SINCE Prescott first published his history, the conquest of Mexico by Hernando Cortez has ranked with the victories of Lord Clive in India as one of the most amazing and courageous of human exploits, by which vast territories, riches, and populations have been subjugated to the iron will of a single man. Cortez emerges from the past as a typical Renaissance captain, like the condottiere of Italy, only transplanted into the romantic regions of the New World. Always the hardy soldier, daring and resourceful, he never shirked from deception, cruelty, or pillage. Too often people are prone to see only the gallantry of the Conquistador, without realizing the wreckage he brought upon the beautiful city of Mexico, surrounded by a broad lake filled with floating gardens and stocked with the glorious achievements of Indian art. If the Aztec religion demanded the palpitating hearts of its victims to appease the fury of the Gods, none can say that the Spanish Inquisition was more lenient.
In his biography "Stout Cortez" Henry Morton Robinson has produced an uncritical, unscholarly book which, however, should not lose interest and fascination on that account among popular readers. While the style is often fantastic, especially in the fictitious speeches which partake of the unrealities of movie melodrama, Mr. Robinson uses for the most part a straightforward narrative which brings out the more exciting aspects of the conquest. He shows Cortez to have been not only a soldier of the first rank in his ability to handle men and in his ingenuity in military tactics, but also an able administrator who knew well how to direct the fruits of his conquest along lines of permanence by fostering settlement and agriculture. The figure of Dona Marina, the beautiful Indian interpretress who shared all the toils of his arduous campaigns, gives an added note of romance. Yet notwithstanding the epic quality of Mr. Robinson's recent biography, Prescott's "Conquest of Mexico" is still the most dramatic and astounding account of the exploits of Hernando Cortez.