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By J. H. Plumb (auth.)
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"In an period of inept and ignorant imitations, whose piped-in history song has hypnotized blameless readers into fearing literality's salutary jolt, a few reviewers have been dissatisfied by means of the common-or-garden constancy of my model. " Such was once Vladimir Nabokov's reaction to the typhoon of controversy aroused by way of the 1st version of his literal translation of Eugene Onegin.
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187-91. Naturally Cromwell, along with Pym, Hampden and Sidney, was a favourite of the lower middle class with radical leanings who formed, in the nineteenth century, the audiences of Literary Institutions and Mechanics' Institutes. S3 THE DEATH OF THE PAST Morality, political behaviour, civic virtue are now conceived in general, not personal or historic, terms. Even history textbooks, always the most conservative form of literature, are being recast; economic facts, social ideas, impersonal forces - these are dominating education, not the individual hero.
Yet the purpose of both is the same. ' 1 But it is more than this; it always contains, as indeed the Annals and Histories of Tacitus do, a justification of the authority of the state. History as criticism of the basis of power and authority, rather than history as criticism of the way men may have used it, is of very recent origin in the history of human society. This method of dealing with the past by narration of events of particular peoples, nations or communities in order to justify authority, to create confidence and to secure stability, opens up a huge complex 1 Tacitus, the Annals and the Histories, ed.
They were available for use to diviners for more than a thousand years after the event for which they had been used. By such an intensive study of the conjunction of an omen with an event, the Assyrians thought that the future might be controlled by the past. And from the oracle bones of An-yang 1 The official historian in China seems to have evolved, during the Han period, from the office of the Grand Astrologer, by which title Ssu-ma Chi'en's father was known. For a description of the way tortoise-shells were used, see The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu, transl.