Calavar; or, the knight.., p.1
Calavar; or, The Knight of The Conquest, A Romance of Mexico, p.1Robert Montgomery Bird
Or The Knight of the Conquest
A Romance of Mexico
ROBERT MONTGOMERY BIRD
Author of "Nick of the Woods," "The Infidel," Etc.
Escucha pues, un rato, y dire cosas Estranas y espantosas, poco a poco.
GARCILASO DE LA VEGA.
Redfield110 And 112 Nassau Street, New York.Third Edition.
Entered according to the act of Congress in the year 1834, byCarey, Lea, & Blanchard, in the clerk's office of the districtcourt for the eastern district of Pennsylvania.
PREFACE TO THE NEW EDITION.
It is now thirteen years since the first publication of "Calavar,"which, apart from the ordinary objects of an author, was written chieflywith a view of illustrating what was deemed the most romantic andpoetical chapter in the history of the New World; but partly, also, withthe hope of calling the attention of Americans to a portion of thecontinent which it required little political forecast to perceive must,before many years, assume a new and particular interest to the people ofthe United States. It was a part of the original design to prepare theway for a history of Mexico, which the author meditated; a design whichwas, however, soon abandoned. There was then little interest really feltin Mexican affairs, which presented, as they have always done since thefirst insurrection of Hidalgo, a scene of desperate confusion, notcalculated to elevate republican institutions in the opinions of theworld. Even the events in Texas had not, at that time, attracted muchattention. Mexico was, in the popular notion, regarded as a part of_South_ America, the _alter ego_ almost of Peru,--beyond the world, andthe concerns of Americans. There was little thought, and less talk, of"the halls of the Montezumas;" and the ancient Mexican history was leftto entertain school-boys, in the pages of Robertson.
"Calavar" effected its more important purpose, as far as could beexpected of a mere work of fiction. The revolution of Texas, whichdismembered from the mountain republic the finest and fairest portion ofher territory, attracted the eyes and speculations of the world; andfrom that moment, Mexico has been an object of regard. The admirablehistory of Prescott has rendered all readers familiar with the ancientannals of the Conquest; and now, with an American army thundering at thegates of the capital, and an American general resting his republicanlimbs on the throne of Guatimozin and the Spanish Viceroys, it may bebelieved that a more earnest and universal attention is directed towardsMexico than was ever before bestowed, since the time when Cortesconquered upon the same field of fame where Scott is now victorious.There is, indeed, a remarkable parallel between the invasions of the twogreat captains. There is the same route up the same difficult and loftymountains; the same city, in the same most magnificent of valleys, asthe object of attack; the same petty forces, and the same daringintrepidity leading them against millions of enemies, fighting in theheart of their own country; and finally, the same desperate fury ofunequal armies contending in mortal combat on the causeways and in thestreets of Mexico. We might say, perhaps, that there is the same purposeof conquest: but we do not believe that the American people aim at, ordesire, the subjugation of Mexico.
"Calavar" was designed to describe the first campaign, or first year, ofCortes in Mexico. It was written with an attempt at the strictesthistorical accuracy compatible with the requisitions of romance; and asit embraces, in a narrow compass, and--what was at least meant to be--apopular form, a picture of the war of 1520, which so many will like tocontrast with that of 1847, the publishers have thought that itsrevival, in a cheap edition, would prove acceptable to the readingcommunity. The republication has, indeed, been suggested and called forby numerous persons desirous to obtain copies of the book, which hasbeen for some time out of print.
The revival of the romance might have furnished its author anopportunity to remove many faults which, he is sensible, exist in it.Long dialogues might have been contracted, heavy descriptions lightenedor expunged, and antiquated phraseology modernized, with undoubtedbenefit. But, after a respectful consideration of all criticalsuggestions, friendly or unfriendly, the author has not thought it ofconsequence to attempt the improvement of a work of so trivial andevanescent a character; and he accordingly commits it again to the worldprecisely as it was first committed, with all its faults--would he couldsay, its merits--unchanged; satisfied with any fate that may befall it,or any reception it may meet, which should either imply its having givensome little pleasure, or imparted some little information, to itsreaders.
R. M. B.
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