Page:Studies of a Biographer 1.djvu/18

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STUDIES OF A BIOGRAPHER

he fancied that his 'spiritual substance' had been annihilated; he was a mere empty shell, a body without a soul; and, under these circumstances, as he tells us, he took to an employment which did not require a soul: he became a dictionary-maker. Still, we should, as he piously adds, 'thank God for everything, and therefore for dictionary-makers.' Though Browne's dictionary was not of the biographical kind, the remark seemed to be painfully applicable. Browne was only giving in other words the pith of Carlyle's constant lamentations when struggling amidst the vast dust-heaps accumulated by Dryasdust and his fellows. Could any good come of these painful toilings among the historical 'kitchen middens'? If here and there you disinter some precious coin, does the rare success repay the endless sifting of the gigantic mounds of shot rubbish? And yet, by degrees, I came to think that there was really a justification for toils not of the most attractive kind. When our first volume appeared, one of our critics complained of me for not starting with a preface. A preface saves much trouble to a reviewer—sometimes the whole trouble of reading the book. I do not, however, much regret the omission, for the real utility of our undertaking,