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LONGMANS, GREEN AND CO.
THE SCIENTIFIC PRESS
“He told the red man's story; far and wide
He searched the unwritten records of his race; He sat a listener at the Sachem's side,
He tracked the hunter through his wildwood chase.
“High o'er his head the soaring eagle screamed;
The wolf's long howl rang nightly; through the vale Tramped the lone bear; the panther's eyeballs gleamed; The bison's gallop thundered on the gale.”
- OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES.
SENTIMENTAL TOMMY longed to find “some work into which he could put his heart as if it were a game." Francis Parkman found such work; and he won the game, after what the spectators have aptly termed 'a half-century of conflict."
He was the oldest child of Francis Parkman, a Unitarian minister of Boston. Both father and mother were of Puritan descent. At the age of eight Francis was so delicate in health that his parents sent him to his grandfather's country home near Medford. Here he spent four happy years roaming the wilds of Middlesex Fells, fostering his natural love for the wilderness, and unconsciously determining his future work.
On returning to his father's home, he attended the Chauncey Hall School, where he was an industrious and appreciative student. His instructor took especial care to teach his pupils to write easy and forcible English and to have them read and memorize a great deal of the best poetry. These exercises Parkman always regarded as important helps in the formation of his literary style. He tried his own hand at verse, rendering the tournament scene from“Ivanhoe” to the admiration of all his young friends. The remainder of his time was pretty well taken up with the chemical laboratory fitted up in his father's woodshed, and with the management of the “Star Theater, enterprise flourishing for two years in his father's barn. The boys in the company made their own scenery and costumes, and performed twice each week. Francis usually played women's parts; but sometimes the “Interesting Experiments in Chemistry, by Mr. Parkman" were leading features of the program.
As many of his ancestors had been graduates and selı
benefactors of Harvard College, it was natural that Parkman should add his name to the list. Harvard was then a small college, with a course of study somewhat in advance of a good present-day high school, and with excellent opportunities for comradeship. Parkman took his part in student affairs, forming many lasting friendships. In history and rhetoric he was a conspicuous student.
His life purpose shaped itself unusually early. Before the close of his sophomore year he found the work into which he could put his whole heart. His love for literature and the wilderness determined him to write a history of the Old French War—the struggle between English, French, and Indians for possession of the American forest. Henceforth all the events of his life center on this ambition.
He read everything he could find that bore upon his theme. Among his college friends he earned the distinction of “having Injuns on the brain."
He desired information first hand. He realized that no history such as he purposed could be written from books alone. He must know the life of hunter and trapper, of Indian and scout. He undertook with enthusiasm a course in “cramming endurance" that would fit him for wilderness life. He rode, practiced with rifle and paddle, and wearied even the most athletic companions of his long walks. His freshman vacation was spent in a tramping tour through the White Mountains. During his next vacation he made a more extended trip to the historic Lake George and Lake Champlain, and then to Canada. The diary kept on these trips is delightfully breezy. His observation is keen, his narrative rapid. His youthful exuberance rises joyously above rough weather, mosquitoes, and sugarless tea. Next summer he went to Montreal and Quebec, and in the autumn was physically unable to attend college. He set sail for Europe in search of health.
He still persisted in his purpose. In Sicily, Naples, and Rome, he studied the Roman Catholic religion, even going so far as to enter the Passionist Conver,