Lapas attēli

1. Industry and extended information.
2. Clear and acute powers of observation.
3. The judicial sense, including

a. Keen reasoning power and

b. Freedom from prejudice.

4. Power of expression: style. Of these the first is fundamental to the rest. It is essential that the historian have an extensive fund of data at his command, in order that his powers of selection and of reasoning shall have full play. It may be that, like Thucydides of old, or like John C. Ropes among our own historians, he seeks his material from those who have borne their part in the very incidents that he would chronicle; or, it may be, as with Grote and Macaulay, that he must pore over the records of other chroniclers. In any case, the field of observation must be broad, or generalizations will have little value. Great historians are great students, patient and persistent readers. The author of The Peloponnesian War gave the greater part of a long life to collecting the material of his masterpiece. Twelve years of thought and preparation elapsed between the time when Gibbon conceived the plan of his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and the appearance of the first volume; twelve more had passed before the last was printed.

But mere industry is not sufficient; with it must go acute power of observation. We have already shown that among the various elements of narration unity is ever essential, and to secure unity there must be power of selection. A mere welter of facts will not enable one to characterize aptly or to record consistently. The charge most frequently brought against Macaulay is that, although his mind was a marvelous storehouse of facts, yet he lacked the power to select and to re


ject. A picturesque scene, a dramatic character, a stirring situation, would so arouse his imagination that he would give to his theme disproportionate elaboration, and he would treat with scant detail other more prosaic data to the real value of which he was blind. It has been said that in the power to assimilate thoroughly and then to write with ideal conciseness the ancient historians excel the modern; but that in the power to analyze, to establish the sequence of cause and effect, as well as in the power to generalize, the converse is true.

This leads us to note that since the second quarter of the nineteenth century there has been a distinct development of what has been called the “historic sense. That is to say, the methods of science have entered into the field of literature, and such terms as "environment,”

, "heredity," and "evolution" are to-day as common in the vocabulary of literary criticism as in that of biology and physiology. The historian is no longer satisfied to set in order victories by land and by sea, or the bare data of a political campaign; he traces events to their sources, he establishes trends of political development; analysis, synthesis, generalization, the varied tests of evidence, — all these are essential to the very web of his narrative.

At this point we find the articulation between the intellectual and the emotional aspects of historical narrative. The collation of material, the processes of selection and omission, and the judicial attitude toward all matters of historical evidence, are largely questions of intellect. But to the judicial attitude we must of course couple the necessity for impartiality, the discounting of what is usually termed “the personal equation.” Historical narrative is ultimately the record of actual fact; truth is its very cornerstone. To the historian - and preëminently to the modern "scientific” historian

credulity, exaggeration, prejudice are anathema. For the "travelogues” of Herodotus, as for the vigorous pictures of Macaulay, he cares as little as for the romances of Scott or Dumas. And yet it is not to be denied that the Father of History, as well as many of his successors to whom scientific methods were unknown, have produced work that must rank among the permanent monuments of the world's literature. In other words, the literature of history, like all literature, demands something more than facts, however logically ordered and well authenticated. Meteorological or obituary records, parliamentary reports, and state papers may be reliable beyond possibility of question, yet they are not literature. That intangible thing that we call “style" is lacking, and in all those records of thought that the world does not willingly let die style in some form exists. The attempts to define this abstraction have been legion, but in this respect there is little deviation among them, that in some indefinable way style carries with it the individuality of the writer. In one of its aspects, therefore, literature is personal. The historian, then, must not limit himself to the bare registration of facts, however true, or to processes of reasoning, however logical. Nor, on the other hand, although in his exhilaration he may compose periods that rival in fervor those of Milton or Ruskin, will he allow himself to be swept away by enthusiasm or prejudice. The dignity of historical narrative lies in the nice adjustment of all the constituent qualities.

Among these qualities are accuracy and interest. Macaulay's purpose was to be interesting, to write a history that should supersede the latest romance on ihe tables of young ladies. Of his success there can be no question. Picturesque setting, vigorous characterization, and a marvelous style contribute to give

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vigor to the main business of the narrative. But his very energy, often lapsing into superheated enthusiasm and prejudice, has done much to imperil his standing among the great historians. Froude is even a more striking example, for in his case the inaccuracies are so serious as to offset the virtues of his style. It has been said that in a short time one comes to know Macaulay so well as to discount his exaggerations and not miss the truth; but that Froude's inaccuracies are constitutional and inexplicable.

Interest and accuracy, however, are not incompatible, as may be seen in the case of the great English master of historical writing. “Gibbon," says J. F. Rhodes, quoting Bury, “is 'the historian and the man of letters,' thus ranking with Thucydides and Tacitus. These three are put in the highest class, exemplifying that ‘brilliance of style and accuracy of statement are perfectly compatible in an historian.'

Scientific adherence to truth, on the one hand, and adequate expression, on the other, between which history must steer its course, without veering unduly toward either if it would be regarded as literature, have their own definite relations to each of the three main contributive elements under which we have considered narrative writing.

In the first place, the historian will lay less stress on dramatic setting than will the writer of fiction. Dramatic setting makes for æsthetic effectiveness; its appeal is in large degree to the imagination; it is likely to lead one aside into the realm of fantasy. In fiction, on the other hand, where the imagination plays so important a rôle, dramatic setting is correspondingly more important and may be used with far greater freedom. With expository setting the danger of over-emphasis is less,

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for, in this case, the background increases the effect of the action, at the same time presenting only details that have as much basis in fact as does the action itself. The Decline and Fall, to be sure, abounds in gorgeous imagery and pageants, yet the value of the great work as veritable history is not lessened by the richness of the coloring. Here and there a voice is raised in accusation of pomposity and bombast, but the general consensus of critical opinion is in accord with the verdict of Mommsen, the great German historian, who wrote:

Amid all the changes that have come over the study of the history of the Roman Empire, in spite of all the rush of the new evidence that has poured in upon us and almost overwhelmed us, in spite of changes which must be made, in spite of alterations of view, or alterations even in the aspect of great characters, no one would in the future be able to read the history of the Roman Empire unless he read, possibly with a fuller knowledge, but with the broad views, the clear insight, the strong grasp of Edward Gibbon."

With characterization history is more closely concerned than with setting. “Give me the series of great men,” has said an eminent writer, “and I will tell you the history of the race; because history is best represented by important individuals.” If this be true, it becomes evident that the portrayal of personages and the exposition of personality will enter very definitely into the record of events in which human agency plays its part. At this very point, however, lies the danger of personal bias on the part of the historian with consequent failure to maintain the judicial impartiality fundamental to the historic sense. Toward the impersonal background the historian feels no prejudice, save as he

1 Quoted by J. F. Rhodes from London Times, Nov. 16, 1894, in Historical Essays.


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