Изображения страниц

As is often true of historians far less notable than he, Parkman was the recipient of academic honors, and was made a member of numerous historical societies. The mere catalogue of these distinctions fills a page of printed text. His membership of the Massachusetts Historical Society and his degree of LL. D. from Harvard College (1889) will serve as illustrations. Parkman was influential in helping to found the Archæological Institute of America. He was one of the founders of the St. Botolph Club in Boston, and its president during the first six years of its existence.

The history of France and England in North America was completed the year before he died. Had time and strength been allowed him, he would have recast the material in the form of a continuous narrative. There might have been a gain in the new arrangement, as on the other hand there might have been a loss.

Parkman died at his home at Jamaica Plain, near Boston, on November 8, 1893.



PARKMAN had prodigious will power and unequalled pertinacity. No barrier to the accomplishment of his object was allowed to stand in

the way. He was beset by the demons of ill health, and their number was legion. Unable to rout them by impetuous onslaught, he tired them out, thinning their ranks, one by one. He was infinitely patient, full of devices for outwitting the enemy. Beaten again and again, he stubbornly renewed the fight. Threatened with blindness, he set himself to avoid it, and did. Threatened with insanity, he declined to become insane.

Nothing could be more admirable than the spirit in which he faced daily torment. He was that extraordinary being, a cheerful stoic. Four times in his life it was a question whether he would live or die. Parkman admitted that once, had he been seeking merely his comfort, he would have elected to die. That must have been the time when, in response to his physician's encouraging remark that he had a strong constitution, Parkman said: 'I'm afraid I have.' In ordinary conditions of ill health he was bright, cheery, philosophical, but when he suffered most he was silent. At no time was he capable of complaining.

Parkman loved to face the hard facts of life and was apt to admire others in the degree in which they showed a like spirit. He had a sovereign contempt for everything not manly and robust. He contradicted with amusing emphasis the statement in some biographical notice that he was 'feeble.' By his philosophy the militant attitude toward life was the true one. He believed in war

as a moral force; it made for character both in the man and in the nation. The severest disappoint'ment of his life was his inability to enter the army I during our civil war.'

[ocr errors]

He was wholly free from certain narrow traits which are too apt to be engendered in a life devoted to books and authorship. Manly, openhearted, unspoiled, he neither craved honors nor despised them. It has been remarked that while he was gratified by the recognition accorded his work in high places, he was equally pleased with a letter from 'a live boy' who wrote to tell him how much he had enjoyed reading about Pontiac and La Salle. He himself kept to the last a certain boyish frankness of mind and heart. The year before he died he wrote to the secretary of the class of '44: Please give my kind regrets and ' remembrances to the fellows.'

There have been not a few attractive personalities in the history of American letters. Parkman was one of the most attractive among them.



THE style is clear and luminous. Short sentences abound, giving the effect of rapidity. The mind. of the reader never halts because of an obscure

term or some intricacy of structure. Neither is the page spotted with long words ending in tion, and which coming in groups, as croft, are like grit in the teeth.

they do in BanParkman did not

attain the exquisite grace and composure which characterize Irving's prose, but he came nearer to it than did Prescott. The historian of Ferdinand and Isabella had a self-conscious style. Agreeable as it is, it reveals a man always on guard as he writes. In his most eloquent passages Prescott is formal, precise, even stiff.

Parkman's style is wholly engaging. There is a captivating manner about it, the result of his immense enthusiasm for his theme. Infinitely laborious in the preparation, sceptical in use of authorities, temperate in judgment, when, however, it comes to telling the story, he allows his genius for narration a free rein, and the style, though losing none of its dignity, is eager and almost impetuous. The historian speaks as an eye-witness of all he describes.

This explains Parkman's popularity in large degree. Fascinating as the subject is, the manner adds a hundred fold. He who reads Bancroft gets a deal of information, for which he pays a round price. He who reads Parkman gets facts, eloquence, philosophy, besides no end of adventure, and for all this he pays literally nothing.





The Oregon Trail ranks high among books which, though sometimes written for quite another purpose, are read chiefly for entertainment. Such was Two Years before the Mast, such was The Bible in Spain, that skilful work of a most accomplished poseur.

In addition to its value as literature, The Oregon Trail is a trustworthy account of a no longer existent state of society. It is a document. The range of experience was narrow, and the adventures few, but so far as it goes the record is perfect; and when read in connection with his historical work, the book becomes a commentary on Parkman's method. Here is shown how he got that knowledge of Indian life and character which distinguishes his work from that of other historical writers who touch the same field. The knowledge was utilized at once in his next work.

The Conspiracy of Pontiac is the sort of book people praise by saying that it is as readable as a novel. The comparison is unfortunate. So many novels are disciplinary rather than amusing. One

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »