This biography of a distinguished historian and man of letters is the first study of William Hickling Prescott (1796–1859) to be written by a historian who has worked with the very themes explored by Prescott. And it is the first to treat him not only as creative historian but also as family man, as traveler and clubman, as investor and humanitarian, and as private citizen with strong political preferences.
Prescott the socialite and Prescott the introvert writer emerge in the round as the magnificent amateur who helped establish canons that have enriched American historical scholarship ever since. Blending history and literature, his multivolume works won Prescott the first significant international reputation to be accorded to an American historian.
Working despite persistent obstacles of health and against a penchant for society and leisure that was always part of his personality, Prescott came to be considered the finest interpreter of the Hispanic world produced by the Anglo-Saxon world. His Conquest of Mexico and Conquest of Peru were pronounced classics.
C. Harvey Gardiner takes the reader back to the nineteenth century in style and in subject to present William Hickling Prescott, gentleman and scholar, firmly fixed in relationship to his community and his times. But Gardiner's Victorian stance and respect for nineteenth-century historiography do not prevent his presenting Prescott as a whole man, viewed in retrospect, stripped of myth, and evaluated for moderns.
I. Mr. and Mrs. Prescott request the honour
II. Your description of men and places is very entertaining
III. By the time I am 30, (God willing) I propose
IV. Down the stream of Italian narrative poetry we have wandered
V. Finally for the hundredth time I confirm my preference and choice
VI. Twenty noctographs I can read for and
VII. Mr. Prescott’s work is one of the most successful
VIII. My journal is paved, like some other places
IX. Y con mis ojos oygo hablar los muertos
X. I have lost the greatest stimulus, and
XI. The triumph of moral power over the physical
XII. . . . the most brilliant visit ever made to England
XIII. The evening of life is coming
Manuscript Collections Cited
"Professor C. Harvey Gardiner's study of one of America's earliest and ablest historians deserves a place among the memorable biographies of distinguished Americans. Based on impeccable research and a thorough knowledge of the man, his times, and the subject matter of his historical contributions, it was written with the sure hand of a seasoned author. The result is an intimate and sympathetic portrait of a prominent New England family and a day-by-day account of the development of a great historian."
—The Journal of Southern History