Arthur Christopher Benson, in the introduction to his studies in biography entitled "The Leaves of the Tree," says:—
"But when it comes to dealing with men who have played upon the whole a noble part in life, whose vision has been clear and whose heart has been wide, who have not merely followed their own personal ambitions, but have really desired to leave the world better and happier than they found it,—in such cases, indiscriminate praise is not only foolish and untruthful, it is positively harmful and noxious. What one desires to see in the lives of others is some sort of transformation, some evidence of patient struggling with faults, some hint of failings triumphed over, some gain of generosity and endurance and courage. To slur over the faults and failings of the great is not only inartistic: it is also faint-hearted and unjust. It alienates sympathy. It substitutes unreal adoration for wholesome admiration; it afflicts the reader, conscious of frailty and struggle, with a sense of hopeless despair in the presence of anything so supremely high-minded and flawless."
The judgment of a son may, perhaps, be biased in favor of a beloved father; he may unconsciously "slur over the faults and failings," and lay emphasis only on the virtues. In selecting and putting together the letters, diaries, etc., of my father, Samuel F.B. Morse, I have tried to avoid that fault; my desire has been to present a true portrait of the man, with both lights and shadows duly emphasized; but I can say with perfect truth that I have found but little to deplore.