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


Sir John Froissart's Chronicles of England, France, Spain and the Ajoining Countries from the latter part of the reign of Edward II to the coronation of Henry IV in 12 volumes 

Chronicles of Enguerrand De Monstrelet (Sir John Froissart's Chronicles continuation) in 13 volumes 

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Seventeen lectures on the study of medieval and modern history and kindred subjects
page 111

IV.] GENIUS AND KNOWLEDGE. I05 are not the result of abstraction even from universal reading. I grant that genius may do great things with poor instruments and out of small materials. But the scientific triumphs of genius all imply minute knowledge as well as the power of grasping the idea. Owen, from a single bone, could reproduce an entire archaic animal, the real existence of which later discovery vindicated : in that great exploit of scientific genius, there was not only consummate grasp of the idea but enormous knowledge of mechanical anatomy: he did not elaborate the beast out of his own consciousness, nor make a lucky guess; but he looked at his bone all round, and saw its mechanical capabilities, and realised the idea which only could explain the possession of such capabilities. So, to some extent, the historical genius can reconstruct character. From a very incomplete study of History Scott could create a Richard, the truth of whose portraiture careful historical scrutiny seems to assure. Out of an enormous amount of material, Carlyle reconstructs for us Frederick William I of Prussia, a living, moving, tantalising reality. In both there is the" eye and the hand of genius, different as is the workmanship, distinct as is the result. But although genius can reconstruct character, it cannot reconstruct events : it flashes its lightning into the dark, and for the moment we see battles and alliances, life and death, growth and decline of heroes, cities and nations ; but it would require many such flashes to produce one permanent impression ; and for even an approach to an understanding of the vision we must go down and map out the land, photograph the heroes, and classify the populations of the cities. Patient study may not have much to do with genius ; it has less to do with generalisations : but without patient study genius will flash with no productive efficacy, and generalisations will become mere formulae, useful neither

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