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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Hermann Eduard von Holst (1841–1904)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
HERMANN EDUARD VON HOLST, the historian, was born at Fellin, Livonia, June 19th, 1841, and was educated at Heidelberg and Dorpat. While traveling in Germany he published a pamphlet which was offensive to the Russian authorities, and was forbidden to return to the land of his birth. Soon afterwards he came to the United States, where he occupied himself in literary work for several years. In 1872 he was appointed to a professorship in the University of Strassburg, and two years later became professor of modern history at Freiburg, retaining that chair till 1892, when he was called to Chicago University. His chief work is his ‘Constitutional and Political History of the United States’ (1876–85), translated from the German by J. J. Lalor and A. B. Mason. Besides this he has written lives of John C. Calhoun and John Brown, ‘The Constitutional Law of the United States of America’ (1887), and ‘The French Revolution Tested by Mirabeau’s Career’ (1894).  1
  Von Holst had unusual advantages as a student of American politics and history. His foreign birth and education might well have served to give to his work such a character of impartiality as it would have been more difficult for the native historian to secure. The great Civil War which was going on when he came to the United States appealed powerfully to his sympathies, and determined him to search for its historical causes. Unfortunately for his repute as a historian, he saw these causes with the eye of a partisan of the North, and he traversed the past like a belated Nemesis dealing out to our departed statesmen the retribution which he thought their sins deserved. To his mind the slavery question assumed proportions so enormous that the entire history of the country was nothing but a record of the struggle between freedom and the “slavocracy,” and the latter’s insidious purposes are discernible everywhere. In spite of this, it is safe to say that no historian since the war has exerted a wider influence than Von Holst. If his conclusions are not wholly accepted, his zeal, his vigor, his picturesque manner, and his sincerity have stimulated others to good work. Few recent historical books have been more widely read, and that despite a certain roughness of style and confusion of metaphor which make many of his passages hard reading. In the matter of style, however, the translators of his ‘Constitutional History’ are in part at fault, and his lives of Brown and Calhoun are more concise and readable. For many years his history was regarded as the standard American work on the period since the adoption of the Constitution, and was constantly used by teachers, in Northern colleges at least, as a book of reference. Of late, special treatises on portions of the period covered have superseded it to a certain extent.  2
  Dr. Von Holst’s power of picturesque and dramatic presentation is seen to good advantage in the volume on the French Revolution from which the selections are made. The story is centered around its most striking personality, and after the manner of Carlyle, that personality is made vital and hence explicable. History writing, even upon this most fascinating of themes, is seldom made so attractive. This gift of making his subject-matter interesting also comes out in Dr. Von Holst as a lecturer: his influence at Chicago was considerable and widespread. He retired to Freiburg in ill health in 1900, and died on January 20th, 1904.  3

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