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no careful comparison of conflicting accounts. manuscript was as good as another, and any so-called fact was welcome if it filled a vacant niche in the story. Sparks followed a different method. To gather his information, he consulted not only the records stored in the dignified archives of the great libraries of Europe and America, but also the family papers stuffed away into the corners of ancient garrets. He examined old newspapers and pamphlets and diaries. He traced legends and traditions back to their origins. It was in this way that his Life and Writings of George Washington, his partially completed History of the American Revolu tion, and his other works were produced. Unfortunately, Sparks lacked the good fairy gift of the power to make his work interesting; that was left for other writers; but in thoroughness in collecting materials he was the pioneer. During this period, there were at least four historians whose fame is far greater than his; but to Sparks they owe the gratitude that is ever due to him who has pointed out the way. These four are Bancroft and Parkman, who wrote on American themes; and Prescott and Motley, who chose for their subjects different phases of European history.

36. George Bancroft, 1800-1891. On a hill in the city of Worcester, Massachusetts, stands a tower of massive stone. It was erected in honor of George Bancroft, who as a boy roamed over the hills and valleys of what is now a part of the city. He graduated at Harvard, and then went to Germany, where he studied with various scholars branches of learning which ranged from French literature to Scriptural interpretation. History of At twenty he had chosen his lifework, to become a historian. Fourteen years later the 1834-1882. first volume of his History of the United States came

the United States,

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out, a scholarly record of the progress of our country from the discovery of America to the adoption of the Constitution in 1789.

Bancroft's historical work extended over nearly fifty years; but during that time he did much other writing, he was minister to England and to Berlin, and he was Secretary of the Navy. While holding this last office he decided that the United States ought to have a naval school. Congress did not agree, but Mr. Bancroft went quietly to work. He found that he had a right to choose a place where midshipmen should remain while waiting for orders, also that he could direct that the lessons given them at sea should be continued on land. He obtained the use of some military buildings at Annapolis, put the boys into them, and set them to work. Then he said to Congress, "We have a naval school in operation; will you not adopt it?" Congress adopted it, and thus the United States Naval Academy was founded.

37. William Hickling Prescott, 1796-1859. A crust of bread thrown in a students' frolic at Harvard made Prescott nearly blind, and prevented him from becoming a lawyer as he had planned. With what little eyesight remained to him, and with an inexhaustible fund of courage and cheerfulness, he set to work to become a historian. He made a generous preparation. For ten years he read by the eyes of others scores of volumes on ancient and modern literature. He had chosen for the title of his first book The History of the Reign of Ferdi. The History nand and Isabella. He must learn Spanish, of course; and he describes with a gentle humor the weeks spent under the trees of his country residence, listening to the reading of a man who understood not a word of the language. As the differ

of the Reign

of Ferdinand and Isabella, 1837.

Founding of the Naval Academy.

ent authorities were read aloud, many of them conflicting, Prescott dictated notes. When he had completed his reading for one chapter, he had these notes read to him. Then he thought over all that he meant to say in the chapter, thought so exactly, and so many times, that when he took up his noctograph, he could write as rapidly as the contrivance would permit.

It was under such discouragements that Prescott wrote; but he said bravely that these difficulties were no excuse for "not doing well what it was not necessary to do at all." His work needs small ex- The Concuse. He had chosen the Spanish field; he quest of wrote The Conquest of Mexico, then The Con- 1843. quest of Peru. Three volumes he completed quest of of The History of the Reign of Philip the Peru, 1847. Second; then came death.


The Con

The History of the Reign

of Philip the Second,

Prescott was most painstaking in collecting facts and comparing statements, but the popu- 1855-1858. larity of his books is due in part to their subject and in even greater part to their style. He wrote of the days of romance and wild adventure, it is true; but yet the most thrilling subject will not make a thrilling writer out of a dull one. Prescott has written in a style that is strong, absolutely clear, and often poetic. He describes a battle or a procession or a banquet or even a wedding costume as if he loved to do it. Few writers have combined as successfully as he the accuracy of the historian and the marvellous picturing of the poet and novelist.

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38. John Lothrop Motley, 1814-1877. When Bancroft was a young man, he taught for a year at NorthampOne of his pupils was a handsome, bright-eyed boy named Motley. This boy's especial delight was reading poetry and novels, and a few years after he graduated from Harvard he wrote a novel which was fairly

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good. He wrote another, which was better; but by this time he had become so deeply interested in the Dutch Republic that he determined to write its history. Ten The Rise of years later he sent a manuscript to the English publisher, Murray. It was promptly declined, 1856. and the author published it at his own expense. Then Murray was a sorry man, for The Rise of the Dutch Republic was a decided success.


The lavish amount of work that had been bestowed

upon it ought to have brought success. Motley could not obtain the needed documents in America, therefore he and his family crossed the ocean. When he had exhausted the library in one place, they went to another. He had a hard-working secretary, and in two or three countries he had men engaged to copy rare papers for his use. When his material was well in hand, he had the critical ability to select and arrange his facts, the literary instinct to present them in telling fashion, and the artistic talent to make vivid pictures of famous persons and dramatic scenes.



One of the pleasantest facts about our greater authors is the almost invariable absence of envy among them. This book could hardly fail to trench upon the field of Prescott; yet the blind historian was ready with the warmest commendations, as were Irving and Bancroft. Prescott, indeed, in the first volume of his Philip the Second, published a year earlier, had inserted a cordial note in regard to the forthcoming Dutch Republic.


Motley's next book was The United Netherlands. One more work would have completed the his- The United tory of the whole struggle of the Dutch for Netherliberty. He postponed preparing this until he 1860-1868. should have written The Life and Death of and Death John of Barneveld. Then came the long illness which ended his life, and the story of the epoch was never completed.

The Life

of John of



39. Francis Parkman, 1823-1893. Some years before Longfellow wrote, "The thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts," Francis Parkman was proving the truth of the line; for he, a young man of eighteen, had already planned his lifework. He would be an historian, and he would write on the subject that appealed to him most strongly, the contest between France and England for the possession of a continent. The preparation for such a work required more than the reading of papersthough an enormous quantity of these demanded careful attention. The Indians must be known. Their way of living and thinking must be as familiar to the historian as his own. The only way to gain this know- The Oregon ledge was to share their life; and this Parkman Trail, did for several months. His health failed, his eyesight was impaired, but he did not give up the work that he had planned. Before beginning it, however, he tried his hand by writing The Oregon Trail, an account


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