Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Southward Ho! A Spell of Sunshine >> Chapter VII >> Page 108

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Page 108

Novel (Romance) | Redfield | 1854
Transcription 10 8 SOUTHWARD HO
past. What a pity it is that our people do not read their own
old chronicles. It is now scarcely possible to pick up any of the
old histories of the states, which a sincere people, with any ven-
eration left, would be careful to keep in every household."" What an equal pity it is that these chronicles have been so
feebly exemplified by the local historians. These have usually
shown themselves to be mere compilers. They were, in fact, a
very dull order of men among us. They were wholly deficient
in imagination and art ; and quite incapable of developing grace-
fully, or even of exhibiting fairly, the contents of the chronicle.
They merely accumulated or condensed the records ; they nev-
er displayed them. This is the great secret by which histories
are preserved to the future and kept popular through time. Art
is just as necessary in truth as in fiction´┐Ż a fact of which critics
even do not always appear conscious. See now the wonderful
success and attraction of Mr. Prescott's labors. His secret con-
sists chiefly in the exercise of the appropriate degree of art.
His materials, in the main, are to be found in a thousand old
volumes, available to other writers ; but it was in his art that
the lumbersome records became imbued with life. His narra-
tives of the conquest of Peru and Mexico are so many exquisite
pictures´┐Żaction, scene, portrait, all harmoniously blended in
beautiful and symmetrical connection. His details, which, in
common hands, were usually sadly jumbled, constitute a series
of noble dramas all wrought out in eloquent action. His
events are all arranged with the happiest order. His dramatis
persona play their parts according to the equal necessities of the
history and of their individual character. The parts harmonize,
the persons work together, and the necessary links preserved
between them, the action is unbroken to the close. All irrele-
vant matter, calculated to impair this interest, is carefully dis-
carded ; all subordinate matter is dismissed with a proper brev-
ity, or compressed in the form of notes, at the bottom of his
page. Nothing is dwelt upon at length, but that which justifies
delineation, either from the intrinsic value of the material, or
from its susceptibilities for art. Suppose the historian were to
employ such a rule in the development of such chronicles as
those of Virginia ? What a beautiful volume might be made of
it ! How full of admirable lessons, of lovely sketches, of