In My Opinion: An Inquiry into the Contemporary Novel

By Orville Prescott | Go to book overview

IX
THE ART OF HISTORICAL FICTION:
Richter, Guthrie

"In books lies the soul of the whole Past Time: the articulate audible voice of the Past, when the body and substance of it has altogether vanished like a dream."

-- Thomas Carlyle

One of the enduring joys of reading is the sense of the past which can be acquired in no other way. Family stories, ancestor worship and sacred heirlooms can inspire only a superficial and often crudely distorted vista backward through the generations. Wider vision and more understanding perception depend on two varieties of books. Histories and biographies provide essential information; fiction provides feeling, the illusion of sharing the experience, the thought and emotion, of the past in spite of barriers of time and death.

Those who live in the present only and are ignorant of, or indifferent to, the past suffer from a variety of intellectual undernourishment. They deprive themselves of much of the meaning of life and of many of its pleasures. One of the most obvious examples of the blight caused by ignorance of the past may be found among travelers. Concord is only another New England village without some knowledge of the great men who lived and

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