The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 90, July 1986 - April, 1987

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

Edwin T. Booth, Lawrence Barrett, Alexander Salvini, Joseph Jefferson
III, and Lily Langtry) appeared on the Austin stage. Surely there is
ample evidence here to suggest that Austinians appreciated the enter-
tainment and edification afforded by their playhouses and supported
them to the extent that their numbers permitted.
The weaknesses of the book derive largely from its somewhat awk-
ward organization and its wholly descriptive, nonanalytical approach.
By dividing the work into five topical chapters covering, sequentially,
the audience, the "Beginnings," the theaters, the touring professionals,
and the amateurs, the author has occasionally found it necessary to re-
peat himself, while at the same time rendering the overall story more
than a little confusing. His concern with producing a descriptive chron-
icle at the expense of analysis suggests at times a kind of superficial
antiquarianism rather than social and cultural history at its best. None-
theless, as Austin theater critic John Bustin notes in his affectionate in-
troduction to the book, Curtain Call is diverting, amusing, and en-
lightening. It deserves the attention of a wide readership, and is a
welcome addition to the growing number of local theatrical chronicles
of the major cities of the United States.
University of Southwestern Louisiana JAMES H. DORMON
Rivers of Empire: Water, Aridity, and the Growth of the American West. By
Donald Worster. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1985. Pp. vii+402.
Notes, index. $24.95.)
This brilliantly written and provocative book is in some ways prob-
lematical. The author insightfully analyzes the relationship that has
existed historically between social power and the control of water. On
the other hand, the book often conveys a rather rigid and moralistic
attitude, causing the reader occasionally to question the author's objec-
tivity. Essentially, Donald Worster views all tendency toward centralized
control of water in the nineteenth century as part of an imperialistic
plot, whether promoted by government engineers and bureaucrats in
India or by the same groups in the American West. Overall, the work is
an attempt to demonstrate how irrigation developments in the Ameri-
can West fit historically into the world picture of water control.
In a broadly philosophic manner, Rivers of Empire delves into the
question of how conditions in earlier irrigation societies relate to water
management in the American West. In fact, in the first third of the
book, the author's broad sweep of world irrigation history, as well as
of historical philosophy, causes the reader to lose sight at times of
the work's main focus on the American West. One might question the

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 90, July 1986 - April, 1987. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117152/. Accessed July 23, 2014.