Garrett: Basically not. It was like an open book exam, butnyou’ve got time as a factor. Insofar as the book has anynsingular living quality, it is the quality of being reallynremembered. Okay. It is really remembered, because I amnstraining my memory trying to recall what I read about SirnWalter Ralegh. The urgency of my memory gives it ancertain kind of excitement it might not have had otherwise.nOn the other hand, the risk is that you will forget. And Infrankly forgot some major events in Ralegh’s life, some ofnwhich contradict or greatly modify positions I did take aboutnit. I thought, “So what, let them worry about it. It would bencheating if I did.” And I didn’t mind the figure thatnemerged. It is quite true that he is a distorted figure andncertain amounts of historical fact and detail about him seemnto have been suppressed, forgotten. I don’t know what realnexperts on Ralegh would think. There were a few noticesnthat said, “Wonder why he didn’t mention his 10-yearnobsession with so-and-so …” Either I had never heard ofnit or I had forgotten it. It was a slight cheat to have himnremember as I am trying to remember. To put the wholenstory at the end of his life so he is allowed to forget aspects ofnhis own career.nBell: One of the things in both of the books is a sharpnanalysis of political behavior. What do you think, was theirnpolitical life like ours?nGarrett: I think in many ways it was. It had more integritynin a certain way — you died for your positions. You don’t dienfor them now, you just deny everything and run on thenother ticket. I think you would shake a lot of guys out ofnAmerican politics like rotten apples off a tree if they thoughtntheir lives were on the line.nBell: There is a lot of detail, especially in The Succession,nabout ordinary people, rather than historical personalities.nDo you think you ended up knowing what the basic life ofnthe time was like?nGarrett: No, I’m not sure that I did. What one ends upnwith in a work of fiction of that kind, ideally, is a capacity tonimagine living at that time with the elements which younhave been given.nBell: Living as yourself?nGarrett: This is about the most that you can figure. Thendeeper I got into it, the more alien it seemed. I never reallyngot around that. I still think that is the main impact.nBell: They weren’t much like us, then.nGarrett: No. The more you knew about them the oddernthey appeared, by our standards. Then it gets really quitenstartling if you realize that it hasn’t been all that longnago — human beings have changed that much in such anshort time. They can’t even perceive the world in the samenway.nBell: Does this sort of discovery cause you to believe innprogress?nGarrett: No.nBell: What about the progress of intellect and sensibility,nevolution of that kind? Do you think it exists at all?nGarrett: I have my doubts. Are you thinking of whethernpeople are more intelligent or knowledgeable? They knowndifferent things. I don’t think they are any better. But I amnthinking one of the characteristics of the 20th century isnhow often and how successfully we lie to ourselves.nElizabeth I could forbid discussion of certain topics. Hernsuccession was illegal to discuss in public, particularlynduring the last 10 years of her life, when it was a verynimportant issue. Now, we are very proud of our completenfreedom of discussion.nOne of the great tragedies of a free society is when theynuse self-censorship to such an extent that they might as wellnhave state censorship. There are any number of things thatnhave become unthinkable to discuss. You would be instantlynthrown out of the room.nWho can deny some technological progress? But thenElizabethans did at least weigh the consequences of thentechnological progress they had available to them. There arencases where they changed their mind about something theynwere going to do because of the dangers involved. Oldnpeople in America, who were here when the very firstnautomobiles appeared, have said that if they had evernimagined the filth and the danger these damned machinesnwould bring into their lives, they would have stamped themnout then and there, and we would be running around onnhorses. Now that to us is unthinkable—that someone couldnstamp out technological progress—but of course the Elizabethansndid.nBell: In the light of everything you’ve been saying, what isnthe meaning of history anymore? What do you get from it,nif it is not really progressive?nGarrett: If it is not progressive, it is not so much thenmeaning of it as the value of it that’s in question. There arentwo sorts of possible notions about it. One of them would benthat it is especially significant that things haven’t changednthat much; there is no particular movement in history—nhow people handled their problems in the past is muchnmore relevant than we might have imagined. The other,nthough, is that it is like an undiscovered country, to benapproached not as an inferior form of modern life but as anseparate and distinct culture. When we approach thenElizabethans or the Romans or anybody else in the past, itnshould make the past very different for us, and much morenpertinent. At least it changes the perspective for us so thatnwe have different things to learn from it than how they werenso stupid they couldn’t invent television.nOne of our assumptions about progress seems to be thatneach generation accumulates more knowledge than the pastngeneration. That we are like giants—we are standing on thenshoulders of the last generation like cheerleaders on top of annnJUme 1988123n