Document : Compte rendu (1844) de : History of the Conquest of Mexico de William H. Prescott

Dans son volume XXVI de 18441, le trimestriel méthodiste de The Methodist quarterly review de la Methodist Episcopal Church publiait un compte rendu sans nom d’auteur de la publication de William Prescott intitulée History of the Conquest of Mexico, parue pour la première fois en 1843. C’est ce document que nous transcrivons ci-après.

This is the long anxiously expected work from Mr. Prescott, the announcement of which excited the highest anticipations of interest, as well from the romantic nature of the subject, which has all the excitement of a novel, as from the general admiration of the high historical qualities of the author’s Ferdinand and Isabella. This expectation will not be disappointed. The work is unaffected and simple in style ; historical difficulties are calmly weighed ; the incidental illustrations in the notes are happily introduced ; the political and social remarks are in a vein of good sense and enlarged humanity. The liberal and scholarlike tributes to the labors and good fame of the original historians form one of the most attractive portions of the work, and prepare the reader to welcome warmly the merits of the historian himself, who pursues his task under difficulties scarcely inferior to those endured by the most persecuted of his predecessors, though of a different kind. Mr. Prescott tells us, in his preface, that he has written this work (by the help of a writing-case made for the blind) without being able himself to read or correct his original draft. It would require a learned reader to detect this from the book itself, which is especially free from all repetitions and redundancies, and particularly furnished with those illustrative comments which require peculiar care and diligence, and seemingly great nicety of eye as well as discipline of mind. The circumstances under which Mr. Prescott’s books are produced will be as memorable in literary history as the books themselves will be lasting. The present work embraces, in addition to the History proper, a view of the ancient Mexican civilization, in which Mr. Prescott reverses the order of Robertson, who gives us this portion of his work last. Either method has its advantages. With Robertson, we pursue the natural order of discovery, and first notice the natural features of the country, the productions of the soil, the manners and habits of the natives, their altars and superstitions, as they successively come into the view of the first invaders ; and at the close, when the brilliant drama of Cortes is finished, we sit down and review the resources of the land, its pomp and grandeur, and the fatal elements of its weakness. Mr. Prescott admits us at once behind the scenes, anticipates the discoveries of the conquerors, but makes us at home in the country, so that we may weigh impartially the difficulties, dangers, and prowess of the little army of Cortes. The introductory portion of his work, Mr. Prescott tells us, has cost him as much labor and time as the remainder of the History. It is admirably prepared. Learning never appeared more amiable than in these well-informed, picturesque pages. Let the reader, who would note the advancement of historical science, compare the details of these chapters with the similar portion of Robertson’s History, (which all value and honor who can appreciate an eloquent, harmonious style, and a refined spirit of observation,) and observe the new and important illustrations Mr. Prescott has added.

This work is of a still more popular character than the History of Ferdinand and Isabella, and we anticipate for it a still wider circulation. It is admirably printed, and furnished with maps and portraits. The engravings are very spirited.

We shall probably take occasion again to speak of this elegant and valuable work.

  1. « 5. History of the Conquest of Mexico, with a Preliminary View of the Ancient Mexican Civilization, and the Life of the Conqueror, Hernando Cortés. By William H. Prescott. 3 vols., 8vo. New-York : Harper & Brothers. », The Methodist quarterly review, 1844, january, vol. XXVI, 3d series, vol. IV, p. 157-158. Disponible en ligne, url : <>. []

Olivier Jacquot

Coordonnateur de la recherche > Délégation à la Stratégie et à la recherche > Bibliothèque nationale de France

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