John Lothrop Motley. a memoir — Volume 1 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 87 pages of information about John Lothrop Motley. a memoir — Volume 1.
art we can sit at the council board of Philip and Elizabeth, we can read their most private dispatches.  Guided by his demonstration, we are enabled to dissect out to their ultimate issues the minutest ramifications of intrigue.  We join in the amusement of the popular lampoon; we visit the prison-house; we stand by the scaffold; we are present at the battle and the siege.  We can scan the inmost characters of men and can view them in their. habits as they lived.”

After a few criticisms upon lesser points of form and style, the writer says:—­

“But the work itself must be read to appreciate the vast and conscientious industry bestowed upon it.  His delineations are true and life-like, because they are not mere compositions written to please the ear, but are really taken from the facts and traits preserved in those authentic records to which he has devoted the labor of many years.  Diligent and painstaking as the humblest chronicler, he has availed himself of many sources of information which have not been made use of by any previous historical writer.  At the same time he is not oppressed by his materials, but has sagacity to estimate their real value, and he has combined with scholarly power the facts which they contain.  He has rescued the story of the Netherlands from the domain of vague and general narrative, and has labored, with much judgment and ability, to unfold the ‘Belli causas, et vitia, et modos,’ and to assign to every man and every event their own share in the contest, and their own influence upon its fortunes.  We do not wonder that his earlier publication has been received as a valuable addition, not only to English, but to European literature.”

One or two other contemporary criticisms may help us with their side lights.  A critic in “The Edinburgh Review” for January, 1861, thinks that “Mr. Motley has not always been successful in keeping the graphic variety of his details subordinate to the main theme of his work.”  Still, he excuses the fault, as he accounts it, in consideration of the new light thrown on various obscure points of history, and

“it is atoned for by striking merits, by many narratives of great events faithfully, powerfully, and vividly executed, by the clearest and most life-like conceptions of character, and by a style which, if it sacrifices the severer principles of composition to a desire to be striking and picturesque, is always vigorous, full of animation, and glowing with the genuine enthusiasm of the writer.  Mr. Motley combines as an historian two qualifications seldom found united,—­to great capacity for historical research he adds much power of pictorial representation.  In his pages we find characters and scenes minutely set forth in elaborate and characteristic detail, which is relieved and heightened in effect by the artistic breadth of light and shade thrown across the broader prospects of history.  In an American author, too,
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