The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 80, July 1976 - April, 1977 Page: 239
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she shows how his essays foreshadow themes in his books, but she refrains
from the needed assessment of the intellectual import of those books. She
needs to explore the concepts of The Great Plains and The Great Frontier
and explain why they created a significant stir in the profession.
As a study of Webb's life, this biography probes only superficially. In his
letters to Jane Oliphant, Webb revealed a great deal about his personality
and motivations. These personal characteristics related directly to his his-
torical endeavors, yet the author skirts these issues. Webb's love letters to
Jane throbbed with passion and ached with doubts about the wisdom of
their relationship, but the author reveals none of this turmoil. She handles
their marital relationship with such delicacy as to obscure its true nature
and its influence on his work. From his earliest years, Webb was acutely
aware of the need for money and always angled for ways to get it. He sold
maps, school supplies, and honey (from Beeville, appropriately), and he
exacted commercial rates of interest on small loans. Business enterprise was
second nature to him, yet Furman only hints at this aspect of his early
career, which would flourish later. These examples show areas where bio-
graphical understatement detracts from full understanding of the subject.
The biography reveals a good command of the original sources, including
interviews, with only occasional errors. Furman misdates the intellectual
genesis of Divided We Stand, contending (both in text and footnote) that
Webb's inspiration began in February, 1936. A fascinating document in
the C. B. Smith Collection of Webb papers in the Texas State Archives
shows that Webb had the outline of the book well worked out during the
summer of 1935. On the reverse of a bill from the Hotel Commander in
Cambridge, where Webb stayed while he taught at Harvard, he sketched
the book's contents. I suspect that he had a moment of inspiration for the
architecture of the book, similar to his flash of insight concerning the Colt
revolver as the key to the Great Plains concept.
The author's prose is imaginative, and the topical arrangement (within
a general chronological framework) produces a minimum of duplication.
Except for confusing "fortuitous" with "fortunate," and an overuse of such
words as "shinnery," Furman writes with considerable style. Especially
appealing is her description of the state cemetery, where Webb is buried:
"the figure of Stephen F. Austin on the crest of the hill watches with a
father's care over his land and his people" (p. i8o). This book is a worthy
accomplishment, for it gives a clear outline of the major aspects of Webb's
life and work. That more remains to be done is no criticism of this book,
merely an indication of the importance of the subject in historical thought.
University of Maryland
WALTER RUNDELL, JR.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 80, July 1976 - April, 1977, periodical, 1976/1977; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101204/m1/271/: accessed January 16, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.