The History of Rome: Reprinted Entire from the Last London Ed (Classic Reprint)

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Excerpt from The History of Rome: Reprinted Entire From the Last London Ed

It may be thought by some that this volume is written at too great length. But I am convinced, by a tolerably large experience, that most readers find it almost impossible to impress on their memory a mere abridgment of history the number of names and events crowded into a small spaceis overwhelming to them, and the absence of details in the narrative makes it impossible to communicate to it much of interest; neither characters nor events can be developed with that particularity which is the best help to the memory, because it attracts and engages us, and impresses images on the mind as well as facts. At the same time I am well aware of the great difficulty of giving liveliness to a narrative which necessarily gets all its facts at second-hand. A: d a writer who has never been engaged in any public transactions, either of peace or war, must feel this especially. One who is himself a states man and orator, may relate the political contests even of remote ages with something of the Spirit Of a contemporary; for his own experience realizes to him, in great measure, the scenes and the characters which he is describing. And, in like manner, a soldier or a seaman can enter fully into the great deeds of ancient warfare; for, although in out ward form ancient battles and sieges may differ from those of modern times, yet the genius of the general and the courage of the soldier, the call for so many of the highest qualities of our nature which constitutes the enduring moral interest of war, are common alike to all times, and he who has fought under Wellington has been in Spirit an eye-witness of the campaigns of Hannibal. But a writer whose whole experience has been confined to private life and to peace, has no link to connect him with the actors and great deeds of ancient history, except the feel ings of our common humanity. He cannot realize civil contests or battles with the vividness of a statesman and a soldier; he can but, enter into them as a man; and his general knowledge of human nature, his love of great and good actions, his sympathy with virtue, his abhor rence of vice, can alone assist him in making himself, as it were, a wit ness of what he attempts to describe. But these even by themselves will do much; and if an historian feels as a man and as a citizen, there is hope that, however humble his experience, he may inspire his readers with something of his own interest in the events of his history he may hepe, at least, that a full detail of these events, however zfeebly represented, will be worth far more than a mere brief summary of them, made the text for a long comment of his own.

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