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WILLIAM STUBBS Seventeen lectures on the study of medieval and modern history and kindred subjects

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WILLIAM STUBBS
Seventeen lectures on the study of medieval and modern history and kindred subjects
page 65



readers seem now and then to waste themselves on trashy books which owe their circulation to advertising skill or to pretentious claptrap. I cannot of course mention names, but I do not doubt that you can supply them. Now, although this is an unfortunate waste of power and strength, it is not wholly to be deplored : a taste for history must exist before it can be educated, and it will, until it is thoroughly educated, be liable to be misled and waste itself on what is unprofitable. But to whom does it belong to educate and refine it ? That place is claimed by the reviewers. But I take leave to say that it is with the reviewers that the improvement should begin; and it is a sad truth that the improvement in reviewing has not yet gone far enough. By reviewing I mean what strictly speaking reviewing should be, and I take leave to say it because, having never been a reviewer, having in fact written but one article of the kind in my whole life, I have been for many years a steady reader of reviews. It is easier perhaps to say, with regard to this point, what we do not want than what we want. We do not want sledge-hammer articles, that demolish an unhappy pretender without attempting to tell us what he pretended or attempted to do; or niggling articles, which enumerate the mistakes and misstatements of a book, ignoring the fact that, with much carelessness of detail, the author has shown a great grasp of knowledge of his subject, skill in grouping and colouring, and power in investing the subject with true and real interest ; we do not want reviews in the grand style, which seem to be intended to prove that the writer knows or believes himself to know more of the subject than the author whom he is reviewing. All these sorts of reviews are either injurious to knowledge or useful only by way of advertisement. I need scarcely point out to you that while the reviewer, as a reviewer, is a man of many books and many subjects, the author is generally a man of one book or


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