Margaret Fuller, Critic: Writings from the New-York Tribune, 1844-1846

By Judith Mattson Bean; Joel Myerson | Go to book overview

[Review of Samuel Maunder, The Treasury of History]

These volumes have been for a long time on our table unexamined on account of their bulk. For we belong to that small minority among the reviewers who will not consent to pen a line about a book, without some real knowledge of its contents, and the prodigious influx of books overtasks our power of attention, so that it is often a long time before we can really examine a large work on an important subject. This reason alone has prevented out taking notice of the historical works of Dr. Arnold, republished here by the Appletons,1 because, though we have read enough in them to prize the life, vigor, and generosity shown in the method of treatment, we have not paid the degree of attention necessary to fit us for a full and detailed criticism, such as alone can do justice to a work of that class.

The present work we have looked over with some care. We find it comparatively free from the usual defects of outline histories, being content with a simple, clear, well-arranged statement of received versions of facts, avoiding those false and flimsy comments and portraitures which make books of the Peter Parley class positively injurious, by presenting information so adulterated that it is very difficult to get it rinsed clean by after years of more serious study and companionship.2 We consider “Treasuries” and other abridgements, valuable merely as reference books, of a convenient size. What we want of the Past is living acquaintance, instruction as to what has been in the very hearts and minds of men. This is the only use of history, to give a real and sincere acquaintance with the experiences of other men, differently placed and taught from us. Such can only be gained by full and contemporary records in the shape of memoirs and letters. The finest philosophic history of events is far less

____________________
1
Among the books by Arnold are The History of Rome (1846), History of the Later Roman Commonwealth (1846), Introductory Lectures on Modern History (1845), and The Miscellaneous Works of Thomas Arnold (1845), all published in New York by D. Appleton.
2
Samuel Griswold Goodrich wrote under the name “Peter Parley.”

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