Page:Studies of a Biographer 1.djvu/22

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8
STUDIES OF A BIOGRAPHER

overwhelmed by the bulk of his materials. A century or two ago we were content with histories after the fashion of Hume. In a couple of years he was apparently not only to write, but to accumulate the necessary knowledge for writing, a history stretching from the time of Julius Cæsar to the time of Henry vii. A historian who now does his work conscientiously has to take about the same time to narrate events as the events themselves occupied in happening. Innumerable sources of knowledge have been opened, and he will be regarded as superficial if he does not more or less avail himself of every conceivable means of information. He cannot be content simply with the old chroniclers or with the later writers who summarised them. Ancient charters, official records of legal proceedings, manor rolls, and the archives of towns have thrown light upon the underlying conditions of history. Local historians have unearthed curious facts, whose significance is only beginning to be perceived. Calendars of State papers enable us to trace the opinions of the great men who were most intimately concerned in the making of history. The despatches of ambassadors occupied in keenly watching contemporary events have been partly printed, and