Thornton, on History

John Thornton, of Gaskell’s “North and South”.

‘If we do not reverence the past as you do in Oxford, it is
because we want something which can apply to the present more
directly. It is fine when the study of the past leads to a
prophecy of the future. But to men groping in new circumstances,
it would be finer if the words of experience could direct us how
to act in what concerns us most intimately and immediately; which
is full of difficulties that must be encountered; and upon the
mode in which they are met and conquered–not merely pushed aside
for the time–depends our future. Out of the wisdom of the past,
help us over the present. But no! People can speak of Utopia much
more easily than of the next day’s duty; and yet when that duty
is all done by others, who so ready to cry, “Fie, for shame!”‘

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