Books: The Historian as Novelist

PRESCOTT'S HISTORIES edited by Irwin R. Blacker. 568 pages. Viking. $7.50.

William Hickling Prescott never visited Spain. Friends tried to lure him there during his many tours of Europe, and so did the Spanish government. But Prescott had a Spain in his mind, and he wanted nothing to mar that image. Prescott's Spain was a darkly dramatic land, and he populated it with villains of incredible baseness and heroes of astounding virtue. In so doing he became one of the most famous American historians of the 19th century.

Prescott is often quoted today, but seldom, if ever, read. To put him back into...

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