previous next

[18] reflect his glory in the True travels. The charge rests on an alleged misuse of geographical names and on the alleged impossible form of a grant of a coat of arms which Smith said was given him by Sigismund of Transylvania and which was accepted as genuine at the Heralds' College in London. The criticism1 is very sweeping. If it is well taken our historian degenerated in the latter part of his career to a literary mountebank, but the matter may still await a more judicious investigation than it has yet received.

Turning from Virginia2 we shall not find any considerable early historian in another colony outside of New England. So far as the region south of the Hudson is concerned idealism in regard to planting colonies exhausted itself with the splendid dreams of Raleigh, Hakluyt, and Edward Sandys. Lord Baltimore and Penn, it is true, attempted to revive it in Maryland and Pennsylvania, but their colonists did not respond to their efforts. These colonies were settled by as practical a class of farmers and traders as those who brought the river bottoms of Virginia under the sway of King Tobacco. Throughout this region literature had to wait on material prosperity before it could find a home.

The New Englanders, however, were idealists from the beginning. This, of course, means that their ministers and leading men were idealists. The majority of the inhabitants were as matter of fact as the majority in any other colony. But the ruling class were committed to the defence of an idealistic theory, and they naturally wished its history preserved. Out of this impulse came several historical works which we could ill afford to lose. All things considered, the Puritans made better historians than the Virginians. It is true their writings abound in superstition, but the superstitions were honestly set down as they were honestly held by the people of the age.

1 Its most notable champion is Mr. Lewis L. Kropf, who asserts that when he communicated a copy of Smith's patent to the Hungarian Heraldic Society it was received with an outburst of laughter. Mr. Kropf pronounces Smith “an impudent forger.” See Kropf, Lewis L., Captain John Smith of Virginia, notes and Queries, London, 1890, Seventh Series, vol. IX; also American historical review, vol. III, p. 737. A series of letters by the Rev. Edward D. Neill and William Wirt Henry, beginning in the Richmond Dispatch, 12 July, 1877, and continuing through several weeks, threshed out this controversy without settling anything.

2 For the works of the early minor Virginia historians see the Bibliography.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Iohn Smith (3)
Lewis L. Kropf (3)
John Smith (1)
Edward Sandys (1)
William Penn (1)
Edward D. Neill (1)
William Wirt Henry (1)
Richard Hakluyt (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1890 AD (1)
July 12th, 1877 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: