The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 51, July 1947 - April, 1948 Page: 381
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his work demonstrated that the American Indian had made cul-
tural achievements of prime importance. Today Americanists
refer to Stephens as "the father of Maya studies." A Schliemann
of the New World, it was Stephens who opened up the produc-
tive field of Maya archaeology.
Stephens was a remarkably versatile man. Van Wyck Brooks
has called him one of the few great writers of travel. He was a
lawyer and a politician, a Jacksonian Democrat who was regarded
as the outstanding speaker of Tammany Hall. He served as a
confidential diplomatic agent in Central America for President
Van Buren and wrote the first adequate report on the feasibility
of the Panama Canal. He was also a successful businessman and
promoter, and it was largely due to his efforts that the Panama
Railroad was built in time to facilitate travel from the eastern
seaboard to the gold fields of California. Into his short life of
only forty-seven years Stephens crowded an impressive series of
Mr. von Hagen has given us a highly readable biography of
Stephens. It is written in a fast-paced, dramatic style which is
effective, although occasionally it gets out of hand. For instance,
instead of simply stating that Stephens has malaria, von Hagen
feels compelled to write thus: " .. in his blood stream were
swarming millions of protozoa, multiplying asexually at an ap-
palling rate and exploding his blood cells; the germs were the
Plasmodia of malaria." Such extravagances of style occur often
enough to be irritating. One of the best features of the book is
the broad picture it gives of America in the first half of the
nineteenth century. It is more than a biography; it is also the
history of an era. The author is skillful at weaving in just the
right amount of background material.
This book is handsomely printed. It includes forty pages of
illustrations, and by far the most eye-catching are the reproduc-
tions of Catherwood's engravings and lithographs. Some of the
engravings, such as that of the Temple of the Magician at Uxmal,
make modern photographs look dull and prosaic. A well-drawn
Maya glyph at the beginning of each chapter also adds to the
general attractiveness of the book.
T. N. CAMPBELL
The University of Texas
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 51, July 1947 - April, 1948, periodical, 1948; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101119/m1/475/: accessed September 19, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.