Pascual de Gayangos: A Nineteenth-Century Spanish Arabist

By Cristina Álvarez Millán; Claudia Heide | Go to book overview

6
Gayangos:
Prescott’s Most Indispensable Aide[*]

C. Harvey Gardiner

In his pursuit of the endlessly interdependent activity that is historical scholarship, William Hickling Prescott was peculiarly dependent. His dependent nature sprang from three basic circumstances: the state of Spanish and Spanish American historical studies in the United States, wherein his trail-blazing contributions antedated the existence of public collections – hence the necessity that he build a significant personal library; the state of his physical being, which found him blind in one eye and able to employ the other one in an erratic and occasional fashion only; and the inner nature of the man, who was so enamored of family, friends, Boston, personal comforts, and fashionable society that the very thought of foreign travel in search of historical materials never received serious consideration in the course of his entire career. In addition to his overweening stay-at-home social side, Prescott was furthermore such a romantic that he quite possibly held illusions about Spain, Mexico, and Peru – the focal points of his histories – that jealously precluded his ever visiting them. To counter these intellectual, physical, and social-psychological obstacles, Prescott knew a financial wellbeing that permitted him to move ahead with his historical studies. In so doing he depended upon many for many things.

In Spain, Mexico, England, France, the Italian and German states, Austria, Belgium, and the Nether lands, Prescott repeatedly depended so heavily upon American foreign service personnel that it would not have been amiss had he dedicated one of his works to the Department of State. […] In addition to numerous diplomats who often crowded materials for Prescott into their diplomatic pouches, help came to Prescott through travel-minded friends, like George Ticknor, who had initially inspired his interest in

[*This is an abridged and slightly modified version of Gardiner’s essay published in The Hispanic American Historical Review, 39.1, February 1959, 81–115 (permission granted by Duke University Press). The omitted parts are marked by square brackets within the text. The numbering of endnotes follows the numbering used by Harvey Gardiner in his original text. Endnotes belonging to the omitted parts have also been cut out, but the remaining ones reproduce the original numbering.]

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