Page:Studies of a Biographer 1.djvu/37

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23
NATIONAL BIOGRAPHY

poor biographer, again, has to compress his work even at the cost of much clumsiness of style. I am painfully aware of the hideous sentences which I have constructed in trying to say in ten words what, as I fancied, might make quite a pretty passage if spread over a hundred. I have groaned over some charming anecdote which seemed to beg for a few little dramatic accessories, and wedged it remorselessly into its allotted corner, grievously perplexed by the special difficulty in our language of making the 'he's' and 'she's' refer to the proper people without the help of the detestable 'latter' and 'former.' Perhaps—so one thinks when looking at some modern biographies—the training in condensation is not altogether bad. But the problem is to condense without squeezing out the real interest. The dictionary-writer cannot dilate; but he is bound so far as he can to make the facts tell their own story. He is not to pronounce a panegyric upon heroism, but he ought so to arrange his narrative that the reader may be irresistibly led to say bravo! It is possible to make a story more pathetic by judicious reticence, though the writer who depends upon such a method needs especially appreciative readers. He must tell a good story so as to bring out the