The Letters of Archie Butt, Personal Aide to President Roosevelt

The Letters of Archie Butt, Personal Aide to President Roosevelt

The Letters of Archie Butt, Personal Aide to President Roosevelt

The Letters of Archie Butt, Personal Aide to President Roosevelt

Excerpt

A distinguished Frenchman, I think it was Paul Sabatier, has somewhere said that "man is incurably religious." May it not also be said that man is an incurable gossip? We like to hear and read of the little private sayings and doings of great men and women as well as of their heroic deeds and historic achievements. Indeed, gossip in the sense of familiar chit-chat, if it be not mischievous, malevolent or unfriendly, is a most useful handmaiden of history. One can often obtain a juster estimate of great men and their influence from anecdotal literature than from the dignified and sometimes dry-as-dust chronicles of professional historians. It is the gossipy attitude toward the little events of daily life that makes the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, the Letters of Pliny the Younger, the Epistles of Erasmus, not only so readable, but so enlightening to the student of customs and manners.

The work of a newspaper reporter is not given high rank by literary critics, but in his stories of the actual incidents and personalities of life the reporter creates a literature which people read with more eagerness, and sometimes, I think, with more benefit, than laboured historical treatises. Herodotus is an immortal historian partly, if not largely, because he reports anecdotes about great men who have made history. His historical characters are thus not shadowy mythological figures but men of flesh and blood. Luther was a metaphysician, and few there are who read him now. His great contemporary Erasmus . . .

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