Esther Forbes Allen French - Essay

Allen French

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Paul Revere and the World He Lived In] is a novelist's biography, but it is (thank Heaven!) not fictionized, nor yet (more thanks!) dramatized. But the historian's weighing of evidence, the giving of reasons for decisions, the noting of sources, are mostly lacking. (p. 521)

Even so, the facts were thoroughly assimilated, and the skill of the practised novelist makes for brisk movement and color. The double title of the book represents the two tasks which the author set herself. She has carried them out well. Under her hand old Boston becomes a personality. No one else has so mastered and shown the intricacies of relationship and neighborhood in the town of that day. Perhaps she over-emphasizes the mobbishness of Boston, particularly in the Andros case. After all, the leading men usually led. But the author brings to light many a forgotten person or neglected fact. The houses, crowded together and themselves crowded within, the narrow and crooked streets, the inquisitive people, instantly responding to any excitement or alarm—these have never been better pictured…. This is a perfect background for Revere himself, whom Miss Forbes rescues from the too poetic garb by which he is generally known…. Nor does Revere lose in the process: rather he gains. From a dimly seen legendary hero he becomes a man of solid worth, artist in his own right, responsible public man, inventive manufacturer, speaking to New England still from the tongues of his bells, and on his domestic side a considerate husband, father, and neighbor. Revere emerges as a hero of the sort needed today, a Yankee citizen whom we are lucky to have as a model. (p. 522)

Allen French, in The New England Quarterly (copyright 1942 by The New England Quarterly), September, 1942.