S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
James A. Froude
To be entirely just in our estimate of other ages is not only difficultit is impossible. Even what is passing in our presence we see but through a glass darkly. The mind as well as the eye adds something of its own, before an image, even of the clearest object, can be painted upon it; and in historical inquiries the most instructed thinkers have but a limited advantage over the most illiterate. Those who know the most approach least to agreement. The most careful investigations are diverging roads; the further men travel upon them, the greater the interval by which they are divided. In the eyes of David Hume, the history of the Saxon princes is the scuffling of kites and crows. Father Newman would mortify the conceit of a degenerate England by pointing to the sixty saints and the hundred confessors who were trained in her royal palaces for the calendar of the blessed. How vast a chasm between these two conceptions of the same era! Through what common term can the student pass from one into the other? Or, to take an instance yet more noticeable, the history of England scarcely interests Mr. Macaulay before the revolution of the seventeenth century. To Lord John Russell the Reformation was the first outcome from centuries of folly and ferocity; and Mr. Hallams more temperate language softens without concealing a similar conclusion. The writers have all studied what they describe. Mr. Carlyle has studied the same subject with powers at least equal to theirs, and to him the greatness of English character was waning with the dawn of English literature; the race of heroes was already falling: the era of action was yielding before the era of speech.
The peculiar genius, if such a word may be permitted, which breathes through it, the mingled tenderness and majesty, the Saxon simplicity, the preternatural grandeur, unequalled, unapproached, in the attempted improvements of modern scholars,all are here, and bear the impress of the mind of one man, and that man William Tyndale.