Biography of William H. Prescott
Celebrated American Biographies





WILLIAM HICKLING PRESCOTT, the justly celebrated historian and author, was a native of Salem, Massachusetts, and was born May 4, 1796. He was the son of Judge William Prescott and the grandson of the hero of Bunker Hill, Colonel William Prescott.

Our subject in 1808 removed with the family to Boston, in the schools of which city he received his early education. He entered Harvard College as a sophomore in 1811, having been prepared at the private classical college of Rev. Dr. J. S. J. Gardijner. The following year he received an inury in his left eye which made study through life a matter of difficulty. He graduated in 1814 with high honors in the classics and belle lettres. He spent seyeral months on the Azores Islands, and later visited England, France and Italy, returning home in 1817. In June, 1818, he founded a social and literary dub at Boston for which he edited "The Club Room," a periodical doomed to but a short life. May 4, 1820, he married Miss Susan Amory. He devoted several years after that event to a thorough study of ancient and modern history and literature. As the fruits of his labors he published several well written essays upon French and Italian poetry and romance in the "North American Review." January 19, 1826, he decided to take up his first great historical work, the "History of the Reign of Ferdinand and Isabella." To this he gave the labor of ten years, publishing the same December 25, 1837. Although placed at the head of all American authors, so diffident was Prescott of his literary merit that although he had four copies of this work printed for his own convenience, he hesitated a long time before giving it to the public, and it was only by the solicitation of friends, especially of that talented Spanish scholar, George Ticknor, that he was induced to do so. Soon the volumes were translated into French, Italian, Dutch and German, and the work was recognized throughout the world as one of the most meritorious of historical compositions. In 1843 he published the "Conquest of Mexico," and in 1847 the "Conquest of Peru." Two years later there came from his pen a volume of ''Biographical and Critical Miscellanies." Going abroad in the summer of 1850, he was received with great distinction in the literary circles of London, Edinburgh, Paris, Antwerp and Brussels. Oxford University conferred the degree of D. C. L. upon him. In 1855 he issued two volume of his "History of the Reign of Philip the Second," and a third in 1858. In the meantime he edited Robertson's "Charles the Fifth," adding a history of the life of that monarch after his abdication. Death cut short his work on the remaining volumes of "Philip the Second," coming to him at Boston, Massachusetts, May 28, 1859.


FROM:
A Biographical Record
Of Schuyler County, New York
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company
New York and Chicago 1903.


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