SAILOR HISTORIAN: A Samuel Eliot Morison Reader by Emily Morison--Ed. Beck

SAILOR HISTORIAN: A Samuel Eliot Morison Reader

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Just before his death at 88, the exuberant Harvard historian approved his daughter's selection of 34 favorite essays for republication. Morison's general delight in American accomplishment and his much-praised eye for'nautical particulars make this particularly attractive medium-weight reading. In addition to excerpts from his work as official naval historian of WW I, the book includes pieces on Admiral Perry and on the Boston judge and wit Harrison Gray Otis, a rather thin tribute to Winston Churchill, and chunks from the European Discovery of America (1971)--in which Morison noted circumnavigator Francis Drake's perplexity that his calendar was one day off when he made his triumphant return to England. Samuel de Champlain is presented as the founder of New France, a skilled settler as well as seaman, and John Paul Jones is included with his three-hour slugfest against the British in 1779 in which every yardarm, mainmast, and mizzen is seen to shatter. The determination to win is also commemorated in ""The Young Washington"" and his passion for mathematics, while Franklin is repeatedly termed a ""universal genius""--with more esteem, however, for his pragmatic than for his intellectual attainments. A brief editor's preface is followed by Walter Muir Whitehill's affectionate biographical sketch recalling how hard Morison worked ""to achieve and secure a natural narrative style,"" and to give even ""cornfed"" students access to gentlemanly virtues. Three-named Brahmins may evoke patronizing smiles in some circles, but this compilation successfully and pleasurably measures and distills Morison's contributions.

Pub Date: Sept. 28th, 1977
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin