Representative Selections

Representative Selections

Representative Selections

Representative Selections

Excerpt

It is no longer necessary to defend Francis Parkman's right to be the subject of a book of exposition or selections. That battle was won long ago. Almost with one voice, American historians have acknowledged Parkman foremost among them, and literary historians have long included his with the few great names of American letters. Critics and writers of all schools have paraded under his banner. The most scientific of modern specialists on the history of the West agree with "cosmic philosophers" like John Fiske; writers like Vernon L. Parrington, who had no love for New England but who honored Parkman's work above that of any other "Brahmin," are aligned with writers like Barrett Wendell, for whom the horizon of American literature coincided for the most part with the horizon of New England.

And yet the very extent and unanimity of this verdict have not been good for Parkman scholarship or Parkman students. The chorus of appraisal has rolled up in two great waves--one in the decade after the historian's death, when writers sought to define his accomplishment and do honor to his gallant life; the other in the neighborhood of the centennial year, when the customary centennial eulogies quite out-sounded a few reservations from later specialists and analysts to whom Parkman's narrative history had come to seem old-fashioned. Most of this criticism has been tucked away in periodicals. There are only two full- length studies of Parkman, and none since 1904; and there has been no extended systematic attempt since 1900 to work out the logical articulation of Parkman's ideas and to evaluate them. The years following 1900 have produced much new evidence on Parkman's life, on his milieu, and on the ages, men, and events he wrote about. We have only recently come to realize the importance of some of his writings apart from his great histories--

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