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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Lewis Wallace (1827–1905)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
GENERAL LEW WALLACE disproved the oft-reiterated assertion that “a prophet is not without honor, save in his own country,” for he was beloved and honored to a remarkable degree in his own State of Indiana. For many years before his death which occurred Feb. 15, 1905, his home in Crawfordsville was a Mecca towards which thousands of Indiana people journeyed annually to enjoy a brief glimpse of the distinguished author.  1
  Lewis Wallace, or Lew Wallace as he preferred to be called, was born in Brookville, Indiana, on April 10, 1827. His father David Wallace, a prominent lawyer, had been once governor, and twice lieutenant-governor of the State. The son received a common school education and then took up the study of law, upon which he was engaged at the time of the breaking out of the Mexican War. From his earliest years he had been particularly interested in Mexico, and the invasion of Cortez had possessed an especial fascination for him. He had written some 150 pages of ‘The Fair God,’ a tale of the conquest of Mexico, when the Mexican War broke out, at which time the young man laid aside his pen and his law studies and went to the war. At the expiration of his term of service Wallace returned to Indianapolis, resumed the study of law and soon won for himself an enviable reputation in the legal profession. During the years which intervened before the opening of the Civil War, the writing of ‘The Fair God’ was taken up at odd moments as a pastime, without serious thought as to its publication. Then came the stirring years of military action, after which a long time elapsed before the completion of this piece of literary work.  2
  When the Civil War began Lew Wallace was appointed adjutant-general of Indiana, and soon afterwards colonel of the 11th Indiana volunteers, with whom he served in West Virginia, participating in the capture of Romney and in the ejection of the enemy from Harper’s Ferry. He distinguished himself at Fort Donaldson, and was made major-general in March, 1862. General Wallace did good service at Shiloh and in the Corinth campaign which followed. He was, in November, 1862, president of the court of inquiry into the conduct of General Don Carlos Buel in the operations in Tennessee and Kentucky. In 1863 he prepared the defences of Cincinnati, preventing its threatened capture by General Kirby Smith, and in 1864 at the head of 5,800 men he fought the battle of Monocacy against a force of 28,000 under General Early. His action at this time resulted in the saving of Washington.  3
  General Wallace was a member of the court which tried the assassins of Lincoln and presided over the trial of Captain Wirz, the inhuman commander of Andersonville prison; he was mustered out of the volunteer service in 1865 and returned to Crawfordsville to resume the practice of law. From 1878–81 he was governor of New Mexico, at the end of which time he was appointed minister to Turkey, where he remained until 1885.  4
  While some critics consider ‘The Fair God’ the general’s finest book, and Sir Charles Dilke pronounced it the greatest historical novel ever written, ‘Ben-Hur’ is popularly accepted as his masterpiece. It appeared in 1880 and soon won its way into widespread favor. As the sub-title indicates, it is a tale of the Christ, and it is executed in the most thoughtful and reverential spirit; it is a well-known fact that its production carried the writer from an attitude of indifference towards spiritual things, to the possession of a strong and deep religious faith.  5
  ‘The Prince of India,’ another historical novel, appeared in 1893. This deals with the capture of Constantinople by the Turks.  6
  General Wallace also wrote a ‘Life of Ex-President Harrison,’ and ‘The Boyhood of Christ,’ a biographical study. In 1889 he published ‘Commodus,’ a blank-verse tragedy which was republished in 1897 in a volume which contained also ‘The Wooing of Mulkatoon,’ a narrative poem.  7
  General Wallace was always pre-eminently the soldier, and his martial spirit was never quenched by legal, political or literary employments. It is greatly to be regretted that the ‘Autobiography’ upon which he wrote up to the last, was only partially completed, as it would be difficult to find any contemporary life which furnishes such varied and fascinating material for a work of the kind.  8
  An able lawyer, a valiant soldier and military judge, wise territorial governor, clever and diplomatic envoy to the Sultan, successful author and lecturer, it is seldom that one brief mortal career can boast of such a record as that enjoyed by General Wallace.  9
  General Wallace’s wife, Susan Arnold Elston, a native of Crawfordsville, is a popular author; she has written a number of well-known stories and sketches, and her poem ‘The Patter of Little Feet’ has been widely quoted.  10
 
 
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