Page:Studies of a Biographer 1.djvu/39

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25
NATIONAL BIOGRAPHY

Denis and Curll and the pettiest squabbles of authors, had never heard of Salter's Hall, and asked who cared for such trifles, or what it could possibly matter how anybody had voted on the occasion? Yet the conference marks a very important point in the religious history of the day, and to know how a man voted may be to define his position in a very serious controversy. The writer, that is, must give the significant facts, but has often to leave the discovery of their significance to the reader. But in order that he should appreciate their significance, he must have far wider knowledge than he can expound. The dry antiquary will often omit the vital and insert the merely accidental: he will fail to arrange them in the order or connection which makes them explain their meaning. He will resemble the witness who should fail to mention a bit of evidence which may be incidentally conclusive of a case because he is not able to appreciate its bearing. And, therefore, though the two lives might be in appearance equally dry, one may teem with useful indications to the intelligent, while the other may be as barren as it looks. The life of the divine, for example, should be given by one who has studied the theology or ecclesiastical history of the day, and