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The Iliad         Page 1
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Scepticism is as much the result of knowledge, as knowledge is

of scepticism. To be content with what we at present know, is,

for the most part, to shut our ears against conviction; since, from

the very gradual character of our education, we must continually

forget, and emancipate ourselves from, knowledge previously

acquired; we must set aside old notions and embrace fresh ones;

and, as we learn, we must be daily unlearning something which

it has cost us no small labour and anxiety to acquire.

And this difficulty attaches itself more closely to an age in

which progress has gained a strong ascendency over prejudice,

and in which persons and things are, day by day, finding their

real level, in lieu of their conventional value. The same principles

which have swept away traditional abuses, and which are making

rapid havoc among the revenues of sinecurists, and stripping the

thin, tawdry veil from attractive superstitions, are working as

actively in literature as in society. The credulity of one writer,

or the partiality of another, finds as powerful a touchstone and

as wholesome a chastisement in the healthy scepticism of a

temperate class of antagonists, as the dreams of conservatism,

or the impostures of pluralist sinecures in the Church. History

and tradition, whether of ancient or comparatively recent times,

are subjected to very different handling from that which the

indulgence or credulity of former ages could allow. Mere

statements are jealously watched, and the motives of the writer

form as important an ingredient in the analysis of his history, as

the facts he records. Probability is a powerful and troublesome

xii The Iliad of Homer

test; and it is by this troublesome standard that a large portion of

historical evidence is sifted. Consistency is no less pertinacious

and exacting in its demands. In brief, to write a history, we must

know more than mere facts. Human nature, viewed under an

induction of extended experience, is the best help to the criticism

of human history. Historical characters can only be estimated

by the standard which human experience, whether actual or

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