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American Literature:



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Lewis Wallace

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

Lewis Wallace had won distinction in other fields than that of literature before he became known to the world as the author of "Ben Hur," but this distinction has eclipsed his former fame. He was born at Brookville, Indiana, in 1827, the son of the Hon. David Wallace, who was at one time Governor of Indiana. At the beginning of the Mexican War he was studying law, but left his books to take the field. After serving with credit he returned and was admitted to the bar. He was in the State Senate for four years and when the Civil War began received command of a regiment. After brilliant service both in the West and the East, he was mustered out in 1865 with the rank of Major-General of Volunteers. He resumed the practice of law at Crawfordsville, Indiana. From 1878 to 1881 he was Governor of Arizona, and was then sent as American Minister to Turkey. Before writing "Ben Hur" he had published "The Fair God" (1873), a story of the Spanish conquest of Mexico. "Ben Hur," a romantic setting of the life of Christ, appeared in 188o, and soon obtained a wider circulation than any previous American work, except "Uncle Tom's Cabin." This is, of course, due to its religious character, as well as its literary merit. The hero is a noble Israelite, whose eventful life has brought him in contact with the Savior. The Oriental scenery was accurately depicted from vivid imagination, before General Wallace had ever visited the East. The description of the chariot race is justly regarded as one of the most stirring chapters of an historical romance. The author's style is not free from faults, but these seem not to have interfered with his popularity. General Wal-lace has since written "The Boyhood of Christ" (1888), founded on the apocryphal Gospels, "Commodus, a Tragedy" (1889), and "The Prince of India" (1893). The last is an historical novel, dealing with the capture of Constantinople by the Turks. The Prince is a finely drawn character, whose career bears some resemblance to that of the Wandering Jew. General Wallace in 1897 published an Oriental narrative poem in blank verse, "The Wooing of Malkatoon."

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