Return to The Normans


The Story of the Normans
and The Story of the Nations



Description of the Series

Wikipedia says that The Story of the Nations series was founded in 1885 by London publisher T. Fisher Unwin.  That Unwin was the originator of the series is confirmed in a profile that appears in The Publisher's Circular (1415, August 1893, pp. 168-70).  When the series began is less clear.  According to listings in WorldCat, two of the series volumes appeared before 1885:

    Germany, Sabine Baring-Gould, 1834-1924, New York, G.P. Putnam's sons; London, T.F. Unwin, 1882.
    Rome:  From the earliest times to the end of the Republic, Arthur Gilman, 1837-1909, Unwin 1883 (2nd edition), Putnam's 1885.

However, it seems likely that both are cataloging errors.  Baring-Gould published a 2-volume history of Germany beginning in 1879, and the 1886 copyright series volume lists Arthur Gilman as collaborator and is originally titled, The Story of Germany.   The Google book of Gilman's Rome, an 1888 reprint, is copyrighted 1885 and contains an 1885 preface by Gilman. However, though this volume clearly is identified as part of the series in publicity documents, it lacks the prospectus and title list that appear in all of the other Putnam's volumes I have examined.  Indeed, nothing in the book indicates that it belongs to the series.  These details may suggest that the first edition was published in Great Britain before the series was conceived.
    The earliest American announcement of the series I have located is an ad in Publishers Weekly of September 26, 1885.  It seems clear that the series was fully under way by 1885, when four volumes officially in the series were printed.  Thirteen more titles appeared in 1886-7.

    The prospectus below explains the publisher's apparently final intentions for the series: a collection of popular histories for the general public.  To date, little information about the "rules" for the series has been uncovered, though it is likely more facts will be found.  It would be of particular interest to be able to see the instructions the publishers provided for authors of the series.  Hjalmar Hjorth Boyesen in his preface to The Story of Norway (1886) offers insight into publisher guidelines:
It has been my ambition for many years to write a history of Norway, chiefly because no such book, worthy of the name, exists in the English language.  When the publishers of the present series of " The Stories of the Nations" proposed to me to write the "story " of my native land, I therefore eagerly accepted their offer. The "story," however, according to their plan, was to differ in some important respects from a regular history. It was to dwell particularly upon the dramatic phases of historical events, and concern itself but slightly with the growth of institutions and sociological phenomena. It therefore necessarily takes small account of proportion. In the present volume more space is given to the national hero, Olaf Tryggvesson, whose brief reign was crowded with dramatic events, than to kings who reigned ten times as long. For the same reason the four centuries of the Union with Denmark are treated with comparative brevity. (v)
    The prospectus states that readers should expect distinctions between national myths and historical fact, and that each volume will attempt to capture the character of the "nation" in the epoch being examined, to present a coherent portrait and to place that portrait within "universal history."  Presumably, then, those who conceived of and directed the publication of the series believed there was a coherent narrative of universal human history that would be reflected in the various volumes, a "great story of the nations."

Prospectus from the 1887 Putnam edition of The Story of the Normans


prospect 1


prospectus-2





Contents and Longevity

The lists of titles below show that the series continued to grow and the books remained in print at least through 1921.  A survey of the series as listed in WorldCat shows that the final title in the series was Emile Cammaerts, Belgium 1921.  After that date, the series gradually went out of print, only one title being reprinted in the 1921-1930 period.
   The lists reveal that the publishers and reading public defined the term "nation" more broadly than is generally the case in the early 21st century.  Included on the list are groups we would differentiate as empires, nation states, regions, peoples or ethnicities, tribes, religions, and city-states.  Jewett, for example, follows the Normans from their historical origins as a seafaring people in Scandinavia through their emergence as a highly mixed group of tribal peoples that were named Normans after colonizing northern France and who then disappeared as they merged with the peoples of the areas they conquered in France, Italy and England.  She argues that they created a heritage of characteristic attitudes that persisted after them, asserting that modern Western civilization, particularly in Victorian England and the United States, manifests this heritage.  How would 21st-century readers categorize the Normans?  As a people? perhaps a tribe? 
    While consideration of Africa apart from Mediterranean regions or of the pre-Columbian Americas is not a major feature, some of the volumes give attention to these peoples.  Especially notable is Susan Hale's The Story of Mexico, (1888) which deals mainly with pre-colonial peoples of the region.  Thomas C. Dawson's two-volume The South American Republics also provides some account of indigenous peoples before European colonization (Vol 1 ; Vol 2). See also The West Indies : a history of the islands of the West Indian Archipelago, together with an account of their physical characteristics, natural resources, and present condition, by Amos Kidder  Fiske 1842-1921.  New York : Putnam's, 1911, ©1899 George M. Theal's volume, Southern Africa, though focused on the history of colonization, gives some attention to precolonial peoples.
     (Link to South Africa.  WorldCat has no listing for Southern Africa by Theal, but lists both South Africa and The Story of South Africa as published by Putnam's in 1894.) 


Title List from Putnam's Final 1905 Printing of The Normans  -- 68 titles

nor-1905

After 1905 four more titles appeared
Greece, from the coming of the Hellenes to A.D. 14,  Evelyn S. Shuckburgh, 1843-1906,  Unwin 1905, Putnam's 1906.
The Roman empire, B.C. 29-A.D. 476, Henry Stuart Jones, 1867-1939, Unwin 1908, Putnam's 1908.
Denmark and Sweden: with Iceland and Finland. Jón Stefánsson, 1862-1952,  Unwin, 1916, Putnam's 1917.
Belgium from the Roman invasion to the present day. Emile Cammaerts 1878-1953, Unwin, 1921


Title list appearing in the Cammaerts, Belgium 1921

1921



There are quite a number of differences between the Unwin and the Putnam's title lists.


Books that appeared under significantly different titles.
       Over the almost three decades of the series, many titles were simplified, as was Jewett's from The Story of the Normans in 1887 to The Normans in 1891. "The Story of ____" may have reflected the early idea that the series would be addressed to younger readers, but the longer titles also clearly identified each volume with the popular series.  This may explain why Jewett's book continued to be reprinted under both titles after 1891.  Several titles, however, were changed more radically.

Henry Edward Watts, The Christian Recovery of Spain (Putnam's 1893) was also Spain (Unwin 1894).

Justin McCarthy The People of England (Putnam's, volume 1 copyright 1898; volume 2 1899) was also Modern England Before the Reform Bill (Unwin, copyright 1888) and Modern England: From the Reform Bill to the Present Time (Unwin, Copyright 1899).

Greville Tregarthen Australasia: New South Wales, Tasmania, Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, Queensland, New Zealand (Putnam's 1894) was also The Australian Commonwealth (Unwin 1894).


Titles published by Putnam's, but not by Unwin.
James Albert Harrison, The Story of Greece  1885
Edward Everett and Susan Hale, The Story of Spain 1886
Alfred T. Story, The Building of the British Empire2 v. 1898
Amos Kidder Fiske, The West Indies1899
Helen A. Smith, The Thirteen Colonies 1901
Thomas C. Dawson, The South American Republics.  2 v.  1903
Edwin Erle Sparks, The United States of America.  2 v. 1904   Probably v. 1v. 2
            (Note that the Putnam's title list gives his name as Edward Earle Sparks.)


Titles published by Unwin, but not by Putnam's
James Rodway,  The West Indies and the Spanish Main.  Unwin 1896
Emile Cammaerts, Belgium from the Roman Invasion to the Present Day.  Unwin, 1921


Titles that Unwin delayed publishing in England
Hjalmar Hjorth Boyesen, The Story of Norway.  Putnam's 1886, Unwin 1899
Sarah Orne Jewett, The Story of the Normans.  Putnam's 1887, Unwin 1891

It appears that Unwin was conservative about accepting titles first published by Putnam's.  This is reflected both in the number of Putnam's titles that Unwin did not print and in the two titles Unwin delayed publishing.  One may speculate that some of these choices arose from uneasiness about the early decision, later retracted, to market the series to young readers.  Harrison's The Story of Greece deals primarily with Classical Greece, while Shuckburgh focuses on Hellenistic Greece, and Harrison's text was among the earliest in the series, representing a serious but not well-reviewed attempt to address younger readers (see review below). 
    Boyesen's Norway ends with the original Putnam's prospectus, which states that the target audience for the series is young readers, and as noted above, his "preface" indicates that he makes concessions to such readers, deviating from conventional historical narrative.  Likewise, the Hales' Spain explicitly addressed young readers:
It has been, therefore, a part of our plan in following the Story of Spain, to refer, from chapter to chapter, to such illustrations from the writings of various authors of different countries, as might interest young readers and tempt them to follow, not only the history of Spain in its chronological order, but the series of writings which in romance, in poetry, and in other literature we owe to her suggestions. (vi)
In a letter of 12/17/1890, G. H. Putnam wrote to Jewett that "Mr. Unwin, the London publisher of the 'Story of the Nations' series, has finally offered to take a set of the plates of the 'Story of the Normans' ...."  That Unwin has "finally offered" suggests that Putnam had some difficulty persuading Unwin that Jewett's title would be successful in England.  Another hint of this difficulty is that Unwin chose The Normans as number 29 in the British series, whereas it had been chosen perhaps at the inauguration of the American series and published eleventh or twelfth.

    For a discussion of differences between Rodway and Fiske on the West Indies, see Karen Fog Olwig, Small Islands, Large Questions: Society, Culture and Resistance in the Post-Emancipation Caribbean (New York: Frank Cass, 1995), 16-7.




The Story of the Normans within the Series

The Story of the Normans appeared near the beginning of the Putnam's series, The Story of the Nations.  The first printing in early 1887 lists seventeen volumes.  The prospectus for the series in the 1887 volume announced that twelve titles were currently available.  Ten or eleven of these appear to have been completed and published before Jewett's title.
    The list below of the titles advertised as available in the 1887 edition confirms that the series was inaugurated in 1885, with books on Greece and on the Jews.  Several in the series appeared in 1886, making it likely that Jewett was able to look at more than one as she was completing what, for her, was a new kind of writing.  She sent her final copy to Putnam's in December of 1886.


WorldCat provides publication dates for the additional sixteen titles from the 1887 edition list.

Many of the volumes in the series are available on-line.  I have provided links to several, but not all.


The Story of Rome, Gilman, Arthur, 1837-1909. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1886 (copyright 1885).  Link to 1888 printing.

The Story of the Jews: ancient, medićval, and modern, Hosmer, James K. 1834-1927. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1885.
    Link to the 1886 printing

The Story of Greece, Harrison, James Albert, 1848-1911.  New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1885.  Link to 1893 printing.

The Story of Carthage
, Church, Alfred John, 1829-1912. Gilman, Arthur, New York, London, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1885.

The Story of Chaldea, from the Earliest times to the Rise of Assyria (treated as a general introduction to the study of ancient history), Ragozin, Zénaďde A. 1835-1924. New York, Putnam, 1886.
   Link to 1886 printing.

The Story of Germany, Baring-Gould, S. 1834-1924. Gilman, Arthur, New York & London, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1886.  Link to 1893 printing.

The Story of Norway
,  Boyesen, Hjalmar Hjorth, 1848-1895. New York London, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1886.

The Story of Spain, Hale, Edward Everett, Sr., 1822-1909. Hale, Susan, New York, London, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1886.

The Story of Hungary, Vámbéry, Ármin, 1832-1913. Heilprin, Louis, New York, London, G.P. Putnam, 1886.

The Story of the Saracens, from the Earliest times to the Fall of Bagdad, Gilman, Arthur, 1837-1909. New York, London, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1891, ©1886.
    Link to the 1902 printing.

The Moors in Spain, Lane-Poole, Stanley, 1854-1931. Gilman, Arthur, New York And London, G.P. Putnam's Sons 1888. ©1886.
    WorldCat lists the London, T. Fisher Unwin edition as appearing in 1886.
   Link to the 1911 printing.

The Story of the Normans, Jewett, Sarah Orne, 1849-1909.  New York, G. P. Putnam's sons, 1887, ©1886.

The Story of Persia, Benjamin, S. G. W. 1837-1914. New York and London, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1887.

The Story of Ancient Egypt, Rawlinson, George, 1812-1902. Gilman, Arthur, New York, London, G.P. Putnam, 1887.

The Story of Alexander's Empire, Mahaffy, John P. New York: Putnam, 1887.

The Story of Assyria from the Rise of the Empire to the fall of Nineveh: continued from "The Story of Chaldea,"
  Ragozin, Zénaďde A. 1835-1924. New York; London: G.P. Putnam's sons, 1887.

The Story of the Goths from the earliest times to the end of the Gothic dominion in Spain. Bradley, Henry, 1845-1923. New York, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1888.
    WorldCat lists a London, T. Fisher Unwin edition as appearing in 1887.
    Link to the 1891 printing.




Authors in the Series

Though many of the authors were professional historians, others chosen for this series come from a variety of backgrounds. A number, like Jewett, lacked training as historians, but were successful writers who brought personal experience and interest to their projects.  Following are sketches of a selection of the authors, emphasizing those who were not academic historians.

Mary Bateson (1865-1906Wikipedia link  University of Manchester Library Biographical Sketch
    Perhaps the only woman author in the series who was an academic historian, Bateson was the author of Medieval England (1903), the volume that took up the history of England after the Norman conquest.

Samuel Greene Wheeler Benjamin (1837 - 1914) Wikipedia link
    Author of Persia 1887, Benjamin was born in Greece of American missionaries.  He was a journalist and author who served two years (1883-4)  as the first American Minister to Persia.  He also wrote Art in America: a Critical and Historical Sketch 1880.

Sir John George Bourinot (1836 - 1902)  Wikipedia link
    Author of Canada 1896, Bourinot was a Canadian journalist, historian, and civil servant, self-taught after two years at Trinity College, Toronto.

Bella Duffy (d. 1926)  Circulating Library link
    Author of The Tuscan Republics 1892, Duffy wrote mainly non-fiction, notably a biography of Madame de Staël (1887).

Robert Watson Frazer LLB (1854-1921) Biography link
    Author of British India 1896, Frazer served as a British civil servant in India, before returning to England to lecture at the London Institution.  He wrote extensively about Indian history and culture.

Arthur Gilman (1837 - 1909)  Wikipedia link
   Gilman, educator and historian, became an advocate for women's higher education.  He was a founder of the Harvard Annex in 1879, which eventually became Radcliffe College.  He authored the volumes on Rome and the Saracens, and he is identified on the various lists above as co-author of the the titles on Germany, Carthage, Egypt and the Moors.  That he authored one of the first two volumes and assisted in several others suggests that Putnam's was pleased with his writing and may have seen him as a "fixer," someone who could bring problematic texts into line with the series' aims.  Perhaps he even was an originator of the series.
    Gilman's residence in Cambridge, MA after 1870 and his association with the Riverside Press and the Harvard Annex make it likely that he was acquainted with John T. and Annie Fields.  This makes it possible that Gilman recruited Jewett for The Story of the Normans.

Edward Everett Hale (1822 - 1909)  Wikipedia link
    Hale probably is best remembered as the author of The Man Without a Country (1863).  Trained for the Unitarian ministry at Harvard College and Divinity School, Hale wrote fiction and history in addition to serving as a pastor.  He collaborated with his sister, Susan Hale, to produce The Story of Spain 1886.

Susan Hale (1833 - 1910)  Wikipedia Link
    The sister of Edward Everett Hale, Susan Hale was an educator, author, traveler and artist.  She collaborated with her brother to produce a volume on Spain, a country upon which she had written earlier in A Family Flight through Spain 1883.  She also wrote the Mexico volume for The Story of the Nations. 

Stanley Edward Lane-Poole (1854 - 1931)Wikipedia link
    Lane-Poole was a British orientalist and archaeologist for the British Museum, on site in Egypt.  He eventually became professor of Arabic Studies at University of Dublin.  As useful to the series as Gilman, he contributed four volumes on the Moors, Turkey, the Barbary Corsairs and Medieval India.

Emily Lawless (1845 - 1913)  Ricorso link
    Author of Ireland 1887, Lawless was an Irish novelist and poet from County Kildare.  Gutenberg Text Link

Zénaďde Alexeďevna Ragozin (1835 - 1924)  Wikipedia link
    Born in Russia, Ragozin emigrated to the United States in 1874.  A self-educated author and traveler, she became one of the stable of writers on whom Putnam's depended.  She produced four titles in this series during 1886-1895 on Chaldea, Assyria, Media, and Vedic India.  She later produced several volumes for another Putnam's series, Tales of the Heroic Age. 

Canon George Rawlinson (1812 - 1902) Wikipedia link
    Educated at Oxford University, Rawlinson was British scholar, historian, and Christian theologian, who became a professor of Ancient History at Oxford.  He authored three volumes in the series, on Egypt, Phoenicia and Parthia.

Helen Ainslee Smith (1857 - 1932)  Newberry Library Link
    Author of the two volume title, The Thirteen Colonies 1901, Smith wrote popular books on a variety of topics, including the great cities of the ancient world, great cities of the modern world and American biography.  Under the pseudonym, Hazel Shepard, she authored juvenile titles on topics such as birds and fishes and histories of Russia and of Japan.

Henry Edward Watts (1826 - 1904)  Wikipedia link
    Author of The Christian recovery of Spain 1893, Watts was a British journalist and author on Spanish topics.  He is best known for his translation of Cervantes, Don Quixote 1888.

Alethea Wiel (b. 1851 - 1929)   Encyclopedia Americana link   see p. 143.
Author of Venice 1894, Wiel wrote a number of popular histories, as well as biography and magazine pieces, mainly about Italian culture and history.  Born Alethea Jane Lawley, she married the historian, Taddeo Wiel.

Helen Zimmern (1846 - 1934)  Wikipedia link 
    Author of The Hansa Towns 1891, Zimmern  was a German-British writer and translator of fiction and cultural criticism, including works of her friend, Friedrich Nietzsche.




Marketing and Reviewing of the Series

Following is a sampling of sources and materials related to the series.  These are materials I examined in order to determine how the publishers envisioned the audience for the series. 
     It appears that the series initially was intended for young readers and was so advertised in Publishers Weekly.  However, early reviewers were unimpressed with what they saw as authors' failed attempts to cater to young readers.  The selections from prefaces by Harrison (Greece) and Hosmer (Jews) indicate that they were "instructed" to target a juvenile audience, and that Hosmer in particular struggled with this as a major problem in composing The Story of the Jews.  Both publishers seem to have dropped the notion of marketing the series as for young readers by the time they printed The Story of the Normans, for that element is removed from the description of the series in the prospectus, and at about the same time, the audience specification disappears from PW ads.  Reviewers, however, continued to describe the series as for young readers at least through 1887. 
    This information leaves open the question of how Jewett envisioned her audience as she composed the book.  Almost certainly, she did much of her work while her publisher was thinking of the series as for young readers, but Jewett also was able to read early titles and reviews and may well have received new instructions before completing her work.  Atlantic's review of her volume noted that it did not seem to be addressed to juvenile readers, though in reviews of earlier titles, Atlantic had paid attention to this question.



From an ad for the Series. Publishers Weekly, March 27, 1886, p. 435.

1886

The text of this ad differs from the prospectus in the 1887 printing of The Story of the Normans.  Notice the first sentence varies: "... intended to present to the young the stories of the different nations...." (my underlining).  A similar ad with the same first sentence appears in the September 26, 1885 issue of Publishers Weekly.  The PW ad that appears in February 1887, a month after the release of The Story of the Normans, drops the first two sentences, beginning with "The subjects of ...." (280).



Reviews of titles in the Series


Atlantic Monthly

The Atlantic Monthly Volume 0056 Issue 337 (November 1885)
Title: Books of the Month [pp. 717-720]
Collection: Making of America

    From 718-9.
The Story of Greece, by James A. Harrison (Putnam's) is the first in a series entitled The Story of the Nations....  The first suggestion which the title of this volume and series presents is that the publishers or editors are uneasy lest they should happen to be offering something dull.  History is history, and this book aims at giving the history of Greece in a compact form, but not a dessicated form.  In his anxiety, however, not to be dry, Mr. Harrison has rushed to the other extreme, and irritates the reasonable reader by his jocularity and forced vivacity.  The young reader is aimed at, but the young reader, we hope, does not need to be treated as if he were a poor blasé creature, who has had a surfeit of fiction, and now must be cajoled back into honest history.

    From the Preface of the 1893 printing of The Story of Greece, iv.
An effort has been made in this work to catch and fix the salient outlines of the History of Greece .., and to throw them into a story form which, rid of technicality and superfluous learning, might attract the mind of younger readers and whet their appetites for the larger and more detailed histories of the scientific historians. Wherever it was possible, the great and beautiful deeds, the fine stories, the narratives of admirable actions, the stirring and illustrative anecdotes to be found in the ancient writers, have been chosen to describe Greek life and civilization in preference to a dry chronicle of dates and events, which would simply repel without instructing. (Preface iv)


The Atlantic Monthly Volume 0057 Issue 340 (February 1886)
Title: Books of the Month [pp. 284-288]
Collection: Making of America

    From p. 284
The Story of Rome, from the earliest times to the end of the republic, by Arthur Gilman, is the second in the series entitled The Story of the Nations. (Putnams.) The plan of the series supposes a lighter vein in the historical treatment than is ordinarily adopted, but does not therefore exclude exactness of statement. Mr. Gilman, like his predecessor Mr. Harrison, means to give in familiar form the results of historical students, and we think he is more successful than the former. His proportions arc better, and we are spared the too jocular tone. The style is generally clear without being elegant, and one gets the impression of a good piece of task-work, rather than a fresh, individual book, forced out of one from his full knowledge and strong interest.

The Atlantic Monthly Volume 0057 Issue 343 (May 1886)
Title: Books of the Month [pp. 717-720]
Collection: Making of America

    From p. 717
The Story of the Jews, by James K. Hosmer (Putnams), is a most interesting narrative, which is very far removed from a paraphrase of the Old Testament, since most of the volume is given to a sketch of the Jewish people from the fall of Jerusalem to the present day. Mr. Hosmer has been stirred by his subject to something very like eloquence, and fortunately has not concerned himself to ask the age of his audience.

The Atlantic Monthly Volume 0058 Issue 349 (November 1886)
Title: Books of the Month [pp. 718-720]
Collection: Making of America

    From p. 720
In the series The Story of the Nations, three new volumes have appeared: The Story of Germany, by S. Baring-Gould, with the collaboration of Arthur Gilman; the Story of Norway, by H. H. Boyesen; and the Story of Hungary, by Arminius Vámbéry, with the collaboration of Louis Heilprin. (Putnams.) Mr. Boyesen has had somewhat the easiest task, and we think he has performed it the most satisfactorily. He has written a popular history of a compact people, and has done his work seriously and apparently faithfully. To give the story of Germany was a much more difficult matter, but the central idea of showing the development of the imperial principle was a good one, and has been kept in mind with some steadiness. It strikes us, however, that in his eagerness to be bright and lively Mr. Baring-Gould has crowded in a good deal of detail to the exclusion of strong leading lines. We wish, for example, that he had made more clear the real meaning of Protestantism. It seems a pity that Mr. Vámbéry should not have given a fuller and clearer statement of the recent constitutional questions. The illustrations in the first two books, especially in Germany, are capital; those in Hungary are inferior.

The Atlantic Monthly Volume 0059 Issue 353 (March 1887)
Title: Books of the Month [pp. 430-432B]
Collection: Making of America

    From p. 431
Books for Young People. — In The Story of the Nations Series (Putnams) two new volumes have been received: The Story of the Moors in Spain, by Stanley Lane-Poole, and The Story of the Saracens from the Earliest Times to the Fall of Bagdad, by Arthur Gilman. They supplement each other, and while
the former has the advantage of a more localized treatment and a closer connection with what is familiar in history and travel, the latter tells a story which centres mainly about a great historical personage. Both are discreetly illustrated, and Mr. Gilman's has an excellent bibliography attached to it.

    NOTE: this is the first of the Atlantic reviews of the series to be placed under the heading "Books for Young People."  Previous reviews appeared under "History."  In February 1888, the next title reviewed in Atlantic also appears under Books for Young People, but in  June 1888 and for some time after, they appear under "History."  The Atlantic review of The Story of the Normans appears under "History" in June 1887; the reviewer says, "This book belongs to a series designed in a general way for young people, but there is little in Miss Jewett's treatment which especially calls up such an audience" (859).


Overland Monthly

Overland monthly and Out West Magazine. (June 1886)
Title: Book Reviews [pp. 659-666]
Collection: Making of America

    From pp. 665-6

    The Story of the Nations.
Some time ago an extensive series of volumes was announced by J. P Putnam's Sons, under the general title of "The Story of the Nations." Its plan was one whose happy execution is attended with very great difficulties. It was proposed to present to the young reader "in the story form the current of each national life, and its picturesque and noteworthy periods and episodes, in their philosophical relation to each other, as well as to universal history; to enter into the real life of the peoples, and to bring them before the reader as they actually lived, labored and struggled." Here is certainly an ambitious project, and not the least ambitious phase of it is, that all this is to be given to the "young reader." The fundamental misconception which underlies this undertaking is, that any subject within the range of human knowledge may be made "easy" simply by a peculiar form of statement, and that all that is necessary to make clear to the miniature mind "the current of each national life and its picturesque and noteworthy periods and episodes, in their philosophical relation to each other, as well as to universal history," is simply to reduce it to the form of a story. It seems never to occur to the projectors of such plans, that there arc some things which from their very nature are difficult of comprehension, and that in order to their comprehension there is required a considerable degree of intellectual maturity. Among these things are the topics which it is here proposed to present to the young reader. The "philosophical relation" of events and epochs in the history of the world is difficult for the immature mind, not because the language of the masters of historical writing presents any special difficulties; the difficulty lies in the conception itself, and no attempt to weave it into the a "story form" is likely to make it easier of apprehension.
    The volumes on Greece, Rome, and The Jews, possess certain qualities in common, although by different writers. They all lack a simple, plain, and direct style. They contain an abundance of that information which ought very early to find its way to the mind of youth, and the publisher has done his part to make the volumes attractive, but the text does not rise much above the work of literary hacks. But the latest volume, The Story of Chaldea, by Zénaďde A. Rogozin, is a meritorious compilation from the writings, Layard. Rawlinson, Lenomant, and others.

    From the preface to Hosmer, The Story of the Jews 1885, pp. iii-v
    To write "The Story of the Jews" for the series in which it is to appear has been a task beset with certain special embarrassments.
    In the first place, it may reasonably be doubted whether a faithfully related story of the Jews is suitable reading for immature minds. The prudent parent shrinks from putting into the hands of his child Hamlet, or Lear, or Othello. In the first, the terrible soul agony, -- in the second, the ruthless exercise of the most savage passions, -- in the third, the malignant, snake-like craft crushing in its folds unsuspecting manly worth and womanly loveliness, -- this tragedy of the deepest requires full maturity in order that its lessons may be intelligently received and its power fully realized. Such literature is meat for men, not milk for babes; and it is quite premature to undertake it, until experience has thoroughly settled the character. Has not history as well as poetry its tragedies quite too sombre for childhood, -- and among its tragedies is there any quite so dark as the story of the Jews? Where else arc problems presented which so defy satisfactory solution? Where else is it necessary to contemplate the play of spiritual forces so tremendous?  Where else is there anguish so deep and long-continued?...
    The writer of this volume has dealt with these embarrassments as well as he could. As to the first, interpreting in a liberal way his commission "to write a story for the young," he has tried to adapt his chapters to those in the later stages of youth, -- to those, indeed, already standing upon the threshold of maturity. Prominence has been given to the more picturesque and dramatic features of the record. The profundities are only touched   upon; the mysteries of the Cabala, and the inspiration that may lie within the fantastic rhapsodizing of the Talmudists, no attempt has been made to fathom. At the same time, there has been no effort to dwarf and emasculate the absorbing account into the dimensions of a proper " juvenile." Here arc details of exterminating warfare, of sharpest torture, of bitterest cursing. Here are presented sages as they study the darkest problems, -- poets, as they thrill the human heart-strings with marvellous, subtle power; -- characters shining in the very beauty of holiness, -- characters, too, black with malignity most appalling. All this stands in the record: to present Israel faithfully, these traits must be given, and the attempt has been made to present Israel faithfully. A tale, it is, full of thrilling fascination and fruitful in instruction; a tale, however, that sobers and that requires soberness in its readers, -- the ripeness which comes when childhood has been left behind.



Miscellaneous


Catholic world. (May 1886)
Title: New Publications [pp. 283-288]
Collection: Making of America

    From p. 287
The Story of Chaldea by Zénaďde Rogozin
This belongs to the "Story of the Nations" series, and is one of the best, if not the best, of the series so far. It is free from that very apparent stooping down to the minds of young people which characterized some of the preceding volumes of this series. Boys and girls always resent a too evident patronage of manner. The Story of Chaldea may be read by old and young with profit and pleasure. The illustrations are excellent, and are of real benefit in illustrating the text.


New Englander and Yale Review Volume 0047 Issue 210 (September 1887)
Title: Current Literature: The Story of Carthage. Alfred J. Church [pp. 228-230]
Collection: Making of America
    An extended descriptive review, which concludes:  "Altogether the work may be welcomed as a valuable addition to our historical literature."


The American Catholic Quarterly Review, Volume 13 (1888), p. 191

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North American Review 146 (1888), p. 357.

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New Englander and Yale Review 48 (1888), 131-7.
    From an extended review by William L. Kingsley.
    It is ... fortunate that the Messrs. Putnams have added the "Story of Ireland" to the series to which they have given the name the "Story of the Nations."  This little volume will very soon satisfy the reader as to the reasons of the present wretched condition of Ireland, and will perhaps draw out warm sympathy for its people; but the question of Home Rule is a larger and a more difficult one.  Even the authoress of the "Story" offers no decided opinion.


The Speaker (9 July 1904), 342-3.




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Compilation and commentary by Terry Heller, Coe College
January 2015

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