William Penn: A Topical Biography

William Penn: A Topical Biography

William Penn: A Topical Biography

William Penn: A Topical Biography

Excerpt

The numerous biographers of William Penn, in seven lands, seven languages and seven generations, have written accounts of his life in chronological order. Although this order may seem to be logical, it necessitates an intermingling of the varied threads of his career, and a skipping to and fro in England, Ireland, and Europe, back and forth across the Atlantic, and a repetition of topics only partially treated in any one place. This makes it impossible to maintain a desirable unity either in the narrative itself, or in the reader's mind.

The biography herewith presented endeavours to avoid this confusion by an arrangement of thirty topics in Penn's life and character, each topic treated consecutively from beginning to end. The time and place factors are presented both in each topic and in a chronological review at the end of the book.

Some of the topics may appear to be given a disproportionately large amount of space, at the expense of others which are of equal or greater importance. But the former have been treated somewhat in extenso because of the fact that they have been given scant or no attention by previous biographers; while the latter have been so universally and extensively discussed as to become familiar knowledge --'what every school-boy knows.' Those episodes, too, which have been the subject of prolonged controversy on the part of his biographers and of the general historians have demanded in all fairness extended treatment.

Aside from the new topical arrangement of the book and the many pictures illustrating its text, an earnest effort has been made to include all the salient facts of Penn's life, and to present them impartially, so that his greatness and his weakness may be known, not from panegyric or indiscriminate criticism, but from a knowledge of the actual facts themselves. Not only have the source materials of his life been studied, but the interpretation of them by many biographers and historians has been sympathetically considered.

While candour will compel both author and reader to acknowledge failures in Penn's career and defects in his character, the genuine greatness in both has deservedly brought him enduring fame. As a founder of the Society of Friends, and of a great American commonwealth; as an eloquent and convincing preacher, and a successful champion of religious toleration; as a learned scholar and author of classic litera-

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