Montezuma, the Serf. Joseph Holt Ingraham.

Montezuma, the Serf
by Joseph Holt Ingraham.
H. L. Williams: 1845.

Interesting book. A historical romance revolving around a one-week period in which Montezuma I rises from serf to King. I got this book online, knowing only the title and date, hoping it was some cool history. As it turns out, the author must have known very little about the Aztecs, as historical inaccuracies fill every page.

I would like to read more ‘chivalric romances’ from the era to see how stylistic this book is. Obviously, 19-century readers had fewer demands for historical research for their fiction. The ending is very Shakespearean, complete with people in disguise, everything coming to a climax at once, and even a fool.

Ingraham, who was a Reverend, makes the Aztec religion something like Christianity, complete with a Noah’s ark legend. What’s interesting, though, are the parallels he draws between Montezuma and Jesus: he even gives Montezuma a 1000-year reign, until the white man comes — perhaps suggesting that whites are to bring the Aztecs to heaven?

Of course, 1845 was a time of much speculation about the pre-columbian mesoamericans, and many professionals had proclaimed dramatic parallels between Christianity and the Aztec religion, as well as the possible Hebrew origin of the Mesoamericans. Also of interest, given the novel’s year of writing, are the constant tirades against slavery, and for equal rights & representation…. probably not a popular novel in the southern U.S.