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ALL great biographers possess,
Besides a thirst for information,
That talent which commands success,
I mean of course Imagination;
Combining with excessive Tact
A total disregard for Fact.
Boswell and Froude, and all the rest,
With just sufficient grounds to go on,
Could only tell the world, at best,
What Great Men did, and thought—and so on.
But I, of course, can speak to you
About the things they didn't do.
I don't rely on breadth of mind,
On wit or powers of observation;
Carnegie's libraries I find
A fruitful source of inspiration;
The new Encyclopedia Brit.
Has helped me, too, a little bit.
In any case I cannot fail,
With such a range of mental vision,
So deep a passion for detail,
And such meticulous precision.
I pity men like Sidney Lee;
How jealous they must be of me!
'This easy work to be exact,
(I have no fear of contradiction),
Since it has been allowed that Fact
Is stranger far than any Fiction;
But what demands the truest wit
Is knowing what one should omit.
Carlyle, for instance, finds no place
Among my list of lucubrations;
Because I have no wish to face
The righteous wrath of his relations.
Whatever feud they have with Froude,
No one can say that I was rude.
This work is written to supply
A long-felt want among Beginners;
A handbook where the student's eye
May read the lives of saints and sinners,
And learn, without undue expense,
The fruits of their experience.
A book to buy and give away,
To fill the youthful with ambition,
For even they may hope, some day,
To share the Author's erudition;
So not in vain, nor void of gain,
The work of his colossal brain.
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