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The Memoirs of the Conquistador Bernal Diaz del Castillo, Vol 1 (of 2) Written by Himself Containing a True and Full Account of the Discovery and Conquest of Mexico and New Spain.   By: (1492-1585)

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THE MEMOIRS OF THE CONQUISTADOR BERNAL DIAZ DEL CASTILLO

WRITTEN BY HIMSELF

CONTAINING A TRUE AND FULL ACCOUNT OF THE DISCOVERY AND CONQUEST OF MEXICO AND NEW SPAIN

TRANSLATED FROM THE ORIGINAL SPANISH BY JOHN INGRAM LOCKHART, F.R.A.S. AUTHOR OF "ATTICA AND ATHENS"

IN TWO VOLUMES VOL. I

LONDON J. HATCHARD AND SON, 187, PICCADILLY MDCCCXLIV.

C. AND J. ADLARD, PRINTERS, BATHOLOMEW CLOSE.

TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE.

The History of the Conquest of New Spain is a subject in which great interest is felt at the present day, and the English public will hail these memoirs, which contain the only true and complete account of that important transaction.

The author of this original and charming production, to which he justly gives the title of 'The True History of the Conquest of New Spain,' was himself one of the Conquistadores; one who not only witnessed the transactions which he relates, but who also performed a glorious part in them; a soldier who, for impartiality and veracity, perhaps never had his equal. His account is acknowledged to be the only one on which we can place reliance, and it has been the magazine from which the most eloquent of the Spanish writers on the same subject, as well as those of other countries, have borrowed their best materials. Some historians have even transcribed whole pages, but have not had sufficient honesty to acknowledge it.

The author, while living, was never rewarded for the great services he had rendered his country, and it is remarkable that, after his death, his very memoirs were pillaged by court historians, to raise a literary monument to themselves.

Most of the other writers on the conquest, particularly the Spanish, have filled their works with exaggerations, to create astonishment and false interest; pages are filled with so termed philosophical remarks, which but ill supply the place of the intelligent reader's own reflections. Bernal Diaz differs widely from those writers, for he only states what he knows to be true. The British public, fond above all others of original productions, will peruse with interest and delight a work which has so long been the secret fountain from which all other accounts of the conquest, with the exception of those which are least faithful, have taken life.

In respect of its originality, it may vie with any work of modern times, not excepting 'Don Quixote.' The author seems to have been born to show forth truth in all its beauty, and he raises it to a divinity in his mind. Can anything be more expressive of an honest conscience than what he says in his own preface: "You have only to read my history, and you see it is true."

The reader may form a general idea of this work from the following critique, which Dr. Robertson, the historian, passes upon it: "Bernal Diaz's account bears all the marks of authenticity, and is accompanied with such pleasant naïveté, with such interesting details, with such amusing vanity, and yet so pardonable in an old soldier, who had been, as he boasts, in a hundred and nineteen battles, as renders his book one of the most singular that is to be found in any language."

One circumstance, and that very justly, he is most anxious to impress on your mind, namely, that all the merit of the conquest is not due to Cortes alone; for which reason he generally uses the expression "Cortes and all of us."

This is an allowable feeling in our old soldier, and it must be remembered that the greater part of the men who joined Cortes were of good families, who, as usual on such expeditions, equipped themselves at their own expense, and went out as adventurers of their own free choice.

With respect to our author's style of writing, it is chiefly characterized by plainness and simplicity, and yet there are numerous passages which are written with great force and eloquence, and which, as the Spanish editor says, "could not have been more forcibly expressed, nor with greater elegance." Some readers may at first feel inclined to censure our author for going into minute particulars in describing the fitting out of the expedition under Cortes; for instance, his describing the qualities and colours of the horses; but all this, it will be seen, was of the utmost importance to his history, and of the horses he was bound to take special notice, for they performed a conspicuous part in the conquest... Continue reading book >>


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