I’ve read many of the classics in my thirty eight years. I’ve always loved the writing style of older volumes. My research has brought me to a new class of old tomes. History books written to entertain as well as inform. Reminiscence and biographies share tales of life in the new and ever expanding world.
Last night, just as I was hoping I would, I finished History of Harrison County Iowa by Joe H Smith (1888). [Download the full compendium from the Library of Congress — free pdf] I enjoyed reading Smith’s sketch of Harrison county. The first paragraph of the page and a half preface is what hooked me first.
“Don’t run! I shall not be long-winded. Just hold a minute, as
I have but a few words to say, and I always despise long introductions
to books as well as to sermons. I will make this brief.
My intent has been, on each subject called up, to strike oil in
five or ten minutes, and in case there was a failure, then to withdraw
my auger and quit “boring.”
Something in the flow of his words, the promise to not be long-winded as the first sentence of a long-winded preface left me feeling amused. The promise to not be “boring” while conveying facts had me feeling hopeful. confession: I often found history incredibly boring. Smith did not disappoint.
I won’t lie to you and say that there were never boring moments. Of course there were. Some things are just boring (lol). You never know, the things that I found uninteresting may be your favorite parts.
Personally, I collected pages of notes for my book. I also learned a whole lot of interesting information about Harrison county Iowa and the life of early settlers as told by someone who was actually there.
With that in mind, I’ve selected the next book to dive into for further research. The next book is titled twice. Early Settlement and Growth of Western Iowa [or] Reminiscences by Rev. John Todd (1906).
This one contains a much longer preface than the previous sketch I read at nearly three pages. However, the preface is not written by the author but is, instead, an explanation of where the pages originated. The first paragraph is as follows.
“The writer of the following pages was enjoying the well-earned leisure of his closing years, when some who had heard by the fireside and in social gatherings his vivid recollections of early days suggested that he should put his reminiscences into more permanent form.
It says that his family finally decided to publish his manuscript, and did so more than a decade after his death. They assure little change has been made but for editing purposes. Though, I suppose he was no longer alive to contest any of the editors omissions and attest to the truthfulness of the promise.
Regardless, I am agog for reading Reverend John Todd’s Reminiscence. Which, so far as I can ascertain will be a collection of tales, I expect many will be loo…ong ones, pulled from a gentleman’s journals. It’s certainly piqued my interest.