The Life of Jose Rizal: Philippine Patriot
In writing a biography, the author, if he be discriminating, selects, with great care, the
salient features of the life story of the one whom he deems worthy of being portrayed as a
person possessed of preeminent qualities that make for a character and greatness. Indeed
to write biography at all, one should have that nice sense of proportion that makes him
instinctively seize upon only those points that do advance his theme. Boswell has given
the world an example of biography that is often wearisome in the extreme, although he
wrote about a man who occupied in his time a commanding position. Because Johnson
was Johnson the world accepts Boswell, and loves to talk of the minuteness of Boswell's
portrayal, yet how many read him, or if they do read him, have the patience to read him
to the end?
In writing the life of the greatest of the Filipinos, Mr. Craig has displayed judgment.
Saturated as he is with endless details of Rizal's life, he has had the good taste to select
those incidents or those phases of Rizal's life that exhibit his greatness of soul and that
show the factors that were the most potent in shaping his character and in controlling his
purposes and actions.
A biography written with this chastening of wealth cannot fail to be instructive and
worthy of study. If one were to point out but a single benefit that can accrue from a study
of biography written as Mr. Craig has done that of Rizal, he would mention, I believe,
that to the character of the student, for one cannot study seriously about men of character
without being affected by that study. As leading to an understanding of the character of
Rizal, Mr. Craig has described his ancestry with considerable fulness and has shown how
the selective principle has worked through successive generations. But he has also
realized the value of the outside influences and shows how the accidents of birth and
nation affected by environment plus mental vigor and will produced Jose Rizal. With a
strikingly meager setting of detail, Rizal has been portrayed from every side and the
reader must leave the biography with a knowledge of the elements that entered into and
made his life. As a study for the youth of the Philippines, I believe this life of Rizal will
be productive of good results. Stimulation and purpose are presented (yet not
didactically) throughout its pages. One object of the author, I should say, has been to
show how both Philippine history and world history helped shape Rizal's character.
Accordingly, he has mentioned many historical matters both of Philippine and world-
wide interest. One cannot read the book without a desire to know more of these matters.
Thus the book is not only a biography, it is a history as well. It must give a larger outlook
to the youth of the Philippines. The only drawback that one might find in it, and it seems
paradoxical to say it, is the lack of more detail, for one leaves it wishing that he knew
more of the actual intimate happenings, and this, I take it, is the best effect a biography
can have on the reader outside of the instructive and moral value of the biography.
JAMES A. ROBERTSON.
MANILA, P. I.