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[253] etc.,—above all Cervantes, and scarcely less Quevedo. . . . . The portions least interesting to the vulgar reader will be the details in relation to the more obscure writers. . . . If you are bent on abridging the work, it is in these portions . . . . that you might exercise your shears. . . .

I believe every scholar will concede to you the merits of having had a most extraordinary body of materials at your command,— where such materials are rare,—of having studied them with diligence, and, finally, of having analyzed and discussed them in a manner perfectly original. You have leaned, in the last resort, on your own convictions, derived from your own examinations. This will give you high authority, even with those who differ from you in some of your opinions . . . . [Then follow some remarks on details of style ending thus:—]

I have thought that you sometimes leave too little to the reader's imagination, by filling up the minute shades, instead of trusting for effect to the more prominent traits. If you don't understand me, I can better explain myself in conversation.

These are small peculiarities, which some might think not worth noticing at all. But style is a subtle thing, and as it is the medium by which the reader is to see into the writer's thoughts, it cannot be too carefully studied. . . . .

Always faithfully yours,

In a part of Mr. Prescott's letter there is a reference to one element in Mr. Ticknor's plan which guided him in the composition of his whole work. It is thus expressed in notes to two friends, which accompanied presentation copies of the book when they were distributed. To Sir Charles Lyell he says:—

You know our reading public in the United States, how large it is, as well as how craving and increasing; so that you will be less surprised than others, that I have prepared my book as much for general readers as for scholars. Perhaps, however, it will surprise you, too. But I have done it, and must abide the consequences. Indeed, for a great many years I have been persuaded that literary history ought not to be confined, as it has been from the way in which it has been written, to persons of tasteful scholarship, but should be made, like civil history, to give a knowledge of the character of the people to which it relates. I have endeavored, therefore, so to write my account

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