Page:Studies of a Biographer 1.djvu/19

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5
NATIONAL BIOGRAPHY

as it now presents itself to my mind, had not then become fully evident. I am not about to write a preface now, but I wish to give a hint or two of what I might or ought to have said in such a performance had I clearly perceived what has been gradually forced upon me by experience.

The 'commemorative instinct' to which Mr. Lee refers has, undoubtedly, much to do with the undertaking; but, like other instincts, it requires to be regulated by more explicit reason. The thoroughbred Dryasdust is a very harmless, and sometimes a very amiable, creature. He may urge that his hobby is at least a very innocent one, and that we have no more call to condemn a man who has a passion for vast accumulations of dates, names, and facts than to condemn another for a love of art or natural history. The specialist who is typified in O. W. Holmes's Scarabee, the man who devotes a lifetime to acquiring abnormal familiarity with the minutest peculiarities of some obscure tribe of insects, does no direct harm to his fellows, and incidentally contributes something, however minute the contribution may be, to scientific progress. We must respect the zeal which enables a man to expend the superabundant energy, which might have led to fame or fortune,