Historical Parallels, vol. 1 (of 3)

Arthur Thomas Malkin Historical Parallels, vol. 1 (of 3)
ISBN:
2000000001757
Рік видання:
2014 р.
Видавництво:
Project Gutenberg
Автор:
Arthur Thomas Malkin
Мова:
англійська
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Опис: Works of history may be divided into two great classes: those which select a single action or a detached period for their subject; and those which follow a nation through the whole or a large portion of its existence; and which, embracing a number of such subjects, compensate for giving less minute and accurate information upon each, by explaining their relation, and the influence which they have exerted upon each other. To the former belong Thucydides, Xenophon, and Cæsar; to the latter Diodorus and Livy: or, in English literature, we may take Clarendon and Hume respectively as the representatives of these divisions. It is obvious that the method of treating themes so different in character, must also be essentially different; that for an historian of the latter class to aim at the particularity which we expect in the former, would involve something of the same absurdity as if a landscape painter were to give to an extended horizon the distinctness and detail which are proper to his foregrounds or to a closely bounded scene. If our curiosity is not satisfied by a comprehensive view, the remedy is to be found by multiplying pictures of its most striking parts, not by introducing into one canvas a multitude of objects which must fatigue and confuse the mind, and obscure those leading features which ought to stand out in prominent relief. Any one who wished to become acquainted with the nature and characteristics of a country, which he could not survey personally, would neither confine his inspection to bird’s–eye and panoramic views, nor content himself with a series of detached paintings, though representing separately whatever was most worthy of observation: in the one case his ideas, though perhaps correct, would necessarily be slight and superficial; in the other, his knowledge of the parts would never enable him to form an accurate judgment of the whole.

Valuable, therefore, as is the assistance of those authors who have devoted their talents and learning to epitomizing and rendering accessible the story of past ages, it is far from desirable that we should content ourselves with a blind trust in them, without checking their assertions, and filling up their sketches by a more detailed knowledge than it is possible for them to communicate. To apply these observations to the present work, the History of Greece contained in the Library of Useful Knowledge necessarily gives a very short account of many things which deserve to be known in detail, both on account of their historical notoriety and for the intrinsic value which they possess as striking examples of human power, passion, and suffering. Much of the excessive commendation which has been bestowed upon ancient virtue and patriotism ought probably to be attributed to the eager interest naturally excited by the revival of learning and the peculiar circumstances under which it took place. The discovery of the works of the most celebrated writers of antiquity, whose names at least had not been forgotten, must at any time have produced much curiosity and excitement: and peculiarly so when modern literature did not yet possess many names to divide the palm of genius with them.

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