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Chapter 12:

During all the years since his return from Europe, Mr. Ticknor had been steadily occupied with the preparation of the chief work of his life; that on which his reputation as a scholar, and his widest claim to distinction, must rest,—the ‘History of Spanish Literature.’ He devoted himself to this labor, as was his wont, with noiseless but unflagging industry, building his edifice, from the foundation, with solidity and precision; and while, of course, it was founded on the studies of twenty previous years, he threw aside, without hesitation, all that he had composed, during that period, in the form of lectures.

For a long time no trace appears in his correspondence, of this his principal occupation, and, until very shortly before the publication of the book, it is mentioned only in those letters through which he sought materials and information. The friends on whom he had no demands to make for this object were not required to share in an interest which did not naturally coincide with their habits of mind, and in his correspondence, as in his daily life, he kept the even tenor of his way, meeting the claims of others on his time and thoughts, without exacting the sympathy which did not flow from a common enthusiasm.

The subject he had chosen attracted him wonderfully. Indeed, it must be said, as preface to all else on this theme, that rarely has a man of letters fallen upon a subject which more entirely [244] or more increasingly satisfied and interested him. Instead of growing eager to complete this, and take up some other work; instead of becoming impatient to bring his favorite matter, or himself, before the public,—having the brilliant success of his friend Prescott to stimulate him in that direction,—he lingered over his preparations with affection, acknowledging that he disliked to part with the work after ten years devotion. From time to time, his nephew, Mr. George T. Curtis, asked him how soon he intended to stop collecting, and to begin printing, and he would only answer, ‘When I have done.’ In April, 1848, he calls it ‘a task I cannot find it in my heart to hurry, so agreeable is it to me.’1

His love of exactness, of thoroughness, of finding the nearest possible approach to absolute truth, was a very prevailing element in his character, cultivated into a habit, which affected all his thoughts and utterances; and this had its influence in the prolongation of his labors on the book. It also had much to do with the success of the History; for the thoroughness of his investigations, and the exceeding care shown, in all particulars, to arrive at facts, and to express them accurately, has always been generally acknowledged.

Meanwhile, this absorbing occupation did not separate him, or induce him to seclude himself, from the current of social and domestic life. His library door always stood open,—not figuratively only, but literally,—and no orders excluded visitors of any degree. He had, also, after his return home, in 1838, resumed his hospitable habits, as well as his connection with the more important societies and charities to which he had been attached; but his powers of concentration and methodical regulation of mind made him master of his time. When he left town for the summer he always carried a mass of books with him, selected with reference to some division of his work, to which he intended devoting himself during his absence; and his [245] writing-table was arranged and became as much his natural resort at a hotel, where he was to stay a short time, as was his library table at home. An old Spanish book seemed to take him out of the world around him, wherever he might be; yet if any person, high or low, interrupted his studies, having a reasonable cause for doing so, he was habitually prompt and courteous in turning to the new subject brought before him. He was rarely absent-minded, and scarcely ever visibly impatient of interruption.

The growth of the History is intimately connected with the growth of his Spanish library, for his books were his necessary tools, and the library took its character from the literary purpose for which it was collected. His correspondence with Don Pascual de Gayangos,2 his constant orders to Mr. Rich,3 and to others, for Spanish books, and for all accessory materials, became, as the years went on, more and more marked by indications of the absorbing subject he had in hand.

Three years and a half after his return to America he wrote as follows to Mr. Washington Irving, who had just accepted the post of Minister from the United States to Spain, and with whom, it had been hoped, Mr. Cogswell would go as Secretary of Legation:—

To Washington Irving, Esq., New York.

Boston, March 31, 1842.
my dear Mr. Irving,—Cogswell's decision throws me quite out of my track, and leaves me no resource but to turn to you. I trust, however, that my little affairs will give you almost no trouble, and therefore I will tell you quite frankly how they stand, and how much help I must ask of you. Please to tell me in return, as frankly, if it will be quite convenient for you to fulfil my wishes, and if it will not, let me beg you to say so without the least hesitation.

I have been employed for some time on a ‘History of Spanish Literature,’ and need for it copies of a few manuscripts to be found in [246] Madrid and in the Escorial. A young Spaniard named Pascual de Gayangos has helped me already somewhat, and has volunteered to procure the copies; but he lives in London, and is going with his nice, pretty English wife to Tunis as Spanish Consul, moved to it by his vast Arabic learning, which he hopes there to increase. He is an excellent, and, besides, an agreeable person, who was much liked at Holland House, and is well known and in good request in much of the best literary society of London; the author of the article on Prescott's ‘Ferdinand and Isabella’ in the ‘Edinburgh Review,’ etc., etc. Now, I wish your permission to have him come and see you in London, which I will desire him to do, and let him give you a written memorandum of what he has ordered for me in Madrid, the person of whom he has ordered it, and the best mode of accomplishing there all I desire, which is really not much. . . . . Pray do not think me unreasonable, and pray refuse me plainly if you foresee more trouble in it than I do.

I am very sorry you are not coming to Boston to embark. We should have given you a hearty welcome, and, if good wishes could help, you should have been well sped on your passage. As it is, we can only hope that you may take us on your return. Meantime, allow me to write to you in Madrid, if I happen to get into any unexpected bother for want of a rare book or an unpublished manuscript.

Yours very faithfully,

Almost simultaneously with the foregoing letter he wrote to Mr. de Gayangos, with whom he had already been in correspondence for some time, who gave him unremittingly the most valuable and faithful aid, in every possible way, for the furtherance of his work, and to whom he once wrote: ‘Nothing encourages and helps me in my study of Spanish literature like your contributions.’

To Don Pascual de Gayangos, London.

Boston, March 30, 1842.
my dear friend,—Since I wrote you, February 17–March 1, I have received both your kind letters of January 28 and March 2. They have gratified me very much. I am, indeed, sorry that you are unwilling to sell the books you have been so very good as to lend [247] me;4 but, certainly, I have not the least disposition to complain of your decision. On the contrary, if the books were mine, I am persuaded I should not part with them, and for all that you have done in relation to them, and to me, I can only feel gratitude. For your very generous offer of the works of Gregorio Silvestre, I will consider it. But I must not be unreasonable, and if I do not accept it, you may be sure that I am just as thankful for your kindness as if I did.

I am much disappointed that my friend Mr. Cogswell has refused the appointment of Secretary of Legation at Madrid; preferring to remain in New York, as librarian of a great library just about to be established there.5 Who will be his successor I do not know, and shall hardly interest myself again to procure the place for anybody. Irving will do all he can to help Prescott and myself, for his kindness may be entirely relied upon; but he was never very active; he is now growing old, and his knowledge of books and bibliography is not at all like Cogswell's. I must, therefore, rely much upon your advice, and shall be very glad to be put in communication with Don Fermin Gonzalo Moron, or any other person in Madrid, bookseller, book-collector, or whatever he may be, that will assist me in obtaining what I want. As you are good enough to ask me for a list of the books and manuscripts I wish to obtain, I enclose one; but what I desire especially to know is, what I can buy, for I very often might purchase books of whose existence I had before no knowledge, as, yesterday, I received from the Canon Riego's library a copy of ‘Damian de Vegas,’ Toledo, 1590, of which I never heard till I found it in his catalogue.

To Don Pascual de Gayangos, Madrid.

Niagara Falls, N. Y., July 24, 1844.
my dear Mr. Gayangos,—I have not written to you lately, because I have been absent from home for the last two months, travelling in the interior of Pennsylvania and New York for Mrs. Ticknor's health, which, I am happy to add, is wholly restored by it, so that we are now about to return to Boston. Meantime, I have received your kind letters of April 17 and May 14. I was sorry to [248] learn by the last the death of your eldest child, and pray you to accept my sincere sympathy for it. I know how to feel for you, for I, too, have suffered.

I shall be extremely glad to receive the manuscripts and books, both old and recent, that you have been so good as to purchase for me. I shall be interested to see the translation of Sismondi, whether it be good or bad, and I pray you to send it; and thank you very much for the purchases you have made out of the Marquis of Sta. Cruza library, which I am sure will all be welcome. Please to let me know when you have taken up the remainder of the money in Mr. Irving's hands, and I will send more. From Southey's sale I obtained about thirty volumes, I understand; but, though I believe I have received from it all the Spanish books of any real value that I ordered, I did not get the whole of my order, because Rich was afraid he should bid too high, though he spent only half the sum I sent him, with directions to return none of it, except in the shape of Southey's books. . . . .

I will send you, as soon as I can have it made out after my return home, a list of my Spanish books; and shall always be glad to have you make additions to it.

The Calderons are in Boston, as I hear from our friend Prescott, quite well and very happy. We are very glad to have them back again, and the government here is very glad to have Calderon come as Minister to it once more. His relations were always of the kind that are useful, alike to the country that sends the mission and the country that receives it.

I am sorry to hear that the Calderons bring poor accounts of Mr. Irving's health. I trust he is better. Pray give my affectionate regards to him, and when you write tell me how he is.

I am here for some days with all my family, enjoying anew the magnificent spectacle of these cataracts,—a spectacle quite as remarkable for its picturesqueness and beauty, as it is for its power and grandeur. Some day I hope you will come here and enjoy it. You will find more friends in this country than you know of, and we will all try to make your time pass pleasantly, if you will make us a visit.

Yours very faithfully,

I wrote to you last on the 25th of April, and one of the books I then asked you to procure for me was the ‘Carcel de Amor, de Diego de San Pedro.’ I do not now need it, for it is among the books I bought at Southey's sale. [249]

To Don P. De Gayangos.

Boston, August 24, 1844.
my dear Mr. Gayangos,—I wrote to you on the 24th July, from Niagara Falls, since which I have returned to Boston with my family, and have caused the catalogue of my Spanish books to be made out, that goes with this. It is, I believe, tolerably complete. At any rate, I shall be very glad to receive from you any books not on it that you think would be useful to me in writing a history of Spanish literature. As, however, Prescott's library, and some public libraries here, contain all the merely historical books I can need, I suppose you will confine your purchases to libros de poesia and libros de entretenimiento. But I pray you in this, also, to exercise your discretion freely. When you need more funds, please to let me know it. Of course, during my residence in Spain, many years ago, and my visits since to the principal libraries of Europe, I have seen and used many curious Spanish books which I have not bought, but from which I have made extracts and abstracts to serve my purposes. The more of these you may pick up for me the better I shall be pleased.

His eagerness to possess all the instruments for the work in which he was engaged naturally grew with rapid strides, and although the love for collecting never became simply a bibliomaniac's passion, but was always ruled by the literary element from which it sprang, yet it was a fervent enthusiasm, and the accessions to his Spanish library between 1846 and 1852 were greater than in any other years. He says to Perthes, Besser, and Mauke,6 February 24, 1846, when sending them a catalogue marked for purchases: ‘I am willing to pay high prices for them,—not des prix fous, as the French say,—but I am willing to pay high prices decidedly, rather than lose them;’ and to Mr. O. Rich, in June of the same year: ‘I wish to give you carte blanche, and feel sure that with my letter of January 27, and this list of my books, you cannot mistake my wants; which, you know, have always been confined to Spanish belles-lettres, and whatever is necessary to understand the history of Spanish elegant literature. From time to time I pray you to send Mr. Gayangos a note of your purchases, as he has a similar carte blanche from me, and I will desire him to do the same with you.’ [250]

To Dr. Julius, Hamburg.

Boston, January 25, 1846.
my dear Dr. Julius,—In the autumn, when I returned to Boston from my summer's rustication, I found your kind letter of July 12. That of July 21 followed soon after, and two days ago came your note of August 17, with the ‘Dietrichstein Programme.’ . . . .

Schack's ‘Geschichte’ was particularly welcome; it is an important book, and I am very anxious to receive the rest of it. Huber's Programme is excellent, as is everything of his on Spanish literature that I know about, viz. his ‘Skizzen,’ his ‘Cid's Leben,’ his ‘Cronica del Cid,’ and his ‘Lesebuch,’ all of which I have had from the dates of their publication. What else has he printed? If there be anything on Spanish literature, order Perthes and Besser to send it. Particularly I pray you to thank him for the copy of the Programme. Wolf, I hope, will reconsider his determination to print only a part of the ‘Rosa Espinola,’ 1573, with the ‘Cancionero.’ Everything of Timoneda's is worth reprinting. Thank him, when you write to him, for the Programme, and beg him to let us have the whole of the unicum volume of the Imperial Library.

It was too late in the season to send you the Reports, Registrations, and Asylum Journal, that you want.7 They will go by the first spring vessel, and that is not far off. The account of the Boston charities, in the ‘North American Review,’ after whose author you inquire, was written by my brother-in-law, Mr. S. A. Eliot, formerly Mayor of the city.

And now I am about to trouble you with a matter of some consequence to me, but one which I hope will not ask much of your thoughts or time. My collection of old Spanish books is doubled since you were here, and is now so large that I am anxious to make it complete as I can. What can I do for it in Germany? The only resource there, that I can think of, is the small bookcase that used to stand near the window in the venerable and admirable Tieck's parlor, where I have spent so many happy hours. Does he still preserve that little collection, and if he does preserve it, do you think he could be induced to part with it to one who, as you know, would value it from having been his, as much as would anybody in the world? Will you do me the favor, in some way or other that would [251] be most agreeable to him, to approach him on this subject, and see if anything can be done in my behalf? I cannot but think that it would be worthy of him to permit a part of his library to be planted on this Western continent, where, at some time or other, it will bear fruit, and where it will never cease to be remembered that it was once the property of the first man of his time in Germany. If it comes into my hands it will, I think, be kept together, and never leave the Western world. . . . .

I work away constantly at my ‘History of Spanish Literature,’ after which you kindly inquire. It is now approaching 1700, after which there is not much, as you well know. . . . .

Your friends here are all well, except Mr. Pickering, whose strength is much broken down by complaints in the organs of digestion. Prescott gets on well with his ‘Conquest of Peru,’ and will then take up Philip II. He desires to be kindly remembered to you, and so does Mr. Pickering, whom I saw yesterday, and so would your other friends if they knew me to be writing, for we all remember you with a very sincere and lively interest.

Yours always faithfully,

Do you know of old Spanish books anywhere to be obtained in Germany or elsewhere? . . . .

Mr. Prescott was, naturally, the confidant of his friend during the whole progress of the work, from its inception to its publication; and when the manuscript of it was complete, it was submitted to his examination and correction, as his histories had been placed in Mr. Ticknor's hands for a similar revision. He was at this time hesitating over his plans for writing the ‘History of Philip II.,’ doubting whether his infirmities would permit him to undertake it, and he devoted some weeks of this period of comparative idleness to the task of friendship, described by Mr. Ticknor as ‘an act of kindness for which I shall always feel grateful, and the record of which I preserve with care, as a proof how faithful he was, and how frank.’8 Returning the manuscript with nineteen quarto pages of memoranda, in the handwriting of his amanuensis, Mr. Prescott also sent a note of eight [252] close-written pages, dated and signed by himself, of which the following is a part:—

Beacon Street, May 19, 1848.
My dear George,—I return you the manuscript which I have read, or rather heard attentively, text and notes, and I only regret that I could not have gone over them with my eyes, instead of my ears, as I could have done them more justice. I need not say that I have received a constant gratification from the perusal, for the subject is one of great interest to me. But I have no hesitation in saying that the work is done in a manner, both as respects its scientific results and its execution as a work of art, that must secure it an important and permanent place in European literature. Not only the foreign, but the Spanish student must turn to its pages for the best, the only complete record of the national mind, as developed in the various walks of elegant letters. The foreign reader will have ample evidence of the unfounded nature of the satire ‘that the Spaniards have but one good book, the object of which is to laugh at all the rest.’ Even those superficially acquainted, as I am, with the Castilian literature, must be astonished to see how prolific the Spaniards have been in all kinds of composition known in civilized Europe, and in some kinds exclusively their own. The few more learned critics, in the Peninsula and out of it, will find you have boldly entered the darkest corners of their literature, and dragged into light much that has hitherto been unknown, or but very imperfectly apprehended; while there is not a vexed question in the whole circle of the national literature which you have shrunk from discussing, and, as far as possible, deciding.

The plan of the book seems to me very judicious. By distributing the subject into the great periods determined by its prevalent characteristics at the time, you make a distinct impression on the mind of the reader, and connect the intellectual movement of the nation with the political and moral changes that have exercised an influence over it. You have clearly developed the dominant national spirit, which is the peculiar and fascinating feature of the Castilian; and you have shown how completely this literature vindicates a place for itself apart from all other literatures of Christendom. For it was the product of influences to which they have never been subjected.

The most interesting parts of the work to the general reader will, I suppose, be those which relate to topics of widest celebrity,—as the Ballads, for example, the great dramatic writers, Lope, Calderon, [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 [254] of Spanish literature as to make the literature itself the exponent of the peculiar culture and civilization of the Spanish people. Whether I have succeeded or no remains to be seen. But if I have, my book, I think, will be read by my countrymen, whose advance in a taste for reading on grave and thoughtful subjects increases so perceptibly that there is a plain difference since you were here.

To Mr. George T. Curtis he says the same thing in other words:—

As you read, please to bear in mind that my book is an attempt to make literary history useful, as general reading, to a people like the American, by connecting it with the history of civilization and manners in the country to which it relates. Whether I have succeeded is another question; but you will not judge me as I wish to be judged, unless you take this for what the Germans call your ‘stand-punct.’

A history of literature necessarily falls far short, in animation and in human interest, of a history of events, and it must consist, in great part, of a catalogue—more or less thematique, but essentially a chronological list—of books, accompanied by statements of dates and skeletons of contents. Mr. Ticknor, however, in pursuing his object of giving a living interest to his work, seized every opportunity for a sketch of national character and experience, or of individual lives, into which he infused variety and vivacity, as well as philosophic observation; and he enlivened his pages by translations, and by intelligible and attractive criticism.

The result is, that while it is a work of which one of the English writers who noticed it9 said, when it appeared, he believed there were not six men in Europe able to review it, and which, by universal consent, is a thorough and scholarly history, not likely to be superseded for the period it covers, it has actually proved so attractive to general readers, that several thousand copies have been sold in the United States, and it has been translated into three of the great languages of Europe.10 Among the reviews and notices of the book, which appeared on both sides of the Atlantic immediately after its publication, we find, therefore, [255] Mr. Prescott11 remarking on the pains his friend has taken ‘to unfold the peculiarities of the Castilian character, and how, with a spirit of sound philosophy, he raises his work above the ordinary province of literary criticism’; while Mr. Brunet refers to the ‘renseignements bibliographiques qu'il offre en grande quantity, et qui fournissent les materiaux de nombreuses et importantes additions, aux recherches de Brunet, daEbert, et autres savants, verses dans la connaissance des livres.’12 Mr. Richard Ford13 gives him ‘infinite credit’ for the great number of rare and curious books which he has pointed out, for his careful tracing of their editions, and the exact indications of chapter and verse, on his margin, and, at the same time, adds some words about Mr. Ticknor's ‘gentlemanlike and elegant remarks, couched in a calm tone, and expressed in a clear and unaffected style,’ and asserts that he has produced a record which may be read with general satisfaction, and will be lastingly valued for reference. Mr. Buckle also, in a private letter, says: ‘In Mr. Ticknor's singularly valuable “History of Spanish literature” there is more real information than can be found in any of the Spanish histories which I have had occasion to read.’14

The first edition of the work appeared from the press of the Messrs. Harper, New York, in the latter part of the year 1849, while Mr. John Murray, at the same time, published a small edition in London. A Spanish translation was already begun, from advanced sheets, by Don P. de Gayangos and Don Enrique de Vedia, but the last volume of this did not appear until several years later. Meantime, reviews and notices appeared on both sides of the Atlantic, some of which contained inconsiderable [256] objections to matters of style, or to special opinions, omissions, and statements; but all the articles which carried weight with them agreed in praise and respect.15

Private letters also flowed in, of course, and some of these are of a character suitable to be introduced here.16

From J. Lothrop Motley to G. Ticknor.

Chestnut Street, Boston, December 29, 1849.
My dear Sir,—At the risk of appearing somewhat impolite, I have delayed expressing my thanks to you for your kindness in sending me a copy of your ‘History of Spanish Literature,’ until I had read the whole work. This I have now done very carefully, and parts of it several times, and I am happy to express to you my sincere congratulations at the eminent success which you have attained. Your book is an honor to yourself and to American literature.

I felt sure, before reading it, that it would be thorough, accurate, learned, and that the subject would be entirely exhausted by your labors; but as histories of literature, with a few exceptions, have generally been rather arid and lifeless productions, occupying rather a place upon the library shelf as books of reference than upon the table as sources of entertainment and instruction at the same time, I must confess that I was not prepared for three volumes of so exceedingly interesting and picturesque a character as these which you have given to the world.

In this result, I think you may take the most credit to yourself for [257] the artistic manner with which you have handled your materials. The subject is, to be sure,—as it now appears after your book is finished,— a brilliant and romantic one; but I have read enough of literary histories to know that they are too apt to furnish a kind of Barmecide's feast, in which the reader has to play the part of Shacabac, and believe in the excellence of the lamb, stuffed with pistachio nuts, the flavor of the wines, and the perfume of the roses, upon the assertion of the entertainer, and without assistance from his own perceptions. This is not the case with your history. While reading it, one feels and recognizes the peculiar qualities of Spanish poetry and romance, which are so singularly in union with the chivalrous and romantic nation which produced them. You have given extracts enough from each prominent work to allow the reader to feel its character, and to produce upon his mind the agreeable illusion that he himself knows something of the literature to which you introduce him. You analyze enough to instruct, without wearying the reader with too elaborate details.

This I take to be the great art in composing literary history. The reader should be able to take, and to remember, a general view of the whole, and while looking down the long vista of the gallery, he should be allowed to pause at each remarkable picture long enough to study and comprehend its beauties and its individual character. . . . .

I cannot doubt that the work will always be the standard work upon the subject, and that it will turn the attention of many to a literature which has of late years been, I should think, comparatively neglected. . . . .

Spanish literature is not only an important subject in itself, but it furnishes a complete and separate episode in the history of the progress and development of the European mind. Nowhere else have poets exhibited themselves in such picturesque and startling attitude and costume. The warrior, monk, troubadour, and statesman, all in one, combining the priest's bigotry and the poet's fire with the ‘courtier's, soldier's, scholar's, eye, tongue, sword,’ exist only in that romantic literature of which you have written the history so well.

One can hardly understand the history of Europe without knowing not only the history, but the literary history, of Spain; and after the brilliant illustrations of both, furnished by yourself and Mr. Prescott, no one will have an excuse for ignorance.

Begging you to excuse this slight expression of the merits of your work, I remain

Very sincerely yours,


From Henry Hallam, Esq.

Wilton Crescent, London, January 10, 1850.
My dear Mr. Ticknor,—The American mail went so soon after my receipt of your very obliging present of your three volumes, that I was not able to thank you at that time. The delay, however, has given me time to read them through, and I can congratulate you on having brought your long labors to a close with so much honor to yourself. The book has evidently taken a position in which it both supersedes, for its chief purpose, all others, and will never be itself superseded, certainly not out of Spain; and, unless Spain become very different from what it is, not within its confines. Your reach of knowledge is really marvellous in a foreigner; and I particularly admire the candor and good sense with which you have escaped the ordinary fault of exaggerating the writers whom you have occasion to bring before the public, while you have done ample justice to their real deserts. Your style is clear, firm, and well-sustained. Perhaps you will excuse a very trifling criticism; a few words seem to recur too often, such as lady-love, which I hold hardly fit for prose, and genial, which is better, and not objectionable, except that I think you have it too often.

I rejoice—not only on your account—that your work has every prospect of a large sale in America. It is greatly to the credit of the country that a subject so merely library, and not relating to transient literature, has attracted a number of purchasers—at least according to the calculation of your publisher—very far beyond what any book, except one of a popular character, could reach at once in England. This shows that America is fast taking a high position as a literary country; the next half-century will be abundantly productive of good authors in your Union. And it is yet to be observed that there is not, nor probably will be, a distinct American school The language is absolutely the same, all slight peculiarities being now effaced; and there seems nothing in the turn of sentiment or taste which a reader can recognize as not English. This is not only remarkable in such works as yours and Mr. Prescott's, but even, as it strikes me, in the lighter literature, as far as I see it, of poetry or belles-lettres . . . .

You will, I hope, be pleased to learn that Lord Mahon has proposed your name as an Honorary Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. You will be united in this with Everett, Prescott, and Bancroft.17 [259] Lord Mahon did this without the least suggestion of mine, from being pleased with your book, but I was, of course, glad to add my name to the recommendation. You will receive the diploma in time.

I was much interested by your letter of September 25, which I took the liberty of showing to Dr. Holland and Lord Lansdowne. . . . . I hope that peace may continue all over the world, and indeed there seems no great cause for alarm at present Without the nonsense of a Peace Society, a change is coming over the spirits of men, and it is more and more felt that war is not to be undertaken for frivolous punctilios or unimportant interests. . . . .

Believe me, my dear sir,

Very truly yours,

A few months later Mr. Ticknor writes as follows:—

To Don P. De Gayangos.

Boston, October 14, 1850.
My dear Don Pascual,—I wrote you last on the 19th of August, since which I have not heard from you directly; but I know that the copies of my History which I sent to Mr. Barringer and to Don Adolfo de Castro, through your kindness, have safely reached their destination. Don Adolfo writes to me very agreeably about my book, but says he shall answer what I have said about the Buscapie.

Young Prescott has returned lately, and brought me the fine copies of ‘Ayllon's Cid,’ 1579, and of the ‘Toledana Discreta,’ 1604, which you intrusted to his care. His father came at the same time, and both of them are quite well, and much gratified by the kindness they everywhere received in Europe . . . .

I continue to receive much better accounts of my book from Europe than I can think it deserves. . . . . You will, I suppose, have had Ford's review in the ‘London Quarterly’ for October, and that of Rossieuw de St. Hilaire in the ‘Revue des Deux Mondes’ at [260] Paris. Julius is going on vigorously with his translation at Hamburg, assisted, as he writes me, by notes from Wolf of Vienna and Huber of Berlin, and expecting to publish at New Year. Tieck writes with much kindness about it. Villemain has volunteered to me a message of approbation and thanks; and I enclose you a letter from Humboldt, found in a newspaper, of which I know nothing else, not even to whom it was addressed; but which I think you and Don Domingo del Monte will read with pleasure, for the sake of the few words in which he speaks of Prescott and myself, and for the broad view he gives—after his grand, generalizing fashion—of the progress of culture in the United States.

There have been a great many notices of my History, I understand, in England and this country, which I have not seen; but I have not heard of any of them that were unfavorable.


From Ludwig Tieck

Potsdam, July 28, 1850.
honored friend,19—What a happy time it was when we met almost every day in Dresden. I still look back to that time with much pleasure. Genuine friendship, indeed, consists in this, that men understand each other better every day, and become indispensable to one another in sentiments, expressions, and so forth; this is what ordinary society neither appreciates nor requires. Notwithstanding the high esteem with which you inspired me, your valued present surprised me; for, delightful as these welcome volumes were, their many-sided and profound learning astonished me. Much is now doing for Spanish literature, but your learned work appears to me the first of the day.

If I did not immediately thank you from a full heart, my malady, which takes hold of me, and exhausts me to an incredible degree, must be my excuse, and, on the same ground, you will kindly accept this dictated letter.

Much as I have read of Spanish, and though I counted myself among the connoisseurs in the province of poetry, your beautiful book [261] has yet put me to shame, for I have gained an endless amount of new information from it. The chapters on the Romances seemed to me especially new and instructive, and I rejoice in the prospect of repeated readings, that I may study and learn more. It was new to me, also, that you had travelled in Spain.

I confess that I cannot feel much admiration for the modern poetry, in comparison with the earlier poetry and literature. These modern ideas, this French style, this degraded language, do not suit the grave Spaniard.

I could have wished the chapters on the Drama more minute still, and it seems to me that we Protestants, by education, habit, and daily intercourse, lack a power of entering into the mythical religious poetry. For, while Calderon inclined to allegory, we find in Lope religious mythical views, and poetic representations which have exercised an extraordinary magic power over me for many years. Just so Lope's contemporaries, such as Mira de Mesqua and others, are very remarkable in representations of miracles, legends, apparitions. This point seems to me to have been too little regarded by all friends; for I cannot speak of those caricatures which, for a time, tried to attract attention by much noise; when even young Jews were indefatigable in painting Madonnas and Christs.

Remember me to your lady, and think sometimes of your admiring friend,

Having thus met with a solid and most gratifying success, the ‘History of Spanish Literature’ maintained its place, and in 1863, when he had accumulated additional materials, and had profited by all the suggestions contained in the Spanish and German translations of his work, as well as in such reviews and private criticisms as seemed to him of value, Mr. Ticknor brought out a third edition of the book, ‘corrected and enlarged.’ The Preface to this gives a full account of the means and methods by which he had acquired the new matter, and of the changes he saw fit to make.20

He continued, as long as he lived, to gather from every accessible source whatever could add to the accuracy and the merit [262] of this his chief production. ‘A copy of his History was always on his table; and, retaining to the last his literary activity, and his interest in his favorite studies, he constantly had it in hand, for the purpose of making such revisions as were suggested by his own researches, or those of Spanish scholars in Europe. . . . Any one who will take the trouble to compare the two editions [the third and fourth] will see how carefully and conscientiously Mr. Ticknor labored, to the day of his death, to secure completeness to the work to which the best portion of his life was dedicated, with a singleness of devotion rare in these days of desultory activity and rapid production.’21

1 Mr. Samuel Rogers, the English poet, when Mr. Ticknor's book was published and a copy of it lay on his table, said to Sir Charles Lyell, in allusion to it, ‘I am told it has been the work of his life. How these Bostonians do work!’

2 See ante, pp. 161 and 182.

3 Mr. Obadiah Rich, once Consul of the United States at Port Mahon, a faithful and cultivated bibliopole, was, as a London bookseller, Mr. Ticknor's agent for many years.

4 Mr. Gayangos generously lent Mr. Ticknor many volumes from his own library, which were of great service. They came in successive parcels across the ocean, and were returned to him in the same way.

5 Mr. Cogswell remained, at the request of Mr. John Jacob Astor, to organize the library he had promised to found, which was not, however, established for several years.

6 Of Hamburg.

7 Dr. Julius (see ante, p. 142, and note) had given special attention to prison discipline. He was one of the German translators of the ‘History of Spanish Literature.’

8 Life of Prescott, 4to ed. p. 284.

9 Shirley Brooks, in the ‘Morning Chronicle.’

10 Spanish, German and French.

11 In the ‘North American Review.’ This was the last article Mr. Prescott ever wrote for a periodical. See ‘Life of Prescott.’

12 From the ‘Bulletin Belge,’ article signed G. Brunet. ‘The bibliographical information it contains in great quantities, and which furnishes materials for numerous and important additions to the researches of Brunet, Ébert, and other experts, versed in the history of books.’

13 Author of the ‘Handbook of Spain.’ He wrote an article on Mr. Ticknor's work in the ‘London Quarterly,’ and a notice of it also for the ‘London Times.’

14 The letter appears in the ‘Life of Theodore Parker,’ to whom it was addressed.

15 The more important notices of Mr. Ticknor's work, at its first appearance, were the following: ‘London Quarterly’ (by Richard Ford); ‘North American,’ January, 1850 (by W. H. Prescott); ‘British Quarterly,’ February, 1850; ‘London Athenaeum,’ March, 1850; ‘Revue des Deux Mondes,’ 1850 (by Rossieuw de St. Hilaire); ‘El Heraldo,’ Madrid, March, 1850 (by Domingo del Monte); ‘London Morning Chronicle,’ May, 1850 (by Shirley Brooks, who wrote to Mr. Ticknor to inform him of the authorship); ‘Christian Examiner,’ Boston, April, 1850 (by G. S. Hillard); ‘Methodist Quarterly,’ New York (by C. C. Felton); ‘L'Opinion Publique,’ Paris, which had five articles in 1851 (by Count Adolphe de Circourt); ‘London Spectator,’ ‘Examiner,’ ‘Literary Gazette,’ and ‘Gentleman's Magazine,’ 1850; ‘Journal des Debats,’ 1852 (by Philarete Chasles, who also paid a tribute to the work in his ‘Voyages d'un Critique en Espagne,’ 1868); ‘Blatter fur Literarische Unterhaltung,’ 1853 (by Ferdinand Wolf).

16 A delightful letter from Washington Irving has already been published in his Memoirs, which deprives us of the pleasure of producing it here.

17 Lord Mahon, as President of the Society, said at its annual meeting, April 23, 1850: ‘It is also with great pleasure that I find another gentleman from the United States, the author of the excellent ‘History of Spanish Literature,’ augmenting the list of our honorary members. Five years ago we had not one from that country. At present we have four, namely, Mr. Everett, Mr. Bancroft, Mr. Prescott, and Mr. Ticknor,—an accession of talent and high character of which any society might justly be proud.’ After reading the book Lord Mahon had opened a correspondence with Mr. Ticknor, whom he had not previously known.

18 In a letter from Mr. Abbott Lawrence, then our Minister to England, to Mr. S. A. Eliot, he says: ‘I was present a few evenings since, when the Queen asked Mr. Macaulay what new book he could recommend for her reading. He replied that he would recommend Her Majesty to send for the “History of Spanish literature,” by an American, Mr. Ticknor of Boston.’

19 Translated from the German.

20 In this Preface Mr. Ticknor states that 3,500 copies of his work have been published in America alone. Since that time 1,300 more have been sold in the United States.

21 Preface to the Fourth Edition, by G. S. Hillard. This edition, prepared for the press by Mr. Hillard, appeared a year after the death of Mr. Ticknor, who left a special request that his friend might perform this office.

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