6 MARCH 1915, Page 19


THE world posiesses few books of this chum more entertaining or more valuable than the "truthful history of the Conquest of New Spain" which was written in his old age by Bernal Diaz del Castillo, one of the bravest in the little "baud of brothers" who followed Cones throughout his romantic career and took part in his most venturesome exploits. The work has been at least three times translated into English, but is mainly known to readers in this country from the free use made of it in Prescott's Conquest of Merico. Mr. Cunning- harne Graham now publishes an extremely readable Life of the old conquistador, which is in the main a summarized translation of his own book, peppered and salted with the modern author's characteristic comments. Mr. Graham justly dlnims that lie has had exceptionally favourable opportunities to understand such a man as Bernal Diaz was, through his Wandering life in South America in company with men who, after the lapse of more than three centuries, still preserve the same spirit of adventure and the same love of chivalry tin both its literal and its metaphorical sense) • "Certain it is" says Mr. Graham, "that I know little Latin (just a, he did), seat the best enough to read an epitaph upon a tomb- stone, and that but haltingly. Long years ago, I too have heard the Indians striking their hands upon their mouths as they mime op, swaying like centaurs on their horses and brandishing their Spears. I too have shivered by camp fires, have known night Marches under the southern stars, down in the grassy Pampas, far below Cholechel, in Mexico, in Texas, and in Paraguay. Horses I • Bern-al Diaz del Castillo. By It, B. Cunningham° Graham. London: Breleigh Saab. Us. 5,1. net.] . atevede °zed. ,ile.specizn ltiglehtsoradillo . . . but, baste UM ,the men I lines intth way dead." the case with Bern:177,1'2i lien he wrote, are now long It would be difficult to sum up the qualities which endear

this old Castilian adventurer to the modern reader better that( Mr. Graham does in the following passage ,—

" Bernal Dias writes of men round the camp fires, preserves their nicknames, tells of their weaknesses, art) makes us see, not only them, but him himself, just as they sat and talked, cleaning their arms, or softening their wounds with grease taken from a- dead Indian, 'for medicines we had none! Withal, he was a man, honest and steadfast to his leaders, patient in hardships and a great lover of good horses, a taste befitting to a conqueror, for by the aid of horses • under God' was Mexico subdued. So much Ito' loved them that he has set down tho names and colours, qualities and faults of all the horses and the mares which came in the first fleet that sailed from Cubs with Corttis. . . . As to the man him- self, he was undoubtedly brave and resourceful, weighty in council also, for on more than one occasion Cortes himself would have avoided losses and defeat, had he but followed his advice. Mesas not bloodthirsty, takilig no delight in slaughter for itself, but an the same time looking on the killing of the Infidel as something necessary, but not to be indulged in as a sport. . . . Of all ihe writers on the conquest, either of Mexico or Peru, he stands the first in broad humanity, a quality which, with his vigorous style and terse Castilian speech, make [sic] him a personal friend when you have read his book, just in the way that Sancho Palm apd Don Quixote are our friends arid not mere charaitters."

We think that Mr. Graham hardly does justice to Prescott's estimate of Diaz, which, as given at the end of Book V. of The Conquest of Mexico, practically coincides with that just quoted, when we allow for the fact that Prescott—who woe essentially a scholar—and Mr. Graham—who is essentially a man of action—naturally take a different view of what the former calls "colloquial barbarisms " and "vulgar vanity." Me' Graham's well-known dislike to some of the mce.,ods by which savage races have too often been first hroligl.i within the verge of civilization occasionally leads him into unfair generalizations on this subject. 13nt, on the whole, we hard nothing but praise for this fascinating reconstruction of a. singularly interesting personality.