Monday, August 29, 2011

Quote of the Day (Oscar Wilde, on the “Chilling Touch” of Facts in History)

“But in the works of Herodotus, who, in spite of the shallow and ungenerous attempts of modem sciolists to verify his history, may justly be called the ‘Father of Lies’; in the published speeches of Cicero and the biographies of Suetonius; in Tacitus at his best; in Pliny's Natural History in Hanno's Periplus; in all the early chronicles; in the Lives of the Saints; in Froissart and Sir Thomas Mallory; in the travels of Marco Polo; in Olaus Magnus, and Aldrovandus, and Conrad Lycosthenes, with his magnificent Prodigiorum et Ostentorum Chronicon; in the autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini; in the memoirs of Casanuova; in Defoe's History of the Plague; in Boswell's Life of Johnson; in Napoleon's despatches, and in the works of our own Carlyle, whose French Revolution is one of the most fascinating historical novels ever written, facts are either kept in their proper subordinate position, or else entirely excluded on the general ground of dulness. Now, everything is changed. Facts are not merely finding a footingplace in history, but they are usurping the domain of Fancy, and have invaded the kingdom of Romance. Their chilling touch is over everything. They are vulgarising mankind.”—Oscar Wilde, The Decay of Lying: An Observation (1889)

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