Page:Studies of a Biographer 1.djvu/34

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STUDIES OF A BIOGRAPHER

some sort of feasible track has been constructed, and who are the trustworthy guides. Moreover, for a vast variety of purposes, the dictionary, though only second-hand authority, may be quite sufficient for all that is required. In following any of the countless tracks that may lead through history, you meet at every step with persons and events intruding from different regions. The man of letters may be affected by a political intrigue; a soldier may come into contact with men whose chief activity belongs to literature or science. The most thoroughgoing inquirer has to take a vast number of collateral facts upon trust; and it may save him infinite trouble to get the results of special knowledge upon what are to him collateral points.

This, to which I might add indefinitely, corresponds to what I may call the utilitarian aspect of a dictionary: the immediate purpose to which it may be turned to account by students in any historical inquiry. It should be a confidential friend constantly at their elbow, giving them a summary of the knowledge of antiquaries, genealogists, bibliographers, as well as historians, upon every collateral point which may happen for the moment to be relevant. But, so far, however well done, it must be admitted that it is bound to