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Biography of John Richard Green

Historian. The eighteenth century did some things with a splendor and a completeness, which is the despair of later, more restlessly striving generations. Barren though it was of poetry and high imagination, it gave birth to our most famous works in political economy, in biography, and in history; and it has set up for us classic models of imperishable fame. But the wisdom of Adam Smith, the shrewd observation of Boswell, the learning of Gibbon, did not readily find their way into the market place. Outside of the libraries and the booksellers’ rows in London and Edinburgh they were in slight demand. Even when the volumes of Gibbon, Hume, and Robertson had been added to the library shelves, where Clarendon and Burnet reigned before them, too often they only passed to a state of dignified retirement and slumber. No hand disturbed them save that of the conscientious housemaid who dusted them in due season. They were part of the furnishings indispensable to the elegance of a ‘gentleman’s seat’; and in many cases the guests, unless a Gibbon were among them, remained ignorant whether the labels on their backs told a truthful tale, or whether they disguised an ingenious box or backgammon board, or formed a mere covering to the wall. The fault was with the public more than with the authors. Those who ventured on the quest would find noble eloquence in Clarendon, lively narrative in Burnet, critical analysis in Hume; but the indolence of the Universities and the ignorance of the general public unfitted them for the effort required to value a knowledge of history or to take...

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