previous next


[125] each day to hearing English drama from Heywood to Dryden. With his friend Ticknor, Prescott kept up a third line of English reading, connected with Scandinavian and Teutonic themes and compositions. In 1823, Sismondi's Litterature du Midi prepared him for Italian letters, which he proceeded to explore systematically and intelligently. Two articles in The North American review contained his impressions on this field; they were written con amore, as the change from French to Italian had been to him especially stimulating and refreshing. The latter language was far more to his taste than the former. German was his next desire, but it had to be abandoned as too difficult for his partial eyesight. Then, through Ticknor's interest in things Spanish, Prescott turned to that language as his next venture. Once embarked, he sailed on in Spanish interests until his death, although he was not attracted immediately. ‘I am battling with the Spanish,’ he wrote to Bancroft in 1824, ‘but I have not the heart for it that I had for the Italian. I doubt whether there are many valuable things that the key of knowledge will unlock in that language.’ Still he continued to play with the key for a long time until, out of a list of subjects for a book, he made his choice. ‘What new and interesting topics may be admitted—not forced into— the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella?’ he noted in 1825. In 1847 he endorsed the entry, ‘A fortunate choice.’

The whole sweep of events taking place on the Peninsula seems to have flashed before his vision: the constitutions of Castile and of Aragon, of the Moorish dynasties, the causes of their decay and dissolution, the Inquisition, the conquest of Granada, the discoveries in the unknown West, monarchical power versus aristocracy; and he saw their relation to the whole world. Prescott had assimilated literary expression in its best forms in order to fit himself to express something in his turn; when that something had crystallized into definite form, it was as a narrator that he entered on his task of giving it a proper treatment. He began to see his story in episodes for the framing of which he had already provided the material.

A tentative bibliography was despatched to Edward Everett, United States Minister at Madrid, on 29 January, 1826. To Everett's natural suggestion that Prescott would be wise to come to Spain and look over the ground for himself, the

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)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
United States (United States) (1)
Madrid (Spain) (1)
Granada (Spain) (1)
Castile, N. Y. (New York, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

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.
William Hickling Prescott (4)
Francis O. Ticknor (2)
Italian (2)
Edward Everett (2)
Sismondi (1)
Litterature Midi (1)
John Heywood (1)
Dryden (1)
George Bancroft (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.
1847 AD (1)
January 29th, 1826 AD (1)
1825 AD (1)
1824 AD (1)
1823 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: