Page:Studies of a Biographer 3.djvu/245

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233
JAMES ANTHONY FROUDE

doctrine. While oscillating like his hero between the opposite poles of Newman and Carlyle, he could agree with both upon one point—antipathy to 'philosophical radicalism,' political or religious. To him as to them it represented the evil principle in modern thought: materialistic and mechanical views of history, selfishness in morals, laissez-faire in politics, the 'pig philosophy' of utilitarianism, and generally the extinction of all that is elevating of the soul or beautiful to the imagination.

This aversion is manifest in one remarkable result. It suggests a thorough-going historical scepticism.[1] To attempt to make history scientific is to incur the danger of referring everything to mere physical causes, and to get rid of freewill and the spiritual and religious influences. To avoid this danger, he resorts to an extreme measure. He denies the possibility of even ascertaining the facts. History often looks like a child's box of letters, with which we can 'spell any word we please'; we have only to pick the letters and arrange them at our pleasure. Any philosophy of history can be proved: we may

  1. See especially the chapters upon 'History' and the Lives of the Saints in Short Studies, vol. i., and that on 'Scientific Method Applied to History' in the same, vol. ii.