Page:Studies of a Biographer 1.djvu/20

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
6
STUDIES OF A BIOGRAPHER

upon achievements of which, perhaps, not half a dozen living men will appreciate either the general value or the cost to the worker. Dryasdust deserves the same sort of sympathy. He has, no doubt, his weaknesses. His passion becomes a monomania. He spends infinite toil upon work which has no obvious interest, and he often comes to attach an absurd importance to his results. Such studies as genealogy or bibliography have but a remote bearing upon any of the vital problems suggested by the real historian. We shudder when we read that the excellent Colonel Chester spent years upon investigating the genealogy of Washington, and accumulated, among many other labours, eighty-seven folio volumes, each of more than 400 pages of extracts from parish registers. He died, it is added, of 'incessant work.' The late Mr. Bradshaw, again, a man of most admirable character, and very fine intellectual qualities, acquired, by unremitting practice, an astonishing power of identifying at a glance the time and place of printing of old books. He could interpret minute typographical indications as the Red Indian can read on a dead leaf or blade of grass the sign of the traveller who made it. Certainly one is tempted to regret at first sight