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Meriwether Lewis A Biography by Richard…

Meriwether Lewis A Biography (edition 1965)

by Richard Dillon (Author)

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A portrait of one of the major figures in American history.

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Dillon's biography of Meriwether is a worshipful paean to the memory of the star-crossed explorer.

Written in 1964, Dillon's account seems rooted in its time. There is no balance of Spanish or native American perspectives into the expedition. Indeed, Dillon frequently uses rather unkind labels such as savages to refer to the latter. There is a pile of great information distilled from the Reuben Thwaites edition of the journals, as well as Donald Jackson's Letters of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Dillon's narrative covers Lewis's life pre and post expedition as well as his efforts during the Corps of Discovery's mission. I thought the writing devoted to his life after the expedition was particularly interesting and filled in more blank spaces in my knowledge.

However, there is little time devoted to Lewis's many flaws. He was almost certainly an alcoholic and drug addict (laudanum,) and he quite likely suffered from a mental illness. Dillon was even unwilling to acknowledge his suicide, which is widely accepted today, asserting that it must have been murder. Not being one especially accepting of conspiracies, I'm not buying it.

Dillon's biography certainly has plenty to reccommend it, but it reads like a a John Wayne movie script. We don't get to see the character warts and all, and are left only with a monument to ponder. ( )
  ksmyth | Feb 23, 2009 |
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A portrait of one of the major figures in American history.

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