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THE world's history contains no to accept it as history, not as the chapter more striking and attractive wild invention of imaginative monks, than that comprising the narrative of beguiling conventual leisure by the Spanish conquest in the Americas. composition of fantastical romance. Teeming with interest to the historian And the man who undertakes, at the and philosopher, to the lover of daring present day, to narrate in all their enterprise and marvellous adventure details the exploits and triumphs of it is full of fascination. On the vast a Cortés or a Pizarro, allots himself importance of the discovery of a west- no slight task. A clear head and a ern hemisphere, vying in sixe, as it sound judgment, great industry and a one day, perhaps, may compete in skilful pen, are needed to do justice civilisation and power, with its to the subject ; to extract and combine eastern rival, it were idle to expatiate. the scraps of truth buried under But the manner of its conquest com- mountains of fiction and misrepresenmands unceasing admiration. It needs tation, to sift facts from the partial the concurring testimony of a host of accounts of Spanish jurists and officials, chroniclers and eye-witnesses to con- and to correct the boastful misreprevince succeeding generations that the sentations of insolent conquerors. hardships endured, the perils sur The necessary qualities have been mounted, the victories obtained, by found united in the person of an acthe old Conquistadores of Mexico and complished American author. Already Peru, were as real as their record is favourably known by his histories astounding. The subjugation of vast of the eventful and chivalrous reign of and populous empires by petty detach- Ferdinand and Isabella, and of the ments of adventurers, often scantily exploits of the Great Marquis and his provided and ignorantly led—the ex- iron followers, Mr Prescott has added traordinary daring with which they to his well-merited reputation by his risked themselves, a few score strong, narrative of the Conquest of Peru. In into the heart of unknown countries, its compilation he has spared no pains. and in the midst of hostile millions, Private collections and public libraries, require strong confirmation to obtain the archives of Madrid and the manucredence. Exploits so romantic go scripts of the Escurial, he has ransacked near to realise the feats of those fabu- and collated. And he has been so lous paladins who, cased in impervious scrupulously conscientious as to send steel and wielding enchanted lance, to Lima for a copy of the portrait overthrew armies as easily as a Quixote whose engraving faces his title-page. scattered merinos. Hardly, when But although his materials had to be the tale is put before us in the quaint procured from many and distant and garrulous chronicle of an Oviedo countries, their collection appears to or a Zarate, can we bring ourselves have occasioned him less trouble than
II istory of the Conquest of Peru ; with a Preliminary View of the Cirilisation of the
Incas. By WILLIAM H. PRESCOTT. London : 1847. VOL. LXII.—NO. CCCLXXXI.