Page:Studies of a Biographer 1.djvu/23

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9
NATIONAL BIOGRAPHY

still lie in vast masses at Simancas and Venice and the Vatican. The Historical Manuscripts Commission has made known to us something of the vast stores of old letters and papers which had been accumulating dust in the libraries of old country mansions. When we go to the library of the British Museum, and look at the gigantic catalogue of printed books, and remember the huge mass of materials which can be inspected in the manuscript department, we—I can speak for myself at least—have a kind of nightmare sensation. A merciful veil of oblivion has no doubt covered a great deal. Yet we may feel inclined to imagine that no fact which has happened within the last few centuries has been so thoroughly hidden that we can be quite sure that it is irrecoverable. Over two centuries ago a lad unknown to fame wrote a thesis in a Dutch University. I stumbled upon it one day and discovered a biographical date of the smallest conceivable interest to anybody. But it gives one a queer shock when one realises that even so trumpery and antiquated a document has not been allowed to find its way to oblivion. Happily some University theses have been lost, but as the process of commemorating proceeds with accelerated rapidity,