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imaginative, and mercurial nature was controlled by a power ful judgment, and directed by an acute sagacity, is the most extraordinary feature in his character. Thus governed, his imagination, instead of exhausting itself in idle flights, lent aid to his judgment, and enabled him to form conclusions, at which common minds could never have arrived, nay, which they could sot perceive when pointed out.
With all the visionary fervor of his imagination, its fondest dreams fell short of the reality. He died in ignorance of the real grandeur of his discovery. Until his last breath, he entertained the idea that he had merely opened a new way to the old resorts of opulent commerce, and had discovered some of the wild regions of the East. He supposed Hispaniola to be the ancient Ophir which had been visited by the ships of Solomon, and that Cuba and Terra Firma were but remote parts of Asia. What visions of glory would have broken upon his mind, could he have known that he had indeed discovered a new continent, equal to the whole of the Old World in magnitude, and separated by two vast oceans from all the earth hitherto known by civilized man! And how would his magnanimous spirit have been consoled amidst the afflictions of age and the cares of penury, the neglect of a fickle public, and the injustice of an ungrateful king, could he have anticipated the splendid empires which were to spread over the beautiful world he had discovered, and the nations, and tongues, and languages which were to fill its lands with his renown, and to revere and bless his name to the latest posterity!
Three years later (1831) there was added to the foregoing a kindred volume, entitled Voyages and Discoveries of the Companions of Columbus. During 1828 and 1829, Irving made a tour to the south 01' Spain, and there gleaned the facts and caught the weird inspiration which he has so vividly embodied in his Chronicle of the Conquest of Grenvila. "His Chronicle, at times, wears almost the air of romance, yet the story is authenticated by frequent reference to existing documents, proving that he has substantial foundation for his most extraordinary incidents." *
* London Quarterly Review.
Next in order of publication appeared The Alhumbra which was issued in 1832. Irving spent three months in the old Moorish palace, and thoroughly acquainting himself with its history and its numerous traditions, has, by the witchery of his pen, caused to rise before the imagination of the reader not simply a renovated palace of medieval magnificence, but also a panorama of the life and pomp, the squalor, the festivity, the crime, the anguish, and all the possible vicissitudes of human experience that have, through the long past, swept in successive waves through its marble halls and gilded courts. Nothing can exceed the minuteness and accuracy of the description of the material splendors of the palace, nor the delicacy and vivacity of the delineations of human life and customs that now exist or have existed in its proud precincts.
Legends of the Conquest of Spain, published in 1835, and Mahomet and his Successors, in 1849, complete, with one exception, the catalogue of Irving's works on foreign topics. “These complete a series of Spanish and Moorish subjects, marked by the same genial and poetic treatment; the fancy of the writer evidently luxuriating in the personal freedom of movement of his heroes, their humor of individual character, and the warm Oriental coloring of the theme.”*
In July, 1829, Irving again went to England, this time as Secretary of Legation to the American Embassy; whence, after an interval of three years, he returned home, having been absent some seventeen years.' And what eventful years in Irving's life! He left home as an obscure writer of a few humorous sketches, he returned as an historian of eminent rank, and as a most graceful and life-like delineator of nature and society. His performance had exceeded his fairest proniise, and he who had gone forth all but weeping over precarious health, and distrustful of ability, came again, bringing with him a bountiful harvest of golden sheaves.
The innate love of travel and adventure, which had prompted Irving's extensive European trip, did not permit
* Duvckinck's Cyclopaedia oj American Literature.
hiin long to remain in New York, but now carried him into the far West of his own country-the prairies and wilds of the vast regions stretching from the Missouri River west and south to the Rocky Mountains. These experiences he has chronicled in his usual fascinating style, in Crayon Miscellany (published in 1835), Astoria (1836), and the Adven tures of Captain Bonneville, U.S.A. (1837).
For two years from 1839 he contributed to the Knickerbocker Magazine a series of articles, consisting chiefly of recollections of foreign travel, and of romantic and marvelous tales, which were collected in 1855 into book form, under the name of Wolfert's Roost.
The distinction of United States Minister to the court of Spain was conferred on Irving in 1842, in which position he continued for the next four years. He then returned home, and took up his residence at "Sunnyside," a beautiful spot on the banks of the Hudson. Here he lived “in the midst of a family circle composed of his brother and his nieces, hospitably entertaining his friends, occasionally visiting different portions of the country, and employing his pen in the composition of his Life of Washington.”*
This work, elaborated through five volumes, was published from 1855 to 1859. “It proved, as all anticipated who knew the author, an eminently judicious work, with no excitement of false heat or exaggeration of any kind, but with a steady, patriotic purpose, true to the national life, and an instinctive appreciation of character responsive to every noble and generous trait, and condemnatory of every unworthy motive of the many personages of that busy era who flocked to his pages. The Life of Washington is in fact a history of the Revolution, which his genius and disposition did so much to shape. .. Nothing is sacrificed to those literary temptations which might be supposed to beset an author whose natural disposition led him to the fanciful in composition, and an easy indulgence in the picturesque an'l humorous."*
* Duyckinck's Cyclopedia of American Literature.
Retracing our narrative a step, we must not omit to meri lion Irving's Oliver Goldsmith, issued in 1849. It is an interesting, sympathetic, and yet severely truthful tribute to the life and name of the great English poet and writer. / Irving survived the summer following the completion of his Washington ; “and as the autumnal season of the American climate, so fondly dwelt upon in his writings, was drawing to its end, he was suddenly called away, as he was retiring to rest, on the night of November 28, 1859."*
Speaking of his writings in general," the charm is in the proportion, the keeping, the happy vein which inspires happiness in return. It is the felicity of but few authors, out of the vast stock of English literature, to delight equally young and old. The tales of Irving are the favorite authors of hildhood, and their good humor and amenity can please where most literature is weariness, in the sick room of the convalescent. Every influence which breathes from his writings is good and generous. Their sentiment is always just and manly, without cant or affectation; their humor is always within the bounds of propriety.
“They have a fresh inspiration of American nature, which is not the less nature for the art with which it is adorned. The color of personality attaches us throughout to the author, whose humor of character is always to be felt. This happy art of presenting rude and confused objects in an orderly, pleasurable aspect, everywhere to be met with in the pages of Irving, is one of the most beneficent in literature.
“The philosopher Hume said a turn for humor was worth to him ten thousand a year, and it is this gist which the writings of Irving impart. To this quality is allied an active fancy and poetic imagination, many of the choicest passages of Irving being interpenetrated by this vivifying power." *
Duyckinck's Cyclopædia of American Literature.
WILLIAM HICKLING PRESCOTT was born, May 4, 1796, at Salem, Massachusetts. When nearly twelve years of age he removed to Boston, and here and in Cambridge was educated, graduating at Harvard College in 1814.
While in his junior year at college, an accident, singularly trivial in its origin, but most serious in its effects, changed the whole plan of his life. A fellow student playfully threw a crust of bread across the table where Prescott and some of his class-mates were dining. The apparently harmless missile struck young Prescott in the eye with such violence as utterly to destroy its sight. The inflainmation arising from the wounded member seriously affected his remaining eye, and threatened total blindness.
This misfortune compelled Prescott, after completing his course at college, to relinquish his cherished design of following the profession of law; and he travelled abroad in search of medical relief. Two years were consumed in visiting the most noted parts of England, France, and Italy, when he returned home, improved in general health, but unrestored in his unhappy vision. Not content, however, to indulge in that ease which both his means and his infirmity invited, he resolved, with a purpose truly heroic, to become a historian.
Ten years of the most systematic and persevering preparatory study supplemented this resolution, through all of which, though experiencing intense pain from inflammation of his eye, and though often obliged to depend upon the friendly services of other eyes, “his industry never flagged, his courage never faltered; his spirits, buoyint by nature, never sank under the burden imposed upon