William Hickling Prescott

By C. Harvey Gardiner | Go to book overview

VII
Mr. Prescott's work is one of the most successful ...

JUST AS THE COMPLETED MANUSCRIPT was unlike the searching endeavor which had launched it a decade earlier, so, too, historian Prescott had changed. Some of his maturity of 1836 belonged to any normal forty-year-old. Some of it, however, reflected a variety of disciplines: the regularity of hours and the dietary care which maintained the physical equilibrium so important to his powers of concentration, his ignoring some of the demands of society, as well as the intellectual shift from reviewer-essayist to historian. The great difference between Prescott of 1826, searching for a subject, and Prescott of 1836, about to search for a publisher, lay in the realm of self-discipline.

His own awareness of positive forces in his life foretold much of his future.

"On the whole,"
he confided to his memoranda in mid‐ 1835,
"there is no happiness so great, as that of a permanent and lively interest in some intellectual labor. I, at least, never could be tolerably contented without this.... As this must be my principal material for happiness, I should cultivate those habits and amusements most congenial with it . . ."

Despite the basically intellectual side of his nature, Prescott scarcely needed to prod himself with the reminder,

"do some good to society by an interest in obviously useful or benevolent objects."

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