"If it is no exaggeration to say that Deerfield is not so much a town as the ghost of a town, its dimness almost transparent, its quiet almost a cessation, it is essential to add that it is probably quite the most beautiful ghost of its kind, and with the deepest poetic and historic significance to be found in America.... It is, and will probably always remain, the perfect and beautiful statement of the tragic and creative moment when one civilization is destroyed by another. And the wonderful ghostliness of this mile-long 'Street' of grave and ancient houses, the strange air of unreality which hangs over it, arises precisely from the fact that the little town is really saying two things at once. It is saying, 'I dared to be beautiful, even in the shadow of the wilderness'; but it is also saying, 'And the wilderness haunts me, the ghosts of a slain race are in my doorways and clapboards, like a kind of death.'"
"There is a sort of myth of History that philosophers have.... History for philosophers is some sort of great, vast continuity in which the freedom of individuals and economic or social determinations come and get entangled. When someone lays a finger on one of those great themes--continuity, the effective exercise of human liberty, how individual liberty is articulated with social determinations--when someone touches one of these three myths, these good people start crying out that History is being raped or murdered."
"We are all familiar with the Aristotelian argument about the relation of poetry to action. Action, or praxis, is the world of events; and history, in the broadest sense, may be called a verbal imitation of action, or events put in the forms of words. The historian imitates action directly; he makes specific statements about what happened, and is judged by the truth of what he says. What really happened is the external model of his pattern of words, and he is judged by the adequacy with which his words reproduce that model. The poet, in dramas and epics at least, also imitates actions in words, like the historian. But the poet makes no specific statements of fact, and hence is not judged by the truth or falsehood of what he says. The poet has no external model for his imitation, and is judged by the integrity or consistency of his verbal structure. The reason is that he imitates the universal, not the particular; he is concerned not with what happened but with what happens."
"Here [in London, history] ... seemed the very fabric of things, as if the city were a single growth of stone and brick, uncounted strata of message and meaning, age upon age, generated over the centuries to the dictates of some now all-but-unreadable DNA of commerce and empire."
"Apart from letters, it is the vulgar custom of the moment to deride the thinkers of the Victorian and Edwardian eras; yet there has not been, in all history, another age ... when so much sheer mental energy was directed toward creating a fairer social order."
"Why I love the ancients so much? Aside from everything else, when I read them, the entire past between them and me unfolds at the same time. The hearts of how many heroes and poets may have been set on fire by Plutarch's biographies which now inspire me with their own and with borrowed flames!"
"Regarding History as the slaughter-bench at which the happiness of peoples, the wisdom of States, and the virtue of individuals have been victimized--the question involuntarily arises--to what principle, to what final aim these enormous sacrifices have been offered."
"I am provoked at the contempt which most historians show for humanity in general; one would think by them, that the whole human species consisted but of about a hundred and fifty people, called and dignified (commonly very undeservedly too) by the titles of Emperors, Kings, Popes, Generals, and Ministers."
"The disadvantage of men not knowing the past is that they do not know the present. History is a hill or high point of vantage, from which alone men see the town in which they live or the age in which they are living."