Re: Sheriffs & Eaton beginnings
I was in part, but only in part, criticizing an aspect of my own language.The traditional academic English prose of conversational debate tends more towards being witty, however unkind, than to being precise.Beware of the multiple negative, too."I would not, perhaps, entirely disagree with any suggestion, should it be voiced, that you may be somewhat distanced from the essence of the argument" is Oxford-speak for "You're talking hogwash."
However, the man had, and has, a point.
It's a matter I have to be enternally clear about in my work as a novelist.
As a novelist, I "see" an idea.That idea suggests further aspects to be investigated.The investigations lead to areas of genuine research.But that research is geared towards giving validity to a METAPHOR (i.e. the novel.)It may contain historical fact, but it is not to be taken as FACT.It is FICTION.(Which may be the truer statement, but that's another chapter of diatribe!)The point I'd make here is that, even with a novel, though I end up with a scheme of "What if?" as a result of the thought and the research, that "What if?", in its own special field of fiction, has to obey rules no less severe than those of objective scholarly work.
Both thought structures are valid occupations; but the one must NOT cross tracks into the other unremarked.
Genealogy, though both art and science, must obey the rules of science.Every statement must be backed by documented evidence.There must be a citation for every source.(I mean that each "t" must be crossed and every "i" dotted.)It is a relentless and mind-fracturing process to engage with and an instant turn-off in the context of a GenForum.What the Oxford genealogist was saying of the Salopians (and I have not read them myself) is that their standards, in his opinion and experience, are not high ENOUGH to be considered academically sound; and that for others to build on such unstable foundations would be to risk the discovery of "genuine artefacts": a nice oxymoron.
Now at that level he is saying what I have been pegging away at.Marvellous ideas MAY be true, but they are true ONLY when they have been arrived at by a series of linked steps every one of which obeys the criterion stated above.And that is hard work, and may not always be possible.The risk then is of someone saying: "This IS," when the closer truth demands: "This MAY be."It is a process that insists on the utmost intellectual rigour, but when, at the end it is truly possible to say: "This IS," then the rewards are mind-blowing.(It's happened to me five times in six decades: just to give you some scale.)It may not be a good text for a GenForum, but when a particular question is being pursued by individuals, it should always be applied.And when we are saying "What if?" we must say that we are saying it.
Yet I'm not saying that we should not hypothesize.Indeed, the reverse.My experience has always been that the important breakthrough is "seen", not "thought", but may take years to prove.However, the hypothesis, if we don't remember its origins, can soon slide into a received "fact", from which spurious logic may then follow.The most complex and elegant mathematical formula, taking up a wall of blackboards, comes to nothing if among the extraordinary and impressive terms there is inserted somewhere a tiny multiplication by zero.That results in the whole edifice beng instantly reduced to rubble.
All the above may be condensed to this:When dealing with genealogy, we should beware of using the novelist's acceptable methodology hapahazardly alongside the historian's.The two may productively work together, but they should be clearly identified at all times.And, at the moment, what I read tells me all too often that they are not.