"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."
"One of the things I considered a delightful experience in school was the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I didn't realize the gap was so big from the Founding Fathers until now. And I didn't realize they weren't talking about me."
"Late in the afternoon we passed a man on the shore fishing with a long birch pole.... The characteristics and pursuits of various ages and races of men are always existing in epitome in every neighborhood. The pleasures of my earliest youth have become the inheritance of other men. This man is still a fisher, and belongs to an era in which I myself have lived."
"The oft-repeated Roman story is written in still legible characters in every quarter of the Old World, and but today, perchance, a new coin is dug up whose inscription repeats and confirms their fame. Some "Judæa Capta," with a woman mourning under a palm tree, with silent argument and demonstration confirms the pages of history."
"The gods are partial to no era, but steadily shines their light in the heavens, while the eye of the beholder is turned to stone. There was but the sun and the eye from the first. The ages have not added a new ray to the one, nor altered a fibre of the other."
"But it is fit that the Past should be dark; though the darkness is not so much a quality of the past as of tradition. It is not a distance of time, but a distance of relation, which makes thus dusky its memorials. What is near to the heart of this generation is fair and bright still. Greece lies outspread fair and sunshiny in floods of light, for there is the sun and daylight in her literature and art. Homer does not allow us to forget that the sun shone,--nor Phidias, nor the Parthenon."
"Men seem anxious to accomplish an orderly retreat through the centuries, earnestly rebuilding the works behind them, as they are battered down by the encroachments of time; but while they loiter, they and their works both fall prey to the arch enemy."
"Consider what stuff history is made of,--that for the most part it is merely a story agreed on by posterity. Who will tell us even how many Russians were engaged in the battle of Chernaya, the other day? Yet, no doubt, Mr. Scriblerus, the historian, will fix on a definite number for the schoolboys to commit to their excellent memories. What, then, of the number of Persians at Salamis? The historian whom I read knew as much about the position of the parties and their tactics in the last-mentioned affair as they who describe a recent battle in an article for the press nowadays before the particulars have arrived. I believe that, if I were to live the life of mankind over again myself (which I would not be hired to do), with the Universal History in my hands, I should not be able to tell what was what."
"This was the merriest old man that we had ever seen, and one of the best preserved. His style of conversation was coarse and plain enough to have suited Rabelais. He would have made a good Panurge. Or rather he was a sober Silenus, and we were the boys Chromis and Mnasilus, who listened to his story.... There was a strange mingling of past and present in his conversation, for he had lived under King George, and might have remembered when Napoleon and the moderns generally were born."
"He wrote in prison, not a History of the World, like Raleigh, but an American book which I think will live longer than that. I do not know of such words, uttered under such circumstances, and so copiously withal, in Roman or English or any history."