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In many ways a historical romance gives a more adequate impression of bygone life than any mere historical records could do. Imagination, if adequate and controlled by a reverent respect for truth, presents a completer truth than the judicial
It re-clothes the dry bones, it re-creates living personages, it reproduces in exact form, and colour, and movement, as also in mental and moral process, events as they occurred, and not merely in the effects which they produced. Imaginary characters, if truthfully conceived, present to us life as it was really lived. Without imagination the historian is merely an annalist dealing with statistics. Endowed with imagination he is a poet—a maker, reproducing living men and women.
This is a historical romance of a very high order, chiefly because of its simplicity and truth. The personal and imaginative element in the author is much more subordinated to historic truth than with many great masters of this class of fiction—that is, his imagination is that of the historian rather than that of the novelist.
The work appeared anonymously in the United States nearly fifty years ago. I am old enough to remember the attention that it attracted and the rapid popularity that it attained. It passed through several editions on both sides of the Atlantic, and then it took its place in the large class of quasi-classics—too good to be wholly forgotten, not great enough to be a constant literary presence. Besides the greater lights that rule the day and the lesser lights that rule the night, there are the stars also.
The author has followed very closely on the lines of history. Palmyra-or, according to its equivalent Arab name, Tadmor, the City of Palms—was rebuilt, if not founded, by Solomon, ten centuries before Christ. Its locality is an oasis of the Syrian Desert some 130 miles E.N.E. of Damascus. It gradually attained to importance as a connecting link between the East and the Mediterranean. History, however, makes but little mention of it. Strabo does not even name it. It had become