The Life of Jose Rizal: Philippine Patriot by Austin Craig - HTML preview

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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 worldwide 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.