The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 93, July 1989 - April, 1990 Page: 28
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Southwestern Hzstorzcal Quarterly
1926, when he finally tired of the effort, House kept a voluminous
diary. Although often misleading and inaccurate, this diary is a vital
source for his life after 1912. During his Texas years (1858-1912),
however, House kept no diary; nor has the bulk of his correspondence
survived. In early 1914, after he had sold his mansion in Austin, House
went through his accumulated correspondence, destroying much of it.
As he wrote a friend at the time, "I have been enormously busy here. I
am going through thirty odd thousand letters, culling out those that
are to be saved and those that are to be burned." Given the fact that he
had long had a strong sense of destiny, his behavior is especially puz-
zling. What induced him to destroy those very records upon which any
reconstruction of his life and career would have to be based? Possibly
he sought to shield aspects of his inner life; possibly he wanted to con-
ceal the true nature of his Texas political career. Three years later,
however, in 1916, worried about the thinness of the record for his
Texas years and how posterity would view them, he wrote his "Reminis-
cences." And in 1929, nine years before his death, he wrote "Memo-
ries," another autobiographical fragment.'
In these memoirs House simplified and distorted many of the key
decisions of his Texas years, though he also offered valuable clues
about the forces that shaped his youth and early adulthood. He re-
membered vividly the flat, virtually limitless Gulf Coastal Plain of Texas,
which he roamed across as a youth. The vastness of the space, the big
skies and distant horizons, helped to nourish early dreams of fame and
glory, as did the influence of his father, his "masterful Father," "among
the ablest men I have ever known." T. W. House was the dominant fig-
ure of House's youth, a great entrepreneur and leading citizen of Texas
who took a strong interest in the education and development of his
youngest son.' He lived during the heroic age of Texas history, when
legendary figures such as Stephen F. Austin, Jim Bowie, Sam Houston,
and William B. Travis had helped to carve a republic out of a wilder-
ness, defying Mexicans and Indians, and had left a sacred tradition of
revolution and independence. House grew up in the shadow of these
men, heard tales of their deeds and of the great events in which they
had participated, and wondered how he could emulate their achieve-
ments.' By the early 188os (House was twenty-three in 1881) the fron-
tier had been tamed and Texas was a part of the American nation; no
'House's diary, along with his "Reminiscences" (1916) and "Memories" (1929) are in the
Papers of Edward M. House (Yale University Library, cited hereafter as YUL); House to Hugh
C. Wallace. Feb. 2a, 1914, House Papers (YUL).
i"Memorics," 3-5, 8 (1st quotation); "Reminiscences," 39-40, 41 (2nd quotation).
5 Mark E Nackman, A Nation Wit/zn A Nation The Rase of Texas Nationalsm (Poi t Washington,
NY : Kennikat P ess, 1975), 9-12, 56-58, 70-71; "Reminiscences," 4.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 93, July 1989 - April, 1990, periodical, 1990; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101213/m1/54/: accessed June 24, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.