Page:Studies of a Biographer 1.djvu/50

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36
STUDIES OF A BIOGRAPHER

frequently exposed, that the critic should perhaps be now chiefly anxious to insist upon his astonishing power in his own province. And certainly, I think that, though we should wish to see many aspects of history to which Macaulay was blind, nothing could be more delightful than to see the past as clearly, brightly, and graphically as Macaulay saw it. Nothing but a prodigious memory and a keen imagination could enable us to do that. But the dictionary well used, read thoughtfully, with the constant attempt to put flesh and blood upon the dry skeleton of facts, will, I believe, be the best help to enable any one to get as near as his faculties will permit to that desirable consummation. And, though the commemorative instinct may not be fully gratified, I think that no one can ramble through this long gallery without storing up a number of vivid images of the lesser luminaries, which will have the same effect upon his conceptions of history as a really good set of illustrations upon a narrative of travels. And, finally, I will say, what has often been a comfort to me to remember, that great as is the difference between a good and a bad work of the kind, even a very defective performance is immensely superior to none at all.