Esther Forbes Margaret Leech - Essay

Margaret Leech

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Because [Miss Forbes] is a novelist, she is interested in character. British redcoats and Boston tories, James Otis and Sam Adams and John Hancock, are delineated sharply and judicially [in "Paul Revere and the World He Lived In"], with the novelist's eye for idiosyncrasy. The daily habit of life—business, political, domestic, and social—is admirably recreated. Miss Forbes occasionally permits herself the luxury of too much detail. It appears to be a fault of the novelist turned historian. Sometimes, when the available facts limit her scope, she overindulges in speculation on the probabilities. It does not, for example, increase our understanding of the Revere household in 1770 to have Miss Forbes muse that the eldest child, Deborah, aged twelve, was "a great help to her mother and grandmother, unless she was unusually backward." It merely raises a disagreeable and apparently unwarranted suspicion about Deborah.

But these are minor flaws in a book which, in the fidelity of its research and the wisdom of its presentation, makes an important contribution to American history. Miss Forbes has ably and graciously performed the task of setting hard facts against the fabric of a well-loved story. (p. 163)

Margaret Leech, "Legend and Hard Fact," in The Yale Review (© 1942 by Yale University; reprinted by permission of the editors), Autumn, 1942, pp. 161-63.