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[128]

Yet such was the rating of Ferdinand and Isabella pronounced by these competent specialists in Spanish lore. One sympathetic and appreciative review came from the hand of Count de Circourt, a man described by Lamartine as ‘a living chest of human knowledge,’ which gave the unknown and modest American immense satisfaction. He was actually received at once into the international circle of authoritative scholarship. Hallam, Guizot, Milman, Sismondi, Thierry, were among those to give Prescott not condescending but cordial welcome as one of their own rank. Such an authority as C. P. Gooch states in 1913 that the work published in 1837 has not been superseded to this day. Research has brought, indeed, masses of documents to light that Prescott never heard of. Critics differ from him in conclusions—strange if they did not. Yet there is more serious difference of opinion between Vignaud and Harrisse, both writing on Columbus in the twentieth century, than between Prescott and Justin Winsor, in the first and second halves of the nineteenth.

Stimulated by the prompt recognition accorded to him, Prescott turned to his next venture, The Conquest of Mexico. It is characteristic of his methods that his first step towards beginning the narration in which one figure, Hernando Cortes, was to hold the centre of the stage, was the examination of certain celebrated biographical records of exploits—Voltaire's Charles XII, Livy's Hannibal, Irving's Columbus. His criticism of the last is that the interest flags at the end. That is just what can be said of his own Mexico, finished in 1844. Where the glow of achievement is ahead of his hero, the narrative marches and carries the reader on. Or is it that Bernal Diaz carries the story triumphantly up to the Aztec city? Prescott's method of assimilating his authority, instead of giving excerpts, was used to good purpose here, and his paraphrases are very vivid. For instance, in describing the Spanish army as it came in sight of the lake-city: ‘A scene so new and wonderful filled their rude hearts with amazement. It seemed like enchantment and they could find nothing to compare it with but the magic pictures in Amadis de Gaula.’ This is a clever turn to the simple statement by the chronicler of the Spaniards' first impressions of the Aztec city. Bernal Diaz, the veteran soldier, unskilled in letters, moved to set

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