Frederic Bancroft, Historian

Frederic Bancroft, Historian

Frederic Bancroft, Historian

Frederic Bancroft, Historian

Excerpt

This volume gives us a perceptive study of Frederic Bancroft's mind and character, founded on a thorough exploration of the facts of his life and a discriminating use of his writings, published and unpublished. The objective temper of the book, its mingling of critical and appreciative elements, and its narrative interest would much have pleased Bancroft himself, who followed carefully the significant new works of history and biography. Feeling that authors seldom got the appreciation they merit, he would say to friends: "You agree that so-and-so has written a distinguished book. Well, send him a letter about it. He should be told what we think." I recall that he thus singled out M. A. DeWolfe Howe's volume on Moorfield Storey called Portrait of an Independent, C. V. Easum's The Americanization of Carl Schurz, and Tyler Dennett's story of the advance of John Hay from mere litterateur to statesman. Mr. Cooke's incisive volume may go on the same shelf with these studies of cultivated, honest- minded liberals of the old school.

No record, however careful and penetrating, can quite do justice to Bancroft's warmth of spirit, intellectual enthusiasm, and many generosities of thought and act, for no transmissible notation of them remains. He united in unusual degree a passion for things of the mind with a Johnsonian delight in social intercourse. Loving the pursuit of truth, he was an arduous investigator; too arduous, indeed, for never finding an end to truth he never finished what was to be his chief historical work. But though a disciplined and severe investigator, toiling long days at his desk, he had two chief pleasures: a brisk walk with a congenial friend, or a dinner with a group, discussing both the great forces and actors of the American past, and the intricacies of current affairs. He was in his element in his bachelor home, almost within a stone's throw of the Capitol, or at a table-window . . .

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