Sunday, April 10, 2022

Apr. 10: Lew Wallace, American writer


Lew Wallace (1827-1905) was an American lawyer and a Union general in the American Civil War. (He also served on the military commission for the trials of the Lincoln assassination conspirators.) He later served as governor of the New Mexico Territory, during which time he completed his most famous work (while living at the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe), Ben-Hur, subtitled A Tale of the Christ. It has been called "the most influential Christian book of the nineteenth century," and is known to a certain generation of moviegoers for the epic 1959 film version, which won a record 11 Academy Awards in 1960. Published in 1880, it was the first book to dislodge Harriet Beecher Stowe's 1852 Uncle Tom's Cabin in sales, and was itself not bumped from the top of the US all-time bestseller list until 1936 with the publication of Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind. The protagonist, Judah Ben-Hur, was a Jewish prince from Jerusalem enslaved by the Romans at the beginning of the first century CE. Parallel to his narrative is that of Jesus, from the same region and around the same age. The two young men's lives intersect throughout the story, and Judah converts to Christianity late in the story.


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