SO we end our survey, in these last two volumes, of the century whose conflicts and achievements are still active in the life of mankind today. We have seen the Industrial Revolution begin with that Mississippi of inventions which may, by the year two thousand, realize Aristotle’s dream of machines liberating men from all menial toil. We have recorded the advances of a dozen sciences toward a better understanding of nature and a more effective application of her laws. We have welcomed the passage of philosophy from futile metaphysics to the tentative pursuit of reason in the mundane affairs of men. We have followed with living concern the attempt to free religion from superstition, bigotry, and intolerance, and to organize morality without supernatural punishments and rewards. We have been instructed by the efforts of statesmen and philosophers to evolve a just and competent government, and to reconcile democracy with the simplicity and natural inequality of men. We have enjoyed the diverse creations of beauty in baroque, rococo, and neoclassical art, and the triumphs of music in Bach, Handel, and Vivaldi, in Gluck, Haydn, and Mozart. We have witnessed the flowering of literature in Germany with Schiller and Goethe, in England with the great novelists and the greatest of historians, in Scotland with Boswell and Burns, in Sweden with the outburst of song under Gustavus III; and in France we have wavered between Voltaire defending reason with wit and Rousseau pleading with tears for the rights of feeling. We have heard the applause on which Garrick and Clairon lived. We have admired the succession of fascinating women in the salons of France and England, and the brilliant reigns of women in Austria and Russia. We have watched philosopher kings.
It seems absurd to end our story just when so many historic events were about to enliven and incarnadine the page. We should have been happy to advance through the turmoil of the Revolution, to contemplate that volcanic eruption of energy known as Napoleon, and then feast upon the wealth of the nineteenth century in literature, science, philosophy, music, art, technology, and statesmanship. Still more we should have enjoyed coming home to America, South as well as North, and trying to weave the complex tapestry of American life and history into one united and moving picture. But we must reconcile ourselves to mortality, and leave to fresher spirits the task and risk of adding experiments in synthesis to the basic researches of historical and scientific specialists.
We have completed, as far as we could go, this Story of Civilization; and though we have devoted the best part of our lives to the work, we know that a lifetime is but a moment in history, and that the historian’s best is soon washed away as the stream of knowledge grows. But as we followed our studies from century to century we felt confirmed in our belief that historiography has been too departmentalized, and that some of us should try to write history whole, as it was lived, in all the facets of the complex and continuing drama.
Forty years of happy association in the pursuit of history have come to an end. We dreamed of the day when we should write the last word of the last volume. Now that that day has come we know that we shall miss the absorbing purpose that gave meaning and direction to our lives.
We thank the reader who has been with us these many years for part or all of the long journey. We have ever been mindful of his presence. Now we take our leave and bid him farewell.