In A Human Moment

Miscellany from the 19th century

Historical Inaccuracies

history-narrow-focus-educationHistorical are of all writers bound to be accurate; and, as a rule, authors of this class take reasonable pains to ascertain the facts about which they write. In some cases, however, partiality carries the day against truth; and the very author who will spare neither time nor trouble to acquaint himself with the smallest details regarding his work is not proof against the temptation of the quietly slurring over awkward passages in the life of some favourite, or of giving a slight tinge to facts that are opposed to his own views.

Lord Clarendon, in a letter to a friend, candidly avows that he had omitted certain passages regarding Charles I from his history “that it should give no information where it could not give that it would; and should leave the King’s memory happy, though his reign had been unfortunate.”

Despite the inaccuracy of the historian, we cannot but admire the loyalty of the old cavalier, who, at the time he was penning this affectionate partial history, was suffering poverty and exile from the ingratitude of a Stuart. After all, a strictly impartial history is sadly dull reading.

In an amusing paper on the art of successful lying that appeared some years ago in one of the magazines, the author advised all falsehood tellers to introduce as much truth as possible into their narrative, as trifling accuracies will cover much fiction. This is undoubtedly true. The actual existence of the “bricks in the chimney” substantiated the absurd story of Jack Cade’s birth in the eyes of his followers. It was by the skilful introduction of real events that Defoe induced people to receive his tales as sober histories.

A trifling inaccuracy has often caused the detection of an ingenious fraud. A discrepancy between the dates of the watermark of the paper and that of the will written upon it has sufficed to set aside a supposed testamentary document. Only a short time ago some of the jury delined to accept a evidence of a birth an entry in an old prayer book in the ground that the boo itself must have been printed subsequent to 1772, as the Princess Dowager, whose name was omitted from its pages, only died in that year; while the birth was entered as taking place many years previously. Trfles like these decide the result of many an action at law. – Globe.

Historical Inaccuracies
The Belfast News-Letter, Monday, August 1 1881, Issue 20642
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