LAMY OF SANTA FE: His Life and Times by Paul Horgan

LAMY OF SANTA FE: His Life and Times

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A leisurely, expansive biography of Archbishop John Baptist Lamy of Santa Fe, the Father Latour of Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop. With his lifelong friend Joseph Machebeuf (Cather's Father Vaillant) Latour left his native Auvergne in 1839 at the age of 25 and coped gallantly with English-speaking parishes in the half-tamed Ohio wilderness; he was unexpectedly named to the newly established bishopric of New Mexico in 1850, some two years after U.S. annexation of the territory. Lamy and lieutenant Machebeuf faced a chaotic situation in the huge new diocese: the bishop of Durango in Mexico, unwilling to resign his former authority across the new national boundary, dragged his feet at every stage of the proceedings. Lamy's attempt to bring the see's affairs into governable condition--complicated by the further addition of the vast Colorado territory into the already enormous Santa Fe bishopric--lasted for years. Against the unsettled Southwestern background, he struggled (with chronically inadequate finances) to overcome pastoral corruption, ignorance, half-Christianized superstition and American-Mexican hostilities among his Spanish-speaking flock. By the time of his death in 1888--eight years after the railroad had come to the once isolated see--the beloved Archbishop had built up not only an imposing and productive organization but also a sense of community among the disparate elements of the diocese. Horgan's portrait of this apostolic figure--founded on exhaustive use of letters, journals and religious archives--oddly combines considerable narrative adroitness (he unobtrusively fashions a huge tangle of events into manageable, appealing order) with a somewhat grandiose and belabored prose style: i.e. lines such as ""He had not only the land to conquer, but the future."" Despite the addiction to overblown effects, an engaged and engaging treatment of a remarkable figure.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1975
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux