This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
 Moreover, Prescott died in 1859, just too soon to fling off the shackles of repression which choked the free speech of Americans of his temperament before the Civil War. On the other hand, Motley, in every line of his later work on the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, shows the exhilarating effect produced by the casting of the die and the ending of the compromise restraint. Born the very year Prescott finished his Harvard course, Motley was two-thirds of a generation behind the elder historian. Thus, though the immediate environment of the two Bostonians was the same, the storm brewing beyond the confines of Massachusetts had burst and had forced her conservative citizens out of their aloofness, and the Commonwealth was involved in a close bond with the other units of the Union, while Motley and his labours were still in a stage to be affected, as Prescott and his work never were, by contemporaneous politics. From his early childhood, Motley was overflowing with expression. He was possessed to act out what he read; he made miniature theatres; he declaimed in season and out. His zeal for dramatic effect was in his blood—even though he did not evince the slightest histrionic ability or tendency. That is, he could not possibly have been an actor. It was literary expression that attracted him. He was so precocious that it would not have been surprising had his promise died out. Luckily, the colonial energy of the race was also in his blood and a New England strain well woven into the woof of his conscience so that his abilities found enduring record when, at last, he developed the powers of industry. His Harvard career was begun at the age of thirteen and completed at seventeen—an age young even for the time—and it is not surprising that his election to Phi Beta Kappa was gained only by stretching a point in his favour and including one more than the sixteen men legitimately chosen as the maximum number to be taken from each class. His class work did not give him high rank—indeed, he was rusticated for negligence—but his personality was so charming and his kind of cultivated human interest so convincing, that he could not be passed over. His facility in grasping the gist of a book was marvellous, but as it did not presage minute and accurate research, there was natural astonishment
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.