The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 88, July 1984 - April, 1985 Page: 117
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peared separately between 1865 and i892. Each stands alone, but all
were designed to make a whole, and the whole is a major achievement
of historical research and literary art. Parkman ranks as one of Ameri-
ca's great writers. His books have often been reissued singly and in
collections and anthologies. This edition of the histories, with texts
selected by David Levin, one of the country's leading scholars, will
certainly set a new standard by which other editions will be measured.
Physically, the new edition is a delight. The seven histories are
brought together into two volumes, which, thanks to a small format,
are surprisingly easy to handle. By using fine paper, an excellent type
face, and good bindings, the publishers have manufactured an un-
usually useful and good-looking two volumes. No essential has been
left out. Each volume contains a thorough index, a chronology, and
brief notes by the editor.
Are Parkman's books still good history after a century? The answer
is yes and no. He wrote with the assumptions and literary conventions
of the age of romanticism. His ideas about nature, progress, and race
are old-fashioned now. He was assiduous in searching out and using
primary documents, but several generations of scholars since then have
asked new questions of the documents and hunted up new evidence.
Parkman remains unsurpassed as a story teller, but history as story
is not in fashion. Hence one scholar today calls the volume on La
Salle "magnificent," while another says that Parkman's continued
popularity has been "disastrous for the study of the history of Canada."
Parkman's treatment of La Salle's Fort St. Louis on Matagorda Bay
is a case in point. For him the Texas coast and prairies were important
only as the stage on which his hero played out the last, tragic act. The
fate of La Salle was more important than that of the colony he hoped
to found. Of the men and women adventuring as settlers, Parkman
tells us almost nothing. Nor was he at all interested in the complex of
Indian tribes or their century-long involvement with the Spanish to
the west and south. For one fleeting moment Parkman tells of La
Salle's meeting a party of Comanche who had raided Spanish forts
across the Pecos and traded trophies of war to the eastern Indians, but
that was not part of La Salle's story, and Parkman turns aside. When
he recounts the eventual destruction of the settlement by Indians and
the discovery of the ruined fort a year later by a Spanish search party,
Parkman is only tying up the loose ends of a history that had really
ended with La Salle's murder by his desperate companions.
So it is with each of the seven histories in this new edition. Every
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 88, July 1984 - April, 1985, periodical, 1984/1985; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101210/m1/139/: accessed April 19, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.