Page:Studies of a Biographer 1.djvu/43

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29
NATIONAL BIOGRAPHY

either as to their deserving their places, or as to the fact that the commemoration gives a very real satisfaction to our desire to keep the memory of our worthies in tolerable repair.[1]

And, finally, this may help to justify my daring remark that the dictionary is an amusing work. This, of course, is true only upon certain conditions. The reader, as I have intimated, must supply something for himself; he has to take up the dry specimens in this great herbarium, and to expand them partly by the help of his own imagination till they take something of the form and colouring of life. Perhaps, too, it must be added, that he should know the great art of skipping, though some excellent friends of mine have told me that they read through every volume as it appears. Their state is the more gracious. Yet no man is a real reading enthusiast until he is sensible of the pleasure of turning over some miscellaneous collection, and lying like a trout in a stream snapping up, with the added charm of

  1. I am glad to see that, in this observation, I coincide with the author of Admirals All, who has been good enough to say a word for the dictionary in this respect. I am happy that the poetic has confirmed the prosaic judgment. Only I must add that the compliment which he pays to the editor of the dictionary is rather due to Professor Laughton, the author of the lives in question.