Friday 8 March 2024

Idle Gossip

Gore Vidal, Julian: A Historical Novel (London: The Reprint Society, 1965; 1962), p. 417:

History is idle gossip about a happening whose truth is lost the instant it has taken place.
Hugh Trevor-Roper, The Last Days of Hitler, 7th ed (London: Macmillan Press, 1995; 1947), p.xxi.
   Anyone who undertakes an inquiry of such a kind is soon made aware of one important fact: the worthlessness of mere human testimony. It is a chastening thought to a historian to consider how much history is written on the basis of statements no more reliable than those of Admiral Doenitz, Dr Spaeth and Carmen Mory. If such statements had been made and recorded with reference to the disputed death of the Czar Alexander I in 1825, plenty of historians would have been ready to take them seriously. Fortunately in this case they were made by contemporaries, and it was possible to check them.