It is a difficult task to go back to ages by-gone, to divest ourselves of what we know and are and form a clear conception of generations that have been, of their experiences, objects, modes of life, thought and expression. It is a task better suited to the novelist than the historian, and even the former treads on dangerous ground in attempting it. One of the prime objects of the Columbian Historical Novels is to give the reader as clear an idea as possible of the common people, as well as of the rulers of the age. The author has endeavored at the risk of criticism to clothe the speeches of his characters in the dialect and idioms peculiar to the age in which they lived. In the former volumes, sentences most criticised are those taken literally as spoken or written at the time. Though it would seem that a few critics grow more severe the nearer an author approaches the truth, yet the greater number of thinking men and women who review these books are students themselves, and the author who adheres to the language of a by-gone age has nothing to fear from them.
The Witch of Salem is designed to cover twenty years in the history of the United States, or from the year 1680 to 1700, including all the principal features of this period. Charles Stevens of Salem, with Cora Waters, the daughter of an indented slave, whose father was captured at the time of the overthrow of the Duke of Monmouth, are the principal characters. Samuel Parris, the chief actor in the Salem tragedy, is a serious study, and has been painted, after a careful research, according to the conception formed of him. No greater villain ever lived in any age. He had scarce a redeeming feature. His religion was hypocrisy, superstition, revenge and bigotry. His ambition led him to deeds of atrocity unsurpassed. Having drawn the information on which this story is founded from what seem the most reliable sources, and woven the story in a way which it is hoped will be pleasing and instructive, we send this volume forth to speak for itself.
JOHN R. MUSICK.