Wednesday, 4 September 2013

"History has its foreground and its background"

"Contemporary English historians, it seemed, were miserably neglecting the art of narration, yet the popularity of well-written biographies showed that it was possible to combine both truth and colour.  Such books as Boswell's  life of Johnson and Southey's account of Nelson were [according to Macaulay]
 'perused with delight by the most frivolous and indolent.  Whenever any tolerable book of the same description makes its appearance, the circulating libraries are mobbed; the book societies are in commotion; the new novel lies uncut; the magazines and newspapers fill their columns with extracts.  In the meantime histories of great empires, written by men of eminent ability, lie unread on the shelves of ostentatious libraries.' "

1828: Thomas Babington Macaulay on historians, quoted in Peter Rowland's  Introduction to Macaulay's The History of England  from 1485 to 1685

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