Bernard Berenson and Isabella Stewart Gardner [1900]

Isabella: The outside world seems to have got an idea that I have millions. Everyday the post brings me eleven letters (that is the average) asking from $500 to $1,000. One day a cool million was asked for! As I can give one as well as the other, I can throw away every letter, and try to laugh at the daily plague. Probably much of the misunderstanding comes from the way I spend my money. I fancy I am the only living American who puts everything into works of art and music; I mean, instead of into show, and meat and drink. I wish they would understand, and leave me in peace.

Berenson: Your last letter has made me feel you to a singular degree as a friend. Without ever having known, or even inquired into your financial position I always more than suspected that you were really spending all your fortune on works of art. No other living person can claim such a title to glory. There are plenty who will relieve need, and found institutions of obvious good but man does not live by bread alone, and a collection like yours will one day have the refined and elevating effect that not one of our universities, at least as at present constituted, can hope to produce. Great shall be your reward; for centuries after the very names of your ridiculous and vulgar detractors will have perished, America will still thoroughly appreciate what you have done for her. But I must make a sign against the evil eye, touch wood, or do something that will draw off the envy of the gods.–The Letters of Bernard Berenson and Isabella Stewart Gardner

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