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The Yale review (v. 3)

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Pages: 330

Book format: An electronic version of a printed book that can be read on a computer or handheld device designed specifically for this purpose.

Publisher: Date:8/5/2009 - General Books LLC

By: George Park Fisher

Excerpt from book: HISTORICAL INDUSTRIES. HISTORIANS are sometimes said to be a long-lived race. To historical students, at all events, this is a comfortable theory. Recent examples of a productive old age, such as Ranke so long supplied, and our own illustrious George Bancroft, may have lent strong force to the supposition. History herself, no doubt, is a long-winded muse, and demands of each votary the power of continuance. But I doubt whether statistics would bear out strongly this theory of a long-lived race. Among modern historians, well-known, who have died a natural death, neither Niebuhr, Gibbon, Macaulay nor Hildreth reached his sixtieth year: both Prescott and Motley died at about sixty-three.1 On the other hand, to take poets alone whom many of us may have seen in the flesh, both Longfellow and Lowell passed, well preserved, the bounds of three score years and ten: while Bryant, Whittier and Holmes, the last of whom still vigorously survives, enjoyed life much beyond four-score : and of English composers the most famous, both Tennyson and Browning mellowed long before they dropped. Undoubtedly, however, steady and systematic brain-work without brain worry, conduces to health and long life, whatever be the special occupation: and who may better claim that precious condition of mind than the average historian ? For of all literary pursuits none on the whole appears so naturally allied to competent means and good family. Public office and influence,—the making of history,—have belonged in most epochs before our own to the aristocracy, superior station being usually linked in the world's experience to wealth : and it is the scions and kindred of those who have been actors and associates in events, if not the actors and associates themselves, whose pens describe past exploits most readil...  

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