Page:Studies of a Biographer 1.djvu/35

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21
NATIONAL BIOGRAPHY

be rather dry. To be reduced to a specimen put in a museum is not a very cheering prospect, and offers little satisfaction for the commemorative instinct. Now I have to add that within certain limits the dictionary may be of importance in that direction too. I do not expect that a future Nelson will exclaim, 'Victory, or an article in The Biographical Dictionary!' I have never found my own appetite for labour stimulated by the flattering hope that I might some day be the subject instead of the author of an article. If I thought that my posthumous wishes would be respected, I should beg to be omitted from the supplement. But, for all that, the dictionary article may do much to keep alive the memory of people whom it is good to remember. Nobody will expect the poor dictionary-maker to be a substitute for Boswell or Lockhart. The judicious critic is well aware that it is not upon the lives of the great men that the value of the book really depends. It is the second-rate people—the people whose lives have to be reconstructed from obituary notices, or from references in memoirs and collections of letters; or sought in prefaces to posthumous works; or sometimes painfully dug out of collections of manuscripts, and who