Page:Studies of a Biographer 1.djvu/31

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17
NATIONAL BIOGRAPHY

Nonconformists ejected in 1662; the opposition work upon the 'sufferings of the clergy' under the Commonwealth; the lives of the Jesuits who were martyred by the penal laws; and the lives of the Quakers, who have always been conspicuous for preserving records of their brethren. Besides these, there are, of course, many old biographical collections, including the dictionaries devoted to some special class—the artists, the physicians, the judges, the admirals, and so forth. The first simple rule, therefore, is that every name which appears in these collections has at least a presumptive right to admission. An ideal dictionary would be a complete codification or summary of all the previously existing collections. It must aim at such an approximation to that result as human frailty will permit; in other words, it is bound first to include all the names which have appeared in any respectable collection of lives, and, in the next place, to supplement this by including a great many names which, for one reason or another, have dropped out, but which appear to be approximately of the same rank. The rule, it is obvious, must be in part the venerable 'rule of thumb,' but it gives a kind of test which is a sufficient guide in discreet hands.

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