I KNOW well that a preface is at best a gesture, and a dubious one; a book should speak for itself. But there is one explanation that needs to be made. I cannot pretend that I have written this life of Theodore Parker in order to fill any yawning gap in biographical literature, in order to satisfy any imperative demand. I have written it, quite simply, because I could not help myself, and I have written it for my own satisfaction more than for the edification of others. With this confession it is unnecessary for me to attempt further justification for this biography, unnecessary for me to argue the significance of Parker or the importance of his thinking or the drama of his career.
I have not attempted, then, to write a full-dress biography, every fact properly in place, nothing left out, or left to the imagination. I have not tried to include, in this book, everything that is known about Parker: readers curious for additional information can look into the biographies by John Weiss and Octavius Frothingham. Nor have I been interested in passing judgment on Parker or in stating the verdict of history upon the movements in which he so energetically participated. I have tried to present Parker and his contemporaries as they appeared to themselves and to each other, rather than as they appear to a generation wiser, perhaps, certainly more sophisticated and more disillusioned.
At the risk of being tedious I wish to emphasize this point. It is Parker's life, not my own reactions to it, that I have tried to tell: his interests, opinions, emotions, prejudices if you will, that I have tried to interpret. I will not