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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 121



V.] HISTORY AS DRAMA, Il5 A third form of the art, which combines and adds to these two, borrows its analogue from the domain of another of the arts, and attempts to read not only character and situation but plot also ; and this, I need hardly say, is in result at least very far in Value beyond the other two. It involves the complete identification of persons, and the complete realisation of relations ; of persons identified through long historical careers, and of relations varying from moment to moment during the long "periods over which the drama extends. It can perhaps afford better than our second form of the art, to discard circumstances and characters that are not essential to the plot, but it cannot afford to neglect a single circumstance or feature that may be essential to it. The result of such writing is seen in its best form in the history of great institutions, great empires that have had definite periods of growth, duration, and decline; Church History, or different episodes in it; the history of the Roman empire, or of Athens. It has all the unity of the statuesque, and all the vividness of the picturesque, but a continuity of life and argument that are its own. I need scarcely say that to write this sort of history requires the very highest mental powers, as well as patient training and incredible labour. For even the writing of episodes, as we call them, the minor plots of a great drama, the writer must combine qualities of mind that are combined in but few; the clear sight that can apprehend the idea that gives life and truth to the story, and the labour that will apply itself to details as if it were only out of the study of the details that life and truth could come. But although to write such history may well be beyond the reach of nine hundred and ninety-nine out of each thousand of historians, there is no reason why every man who goes into the schools should not try to read history with a special view to the realising of the dramatic plan; ι 2


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