History, for instance, is partly a science, since it contains archæological and antiquarian lore and a study of documents ; but it is also, in most historians, an essay in dramatic art, since it pretends to rehearse the ideas and feelings of dead men.
These would not be recoverable even if the historian limited himself to quoting their recorded words, as he would if he was conscientious ; because even these words are hard to interpret afterwards, so as to recover the living sentiment they expressed.
At least authentic phrases, like authentic relics, have an odour of antiquity about them which helps us to feel transported out of ourselves, even if we are transported in fact only into a more romantic and visionary stratum of our own being.
Classic historians, however, are not content with quoting recorded words : they compose speeches for their characters, under the avowed inspiration of Clio ; or less honestly, in modern times, they explain how their heroes felt, or what influences were at work in the spirit of the age, or what dialectic drove public opinion from one sentiment to another.
All this is shameless fiction ; and the value of it, when it has a value, lies exclusively in the eloquence, wisdom, or incidental information found in the historian. Such history can with advantage be written in verse, or put upon the stage ; its virtue is not at all to be true, but to be well invented.
George Santayana - Scepticism and Animal Faith