Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

reader's eye, in their habit as they lived. Like Parkman again he was a severely self-trained scientific investigator, who was also a consummate artist in narrative, a born story-teller. If the historian is only an investigator, the result of his labors is likely to be a sandy desert,—"an arid region abounding in dates," as an old gibe put it aptly; and if he is only a story-teller, his work will lack validity and it will be doomed to speedy disintegration. Like Parkman, once more, he possessed the qualities which Macaulay demanded in the historian—“perspicuousness, conciseness, great diligence in examining authorities, great judgment in weighing testimony, and great impartiality in estimating characters.” The four volumes of The Winning of the West are his most substantial contribution to our literature; and their solid merits were fitly acknowledged by his fellow-workers in this field

when they elected him president of the American Historical Association.

He found time also to prepare a lively little volume on New York, his native city, for the series of Historic Towns edited by Freeman; and to record the raising and the services of the Rough Riders. He collaborated with Henry Cabot Lodge in a stirring and stimulating collection of Hero Tales of American History, told with simple sincerity to arouse in the youth of our country a keener interest in the outstanding men of the past who had helped to make the nation what it is at present.

The biographer is blood-brother to the historian; and Theodore Roosevelt contributed lives of Gouverneur Morris and Thomas Benton to the American Statesman Series. Later he wrote

acute and appreciative life of Oliver Cromwell. His own Autobiography is an invaluable self-revela

an

tion. Longfellow once said that "autobiography is what biography ought to be”; yet it may be admitted that Theodore Roosevelt's Autobiography is not all that his biography should be, since it was written too soon, while he was still in the thick of the strife, so that it was impossible for him to tell us many things we should have liked to hear.

He resembled the statesmen of Rome, who were expected to prove themselves orators as well as soldiers. As a public speaker he was simple and direct. He stood on his own feet; he did his own thinking; he uttered his sincere thought; and he was as clear as he was cogent. He was no sleek rhetorician, weaving frail felicities and indulging in weasel words. Nor did he ever descend to the use of drum-like phrases, loud-sounding, empty, and monotonous. He was no dreamy idealist with his head in the

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

misty clouds and his feet slipping from under him. His idealism was practical, for it was based on the strenuous life and the square deal. He had the gift of the winged phrase, sharply pointed, and barbed to flesh itself in the memory.

There was never any necessity for explanation or extenuation; and when he branded certain "malefactors of large wealth" as "undesirable citizens” we all knew what |he meant, and not a few of us knew whom he meant.

Historian, biographer, and orator, he was also a writer of travels and a writer of letters. As an explorer he was ever alert, observant, vigilant. He had the kodak-eye of the born reporter. He saw things himself with a plumbing vision; and he had the skill needed to make us see them ourselves, eye to eye with him. He liked to speak of himself as a faunal naturalist; but the animal in which he was most interested was man. He loved nature in all its aspects, sea and plain and mountain; but he loved human nature even more. He had the keen perception and the abundant humor which enabled him to understand his fellow-man wherever he might meet him,-on the throne, amid all the trappings of empire, or in a tent of branches in the depths of a forest.

As a letter-writer, as an inditer of familiar missives to his multitude of friends, he bids fair to take his place among the masters in that apparently artless department of literature. His letters are the immediate expression of himself, spontaneous, genuine, and frank. "Whatever record leaps to life, he will not be shamed,” as Tennyson said of Wellington. His correspondence was seemingly limitless, and only a little of it has yet been sifted for our enjoyment. Yet he might almost rest his claim to an abiding place

« PreviousContinue »