February 4, 2020

Pages 2351-2352
Whole Number 116 WILLIAM HENRY SPARKS (1800-1882)

We are delighted and proud to include in this issue of the Quarterly a biographical study of William Henry Sparks (1800 -1882) that has been prepared for the Association by Alexander Barrow Daspit.

It is the belief of your editor that there was only one individual named Sparks living in the 19th century who was better known in his own day than William Henry Sparks. That was the Rev. Jared Sparks (1789 -1866), historian and president of Harvard College. While this is not the first time that William Henry Sparks has been mentioned in the Quarterly (see the issue of December, 1962, Whole No. 40, for a record of his ancestry), this is the first time that we have been able to provide a biographical sketch of this famous member of the family.

The Memories of Fifty Years published by William H. Sparks in 1870 (with three additional printings by 1772) is found today in nearly every research library in the country, and, during the past century has been quoted by scores of historians and interpreters of the South. His colorful reminiscenses of Southern political leaders during the period leading up to the War Between the States, most of whom he seems to have known personally, reveal to today's reader why Sparks was considered such an entertaining conversationalist by his contemporaries. Unfortunately, while filling his Memories of Fifty Years (489 pages) with fascinating information regarding his colleagues and the times in which he lived, Sparks told little regarding his own personal life. One searches the volume in vain, for example, for the identification of his ten children and his three wives. Perhaps the second volume, which was never printed (the manuscript appears to have been lost), would have provided this personal history. We are especially grateful, therefore, to Mr. Daspit, himself a great-grandson of his subject, for acquainting us with the interesting career of William H. Sparks. (The portrait of Sparks on the cover has been reproduced from the frontispiece appearing in the 1872 edition of The Memories of Fifty Years.)