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 ill-health barred the way to active life. All the capacity for work, for the steady occupation that enriched forty years of quiet student pursuits, had to be resolutely wooed. What was won needed careful husbanding to ensure the maximum return for the minimum nerve expenditure. But, shackled by physical limitations as he was, Prescott was fortunate in not being a prisoner of poverty. His was a case where an assured income made the labour he delighted in physic pain and then grow profitable in its turn. Far from the harvest he wanted, he was able to gather expensive source material without financial limitations. Seven years after graduation, Prescott was still on the eve of setting himself to serious work within his capacity. By that date he had been married a year to Susan Amory, found in the circle of cultivated, prosperous Bostonians in which the Prescotts moved, and he was wonderfully fortunate in his wife. She was a splendid comrade for her husband in the sheltered life that had to be his lot. Prescott's early ventures at travelling, while they gave him a little experience of life in the Azores and slight glimpses of England and Paris, proved conclusively that changes exposed him to the risk of incapacitating suffering, though with favourable conditions he might exert himself to good effect. Thus it was, in 1821, that he decided to take up his pen as an occupation. Very deliberately he proceeded to examine the tools of expression that were ready to his hand. He found them very defective. He had no well-based accurate knowledge of English, let alone modern languages. Accordingly, on 30 October, 1821, he planned a preliminary course to lay accurate foundations for a literary career. Blair's Rhetoric, Lindley Murray, the introductory chapter of Johnson's Dictionary were studied as though the student were a small schoolboy instead of a Harvard graduate of seven years standing. At the same time he ploughed through a long course of English literature. Ascham, Bacon, Browne, Raleigh, and Milton, besides the sermons of eminent divines, were read to him in chronological series, while he used his own sight for an hour of Latin daily. At the end of the year he felt he had broken ground only. A temporary improvement in his eye enabled him to plunge into French authors from Froissart to Chateaubriand, still devoting a part of
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