Monday, September 3, 2007

Historical Prose?

I found a book in the public library that was published in 1962 about the French Indian War. Since history in general is an interest of mine and I haven’t studied much about the French Indian War, I thought I would do some catch up.
To my surprise this was not an ordinary history book. Leading in to the first chapter, I was met with this vivid description: “The tiny palisade settlement of Schenectady, New York, lay still and sleeping under a heavy blanket of snow.”* This was a description of the impending assault on the unknown citizen. Later the description continues with the returning victors of the assault: “They marched towards Montreal, two hundred miles to the north, and the white cold of the northern winter swallowed them up as silently as they had come.”* Later in the book, the attack on Deerfield was equally described, “With the darkness the wind blew stronger, swirling the snow in drifts to the top of the palisades, muffling all other sounds.”*
I have noticed that the author’s descriptions often refer to the landscape. How things looked, smelled, sounded and felt. It makes me giggle as I read it, because it is such a vivid description that you think the author actually was there. He must be a very old man!

The account is wonderfully written and I know, I am a bit anal about using sources and not put your own flavor to an historical event. But really, I have a difficult time believing in the book and the events he describes. I have yet to finish the book but I am sure I will bump into more of these vivid descriptions and I will smile every time I read them, because I am a bit amused by this book and the thought of how some of my history professor would react to it.

* Source: Russell, Francis. The French Indian Wars. New York: American Heritage Publishing Company. 1962.

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