
The society is so small that this seems to suffice. I shall add but little concerning our festivity. It was a tremendous undertaking in the prospect, and Mary excited my special wonder by the energy and completeness with which she superintended the arrangements. Our head servant, being an incapable donkey, was an obstruction rather than a help, and the only real lieutenant that she had was ———, who was all energy and intelligence. Lily, who thoroughly understands the society of Vienna, was, of course, all in all in regard to the actual business of the ball, and we had an excellent and amiable ally in young Prince Metternich, who was the managing director. Well, at least we are rewarded for the trouble and expense by success, for I cannot doubt, so much we have heard about it, that it gave very great satisfaction to the said upper three hundred, that noble Spartan band who so heroically defend the sacred precincts of fashion against the million outsiders who in vail assail it. I have said more about this trifling matter than you may think interesting. But to say the truth, I preferred that exactly in this state of our affairs the house of the American minister should be one whose doors were occasionally open, rather than to be known as a transatlantic family who went everywhere but who were never known to invite a soul within their walls. For me personally it is harder work than writing a dozen despatches.
There is, I think, but little of stirring intelligence to be expected from the United States before March or April, but I have settled down into a comfortable faith that this current year 1864 is to be the last of military operations on a large scale. To judge from the history of the past two and a half years, it will not take another twelvemonth for our forces to get possession of what remains of rebel cities and territory, or, at any rate, to vanquish the armed resistance to such an extent that what remains of the insurrection will be reduced to narrow and manageable compass. In another year or two, I am now convinced, there will be neither slaveholders nor rebels — which terms are synonymous. The future will be more really prosperous than the past has ever been, for the volcano above which we have been living in a fool's paradise of forty years, dancing and singing, and imagining ourselves going ahead, will have done its worst, and spent itself, I trust forever. In Europe affairs are looking very squally. The war has almost begun, and the first can non-shot, I suppose, will be heard on the Eider before the middle of February. At least, from the best information I can gather from German, Danish, and other sources, the conflict has become inevitable. If diplomacy does succeed in patching up matters in the next fortnight, it will show better skill in joiner's work than it has manifested of late years on any other occasion. We have at least the advantage of being comparatively secure from interference.
SOURCE: George William Curtis, editor, The Correspondence of John Lothrop Motley, Volume III, p. 2-4