Antiquarian or historian?
The Rev. William Cole (1714–1782), the parish minister of Milton, not far from Cambridge in old England, was deeply interested in the preservation of the past. His passion for transcribing church registers of the Anglican Church, we are told, was “a particular excitement” for him. Sadly, he was nowhere near as excited about his parishioners. (Horace Walpole’s Correspondence with The Rev. William Cole, ed. W.S. Lewis and A. Doyle Wallace. [New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1937], I, xxv–xxvi, xxviii). In sum, he was an antiquarian, for whom the past provided an escape from the present. This is quite different from a true historian, for whom the past, while valued for its own sake, can never be divorced from the present.
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