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Our Great Republic and the Early Discoveries, an Impartial History of the United States of America to 1884 (Classic Reprint)

Our Great Republic and the Early Discoveries, an Impartial History of the United States of America to 1884 (Classic Reprint)

33400707
1837.5 руб.
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Описание
Excerpt from Our Great Republic and the Early Discoveries, an Impartial History of the United States of America to 1884

To write history respectably - that is, to abbreviate dispatches, and make extracts from speeches, to intersperse in due proportion epithets of praise and abhorrence, to draw up antithetical characters of great men, setting forth how many contradictory virtues and vices they united, and abounding in withs and withouts - all this is very easy. But to be a really great historian is perhaps the rarest of intellectual distinctions. Many scientific, works are, in their kind, absolutely perfect. There are poems which we should be inclined to designate as faultless, or as disfigured only by blemishes which pass unnoticed in the general blaze of excellence. There are speeches, some speeches of Demosthenes particularly, in which it would be impossible to alter a word without altering it for the worse. But we are acquainted with no history which approaches to our notion of what a history ought to be - with no history which does not widely depart, either on the right hand or on the left, from the exact line. The cause may easily be assigned. This province of literature is a debatable land. It lies on the confines of two distinct territories. It is under the jurisdiction of two hostile powers; and, like other districts similarly situated, it is ill defined, ill cultivated, and ill regulated. Instead of being equally shared between its two rulers, the reason and the imagination, it falls alternately under the sole and absolute dominion of each. It is sometimes fiction. It is sometimes theory. History, it has been said, is philosophy teaching by examples. Unhappily what the philosopher gains in soundness and depth, the examples generally lose in vividness. A perfect historian must possess an imagination sufficiently powerful to make his narrative affecting and picturesque; yet he must control it so absolutely as to content himself with the materials which he finds, and to refrain from supplying deficiencies by additions of his own. He must be a profound and ingenious reasoner; yet he must posssess sufficient self-command to abstain from casting his facts in the mold of his hypothesis. It maybe laid down as a general rule, though subject to considerable qualifications and exceptions, that history begins in novel and ends in essay. Of the romantic historians, Herodotus is the earliest and the best. There are passages in Herodotus nearly as long as acts of Shakespeare, in which everything is told dramatically, and in which the narrative serves only the purpose of stage-directions. It is possible, no doubt, that the substance of some real conversations may have been reported to the historian.

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