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By BRANDER MATTHEWS
THE 1920 LECTURE SERIES OF
ARTS AND LETTERS
Rih Howgate 3-17-36 31936
BY BRANDER MATTHEWS
This is not the place, nor am I the person, to attempt a survey of the career and of the characteristics of Theodore Roosevelt. He was a manysided man, traveler and explorer, soldier and statesman, naturalist and man of letters. It was because he was a man of letters, a historian and a biographer, an orator and an essayist that he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters; and at this memorial meeting it is only as a man of letters that he can be considered. This limitation has its advantages, because his prominence in public life has
1 Read April 15, 1920.
tended to obscure his eminence as a writer. Perhaps it is not too much to suggest that if he had not entered the arena of politics his high position as an author would have been widely recognized.
His earliest ambition was to be a historian; and while he was yet an undergraduate in college he made ready to write the History of the Naval War of 1812. His treatment of this difficult subject was so disinterested and so devoid of partizanship that a few years later, when a coöperative history of the British navy was undertaken in London, he was invited to deal with this period,-a testimony alike to the open-mindedness of the British editor and to the fair-mindedness of the American contributor.
After the writing of the History of the Naval War of 1812, Theodore Roosevelt began the toilsome searches needed for a history of The
Winning of the West,—which may be regarded as a continuation of Parkman's monumental chronicle of the century-long struggle between England and France for the possession of North America. For Parkman he had always the deepest admiration; and he sought to give his own successive volumes the solid qualities he found in Parkman's,—scientific integrity, artistic proportion, and, above all
, unflagging human interest.
Like Parkman, he spared no pains in preparation for his work. He familiarized himself with the topography; he studied the Indian and the frontiersman; he diligently sought out all possible sources of information, in print, in manuscript, and in oral tradition. Having mastered his materials he digested them; and then he told the story veraciously and vividly, making the dim figures of the past start to life and stand erect before the