Archbishop Laud, 1573-1645

Archbishop Laud, 1573-1645

Archbishop Laud, 1573-1645

Archbishop Laud, 1573-1645

Excerpt

This book is now twenty-one years old. In these days of continuous research and changing historical fashions, twenty-one years is a long time: a time in which much may happen to a subject, much also to a book and its author. Any author must therefore feel pleasure if his first-born offspring survives to attain its majority. But his pleasure is likely to be tinged with some regret. As he re-reads his old work he finds so much that, if he were to write it now for the first time, he would write very differently, but which, once written, he cannot change. For unless a book is a mere compilation, its date is an essential part of it. A book expresses the author's mind at the date of writing, and that expression cannot, by mere verbal changes, be brought "up-to-date"--that is, up to another date, at which it was not written. After twenty-one years a book can only be either superficially adjusted or totally re-written: anything between is mere deformation.

In re-publishing this book I have, of course, made some superficial adjustments. Such errors of fact as have come to my notice I have corrected. They are small and few and I shall not trouble to specify them. The greater changes which I would make if I were re-writing the book are of an altogether different kind. They represent a pervasive change of emphasis, the response of a historian's mind to a wider and deeper knowledge, not necessarily of the facts which he presumed to recount, but of the background which makes those facts significant in the context of history. As I am not writing a new book but republishing an old, I do not seek to effect this change: I merely, in self-defence, point it out. I ask the reader to remember that the book was written between 1936 and 1939, and not to expect me now, so long afterwards, to die in the ditch on behalf of every expression or judgment in it.

What, in fact, is this difference? A juvenile book, seen in retrospect by its author, tends to have certain standard features.

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