Source: Tacoma Sunday Ledger
Source type: newspaper
Document type: editorial
Document title: “Biography as a Business”
City of publication: Tacoma, Washington
Date of publication: 22 September 1901
Volume number: 19
Issue number: 265
|“Biography as a Business.” Tacoma Sunday Ledger 22 Sept. 1901 v19n265: part 2, p. 12.|
|William McKinley (death: public response: criticism); McKinley memorialization (books).|
|Abraham Lincoln; William McKinley.|
Biography as a Business
When a great man dies, the presses
that turn out cords of books purporting to be the history of his life begin
to revolve. There is not even a pause for the funeral ceremonies. The idea of
the biographer and publisher is to get the history on the market without delay.
Thoughtful people do not need to be told that such a history is without value. It is compiled, not by a student of events, but the bookkeeper who groups dates. Where it wanders from statements of concrete facts it is to indulge in laudation. It is neither fair, accurate nor instructive.
The people of the United States do not need at this time a history of William McKinley. Upon the mind of each of the mature among them this history has been impressed. The so-called history, thrown together with haste, unable to take into account the effects of Mr. McKinley’s acts, to note fruition of the policies advocated by him, does not deserve to be known as a history at all. There must be a perspective; the rugged outlines of circumstance must be softened by distance, or the work is a crude and useless hodge podge [sic].
No adequate history of Lincoln was written until the great leader had been for decades in the grave, and the ideal history of the Civil war [sic] is yet to be put forth. At present there is no need for a “Life of McKinley,” because the life of the martyred president is as well known to the public as to the individual who will place the volume on sale. It has been part of the story of progress for thirty years. It has been told and told again. It forms an important thread running through the tale of national growth.
There will be a time for a history of William McKinley. It must be written without prejudice, and it can never be written properly either through the tears of mourning, or in the immediate effort to coin money. The task belongs to the scholar and the historian, not to the speculator.