At the age of three-and-twenty Charles Templeton, my old tutor at Oxford, set himself to write a history of the Third French Republic. When I made his acquaintance some thirty years later he had satisfactorily concluded his introductory chapter on the origin of Kingship. At his death, three months ago, I understand that his notes on the precursors of Charlemagne were almost as complete as he desired. "It is so difficult to know where to start, Mr. Oakleigh," he used to say, as I picked my steps through the litter of notebooks that cumbered his tables, chairs and floor.
Magnis componere parva. I am sensible of a like difficulty in attempting to sketch for the benefit of an eight-weeks-old godson the outlines of a world that was clattering into ruins during the twelve months anterior to his birth. Even were I desirous of writing a social history of England for the last thirty years, I should be placing myself in competition with men more able and better equipped than I am to describe the politics, the diplomacy, the economics, the art and the social habits of the past generation. It is wiser to attempt nothing so comprehensive, but to limit myself to those facets of English life which I have been compelled—nolens volens—to study. Others will come after me to tell the story in its entirety; the utmost I attempt to record is circumscribed, personal reminiscence.