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Advises an American poet on French pronunciations.
Autograph Letter signed: "L Agassiz", 2p (integral leaf), 5x8. No place, no date. To Epes Sargent, Boston. In full: "I have known the names of Arve & Arveiron from childhood. The first is always pronounced as bisyllabic even though the final e be unaccented and rather mute; the second trisyllabic vei being pronounced like vay in English, - wry bread. The English reader will unavoidably stretch the second syllable of Arve he pronounce it at all; but there is no possibility of taking liberties with Arveiron without disfiguring the name. Very truly yours." Born in French-speaking Switzerland and educated at European universities, Agassiz (1807-1873) accepted a Professorship at Harvard (1848) and spent the rest of his life promoting American science. He made highly influential studies of fossil fish and glaciers, coining the term "Ice Age" to describe an ancient era of extensive glaciation. Although his fossil studies were used by others to support Darwin's Theory of Evolution, Agassiz never accepted that doctrine. He espoused catastrophism, believing that new species emerged after such upheavals, and defined a species as "a thought of God". Epes Sargent (1830-1880) was an American playwright and poet. The Arve and Arveiron are rivers issuing from the glacier at Mont Blanc, in France near the Swiss border. These rivers were inspirations for many artists and writers of the period. Epes may have consulted Agassiz, native to the region, to determine how these names could fit the meter of one of his poems. Or perhaps he was reading Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Hymn Before Sunrise, in the Vale of Chamoni", which addresses Mont Blanc: "The Arve and Arveiron at thy Base/Rave ceaselessly ..." Lightly soiled and slightly foxed. Minor nick at bottom edge of first page. ¼-inch hole at center fold. Mounting adhesive on verso shows through faintly at left edge of page two. Otherwise, fine condition.

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Born: May 28, 1807
Died: December 12, 1873

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