Page:The Cambridge History of American Literature, v3.djvu/202

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Later Historians

It was the persistent idea of most of these collectors to gather every item possible on Columbus and his associates. The process naturally stimulated interest in history writing.

The best outgrowth of this movement was Henry Harrisse (1823-1910). He was born in Paris, removed to the United States when still a boy, graduated from the University of South Carolina, taught in the University of North Carolina, and at length became a lawyer with a small practice in New York City. Here he came into contact with Samuel L. M. Barlow, who proved his fast friend and mentor. Thus inspired he decided to write a history of the rise, decline, and fall of the Spanish empire in America. His first step was to undertake to make a bibliography of the Columbian period, using Barlow's library as a basis and examining further the other collections in the city. The results he embodied in his Notes on Columbus (1866), in which not only titles were given but much additional information in regard to editions and contents. Favourable criticisms came from collectors and he decided to make a bibliography of Americana for the years 1492 to 1551. Thus was prepared his Bibliotheca Americana Vetustissima, which appeared in 1866. The few interested in the subject were loud in their praise, but the general public were so indifferent that the publisher threw a large part of the edition on the market at a sacrifice. Harrisse was so indignant that he set out for France, unwilling to reside in a country in which his researches were so slightly esteemed.

In Paris he received a warm welcome. Ernest Desjardins brought him to the notice of the Société de Géographic in flattering terms, declaring him the author of "the first work of solid erudition which American science has produced." He assumed a prominent place at once among French savants. Continuing his profession of lawyer he was retained to give advice to the American government in regard to legal matters connected with the construction of the Panama Canal. The remuneration was so satisfactory that he was able, by good management, to lay the foundation of a fortune amounting at his death to a million francs. Freed from financial anxieties he could give himself to a career of scholarly labour.

Thirty volumes and a large number of pamphlets remain to attest the persistence of his efforts. He entered the hitherto uncharted region of the discoverers, explored it with the great-