An Autobiography & Other Essays

An Autobiography & Other Essays

An Autobiography & Other Essays

An Autobiography & Other Essays

Excerpt

HISTORIANS, scholars and literary men who have led uneventful and happy lives seldom afford good subjects for biography, except such of them as have left letters or journals of excellence or of interest. I never kept a journal, and I never wrote a private letter worth printing. Perhaps because I have always taken a good deal of pains with the writing of my books, transcribing each paragraph four times on the average before the typing stage, and because I am by nature lazy about everything except the labour necessary for the production of historical works, I never devoted serious attention to any other kind of composition, and I have always preferred conversation to correspondence as a method of human intercourse. May my malison alight on anyone who attempts to publish any of the scrawls that were once my letters; I trust they have all long ago passed through the waste-paper basket. For the rest, this brief record of my life, written by the man who knows most about it, will satisfy beforehand any possible curiosity on the subject.

In a brief autobiography, I must adopt some principle of selection, so I will choose out, from the throng of things remembered, the influences which led me to write my books, the only part of my activities and opinions which concern the public. Except for this purpose I make no attempt to describe the many interesting people whom I have known; I am writing not Memoirs but an Autobiography, an egotistic affair, but confined to those aspects of my life which were directly or indirectly connected with my work as an historian.

I have been not an original but a traditional kind of historian. The best that can be said of me is that I tried to keep up to date a family tradition as to the relation of history to literature, in a period when the current was running strongly in the other direction towards history exclusively 'scientific,' a period therefore when my old-fashioned ideas and practice have had, perhaps, a certain value as counterpoise. When one of my first books was reviewed (as all my twenty books have been) in most friendly . . .

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