Recently, Scott Powell blogged about a high school history textbook that did an appallingly poor job presenting the establishment of representational government in America. In his appraisal of the text's many faillings, Powell makes a trenchant point when he observes that "America's students are having the heroic story of their most important institutions stolen from them." I agree. How can the genius of America endure if its people are ignorant of the ideas that made America great (as well as the long struggle it took to impellent those ideas)?
It is in this light then that I am heartened by the growing success of Edward Cline's Sparrowhawk series of historical fiction. While not straight history (I direct readers to Mr. Powell's many excellent course offerings for that) I think that Cline's series is nevertheless historic on the grounds that it is the first spiritually accurate dramatization of the pioneering and heroic ideas behind the American founding. If there is to be a new American renaissance, I do not think that it is hyperbole to forecast that Cline's works will play a key role for those who would create it.
As such, I am pleased to note that next week the companion volume to Cline's Sparrowhawk series will be released to the public; furthermore, I am pleased that I was presented with the opportunity to contribute an article that is a part of this first work of literary criticism examining the series.
In my contribution, I examine Cline's use of a character to represent the tragedy of a half-fought battle. In his work, Cline presents us with a morally upright British officer who acts nobly when evil presents itself directly before his eyes, but lacks sufficient vision to recognize his role in perpetrating the more abstract evils that plagued the colonists--evils that as Cline shows us, end up costing this character his very life. I decided to examine this conflict because I saw a compelling parallel to the many trials that imperil us today. It is, as I wrote, "the sad tenor of our times [t]hat men and women bestowed with the birthright of freedom nevertheless willingly sacrifice their freedom, property, and very lives to lesser opponents than the founding patriots knew when facing down the power of the British Empire." I feel this is perhaps the greatest tragedy of our age--a tragedy that Cline helps to correct though his brilliant series.
In other essays, companion editor Dr. Jena Trammel examines the virtues of character that Cline depicts in the heroes of his series--virtues that are all but unknown to today's generation of readers. Dr. Dina Schein examines the broad appeal of the Sparowhawk series and its uncanny ability to resonate with young and mature readers alike. Robert Hill, manager of Williamsburg Booksellers at Colonial Williamsburg, writes about his experiences watching Cline promote his series to CW visitors. Ed Cline himself offers an essay on the "Ways, Means and Ends of Sparrowhawk" which offers a writer's guide to his literary ambitions and techniques. And as a fitting capstone, the companion includes the principal political speeches of Sparrowhawk. In my view, the compilation of these speeches in one handy volume alone justifies the printing of the companion, for it is in these speeches that one sees what it truly means to be an American.
It is my sincere hope that The Sparrowhawk Companion will serve as a helpful guide to readers as they navigate though the treasures of Cline's Sparrowhawk series. If you are approaching the series for the first time, or if like me, you are already a die-hard fan, I think you will find yourself well-served by adding the companion to your reading list.