Title: History as Literature and other Essays
Historical Essays & Perspectives - The Castles of Wales
Gervinus and Sybel exhibit the contrast between north and south, and between the time before and after 1848. Sybel had learnt to make war on confusion and fiction in the strict mediæval school; but his mind was essentially modern, his interest lay in practical directions, and he opened the way to the later, inexhaustible, and almost unattempted centuries. He studies the Revolution in the light of a vast disturbance of the permanent policy of cabinets, without mercy on its picturesque and passionate element. The Reformation was in fact a blow struck at reforming Catholicism, more than at the supine advocacy of things as they were; and this historian, without unction or sympathy, deplores the Revolution as a catastrophe that threw back intelligent progress for half a century. He began these studies forty years ago with two essays on Burke, whose letter to Mercer embodies much of his philosophy. Both in his history and in his review, Sybel adopts the dogmatic terms of Burke and Savigny; but he is never lost in theory. Although his introductory chapter anticipated the with no better help than Tocqueville's article in the the depth and soundness of his work was not perceived until his gradual discoveries in many archives awakened controversy and provoked a flood of answering matter.
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. Julian Schmidt and other vigorous men have enlarged his notions. The better part of the nation's mind works in pursuit of truth, and its thought, its knowledge, its errors, constitute the object of literary history as well as those things which may be lawfully told in verse. The flowery empire of æsthetics did not flourish under this amalgamation as it had done in less practical days. The best work is a history of Italian literature; but of the greatest living critics—Haym, Bernays, and Scherer—not one is great alike in the tracing of ideas, in perfect knowledge of biographical and bibliographical fact, and in taste.