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I have now my house full for the Christmas holidays, which I trust you also keep up in the good old style. Wishing a merry Christmas and a happy New Year to you and yours, I remain, my dear Paulding,
Yours ever, very truly,
PUBLICATION OF VOL. II. OF LIFE OF WASHINGTON. LETTER FROM PRESCOTT.-LETTER TO HENRY T. TUCKERMAN.-LETTER OF CHARLES L. BRACE ON VOL. II. LETTER TO BANCROFT. -LETTER TO JOHN P. KENNEDY. — LETTER TO GOUVERNEUR KEMBLE.-PUBLICATION OF VOL. III.-MRS. EMILY FULLER TO WASHINGTON IRVING. REPLY. — LETTER FROM DICKENS. LETTER TO MRS. STORROW.
HE second volume of the "Life of Washington," which brings the history down from the period of his taking command of the army-a year before the Declaration of Independence to the close of the successful campaign in New Jersey in January, 1777, was issued in December, 1855.
The following letter from Prescott, who had just received a copy, will be read with interest. In the opening paragraph, the distinguished historian alludes to a complimentary letter from Mr. Irving on his "Philip the Second." Henry Brevoort, so touchingly referred to at the close, had been dead some years.
[From W. H. Prescott.]
BOSTON, January 3, 1836.
MY DEAR FRIEND :
Since the publication of “
Philip the Second," I may truly say nothing
has given me greater pleasure than your kind note, and the cordial man
ner in which you speak of my labors. Ever since I have been old enough to distinguish good from evil in literary composition, your writings have been my familiar study. And if I have done anything that deserves half the commendation you bestow on me, it is in a great measure from the study I have made of you, and two or three others of the great masters of our language. Every one who knows me, knows that this is true. You may understand, then, how well I am pleased to obtain your unsolicited approval.
I have been gladdened by the sight of the second volume of your great work, which came to us a few days since. You are a good deal quicker on the trigger than I can be. You must have had a quantity of the material already potted down for posterity. It is very tantalizing to the reader, this fashion of publishing by installments of a volume or two at a time, and people complain if they are not turned out as rapidly as romances. Macaulay used to tell the story of a young lady of his acquaintance whom he met the week after his first two volumes appeared, who said to him: "I have just finished your volumes, Mr. Macaulay, and now we are all ready for another two!"
You have done with Washington just as I thought you would, and, instead of a cold, marble statue of a demigod, you have made him a being of flesh and blood, like ourselves-one with whom we can have sympathy. The general sentiment of the country has been too decidedly expressed for you to doubt for a moment that this is the portrait of him which is to hold a permanent place in the national gallery.
What naturally was of especial interest to me in your first volume, was that pons asinorum, over which so many have stumbled-the battle of Bunker Hill. You have gone over it in a way which must satisfy the most captious critic. The silly question as to the command has been a much vexed question in New England, as you are aware. I don't know whether you ever heard of the amusing fact of three folio volumes of affidavits of survivors having been taken by the late William Sullivan,
*It had been a moot point, in New England, whether General Putnam or Colonel William Prescott, the grandfather of the historian, had the chief command at the battle of Bunker Hill.
bearing particularly on that matter. At his death, they were presented by his brother, Richard Sullivan, to the Massachusetts Historial Society. A committee was appointed by that body to examine their contents, and to report respecting them. The report was, that the testimony was so contradictory in its nature, that it would rather perplex than enlighten the historian; and the volumes were returned to Mr. Sullivan. A good commentary this, on the value of even contemporary evidence.
But your kind note should not bring down such an avalanche on your head. Its date from Sunnyside reminds me of the pleasant day I passed in company with your early friend Brevoort, and mine of later years. It is long since I made a visit to New York; and when I have had occasion to pass a day there, the forms of those who used to greet me kindly, and who have gone forever, are sure to come up before my eye.
May you be among the number of those who are spared, and long spared, dear Mr. Irving, to delight the world by your writings, and enjoy the love and gratitude of your countrymen.
Believe me, always, very truly and affectionately, yours,
WM. H. PRESCOTT.
The battle of Bunker Hill, of which Prescott relates his amusing anecdote, is given near the close of the first volume. The second volume carries the narrative down to the victories of Trenton and Princeton.
To a very kind letter from Mr. Tuckerman, soon after the publication of his second volume, the author sends the following reply, giving some insight into his own views and plan in the treatment of his theme :—
[To Mr. H. T. Tuckerman.]
MY DEAR MR. TUCKERMAN:
SUNNYSIDE, January 8, 1856.
I thank you most heartily for your letter, which, I frankly assure you, was very seasonable and acceptable, being the first intimation I had re
ceived of the fortune of the volume I had launched upon the world. It was very considerate and obliging in you to seek to relieve me from the suspense of "waiting for a verdict; " which, with me, is apt to be a time of painful doubt and self-distrust. You have discovered what I aimed at, "the careful avoidance of rhetoric, the calm, patient, and faithful narrative of facts." My great labor has been to arrange these facts in the most lucid order, and place them in the most favorable light, without exaggeration or embellishment, trusting to their own characteristic value for effect. Rhetoric does very well under the saddle, but is not to be trusted in harness, being apt to pull facts out of place and upset them. My horse, Gentleman Dick, was very rhetorical, and showed off finely; but he was apt to run away with me, and came near breaking my neck.
I have availed myself of the license of biography to step down occasionally from the elevated walk of history, and relate familiar things in a familiar way; seeking to show the prevalent passions, and feelings, and humors of the day, and even to depict the heroes of Seventy-six as they really were-men in cocked hats, regimental coats, and breeches; and not classic warriors, in shining armor and flowing mantles, with brows bound with laurel, and truncheons in their hands. But enough of all this. I have committed myself to the stream, and, right or wrong, must swim on or sink. The latter I will not do, if I find the public sustain me.
The work, as I am writing it, will inevitably overrun three volumes. I had supposed, originally, that it would not, though I did not intend that number should be specified in the title-page. It was specified by my publisher, who will put an author's incidental surmises into print, and make positive promises of them.
Should I have occasion to avail myself of the papers you so kindly put at my disposition, concerning Gouverneur Morris, Early American Society, etc., I shall have no hesitation in applying to you for them. In the mean time, let me repeat how very sensibly I feel the generous interest you have manifested in my literary success on the present occasion.
Yours, very truly,