C.N. Douglas, comp. Forty Thousand Quotations: Prose and Poetical. 1917.


To be a really good historian is perhaps the rarest of intellectual distinctions.


Histories are as perfect as the historian is wise, and is gifted with an eye and a soul.


  • Instructed by the antiquary times,
  • He must, he is, he cannot but be wise.
  • Shakespeare.

    Every great writer is a writer of history, let him treat on almost any subject he may.


    It is to me a peculiarly noble work rescuing from oblivion those who deserve immortality, and extending their renown at the same time that we advance our own.

    Pliny the Younger.

    Historians ought to be precise, faithful, and unprejudiced; and neither interest nor fear, hatred nor affection, should make them swerve from the way of truth.


  • Historians, only things of weight,
  • Results of persons, or affairs of State,
  • Briefly, with truth and clearness should relate;
  • Laconic shortness memory feeds.
  • Heath.

    The historian must be a poet; not to find, but to find again; not to breathe life into beings, into imaginary deeds, but in order to re-animate and revive that which has been; to represent what time and space have placed at a distance from us.

    Joseph Roux.

    The true historical genius, to our thinking, is that which can see the nobler meaning of events that are near him, as the true poet is he who detects the divine in the casual; and we somewhat suspect the depth of his insight into the past, who cannot recognize the godlike of to-day under that disguise in which it always visits us.


    A perfect historian must possess an imagination sufficiently powerful to make his narrative affecting and picturesque; yet he must control it so absolutely as to content himself with the materials which he finds, and to refrain from supplying deficiencies by additions of his own. He must be a profound and ingenious reasoner; yet he must possess sufficient self-command to abstain from casting his facts in the mould of his hypothesis.


    The true historian, therefore, seeking to compose a true picture of the thing acted, must collect tacts and combine facts. Methods will differ, styles will differ. Nobody ever does anything like anybody else; but the end in view is generally the same, and the historian’s end is truthful narration. Maxims he will have, if he is wise, never a one; and as for a moral, if he tell his story well, it will need none; if he tell it ill, it will deserve none.

    Augustine Birrell.