was the light in which I regarded it. My theme fascinated me, and I was haunted with wilderness images day and night.”
To understand “the history of the American
forest” young Parkman
devoted his college vacations to long trips in the wilderness, and in 1846, two years after graduation, he made the epoch-making journey described in his first book, The Oregon Trail. The Conspiracy of Pontiac
, a highly-colored narrative in two volumes appearing in 1851, marks the first stage of his historical writing.
Then came the tragedy of shattered health, and for fourteen years Parkman
fought for life and sanity, and produced practically nothing.
He had had to struggle from his college days with an obscure disorder of the brain, aggravated by the hardships of his Oregon
Trail journey, and by illconsidered efforts to harden his bodily frame by over-exertion.
His disease took many formsinsomnia, arthritis, weakness of sight, incapacity for sustained thought.
His biographer Farnham
says that “he never saw a perfectly well day during his entire literary career.”
Even when aided by secretaries and copyists, six lines a day was often the limit of his production.
His own Stoic words about the limitations of his eyesight are