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OTLEY was born at Dorchester, Massachu
setts, on April 15, 1814. His great-grandfather, John Motley, came from Belfast, Ireland, early in the Eighteenth Century, and settled at Falmouth, now Portland, Maine. His father, Thomas Motley, a prosperous merchant of Boston, married Anna Lothrop, daughter of the Reverend John Lothrop. The historian, the second-born of their eight children, was named in honor of his maternal grandfather.
After a course of study under Cogswell and Bancroft at the Round Hill School, Motley entered Harvard College and was graduated in 1831. He was noted both at Northampton and Cambridge for intellectual brilliancy rather than studiousness, for a regal manner which did not tend to make him universally popular, and for rare personal beauty as was becoming in a youth whose
0. W. Holmes : Jobn Lothrop Motley, a Memoir, 1879.
G. W. Curtis (edited): The Correspondence of John Lothrop Motley, D. C.L., 1889.
parents were reputed in their younger days 'the ‘handsomest pair the town of Boston could show.' He was a wit. "Give me the luxuries of life and 'I will dispense with the necessaries,' is one of his best-known sayings. His passions were literary, he admired Shelley and enjoyed the cleverness of Praed. Although fond of versifying, he seems to have printed little or nothing.
After graduation Motley spent two years (1832–33) at German universities. He went first to Göttingen, where he made the acquaintance of Bismarck. They were fellow-students the next year at Berlin. 'We lived in closest intimacy, sharing meals and outdoor exercise,' said Bismarck in a letter to Holmes.
His period of foreign study having come to an end, Motley read law in Boston and was admitted to the bar. In 1837 he married Miss Mary Benjamin, a young woman noted for her beauty, cleverness, and an open-hearted sincerity which 'made her seem like a sister to those who could ‘help becoming her lovers.'' Two years after his marriage Motley made his literary beginning by publishing a novel, Morton's Hope, or the Memoirs of a Provincial, and in 1849 he published yet another, Merry-Mount, a Romance of the Massachusetts Colony. Neither was successful. Perhaps the second failure was required to emphasize the lesson taught by the first, that the author's gifts were
10. W. Holmes.
not for imaginative work.' He was more fortunate with a group of three essays printed in the North ‘American Review,' one on Peter the Great' (1845), one on' Balzac'(1847), the third on ‘The Polity of the Puritans' (1849).
The first subject was suggested to Motley during a residence of several months in St. Petersburg as Secretary to the American Legation (1841-42). This taste of diplomatic life seems not to have been wholly relished. Motley's wife could not accompany him, and homesickness and a Russian winter conspired to drive him back to America. He gained some knowledge of practical politics by serving a term in the Massachusetts legislature (1849). Neither law, nor diplomacy, nor yet politics, seemed at that time to offer a field in which he could work to best advantage. More and more he was tending towards literature. So absorbed had he become in the history of Holland that he felt it ' necessary to write a book on the subject, 'even if it were destined to fall dead from the
press.' He had made some progress when he heard of Prescott's projected history of Philip the
Merry-Mount is more readable than its predecessor. Such characters as Sir Christopher Gardiner and his cousin,' Thomas Morton with his hawks and his classical quotations, Esther Ludlow and Maudsley, Walford the smith, Blaxton the hermit, together with the human grotesques Peter Cakebread, Bootefish, and Canary-Bird, repay one for the trouble he takes to make their acquaintance.
Second. Thinking it disloyal' not to declare his ambition of invading a part of Prescott's own domain, he went to lay his plan before the elder historian. Prescott immediately offered the use of books from his library and was in all ways cordial and enthusiastic.
It soon became evident that a history of Holland could not be written in America. In 1851 Motley took his family and went abroad, and for the next five years toiled unweariedly among the archives of Dresden, The Hague, Brussels, and Paris. His energy and plodding patience surprised the friends who remembered Motley for a brilliant young man who heretofore had played industriously at work rather than actually worked. 'He never shrank from any of the drudgery of 'preparation,' said his daughter, Lady Harcourt,
in after years.
The three volumes of The Rise of the Dutch Republic were at length ready for the
Motley was forced to publish at his own expense. Notwithstanding hostile criticisms, the success was undeniable. The book was immediately translated into French, German, and Dutch. Of two French versions the one published in Paris was edited, with an introduction, by Guizot.
The historical series as we have it comprises nine volumes. The works appeared in the following order : The Rise of the Dutch Republic, 1856; History of the United Netherlands, 1860-68; The