Page:Studies of a Biographer 1.djvu/38

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STUDIES OF A BIOGRAPHER

humorous side without indulging in open hilarity, though he knows painfully that many readers will not take a joke unless it is labelled 'funny,' and some will not take it till it has been hammered into their heads by repeated strokes. It follows that the ideal article should not be condensed in the sense of being reduced to the bare dates and facts capable of being arranged in mechanical order. The aim should be to give whatever would be really interesting to the most cultivated reader, though leaving it to the reader to put the dots over the i's. The writer must often make the sacrifice of keeping his most important reflection to himself; but it is not the less important that they should be in his mind. Imagine a mere antiquary and a competent student to tell within the same limits the life of some eminent philosopher or divine. The difference may be enormous between the writer who sees what are the really cardinal facts and the writer to whom any and every fact is of the same importance: and yet both narratives may appear at first sight to be equally dry and barren. I remember how a life was ridiculed by a literary critic because it explained a certain vote at the Salter's Hall Conference. The critic, who probably knew all about