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European Trip After West Point

Harvey Ellis's family sent him to Europe after his expulsion from West Point while an annulment of his secret marriage was arranged. There he completed his education.

This story, which resides in the realm of undocumented conjecture, began to circulate in print in the 1960s. A manuscript about Venetian architecture, one of three in his handwriting about historic architecture, has been offered as proof of such a trip. It has been described as a dutiful son's report to his family about his studies while in Europe. In fact, Ellis himself identified part of its contents as a direct quotation from Charles Dickens. Although Ellis did not identify the exact source, it is the paragraph in Dickens's Pictures from Italy (1846) that begins, "It was a great Piazza, as I thought; anchored, like all the rest, in the deep ocean. On its broad bosom, was a Palace, more majestic and magnificent in its old age, than all the buildings of the earth in the high prime and foulness of their youth..." The manuscript more likely was prepared for some sort of verbal presentation, possibly for an architectural club meeting, which was a form of architectural education in the late nineteenth century. Documentation of Ellis's life for a few years after West Point is scarce, but correspondence places him variously in New York, Albany and Rochester, supporting himself by working--not necessarily full-time--as a draftsman, at least some of the time in an engineering firm. That he was in Europe more than a decade later can be documented.

....find details in Reconfiguring Harvey Ellis 

....look for forthcoming posts

© Eileen Manning Michels 2009