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Pike, Albert

The World of Washington Irvinq, by Van Wyok Brooks (E. P. Dutton & Co.; New York; 1944), is a brilliant and distinguished book in which the panorama of American writers of the period of Irving and Cooper is brought alive again, and at the same time is described against the background of European literature. To Masons it has the added interest of being one of the first critical literary histories to recognize Albert Pike's place in American literature. For, contrary to the impression Masons have had, Pike's time, thought, and writing were not absorbed by the Fraternity. (See index of the book.)

Brooks mentions Pike among the few American writers who admired the Indians, though he does not give him sufficient credit for his knowledge of Indian affairs, seeing that Pike learned a number of Indian languages, acted as attorney for them in State and Federal Courts, and had them under his command in the Confederate army. Brooks also describes Pike's famous journey to Taos and Santa Fe from Independence, Mo., and mentions his once-familiar poems on Taos and Noon and Santa Fe, but fails to describe Pike's visit to Albuquerque (a city built over the ruins of seven Pueblo Indian cities) or his journey on foot across the Staked Plains--an incredibly reckless achievement and the first time ever attempted by a white man--nor does he mention Pike's book, now very rare, about his walking trip in New Mexico, a copy of which is preserved in the vaults of the Grand Lodge of New Mexico.

In 1840 Pike built a mansion in Little Rock, "the Athens of the Southwest," a city which still bears his imprint. By one of those happy coincidences which can only occur in real life this mansion became the home of another American poet when in 1889 John Gould Fletcher moved into it with "its lofty rooms, its wide halls and great folding doors, its six white columns, " etc. Brooks said that Pike's poem Isadore "may have indeed have had its effect on Poe. " Pike's book of poems entitled Bymns to the Gods was published in Blackwood's Magazine in Britain and the poems " were greatly admired by Christopher North" (who was probably a Mason; at least, he was once a Lodge visitor). A generally-overlooked Masonic treatise by Pike is a commentary on the Regius MS. which he wrote in the form of a letter to Robert Freke Gould on September 26, 1889, and which was afterwards published as a brochure. This essay proves beyond all peradventure of doubt that Pike studied very little or the history of Ancient Craft Masonry and did not keep abreast of its scholarship; there is at least one mistake in facts in almost every sentence.

(See Bibliography of the Writings of Albert Pike: Prose, Poetry, MS., by W. L. Boyden; Washington, D. C.; 1921.)

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