The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XVI. Early National Literature, Part II; Later National Literature, Part I.

XVIII. Prescott and Motley

§ 8. Philip II

The courtesy that Irving showed to a younger aspirant in his field was repeated by Prescott himself towards Motley, the latter ready to abandon his Rise of the Dutch Republic for fear lest Prescott’s Philip II would fill the whole field adequately. There was a division of labour, again lucky, as Prescott’s biography would have been a meagre substitute for the glowing partisan book. Count d’Haussonville ranks the incomplete Philip II as Prescott’s best work. That is a dictum hard to accept. The author’s attitude towards his central figure is less slashing than Motley’s, less appreciative than Martin Hume’s. In so much it may be called just, but there is a certain meagreness in the treatment. Robertson seems to have affected his style, although his work on that author’s Charles V was not done until two volumes of Philip II had seen the light in 1855.

Between Peru and Philip II Prescott made a journey to England, where he was wonderfully received and fêted during his four months’ visit. Oxford gave him a doctorate. In 1845 the French Institute and the Royal Society of Berlin, and in 1847 two learned societies of England, had made him a member, so that his status as a scholar was perfectly assured, and his own charm gained him permanent friendship after formal courtesy had made connecting links. During the remainder of his life, noted English scholars and statesmen kept up a correspondence with him. Perhaps the friendship accorded to him by Alexander von Humboldt on account of Mexico and Peru was one of the most grateful of the many won by the real merit of his literary labours. Fortunately he never lost the powers of enjoyment or of active occupation as death came very suddenly in 1859.