"Erasmus was the light of his century; others were its strength: he lighted the way; others knew how to walk on it while he himself remained in the shadow as the source of light always does. But he who points the way into a new era is no less worthy of veneration than he who is the first to enter it; those who work invisibly have also accomplished a feat."
"Every epoch which seeks renewal first projects its ideal into a human form. In order to comprehend its own essence tangibly, the spirit of the time chooses a human being as its prototype and raising this single individual, often one upon whom it has chanced to come, far beyond his measure, the spirit enthuses itself for its own enthusiasm."
"Of course, in the reality of history, the Machiavellian view which glorifies the principle of violence has been able to dominate. Not the compromising conciliatory politics of humaneness, not the Erasmian, but rather the politics of vested power which firmly exploits every opportunity, politics in the sense of the "Principe," has determined the development of European history ever since."
"Never is a historic deed already completed when it is done but always only when it is handed down to posterity. What we call "history" by no means represents the sum total of all significant deeds.... World history ... only comprises that tiny lighted sector which chanced to be placed in the spotlight by poetic or scholarly depictions."
"The Battle of Waterloo is a work of art with tension and drama with its unceasing change from hope to fear and back again, change which suddenly dissolves into a moment of extreme catastrophe, a model tragedy because the fate of Europe was determined within this individual fate."
"The first sparrow of spring! The year beginning with younger hope than ever!... What at such a time are histories, chronologies, traditions, and all written revelations? The brooks sing carols and glees to the spring."
"No method nor discipline can supersede the necessity of being forever on the alert. What is a course of history or philosophy, or poetry, no matter how well selected, or the best society, or the most admirable routine of life, compared with the discipline of looking always at what is to be seen? Will you be a reader, a student merely, or a seer? Read your fate, see what is before you, and walk on into futurity."
"The earth is not a mere fragment of dead history, stratum upon stratum like the leaves of a book, to be studied by geologists and antiquaries chiefly, but living poetry like the leaves of a tree, which precede flowers and fruit,--not a fossil earth, but a living earth; compared with whose great central life all animal and vegetable life is merely parasitic."
"The procedure of the novel is to individualize. As with other art forms, what it has to say that is of collective value is said by inference from individual concrete things. History, on the other hand, proceeds by generalization. It treats people as groups; and when individuals appear they appear as catalysts of large collective actions or as representatives of groups, their significance being that of the group forces, the collection, the sum. This is a difference of convention, and on the conventions of an art depends its special expressiveness."