"History seems to us an arena of instincts and fashions, of appetite, avarice, and craving for power, of blood lust, violence, destruction, and wars, of ambitious ministers, venal generals, bombarded cities, and we too easily forget that this is only one of its many aspects. Above all we forget that we ourselves are a part of history, that we are the product of growth and are condemned to perish if we lose the capacity for further growth and change. We are ourselves history and share the responsibility for world history and our position in it. But we gravely lack awareness of this responsibility."
"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!"