Page:Studies of a Biographer 1.djvu/28

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14
STUDIES OF A BIOGRAPHER

mentioned, say, in Boswell, and yet have no conception of the general position of Johnson, or Burke, or Goldsmith in English literature. He seems to have walked through a great gallery blindfold, or rather with some strange affection of the eyes which enabled him to make a catalogue without receiving any general impression of the pictures. The great Mr. Sherlock Holmes has insisted upon the value of the most insignificant facts: and if Mr. Holmes had turned his mind to history instead of modern criminal cases, he would have found innumerable little incidents which only require to be skilfully dovetailed together to throw a new light upon many important questions. More can be done by the man of true historical imagination the man who appreciates the great step made by Scott when he observed that our ancestors were once as really alive as we are now and who finds in those countless neglected and apparently barren facts, vivid illustrations of the conditions of life and thought of our predecessors. We all know how Macaulay, with his love of castle-building, found in obscure newspapers and the fugitive literature of the period the materials for a picture which, with whatever shortcomings, was at least incomparably brilliant and lifelike. Now,