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III.: GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE - John Emerich Edward Dalberg, Lord Acton, Selections from the Correspondence of the First Lord Acton, Vol. I (Cardinal Newman, Lady Blennerhassett, W.E. Gladstone) 
Selections from the Correspondence of the First Lord Acton, edited with and Introduction by John Neville Figgis and Renald Vere Laurence. Vol. I Correspondence with Cardinal Newman, Lady Blennerhassett, W.E. Gladstone and Others (London: Longmans, Gree and Co., 1917).
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11 Downing Street,Whitehall,
My dear Sir John Acton,—
I have read your valuable and remarkable paper.1 Its principles of politics I embrace: its research and wealth of knowledge I admire: and its whole atmosphere, if I may so speak, is that which I desire to breathe. It is a truly English paper.
It does not seem to me to present anything at variance with the opinion that the seat of sovereignty properly so called is in the States severally.—I remain, sincerely yours,
W. E. Gladstone.
My dear Sir John Acton,—
There is a passage in your note of the 3rd on which I should like to say a word for fear of misapprehension. I am strongly for fewness of taxes where they are of a nature to involve interference with the operations of trade, viz. in customs and excise: and ever since the year 1845 I have in co-operation with others laboured strenuously for this end. But where taxes do not interfere of necessity with the operations of trade, where they only impose a payment of money, and where that payment is not of itself such as greatly to restrain and hamper business, then I think that another set of arguments come into play, which tell on behalf of multiplicity.
It occurs to me to mention to you Mr. Laing (if I have not already done so) as one who would probably write, if he undertook it, a very good review of Sir Stafford Northcote’s book.—Believe me, very sincerely yours,
W. E. Gladstone.
I think your doctrine about the shifting of taxes entirely sound: and blunders have been made in that respect; one or more by me.
Hahn’s book on Albania seems to me one of which a good and full account ought to be given in some periodical. Albanesische Studien.
Hawarden,June 6, ’64.
My dear Sir John Acton,—
I write with the double purpose of thanking you for the article in the Home and Foreign Review on my volume of Financial Statements, and of congratulating you, if you are the writer of it, on so able a paper: one so full of thought that looks before and after, as well as of comprehensive knowledge of principles and of practised judgment in a subject which lies rather off the highways and even the byeways of literature.
I need not say that I have nothing to complain of in it, except its terms of eulogy, which pass much beyond the measure, not only of justice, but of usual indulgence. You will then think it strange that I am going to question the most important part of the adverse criticism it contains. I do this, not because I think there is not much to be said in the sense of the reviewer, but because the subject of the Budget of 1860, when viewed as a whole, is one of the few cases in which my fortunes as an individual have been closely associated with matters of a public, and even an historic interest. It is therefore worth discussion.
The greater part, however, of what I have to say I shall not now put on paper. It has never yet been even spoken: but if you are disposed I should like to tell it all out to you on some occasion when we can meet for the purpose. I shall here deal only with what may be called an exoteric view.
When I took my present office in 1859, I had several negative and several positive reasons for accepting it. Of the first, there were these. There had been differences and collisions, but there were no resentments. I felt myself to be mischievous in an isolated position, outside the regular party organisation of Parliament. And I was aware of no differences of opinion or tendency likely to disturb the new Government. Then on the positive side. I felt sure that in finance there was still much useful work to be done. I was desirous to co-operate in settling the question of the franchise and failed to anticipate the disaster that it was to undergo. My friends were enlisted, or I knew would enlist: Sir James Graham indeed declining office, but taking his position in the party. And the overwhelming interest and weight of the Italian question, and of our foreign policy in connection with it, joined to my entire mistrust of the former government in relation to it, led me to decide without one moment’s hesitation.
But I have often thought that, ample as are these grounds, yet if I had had more power of forecasting the early future, I must have either declined office, or somewhat disparaged myself by choosing a province other than that to which Sir Robert Peel had virtually bound me (rather against my will) so far back as in 1841. I should have said, if I had had the benefit of second sight, “No, the work is Titanic: get some Titan to perform it.” Or, there was another alternative: to get a man who would swim with the stream.
It was my misfortune and my fault, that I did not know (I had been out of the country during the previous winter, but this is scarcely a tithe of an excuse) the degree to which the public mind was fevered: its tendency not only to alarm, but to alarmism: the degree in which public men, including one or more of my nearest and dearest friends, were virulently infected with the disease: the readiness, if not eagerness, of the country to make a holocaust of all the old rules of thrift and good husbandry. I was scarcely in the boat, when the proposals of that year (1859) by Mr. Harman respecting Fortifications, and all that took place in connection with their reception, undeceived me.
Before Parliament met in 1860, the “situation” was very greatly tightened and enhanced by three circumstances. First the disaster in China. Secondly, a visit of Mr. Cobden1 to Hawarden, when he proposed to me, in a garden stroll, the French Treaty, and I, for myself and my share, adopted it (nor have I ever for a moment repented or had a doubt) as rapidly as the tender of office two months before. Thirdly, and the gravest of all, the Savoy affair. If, as is supposed, I have Quixotism in my nature, I can assure you that I was at this jucture much more than satiated, and could have wished with Penelope that the whirlwind would take me up, and carry me to the shore of the great stream of Ocean.
And the wish would in this point not have been extravagant, that the whirlwind was there, ready to hand. In and from the midst of it, was born the Budget of 1860.
The Article states very fairly the objections which lie against that Budget. It was exceptional, in many points, from the first. The Cabinet had agreed to adopt the French Treaty, before the Estimates were fixed. I think there is an analogy, which the Article overlooks, between the proceeding of 1860 and that of 1842. But the two were taken in very different states of the public mind, which in 1842 was composed, and in 1860 inflamed: a reason doubtless against tempting it gratuitously.
The Article rightly regards my volume as a challenge. I think the Budget of 1860 is justified by its results. It will not do to say, “why did you not wait till the surplus came, which notwithstanding all drawbacks you got in 1863, and then operate in a quiet way without disturbing anybody?” My answer is, the surplus would not have come at all; i.e. that is my full answer. But the only part of my answer which the book contains or suggests is, that the surplus would not have come because much of it has been created only by our legislation. The principle adopted was this: “We are now (1860) on a high table land of expenditure. This being so, it is not as if we were merely meeting an occasional and momentary charge. We must consider how best to keep ourselves going during a period of high charge. In order to that, we will aggravate momentary deficiency that we may thereby make a great and permanent addition to productive power.” Well, that was done: and I hold that it is a sufficient warrant for the Budget of 1860.
There is another objection that the Article might have taken, founded on the fact that in that year of repealed taxes we (not only anticipated resources but) borrowed money for the Fortifications. I cannot answer that objection; except by saying that the Budget was in February, the final decision to borrow only in July.
The justification, however, which I think the book sufficiently suggests, and which I have here stated, may be sufficient, or may be inadequate. The matter which I have in reserve is quite of a different order. I shall only glance at it in the slightest manner, by the few following words. First, the whole Budget grew out of the French Treaty: not in my mind only, but in the Cabinet: and it requires to be considered, if we had had no Treaty in the winter of ’59-’60, what else we should have had. I think not improbably a war with France. Secondly, the craving for expenditure at that time was such, that it required extraordinary and unusual means to meet it: and I do not repent of their employment, while I think their general use would be highly blameable.—Believe me, always and very sincerely yours,
W. E. Gladstone.
Sir John D. Acton, Bart., M.P.
The following two letters come from the correspondence between Acton and Sir Peter Le Page Renouf. Renouf (1822-97) was a distinguished orientalist, who was received into the Roman Church in 1842. He contributed to the Home and Foreign Review and the North British. He was an opponent of Infallibility. From 1885 onwards he was keeper of the Egyptian Antiquities at the British Museum. As will be seen, Acton and he knew one another well.
Aldenham Park,November 14.
My dear Mr. R.—
I should have written to you sooner had I not heard from Döllinger, that you were detained in Germany. He also spoke of your wish to leave Dublin, of which I had already heard from Newman. I sincerely trust nothing will arise to induce you to leave this country, and that some plan may be devised to keep your proper and natural sphere of usefulness among us.
I have often discussed with Newman the chances of a Catholic University in England, and if I had not been afraid of injuring its prospects by mixing up the idea with the odious H. and F. I should have opened the question in the Review. The Edgbaston school is striking root, and the youths who complete their course so far as it extends will create both supply and demand: they will feel more than the others the want of a University education and they will furnish one necessary portion of the materials. Here is a basis and an opportunity for the growth of something like a Catholic University such as did not exist in Ireland when the institution which has passed through such pitiful phases was octroyée. The great improvement of Oscott by Northcote, and of Stoneyhurst by Pater are helps which such a scheme never possessed before. Newman has the leisure and the wish to assist a scheme which would crown his own work at Edgbaston and vindicate his work at Dublin, and the changes by which you find yourself emancipated make the present moment the most favourable which is likely to occur for a long time to come.
But the prospects of success are greatest if there is no flourish of trumpets to provoke alarm, envy, and opposition, or to offend the Bishops, Propaganda, and the inertia of our body. Many things would help to make a quiet, silent, practical beginning advance and prosper, whilst a plan demanding general co-operation would meet innumerable difficulties. It would be possible to make a beginning in such a way that you would be prepared for either of two contingencies—either to develop into a Catholic University, or to take advantage of the gradual throwing open of Oxford.
I cannot help thinking that the demand for a higher and better education is growing so strong among certain classes that if you would attempt to meet it there would be a very great probability of great and fruitful success. Several persons, like Dr. Waterworth, who have very imperfectly supplied this want, have succeeded as far as their abilities and ambition allowed. It would be very different if the thing were done by Oxford men, deep scholars, and experienced teachers.
If you were to undertake this with as much assistance as you might at first require, I am firmly persuaded that the young men would be quickly forthcoming, that your sails would be filled by all the winds that blow towards a university and all the currents created by the vacuum of higher studies amongst us. The best men would be ready to join you, you would have the whole support of Newman’s influence, and I can really see no quarter in which any susceptibilities would be wounded or any opposition excited. The only essential condition that seems to me quite necessary is that you should give the establishment something of an institutional character—though no more than it would have if you were joined by one or two other men whose names are known.
The increasing liberality of Oxford would perhaps make it important to begin there. I have promised Newman land for buildings at Bridgnorth, and explained to him the merits of the situation for a university—an agricultural country, a large river, a healthy position, a good feeling between Protestants and Catholics, and the vicinity of my very large library. I do not know whether it would be so suitable for a very limited number of Catholic students. Paley1 is succeeding extremely well at Cambridge as a tutor, and though his religion does not attract Catholic students it does not repel Protestants. I do not know whether he would be disposed to co-operate, but I have reason to believe that he would be glad to take part in a Catholic undertaking.
Darnell had some idea of this kind in connection with Oxford, and I dare say he entertains it still. I did not see my way to encourage a plan which was not sure of being supported by Newman; but I have no reason to think a reconciliation hopeless. The preparation of students for the London examinations might be combined with this plan—at least so I imagine. If you have no dislike of tuition I hope there is nothing in this idea which you would not accept if it could be shown that there was a real likelihood of a permanent success. If you entertain it as subject for consideration the chances will have to be gone into more fully and comprehensively than is in my power. But I am convinced, judging from all I know and have heard, and considering especially the peculiarity of the present conjuncture, that the germ of an English university can never be laid with so much hope that it will prosper as at this moment, when Dublin has lost all importance for England, when Edgbaston school has revived studies in all our colleges, and is about to turn out its upper class, when you are free to embark in the enterprise and Newman has not lost his vigour or even the better part of his influence.
Should you think it well to prepare men’s minds in some degree for a new effort to supply higher studies, the H. and F. will at any time be open to you for the purpose. I fought shy of a proffered article on the opening of Oxford in order not to injure this plan when its time should come.—I remain, ever sincerely yours,
J. D. A.
16 York Street,Dublin,
My dear Sir John,—
I have thought a good deal about the contents of your letter.
The demand for university education on the part of English Catholic youth and the necessity of a supply being taken for granted, I have still very grave doubts as to the wisdom or even possibility of meeting the want by the foundation of an English Catholic university. In presence of such powerful growths as Oxford and Cambridge, and the ground occupied by the London University, a new university must ever remain a sickly plant. And it seems to me that the old universities would always have it in their power to put an end to the new one whenever they pleased by granting to Catholics advantages equivalent, and therefore on the whole superior, to what a purely Catholic university could afford. If they allowed, for instance, a Catholic college to be founded, or even Catholic halls to exist on equal terms with Anglican, the students being allowed to graduate in all degrees but theology—I do not see what Catholic students or their parents could desiderate or what more they would get in a purely Catholic university.
Newman had the strongest objection to sending Catholic students to Oxford, and I thoroughly agree with him as to the mischief of sending individuals to Protestant colleges, when even if directly anti-Catholic influences are not brought to bear on a man the whole set of influences to which he is necessarily subjected must be, to say the least, uncatholic. But I think quite differently of the case of a Catholic college or hall, particularly if numerously attended. Here the student would have Catholic tutors (and in spite of all changes tutorial teaching will always be dominant both at Oxford and at Cambridge), his society would be almost exclusively that of fellow-Catholics, and the other influences of the place are not different in kind from those to which every Englishman is subject through life. I know of no danger (not even that of extravagance) to which a student would be exposed in a Catholic hall at Oxford to which he is not equally exposed as a member of the Catholic university of Ireland.
These views are wholly independent of any idea of my own co-operation with the plans of which you speak in your letter. Ten years ago I would most heartily have joined in the least promising of the schemes. I have, however, now reached an age at which a married man eschews experiments (particularly if after ten years’ time he has no chance of repairing his mistake if it be one), and is rather inclined to look wistfully after a modest place in the Civil Service. I would be very sorry, however, if you took for cowardice what is only prudence, and I promise to give the most serious consideration to any definite plan that you consider as bearing with it the elements of success.—E.s.y.,
P. le P. R.
11 Carlton House Terrace, S.W., Jan. 25, ’66.
My dear Sir John Acton,—
I would willingly dwell on the earlier parts of your letter: but, only stopping a moment to say I shall read your letter with great interest, I pass on to the subjects connected with the inclosure which comes, I presume, from Mr. Sullivan.
It is a most delicate matter for us to become the champions of the Roman Catholic laity against their own Bishops, or to adopt any other criterion for estimating the wishes of the Roman Catholic people of Ireland than the judgment of their representatives. Nevertheless it is also most desirable for us to know your sentiments in full, and perhaps you would hardly trust yourself to give them in that manner by letter. Now we are at this very time in the thick of the question with respect to the University in Ireland and are shortly about to decide whether any and what provision shall be made for the representation of the religious element in the Senate. I should be very glad to hear that you are coming up, or otherwise to know your views as far as you can state them. I keep Mr. S.’s letter for the present, and remain,—Very sincerely yours,
W. E. Gladstone.
Sir J. D. Acton, Bart., M.P.
22 Dover St.,Feb. 14, 1873.
Dear Mr. Gladstone,—
I never could congratulate you more heartily than I do on the plan I heard you describe last night.
I have not read your speech, and write only from the memory of what I heard you say. The bishops, I think, will object to the establishment of a teaching body separate from the Colleges. Although I wrote strongly in favour of that scheme to Hartington, I have since thought that there might be University professors teaching in the Colleges—so that the staff of each College would consist of so many University professors, and so many College professors—a distinction which would probably fall into that between professors and tutors. This might even do more to vivify the College teaching than a separate University staff, whom it would be optional to hear, and whom the ecclesiastical authorities would be able to put aside together. The University Professors apart from the Colleges will increase the disadvantage of the provincial Colleges, and seem hardly necessary for the small number of independent students. The admission of these is, I presume, made necessary by the analogy of English university reform, and by the conditions of T. C. D. at present. But they, again, will weaken the weak College system of Ireland, and will hardly bring much strength to the University.
To those who heard you it appeared that you expelled the theological faculty of Trinity from the University entirely, and I could not catch whether you made full allowance for consequent loss of fees. But are they expelled without the chance of readmission? Surely Magee College is theological, and no principle of the bill prevents the admission of Maynooth, or the establishment of a theological faculty in Stephen’s Green College. I fancied, in listening to you, that the vagueness of your speech on this point was necessary management, and hope so.
The admission of Maynooth, and compulsory examination in Arts of the Church students at some point of their course, is nearly the only thing in my letter to Hartington which is not in your bill, and it might, I think, be of immense value.
T. C. has a magnificent library, with copyright privileges. You did not say anything about the University library and Museums.—Ever yours most faithfully,
My dear Mr. Gladstone,—
I was as anxious as anybody could be for the success of your University bill last winter, and for the same reasons I cannot refrain from congratulating you now on the late appointments, as well as on the tardiness and reluctance with which you have adopted the resolutions they seem to imply. It will be very difficult to avoid sooner or later a breach with the Ultramontanes, and my sincerest wish is that it may not be precipitated by the Liberal party, but may be forced on them; and I hope still more—though it does not seem a kind wish—that it may come in your time.
I was on the continent when you were good enough to write to me last summer. Döllinger was much gratified by your mention of his lecture, as he always is by what recalls your long and friendly acquaintance. The lecture has been translated, I think by the Editor of the Academy.
You are a little hard on us in saying that we import knowledge but do not produce it for exportation. We are exporters of a commodity familiar enough to yourself—political economy. I was struck in reading Karl Marx’s new work1 by the extent to which he fetches his materials from England. It is a remarkable book, as the Koran of the new socialists. Have you not had time to look at it?
Sullivan, the new President, has been employed for some years on an Irish Glossary, of which the lines were laid by the late O’Curry. It is an important work, especially because much of it is taken from unpublished manuscripts. O’Curry’s papers were purchased by the Catholic University, and the work which Sullivan has prepared for publication belongs to them. It will hardly be possible to get it published. As a speculation it would not answer, and the owners of the MS. have neither funds nor zeal for learning.
It would be both more valuable, more national, and more congruous than some of the works published by Government. I mention this to you now in case the “ragion di stato” might recommend an undertaking which would be of great use to Ireland, and would put a few hundred pounds into the hands of the enraged University authorities. If you care to know more, I can find it out confidentially.—Believe me to remain, very faithfully yours,
10 Downing Street,Whitehall,
My dear Sir John Acton,—
I have to propose to you, with the Queen’s approval, that you should accept the dignity of a Peer of the United Kingdom.
I am sure it is needless for me to measure words in assuring you of the pleasure with which I make this offer. Suffice it to say I think you will confer honour by your acceptance, no less than you will receive it.
And I heartily trust your answer will be affirmative.
As dispatch is desirable in these matters, I will beg you to let me hear from you at your earliest convenience.—Believe me, with much regard, sincerely yours,
W. E. Gladstone.
What about Janus?
Rome,November 11th, 1869.
My dear Mr. Gladstone,—
Your very kind letter reached me yesterday on my arrival here.
I wish there were public services in the past to justify my acceptance of a peerage; but I cannot decline an honour, however undeserved, which is proposed by you, and carries a lustre with it which none of your predecessors could have conferred. I do not think there has been a time when a seat in the House of Lords was more really and practically useful, and I hope I shall see you victorious in it, through many sessions like the last.—Believe me, Yours most sincerely,
John Dalberg Acton.
ACTON AND OFFICE
Tegernsee,May 31, 1880.
Dear Mr. Gladstone,—
When I was in Downing Street I met with a rebuke for having left unanswered a letter you sent me last autumn from Paris. I am anxious to say that I was silent from embarrassment, not from neglect. You spoke of the coming struggle, of the coming victory, of the call that was on all of us to share in it, in terms I could hardly respond to without feeling untrue to the sternest duty, and the deepest affection, and the controlling sorrow of my life. Last month, when the victory was won, our clouds were lifting, and I should have found London very attractive, but I thought it better to be away from Harley Street and Carlton House Terrace just then. Every traveller from the Riviera arrived with the presumption of office upon him, and it seemed possible, from your constant willingness to think too well of me, and perhaps from a wish to do what would be ostensibly gratifying to Lord Granville, that you might propose to give me employment. As I should be obnoxious to the majority of your supporters for one reason and to the minority for another, it would have been my duty to decline to being an element of weakness to the Government, and that could not be done without suspicion of having sought the opportunity, or of refusing because I wanted something better. With your unanswered letter in my mind I therefore thought it best to keep out of the way of trouble and temptation. The same objection might not apply to service abroad, but the only place where I could hope to be of any special use is Berlin, and I could neither look forward to the best prize of a profession not my own, nor contemplate so exorbitant a preference of private friendship over public service as would be more justly resented than the appointment of Ripon:—all which looks like a chapter of autobiography, but is in truth the explanation of the letter left without an answer, and the answer to much flattering reproach, the other day, in town.
I have found the Professor remarkably well, less deaf than last year, and passing more readily from the depths of one subject to the depths of another. Much reading of Church periodicals has bred a misgiving in his mind that one whom he took, at Tegernsee, for an amiable and well-disposed youth is little better than a demagogue and a destroyer of establishments.—I remain, very truly yours,
Athenæum,Saturday,March 25, 1893.
Dear Mr. Gladstone,—
I think that it would be better that the letter should not appear.
Some enemies would make an ill use of the attitude, of ceremony and respect, which you adopted towards the Pope.
Some even of our friends would find cause for stumbling at your having reported the particulars of the interview privately to the Italian Minister.
The passage from St. Augustine is a made-up passage, and is made here to appear as if it was a literal quotation.
Much less important objections occur to the opinion that the empire is too large; and that the Canadians have no idea of defending themselves.
Although my impression is quite clear, I submit it to you with great diffidence.—Ever yours,
Athenæum,Pall Mall, S.W., December 10, 1893.
Dear Mr. Gladstone,—
My reason for troubling you is a very insignificant matter. But I have been taking part of the Irish business in the House of Lords, and the great stress I am in for time obliges me to ask Kimberley and Morley to relieve me of my share in it. It not only is reasonable, but has become imperiously necessary that I should complete, within calculable limits of time, the work I have undertaken. As long as I have constant occupation at the Irish Office—consequent on my native ignorance of the subjects to be prepared—the main employment of my life has to be indefinitely suspended. I have come to feel quite certain that my duty lies the other way.
Neither Kimberley, nor Morley, nor Spencer who is chiefly concerned, will object. But I am anxious to explain the matter to yourself in the first place.
I see my way pretty well to the end, in the course of next year, if I am free to devote my time.
I don’t think I need add that I have here told you my whole story.—Believe me, ever yours,
Munich,Easter Sunday, 1895.1
Dear Mr. Gladstone,—
It is a most interesting enterprise to me. There is, I think, no great school of history there, and not much studious curiosity about it. And as my predecessor2 did not awaken it, there is no chance of my doing much. For he possessed the qualities that rouse attention and stimulate thought. He was full of literary power, never oppressed with raw material, and not above the employment of stirring paradox. In all these respects he justified your selection, and did far more than his predecessors. But I am afraid he suffered damage at Lightfoot’s hands in his character as a divine.3
There will be some delicate ground to traverse at first; in the endeavour not to clash too rudely with so considerable a writer I shall have to avoid his special topics; but I hope to clear the ground and sufficiently indicate my position in the Inaugural Lecture which I am to give at the end of May.
The regular lectures in the following term will have to be adapted to the settled curriculum. I should have liked to devote the first year to a rapid course, going through Modern History as a whole, from the Renaissance to a time “within the memory of men still living.” But as this would be useless for examinations, nobody would come to hear it. I am afraid they will fix me for the beginning in the American or the French Revolution. If so, I think of announcing Modern History from 1776 to 1796. Mayor, the most various scholar in the University, is justly indignant at the catchpenny decision. There may be some advantage in starting with an epoch that is entirely political.
I have a view that I ought—under the statute—to take Modern History literally, as excluding the Middle Ages—which is a seeming reproach to Stubbs and Freeman. And I think that teachable history does not include the living generation and the questions of the day, as Seeley maintained that it does.
The appointment, I am glad to think, did no harm to Rosebery. I was received at Cambridge, not exactly with warmth, but with as friendly a welcome as I could have hoped for. But then I had already many good friends there, as you know better than any one.
A tendency towards garrulity seems a natural consequence of having such a platform to speak from.
Before long my steps must take me back to Cambridge where Trinity has elected me an Hon. Fellow, and another College proposes a professorial Fellowship. And I shall have to alternate between Cambridge and Windsor, as we keep obstinately in.—Believe me, ever truly yours,
My dear Mr. Gladstone,—
Lowe has just told me of the important decision you have come to about the two Museums. The Trustees are not equal to their present work, and would not be competent to undertake what it was proposed to add; but I hope that the inquiry will establish the necessity of a considerable change.
The board of Trustees is too weak for its work both in quality and in numbers—I mean of men who can attend. The weakness in numbers is felt on the sub-committees; the weakness in quality is always felt. The consequence is that the officers of the Museum are too strong for the sub-committees, and that the Standing Committee bullies and bothers the officers. The former evil is not very serious, as the officers know their work, for the most part, too well; but they are not the guardians of the public money, and their influence is expensive. I will give you one instance. The commentary on our Attic Inscriptions was prepared by a very good scholar, by status a country clergyman with pupils. It is under 200 pages, and most of the mechanical work on the stones was done for him. He got, I think, £500. This was awarded by a sub-committee consisting of the Bishop of London and the Dean of Windsor. I was in the chair. Newton had already committed us, and we could not recede from the bargain without inflicting some hardship. Lowe, a member of the sub-committee unfortunately did not attend. All I could do was to have it resolved that no further arrangement should be made with editors except by special order and authority of the Trustees. But both my colleagues thought the sum reasonable, and Walpole afterwards expressed special approval of our report.
The Standing Committee is very often represented by only four or five men, and the whole thing is sometimes managed by a group consisting of Lord Stanhope, Sir Philip Egerton, Dundas, Walpole, and one or two others.
The four men I have named agree, among other things, in thinking that all Greek statues should have Roman and not Greek names.
Once the Roman and Spanish Index was discussed, and it appeared that the British Museum has very few of the editions. I need not say that the history of the Index is one of the most curious things in the history of literature and of the Church of Rome. But the Chairman laid down that we need only have the latest edition of the Index, and that even that is hardly wanted since the fall of the temporal power.
The consequence of this is that the few incapable heads of departments are in good odour and harmony with the Trustees, and that there is an eager desire to snub those who are scientifically more competent.
I don’t wish to exaggerate the defects of a system which works quietly and fairly well; but if we had more good men on the Board, we should get more for our money.—I remain, yours most truly,
10 Downing Street,Whitehall,
My dear Lord Acton,—
I entirely feel that, having now paid our debt to Ireland in Church and Land, and having offered full payment in the matter of Education, though the offer has been wantonly and contumeliously rejected, we are no longer hampered by Irish considerations in the direction of our general policy, and Ultramontanism should for us, wherever our orbits touch, stand or fall upon its merits. Whether the case will be one of standing or falling is a question not very difficult to make the subject of reasonable conjecture.
But I must in fairness add that the three appointments on which so marked a comment has been made, have been decided on separately, each on its merits, and without arrière pensée. At any moment, another appointment might, also without reason, be announced as harking back.
If you think the publication of the Irish-Celtic Dictionary (such I take it to be) is as a public object a thing desirable, we might be able to entertain it. But direct dealing would be awkward. Could not ex-Professor Sullivan make a hypothetical arrangement for a moderate sum? and we could then come from behind the scenes and either buy or aid.
Many thanks for your tidings of Döllinger. I have not seen Marx; but I quite agree in what you say of Political Economy, and it may, I believe, be extended to some other kinds of knowledge.—Ever sincerely yours,
W. E. Gladstone.
Munich, 15th Oct. 1881.
“The Irish speech (Leeds) on Friday and the economic speech on Saturday made the strongest impression on me. The treatment of Home Rule as an idea conceivably reasonable, which was repeated at Guildhall, delighted me. I felt less sure of the distinction between that as a colourable scheme, and the Land League (as now working) as one altogether revolutionary and evil.”
On the Debate on the Address, Feb. 1882.
Cannes,Feb. 20, 1882.
“I have long wished for that declaration about self-government, but I am persuaded there has been as much statesmanship in the choice of the time as of the terms. There is so much danger of being deserted on that line, and of one’s friends combining to effect a reaction. It will not do to make too much of the speeches of 1871. The occasion last week gave extraordinary weight to his words and he would not now say that the movement is superfluous, or that Ireland always got what she wanted. The risk is that he may seem to underrate the gravity of a great constitutional change, in the introduction of a federal element.”
Dear Mr. Gladstone,—
I write this in case I am unable to see you. Goschen wrote to you hurriedly, that it might not seem an effect of Argyll’s speech, and I did not know of it till too late. His correspondence with Hartington came to no conclusion, and so he turned to you—propelled by Chamberlain’s utterances and ignorant of the extent to which Chamberlain represents your views about Ireland.
He has heard Selborne repudiate the doctrine of Chamberlain’s late speeches vehemently. So he thinks the moment favourable to ask you to choose between them. When I say that correspondence is, in such cases, more dangerous than conversation, he says that he wants definite and available security.
When I say that the Left Wing cannot be repudiated at the moment when the new democracy is coming in, he says that he wants them muzzled, not repudiated. When I say that his position would be different if he saw more of you, he says that that is not his fault.
There is no combination between him and Argyll.
But his temper is dangerous; and if you send him a written answer—any written answer that I think possible—I expect that he will declare against you, and refuse to stand as the candidate of the Liberal party.
He is pursuing the obvious policy of the moderate Whigs, and is willing to force you to decide at once between the sections of the party. Probably, but not avowedly, counting on the want of a Conservative leader.
It is an occasion on which management, discussion, might avail to prevent the crisis so many are expecting. He is very willing to see you, it you will see him. I in some measure disturbed him when I represented the probable effects, not of a breach, if that is unavoidable, but of an uncompromising challenge.
He gives me no authority to speak for him, but he knows that I shall give you my account of what I understand him to mean, and shall plead for an interview between you, instead of armed letter-writing.
And I have my own reason for asking you to reflect how many of your late colleagues would be in sympathy with him in the step he has taken—and how needful it is, therefore, to apply personal influence.—Yours most truly,
Friday night,July 10-111 .
Cannes,January 29, 1886.
Dear Miss Gladstone,—
We fancy you have something to distract you from wedding preparations, and the days must be terribly crowded, with the interesting double event.2 I know nothing later than the division; and I conclude that Salisbury meant to be beaten, hoping that the G.O.X.P.M. would fail to construct an administration, and that the Moderados would then join him in a Coalition, or at any rate that he would soon be forced to dissolve and that the Conservative tide would continue to rise, and would make an anti-Irish Ministry possible next year. On the other hand, I see that your father was deliberately playing for victory; and so I suppose he sees his way to keep the Irish quiet until he can beat the House of Lords, and to form an administration on a new footing. I can see little that is hopeful in the attempt; and I don’t think I can be of any use in any direction therefore. I mean for this latter reason I do not come to your wedding. But I hope you will send for me if he thinks I could possibly serve him, in the absence of better men. I shall be too late for the feast, but in time for the fray.—I remain, yours most truly,
Cannes,Jan. 9, 1887.
Dear Mr. Gladstone,—
I have been afraid to write to you since you have got back into the midst of politics, partly from the dread of saying what you would not agree with. The sudden change of front gives me my opportunity.1
Goschen’s change cannot be a surprise to anybody who knows him well. He has been full of increasing soreness ever since you formed your Ministry in 1880. During his Turkish mission he was very little in harmony with the F.O. and felt on his return that he was rather left out in the cold. At the time of the Gordon debates he was eager to defeat the Government, and much disappointed at your victory.
I remember on that occasion calling at Devonshire House, and telling Hartington, who was to speak that evening, how he could disarm Goschen’s opposition. Hartington answered that it was not worth while, as the fall of the Ministry would clear the air. After that crisis I did not expect to see him approach you as nearly as he did during the summer of 1885. He came away from the ill-timed conference with you at Richmond Terrace more discontented and recalcitrant than ever, and I attributed his language during the election to a scheme to hold you and bind you to the limits of the umbrella then unfolded. When I last paid a visit to Seacox he avoided party politics and I made sure that he would go over at the first fair opportunity.
Many people have assured me that Chamberlain’s sense of spretæ injuria formæ is quite as keen as Goschen’s. But I am bound to say that I drew a different conclusion from a long and confidential conversation, sought by him, last summer. It was not explicit or significant enough to be mentioned at the time; but it left on my mind the decided impression that his course was not irrevocable, but like the proverb which says—blessure d’argent n’est pas mortelle, and I gathered that he wished to give me that impression.
So that, if I did not actually expect what has happened, I was not in the least taken by surprise, and my conclusion has been that you ought to put a favourable construction upon it, and to encourage the movement as far as you can.1
I do not venture to plead for confidence, but only for hopefulness, as I told Morley, going down to the Cabinet which decided to dissolve, that I thought it a mistake, and that you were likely to be beaten, and as, at Holmbury, I expressed to yourself my doubt of the extent and quality of the Home Rule feeling in Great Britain, you will not think me inconsistent if I feel now that we must not overestimate the strength of our cause, and that we should do well to concede something to unrighteousness.
There is one force at work in the country which you cannot, or at least which you will not, subject to exact measurement. That is, your own personal influence. People who ask themselves where we should be without you, and which wing of the party would predominate apart from the sword which you throw into the scale, have to face a bewildering problem.
I earnestly hope that the indications of your intentions given in Friday’s papers are near the truth.—Ever truly yours,
72 Princes Gate,July 11, 1887.
Dear Mrs. Drew,—
The tone of the paper is very severe, and the severity does not always strengthen the case. In several instances I think that the impression would be deeper if the statement alone was dealt with, and not the author.
Where I have set two marks, I have a doubt. Lecky1 is not before me; but I do not understand him to say that the colleagues were taken by surprise, as if they had learnt the dissolution by the newspapers, or after the irrevocable steps had been taken. His words may be ambiguous; but I understood him to mean something not very far, probably, from the truth. Namely, that the idea of the dissolution did not ripen in Cabinet deliberations as one expects so grave a thing to do. But that when the returns made a large surplus loom, a little pressure for economy was put on the departments, the idea, devised by the P.M., was adopted by an inner Cabinet, and was then accepted, rather suddenly and with scanty deliberation by the whole. The MS. argues as if Lecky said that the colleagues were informed after the Queen. Nobody thinks that. What people have said is that the vehemence of the P.M. carried away certain colleagues, and that the rest made little fight.
I remember that May brought the news in a veiled way to the Athenæum on the previous afternoon.
The formula: Mr. Lecky, I submit, is wrong, etc., is not very efficacious in discussing facts, especially when the facts are in the writer’s own autobiographical knowledge.
At the foot of the same page, a signal instance of needless asperity.
Later on I have marked another. I am assuming the figures as correct in the matter of 1874.
Perhaps I ought to say in disparagement of my testimony, that I never felt strongly the eagerness of 1853 for the ultimate abolition of the Income Tax.
Also, that the praise of Pitt somewhat weakens the position. That, however, is one of the Five Points. Not the special view of Pitt; but that view of Party which erected a monument to Disraeli and implies the severance of Politics and Ethics.
You remember that conversation with Jowett about Macaulay. I thought Macaulay thoroughly dishonest and insincere and had a variety of reasons, good or bad, for my opinion. At the first, I discovered that Jowett was surprised, almost hurt. So I shut up as soon as I could. They must have thought that I had not much to say, that I could not produce a single passage from his books in my support, that I came to conclusions too quickly, rather from a latent prejudice than on evidence.
What, in such a case, should a good man do? Surely he prefers discomfiture to a fight which is likely to be both tiresome and painful. He will put on no more steam than the thing is worth, and will not mind people being in the wrong, if he is not responsible for them. When no higher question is involved, he will not strive for victory. But such a man gets easily misunderstood. Discretion is taken for acquiescence and the like. Now I suspect that the ex-P.M. sometimes makes that mistake. I have in my eye cases where he has thought that people (not myself) who ceased to contend ceased to disagree.
And I ask myself whether that occurred in 1874, and whether he was quite conscious how much went for agreement and how much for dislike of vain resistance. But I speak from a vague speculation not on any basis of knowledge or report.
We shall hope to hear about your movements.—Believe me, yours most sincerely,
Dear Mr. Gladstone,—
Without waiting for daylight I scribble an answer to your letter.
Only two definite objections—about the number of German Parliaments, and Centralisation in France before the Revolution. And two strong notes of interrogation and doubt as to Nationality and Conscience, and as to the want of Parliaments in modern France. The rest is mere guarding the flanks against unforeseen attack.
That about the consolidation of France (and Spain) ending in instability is a saying of Tocqueville—that modern French governments are very powerful but very unstable. The changes in Spain since the Restoration have been just as numerous. But do not overlook the fact that the unitarian tendency which led to the Belgian insurrection of 1830, the Hungarian of 1848, the loss of Schleswig, etc., is awake still. Victorious Prussia suppressed Home Rule where it could in North Germany, and probably would like to carry that policy farther.
Just as in Switzerland the tendency to merge the Cantons is strong, and is only resisted by the difference of Nationality—the Cantonal system preventing the French minority from being swamped.—Ever yours,
La Madeleine,Feb. 18, 1888.
The argument seems to me perfectly sound and almost perfectly clear to the common reader. I see that what Salisbury said was the usual matter of foreign Conservatives. That nisus is very strong since successive forces, absolute monarchy, and democratic revolution have crushed diversities.
In speaking of Italy, I would keep in mind the case of Venice which would by no means merge into Italy in the time of Manin. The case of the Spirito Municipale against the Spirito Nazionale is expounded by Bonghi1 in one of his books—I think the life of Pasini. It might supply an illustration (? ? ?)
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The comparing of Nationality to Conscience seems to me dazzling but confusing. So much has to be deducted. Nationality is the great carrier of custom, of unreflecting habit and transmitted ideas that quench individuality. Conscience gives men force to resist and discard all this. Nationality has to be dealt with discriminatingly. It is not always liberal or constructive. It may be as dangerous when its boundary is outside that of the State as salutary when inside.
The sentence might suffer a Panslavist interpretation, or it might provoke tiresome questions about cases like Switzerland. If the τέλος of politics is Liberty, and what promotes, secures, and perfects it, there is peril in setting up anything else so high, as the Court of final appeal.
I don’t know exactly what Salisbury said, but in the case of Hungary we have to bear in mind that behind the Magyar there is another race, the Slav, and that the Home Rule principle is not settled there, but begins again beyond the settlement.
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Not so many German Parliaments. One may say, all the principal German states, Saxony, Bavaria, Würtemberg, Baden, etc., have not only their own Parliaments but their own dynasties.
As to Germany, where there is no real diversity of Nationality, but where the divisions were produced by political weakness and misgovernment, there is no basis for a variety of Codes. But this point would require very delicate treatment. One object of a united German code is to get rid of the long prevalence of the Code Napoleon in Western Germany.
But in America the States have different Codes, in spite of the assumption of the Common Law.
And in Germany there are some real national diversities—in Mecklenburg, East Prussia, Silesia, etc.
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France was not quite centralised under the old Régime. There was no uniform Code, but several Coutûmes. And, in the eighteenth century, the local Etats Provinciaux flourished in some places and exercised some measure of real autonomy in Bretagne, Provence, Dauphiné—especially in Languedoc. Many provinces had no such Etats. Then there were the—very ineffective—Parlements.
But there was no such dead-level as since the Revolution and the Empire.
Centralisation was immensely developed by 1789. One of Tocqueville’s main points.
But is it right to say that France suffers from the want of local parliaments? It suffers from excess of centralisation in its administration. But I don’t know whether the local units exist that would supply materials for Parliaments, which imply legislation. At least I hope you will consider attentively what this sentence may imply. Observe the instability of government, the frequency of Revolutions in united France and Spain. Constant variation of the form in spite of unity.
You speak of misguided religious zeal in the papal recruits. By no means all religious. Some went in for Legitimacy, some for absolutism, some, like Surratt,1 to be out of the way. I suggest these reflections as a possible way to avoid the word misguided, which is needless, and might offend.
Love of authority, quand même, made men stand by the Pope. In Mecklenburg, where Catholics were not tolerated (practically) the Lutheran clergy agitated and collected money for defence of the temporal power.
One point occurs to me about Italian unity. Cavour offered federation to the King of Naples, I really believe because he dreaded what France, or Europe, or the Revolutionists might do during the process of absorbing Naples, rather than because he was sure it would be rejected. I daresay you remember the rights of the story. So that Federalism failed repeatedly in the time of Cavour as in that of Rossi, Gioberti,2 and Rosmini, whom Manzoni thought unpractical dreamers.
It failed because it gave the foreigner a foothold in the country.3
Feb. 26th (& 29th).
Dear Mr. Gladstone,—
Don’t suspect me of denying the principle of nationality altogether. Only, if I were to say as much as you say, I should be afraid of being driven to admit the priority of National Independence before individual liberty,—of the figurative conscience before the real. We do not find that Nationalists are always Liberals, especially in Austria. We may pursue several objects, we may weave many principles, but we cannot have two courts of final appeal.
I meet Hervé1 this evening, the leading journalist of the Orleanists, and a man you made happy by quoting him. I will sound him about the propagandist tendency you speak of. If it exists, there will soon be unpleasant signs of its effect on Bulgarian opinion, or it might be a sop to Austrian opinion and influence. But there is no question that in France the Orleanists mean to play that card, so to disarm the extreme legitimists, and believing that the neglect of the Church was one of Louis Philippe’s worst mistakes.
They have offered the Germans the utmost securities about peace if they recover the throne; but they have only succeeded in irritating Bismarck into fits. And they are countenancing a scheme for a Zollverein between Germany and France, to the detriment of the non-continental countries.
Galimberti, the nuncio at Vienna, tells the Grand Duke of Baden—the father of the youth you saw—who told me, that the Pope seriously wishes to come to terms with Italy; that he will abandon all territorial claims for a strip of desert along the Tiber, connecting the Leonine city with the sea. He calculates that he would then employ all his influence at the elections, and become a political power through the Italian Parliament.—I remain, ever yours,
Ad vocem Villari. There is this flaw in the book as it stands, that it no longer represents the author’s view as it was when he wrote it, and if it is not so completely rewritten as to express his present judgment, I fancy that Villari has become much more seriously anti-clerical than he was twenty-five years ago.
16 James Street,Feb. 24th, 1888.
My dear Acton,—
With your usual kindness and promptitude you have supplied all I wanted. Before receiving your answer I had misgivings on subjects comprised in your remarks, and especially I suspected that the impressions about the French Parliaments were liable to misconstruction.
I have “hedged about” nationality with more conditions. I think, however, that in its defecated sense it is one of those permanent and ultimate principles which in the last must become inappellable. I will send you the entire article in due course.
The stream of current events is strong and turbid. I am afraid the cloud that hangs over Europe will not clear, but sooner or later burst. Meantime I am greatly pleased at the attitude which has been defined by the Government. Future liberty of action is not to be hampered by premature engagements. There is a story that Salisbury has said, “Were such and such things to happen, and were I Minister at the time, I should think such and such things to be my duty.” This, whether prudent or not for him, is tolerably harmless for the country.
The course of opinion indicated in the Elections is on the whole highly satisfactory. It is gradually constructing a sorites argument, which must tell. Even the majorities in the House of Commons are dwindling a little.
MacColl’s fate is curious. He has had a triumph in being blackballed at the Athenæum through the unparalleled mass of condolences he has received from every quarter.
I am surprised, and not less pleased, with the address from seventy-five resident graduates at Oxford on behalf of a policy of Home Rule.
Yesterday I was startled on reading in the Standard that in Bulgaria Prince Ferdinand had announced himself as a propagandist of the Roman Catholic Church. If he has thus introduced such a new cause of trouble, it ought to be, and will be, fatal to him. Madame Novikoff, whom I saw yesterday, professed to treat it as a thing perfectly well known to her, and as the grounds of the Czar’s objection to him.
I told her I had received from Athens a curious communication. A society of some kind has been formed there for the union of all the independent Balkan States. She expressed great satisfaction at it.—Ever yours,
W. E. Gladstone.
Dear Mr. Gladstone,1 —
My illegible correspondent was Geffcken.2 I cannot bring myself to look on what has happened, and is happening, in such dark colours as you see. Our opponents have committed themselves to a disgraceful cause in a way nobody could have anticipated—not worse than in the case of the Parnell Commission, but in a more unmistakable and flagrant manner visible to all. It has purified our cause; and I fancy, pace Arnold Morley,3 that it will not weaken us long. Kilkenny, I suppose, has repressed the desire to dissolve.
There is so much to say about it. There never was a moment in your life when your health, and strength, and spirits, that give strength, were of so much value to your friends—in the larger sense—and so important for the higher national and political purposes.—Ever yours,
Villa St. Patrick,Jan. 1, 1891.
Hawarden,Jan. 9, 1891.
My dear Acton,—
To a greybeard in a hard winter the very name of the South is musical, and the kind letters from you and Lord Hampden make it harmony as well as melody. But I have been and am chained to the spot by this Parnell business, and every day have to consider in one shape or other what ought to be said by myself or others. A letter of mine to Hartlepool is just coming out which will speak out for Home Rule, but also tell that we think of trying a piece of legislation, viz. Registration, with the provision called one man one vote. On the 13th, Morley speaks at Newcastle.
I do not know if you have seen Les Derniers Jansénistes by Leon Séché.1 He sent it to me, and asked advice as to sending it to others. I mentioned you, also John Murray. I find in it the most luminous account I have ever seen of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, and I have also learned or seemed to learn from it for the first time that Grégoire2 was a very high-toned, devout person, and also, say, nine-tenths of a great man. I take it for granted that you have his works.
I have been writing a full reply to Huxley, and I believe (truly or falsely) that it overturns all his contentions. It has cost me much labour, especially in hunting up and down about Josephus for the particulars of an obscure local history, which becomes full of interest in my eyes on account of its connection with the character of our blessed Lord’s ministry on earth.—Believe me, ever yours,
W. E. Gladstone.
Dear Mr. Gladstone,—
I never regretted the shortness of time so much as last week. There were so many things that we could not talk over.
Nobody will take Ferguson’s answer3 for ready money, and no doubt you know better than I do whether the agreement as to our eventual protection of the Italian coast is substantially what the Neue Freie Presse has published.
It is clear that the French fleet appearing before Genoa, Spezzia, Naples, Palermo, would hold fast the Italian army, so that our intervention represents 200,000 men in the field besides the means of negotiating with France about Egypt. In the Austro-German treaty there is a point which I hope you will not disregard. That is, that a close alliance with Austria was the legitimate policy of Germany. The reproach against Prussian unification was that it diminished Germany, that it betrayed the national cause, and cast out the 12 or 15 millions of Germans whose vocation it was to extend the influence of the more civilised race over 20 or 25 millions of less favoured nations. And the first effect of German unity, as achieved by Bismarck, was the uprising of the non-German elements in Austria.
Until the two Powers became closely allied, Bismarck could not meet the Grossdeutsch argument against the Kleindeutsch policy. Now the enemy that always threatens, by process of disintegration and divided allegiance, to demolish Austria, is Russia. There could be no effective league with Germany unless it assured either defence against Russia, or expansion towards the Ægean.
The young Grand Duke of Baden assures me that his cousin, Prince William, is not at all the fire-eater we are told, but a studious, thoughtful, young man.1 I hope it is true, for I see that the doctors have become very unhopeful about the Crown Prince.
With respect to Salisbury’s argument, I think we must admit that there is a tendency towards concentration. It showed itself in the growth of absolute monarchy, and it is one of the characteristics of Democracy. It is the special mark both of Jacobinism and of Imperialism. The Democratic horror of limitations showed itself in the crushing both of the Sonderbund and of the Confederation, as in the suppression of the Girondins. And all the North German theorists are constantly writing against Federalism. Holst’s book,1 the best ever written on American Democracy, has no other object than to put down Home Rule in Germany.
It is precisely because Democracy can put up with no effective checks on the concentration and abuse of power, excepting the local division of Federalism, that Home Rule became the normal consequence of the last Reform Act, and the proof, in good statesmanship, of the healthiness and in-corruption of the British Democracy.
To establish, maintain, and strengthen a federal Compact became a moral necessity before, a physical necessity after, you refused to reduce the number of Irish members.
There are excellent remarks to this effect in Calhoun’s2Disquisition on Government. Italy should be omitted from Salisbury’s list. There was no subject district, race or country or religion. I remember that Manzoni3 had no sympathy with the movement of 1848, because he said that independence without unity was untenable.
One should exhibit the effects of Unitarianism in Russia by the suppression of Poland, in Denmark by the loss of Schleswig, in Holland by the loss of Belgium, in Austria by the insurrections of 1848, and the military weakness of 1859 and 1866.
Norway, Iceland, and Beust’s policy towards Hungary, and Hohenwart’s4 towards the other Home Rule elements, are the examples on the other side.—I remain, ever yours,
Cannes,Feb. 14, 1888.
June 18, 1888.
The animosity against the Empress is so great—apart from Mackenzie—that it might do her good to say that, as she represented English ideas in Germany, so she represents and personates Germany to us; so as to indicate that there is another balancing side to her imputed anglo-mania.
N.B. that this man, whose name is affixed to victories, incomparably grander and more fruitful than those of Frederick II, never was considered a mere professional soldier; but did his duty splendidly, in war as in all things.
I found that he had kept up his Greek—Curtius was his master.
His wish to get rid of duelling in the army is the most characteristic point—but it will hardly do to mention it.
It would be impossible to say too much, intellectually: one never perceived much initiative in him, and his very fine eye had little expression.
If not the greatest, the most lamented of his race. More than once, especially in 1866, he assuaged Bismarck.
N.B.—When there was a plan for doing without the Constitution which was not at all sacred in Bismarck’s eyes, it was the Crown Prince who made it impossible.
Bismarck told this to Bluntschli.
You remember Castelar’s parting testimony to King Amadeo as the faithful, the very faithful—fiel, muy fiel—observer of the Constitutional law.
I see one of the papers has got hold of his confidential interview, in England, with the Count of Paris, and his wish for an understanding founded on a Restoration—unlike Bismarck, who has always been so bitter against the Orleans.
I believe it was not till February he knew it was hopeless. The Grand Duke of Baden told me this just after seeing him a week or two before the death of William I.
My dear Mr. Gladstone,—
I had not time yesterday to finish my letter.
The impression one receives here is that Crispi is strongly established, although his policy of alliances is not popular. He has got the press in his hands, even the Tribuna, which sells 100,000 copies. There is a general persuasion that the great Italian war vessels will not resist the Courbet; although those who foretold that they were to serve against France have proved right: they cannot find shelter in any Adriatic port. There is, for the moment, a desire to stand well with England. I do not think I was wrong in urging that they were driven into the Triple Alliance by France. The Vatican intrigue goes on vigorously, and puts arms into the hands of the Republic. I remember Jules Favre saying that the time might come to restore the Temporal Power. The point to press is that Italy sold herself to her disadvantage: there is real suffering from excess of taxation.
I think both Bonghi1 and Villari will write in the Speaker. It has begun well as to tone, temper and contributors, but without force or distinctness. Bryce’s description of the Liberal party without Liberals promises a doctrinaire basis.
There will be good ground of attack against the Government encumbered with a surplus. But the furious action against Portugal will, I expect, gratify the passions of the country, and the wishes of the City.
I hope you will have an opportunity of seeing George Lefevre, who has an eye for facts, and saw some very remarkable facts and signs only the other day in Ireland. He will not know how to employ them to advantage himself.
Asquith and Bryce, whom I quote as two of the ablest men in the party, certainly speak the sentiments of many when they complain of your not showing your hand, and they direct the Unionist attack to that point. In substance they are clearly wrong. But in point of policy it might be well to deal with this objection or aspiration, and make them understand, better than they do—what Herschell and Morley understand perfectly—the reason why.
I hear from friends that Döllinger was better on the 9th, wished to get up, but found he could not read. A stroke of apoplexy, or paralysis, came upon him in the afternoon. He said that he did not suffer, then lost consciousness, and died on the following evening.
For several years, beginning with 1879, my impression has been that he seriously underrated those evils in the spirit of the Church of Rome which have nothing to do with the Vatican Council, and that Infallibility prevented him from recognising what was behind. There was something like a resolute charitable illusion in his judgments, in his way of distinguishing Roman and Gallican, in the forced and inconsistent allowance he made for individual men. I strove for years to make him see it; but I succeeded only once, when you were at Tegernsee. On the day after his mountain walk with you, when he felt exhausted, he came to my room and assured me that in reality he knew what I meant and did not disagree with me. Later, and especially in the essay on Madame de Maintenon as it originally stood, I saw that I had lost the ground I thought I had gained.
A mind so charged with knowledge and ideas could not remain content with an incomplete circle; but I cannot yet say that I know what he thought on some things which to me seemed decisive. Certainly he never admitted that a Dominican or a Jesuit must be assumed to be living in sin.
I have sent to ask for my letters to him, and my wife’s and mother’s; but I expect to learn that his correspondence was not in order. There must be many letters from you, which I will try to get.—I remain, ever yours,
Rome,Jan. 18, 1890.
Dear Mr. Gladstone,—
I shall not be telling you anything new, but as I have had some conversation with a man who for years was next to Bismarck, I may say that there is this remarkable change in the Prussian tone, that they are no longer so presumptuous. They say that their superiority in men and armament reached its height in 1887, when Bismarck and Moltke wished to force on a war with France; but that the French are now beyond them in both, in fact, in everything except the incalculable element of military talent, as to which they are still hopeful. Ribot certainly has an auspicious opportunity to negotiate with Italy on the lines of Outidanos.1
I do not remember whether you knew that considerable man—of the second rank—Pressensé, who died lately of cancer. His son is the principal leader writer of the Temps, and keeps that paper, by far the best in France, so straight in Hibernicis.
A fortnight ago I asked Bunting2 why he does not have a scientific analysis of the bye-elections: and I wondered whether there was some unfavourable element which I, from afar, overlooked. My point was that, from the first, I have thought the Parnell disruption less formidable to party prospects than all my correspondents at home. The Contemporary replied that bye-elections depend too much on local conditions to be of much indicative value. That was before the two new ones; and I cannot imagine his holding fast to that view now.
You must have been much interested in the life of the late Primate [Tait]. I never succeeded in liking him much, but a certain strength he manifestly had.—I remain, ever yours,
Tegernsee,June 9, 1891.
July 18, 1892.
There are objections to the plan of utilising the German which seemed plausible at first. A form of words might easily be found which would be received with favour. But the present and immediate difficulty is with France. The French are ready to hail the new Ministry, at least with hopefulness. Advances made to Germany would check that disposition, unless they were followed by other explanations, on the French side of the question, and followed at once, not in consequence of remonstrances, or as yielding to various pressure.
The other difficulty is that I am representing to Rosebery that you start with the understanding that he is your Foreign Secretary. On the one hand, he might take such early deliverance on his department without consultation as a snub, and a proof of want of confidence. On the other hand, if you employ the German allusion to him, which would be the easiest way, he might think that it was done to nail him, against his will.
There is also this third objection, that it is dangerous to allude, without book, to Salisbury’s foreign engagements.
Might not something be written in reply to the effect that it would be premature to discuss the policy of a Ministry that does not exist, that has not deliberated, and possesses no official knowledge?
Tegernsee,October 5, 1897.
My dear Blennerhassett,—
Macalister is the Cambridge Scot of whom I spoke, as connected with Irish Commissions.
Would you remind Lady Blennerhassett of her kind promise to consult Stauffenberg1 when he comes to Munich as I suppose he has done for the Chamber. There was matter which he did not like to put on paper.
The question is this: The majority of both Houses, and the Committee of the deputies on the financial demands of Government being decidedly against the Casus Foederis on the morning of July 19, 1870, what made them vote for war that night?
I know all about the declaration of war at Paris, the supposed violation of territory, the noise in the streets, the indignation of the President. All that is not the vera causa.
Something was said or done by or in behalf of the Government which changed certain votes, and whatever it was it has been kept secret.
No secret lasts longer than 27 years.—Ever yours,
Tegernsee,Sept. 16, 1898.2
My dear Blennerhassett,—
. . . There is no doubt about the Empress. But the story is denied on as good authority as it is affirmed on. I know she said it to the queen, but that is of no use to me.
Mme. de Handel seems decisive. But then Parieu1 has related the conversation in his book, and there gives materials to those who deny her story.
I wonder whether you will be able to explain what Bismarck so often said, that there was a clerical conspiracy at the root of it.—Ever yours,
My dear Acton,—
We must have not one only, but two new Bishops, for Lincolniensis resigns at once: and, as the name of Dr. Liddon will not appear for either of the sees, I am desirous that you should know from me the cause. It is solely due to his own very strong unwillingness, amounting to negation, that I have not submitted his name to the Queen, backed by high ecclesiastical authority. So that he has really received a great recognition, and this is an important matter.
In his place I have recommended, and the Queen accepts, Dr. King, an admirable man, who has been for twelve or fourteen years Professor of Pastoral Theology in Oxford, and one of the mainstays of devout life in the University.
I understand that, in that much-loved place (I am an old idolater of Oxford), there is a current rather steadily setting in the direction of the highest religious interests. Of the five open fellowships last taken by a wide competition, four are filled by men who seek holy orders.
Mr. Gore,1 head of the Pusey Institute, a man of very high promise, has already a society of twenty Tutors formed for Theological study under or with him.
I really doubt (but this may be extravagant) whether there is any single place in Christendom which might—if any single place could be so honoured—be more truly termed its heart, than Oxford.
Do you despise me if I say that (having read a limited portion) I am much disappointed in Reuss’s Geschichte. I always thought Pusey on Daniel the worst written book I knew, till I tried to read this. But I think it wordy, oracular, dogmatic to a degree, and searching for his arguments amidst the ocean of words is the old way of seeking a needle in a bundle of hay.
In despair I turned to Reusch, Bibel und Natur, and that, so far as I have gone, I like extremely. The wife of one of my Lyttelton nephews has almost finished a translation of it.
I have just written to Bishop Temple, proposing to him the See of London.
There is every likelihood of a satisfactory arrangement, so far as France is concerned, as to Egyptian finance.
Wolseley is not at present anxious as to the Stewart column; and we have much faith in him.
Moderate measures, change of air, and partial remission of business, have much mended me, thank God, and I may now hope to go on until the early date when—you and I are to quarrel.—Ever yours,
W. E. Gladstone.
Dear Mr. Gladstone,—
I try to console myself for what seems a loss to Religion by what you say of Oxford and the expanding sphere of action it promises to Liddon. On my last visit to Keble I obtained a glimpse of what is going on, and of Gore and his doings; and I saw that there are good men there, and opportunities that would be available and inviting if Liddon’s temper was not curiously unacademic. Some former misdoubts also occur to me, and I expel them with a weaker pitchfork now that there is less occasion for hope and fear.
In spite of your cause of complaint, it would be hard to find a more compendious exposition of recent work in biblical literature. Perhaps his Introduction to his French translation of the Old Testament, meant for general reading, is more attractive; but it is some years old. We can go a very little way in German literature if we attend to literary quality. Hegel and Baur have changed the entire current of religious thought with worse writing than Reuss’s, and every Bentham has not his Dumont.1
It is a severe disappointment not to see you out here, for I am persuaded that you would have renewed your strength as you can never renew it at home, and the troublesome ghost might be laid for a twelvemonth. You have certainly considered all the arguments I can give; but there is so much force in them that I hope they will not lose by coming from a friend whose sincerity you do not doubt.
You mean that the new Parliament, the first of our democratic constitution, shall begin its difficult and perilous course without the services of a leader who has greater experience and authority than any other man. You design to withdraw your assistance when most urgently needed, at the moment of most conservative apprehension and most popular excitement. By the choice of this particular moment for retirement you increase the danger of the critical transition, because nobody stands as you do between the old order of things and the new, or inspires general confidence, and the lieutenants of Alexander are not at their best. Next year’s change will appear vast and formidable to the suspicious foreigner, who will be tempted to doubt our identity. It is in the national interest to reduce the outer signs of change, to bridge the apparent chasm, to maintain the traditional character of the State. The unavoidable elements of weakness will be largely and voluntarily aggravated by their untimely coincidence with an event which must, at any time, be a blow to the position of England among the Powers; your absence just then must grievously diminish our credit.
The elections must be far more favourable, fought under your name and banner. There is no other to conjure by. There is no Lord Granville now to carry on your tradition and represent your ideas. Whatever Hartington does, he will not do that.
You alone inspire confidence that what is done for the great masses shall be done with a full sense of economic responsibility. Here is Chamberlain, with so little policy that he proclaims universal suffrage just before Household Suffrage comes into operation, and so little wisdom that he already calls on the labourers to use their new votes for their own class advantage; and he is so strong that without him the party will go to pieces. You alone prevent or postpone the disruption, just as you alone possess power in Ireland. A divided Liberal party, and a weak Conservative party, mean the supremacy of the revolutionary Irish.
You can make the country tide over this interval of peril by retaining office one year more. The Ministry will be stronger in a Parliament chosen under your flag and set in motion by yourself, strong enough, perhaps, to undergo reconstruction and to gather up the wasted and centrifugal forces. If you retire then, they will have time before them.
This is my appeal—in the name of the party, of the country, of the cause which is above them both, of impending socialism, of impending bloodshed, of impending revulsion towards semi-Conservatism, of the seven devils you have so often chained, choose for retiring not the moment when you are sated and weary of the good and evil of power, but that which will cost least to others and to the supreme objects of your own political life.—Believe me, ever yours,
Cannes,Feb. 2, 1885.
The Deanery, St. Paul’s,
My dear Lord Acton,—
I regretted exceedingly that I had to forego the pleasure of meeting you at Sir James Paget’s. But I have not yet been allowed to venture out in the evening to dinner parties.
I am very grateful to you for what you have done. Liddon’s absolute refusal to allow me to say, even, that I believed that he would consider the subject if put before him in a definite shape, left me no room for even a doubtful answer to Mr. Gladstone’s enquiry about his willingness. I think that it was a pity that I had to ask him in general terms about his feeling, but I had no choice. I had to answer at once, and Liddon was in such distress and agony that it was impossible at the moment to continue the subject with him.
But after a time I think that he was not so inflexible. At least he one day spoke of the interest of carrying on at Exeter, in a higher spirit “Henry Exeter’s” work for the Church. And I am told that Dr. King thinks that he has extracted a promise from Liddon, that he would accept an offer, if made definitely. But Mr. Gladstone wants to be sure beforehand, and that, with a man of Liddon’s genuine reluctance for the work, is a difficulty.
But my opinion is that, if he were offered Salisbury, he would accept it: but I cannot say more than it is my opinion, though it is a strong opinion. I have written to Mr. Gladstone to say as much as this, and have given my reasons. But I cannot say that I am quite sure. Something, as, for instance, his coming to know that there was a strong feeling against him in some part of the diocese, might shake him at the last moment. I have been hoping every day to be able to send Mr. Gladstone something more than my opinion. But Liddon shrinks most sincerely from the thought: and he makes his Life of Dr. Pusey, which he looks on as sort of sacred trust, an excuse for his shrinking back. Of course, Liddon has had a good deal of time to think on the subject, and to know what his friends think: and I think he has come to see that they expect him, as a duty, to accept an offer. And this will have great weight with him. But still I am unable to say “I know.”—With most sincere thanks, believe me, yours faithfully,
R. W. Church.
My dear Lord Acton,—
I do not feel that I sufficiently expressed yesterday how sincerely grateful I am to you for the trouble which you took with my papers, and your very instructive remarks on them. They will be of more service to me than any observations which I have yet had from any friends to whom I have shown these papers. I am sorry that the unrevised condition of these papers gave you the trouble of noticing smaller mistakes. If I ever publish them, I must say beforehand distinctly what I want to do; which is, not to pretend to write a history of the movement, or to account for it, or adequately to judge it and put it in its due place in relation to the religious and philosophical history of the time; but simply to preserve a contemporary memorial of what seems to me to have been a true and noble effort which passed before my eyes, and to prevent, so far as I could, the “passing away as a dream,” of a short scene of religious earnestness and aspiration, with all that was in it of self-devotion, affectionateness and high and refined and varied character, displayed under circumstances which are scarcely intelligible to men of the present time; so enormous have been the changes in what was assumed and acted upon, and thought practicable and reasonable, “fifty years since.” For their time and opportunities the men of the movement with all their imperfect equipment, and their mistakes, still seem to me the salt of their generation. Those who did not know their times and them, can hardly be expected to think this of men so unlike to our times, which are in many ways so much an advance on what was possible in theirs. But I wish to leave behind a record that one who lived with these men, and lived long beyond most of them, believed in the reality of their goodness and height of character, and still looks back with deepest reverence to those forgotten men, as the companions to whose teaching and example he owes an infinite debt; and not he only, but religious society in England, of all kinds.
I give this account of what I want to do, because of your very just remarks on the prominence given to men and books, now scarcely known even by name. Bowden’s book, e.g., came when there was no other book which took up the cudgels for a Pope like Hildebrand: any one can do it now, with due distinctions and reserves, but there was novelty in doing so in those days when Milman on the Middle Ages was still in the future. So, again, about Marriott, no one can, as you say, understand how he could have been the influence which he was. But nevertheless he was unique both for his oddness and his high goodness. Personally, I owe to him the being dragged out of mud, and the first wish and effort to think; and what I owe him, numbers of other men also owed him. R. H. Froude would have been even more forgotten, as he died early, but for his name and his more famous younger brother. But long after his death, his name was in the mouth of Newman and his special friends all day long, as the friend and brother whose courage and impatience of unreality had given them heart for an enterprise which seemed a wild one. I have not attempted a complete criticism of Newman, partly because I feel it beyond me, partly because it is so against the grain, partly because he has himself put himself before the world, and possibly may do so still more. I had rather leave that to others less prepossessed than I must be. I agree that the contract about Luther for a private letter had best go out. But, though I have always had a liking for Luther, I still venture to ask whether he was what one usually means by a divine. He supplied the force and energy to the Reformation, and the great idea of Justification. But was he not a man of one idea, like Carlyle—and was not Calvin really the divine who told us the religious thought of the Reformation? Was Luther read as Calvin was, anywhere but in Germany? Was he read much in France, England, Scotland, Italy?
With respect to Liberalism, perhaps the word had better be banished, if one could find a better. But it is a name claimed as an honour, as much as given as a nickname. And I have no prejudice against the name, for in many ways I have thrown in my lot with the Liberal side. But still I must say that the men who called themselves emphatically “Liberals” in the early days of the movement, were very much what I have described them, in the passage you have noted. In their attitude towards religion, and it is in that respect that I speak of them, they were what I have said. Of course, they had many good qualities; but as religious teachers they were men to extinguish quietly a creed and a church, and be bitterly intolerant of any effort to resist them. You must not think I am writing in a mere loose way. I have names before my mind in writing so.
And I am afraid that I must still hold that the charge of dishonesty, thrown out wholesale as it was, was—well, I won’t say dishonest, for people no doubt persuaded themselves they were right—but grossly discreditable to men who had the means of knowing, both what Newman, Keble, etc., were, as men and clergymen, and what had been said and taught in the Anglican Church by some of its highest authorities. If they did not know these things, the facts were before their eyes, and they might have known them: they chose to ignore them and they chose to ignore also what was difficult in their own position. Forgive me, if, when I remember what Newman and Keble were, and what Hampden,1 Faussett,2 and even Hawkins3 were, and what these last allowed themselves to say of their opponents, my heart is sometimes hot within me.
I have tried not to shirk saying what I thought faulty and mistaken on my own side, in much of what happened, especially as time went on, and eagerness, and excitement, and also the sense of wrong, brought the too ordinary consequences of party action; especially party action, combined with grave and eventful changes in belief and sympathies. I have not consciously wished to suppress anything against my friends, though I have thought it fair to urge the consideration of the difficulties which beset minds undergoing these changes. But I am very grateful to you for strongly calling my attention to the duty of sincerity in dealing with matters on which it is not easy to avoid severe judgment: and, involved in the obligation of sincerity, the duty of taking the opponent’s point of view, of giving him credit as far as possible for all that he claims of looking all round, of remembering the faults, and the causes of offence and suspicion, of one’s own friends and one’s own party. No one feels more distinctly than I do my own share in what was to be condemned in the temper, or the line of conduct of my own side. Perhaps this is a strong reason for holding one’s peace now, and leaving the judgment on it all to others out of the fight. But at the same time, I cannot but feel that there is a debt due to what was at the time the defeated side, who certainly then paid to the full the Væ Victis penalty: and if I say that I think them, with all their faults, to have been the religious side, and their cause the cause of real and high goodness, I owe them a debt of justice, as against those who were so fiercely intolerant of them.
I do not suppose that Maurice would ever say what he knew to be untrue. But I have always, in spite of a very ancient admiration for Maurice, thought that he was a man of very strong antipathies, and in his enthusiastic confidence in his own theories contemptuous and unjust to those which seem to come into competition with them. He had a special theory of Baptism, and Pusey was unpardonable for maintaining one which crossed it. He always seemed to me to lose his temper, when talking of Oxford and the Oxford men.
Please forgive me this long story. It ought to have been inflicted on your ears yesterday, when you could have closed them if you liked, rather than on your eyes to-day, but I had a headache, and was glad to keep off questions. And let me thank you very much for all your kindness.—Yours faithfully,
R. W. Church.
Dear Mr. Gladstone,—
Next to the family, and to my son, who deeply and rightly feels his own misfortune, I thought most of your loss by Lord Granville’s death. There was an admirable fitness in your union; and I had been able to watch how it became closer and easier, in spite of so much to separate you, in mental habits, in early affinities and even in the form of fundamental convictions, since he came home from your first budget, overwhelmed, thirty-eight years ago. I saw all the connections which had their root in social habit fade before the one which took its rise from public life and proved more firm and more enduring than the rest.
Your last letter was so alarming that I was not unprepared, but it was only after his death that I learned the sad details. Freddy Leveson was very silent, and, from extreme discretion, told me that I could not arrive in time, when, in fact, it would have been quite possible. Apart from what is written here, I bear in silence the pain and the disgrace of having been absent even from his funeral.
The Temps, which is the best informed of European newspapers on English affairs, had a perfectly just article upon him. I was glad that some of his defects, the disorder of his papers, the lack of power to extract work, were lightly touched by Fitzmaurice.
I hope you will remember to claim your letters. I am afraid that too much of what is yours, of what is really yourself, is being dispersed by Arthur Gordon, in his coming biographies of your colleagues. Lady Herbert is here, and is grateful for her reception at Hawarden.
Your permission to retain the use of the Professor’s letters is invaluable, and I thank you for it very much. Without it I did not find that I was authorised to disappoint our French friend1 to whom merit of a certain kind cannot be denied. His notion that Jansenism left a deposit of opposition after the dogmatic brains were out, and that opposition is all the same whatever its motive or its derivation, is very misleading. The Dean’s charming book2 has brought home to me the difference in the meaning of Liberalism applied to Church matters in the several Churches, and the opposite sense in which we employ the term. With you it marks a diminution of churchmanship, and a dilution of true religious spirit. With us it is the beginning of real religion, a condition of interior Catholicism. The Papacy, as the source and the soul of the Inquisition, has a very qualified authority and repute with anybody who proceeds from political Liberalism. The attitude, in Church matters, is profoundly affected thereby; and the Liberal cannot look without moral disgust at men upon whom these considerations have no effect. That is a line of thought which Döllinger had the greatest difficulty in understanding, and he had come to disparage the papal see for other causes than those which offend us as political thinkers.
Childers has been here, and speaks of his health as improving. But there is a melancholy change in him, physically if not mentally. Excepting that I did not think he ought to be basking here during the Recess, Justin MacCarthy made a pleasant impression. He is faithful, hopeful, and tolerably practical. There is a looseness of reasoning, a want of scientific completeness and accuracy in the marshalling of arguments, which was rather depressing, and explained his tremendous bungling at the decisive moment.—Ever yours,
Cannes,April 20, 1891.
My dear Acton,—
I do not like to let too long a term elapse without some note of intercourse, even though that season approaches which brings you back to the shores of your country. Were you here, I should have much to say on many things; but I will now speak, or first speak, of what is uppermost, and would, if a mind is like a portmanteau, be taken or tumble out first. You perhaps have not heard of Robert Elsmere; for I find, without surprise, that it makes its way slowly into public notice. It is not far from twice the length of our ordinary novel; and the labour and effort of reading it all, I should say, sixfold, while one could no more stop in it than in reading Thucydides.
The idea of the book, perhaps of the writer, appears to be a movement of retreat from Christianity upon Theism: a Theism with a Christ glorified, always in the human sense, but beyond the ordinary measure. It is worked out through the medium of a being—one ought to say a character, but I withhold the word, for there is no sufficient substratum of character to uphold the qualities—gifted with much intellectual subtlety and readiness, and with almost every conceivable moral excellence. He finds vent in an energetic attempt to carry his new Gospel among the skilled artisans of London, whom the writer apparently considers as supplying the norm for all right human judgment. He has extraordinary success, establishes a new Church under the name of “The New Christian Brotherhood”; kills himself with overwork; but leaves his project flourishing in a certain “Elgood Street.” It is, in fact (like the Salvation Army), a new Kirche der Zukunft.
I am always inclined to consider this Theism as among the least defensible of the positions alternative to Christianity. Robert Elsmere, who has been a parish clergyman, is upset entirely, as it appears, by the difficulty of accepting miracles; and by the suggestion that the existing Christianity grew up in an age specially predisposed to them.
I want as usual to worry you into helping the lame dog over the stile: and I should like to know whether you would think me violently wrong in holding that the period of the Advent was a period when the appetite for, or disposition to the supernatural was declining and decaying: that in the region of human thought speculation was strong and scepticism advancing: that if our Lord were a mere man, armed only with human means, His whereabout was in this and many other ways misplaced by Providence; that the Gospels and the New Testament must have much else besides miracle torn out of them in order to get us down to the Caput mortuum of Elgood Street. This very remarkable work is in effect identical with the poor, thin, ineffectual production published with some arrogance by the Duke of Somerset,1 which found a quack remedy for difficulties in what he considered the impregnable citadel of belief in God.
Knowles has brought this book before me, and, being as strong as it is strange, it cannot perish still-born. I am tossed about with doubt as to writing upon it.
In public affairs there is no recession, not much advance. The Dissentients quaking, but the bulk of them hopeless, and self-placed in a position more hopeless than that of the Tories. The Government have, I think, serious difficulties ahead of them in the Local Government Bill and in the Budget, both of them large, necessarily complex, in many respects good and liberal measures. But the Budget limps fatally in respect to the Death Duties.
Have you heard anything lately of Dr. Döllinger, and does all go well with him? Are you all thriving? We thank God we are prosperous, barring the inveterate disease and manifold subtle invasions of old age. On Thursday I expect to be at Oxford (Keble): back in London by the 9th.—Ever yours,
W. E. Gladstone.
Cannes,April 5, 1888.
Dear Mr. Gladstone,—
The author of Robert Elsmere came out here this winter, but we had no talk about her book, and I have not seen it. Neither the Spectator nor the Dean of St. Paul’s,2 who has been reading reviews of it, has made the meaning quite clear to me.
In examining the appetite for the miraculous we have to distinguish the people and the age which produced the New Testament and the people and the age that received it; between the Jews of the first century and the pagans of 150 years later.
It would be clearly true to say that among the heathen of the time of our Lord, under Stoic and Epicurean influences, and during the utmost decline of religion, the thirst for the marvellous was weak. But that is not the atmosphere in which the Gospels arose, nor that in which they were accepted. Long before Christianity began to take much root in pagan society, by the beginning of the third century, Stoicism was nearly extinct, and Neo-Platonism and Neo-Pythagoreanism were growing into importance.
The Rationalism of the Augustan age had made way for systems as full of the marvellous as the old mythology which fades away in Livy. If the question is: Was not the sphere of thought in the midst of which the Gospels came to be written rationalistic, and averse from the miraculous, I should be afraid to answer in the affirmative, when I think of Philo just before, and of the vast apocryphal Ebionite-Clementine literature shortly after.
That the Gospels can justify themselves apart from miracle is very true, and only needs very guarded statement. Both because the miraculous has been the chief motive for their rejection, and because it would have to be shown that their teaching is superior to what men possessed before, and not only superior, but out of all proportion superior. “Nec deus intersit . . . .”
On the other hand, the Gospel, apart from miracle, is precisely what great part of mankind does now accept. It is the bequest of Schleiermacher divided among a hundred schools.
Pray guard your flank against those who will say that the miracles discredit the Gospels; that if you take them out, or think them away, the rest comes to pieces; against those who will say, it remains to be shown that the wisdom of the New Testament was far above that attainable by Philo and Seneca and the best Orientals; and against those who might say that a non-miraculous Gospel is the Gospel of great part of the more or less religious world.
I hear that the hero of Mrs. Ward’s book is Green,1 the Balliol metaphysician and editor of Hume, embroidered with traits from J. R. Green, the historian, from Kegan Paul, and, perhaps, from her own father,2 who followed Newman to Dublin and Birmingham, then followed Buckle into utter scepticism, and has since fluttered between Ultramontanism and the friendship of Addis.1
Green was steeped in Natural Science, and no doubt accepted the reigning maxim by which Natural Science has so largely subjugated philosophy: “Causa aequat effectum.” I can imagine a book written on this thesis:—Here is a man who has not been able to retain his religious belief. What will become of him? If he is of common clay, or propelled by resentment and disgust, he will find his consolation in atheism, materialism, and the scoffing philosophy. If he is of a higher type, and fairly casts himself upon the waters of modern thought, there are strong currents in it which will land him near the gates of the Church, in some sort of Socinianism.
This would not have been true twenty years ago; but I think it is nearly true now, taking a wide survey, as Green no doubt did, who knew as much of Virchow, Helmholtz, and Pasteur, as of Darwin and Spencer.
I see from your letter that you have no great patience with this kind of spiritualism. But it is all that the cultivation of physical science is likely to do under the dominion of the laws that are prevailing. It is more than any of the leading schools of Metaphysics that have thrown off Pantheism are doing yet. The probability is, on the whole, that a first-rate scientific man will be brought nearer to Christianity than an equally eminent metaphysician—as things are moving now. Though it is about equally improbable that either of them will be a Christian, at any rate in anything more than words.
We have to deal with a large portion of the world which, whether in an increasing area I know not, but with an increasing fixity and security, rejects revelation. For obvious reasons, the belief in the constancy of Nature’s laws, which is the motive of rejection, is peculiarly strong in our generation, and is gaining strength from the predominance of physical over metaphysical studies.
Society has less to fear from the Theism of modern Kantians, of French Eclectics, than from most of the unbelieving systems that now flourish. I know that you think generously of the Positivists; but I cannot think the Ethical order safe in their hands. There are shocking things in Comte.
You do not indicate that there is any glaring moral deficiency in Elgood Street.
I have heard that the skilled artisans of London are hostile to the clergy, but not to property. Stepniak, after visiting the East End, said: “Vous avez vaincu le Socialisme.” Dean Church spoke of an interesting review in the Guardian, not by a regular contributor, but also not by a friend of the writer.
We hear from Munich that the Professor has delivered a discourse on the history of religious liberty, which explains his having pillaged my materials on the subject for a long time. But I have only had messages from him, no letter for some months.
All well here, very glad to know that you are prospering, and if this reaches you at Keble, I hope you will remember me affectionately to Talbot.—Ever yours, in haste and disorder,
Dear Mr. Gladstone,—
The passage you quote, about all schools craving for miracles, is absurd.
Besides, early Christianity addressed itself to men who belonged to no schools. Not a single eminent pagan writer knew anything about it until late in the second century. Plutarch, who knew most things knowable, seems not to have heard the name of it.
But if it spread for near a hundred years only among the unlettered classes, and was in touch with decaying religion, not with progressive philosophy, it is useless to speak of all schools.
Too much stress should not be laid on its having “spread at once among Greeks and Romans.”
It is true that the prevailing philosophies were not fundamentally theistic. Epicureanism, of course, not at all. Stoicism, not in strict theory; but practically, by their use of ambiguous terms, their attention never to define what they meant by God, the Stoics helped Theism. At first sight, every one would take Cleanthes, Seneca, Epictetus, Antoninus for believers in one personal God. Tacitus even relates imperial miracles.
To say that “the cont. Academy” taught universal doubt is hazardous. That had been; but there is a change in the time of Cicero, or of his teacher Antiochus; and the Academy diverged, after that, from the Sceptics.
When you say “aristocratic religion,” you say what is, of course, originally true. But the word seems to recall an age when the classes were strictly, theoretically, divided, and to present the religion of Flavian Rome as more perfectly organised and self-contained than it was, after the influx of manifold forms of worship, and even of belief.
And if it is true that portents were part of the machinery of State, I don’t think that went so far as a claim to exclusive possession. They did not deny that divine forces were at work for the behoof of other nations. They even became curious about some of them.
“Invited as no other religion”—that is too sweeping. The Romans did actually suppress, in those very days, two religions, the Celtic and the Tyrian.
Whether it invited at all in the eyes of a civilised and monotheistic—or Stoic—Roman, I am not sure. But no doubt it did threaten the established institutions, and their upholders, with eventual, though probably very remote and contingent, destruction.
Remember, the apologists, down to Origen, denied what you assert.
And when you say “every prejudice,” you disregard the craving for better things, the habit of looking abroad, to Greece for philosophy (and even mythology), to the East for schemes for reconciling polytheism with monotheism.
The strong current of monotheism was already undermining the established Cultus, and must have made straight some way for Christianity.
Something besides the decay of old forms of worship should be allowed for the Præparatio Evangelica. On that account I rather dread the sentence about what would have been an anachronism. As long as polytheism was strong in general belief there was little room for Christianity. It supposes a time when monotheism had made some way. Also a time in which ethical science had been thought out. And if there was some decline of belief in the marvellous, it was by no means extinct in the masses. “Prodigia,” says Livy, “quæque magis credebant simplices ac religiosi homines, eo plura nuntiabantur”—referring to a rather earlier time. But similar things occur later. Besides, I suppose the author would not object to the idea of an anachronism. There was nothing of that immediate, overwhelming success, that evident fitness of time and place, that bewilder us in Mahommedanism.
Beugnot’s1 estimate is that which is generally accepted by all who reject the declamations of Tertullian. It is very hard to believe that so small a minority became predominant in one generation, after so long an interval of obscurity and repression.
Not being a man of science I have no right to say what I am going on to; but I only want to raise a question and suggest a precautionary doubt:
“Neither philosophical nor scientific.” Not philosophical—although much of the most powerful philosophic thinking has been pantheistic and therefore averse from miracle. But undoubtedly that sort of philosophy has not prevailed, and the other has held its own, and enjoys an equality.
But that is not the case in science. We are very far from the epoch of the Kosmos.2 In our time physical science proceeds as it never did before upon principles that are opposed to miracle: continuous causation, simplicity, or unity, of force, permanence of laws. The progress has never been so rapid. Therefore the confidence in these axioms has gone on growing, without a check.
It is possible, but it is not easy, to find works of considerable mark written on other lines, On the whole, the vote of natural science is against miracle. We dispute this on ground furnished to us by metaphysics. We could hardly do so on ground exclusively scientific. Science may admit, it assuredly does not encourage, belief in the miraculous—I mean, as things now are, since Joule1 and Mayer,2 and the prodigious revolution that has ensued, to say nothing of Evolution and the law of great numbers.
If we think this erroneous, we do so apart from scientific teaching.
That makes me fear your use of the term scientific, lest it should be thought arbitrary and violent—as if you thought that the testimony of natural science so far as it has yet been definitely given, really favours miracle.
You say I referred to 250 bc as a time of progress. I fancy a misprint for ad Yes; I think that the progress before the third century was slow. But in that century there were long spells of partial tranquillity.—Ever yours,
Dear Mr. Gladstone,—
The thesis that Christianity is due to the craving for miracle, and dies away with it, is so unhistoric, so unscientific, as to awaken a strong prejudice against the author’s integrity. A prejudice more than confirmed by what you say of the argument all on one side, and nothing but sentiment on the other.
It always seems to me a valid test of sincerity, whether a man begins by appreciating, and even if it may be, fortifying and strengthening the adversary’s position, supplying the gaps and correcting the flaws of his argument, before he declares it untenable. To set up an opponent like Newcome, mere material for demolition, betrays the infancy of art.
The suspicion you express at foot of p. 778 is not too severe applied to Mrs. Ward. But the passage may be subjected to hostile interpretation as implying that the decline of faith is mainly due to subjective causes, not to the operation of objective forces proper and peculiar to our age as compared with the eighteenth century, or to the antediluvian part of the nineteenth.
I am bound to admit that I do not gather from your essay that it is really an important book; unless more is made of the motives working for good outside of the Church. That might be an interesting theme.
Your impression that Christianity occupies a large area of Christendom is one which I should like to be able to verify. The Lutheran revival has done much to justify it, even in America. It might be possible to determine how many universities teach Christ, or what proportion in a given number of leading theologians believe in His divinity. The returns of the Unitarian body in England do not go very far. They have scarcely more than one eminent divine just now.
At top of p. 775 you have thoroughly guarded the flank. I still regret the word “scientific” on the previous page; and I think there is some objection to what you urge, there and again later on, about the pagan reluctance to receive a religion from the Jews.
This would apply to the first century, when the Jews were peculiarly odious, and when Christianity was preached by Jewish missionaries. But in that first century pagans did not accept their religion. Afterwards, when they did accept it, although the Gospel history was wrought and written by Jews, it was no longer preached by them. Christianity appeared without the Jewish husk, and there had been a considerable casting off of Judaism and its influence, both without and within.
The article is full of food for thought, and in one or two places I should like to plead for more care in understatement and definition; especially where you describe the moral action of Christianity. The saying of St. Augustine, p. 782, will hardly bear analysis; and the argument from Christian character, p. 778, is not obviously sound. We know only modern characters thoroughly. Men must have been dead some time for the whole truth to be told, and not long enough to fade into distance—say, about 500 years, from Dante or Petrarca to Carlyle. How many of these that belong to history will bear scrutiny? The better we get to know them, from letters, diaries, table talk, etc., the worse, as a rule, they appear. It is very difficult for the most keen-sighted Diogenes to detect a really good man—for instance, in the Reformation, or Revolution. We have to conclude backwards, from experience in the known to the less known age: and so are not dazzled by the halo of Fabricius and Decius.
There is some risk in sending a modern question to an ancient answer, as when you tell Mrs. Ward that she does not know the earlier apologists. The apologists of an age meet the difficulties they know, but they cannot anticipate the march of ages. There are leaps and bounds in the history of thought. We must not get ourselves into the position of those who objected to Luther that his propositions had been long since condemned; or of a man citing the Critici Sacri against Reimarus1 or Renan.
If we went to St. Thomas or Leibniz or Paley for rescue from Hegel or Haeckel, apologetics would be a record of disaster. The answer is in the next stage, not in any preceding one.
This may not apply to Mrs. Ward; but I imagine her difficulty to come from the Monistic philosophy, and nothing with the mould of ages upon it can help us against that. There are problems of which no man sees the crux unless trained up to date. Newman once said that in theology we had to meet questions the Fathers could hardly have been made to understand.
You will say that all this is mere skirmishing. But there is one thing which, I fear, may give an enemy his opportunity:—You insist, broadly, on belief in the divine nature of Christ as the soul, substance, and creative force of Christian religion. You assign to it very much of the good the Church has done; you urge the consent of ages; and you say that people have no right to deny this fundamental dogma. All this with little or no qualification or drawback, or allowance for the other side, or Catholic mea culpa.
Enter Martineau, or Stephen, or Morley (unattached), and loq.—Is this the final judgment of the Chief of Liberals? The pontiff of a Church whose Fathers are the later Milton and the later Penn, Locke and Bayle,1 Toland,2 Franklin, Turgot, Smith, Washington, Jefferson, Bentham, D. Stewart,3 Romilly, Jeffrey, B. Constant, Tocqueville, Channing, Macaulay, Mill? These men and others like them disbelieved that doctrine, established freedom, and undid the work of orthodox Christianity. They swept away that appalling edifice of intolerance, tyranny, cruelty, which believers in Christ built up, to perpetuate their belief. There is much to deduct from the praise of the Church in protecting marriage, abolishing slavery and human sacrifice, preventing war, and helping the poor. No deduction can be made from her evil-doing towards unbelievers, heretics, savages, and witches. Here her responsibility is more undivided, her initiative and achievement more complete.
Now the common run of Liberals are used to look on these transactions as the worst of all crimes. The Assassins did not kill in masses. The Terrorists generally inflicted a painless death. The Christian Church superadded the cruelty of Red Indians, by the use of torture and of fire.
It was the negation not only of religious liberty, which is the mainspring of civil, but equally of civil liberty, because a government armed with the machinery of the Inquisition is necessarily absolute. So that, if Liberalism has a desperate foe it is the Church, as it was in the West, between 1200 and 1600 or 1700. The philosophy of Liberal history which has to acknowledge the invaluable services of early Christianity, feels at the same time rather more strongly the anti-liberal and anti-social action of later Christianity, before the rise of the sects which rejected, some the divinity of Christ, others, the institutions of the Church erected upon it.
Liberalism, if it admits these things as adiaphora, surrenders its own raison d’être, and ceases to strive for an ethical cause. To speak with unabated reverence of the actual Christianity as it prevailed from Innocent III to Bossuet and Oates, would imply that the moral evil bore no proportion to the dogmatic merit, that so orthodox an institution could not be employed to do the devil’s work and people hell. Whatever we think of the faith, we must condemn the works. If the doctrine of Torquemada makes us condone his morality, there can be no public right and wrong, no political sin, no secular cause to die for, no damnation lurking in affairs of State.
Therefore it might be said that you care not to compare your earlier and later doctrines, your views on Church and on State; that you have lost some of your supreme Charisma, of knowing ab intra all the other side of the question, its restraining as well as its propelling elements; that you do not work really from the principle of Liberalism, but from the cognate though distinct principle of Democracy, Nationality, Progress, etc.
To some extent, I fear, you will estrange valued friends, not, assuredly, by any expression of theological belief, but by seeming to ignore the great central problem of Christian politics. If I had to put my own doubts instead of the average Liberal’s, I should state the case in other terms, but not altogether differently.—Ever yours,
Cannes,May 2, 1888.
OLD TESTAMENT CRITICISM
Dear Mr. Gladstone,—
Reuss tells his story best in his French Bible, Introduction to volume I. But that is as old as 1879.
In his German book the chief passages are 70-94 (especially 73-76); 251-257; 350-364 on Deuteronomy, and 460-474 on Ezra. Even this is not later than 1881. All this is so very compendious that I fear you will find it unsatisfactory if you have to allude to it in print.
I therefore venture to send some of the most recent books, amounting to not more than a morning’s work, if I may be allowed to propose the salient pages.
Reuss is, as you know, the originator of the prevailing hypothesis, and put it forward in his lectures even before Vatke wrote. But he kept it turning over for more than forty years, feeling very uncertain and not interested in it theologically.
Wellhausen belongs to a different school, and was the last of Ewald’s pupils, and with Dillmann, the most eminent. The line he took, in editing Bleek’s Einleitung, 1878, involved a breach with Ewald’s tradition. 152-178 contains the kernel.
But Wellhausen’s own independent line of enquiry appears in his Prolegomena of 1883—312-384. This is the substance of his famous argument; and it would not do to take it from Reuss, who wrote before him, and who worked on different lines.
Stade,1 12—but especially 47-64—is a reluctant convert to Wellhausen, going over from a more conservative school.
That is still more the case with Strack, who represents the action of the critical theory on what we should call the Moderate High Church party among the Lutherans. See his Handbuch, 135-145, and his article in Herzog, with an allusion to yourself, 440-457.
For the substance, see the Prolegomena. For the succession of views, Strack’s Handbuch.
I am very sorry to say that I have not received the letter you mention, written after you were at Oxford—and a fortiori at Birmingham.
You are to be much envied going to Rome so easily and smoothly, and taking in Naples. I rather apprehend that you will find yourself in some trouble at Rome. Dufferin will be too new to be of much help; and there is the grave question about seeing the Pope, and being interviewed by him and others about Ireland. You will find the enmity between Italy and France the ruling consideration.
Most unluckily, after leaving Hawarden, I was in the same hotel as Archbishop Walsh, at Oxford, without knowing it.
I hope Cook’s tickets allow you to go one way and to come back another.
Lowe is here, very merry, but weak and old, for a man who has been your contemporary.—Ever yours,
Cannes,Dec. 3, 1888.
My dear Acton,—
I have long been wishing to write to you. But as a rule I never can write any letter that I wish to write. Any volition of that kind is from day to day exhausted by the worrying demands of letters that I do not wish to write. Every year brings me, as I reckon, from three to five thousand new correspondents of whom I could gladly dispense with 99 per cent. May you never be in a like plight.
Mary showed me a letter of recent date from you, which referred to the idea of my writing on the Old Testament. The matter stands thus. An appeal was made to me to write something on the general position and claims of the Holy Scriptures for the working man. I gave no pledge, but read (what was for me) a good deal on the laws and history of the Jews; with only two results, first, deepened impressions of the vast interest and importance attaching to them and of their fitness to be made the subject of a telling popular account; secondly, a discovery of the necessity of reading much more. But I have never in this connection thought much about what is called the criticism of the Old Testament, only seeking to learn how far it impinged upon the matters that I really was thinking of. It seems to me that it does not impinge much.
Of course, reading the books of the Pentateuch brings into view every sort of anomaly: it also suggests to me that the solutions offered substitute greater difficulties than they remove. But great historical results tower high over all. Is this irrational?
It is the fact that among other things I wish to make some sort of record of my life. You say truly it has been very full. I add fearfully full. But it has been in a most remarkable degree the reverse of self-guided and self-suggested, with reference, I mean, to all its best human aims. Under this surface, and in its daily habit, no doubt it has been selfish enough. Whether anything of this kind will ever come off is most doubtful. Until I am released from politics by the solution of the Irish problem, I cannot even survey the field.
With regard to Italy, after infinite tumbling and tossing the question about in my mind, I came to the conclusion that I was under what you will call “a valid obligation,” and I have sent Knowles an article. I have not, however, said in it what I should like somebody else to say about the madness of their Transalpine policy. I have not so much as glanced at their triple alliance, but have only preached peace and goodwill. On the other hand, I have gone savagely at the finance, which is, I think, frightful and most alarming.
I turn to the world of action. It has long been in my mind to found something of which a library would be the nucleus. I incline to begin with a temporary building here. Can you, who have built a library, give me any advice? On account of fire, I have a half a mind to corrugated iron, with felt sheets to regulate the temperature. My man here wants wood.
Have you read any of the works of Dr. Salmon? I have just finished his volume on Infallibility which fills me with admiration of its easy movement, command of knowledge, singular faculty of disentanglement, and great skill and point in argument: though he does not quite make one love him. He touches much ground trodden by Dr. Döllinger: almost invariably agreeing with him.
The egotism of this letter is your reward for your benevolent interest in the writer. Now for a bit of tu-ism. When are you coming? I thought the end of April was the farthest limit: your good faith is coming into question.—Ever yours,
W. E. Gladstone.
My dear Acton,—
We made our journey hither yesterday with the double accompaniment, first of a very interesting public ceremonial and then of an affectionate personal reception from the people of Hawarden, which occupied the rest of the evening and ended in fireworks. The bridge over the Dee had a real opening, for when my wife touched a button with her finger a monstrous portion of the structure, weighing 700 tons, began majestically to turn upon its axis until it presented to us its broadside, and a steamer passed through the opening up the river.
It was most kind of you to give us a partial glimpse of the departing family in London. But I miss, and shall miss sadly, the Hawarden visit to which I had looked forward as almost a certainty. And this for two reasons, particularly, though not solely. The Temple of Peace1 is now so deluged with books that I must bethink me of some practical step with a view to its relief, and I had hoped to get benefit in this matter from your experience. The other was that old subject about the Old Testament Books and the Mosaic legislation, on which I have been so much pressed to write something with a special view to the working class. Now I think that the most important parts of the argument have in a great degree a solid standing-ground apart from the destructive criticism on dates and on the text; and I am sufficiently aware of my own rawness and ignorance in the matter not to allow myself to judge definitely or condemn. I feel also that I have a prepossession derived from the criticisms in the case of Homer. Of them I have a very bad opinion, not only in themselves, but as to the levity, precipitancy and shallowness of mind which they display; and here I do venture to speak, because I do believe myself to have done a great deal more than any of the destructives in the examination of the text, which is the true source of the materials of judgment. They are a soulless lot; but there was a time when they had possession of the public ear as much, I suppose, as the Old Testament destructives now have within their own precinct. It is only the constructive part of their work on which I feel tempted to judge; and I must own that it seems to me sadly wanting in the elements of rational probability. But outside of all this lies the question how far we may go past the destructives and their pick-axes and shovels, and deal with the great phenomenon of the Old Testament according to its contents, however put together, and its results actually achieved.
I am by no means sure that much or all of this may not read to you like raving. If it does, you could not do me a more useful favour than by telling me so.
To a rationally destructive book, such as Bentley on Phalaris, I can yield my admiring homage.
I longed to talk also about the Boulanger breakdown (God be thanked for it)—about the Contemporary article on Leo XIII—and I know not how much more.
I had a long conversation with Mr., late Father, Mathew on Friday. I was not able to form an entirely clear idea of him. There was much that I liked. He is shaken out of the positives, but has not settled down among the negatives. In his appearance I thought he had too rapidly and completely sloughed off the priest. I wonder whether men in that condition pray a great deal.
Pray give my affectionate remembrances to the Professor, and shed our love all round you.—Ever yours,
W. E. Gladstone.
Hawarden,Nov. 17, 1890.
My dear Acton,—
1. Only a hard necessity has kept me silent so long after receiving the most welcome intelligence from Oxford that you had been elected Honorary Fellow of All Souls. This is the sort of act which is good for him that gives and him that takes: but I rather think the college gets the larger share of benefit. My faint hope and keen desire now are to visit the College and Oxford at the same time with you, if this can be brought about: though I could not carry you in my arms about Oxford so efficiently as you carried me about when we went to Germany together.
I yearn mainly for two things in Oxford:
2. I lost no time in doing my small possible with Murray under the authority you had committed to me: and rejoice to find that he caught at the opportunity like a man of sense. I have not yet read you in the Historical Review, where I understand you appear; for my arrear of correspondence and business has been since I came back from Scotland more heavy than at any former time. Except my friends, mankind at large seem to consider that with my years my capacity for business and my store of time go on steadily enlarging.
3. I have the idea that you are writing on the Life of Milnes. The work has been sent me in proof sheets, and, yielding in some degree to the pressure of Mr. Wemyss Reid, I have written a Speaker article on the work, or rather on the man, and this I found in more ways than one no easy matter. But the book is very interesting: and the man was not commonplace, but was a study of human nature. . . . .
5. Scott’s Journal is a touching, soothing, and, on the whole, certainly ennobling specimen of human nature.
All, I trust, goes well with you abroad and at Oxford.—Ever yours,
W. E. Gladstone.
Dear Mr. Gladstone,—
If I rightly grasp your question about Paris, my answer would be that almost all the great divines were there, as students, or teachers, or both. Every one would remember the following: Innocent III, Albertus Magnus, Alexander of Hales, St. Thomas, St. Bonaventure, St. Amour, Scotus, Ægidius, Bacon, Oresme, Grossteste, Ockam, Gerson. Let me remove your scruples about the other Bacon. He was no metaphysician; still less a divine; and he was the worst of politicians. He did not understand the science of his time, and on its subsequent course his influence was less than used to be supposed. For Harvey, Boyle, and Newton, it was as if he had never existed. But his position is immense as a destroyer of the Past, and as a writer of almost unexampled cleverness (esprit). It is not too much to say that he is the most famous Englishman, in prose. The man who claims a place next to those three at Cambridge is Barrow. At Trinity he is reckoned a good third. Apart from his prodigious successor,1 he is, I am told, nearly our greatest mathematician. And he is the most solid, complete, and unapproachable of scholars, among English divines.
I proceed cautiously to tread on treacherous embers. Butler is very little remembered, or read, in Germany, because of Kant. They do not know it, but Kant is the macrocosm of Butler. He is Butler writ very large. His main argument, founded on the deification of Conscience, came to him from the Analogy and the Sermons. I do not mean to say that Butler was the innovator and discoverer in ethical science that people (like Martineau) say he was. It is not impossible, I maintain, to show where he got that theory of Conscience which has so much influenced political as well as religious thought. But it is pretty certain that Kant, who was no great reader, took it from him, and dug no deeper into seventeenth-century literature. It is impossible to utter a greater heresy here; for his countrymen derive him from Hume, Adam Smith, and Rousseau. And his most famous saying, on the teaching of Conscience within us and the firmament above, is taken straight from the latter. But I do not despair of convincing German friends that what Butler compressed into a crowded and obscure volume is substantially expanded into the minute and subtle philosophy of his successor.
I have to spend a fortnight at the Museum, because Macmillan proposes to publish a volume of my Essays, and they have to be selected and revised. In revising one of them, I hope to say something of Butler’s importance where one seldom finds him, in political science.—Ever truly yours,
Tegernsee,September 23rd, 1892.
Dear Mr. Gladstone,—
I did not mean to bear exclusively on the Sermons, although I do think their importance, if not their merit, greater than that of the Analogy. The appendix to the larger work points the connection and unity of the two.
Kant stands on the shoulders of the Analogy when he elevates the probability into a substitute for proof; and on those of the Sermons, when he makes the infallible Conscience the basis of certainty and the source of the Categorical Imperative. And my point is that he hails really from Butler, directly or indirectly, and not as they say, and he seems himself to imply, from Rousseau.
Although Newman, in spite of Development, cared little for the pedigree of ideas, it was curious to see how, towards the end, the Butler of early life coalesced with Kant, whom he only got to know very late.
Your decision about Uganda covers a good deal more ground than that, and not only marks a policy, but improves Rosebery’s position, and strengthens him. Especially as he showed his own mind before the Cabinet met.
I have exchanged signals with Carrington, but have received no orders yet.
Bentley’s place is assuredly high; but then he is not only objectionable, but unsound as a critic. The beauty of Barrow is that you can so seldom pick a hole.
Let me thank you for your oriental address in the grand way in which the Pope acknowledges things, before reading it. It has just reached me here, in the midst of entertainments most unsuited to the study of anything that emanates from you.—Ever yours,
Cologne,Oct. 3, 1892.
Athenæum,April 12, 1896.
Dear Mr. Gladstone,—
The point that troubled me was Pitt’s remark. For you say, I think in a supplementary interpolation, that it cannot be true.
There were two conversations in which Butler was mentioned, according to the Biography. One was on November 24, the other was on December 3.
In the earlier conversation Pitt commends Butler and in the other apparently disparages him. There is no room for a change of opinion. But there is, in fact, no inconsistency.
I would undertake to praise Burke for an hour, one day, and to disparage him for just as long a week later. And the two treatments that Pitt is said to have applied to Butler might, with perfect sincerity, be employed on other great writers, such as Pascal or Vinet, whom everybody commends, but of whom anybody would think it obvious to say that they raise more doubts than they answer.
For myself I would say the same thing of Leibniz and of Newman; and I can remember when people said it of Kant. Bossuet says almost the same thing of Descartes, and Fénelon of Malebranche.
The change of tone is fully accounted for, something had happened in the interval. Wilberforce had written to tell Pitt that he had become serious, and scrupulous, and must not be accounted a follower.
Pitt comes to dissuade him, and to undermine his authorities. That is, assuming that the conversational fragment, p. 95, is inserted at the right place.
The original commendation is not connected with any serious or religious purpose, and Pitt so little knew at the time what was going on in his friend’s mind that Wilberforce only then began to think of telling him.
Some day, I shall say to a pupil: Read Burke, night and day. He is our best political writer, and the deepest of all Whigs—and he will answer: Dear me! I thought he broke up the party, carried it over to the Tories, admired the despotism of the Bourbons, and trained no end of men towards Conservatism? I shall have to answer: So he did. Both sayings are true. Or I may say: Read Newman; he is by far the best writer the Church of Rome has had in England since the Reformation. And the pupil will come back and say: But do you think his arguments sound, or his religion Catholic? I shall have to say: No; if you work it out, it is a school of Infidelity.—I remain, ever truly yours,
MR. GLADSTONE’S ROMANES LECTURE
10 Downing Street,Whitehall,
My dear Acton,—
The strange miscarriage and loss of an official box has delayed the formal appointment of Lords-in-Waiting, but they will now go forward. I cannot but think yours will bring you to England before the year is out.
My lecture at Oxford, planned several months ago, is to come off in October. Now that it is on paper I could much have wished for the advantage of perusal by you. But it is not yet verbally quite complete: and I should not like to trust it to the post.
One or two points of literary conscience I may submit to you. 1. I have got together tolerably the great Oxford men of the Middle Age. I have difficulty in doing the like for Paris: though Budinszky’s book1 gives the foreigners who repaired thither to teach or learn. I do not know if you can tell me any names—besides William of Champeaux, Abelard, Stephen Langton.
2. I have given Cambridge the credit of a trio unapproachable by Oxford for the seventeenth century, in Milton, Bacon, and Newton. Will European opinion justify placing Bacon by the side of the other two? Evidently Locke had much greater influence: but I could not pit him against Bacon. I should think that as philosopher Boyle came nearer Bacon.
3. I have been reading Zart.2 He does not even mention Butler. I think you believe that Kant does. He is honourably mentioned by Lotze, but I think only as an apologist.
We are due at Hawarden on Wednesday. I have got Michael’s book on Döllinger.3 So far as I have got he makes no grounds against his subject.—Ever yours,
W. E. Gladstone.
Dear Mr. Gladstone,—
The Franciscans have no distinct record of Occam having studied at Oxford.
Merton has no record of his having been there.
Oxford generally has no record of him. Wood, after writing the passages in question, privately admitted his doubts. Hauréau,1 who knows the scholastic MSS. better than any one, knows nothing to the point. Of the passages quoted by Little, Grey Friars 224, only one has weight.
So that the statement that Occam was reared at Oxford would have to stand, as far as I know, on the Lambeth MS. and on what may be called common report, as indicated in the Mazarine MS. For Bartholomæus de Pisis is no authority for anything.
The thing still seems to me very uncertain; but I will not deny the force of the Lambeth dictum.
2. I enclose the passage not quite literally copied by Hallam from Wood’s Hist. and Antiquities of the University of Oxford, ed. Gutch 1792, i. 160.—Ever yours,
Athenæum,October 8, 1892.
Dear Mr. Gladstone,—
I wish I knew enough about it to propose some change, in the ultimate text, to justify my privilege this time. I can make no suggestion worth considering before delivery, excepting one, which I shall reach in its order.
Page 2. (Where I have put a slight pencil mark.)
It is not quite clear what age is meant, between the third and fifth centuries, so that a man might raise objections and find that you thought of some other time. Perhaps some such tinge of chronological indefiniteness occurs again.
26. R. Bacon was the most original, progressive, and independent British intellect; but when you say the highest, there is a recoil, and one remembers how fanciful he was, and how incapable of sustained reasoning. In argument he is not much better than the author of De Monarchia. Whereas Scotus is the most perfect dialectician of the Middle Ages, and as full of ideas as St. Thomas is of common sense; and his influence was enormous.
Herschell is the modern who prefers him to his namesake—for your praise of him will be challenged.
28. Within the limit—is an important clause, meaning produced, not harboured.
31. The woful decline is not obvious, as 700 is a later number, and the disproportion, compared to population, is even now not quite apparent. 700 : 50 :: 28 : 2.
38. De Dominis1 is not only popularly supposed to have renounced his previous action, but he did renounce it, in a tract which I have read. He was nevertheless burnt after death and burial; and no doubt he had not renounced all his objections to Rome, or all his favour to England,—in what measure they survive we cannot tell. But the renunciation is distinct as far as it goes. The preference for the Anglican system was abandoned. What remained is conjecture. Le Courayer2 reminds me of him more than anybody. You are obliged, in this note, to say “perhaps,” and “it may be” too often for any clean impression.
42. It is hard on Locke to attribute his success so much to opportunity and current. In the history of thought, especially of thought bearing on action, he is, not the greatest certainly, but the largest of all Englishmen, looming tremendously, and filling an immense space. The Lettres sur les Anglais, which put England into continental circulation, deal most with him and Newton, and he is the master of Voltaire and Condillac. As the—unscientific—inventor of the division of power, he is the master of Montesquieu. By his theory of Education and the Social Contract, he is the master of Rousseau, the most powerful political writer that ever lived. By his political economy he is the master of Adam Smith, and, in a sense, of Turgot. He gave to Whiggism whatever general ideas it mixed with the specific national elements, and is the theorist of government by the great families. Lastly, in the Catena of tradition on Toleration, he is very nearly the principal classic.
46. If Cambridge was not Whig by the counting of noses, I fancy it was, in the weighing of brains, and therefore in influence. I remember discussing it with Blakesley, who convinced me.
47. Note. I have said too much already about Butler’s influence abroad. I dimly remember that there are instances the other way, to be set against James Mill.
51. Wiclif—Germany. This is the passage I take to be wrong. His influence was immense, but in Bohemia, producing the Hussite movement. You will be understood to speak of the Reformation as a result produced by Wiclif. That would be inaccurate. We trace no influence of Wiclif on the inception, which is the whole thing. Hussitism he did directly produce.
The point has some importance. His central idea, that authority requires virtue to attest it, is in very direct contradiction with Luther’s notion, that he himself was the discoverer of divine right.
54. You call Laud a tolerant theologian; but the examples follow, and exhibit him as a comprehensive theologian, within the Church, which is different and does not show that he ever separated himself from the atrocities with which Andrewes1 and Buckeridge and Ussher were associated.
60. What you say about Universities rising up as a shield against ecclesiastical authority seems a little vague, unless times and circumstances are distinguished. Paris was, for a long time, under the thumb of Rome, and the Pope and his legates played ducks and drakes with Aristotle. Later on, Paris was partly independent of Rome, but was still a great hierarchical instrument. It is the University of Paris that brought Joan of Arc to the stake. Bologna was still more hierarchical, by how much canonists were more absolutist than theologians—a locus communis of ecclesiastical controversy.
6. Certain seed of all human culture—implies very much indeed, somewhat excluding parallel and independent growth, and cases of repression and collision, as well as those in which Christianity was dependent and a borrower.
Zart is scarcely important enough for your purpose to deserve mention twice.
Dear Mr. Gladstone,—
I am very sorry that I cannot get the right figures in answer to your questions. My numbers exceed those of Puttick because I include other departments, which they are not now dealing with. But my estimate falls below theirs for the part of the library on which they reported to you.
Probably English books are not ten per cent. in these divisions, chiefly devoted to France, Italy, Papacy, etc. Taking the entire library into account, and not only Puttick’s first load, I suppose that English History and Literature amount to six or seven thousand volumes.
One of my principles of selection was to avoid books that I was sure to find in every collection in the country.
Light literature would not be a tenth of the English books.
I fear to claim the credit of having a complete or exhaustive collection on any branch of knowledge, though I came near it sometimes, if you take the term exhaustive to mean not what a bibliographer would understand but a wise and sufficient choice.
Greek Classics are, I think, above 1000 volumes—very rich, if not complete, in philosophy and history. But there are no Epigraphics, no Mathematicians, and many medical works are wanting. In Bullaria, I have not the Bullarium Franciscanum; in Jesuitica, I have not their Bohemian history; in the Reformation, I have hardly any books by Bucer.
The whole collection was made with a single view to understanding the public life of the time, and the world I lived in. There are no mere curiosities or fine copies, unless by chance.
The interest that governed one great part was the Church. This is the explanation, not only of the large number of works relative to the Papacy, but especially of the Provincial Histories, which amount to more than seven thousand volumes. The policy of Rome shows itself largely in the Italian towns—and in this department I got the cream of the Libri collection. The Reformation, in the same way, led one to another class of local histories; the wars of Religion and the Revolution to another.
Then there is a vast literature of early Politics, chiefly Latin and Italian, such as Mariana, etc. Besides the Papacy, Local Histories, Reformation, Council of Trent, Thirty Years’ War, Jesuitica, my favourite line was miscellaneous reviews, and Epistolæ Familiares.
Reviews, or Transactions, because they contain no end of matter not transferred to permanent books, and often lost to sight.
Letters, because they give the means of knowing character, as a man is not better than his word, and generally betrays low-water mark in his undraped private correspondence. About two thousand moderns, since Petrarca, may be known and judged in this way. I have, I think, 1600 or 1700 volumes in that division. It does not include such letters as Bolingbroke’s or Chatham’s, because they are English history; nor such as Bacon’s, which are in his Life, nor those which are in the Collected Works, like Burke’s, Descartes’, Bossuet’s, Arnauld’s, Fénelon’s, Lessing’s. So that, in fact, I reckon on 3000 volumes of Letters, instead of 1600, which are in situ. Properly catalogued, this would be more valuable than the Papalia, the Jesuitica, or the Theory of Politics.—I remain, yours most truly,
Cannes,May 23, 1890.
Dear Mr. Gladstone,—
You will not think me ungrateful if I don’t know how to thank you. I did not believe that anything hidden in the future could add to the value and the pride of our long friendship.
I write before I have been able altogether to digest the surprise which your letter gave me, but nothing can add to the gratitude I feel, or take away from it. One day more, here and at Munich, will enable me to leave my present occupation in a condition to wait. Excuse me if I did not start at once. A better head than mine, and a stronger imagination would have failed to see the coming reality. On Wednesday at latest I hope to see you. I will not be so indiscreet as to invade your hospitality. My son, coming up from Oxford, will be with me for a few days in town.
Let me at once beg you to convey to the generous friend whom you do not name, and to convey in terms of your own choosing, this first acknowledgment, that his offer is practically inestimable, and that I am even more grateful for what it implies.—I remain, ever truly yours,
Tegernsee,June 13, 1890.
Dear Mr. Gladstone,—
I was, somehow, never compelled to make my mind up about Women’s Suffrage, unless it is involved in the question of medical degrees, in which I took the side preferred by Cato.
But, for many years, I inclined to favour the change, and Miss Becker, I believe, counted me among her friends. It seemed most probable that the advent of the democracy would, in certain ways, introduce a reign of force, and that the stronger sex would submit to less restraint, in respect to marriage, property, and the like. There was an apparent reason for strengthening the hands of the weak, for making them a power which it was necessary to conciliate, and to consult. This has not proved to be a true calculation. Democracy, in some places, has raised the position of women; in others, it has given them privileges, in criminal law, which would not be scientifically defensible.
In England in the last twenty years, the preponderance of predominant man has not been abused. Women have obtained all sorts of occupations unknown to them formerly, and clearly to the detriment of the male competitor. There has been a vast increase in the sacrifices made, in a general way, for the weaker classes of society; and nothing has become more popular—apart from religious influence—than various kinds of good work, not always approved by Chancellors of the Exchequer, and bearing sometimes the character of a ransom, but decidedly favourable to the self-command, the self-denial, the generous and helpful spirit of the ruling democracy.
Chief surprise of all, the democracy has consented to set bounds to its power, to give up part of the area of authority possessed by the government of the classes. But this has been your personal work, and has not at all the same spontaneous character.
Therefore it now seems to me that there is no higher law deciding the question and that it falls within the computations of expediency. As I believe that the votes of women will be mainly Tory, I do not feel bound, by any superior consideration, to sacrifice the great interest of party.
If it can be shown that the majority of women will probably be Liberal, or that they will divide equally, I should say that the balance is, very slightly, in favour of giving them votes.
You will think my motives sordid; but the sordid element has only been brought to the front by a series of surprises. A few years ago it would not have weighed with me against the necessity I thought I saw of redressing the balance of power in favour of the perpetual victim of man.
Then since 1886 we have to think very seriously of the future of Liberal politics. We lost our majority by proposing to get rid of the Irish members. How should we have recovered it—in Great Britain—if we had succeeded in getting rid of them? And how is Liberalism to govern the Empire when its halo is gone, when no supreme hand represses the fouler elements, and there is nobody to play Hamlet? That is a perplexity for many of us: but I know you can hardly feel how it strikes men aware how much of the Liberal force is concentrated in you. Bertram Currie, by the by, would agree with what I have just said.
I cannot guess whether you will see grounds for attacking the financial basis of Goschen’s proposal; but the proposal itself, free education, will be very difficult to resist, now that it takes a practical shape. But there is so much more to say!—Ever truly yours,
Cannes,April 26, 1891.
MR. GLADSTONE’S RETIREMENT
Dear Mr. Gladstone,—
It is among latent Tories that you will obtain accomplices for the conspiracy to ruin the Liberal party, and nobody is bound to resist it more firmly than I am. But I do not adopt the words which were spoken to Nicole1 when he pleaded for rest:—“N’avezvous pas toute l’Eternité pour vous reposer?” I claim no more than the Quinquennium Neronis—that is, the probable duration of this, your own, Parliament, and perhaps a bittock.
When the next General Election has been fought under your flag, when the nation, which last year called you to power, has pronounced on the fulfilment of its mandate, then you will have earned your deliverance. Till then Puissance oblige. I will not allow all that you have done to blind me to the one thing you have left undone. If you have provided for the succession you have not tied up the estate. While leading Liberals, extravagantes, pursue eccentric paths, the party lacks the organisation and discipline that will secure the future. The remaining measure of Reform which will establish Democracy for good, and can hardly pass in the earlier years of a Parliament, will require all your grasp of principle and detail, your ascendancy in the House, and your power over the country to guide it in that arduous transit. Do not confound the definite and temporary motives for continuing with the general reluctance to lose you, or with disregard for your own wishes.
I know you, or rather I know myself, too well to rely on the efficacy of my arguments. But stronger forces are working on my side, and seeing as I do a distinct though not obvious obligation, and a real though not apparent sacrifice, I persist in my opinion and in my hope.—I remain, yours most truly,
Cannes,Dec. 20, 1881.
My dear Mr. Gladstone,—
I venture these lines, not to give trouble in the midst of labour, but as a stirrup cup before you mount for the North.
After giving Mamy a vision of the good things of England, I tried to redress the balance by taking my second daughter to the Styrian mountains—the country where the little blue Forellen grow—and there, at Aussee, I met Strossmayer, whom I had not seen for fourteen years. He came afterwards to pay us a visit at St. Martin, and we had a talk which lasted the better part of twenty-four hours.
The upshot of his conversation was that he entertains for you the sentiments proper to a Midlothian elector, and his greatest wish is to see you before he dies. He asked me how and where he would find you if he comes over to England next year, and I promised that your direction would be No. 10 Downing Street, until peace and order reign all down the Nile, and until a redistribution of the Electoral Map has so broken the evil-minded back of Toryism that the rest may be left to infra-olympian powers.
He hopes that he will be able to come next year, probably in June, and I have promised to introduce him to you, promising also that you would receive him gladly and with all honour.
Minghetti had announced himself here, and I had nearly persuaded the Bishop to come and meet him, when we learnt that he had to go to Bologna for a political meeting. I am here for a few days, alone with Döllinger.
I ought to add, because he wishes it, and not to tinkle the same bell always, that Strossmayer was very much impressed by Liddon.—I remain, most truly yours,
Tegernsee,August 24, 1884.
My dear Acton,—
Your letter touches me in a tender place, for to have a visible and audible knowledge of Bishop Strossmayer is one of my great unfulfilled yearnings, and though I now begin to feel most averse to journeys, I sometimes wonder whether you would take me, when my neck is once fairly out of the yoke, to see him.
In the meantime, the prospect you hold out of his coming to England is delightful, but the address which you have given him is, as I trust, not to be depended on. I am under no bond to finish the Egyptian question, or that of redistribution: my only bonds are a bond to carry the Franchise Bill or end my official life in the attempt, and a bond in the event of carrying the Franchise Bill to make a serious effort to introduce and carry a measure of redistribution.
Is not this enough? And on what possible ground of equity can you maintain that while in other professions, even in the Government of the Church, there is a desire for an interval between the theatre and the grave, those who follow the profession of all others the most contentious, and “the most immersed” as Bacon truly says “in matter,” are to be denied this breathing time, this space for the exercise, in their case more necessary than in any other, for recollection and detachment? You have never explained this to me, and I am disposed to challenge you.
In the innermost cell of my soul I am inclined to believe that the prolongation of my official life (or my parliamentary life) is of very little consequence to this self-governing country, and that if anywhere it is of more value to the Slavs of the Balkan peninsula and their neighbours north and south than to any one else. But they have now tasted freedom, and like other freemen must defend it.
At this moment I am engaged in the serious but interesting task of setting forth the character of the present crisis to a people whose loyalty to the Liberal cause is equalled by their singular intelligence and the practical side of their understanding. They are no whit below the mark of 1879-80: indeed I think they are even more sensitive and keen.—Believe me, ever sincerely yours,
W. E. Gladstone.
10 Downing Street,Whitehall,
My dear Acton,—
Since I received your kind letter, a heavy blow has fallen upon us in the capture of Khartoum, apparently by betrayal from within. The further announcement of the death of Gordon, in papers of to-day, has not up to this time been officially confirmed. The calamity is, in any case, great. As in the case of Hicks,1 our pacific policy was wholly thwarted, so now our confident hope of summary and conclusive action followed by prompt withdrawal has been dashed, and one of those crises created in which, whatever a Cabinet does, it can hardly be sure of doing right.
Now I turn to the polemical part of your letter. Your argument against letting the outworn hack go to grass depends wholly on a certain proposition, namely this, that there is about to be a crisis in the history of the Constitution growing out of the extension of the franchise, and that it is my duty to do what I can in aiding to steer the ship through the boiling waters of this crisis. My answer is simple. There is no crisis at all in view; there is a process of slow modification and development mainly in directions which I view with misgiving. “Tory democracy,” the favourite idea on that side, is no more like the Conservative party in which I was bred than it is like Liberalism. In fact less. It is demagogism, only a demagogism not ennobled by love and appreciation of liberty; but applied in the worst way, to put down the pacific, law-respecting, economic elements which ennobled the old Conservatism; living upon the fermentation of angry passions, and still in secret as obstinately attached as ever to the evil principle of class-interests. The Liberalism of to-day is better in what I have described as ennobling the old Conservatism; nay, much better, yet far from being good. Its pet idea is what they call construction, that is to say, taking into the hands of the State the business of the individual man. Both the one and the other have much to estrange me, and have had for many many years. But, with all this, there is no crisis. I have even the hope that while the coming change may give undue encouragement to “Construction,” it will be favourable to the economic, pacific, law-regarding elements; and the sense of justice which abides tenaciously in the masses will never knowingly join hands with the Fiend of Jingoism. On the whole, I do not abandon the hope that it may mitigate the chronic distemper, and have not the smallest fear of its bringing about an acute or convulsive action. You have me therefore rooted in my evil mind.
I have begun Mr. Cross,1 whom, I see, you generously helped. His work seems to have been executed with great care. I am as wroth as ever with Mary, and with you, for lifting her2 above Walter Scott (even this, I think, your Titanic audacity has attempted), or putting her on his level, yet I freely own she was a great woman. I have not yet got to the bottom of her ethical history.
I am exceedingly soothed and gratified by the praises from all sides of Dr. King as Bishop. He is, I believe, a saint, like Hamilton,3 and is, they say, much besides; not, however, a great man of business, so the rumour runs.—Ever yours,
W. E. Gladstone.
10 St. James’s Square,
My dear Acton,—
I received at Hawarden your two most interesting and simultaneous letters. Every day I have wished to answer them. But the obstacle has been twofold. I had too much to say as well as too much to do. Since I came to London close and constant attention to the course of business in Parliament has weighed upon me, and especially the necessity of making myself master of the Report issued by the Parnell Commission, a task not serious to many, but serious to one of my age, for whom the memory has become sadly irretentive of recent matter. This was all vented in a very long speech last night, of which I have now no remains except in physical fatigue. So I am in a condition to write to you partially, and one special circumstance prompts me to do it without delay.
Just after Dr. Döllinger’s death a man unknown to me wrote to offer me a portrait of him. I allowed him to send it here for inspection. I have failed to obtain any skilled judgment upon it. It is not an agreeable picture. The costume, white and black over it, does not help to give a pleasant tone. I suppose this dress to be that of Stiftsprobst, and the date to be not long before the excommunication. But besides that it is singularly like, the head appears to me to be painted with a power quite extraordinary. The author quite unknown: not, I think, Lenbach.1 I have given the man fifty pounds for it, and I mean to send it to my new building, as yet only an incipient Library, at Hawarden. But your claim to possess a picture of Dr. Döllinger is infinitely beyond mine, though perhaps you prefer your living inward recollections. But if it should be your wish to step into my place and become its owner, you are most welcome to do so.
Next, I send you herewith a separate copy of a paper I have written in the Nineteenth Century on “Books and the Housing of Them.” You are named in it honoris causa.
I also send you a proof of an article on the Old Testament intended for Good Words. I do not feel at all sure that I have been right in undertaking to yield this testimony, though I feel I have something to say if I can only say it. The determining motive is a promise given eighteen months ago, and from which I should find it hard to get released.
In this paper I have endeavoured to state my relation to the negative criticism. Inwardly I am but a half-believer in it: and I suppose that in its larger developments it is much contested among critics. Nay, even in its smaller ones, as I infer from the opinion of Delitzsch given in his book on the Psalms, about the Deutero-Isaiah. But I am fully conscious that I have no title to appear in the field as a disputant against it. I therefore assume provisionally its results: and try to make my argument independently of them.
There will be a series of papers, with some of which I have made progress.
At Oxford my only drawback was missing many who were absent, and among them I was sadly vexed to count your son. I resumed the habits of pure college life, and found the place more intensely interesting than ever. How much of England’s higher future does Oxford carry in her bosom. I gave an address to a large assembly, chiefly of undergraduates, on the points of contact between Assyriology and the Homeric text, which are, I think, neither few nor unimportant.—Ever yours,
W. E. Gladstone.
Windsor Castle,Thursday night.
Dear Mrs. Drew,—
I know Ponsonby has been put off. Both Empress and Queen at dinner, and the Queen in private, after dinner, spoke of your father’s eyesight.
They asked whether there was not incipient cataract—and the Empress said that did not much matter.
They showed they had no real knowledge of the state of things.
The Queen, alone, showed no greater knowledge, but some anxiety about his sight and hearing.
I answered, not apprehensively, and not with detail: but so as to prepare the Queen for very serious news, on that line. There is no danger, as I see, of their looking farther for other explanations.
The statement that has to be made will fall on prepared ground.—I remain, yours truly,
MR. GLADSTONE’S BIOGRAPHY
Dear Mr. Gladstone,—
The turning of the tide is much more rapid than I thought possible, and I cannot refrain from writing to congratulate you on a change which is almost entirely your own work.
I should be half sorry if it were to snatch you prematurely from the occupations you meant to turn to at Hawarden. For I think often of that American proposal which you spoke of at Grillion’s, and which seems to me full of important consequences.
The influence of your name, your ideas, your career, will be the greatest force sustaining and guiding the Liberal party in the next generation.
How many of those who would otherwise have been its appointed leaders have fallen or drifted away, and of those who have not, there are scarcely three or four who have had a grasp of the principle, and have been independent of the uncertain influence of combinations. Our most valuable possession will be the unity—unity of direction and progress—of your political life. That is a thing not at all apparent on the surface and easily missed by overlooking links that are neither obvious nor generally known.
Of those who have known you and lived near you and had your confidence not one is left who could do justice to the theme, which, besides, is infinitely richer and more varied than this central problem.
The materials will be partly inaccessible, partly unintelligible, to anybody but yourself. There is a terrible abundance of your letters, the correspondence of half a century in unfit hands from which you alone can recover it. And there is much to which no one else has the key.
And this is almost equally true of the religious part of your life, and of the literary, which is only part of the religious.
Lastly, apart from yourself, and from the future of that grand instrument for doing good, the Liberal party, how much other secret history, how much secret biography of eminent men, you hold locked in scrinio pectoris!
So that I heartily wish success to Mr. Putnam—if it is Putnam—so far as may be wished without detriment to the cause which is before us.—I remain, ever yours,
72 Princes Gate,August 16, 1887.
Dear Mr. Gladstone,—
I take advantage of your note of interrogation to revert to a topic on which I do not think you feel as many of your friends do. In regard to your own correspondence, you have been generous to the verge of carelessness. It is scattered all about, serving the biographies—and the purposes—of other men. You are being expended in sixpences, and are acting as a subsidiary to very divergent views and causes. But the cause to be served is your own. Since you have built a Simancas, it ought to be filled with your own archives. Now one great branch of them, the private correspondence with the men most in your confidence, has been allowed to drift.
Sooner or later, almost every public man with whom you were associated went the way of Argyll and Selborne, Hartington and Forster. To all who look on your career as a whole, and as a possession for certain reasons precious to the nation and to the cause, it must seem important that the inner, the intimate and confidential history, should be manifested, explained, and proved by the decisive materials in your own hand.
In the next few years a score of books will be written in the interest of men, at least partially hostile to you. The stronghold of your friends would be such letters as those which were exchanged with Lord Granville. There is not the least security that much of this material will be allowed to serve the proper end.
Please also remember that the principle has been admitted of publishing correspondence between Ministers and the Sovereign.
Certainly, one cannot deprive people, or families, of their property. But one can request to have it communicated to oneself.
I think I have seen an announcement that the energetic editors of your speeches mean to give introductions. I did not mean summaries of the speeches, but of the situation from which they issued. It will make a great difference in their effect.
No, I certainly do not mean that you said what was inaccurate, but that you gave Disraeli what he did not deserve. I should not like to have to make the speech Fox made when Pitt died; but you went so far the other way that you seemed to exclude the higher aspect of political contests.
I hope these hurried lines will find you still enjoying the salutary repose of Hawarden; for I am afraid the next things at Westminster will be trying. One can’t help seeing that that splendid adventurer1 is losing ground by mere force of things, and lapse of time.—Ever most truly yours,
Tegernsee,June 3, 1891.
THE NAVAL ESTIMATES OF 1894
Dear Mrs. Drew,—
Spain is interesting, but less interesting than Biarritz. I was sorry to leave, and should be much more sorry, but that I should have become odious by breaking the law against insisting, repeating, and contradicting, and if I had not frankly spoken my thoughts about what seems to me a tragic and sinister catastrophe.
But I was out of touch when I found that two points were rejected which I imagined to be open to no discussion, one was, that whenever, after three or four years, we get into a quarrel with France, we shall be tempted to seek a refuge with the Triple Alliance, and that temptation will be strong if we are weak, and weak if we are strong, at sea.
The other point is still practically important, that is, the difficulty of giving to the Queen an explanation different from that which the whole country will know to be the true one. For myself I can conceive none that will not strain, to the utmost, fidelity to the Party. Assuming that difficulty disposed of, this consideration remains:—The colleagues to whom the shock will be most severe are those most intimately associated with him, and who have cared most and done most for the hopes and beliefs and aims that are to be shattered. It will make a serious difference to them, and to those hereafter who through their eyes will contemplate the history of the country, and of the Party, which is the country in the higher power, if that which is to be done is done with an endeavour to diminish the inevitable injury.
At this moment, the absence from England, and the consequent want of confidential intercourse, with the difficulty of consultation in common, make the position much more awkward and uncomfortable than it would be if he were at home in good time. Business must go on at once when Parliament meets again, without any delay; and the interval allowed for Windsor and for the settlement of the new Cabinet is an almost impossible one. Nothing concerns your father so nearly as this, that no dangers should be put in their way, by act or omission of his, which he could have avoided. And the more the breach is accentuated by him, the more difficult it will be to preserve the Irish alliance.
I hope to be back for some hours on Thursday afternoon, or on Friday morning at latest.—Meantime, I remain, yours most truly,
Jan. 30, 1894.
Dear Mrs. Drew,—
I am keeping back my Memorandum because they cannot find an obvious paper at the Admiralty. Nobody seems yet to have inquired how France stood, as compared to England, in 1859.
About one thing which was doubtful in my eyes I now see my way. There is absolutely no exception to the unanimity with which his conduct is deplored, by all who know what is going on. What interests me more is that all the colleagues are unanimous in hoping that he will not repudiate them.
When I arrived, I was not quite sure about this.—I remain, yours most truly,
Let me deal first with a preliminary obstacle:—
When I urged, that naval armaments relatively weaker will, in the event of our being bullied by France, carry us full sail into the Triple Alliance, whereas a force sufficient to abolish the possibility of attack can alone secure a disentangled and independent policy of our own, and is therefore the best economy, I observed that the argument obtained no attention. When I left for Madrid you summed up my case, but did not notice this part of it. You showed me that you were open to new impressions as to opinion in Alsace, and the consequent French case for war. In the course of other, desultory, conversations at Biarritz I was confronted by the proposition that the Triple Alliance would in fact be our refuge, and that we eventually count upon it. It occurred to my mind that this view of the future, which I had associated with the Tories, may possibly be your own, and that your last word would be for alliances, not for detachment and impartial benevolence. If that is the case, it cuts the ground from under me. The point of deviation lies deeper than I can reach, and you ought not to be plagued with the rest of this statement. Otherwise, I proceed as follows to answer your several points:—
1. The demand exceeds national expectation. It would be essential to examine closely the source from which you derive this assurance. Nothing that I can learn confirms it; but of course I have had no means of pursuing that difficult sort of enquiry. Within the last week John Morley has written to two friends in the opposite sense. I have seen them both. He says that the tide is setting strongly against your view, that he has never held out any hope to the contrary, and that, if you are unconvinced upon that question of fact, it is by no fault of his. There has been no opportunity of speaking with Ripon, but on that question of public expectation, I learn that he is entirely in agreement with Morley.
The same information reaches me from the whole Cabinet, with one doubtful exception. In all this there is no question of persons. But I cite Ripon and Morley because I am sure that, in the case of each, you were tempted to make too little allowance for the difficulty men sometimes have in opposing a strong and vehement and declared determination, and for their reluctance and delicacy in adding, needlessly and unprofitably, to the pain of a tremendous rupture. I am even warranted in saying that, of all your friends, Morley is the one who has felt the shock of your action most deeply; but I give no prominence to this, not having it under his own hand.
2. Contrary to precedent, to the best tradition, inconsistent with your own constant policy, great and sudden increase of expenditure on armaments is a thing that has been done twice within my memory and before my eyes; twice by yourself, each time with an eye to France alone, with no other complication.
In 1860 nothing was urged by Palmerston in behalf of his fortifications but the danger from France. In 1859, the Admiralty spoke vaguely of Russia, but the real consideration was the rapid triumph over Austria, and the state of the French fleet.
That fleet was not then so near an equality with our own as it is to-day—I need not therefore speak of two years hence.
Having nothing to deal with but France alone, France relatively less formidable—at sea—than now, in the first month of office, you raised the Income Tax by fourpence, indeed, for one half-year, by eightpence.
The pressure of that tax was greater than now—the rich were only half as rich; the poor were only partially exempt.
The Government of that day adopted Cobden’s maxim—uttered in July 1859—that we ought to be always one-third stronger than the French at sea. We do not at present possess that superiority. The official figures are 22 to 15 first class line-of-battle ships. Fifty-nine to forty-four including all three classes. I restrict the parallel of 1860 to one point: fortifications at home are not directly aggressive; and besides you made it clear that you were averse to the measure. That is my point. That is your precedent for expenditure to which you assent reluctantly, but to which, contemplating all consequences, you do nevertheless assent. The consequences of refusal to-day are infinitely more serious to the country, to the party which is the better part of the country, and to the chief who is the best of the party.
I learn, from one of the Ministers whom I have not seen, that he understands that you would accept an increase on the Navy Estimates of £2,250,000. If that is true, your maximum is only three-quarters of a million below their minimum. Let me remind you that you said to me, therefore to yourself, that it is a question of degree which amounts to a question of principle like the difference between a pint of wine and six bottles. You would hardly maintain that proportion if you considered that all the impending ruin, the suicide after the manner of Samson, depends upon a rise of a farthing and a half Income Tax.
This I cannot urge, because I know not the truth of the report that reached me.
But I do urge what you did in 1859, at once, at the end of the session, on coming into office, as against danger from France alone—danger which, up to your Commercial Treaty, you yourself believed to be very real—with no other European, Asiatic, or American complication but that which consisted in the sinister ambition of victorious France.
3. It leads to unjust taxation. This point is met by what precedes, especially the change in the incidence and burden of the Tax. And I assume that there is no other resource than taxation, although I am not sure.
4. Government would capitulate to the Profession. No; for the plan of the Cabinet is not the plan of the Admirals.
The estimate of cost is less than the minimum of the Naval Lords by £3,992,000. Less than their maximum by £7,942,000. Spencer assures me that the whole sum that would be spent on the New Programme in the course of next year, 1894-5, would be about £1,300,000.
5. It would promote Militarism. Far less than what you did formerly. The proportion which our increase bears to the continental armaments is imperceptible now. It was something in 1859-60. The world is in arms already, and that depends on causes we cannot influence. A fleet with an army is an instrument of militarism. A fleet without an army is not.
6. Evils inherent in the plan, not in resistance to it. Ireland and the Liberal cause are in peril from resistance, not from the plan.
Let me end by saying that although I am as mad and as drunk as the rest, it is not from national pride or ambition. All that ministers to those feelings I admit to be a sin, and wars of conquest and aggrandisement are literally no better in my eyes than murder.
With that belief I hold as firmly as I ever held any view in practical politics that you have been proceeding on a misconception of the present facts and motives, and of the issues in the future, and I feel bound to say it.
London,January 31, 1894.
Athenæum,February 5, 1894.
Dear Mrs. Drew,—
I can further confirm what I wrote on Saturday as to the reception of West’s despatch.1 The terms of it would make a sudden and immediate change of front very difficult. The difficulty is much increased by the manner in which it has been generally understood and accepted by the country.
No doubt it is more pleasant to yield to your father than to resist him, and West had got to feel impatient of the strain before I left. He has nearly convinced the colleagues that the breach is irreparable, and they are in despair.
My figures were authentic. They were even official, and there were no other figures before me. I have enquired to-day, and they are confirmed. Your father has a return which includes only ships afloat, and omits those that are building.
My comparison between the First Lord and the Naval Lords was equally authentic and equally official.
Our figures do not differ. Discussing the point of submission to professional opinion, it was requisite to compare the schemes in full; and for that purpose the expenditure of the year was not the only matter at issue. I should have stated the case incompletely if I had confined myself to that.
I fancy your father conceives that I employ the example of 1860 to the same effect as that of 1859. The example of 1860 is valuable not because he then assented to armaments against France, but because he showed that his assent was reluctant. I think he not only avoided bringing in the measure himself, but remained silent during the debate.
It does not appear why he objects to the proposition that, in 1859, he increased the Income Tax for the purpose of defence against the French. But if he knows that there is no precedent, and even insists on the word, it may be better not to pursue the point. He probably means that the French were nearer an equality with us. I have not been able to see the report which the then First Lord laid before the new Cabinet.
It is weak to show no disposition to concede a point; but as I am writing to you and not your father, I may say that the figures of 1859, which are believed to be correct, but are not official, exhibit a greater numerical superiority on our part than we now possess.
This is a matter which has to go through some very careful treatment before figures can appear which would not mislead the public. There is the question of taking only ships afloat, or also ships in construction: only First Class, or all three classes. I make out that your father prefers First Class ships exclusively for purposes of comparison. If he has before him, or in his memory, the returns on which the Cabinet founded its policy in 1859, it may be that he knows more than they do at the Admiralty, where that document seems to be unknown.
As he says it is like catching me tripping in my history. I hope you will not let him understand that I professed to have caught him tripping, or had any figures of his before me. I had only some rather general propositions, which I tried to test by figures. I wonder where he thinks that I got these.
I see you lay some stress on West’s last journey to England, as if you thought that some of the Cabinet believed that there is but one way out of the crisis, and were ready to face it. Certainly, at first, the blow was a severe one, and some may have wavered. I can perceive no sign of such wavering now—nothing but entire fidelity on their part and feelings of profound depression.
Returning, for more clearness, to top of page 2: You understand that, to prove the reasonableness of the scheme for which your father’s approval was asked, the main point would be this year’s expenditure. But to meet his point, the yielding to professional influence, it would have been unfair not to take entire schemes. The difference between the two might be quite disguised in the Budget of the present year.
I was sorry to see your excellent account of him only in the Westminster.—Believe us, yours most truly,
ANGLICAN ORDERS AND REUNION
Dear Mr. Gladstone.—
I thank you heartily for your great kindness in allowing me to see these very confidential papers, and am sorry that urgent pressure of local work made me so slow in mastering, and considering, and returning them.
The forces of resistance are great, for obvious reasons of ecclesiastical policy. A doubt as to the validity of orders sometimes disturbs men and impels them towards Rome, who otherwise have no inclination that way, and are beyond the reach of usual Romanising influences.
Then, the practice of Rome has been so constant that there is a powerful motive to dissimulate centuries of error.
I can hardly imagine a congregation strong enough to renounce and censure so many previous authorities. Any man who resolved to do it would be more conscientious than those concerned in such decisions can be expected, on the average, to be. The Pope himself, and those concerned in his renown, might have personal reasons to act independently of the past.
Duchesne, who is one of the most learned men in the world, has gone much out of his way to commit himself, declaring that Rome will gradually be obliged to conquer its prejudices.
I could imagine, and almost hope, that you might see your way to a letter to the Archbishop, to be enclosed in a cover of ceremony to Rome.
I rather dread his appearance in the discussion, as his quotation from St. Augustine is what, in our academic language, we should call an ancient howler. If you do take any step, let it be without sanguine hopes, and with the likely consequences of failure distinct before you.—Ever yours,
Athenæum Club,Pall Mall,June 28th.
My dear Mr. Gladstone,—
It is satisfactory to find that Rhossis1 goes farther than the late Archbishop, whose letter you showed me, inasmuch as he admits the early Councils as a basis rather than a limit, and allows for later developments. Many of these are common to East and West, and tests and canons could be found. You no doubt know that the seven ancient Councils were all that the Latin Church recognised until after the Reformation. Some speak of Florence as the eighth, others of Trent. But a broad distinction was made, until about 1560, between the ancient and the mediæval Councils. The fusion was not completed till Bellarmine wrote, about 1585, but it began earlier. Questions of ritual cannot be settled in that way, but Rhossis states the very same principle as the Bonn Conferences. Bramhall, I think, would have gone with him.
Taking the actual declarations of the old Catholics, I should think the prelates of the Eastern Church could join in consecrating them, and that would certainly be a great step towards union.
As to this country, I should fancy that very little could be done with the State Church, and the theological bias of the Irish Church makes it unavailable. But like the enemy of the Universalists,2 I look for better things.
I should like to know Mivart’s3 inner views on two or three questions, and I feel sure they would put him out of all serious religion or would range him among the adversaries of the Papacy.—I remain, ever yours,
Hawarden,Oct. 16, ’76.
My dear Lord Acton,—
I think you will read with interest the enclosed letter from Bishop Strossmayer. I am sorry to say I cannot make out the German character, and have been obliged to have it not very perfectly copied out. What do you think of my asking him to allow it, minus the complimentary introduction and epilogue, to be translated and published? And if he agreed, would you translate it?
I am going to put into the Contemporary a notice of Schuyler’s1Turkistan, which I am reading carefully for the purpose. His testimony concerning the Russians has been shamefully misrepresented by the Turkish press of London, at least by the Pall Mall Gazette.
It was an act of some self-denial on my part, when writing on the Eastern question, to abstain from all notice of the conduct of the Court of Rome respecting it. I urged Mr. de Lisle to stir up Manning to do something at least for decency’s sake in that quarter, and he tried hard, but of course without effect.
I am sure you will rejoice with me that Russia has blown up the six months’ Armistice. It is grievous to think that England is at this moment, in opposition to the sense of the nation, the grand tool of Turkey in the Councils of Europe, and the Metropolitan Press covers all with a cloud of dust raised by stirring anew the old Russophobia. Unfortunately foreigners think the press of the Metropolis is the press of England.—Ever sincerely yours,
W. E. Gladstone.
My dear Mr. Gladstone,—
I cannot refrain from writing to congratulate you on your Edinburgh discourse, more particularly as I have to congratulate myself on my appearance in so noble a performance. Ever since you spoke to me, early in July, of the subject you had chosen to occupy the leisure of the recess, I have indulged expectations which the result has more than amply justified.
It is surprising that so good a scholar as the author, I suppose, of the articles on your speech in the Times, should prove himself so deficient in historical judgment. The intellectual preparation of the world for the teaching of Christ is as specially and exclusively the work of the Hellenic race as the political preparation for the establishment of the Church is the distinctive work of the Romans. Other races may have had their own several educating and predisposing influences. The Teutons in particular had a remarkable prophetic element in their theology which announced its own temporary character and the coming of another system of Gods. But many things contributed to help portions of mankind to receive Christianity without helping them to act upon it.
Still I think there is a difference between the light in which I should look on the theology of pagan Greece and the view which predominates in your mind. I would admit with you the gradual decay of the moral action of their belief, but I assert, in compensation, an upward progress of thought and reason, from Heraclitus to M. Aurelius. It appears to me a deficiency in the work of Döllinger, and indeed in all literature so far as I know, that no attempt has been made to measure the approach of heathen speculation to the threshold of Christianity, and to define the extent and manner in which its ideas had been anticipated. Yet this seems to me a necessary preliminary before estimating the character and office of the Christian religion, and one of the most important problems in the philosophy of history. I dedicated the leisure moments of my honeymoon to this enquiry, and I hope in time to make something of it which will be less unworthy of your notice than my paper on the theory of human sacrifice. Alexandrian philosophers are not quite as pleasant reading as Ionic or Attic poets. But I am not without hope that Plato would bring our views into closer harmony.
10 St. James’s Square,Ju. 26, 1890.
My dear Acton,—
One line to remind you that you are bound by all that man holds dear to take up your abode here on your return from Oxford, inasmuch as you have now departed from the shadow of the Granville roof.—Ever yours,
W. E. G.
You put to me a penetrating question about my funeral speech on Disraeli in 1881. Never was there a more singular irony of fate than when I was called upon to perform that office for two men only, and those two Disraeli and Palmerston. I made it my purpose to say nothing of them but what was in my belief true. Of course, I did not draw a portrait even of Palmerston, much less of the other. Do you think that I said anything which was not true in itself? Nothing could excuse that. I am not sure what you mean by the “summaries” of the speeches.
The question of women must stand over. It is very large, a net cast very wide.
I shall hope to hear soon what are your plans and intentions. At present, I suppose, I am right in addressing to Cannes, although I fear you must be choked with dust. We do not expect to be settled in town again for ten days.—Ever yours,
W. E. Gladstone.
Parker’s Peel, vol. i., seems to me loyally, carefully, and well done, except that he largely suppresses and belies his own character of the present day, being indeed a very queer one, though a good fellow outside of politics.
Dear Mr. Gladstone,—
Reusch has just published an important volume of Döllinger’s Kleinere Schriften, some of which were unpublished hitherto. Another volume of Vorträge will exhaust his work.
A highly influential nucleus of people, connected with the Academy, University, city, etc., are beginning to prepare the way for a monument. I thought it my duty to say that, if the matter is carried out by the proper persons, it would be their duty to communicate with you.
As I have begun my letter with the things for which I owe you thanks, this is the place to speak of All Souls, where, thanks to your favour, I have found unexpected welcome. I was in some difficulty. King’s was offering me a fellowship at the same time; also a famous college at Oxford; but the latter with the avowed intent of getting me to reside sometimes, and mix with the men. All this has flattered me unduly, as both universities refused me as an Undergrad.: I cannot say how much I should like to enjoy my privileges together with you, and while Dick is up.
I am particularly glad to know that you will write on Milnes. I found it unexpectedly difficult—the grotesque kept getting uppermost. But I owed him a great deal of kindness from early times; and I was anxious to serve Reid. My best service has been to send him longish lists of mistakes, for his private use. I only knew from the letters in the two volumes that you knew each other so well so long ago. I have very much understated the degree of his political estrangement from you, since the Bulgarian affair.
The Parnell case seemed doubtful to me at first, because the Eleventh Commandment ought not to supersede the others, and because attacks on private character ought to be kept out of politics. But it will not do to act as if the moral question was not the supreme question in public life, and, in a sense, the vera causa of party conflict. His remaining would be a source of evident weakness to the party, to the alliance, and an excuse for desertion, in time to come. I cannot quite gauge the talent and authority of Dillon; but I have had some talk with him privately, and seldom met a better man. Of course, a change of leader will also be a weakness for the moment. From your letter I incline to gather that you have not expressed an opinion, but that it will be in favour of change if you have to advise.—I remain, ever truly, yours,
Munich,Nov. 21, 1890.
Hawarden,Aug. 16, 1891.
My dear Acton,—
I have to thank you also for the Machiavelli sent by Frowde. What a marvellous, what a terrible—I almost add what a detestable—array of authorities you produce. Against such pricks as these I must kick a little. I affirm the identity of all moral laws, though I admit they apply with variations to different subject matters. Evidently there is no agency which in the case of the State has the same right to make what are termed sacrifices, as the Ego may for himself. The greatest of moral paradoxes known to me are those which touch truth—but these occur in private life as much or more than in public. I won’t admit politics to be so bad as all these bigwigs make them, or they could not attract and hold two such men as Frederick Cavendish and the last Dalhousie, two men whose minds were in political action of a truly angelic purity.
We are much pleased with the Elections: and Walsall, if it does not greatly add, is very far from taking away. Would God it were all over for me. The significance of the cry that Home Rule is extinct=0.—Ever yours,
W. E. Gladstone.
Dear Mr. Gladstone,—
I hope you will listen seriously to the counsels of wisdom:—
Do not start off, announcing that you are going to Italy. You will not be quiet for a day there, if you are expected. But announce that you are going to spend a few weeks along the sunny Riviera.
Begin by coming here. It is on the way to Italy. It is a better climate—at this time of year—than the Italian, unless in places uncontaminated by Civilisation. Spend a few tranquil weeks near us at Cannes, with no end of pleasant books, and nobody to speak to but Dom Pedro1 and Charles Murray. There will be few people here until Christmas; and there are perhaps a few of our friends whom you would find socially agreeable. But there is no beau monde at this early season.
I will look out for a comfortable apartment neither high up nor facing the sea, like Château Scott, where I hope Mrs. Gladstone will not be disturbed. There is plenty of room everywhere, for another month.
When you have felt the benefit of this air, and have had enough of our company, and roamed enough about our neighbourhood, then make no announcement, but take the afternoon train and lunch next day at Rome. Going incognito unproclaimed, you would have a few quiet days. If I could be useful, I would take the opportunity of going as battes Frada.1 But Mamy has discovered a way of making me useful, at balls, and would not give me a long holiday. Of course your visit to Rome would end by certain interviews and audiences which would not be uninteresting, near fifty years after you met Macaulay there. But you could cut it short, by going off to Naples, Monte Cassino, or Florence. Only don’t believe in that story of Amalfi. There is no road to the hotel. There are no Christian comforts and no modern supplies.
Unintelligent, unstimulating solitude can be found here much better, in conjunction with butcher’s meat and clean linen.
Cannes is the only way to Italy for a traveller who wishes for a quiet journey. It would be a pied-à-terre, as nearly as we can make it, a home, from which to prepare ulterior measures at pleasure. The point that you cannot know, that I want to superadd to your impressions, is that there is more room than company until the end of December here. To go to Italy avowedly, at this moment, would be a public affair—apart from the very black cloud which is threatening Europe from San Remo.2 Take notice that Cannes prejudices nothing in any ultimate Italian scheme. It is only a first stage, and a very salutary one. You cannot be long in Italy without effort, fatigue, wear and tear. We don’t know of such things.
Of course I feel as strongly as yourself the magic of Italian memories in the Lebensabendstimmung. And I shall say not a word against the Italian trip.
But I should strongly advise putting it off until a real solid interval of health-giving repose has been taken in here. For I fancy you will give yourself at least six weeks’ rest, coming out next week. Telegraph to me that you expect to arrive such a day, and I shall have all things ready. Leaving London about half-past ten in the morning you will be here about one, next afternoon.
I have not left myself room to speak of the loss of our excellent, generous, kind-hearted friend, whom too many things here remind me of.—Believe me, yours most truly,
61 Princes Gate,June 21st.1
My dear Mr. Gladstone,—
There is nothing that a hostile critic can detect, except that every page bears your signature in legible characters. It will be, in almost all eyes, a most satisfactory estimate of Macaulay’s faculties, and everybody will understand him better for reading it.
I am not so sure as you are of his perfect honesty. There is not that vigilant suspiciousness of his own weakness, that look out for temptation, that betoken honesty. The same conduct, the same qualities, become different things according to the men. He never starts except for the end in view. His hook and bait will only catch a particular fish,—there is no vague cast of the net. I transpose the position, and fancy a man equally convinced of some other truths, which are deeper, more divine, more beneficent, more pure, than the convictions that filled and moved his mind, defending them with the same blinkers on, with the same narrowness and acrimony—and I should say that those are not the fruits of true and sincere convictions, that it is not the worship of the true God. Fancy More, or Laud, or Burke glorified as he glorifies Milton or William III. You would feel that the friend, who might be worshipping at your own altar, had not purified his soul adequately.
I often suspect that the dread of having his “circles” disturbed, of being compelled to revise assumptions or postulates, and to dig for a new bottom, make him overlook or omit necessary things.
You make a very just remark, that he was afraid of contradicting his former self, and remembered all he had written since 1825. At that time his mind was formed and so it remained.
What literary influences acted on the formation of his political opinions, what were his religious sympathies, and what is his exact place among historians, you have rather avoided discussing. There is still something to say on these points. The want of an estimate of his merits as the historian of the Revolution is nearest to a defect in your review. And you have hardly said enough of the crude bumptiousness of his remarks on St. Augustine, or Gieseler, on his being born to demolish the Germans, whom he could not yet read, of his defiance of those who said that he made no sufficient study of foreign history, especially of French books which would have helped him much, of his notion that his articles on Frederic and Barrère were fit to be joined with those on Chatham and William Pitt.
I would also say, he is dishonest by display; of the Reformation he knew almost nothing, yet he so pillaged Ranke as to make believe that he was a rival authority on that age.
Then, how materialistic is his mind, his imagination especially. A description of the English mind towards 1680, of the knowledge, ideas, mental habits of the people would have helped us to understand the Revolution and its place in history better than all he says about currency and trade, postboys and highwaymen. An account of even our criminal law alone, a thing he understood so well, would have explained the age admirably.
All which does not prevent me from thinking him one of the greatest of historians, and I am delighted with your criticism of him as a writer of English. In description, not in narrative, I think he is quite the first of all writers of history.
But the long and the short of it is that I like the whole of your article exceedingly and the first half best.—I remain, yours very truly,
Dear Mr. Gladstone,—
I ought not to trouble you with Recess topics at this busy moment, especially as I have not seen the Life of Hope Scott1 yet. Only let me thank you for your letter, and for remembering how much the subject of it would interest me.
It strikes me very strongly that we seem to remember two different men. Common to both are the charm of manner, a noble and amiable disposition, quick intelligence, and a certain superiority. But I do not quite recognise a man capable of attracting and influencing you so deeply in the indifferent, languid, self-contained Hope that I knew from 1851 to 1864, who showed no care to strive for any higher or more distant aims than those of daily life, and whose power of purely disinterested mental work was gone. Although I was only seventeen and came to him with a good deal of ardour and reliance, I do not call to mind that I gathered anything, but the pleasure of good fellowship from his influence and contact. I am condemning myself in your estimation; but if there had been anything fruitful and original in his view of the system he had adopted with the immense advantage of having grown up outside and of having entered with full knowledge, I do honestly think that I should have got at, and have been grateful for it. There is even something to deduct from the pleasantness of tone, at the time when I knew him best, between 1851 and 1860, and lived much with him and Badeley. He was so much addicted to chaffing and bad jokes, that people were not impressed with his good nature.
I do not think I am confounding the impression of different times when I say this. But there is no doubt that, when the Roman question came to the front, he took a further step in religious change, and became an Ultramontane. We hardly ever met during the last ten years of his life, partly perhaps because Norfolk House was uncongenial. Ormsby has a perfect right to claim Hope, as much as Newman himself, for an adherent of papal views. Probably both went over reluctantly, as Falkland did to Charles: but there is no real difference between reluctance and enthusiasm when once the ethical objection is surmounted.
I have found the expedition of your ecstatic madman1 a famous opportunity for striking the imagination of my children with the facts of the day.—Believe me, yours most truly,
La Madeleine,Feb. 9.
Dear Mrs. Drew,—
You must tell me later on, when the date is nearer, whether a visit would do after the middle of June. I can well imagine that your father may not think it right to promote my writing, before I have seen the Windsor papers, and know the worst. In that case, I could still manage to get the thing well done, by asking Bryce to do it. I have fixed Edmond Fitzmaurice with the Lansdowne papers, for 1846-1859; and I thought of Bryce for the chapter 1859-1874. But the other would be more important, giving the moral of our twelve volumes.
Lord Acton on Paper respecting Authority1
Thomas’s Hotel,Berkeley Square,
(36) You say without qualification that Lewis proceeded to show that the rule of Vincent is inapplicable. It does not appear that you lay stress on the word literal application—you are too indulgent to an argument which is very far from strong, and comes from a man who never grasped the notion of continuity and fancies that all reformed Churches reject it. Lewis’s statement both of Catholic and Protestant doctrine is so hazy that your indulgence towards him goes much farther than he deserves.
In stating his 3 conclusions (36) you draw a distinction to the disadvantage of the 3rd, but none to the advantage of the first. But the consensus of antiquity that supports Theism adds something to the force of conclusion 1.
(37) The paragraph where you allude to this—“Regarded historically, etc.”—might, I fancy, be stronger or clearer. The Revelations which preceded Christianity are made to supply Christianity with a special treasure. One might object that it was, on that account, not their special treasure; or at least that the word therefore is not quite explained by what goes before it.
Touching Pecock2 : the word Sacramentum was used in mediæval divinity in a much wider sense than now. Hugo Victorinus, for instance, uses it in the title of a book which does not deal with Sacraments in our sense. In the 12th century the number 7 was reached by a process of restriction as much as by a process of increase, in another sense. Also, 2 and 7 are not the only alternatives admitted by modern divines.
(38) In spite of your Caveat, I think you incline to underrate the value and elevation of pre-Christian Ethics. The image of the downward course of paganism is so much more strongly impressed on your mind than that of its upward course, that I fancy you hardly appreciate such an achievement as the Ethics of Seneca, Epictetus, and, from another quarter, Philo, wrought by men who had not the example of Christ’s life before them.
From that point of view I suspect that your argument that a religion is tested by its effects on morality, might give rise to much controversy. If by morality you mean the lives of men, modern society has not much to boast of, compared, for instance, with the practical morality of the Essenes. If you mean the doctrines of men, it would be very difficult indeed to show that the interval between the Ethics of Seneca and the Ethics of S. Ambrose could never have been bridged over by the progress and combination of Stoic, Alexandrian, and Chinese morality, as they stood, apart from the Gospel.
An opponent might say that many influences besides Christ’s teaching contribute to the moral enlightenment of the present world; that Christianity at first, in its outward purity, in its early writers, stood less high in some points than we do, and was not all progress over that which went before it; and that, taking the action of the Church, at times, apart from other influences, it has not always promoted a lofty ideal of duty.
(41) In Newman’s account of his life there is a passage vigorously and aptly confirming what you say about the duty of remaining where one is.
To Mary Gladstone
Dear Miss Gladstone,1 —
Knowing what I know, I was much struck last night by a conversation at Grillion’s between Kimberley, Forster, and others on the defeat of last Monday. They seemed not to have heard more than everybody; and I ask myself whether the truth has reached the proper quarter.
The defeat was prepared by the Birmingham wirepullers to evade the impending collision between the two wings of the Government; and they induced their people to stay away and bring the Tories in for a time.
If you do not know or believe this, let me say that I have it on the best Birmingham authority1 ; and I intreat you to tell the P. M. straight away and without consulting anybody.
For reasons which, I assure you, are sufficient.
The transaction is not perfectly clear and limpid in the eyes of all men. The more the Whips defend themselves, and individual members justify their absence, the more a doubt arises as to the action and design of the P. M. himself, in refusing to adjourn the debate; as the critical difficulties of the moment are—in part—notorious, and also the zeal of several colleagues to get out of it. In my opinion this circumstance makes it difficult to persist, through thick and thin, if Salisbury breaks down and asks the late Government to resume office.
That he may do so seems likely from the rumour of an intended compact, and also from the manifest want of cohesion in the Conservative party yesterday.
Therefore, if power comes back to your father, he would, in accepting it, defeat an intrigue among his own followers at the same time that he would sweep away the appearance of having ridden for a fall.
And considering the contradictory elements composing the majority, I am persuaded that this would be the more patriotic course.
This is only the complement of what I have said before. I am tempted to insist because of the fact mentioned above, and also because May, the most central of men, and G. Russell, the most intelligent of the Whigs, agree with me.—Yours most truly,
Princes Gate,June 16, 1885.
To the Right Hon. Herbert Gladstone
My dear Herbert Gladstone,—
I don’t know whether your father is to be congratulated upon either of the two events1 which make these days memorable—and I will not molest him. Turning to you—in your political capacity—I ought to tell you how much Bryce struck me, out here, by the knowledge and courage he brought to bear on the Irish question. You know it too, of course, as he tells me that you have conferred more or less confidentially, and I daresay he has discussed a Knowlesian article with you. I know nobody so thorough-going, to say nothing of his great American information. As he has a safe seat I am sure he may be very useful to the new Government. As I found Lefevre ready to go all lengths, I intreated him to write to your father and give him needed assurances of hearty support. If he has not done so from a grievous lack of familiarity, as well as from more grievous lack of a seat, let me bear my astonished testimony.—With all good and best wishes, ever yours,
Cannes,January 30, 1886.
11 Hesketh Crescent,Torquay,
My dear Mr. Gladstone,—
It is probably impossible to test Gordon’s references. Some of them may not have found their way into literature, but possess only an administrative existence. They might therefore be unknown to Döllinger. The best chance of finding out something would be in Schulte’s Eherecht; in Dove’s new edition of Richter’s Kirchenrecht; and in Friedberg’s Recht der Eheschliessung. But I would not dispute these detailed facts on the strength of a general statement of Döllinger’s.
It will not do to press the point too far as a practical question. I don’t think that Protestant marriages are renewed in case of conversion, although on the ground of the uncertainty of baptism in England they ought in consistency to be. I rather think the best thing will be to insist on the particular instance.
In the very unlikely extremity of my having to send to Princess Wittgenstein I think I would try to reach her through her nephew Hohenlohe, the Ambassador at Paris.
No fault could well be found with your description of Newman.1 I myself remember calling him, in a speech which I made to Kenealy’s2 constituents, the greatest man our Church had had in England since the Reformation. I should only hesitate about the comparison between his earlier and his later books, I think—if you add his Justification—that it is quite true. But it has been pointed out before, as I can well remember, and would seem to him a confirmation of Döllinger’s share in your writings.
Oxenham, though not a discreet man, is a most pungent and persistent fault-finder, and therefore an excellent critic of unpublished proofs. I am glad he is to look through yours.
It was too late yesterday to answer your letter. I presume you will be out early in the week.
We have found north-east winds and sleet at Torquay.—I remain, ever yours truly,
MADAME DE STAËL
Dear Lady Blennerhassett,—
The Marquise tells us that you have written or are writing on Mme. de Staël for the Rundschau, and that your opinion of her is very favourable.
It is very unlikely that I can tell you anything you do not know about her or have not fully considered, and I only use the opportunity as a pretext to recall myself to your memory.
There are several interesting problems for you to settle. Did she add to the store of political ideas bequeathed to her generation by Montesquieu, Rousseau, Turgot, Smith, and the Americans? Her friends or neighbours, Constant, Dumont, Sismondi, were real pioneers. She surpassed them immeasurably in literary quality; did she equal them in originality?
How does she stand to the Doctrinaires? The systems are closely allied, and the persons were mostly her friends. But I fancy there is a real distinction; and Guizot must have hated Constant for something more than his levity.
Then, did she come round to Napoleon in 1815 as Constant did, and Sismondi? The book about her and the Duchess of Weimar denies it.1 I think I have seen evidence on the other side; and the question whether she was right is open still to a good deal of discussion. . . .—I remain, yours most sincerely,
La Madeleine,March 15, 1883.
La Madeleine,Jan. 31  (?).
Dear Lady Blennerhassett,—
The strong evidence of handwriting justifies me, I hope, in thanking you for the Rundschau article,2 which we have all read, or are reading, with deep interest, and with otherwise mingled feelings. I have written to Gladstone to draw his attention to it, and hope you have sent him a copy. He will read it, in spite of his dislike for everything German. Perhaps he will even understand it.
I greatly wonder what impression it will make on the Professor. But I have lost the key to his mind, and find myself in outer and increasing darkness. And I often ask myself the question whether, with your penetration, you have not got beyond the difficulty which is disabling me for all useful and definite work. . . .
If the Professor is shocked at the appointment of Temple to the see of London, please tell him that I did my best to get Liddon appointed, that it was, for good reasons, impracticable, but that Gladstone consented to offer him either Lincoln or Exeter, and writes: “It is solely due to his own very strong unwillingness, amounting to negation, that I have not submitted his name to the Queen, backed by high ecclesiastical authority. So that he has really received a great recognition.” The underline is Gladstone’s own, and means Canterbury.3
King, who gets the mitre, is professor of pastoral theology, next to Liddon the greatest High Church influence at Christ Church, but quite without his magic power as allumeur des âmes.— . . . Believe me, most sincerely yours,
La Madeleine,April 22 .1
Dear Lady Blennerhassett,—
Your book is quite excellent. I resolved to telegraph, ganz famos, this morning. But measles have broken out among us, and I have to shut myself up in a sickroom. So it is under difficulties, and with less help from books of reference than I needed, that I have gone through the first half volume. It only reached us yesterday afternoon, just before our last ball, which only just preceded our domestic trouble.
Nothing can be more spirited and rapid, or in better taste, or more full of instruction and judgment. The vast mass of facts are carried along with perfect mastery and never overlie life and idea. Everything is distinct, and one never loses hold of the pattern in the number of threads.
The things I have ventured to note, partly misprints, partly mere differences of opinion which are only worth mentioning because they may occur to other people, may possibly be of some use to you for Errata at the volume’s end, or for the translations. All that is matter of detail. The thing critics will object to is the diffuseness, not in any part, but in the whole Anlage. There is a good deal that does not bear directly on the subject, but on the milieu and every man will have his own view of what really contributes to the point at issue. If it is to be in three volumes, they will say that there are few biographies so voluminous, and that one is grateful to Grimm and to Lewes, who squeezed Goethe into one.
You observe the golden rule, to state no fact without stating the evidence. But there is a silver rule, to give no unnecessary evidence. Sometimes, in a note, some book is mentioned rather too generally, the title only, without chapter and page. That should be avoided, I think, when there is not a definite proof for a definite statement. Especially if it is only a reference to books already quoted and familiar to your readers. I mean, for instance, note 2, p. 95.
The whole section about Gibbon is excellent, and one sees the light shining on the highest summits when you cite the Abbesse de Jouarre1 with nothing but praise of the author, and not a word of contempt for the book. That is the rarest accomplishment of people who have ideas, to abstain from importunately delivering them. La Science est à ce prix là.
I fear I have not been perspicuous in my attempt to meet your point, that the French set about making a new world, as it ought to be, while the Anglo-Saxons tinkered the old, and made the best of it. This notion sanctioned by Burke, Mackintosh, Brougham, Macaulay, is derived from 1688. It does not really apply to the Puritan Revolution, nor to the American. They worked, no doubt, on a mass of fact, some of which was fable; but they deemed it necessary also to build up Society on ideas not yet incarnate. And we must not undervalue the force of tradition in the French law of the Revolution.
If I may speak my whole thought, I fancy you are careful to dissect, and afraid to mingle. You contrast theories, you separate influences, you draw lines with a slight geometrical tendency, and with some aversion for chemical combinations. Montesquieu and Rousseau tend to exclude each other; the influence of Voltaire departs. Vive le roi, J. Jacques! The American Revolution is entirely distinct from the French. The systems of Quesnay and Smith do not run into each other. I am exaggerating a little, in order to be clear. But though it is important to show what is distinct, it is also important to show what mixes. A number of new substances and properties spring from certain combinations, while certain gases are thrown off with a fizz.—Excuse scribbling, and believe me, yours very truly,
To say that the loud praise of free trade in corn was as exaggerated as the assertion that it was the cause of all misery, is to say that it is wrong to make necessaries cheap and abundant, and that it is right to make them scarce and dear, provided one does not go so far as to make abundance the cause of all misery. That would be the most extreme theory of Protection, that theory of Protection which is given up by Economists. I think you mean that the men who praised free trade in corn so loudly, praised it as a panacea, just as the others blamed it as a cause of all evil. But that exaggeration is not expressed in the passage. As it stands, you may be accused of taxing the poor for the sake of the rich, which is the fundamental reproach against the old regime. The peril lies in the words “in ebenso übertriebener Weise.”
89. This distinction between Turgot1 and the Revolution goes far beyond what Foncin2 says, at top of page 549. He was only conservative of royal power, and that is consistent with Revolution. He was not really conservative in respect of property as the Conservative theory understands it. He differs from the Revolution by his indifference to political freedom: that is, he differs to his disadvantage, and even that difference is not fundamental.
95. Without any declamation, if our modern ideas are right, the old notion of the relation between rich and poor was wrong, and as it was not a political, but a social wrong, every rich person shared the guilt, if there was guilt. If so, Necker’s language is not exaggerated, and does not deserve the note—leider.
120. The Pitt here quoted must be Chatham, and Burke’s theory is wrong. Mediæval liberty differs from modern in this, that it depended on property. The Dutch revolution, still more the English, introduced the missing elements of spiritualism.
I think you underrate the universal, abstract, ethical character of the American Rights of Man. They were not meant to apply to one country and one time. They were the finished and revised text of a movement of ideas going on from the beginning of the struggle, after the Seven Years’ War, in England as much as in America. The language of the Lord Chancellor, Camden, and of Hamilton in his first writings, is as scientific, as unconditional, as that of Ulpian or Sieyès. The transition from the spirit of 1688 to the spirit of 1789, took place outside of Rousseau. Those principles were not compatible with slavery. Theoretically they were absolutely incompatible. And practically the author of the Declaration wished to bring fact and theory into harmony. If Maine has influenced this page, let me say that his historical theories have—not grown out of, but—been deeply influenced by his practical, local, definite experience. What he sees before him, and fears, and wishes, has more to do with his philosophy of history than his philosophy has to do with determining his hopes and fears. Instead of doing what one expects from a man of his calibre, judging life by the results of all past experience, he judges the past by the experience of a particular life, the general by the conditional, principle by accident. One must never quite trust him where a view of history may affect any great and valid interest of his own time.
146. You associate liberty with reform and equality with revolution. But in the Great Rebellion there was no scheme of equality worth speaking of. Where it showed itself, it was put down. Yet in pursuit of liberty they overthrew the monarchy, the aristocracy, the Church, the representative system, the fiscal system. Equality is associated with Democracy, not specially with Revolution. The breach with the past, the denial of Evolution, the destruction of the existing order, may quite well proceed from the love of freedom only, without any ulterior scheme of the partition of power or property. In the three or four revolutions of 1830 equality was almost entirely absent. Men, no doubt, are easily stimulated to destroy by the hope of material gain. But they are also stimulated by political or religious motives, with no hope of material profit, and a certainty of material loss.
Chère Lady Blennerhassett,—
Bien mieux que feu Michaud au siège de Troie, je puis dire que si j’ai eu le malheur de blesser une déesse, c’est malgré moi et sans le savoir.
Je ne conçois pas, de mon côté, le reproche du savant qui me paraît Einäugig unter den Blinden.1 La carrière du père2 appartient à celle de sa fille. Si elle s’est trouvée au centre même du monde, de la pensée, de la société, par droit de conquête et par droit de naissance, il faut savoir comment cet héritage a été conquis. Comment se fait-il qu’un banquier étranger et Protestant, vain et avantageux au point d’être surnommé M. de Boursoufle, économiste hétérodoxe, ministre malhabile, écrivain médiocre, se soit établi dans une si belle position? Cela demande des éclaircissements, que vous avez raison de donner, amples et clairs.
J’ai eu tort si j’ai touché à des convictions intimes, qu’il est de notre devoir toujours de respecter. Mais on ne peut pas toujours les connaître. Dans le doute on s’abstient. Ainsi, je n’oserais jamais discuter l’opinion protectionniste. C’est une doctrine qu’on peut très sérieusement défendre, qui domine la législation en Amérique et en Allemagne, et qui possède, en France, des défenseurs scientifiques. Mais la formule que j’ai cru lire dans un passage me paraissait appartenir à une phase qui n’est plus représentée dans la littérature indépendante; et je n’ai voulu indiquer que cela.
De même, si j’ai relevé un mot dit au désavantage des Français, ce n’est pas qu’on ne puisse en trouver à dire. Mais je me demandais si l’ouvrage gagnerait à cette phrase ni amenée ni motivée, de la part d’une étrangère qui sera bientôt traduite. Surtout dans un livre venant d’Allemagne, où ces sévérités internationales sont assez fréquentes et goûtées.
3 De même pour Adam Smith. Il discute les physiocrates souvent, et souvent il les renverse. La différence est évidente, flagrante. Les uns fondent leur système sur la terre, l’autre sur le travail; les uns comptent sur les ressources de la nature, l’autre sur celles de l’art; et il en résulte deux systèmes opposés d’impôt, l’un direct, sur la terre, l’autre indirect, sur le commerce. Dans la pratique les deux doctrines se contredisent et se combattent. Et ainsi de suite. Et néanmoins la part de ce que Smith doit aux Français est si grande, il est si complètement nourri de leurs matériaux, il les transcrit si souvent, ils ont découvert avant lui un si grand nombre de ses meilleures découvertes, qu’on sent beaucoup plus qu’il les continue, les corrige, les perfectionne, qu’on ne sent la rivalité et l’antagonisme. C’est ce que nous ne déclarons pas toujours assez haut chez nous. Qui vit en Angleterre, au milieu des discours, des journaux, des revues du pays, s’aperçoit d’une certaine tendance à surfaire, non pas son mérite ou son influence, mais son originalité—un peu comme nous faisons pour Bacon. Dire: Adam Smith disciple des physiocrates—c’est trop peu. Mais Adam Smith adversaire des physiocrates—me paraît trop, habitué que je suis à remarquer nos exagérations patriotiques. De loin, on voit d’abord l’adversaire. De près, on voit également l’adversaire, mais on voit mieux le disciple.
Ce sont là choses qui ne méritent pas de gâter le papier, et qui ont moins de portée que vous ne leur avez, peut-être, attribué.
Sérieusement, et dans ma conscience de critique, il n’y a que trois choses où je crois voir, non pas un défaut, mais l’ombre d’un danger à venir. D’abord un certain penchant d’appuyer sur des choses d’autant plus contraires à l’unité qu’elles sont plus attachantes en elles-mêmes. Je craindrais que quand vous parlerez des luttes des partis dans la Révolution, ou de l’esprit allemand, les lecteurs reviendront à leurs moutons parfois d’un peu loin. Ainsi Mme de Staël attend à la porte pendant que Stedingk pose.1 On s’imagine que c’est parce qu’il passe pour avoir été un aspirant; mais c’est ce que vous ne dites pas et ne semblez pas croire.
Il fait nombre pour les Suédois.
Je n’ai jamais vu ses Mémoires,1 mais je savais à peu près ce que vous dites de lui pour avoir lu Geffroy.2 Si vous ne donnez aucun fait puisé dans les Mémoires, il ne faudrait pas, je crois, les citer sur un personnage si éloigné. De Maistre raconte de lui des choses curieuses. Il l’appelle “le nouveau maréchal,” en 1811, et j’en concluerais que c’est dans la derniêre guerre de Finlande qu’il l’est devenu. Je n’en sais rien du tout, et vous dites qui c’est pour la campagne de 1787. Je le crois facilement. Mon second doute porte sur ce que je vous disais des contours trop fermes des silhouettes, des contrastes trop vifs, des distinctions trop larges. Il est fréquent de trouver cette tendance chez les écrivains nourris de sciences déductives. C’est ainsi que Sohm explique le gouvernement mérovingien et Stahl la politique puritaine. Il en résulte une grande clarté et on se croit, souvent trop vite, maître de la question. Elles sont ordinairement plus mêlées et plus difficiles. Voyez combien d’éléments appartenants à des systèmes divers se réunissent dans la Révolution française s’y fondent ou se combattent. Quand on a un très grand homme, une très grande force comme Rousseau, Smith, Burke, c’est que plusieurs ruisseaux différents y aboutissent. C’est là, peut-être, le côté le moins connu, le moins pioché, de l’histoire. Nous aimons tous les explications simples, les définitions, les formules, les souvenirs de l’école dont l’opinion publique et le journalisme vivent exclusivement. Il est commode de dire que les Jacobins c’est la démocratie directe, les Girondins le Fédéralisme, que Danton représente Diderot, et Robespierre Rousseau. Je tiendrais à vous mettre en garde contre cette méthode de précision—et c’est mon numéro 2.
Ce qui est plus grave, sans doute c’est le problème américain que je n’ose pas espérer expliquer dans le format raisonnable d’une lettre à la poste:—Mme de Staël paraît grande surtout si on la considère du point de vue Libéral, lequel, vrai ou faux, est un des plus vastes côtés de l’histoire de notre siècle. Pour ceux qui disent qu’on gagne ou perd le ciel dans la politique autant que dans la religion, que le règne de la conscience doit s’établir dans la vie publique autant que dans la vie de famille, là où il s’appelle liberté comme là où il s’appelle vertu, les écrivains qui ont servi cette cause ont un certain caractère sacré, une saveur de pères de l’église, et prennent des dimensions légendaires. Mme de Staël a été sur le continent un des premiers de ces écrivains, de ceux qui ont rendu le libéralisme une chose de bon goût, de bonne compagnie. C’est sur ce terrain là que sa place est assurée.
Quelle était donc la cause qui l’a rendue si grande, d’où venait le courant qui l’a portée? Les Français croyent volontiers que cela vient de leur littérature, et les Anglais, que cela sort de leurs institutions. Aucun dogme de plus sûr en politique que celui-ci: La liberté allait mourir en Europe, à partir de 1773, et c’est l’Amérique qui lui a donné la vie. C’est des forêts, non pas de la Germanie mais de la Pennsylvanie, qu’elle nous vient, telle que nous la voyons. Qu’on la recherche par la légalité ou par la révolution, par la prière ou le sang, par l’égalité ou la concurrence, par la monarchie ou la démocratie, la force vive est la même. Il ne s’agit pas d’histoire, de tradition, de droits séculiers, d’héritage national, de privilège local, de choses acquises, de l’autorité des siècles, de conserver aux fils ce qu’on a reçu des pères, de la supériorité d’une idée, de la sainteté des lois. Il y avait de cela dans les révolutions d’Europe, et dans presque toute la littérature Européenne. Ce qui a changé tout cela c’est les Américains. Les arguments qu’ils ont fondés sur leurs Chartes valent autant que ceux que Montlosier1 puisait dans le droit féodal ou Lanjuinais2 dans le decret de Pistes1 pour réformer la France. Cela n’était pas plus sérieux que leurs doléances sur la grandeur de l’impôt. Ils voulaient bien payer par voie indirecte plus qu’on ne leur imposait directement. Ils en appelaient tout bonnement du droit divin, comme le disait un Chancelier anglais. Ils ne défendaient ni leur prospérité qu’ils étaient prêts à sacrifier, ni les droits de leur pères, ni la constitution de leur pays. Si, en politique, le droit dépendait de la loi, leurs adversaires anglais avaient raison. Le problème posé par les Americains était, au fond, celui-ci: Doit-on risquer l’existence de son pays, de sa famille, donner sa fortune à la ruine et ses enfants à la mort, verser le sang à flots, renoncer à tout ce qui est établi par l’autorité et sanctifié par la coutume, pour une idée qui n’est écrite nulle part, qui est du pur idéal, qui est spéculative et nouvelle, en contradiction avec la constitution, avec les lois de son pays et des autres, qui n’a pour elle ni sanction religieuse, ni crédit légal, qui est inconnue à tous les codes et à tous les législateurs? La réponse affirmative, c’est la Révolution, ou comme nous disons le Libéralisme.
C’est ce qui distingue notre siècle du précédent. Les Whigs aussi voulaient la liberté, et ils voulaient l’obtenir, s’il le fallait, par la Révolution, c’est-à-dire au prix du bien-être social. Mais ils y voyaient bien plus un privilège qu’un droit, et plutôt un droit qu’un devoir. Ils la demandaient pour eux plus que pour les autres, comme Anglais, aux dépens des autres, selon les conditions locales, les traditions nationales. Leur doctrine se composait des matériaux que leur XVIIe siècle fournissait. Le Libéralisme, chose moderne, est sorti du XVIIIe siècle, et des mains des hommes qui repoussaient les conditions de la vie anglaise, que les Whigs acceptaient en s’y adaptant. Le lien est rompu entre liberté et propriété. Il s’agit de bien autre chose. Tant qu’on songeait seulement au tort d’un impôt excessif ou injuste on pouvait regarder le prince ou le ministre comme on regarde un avocat ou un avoué peu délicat, qui gagnait de l’argent par chicanes. Ce n’était pas blessure mortelle. La nouvelle école y voyait une attaque sur choses plus précieuses que l’argent ou la vie, et l’adversaire devenait non plus un homme fourbe et malhonnête mais un criminel et un ennemi. La conciliation des biais, le respect mutuel, devenait un reste d’ancien régime.
Ce qui sépare les deux époques et creuse un gouffre entre les old and new Whigs, c’est le développement, presque la découverte de la Conscience. Cette notion a poussé lentement, et n’a pris son grand essor qu’à la fin du XVIIe siècle et pendant tout le XVIIIe. Avec la grande préférence qu’on avait autrefois pour les religions établies au-dessus des autres, cela ne pouvait grandir. C’est venu lorsque le Christianisme s’est trouvé réduit à sa plus simple expression, sans église, sans sacrement, sans clergé, sans rituel, et qu’il est arrivé au point de se confondre avec la morale universelle. Dans cette forme-là le Christianisme a fondé un état, et créé une constitution, où il n’y avait guère autre chose de sauvegardé que l’individualisme. Et par la suite des choses, la sauvegarde de l’individu, c’est-à-dire la Conscience, a pris la place de bien des dogmes, et a notablement grandi. Si la conscience humaine est véritablement ce que Butler et Kant affirment, elle est suprême; les états et les églises, l’opinion et la tradition, la coutume et le caractère national, les intérêts publics et les droits acquis plient devant elle et ne sont plus que secondaires. On voudrait transiger, qu’on ne le pourrait pas, comme l’encens que refusaient les martyrs. Un monde a péri, une génération d’hommes a été fauchée pour que le roi soit Louis XVIII au lieu de Louis XVI, et le ministre Fouché au lieu de Necker. D’après la nouvelle doctrine ce n’était pas payer trop cher.
Ce qui rend la vie politique si digne, si intraitable, c’est l’élément qui nous vient d’Amérique, c’est le raisonnement qui à forcé la Révolution, et la Déclaration d’Indépendance. Quelques-uns, comme Franklin, se sont laissé emporter par le mouvement; d’autres, notamment Hamilton, ont louvoyé: d’autres, enfin, comme Gouverneur Morris, ont été grossièrement inconséquents, ou peu clairvoyants. Mais le système du droit naturel, des principes abstraits, du droit absolu, du droit comme forme du devoir, de la politique entendue comme science et non comme expédient—ce système est entré comme un fer tranchant dans le monde par les jurisconsultes de Boston et les théoriciens de Virginie. Je ne dis pas qu’ils fussent démocrates—les premiers du moins—ou qu’ils méconnussent la valeur du droit positif. Mais ils sont, pour nous, responsables du nouveau principe, au-dessus de l’histoire. Il se peut que Kant, appuyé sur Rousseau et sur les légistes Hollandais, aurait trouvé cela sans Adams et Jefferson. Mais il n’est venu qu’après eux; et on peut même dire de lui, comme de Washington, qu’il avait l’âme d’un conservateur.
C’est parce que la doctrine révolutionnaire a réussi en Amérique, parce qu’elle a été adoptée par un parti en Angleterre, parce que la France et l’Espagne l’ont reconnue, qu’elle est devenue si puissante et irrésistible en Europe. Les doctrines de 1640 ou de 1688 avaient moins de portée. On pouvait les adopter sans être Libéral dans toute la force du mot.
Un terrain sur lequel on pourrait défendre Washington et rejeter Sieyès, condamner Georges III et excuser Louis XVI, n’existe pas. Si l’Indépendance d’Amérique est justifiée, la Monarchie française est condamnée, et condamnée cent fois. Hors l’Espagne et la Belgique, toute la Révolution moderne sort des principes abstraits par lesquels l’Amérique s’est émancipée.
Pour résister à ces conclusions il faudrait pouvoir montrer que les Américains se sont sérieusement servis de la loi municipale, et n’ont pas fait appel aux Droits de l’Homme. Le troisième volume de Lecky1 et la Déclaration de Jefferson rendent cela impossible.
C’est pour rire que vous parlez de mes jugements sévères. Je suis bien plus doux, plus mou que personne, en jugeant les hommes, et je ne comprenais rien, il y a quelques années, au Professeur qui soutenait le contraire. Aujourd’hui que, même en plaisantant, vous renouvelez cette accusation, je me demande s’il y a là-dessous quelque chose de moins simple et évident aux autres qu’à moi-même. Vraiment il n’y a pas de secret, de prestige, de découverte nouvelle ou personnelle. Il est contraire à l’esprit de la tolérance et de la science de juger d’après les doctrines métaphysiques—et la plupart des questions religieuses sont métaphysiques. Il serait monstrueux de souffrir que la Vie de Jésus nous fit parler moins bien de Renan que de Fénelon. La permanence du caractère national n’étant pas prouvée, la nationalité ne soulève pas de préjugé contraire à l’individu. Il est du plus mauvais goût que ceux qui écrivent à leur aise s’occupent des questions de fortune, de délicatesse, etc. Les fautes de la vie privée ne touchent pas à l’histoire. On doit plus de sévérité aux siens, plus de générosité aux adversaires. Par conséquent les antagonismes de parti ne décident pas des caractères. Voyez que de choses par lesquelles les hommes jugent ordinairement sont exclues de ce code: la religion, la philosophie, le vice, le vol, etc.
L’Histoire ne peut pas se servir des systèmes de morale attachés aux religions, car ils ne sont applicables que dans les limites de ces religions. Et une morale indépendante manque à la Science. Il faut donc que l’Histoire se compose son propre système. D’abord il juge par le Code Criminel. Mais là il y a peu de principes universels: Pas de punition rétroactive; ne pas étendre aux innocents la peine du coupable; sauver ce qui est essentiel à l’existence de la société. Il n’y a d’absolument essentiel que la vie. Donc, c’est la vie humaine qui est l’arche sainte. Personne ne peut être plus décidément caractérisé et condamné que celui qui verse le sang. Cela tranche toute question, et contrebalance toute autre chose. Quand on tient un bon assassin, que ce soit Danton ou Bonaparte, on est rassuré. Le jugement ne peut manquer. Plus on réussit à étendre cette épreuve, plus l’histoire s’élève au-dessus de l’opinion et entre dans la Science.
De plus, l’Histoire, qui se mêle de découvrir la vérité possède sa méthode, ses canons pour cette recherche. Elle soumet les témoins à un cross examination, et énumère très exactement les motifs qui peuvent détourner les esprits de la véracité. Cette énumération forme la base de son système moral. Ce n’est pas celui de la vie privée. Bien des péchés n’influent pas sur la véracité et n’entrent pas en compte, ou n’y entrent que rarement. Chateaubriand ment par vanité mais non parce qu’il était un mari infidèle. Ici, et souvent la vanité est plus sérieuse que l’adultère. Ceci, le plus souvent n’agit pas sur les événements. Si la Duchesse de Portsmouth n’était pas française, les histoires de Hamilton1 n’auraient pas de valeur. Chez Louis XIV toutes ces choses n’ont d’importance que par ce fait profondément psychologique, que le jour où le désordre cesse la persécution commence. La vie privée de Guillaume III et de Napoléon avait peut-être des côtés plus honteux que celle de Louis XIV ou de Charles II, mais cela ne regarde personne. Pareilles choses peuvent servir au portrait, mais pas au jugement. Il n’est pas même certain que cela ajoute rien au portrait, qui est une œuvre de science et non pas d’art. Écartons donc des choses publiques ce qui reste du domaine de la vie privée. Les sept péchés capitaux n’existent pas pour l’Histoire. Que Louis XVIII ait été glouton, Pitt ivrogne, Washington colère, Burke peu délicat en affaires, Hamilton peu fidèle en mariage, Fox joueur, Schelling brutal, cela me touche bien peu. On n’en est pas moins véridique pour tout cela.
La Sincérité est la pierre angulaire de l’histoire. De plus, c’est la condition sine qua non de la foi, laquelle, sans cela, perd son caractère respectable et sacré. C’est donc le grand moyen pour juger les clercs et théologiens. Un homme peut croire tout en commettant les plus gros péchés. Il ne peut pas croire s’il n’est pas vrai et sincère dans les choses religieuses. Second élément qui augmente les dimensions de cette qualité.
L’Histoire a non seulement sa morale qui lui est propre, mais qui est contraire, en partie, à toute autre. Il y a des liens qui servent de soutien, de frein, de guide, à la plupart des mortels, que l’Histoire, dont les sujets sont toujours au-dessus du commun et exceptionnels, à notre point de vue ordinaire, regarde avec méfiance comme sources d’erreur. Qu’on soit attaché à sa famille, sa classe, sa patrie, son pays même, son église, son école, son collège, son parti, n’est une bonne chose qu’à condition d’en être détaché aussi, de n’en être pas absorbé, ébloui, gouverné, et d’être d’autant plus sur ses gardes contre ces influences qu’elles sont plus subtiles, plus pénétrantes et imperceptibles. Exemple plus simple encore: L’orgueil est une espèce de vertu pour les uns, et presque le plus fatal péché pour les autres.
Vous voilà bien punie d’avoir parlé de ma sévérité. Qu’est-ce qui serait arrivé si vous aviez dit que je suis obscur!
Je n’en finirais pas si je me laissais aller à prendre au grand sérieux ce mot formidable: la pente de votre esprit. La pente, c’est le mot, c’est le subjectif, c’est l’ennemi; on a une fourche pour l’expulser, un ancien l’a dit, et elle revient toujours. On tâche d’y mettre ordre autant qu’on peut. J’ai cette pente, que je n’aime pas beaucoup les Écossais, les Vénitiens, les Suisses, les Polonais. Cela reparaît toujours, à la longue; on ne peut pas l’empêcher. Mais au moins on devrait y mettre un contrepoids en disant du bien, même avec emphase, quand on le peut, de ces personnages peu sympathiques. Il me semble, au contraire, que vous êtes bien dans la bonne voie, quand vous citez l’Abbesse de Jouarre, comme si c’était une vie de Saint.
Ces pages tristes et confuses, ont été écrites au milieu de tant d’insomnies et de préoccupations que vous aurez de la peine à les lire. Croyez seulement que si j’ai touché le moins du monde à une pente, à des convictions mûries sur un autre sol que celui de la littérature je ne l’ai pas voulu, et le regrette.—Votre dévoué,
Cannes,le 2 à 9 mai 1887.
La grande chose à éclaircir c’est la politique Polonaise de Talleyrand.1 Il se pourrait bien qu’il ait eu là une théorie véritable et sincère, car il avait dans sa peau un vieux Constituant.1 Napoléon voulait l’envoyer en Pologne en 1812, et y a renoncé lorsqu’il s’est décidé à ne pas reconstituer la Pologne. Talleyrand aurait très volontiers sacrifié la Prusse, et il s’agissait de faire la guerre à la Russie. Pour l’Autriche, qu’il voulait grande, puissante, et éloignée des frontières françaises, il l’aurait dédommagée en Turquie, sinon en Silésie. Il y a des indices de tout cela, mais cela n’est pas clair. Comparez Thiers, très renseigné sur Talleyrand, Ernouf, Vie de Maret, qui écrit contre Thiers, avec de bons documents, et Valfrey, sur Napoléon et Alexandre, surtout à l’époque de Tilsit et Erfurt. On vient justement de publier des lettres de N. et A. et aussi Mazade, Alexandre I et Czartoryski. Les millions rendus pourraient s’expliquer par cette hypothèse.
Stern raconte la rupture avec Mirabeau, sans donner de détails sur leur réconciliation.
Mme de Rémusat5 parle de Talleyrand et de son state of mind à son fils à l’époque où je crois pouvoir placer la rédaction des Mémoires.
Je n’avais pas achevé cela hier: je serais venu vous le soumettre au retour des Courses, avec mes filles reconnaissantes.—Votre dévoué,
Tegernsee, 2 juin 1891.
Chère Lady Blennerhassett,—
Valfrey a répondu dans le Figaro à l’article exagéré d’Aulard dans la Revue Bleue de Mars. Valfrey est l’homme de M. de Broglie. Attaque et défense se valent.
Vandal me fait croire que je me serais trompé sur l’homme du pays de Vaud dont les mémoires sont dans une des bibliothèques de Munich. Je ne sais plus si c’est Muret ou Monod.
Il y a des lettres de Talleyrand dans Beaulieu Marçonnay3 sur Dalberg; et dans Vreede, La Souabe après la paix de Bâle, 1879.
Gagern affirme dans ses Beiträge zur Zeitgeschichte que Talleyrand se disposait à ramener les Bourbons quand il habitait Varsovie, c’est-à-dire au commencement de 1807. Il aura reproduit ce passage dans un de ses volumes. Il a paru déjà en 1817, dans les Ueberlieferungen zur Geschichte unserer Zeit de Zschokke, I. 297. Personne ne songeait, alors, au duc d’Orléans. Cela diminue le trait de génie de 1814. Car il s’est fixé sur les Bourbons quand il n’y avait pas d’autre alternative; (pas de roi de Rome, Bernadotte pas encore Prince Royal, Orléans inconnu;) et non par prévoyance de l’usage à en faire dans la politique Européenne. On peut croire Gagern sur sa parole.
Goncourt est bien amer. Fallait-il tout cela pour ne pas aimer Mme de Staël? Je sens bien qu’elle m’intéresse parce qu’elle a évité, pendant la Révolution, les excès des Girondins ainsi que la réaction parce qu’elle avait l’horreur de Napoléon et qu’elle est de ceux qui ont transmis ce qui était viable dans l’idée révolutionnaire. Mais je me figure quelqu’un qui s’intéresserait moins que moi aux progrès de la doctrine politique, qui regarderait la liberté non comme la cause suprême dans la vie des peuples, mais comme un bienfait à peser contre plusieurs autres, grandeur, progrès, intelligence, instruction, de bonnes lois, une saine distribution des richesses, etc.
Enfin quelqu’un qui penserait comme Turgot ou Thiers, W. Scott, ou Goethe, G. Eliot, ou Maine—il pourrait bien recevoir en plein visage les révélations de B. Constant,2 de Bonstetten,3 s’offusquer de sa perversité passionnelle, de son manque de tact, de sa vanité débordante, etc.
Votre lettre de 18094 enlève bien quelque chose à la grandeur de sa résistance. Il y avait des choses à cacher, ou à dissimuler, pendant sa vie; et on n’a fait qu’escamoter ses lettres depuis sa mort. Et je note combien de monde a résisté à son charme social—comme, par exemple, les Édimbourgeois.
Enfin vous connaissez les vitraux de Lincoln, composés par un élève adroit, des morceaux brisés et rejetés par le maître.—Votre dévoué,
Tegernsee, 3 juin 1891.
Chère Lady Blennerhassett,—
Dites bien à Madame votre mère, je vous en prie, combien j’ai été reconnaissant et heureux d’un accueil qui a prêté du charme à mon rapide séjour. Il n’a manqué à mon bonheur que de vous avoir enlevée. Mon fils vous remercie beaucoup du Lecky que Arthur m’a fort indiscrètement remis; et il passe la journée à l’étudier; surtout quand il ne joue pas au Tennis.
Napoléon a poussé la clarté jusqu’au point de dire ce mot superbe: Cherchez qui vous gouverne: Je suis trop grand pour vous! Et c’était bien là le fond de sa pensée. Mais il a fini par accepter les conditions de Châtillon—trop tard, il est vrai; mais avec l’espoir d’arriver à temps. Ce sont les alliés qui alors l’ont repoussé. Un martyr qui, après la sentence, dirait: “Nun in Gottes Namen, rufen wir die Olympier an!”1 et auquel on dirait: “Vous ferez bien, mais cela ne vous servira à rien ici-bas”—ne passerait pas pour un vrai martyr.
Nous serions injustes si nous identifions les Bourbons trop directement avec le territoire diminué. Ils ont obtenu en 1814, une meilleure frontière que celle que Napoléon avait, en dernier lieu, acceptée. Et, en 1815, on leur a fait de meilleures conditions que celles qu’on voulait faire aux d’Orléans.
Je crois que vous me diminuez mon Talleyrand. Vers le milieu de Mars les alliés n’étaient pas encore favorables aux Bourbons. L’Angleterre seule se déclarait pour eux. Même arrivés à Paris les autres n’étaient pas décidés. Et l’arrangement offert par Napoléon, la Régence Autrichienne, avait des chances de réussir. Cela assurait la paix, et aussi la position de toutes les grandeurs advenues depuis vingt ans.
Cette attitude des alliés est d’ailleurs un fait capital. Le pays constitutionnel est le seul qui ait posé la Legitimité en principe. Les chefs futurs de la Sainte Alliance n’en savaient rien. Ce n’est pas par cette route qu’ils sont parvenus à la doctrine de la Restauration, au contraire de la Révolution, mais par l’influence de Baader sur Alexandre, et par la force prodigieuse que Talleyrand a su donner, du Congrès, à son système. Je ne lui reproche même pas d’avoir repoussé le duc d’Orléans, qui promettait plus de durée. La situation internationale aurait été moins bonne. Et il n’y avait pas de raison valable pour que les Bourbons ne durassent pas. Ses conseils, en tout cas, les auraient sauvés. Il y a dans l’histoire de la pensée humaine à distinguer entre l’absolutisme et la Légitimité. Les défenseurs de celle-ci pouvaient dire, en tout sincerité comme Fiévée1 et Berryer,2 Genoude3 et Cormenin,4 qu’ils n’étaient pas absolutistes. De même que Metternich n’était pas Légitimiste.—Votre dévoué,
Tegernsee, 27 juin.
Dear Lady Blennerhassett,—
. . . The person who understands my article the least is myself. For clearly there is some mystery in it which I entirely fail to discover. I judge this from the strange variety of disagreement it encounters, but I have no idea where the difficulty lies.
No doubt, I rate George Eliot much higher than many people do. Not higher than Scherer, Spencer, or Hutton;6 and I have said very little about her talent, dwelling much on her deficiencies. So that I suspect the seat of trouble is elsewhere than in the literary estimate.
I was reviewing her life, not her works; and my standpoint was that of history, not that of criticism. I was dealing with that which the Life told, and the Works did not tell. It was not my object to interfere with the current opinion of her genius as a novelist or to venture any comparison with Scott or Hugo. Writing of Lessing or Rousseau it would be a waste of time to consider the dramatic merit of the one, or the prose style of the other. They stand on another level. They have to take their place with Jefferson,1 Hegel, Baader,2 Daub,3 Bentham, Rothe,4 Niebuhr—men of no literary quality whatever, but producers of ideas, like Socrates, Gournay,5 Martinez, who did not write at all.
The interest lies in the teaching, and in that alone. If her ideas had been common, traditional, Christian, her importance—to me—would have been less. She would have stood in the midst of a very large group, a little above, or a little below many other writers.
Instead of that, she was a perfect atheist, and had had to reconstruct her views of life without any aid at all from the habits and influences she had rejected. There was a complete solution of continuity. She made, in later life, no use of the motives common to religious society. When the resemblance is greatest, the distinction is complete. Every one of her ideas has grown up on ground absolutely atheistic. Now this has always appeared a serious danger. Many think that no enduring system of moral order can be founded on disbelief in God. Everybody sees that there is no security that the ethics of Infidelity will practically harmonise with the ethics of Belief. And we possess a great body of examples in Comte, in Mill, in the revolutionary movement, of the peril to morality from the rejection of the old bases of modern civilisation.
The signs of this peril may be found in the group of rather vulgar freethinkers among whom she lived until she was past thirty. She emancipated herself from all these surroundings, but then it was to embrace what was worse, what was worst, ethically, in all European thought at that time, Feuerbach1 and Comte. She was steeped in all that is most dangerous to Conscience in the systems of European thought, as they then existed.
And the people among whom she lived in the years which brought her mind to maturity, from 1850 to 1860, were people of a low type morally, people degraded by materialism. George Eliot had no contact with anything else. She was cut off from English society and despised it. Her whole soul drew its inspiration from doctrines repudiating all the spiritual world and the motives that belong to it.
Just then, after the middle of the century, it became a question of great moment, whether Infidelity could keep up the moral level. For 200 years, from the time of Hobbes, unbelief had been making its way. There had been a metaphysical phase, a doubting, a scoffing, an angry phase, and a good deal of indifference. At last there came a time when, quite apart from these influences, unbelief came to be founded on science. Nobody thought any more of putting it down or of conciliation any more than after 1648 they thought of establishing religious unity in Europe. It was sustained by the triumphant forces of the day. About one-half of the classic writing, of the creative thinking of the world was done by unbelievers. The influences that reigned were in great measure atheistic. It became needful to arrange a modus vivendi with the prevailing powers. No minds could be reared except by aid of Grote, Mill, Austin, Darwin, Lewis, Huxley, Tyndall, Clifford—to take England only. The universities were saturated with their books.
At the same time, from the decline of Hegel, all these schools of unbelief were marked by their inability to deal with Ethics. I do not refer to Cousin, who was a spiritualist, or to Herbart, who at least is not a definite atheist. But Utilitarianism, Positivism, Materialism, Pessimism, Feuerbach—were all destitute of any ethical system.
In short, towards 1860, unbelief was beginning to gain the day, and appeared totally incapable of moralising man. In many German Universities there were no lectures on Ethics, in the philosophic faculty.
All this is, no doubt, greatly changed. Both in Germany and in England there is a very powerful ethical movement; and I have at least twenty books on the Ethics of Unbelief written within the last ten years—Hartmann, Giżycki,1 Guyau,2 Spencer, Stephen, Sidgwick, Lorimer, etc. etc. etc.
Of all this movement there was not a trace (out of France) between 1840 and 1875. The career of George Eliot was run during the supremacy of atheism and the eclipse of (philosophic) Ethics. All the schools in which she learnt, all the groups with which she was connected, were peculiar for ethical impotence.
And yet her moral teaching is very high. Without any survival of Christian impressions, without aid from the philosophers, and without the least concession to the eighteenth century doctrines of pleasure, she contrived to become a grand moral teacher.
From the depths of atheism, from its worst school, from the midst of the poorest surroundings, a preacher of lofty virtue arose, not at all perfect indeed, or absolutely consistent, but far more impressive, more true, more elevated, than any but the very best of Christian writers, and capable of reaching those whom no Christian could possibly touch. To me this is one of the most wonderful facts, of the most wonderful feats, in the history of the human mind. Atheism, at the moment of its becoming a permanent and preponderant force, was rescued and redeemed from the most formidable and most ancient peril and reproach. The new and most puissant morality was even in some ways preferable to that of current religion. It had no weak places, no evil champions, no bad purpose, to screen or to excuse, unlike almost all forms of Christianity. The system of S. Francis was more lofty and heroic; but it proved the most inefficacious and transitory of systems.
Atheism, as a teacher of Life, became, roughly speaking, the equal of Christianity in moral dignity when it became its rival in mental power. And all through this one woman who lived among scoffers, professors of impurity, men ignorant of higher things, philosophers destitute of a moral code—a woman who had never read the books that teach the higher virtues to religious men. For these reasons which seem to me too obvious and too certain to be disputed, I would give all the imaginative literature of England since Shakespeare for George Eliot’s writings. She is altogether unique to my mind. For, if Kant is a great moralist, how highly educated one must be to follow him! No doubt, the idea which she used so much, because it goes down so well with British Christians, the certainty of earthly Retribution, is one which no historical-minded person can accept. She herself was aware that virtue is not much happier than crime; and she never filled up this tremendous gap.
But the mass of mankind is not more gifted with historical insight and experience than she was, and so her sermon was more impressive than Plato’s account of the just man’s fate. But surely, nobody can say that where I describe this doctrine of Retribution I treat it as if I thought it sound; or that I fail to indicate the fault in her Psychology, the confinement to domestic life without heed of the grander specimens of human nature.
What more can I say to make my meaning clear? Probably all this was already clear to every reader, and the difficulty lies in some place I have not guessed. I give it up.—Believe me, most truly yours,
72 Princes Gate,July 9, 1885.
Chère Lady Blennerhassett,—
Je profite du Hengstenberg pour ajouter un mot en faveur de mon ami Scherer.
Il n’y a pas un travail intellectuel plus curieux que le sien, parce qu’il est toujours sincère, à la hauteur, et, de plus en plus indépendant de toute influence.
Sous l’influence de Vinet, et après sa mort, il a rédigé la Réformation au XIXe siècle à Genève. On y voit un Protestantisme intelligent mais ordinaire, peu scientifique.
Vers 1851 il s’opère un changement. Il écrit la vie de Vinet qui n’est que l’analyse très sévère de la théorie de l’église. Avec cela il est sorti de toute théologie.
Il exprime toute sa pensée dans les Lettres à mon Curé, et dans un article intitulé La Crise de la Foi.
Puis vers 1856-1859 il refait en détail son examen de Conscience dans la Nouvelle Revue de Théologie.
Il y a un gros volume de ses essais théologiques, et aussi un petit volume pareil à ses essais littéraires. Il faut avoir les deux.
Puis ses travaux pour le Temps en huit volumes. Mais le même volume contient les trois grands articles sur Shakespeare, Milton, et Goethe. Ajouter celui sur Molière qu’il dit ignorant et incapable d’écrire en français. Il était Allemand sachant parfaitement les choses allemandes; mais Maire de Versailles pendant le siège, il est devenu le plus dur ennemi des Allemands.
Il est toujours sérieux, maître de lui, logique, mais un peu sévère et même aride. Ses derniers livres, sur Diderot et Grimm, sont à la hauteur, et c’est tout. Il est sous un rapport supérieur aux hommes qui lui ressemblent, Ste Beuve, Renan, Taine, c’est qu’il n’a pas de théorie. C’est le scepticisme pur et simple, selon moi, dans son plus fidèle et plus instructif représentant. Il n’est pas dans un courant.
Quelque chose manque à sa grandeur comme il dit lui-même de Vinet. Il n’a même pas été Académicien ni ministre des Affaires Etrangères—choses élémentaires pour un homme comme lui. Et son nom n’est pas connu à tout le monde, comme ceux de ses rivaux. Il était compassé, réservé, froid, sans beaucoup de lien, d’élan, ou de mouvement.
Dites-moi que la Bibliothèque a ce qu’il vous faut et que vous allez vous y mettre.—Votre dévoué,
Chère Lady Blennerhassett,—
Je vous remercie cordialement de vos bonnes félicitations. Ce degré a été pour moi plus que ces satisfactions plus ou moins banales qui arrivent, à force de vieillir, à qui sait attendre. Car les deux Universités m’ont repoussé en 1850; et maintenant toutes les deux se sont décidées à m’adopter—Cambridge ayant remis la chose, me dit-on, pour ne pas faire double emploi.
J’ai été voir la cérémonie à Cambridge, invité avec Richard par le Vice Chancellor. Puis il est venu à Oxford me voir conspué par les étudiants mal élevés. . . .—Votre dévoué,
72 Princes Gate,le 24 juin 1887.
Tegernsee,le 11 nov. 1890.
Chère Lady Blennerhassett,—
Je reçois votre aimable lettre en prenant la plume pour vous dire que je vous ai envoyé un gros paquet, contenant les précieux MSS. que vous m’avez confiés ainsi que les nombreux imprimés, les vôtres et ceux de S. M. dont je ne puis assez dire ma reconnaissance.
Un des livres n’y est pas: un volume de la “Evangelische Kirchenzeitung” qui viendra avec moi. Si j’ai oublié autre chose, ou si j’ai envoyé dans la Tannstrasse des livres à vous je vous prie de m’avertir. Je crois que nous partirons d’ici samedi. Je crois vraiment que les miracles de Prince H.1 —de celui qui a dévancé le Statthalter dans la voie des prodiges—sont suffisamment connus dans mon public de demi-savants. C’est une scie légendaire, un cliché, comme le souper des Girondins, le duel d’O’Connell, la politesse de Stair, le moulin de Sans Souci. Je ne pouvais omettre un point aussi caractéristique d’autant que c’était pour les lettres anglaises que le chanoine—il n’a jamais été Cardinal, ni même évêque autrement que in partibus—employait le jeune concitoyen. Beaucoup d’explications auraient trop prolongé le travail, déjà excessif de longueur.
Vous avez bien raison de lire entre les lignes pour voir non pas ce que l’écrivain désire indiquer en glissant mais aussi ce qu’il voudrait cacher. C’est même pour cela qu’il y a des critiques pour montrer les choses qui se trahissent, que l’auteur ignore lui-même. Et puisque vous me poursuivez dans mes retranchements, et jusqu’au petit imprimé de la Historical Review, “I take my stand in the last ditch,” et je vous assurerai qu’il s’agissait, entre moi et Bryce,2 d’une chose assez positive. Il aurait plaisir à montrer que nous n’avons rien à craindre de l’exemple américain, qu’ils respectent le passé comme nous, et sont des esprits historiques, et partant conservateurs. Et il fonde leur Révolution sur le droit positif. Nous sommes d’accord pour l’œuvre de 1787; la Constitution était un système de garanties contre le mouvement, l’instabilité, démocratiques. Mais la révolte de 1776, la Déclaration des Droits, sont affaire d’abstractions, de droit universel, et ont par là leur signification unique, solitaire, dans l’histoire des hommes. Car il n’est nullement prouvé que l’Angleterre ait eu tort légalement. Je ne décide pas: mais je constate que les premiers jurisconsultes, Blackstone et Mansfield, ne le croyaient pas, que Burke doutait, que Macaulay même ne doute pas du tout de notre droit. Sans citer Lecky, qui peut passer pour un esprit conservateur, ennemi de chimères.
Bryce, qui est un Civilian, un Romaniste, pense que les choses se font par le ministère du temps, que la vie vient des racines naturelles, que la tradition règne, que rien ne dure, au soleil, qui ne se soit préparé par un travail souterrain. C’est ainsi que parlaient Leibniz, Burke, Savigny, le Professeur, tous ceux qui appliquent à la vie universelle les doctrines particulières au droit romain, au droit anglais, à l’Eglise Catholique, au Positivisme, à l’évolutionnisme. Je crois que cela est faux, comme loi de l’histoire, et je n’ai voulu dire que cela; c’est-à-dire soulever un doute sur l’historicisme de mon ami. Je ne nie pas, bien entendu, l’immense part de vérité et de force dans ce principe: je voudrais faire la part du principe contraire, qui, en temps et lieu, dans certaines conditions, et sous des points de vue importants, aurait son droit ou aurait eu sa force.
A tel point que les juristes de All Souls, me prenant pour un des leurs, m’ont élu à un fellowship dans leur collège, rien que pour mes hérésies en small type.
Comme il y a un homme et une femme que je ne contredis jamais par admiration d’abord, et puis par peur de me tromper, vous venez, doublée d’airain, quand vous avez Vinet à vos côtés. Oui et non. Oui, l’historien doit avoir un parti, une conviction, dans les choses où le doute n’est pas insurmontable. Il est de son devoir de donner à la vérité ou à la justice qu’il reconnaît tout le relief, tout l’éclat qui lui revient. Mais il doit faire aussi la part de ce qui est incertain, du côté faible même du bien, du côté fort ou favorable de l’erreur, de la vertu, du talent, du mérite des malfaiteurs. Quand Charras1 rend justice aux Anglais, ou Maurice2 aux Prussiens, ils nous donnent un Waterloo bien plus impressif que celui de Thiers ou de Siborne.3
Il y a là un effet de Culture. A un certain niveau on a de la peine à entendre dire beaucoup de bien de l’ennemi. On reprochait à Bellarmin de donner trop de force à l’argument qu’il allait détruire—reproche de bout de l’oreille. Jamais on a si bien persuadé que Gladstone dans les soixante, lorsqu’il prétendait que Disraeli ne comprenait pas sa propre cause, et que, avant de l’attaquer, il la reproduisait dans les meilleures couleurs. Mais le M.P. imbécile, s’il y en avait, n’y prenait pas plaisir, se trouvait confus et croyait cette méthode peu sûre.
Personne n’est plus persuadé que moi de la bonne cause de 1688: mais si je lisais Macaulay aujourd’hui pour la première fois il me ferait douter, parce qu’il est si sûr. Les livres ne font pas les convictions. Ils font penser; ils donnent des moyens et des matériaux pour penser juste. Ils dirigent l’esprit, ils ne le gouvernent pas. Prenez, par exemple, “Heidenthum und Judenthum.”1 Combien l’effet serait plus grand et sans appel si l’auteur avait montré jusqu’où le paganisme a pu arriver dans les 5 siècles de sa marche ascendante, et fait au juste la mesure de l’innovation amenée par le Christianisme.
Cobden, en mourant, a dit à Mallet, que Mill avait fait le plus grand mal à leur cause en disant qu’il y a des conditions, des Kulturstufen, où la protection est de droit temporaire. Je ne crois pas que Vinet approuverait cet état d’esprit là.
Amour de la vérité abstraite, Chimère! Je le veux bien quoique je ne l’aurais pas dit. Mais amour de la vérité partout. Honneur!
Freeman, que déteste Bright, celui qu’on vient d’assassiner,2 me disait à propos d’un article sur son histoire d’Angleterre qu’on ne voyait pas si je l’aimais ou si je ne l’aimais pas. Est-ce qu’il s’agit de moi? J’ai donné à chacun le moyen de juger pour lui-même. Si j’étais Freeman on pourrait être curieux de savoir mon jugement personnel, et on bâtirait dessus plus volontiers et plus vite que sur des preuves. A propos de Bellarmin, un de mes amis, Grand Vicaire de Birmingham, étudiait au Collegio Inglese quand Newman vint à Rome. Il eut, un jour d’examen ou de doctoration, à défendre la thèse Catholique contre les Protestants représentés par Newman. Il y aurait eu plus à glaner là du côté hérétique que dans l’orthodoxie de mon ami.
Puisque vous jurez, comme au Jeu de Paume, je ne nierai point. Mais en admettant tout de même que j’ai habilement introduit mon portrait sous un déguisement, comme le font les peintres des jugements derniers, il y a tant de choses à mettre dans l’autre balance. Quand on passe sa vie à tâcher de comprendre l’histoire et ses lois, et ses exemples contradictoires, et ses éléments humains et divins, et ses gradations, et ses variations, ce qui est fixe, ce qui est constant, et ce qui est passager, on est forcé de travailler avec tant de couleurs et d’étoffes qu’on se regimbe contre une théorie très simple, contre une philosophie à unique point de vue, contre un système développé d’un seul principe, contre l’escamotage de l’induction par la dialectique à priori, et le règne de l’idée souveraine, ainsi, si on peut dire que j’ai confiance dans l’avenir et le progrès, que ma Théodicée est celle des Whigs, que je partage la philosophie de l’histoire révolutionnaire, tout cela est porté, limité, interprêté par une masse d’antécédants qui ne souffrent pas une désignation aussi exclusive. Ce mot que vous avez dit m’a fait croire que je ne m’étais pas assez gardé les flancs, et que j’avais eu l’air de parler pour moi-même avec quelque affectation, quand je voulais parler de suites d’idées tout à fait objectives, des divisions inévitables de la pensée humaine. Voyez seulement le côté religieux de la chose—on a marché de l’unité vers la diversité, du Catholicisme au Protestantisme, de la Bible aux Sectes, au doute, au rationalisme, au déisme, au panthéisme, et enfin à la suprématie de la science. Qui trouve tout cela progrès croit, ou que le Catholicisme est une antiquité, ou que l’avenir sera tout autre que le passé. De là ma question. Croyez-moi, malgré l’ennui que je vous donne.—Votre dévoué,
Chère Lady Blennerhassett,—
Vous avez raison. M. Thiers, ci-ouvert devant moi, dit: Ce sont les Bourbons qu’il veut nous imposer avec tout ce que les Bourbons apportent, etc. J’ai même lu quelque part ceci, or words to this effect. Les Acton ont toujours été fidèles aux Bourbons. Je voudrais que la Légation de France m’expliquât cette énormité.
Croyez bien que moi aussi je ne désire nullement désobliger le duc de Broglie. J’admire infiniment son talent; et je me souviens qu’on se moquait de moi à Paris quand je le trouvais supérieur à Montalembert. Mais je croyais non seulement à son talent, qui est en effet très sérieux, et qui perd peu en manquant d’éclat, mais à sa science.
Voilà que son fils, Emmanuel, écrit sous ses yeux un livre sur Mabillon qui est rempli d’erreurs. Il est si malade que, nécessairement, les siens viennent le secourir; et ceci m’a fait soupçonner le duc lui-même d’ignorance sur la grande ligne centrale et décisive de la science religieuse moderne. Voici que ses notes prouvent que ce savant homme d’Etat Catholique le plus réussi, le plus important que la France ait eu, ne se connaît pas mieux aux choses d’Etat qu’aux choses de l’Eglise. Et ceci m’a un peu dérouté. J’aurais bien mauvaise grâce à vous engager à exposer ses erreurs. Car il ne s’est pas montré le moins du monde sensible à la façon dont j’ai agi, l’avertissant en secret, et ne disant en public que du bien de lui et de son édition. Du reste, j’y étais tenu par l’obligeance qu’il a eue de m’envoyer les bonnes feuilles, et par le désir qu’il a montré que je parle du livre (nouvelle faute de subjonctif, admise par Sainte-Beuve). Il a même témoigné le désir de me communiquer la correspondance avec mon grand’père, et j’y tiens. Il a dit qu’il profiterait de mes critiques (il faut dire mes observations) dans la réimpression, et il faut lui en tenir compte. Je suis curieux de savoir comment il s’arrangera avec le séjour de sa grand’mère.
Mrs. H. Ward serait à ajouter à votre collection de femmes littéraires, plus ou moins psychologiques. Abbott1 est un homme autrement sérieux, et selon moi, notre premier Baconian, n’ayant pas la tendance de mon excellent et solide ami Fowler1 à justifier et réhabiliter ce chancelier qui nous paraîtrait le plus grand écrivain du monde si on n’avait voulu le faire passer pour un philosophe et une autorité en science.
Vous me suscitez trop d’adversaires. C’est une catégorie que je n’admets pas. On n’est jamais d’accord avec personne, à la longue ou sur un large espace. Si ce n’est la religion, ou le point de vue philosophique, ou la politique, ou le sentiment du bien et du beau, ce sera nationalité, le caractère, le plus ou moins de facilité à s’ennuyer qui sépareront les gens. Non numero horas nisi serenas. On finit par noter non pas les choses qui séparent, mais celles où on se rencontre, et ceci toujours avec plaisir et souvent avec surprise. Non pas avec profit, car c’est la contradiction qui enseigne, qui nous apprend surtout à comprendre les pensées et les raisonnements qui ne sont pas les nôtres, et qui comme réalités ainsi que comme vérités ont pour nous une égale importance.—Votre dévoué,
Tegernsee, 6 juin 1891.
8 Briennerstrasse, 30 décembre 1896.2
Chère Lady Blennerhassett,—
Je me réjouis de tenir vos deux promesses, et je vous explique par ces extraits de quoi il s’agit.
Avec les Doctrinaires vous avez un sujet du plus profond intérêt. C’est d’abord la règne de Louis XVIII depuis le retour de Gand jusqu’à l’assassinat du duc de Berri. Ensuite, il faudrait trouver moyen d’exposer, au point de vue le plus favorable, toutes les idées particulières à ce groupe. Nous tenons à ce que toutes les idées de la politique moderne se trouvent dans nos pages; et nous voulons donner, chemin faisant, le cours le plus complet de Politique qu’il y ait dans la littérature. Car nous disons que c’est des historiens qu’il faut apprendre cela.
Et je voudrais toujours présenter les idées du côté de la vérité qu’elles contiennent, indiquant le secret de leur force, et ce qui en survit.
L’histoire, dans la succession des choses se charge de la critique. Nous avons à détacher la partie ailée et immortelle des erreurs, des limites, des ignorances, des passions, des calculs qui les déparent, pour obtenir ce qui est transportable et permanent.
Je ne vais pas être importun; mais si vous le voulez, je mettrais ensemble les idées qui me reviennent à ce propos, et à propos des livres à consulter, dont la plupart vous est bien connue, et tous, peut-être. L’important, c’est Faguet.—Votre dévoué,
P. 300. Martinez is probably Martinez Pasqualis (c. 1715-1779). Martinez was a Portuguese Jew, founder of a strange illuminism. His importance is due to the influence he had upon Claude de Saint-Martin. Cf. Franck, La Philosophie Mystique en France à la fin du XVIIIme siècle. Saint-Martin et son Maître Martinez Pasqualis, also Malter, Saint-Martin, Le Philosophe Inconnu, sa vie et ses écrits, son maître Martinez et leurs groupes. Saint-Beuve has an essay on Saint-Martin, Causeries du Lundi, vol. x., and de Maistre alludes to the Martinists in his great work.
To Lady Acton.
Lexington,March 1st, ’66.
I avail myself of the privilege afforded me; my dear Lady Acton; by your kind letter to tell you how much I was pleased to hear of the sympathy felt for us by at least some of the noble souls in our Mother Country.
Could you know all or even half of the wrongs we have endured, the eloquent pen of your husband might portray scenes that would astound his audience. It is better we should forget them if that was possible.
I enclose a few stanzas1 which have appeared since the surrender; the author is unknown; but they are very touching, and may be appreciated in a county where the name of Lee is valued, and where in truth the family did originate.
I venture to send you; in the hope it may prove acceptable; an autograph likeness of General Lee taken during the war, which we consider better than any which have appeared since. Should you ever be induced to visit our now unhappy country, we should be too glad to welcome you to our mountain home.—Most truly and respectfully yours,
Mary Curtis Lee.
Although your letter of the 4th ulto. has been before me some days unanswered, I hope you will not attribute it to a want of interest in the subject, but to my inability to keep pace with my correspondence. As a citizen of the South I feel deeply indebted to you for the sympathy you have evinced in its cause, and am conscious that I owe your kind consideration of myself to my connection with it. The influence of current opinion in Europe upon the current politics of America must always be salutary; and the importance of the questions now at issue in the United States, involving not only constitutional freedom and constitutional government in this country, but the progress of universal liberty and civilisation, invests your proposition with peculiar value, and will add to the obligation which every true American must owe you for your efforts to guide that opinion aright. Amid the conflicting statements and sentiments in both countries, it will be no easy task to discover the truth, or to relieve it from the mass of prejudice and passion, with which it has been covered by party spirit. I am conscious of the compliment conveyed in your request for my opinion as to the light in which American politics should be viewed, and had I the ability, I have not the time to enter upon a discussion, which was commenced by the founders of the constitution and has been continued to the present day. I can only say that while I have considered the preservation of the constitutional power of the General Government to be the foundation of our peace and safety at home and abroad, I yet believe that the maintenance of the rights and authority reserved to the states and to the people, not only essential to the adjustment and balance of the general system, but the safeguard to the continuance of a free government. I consider it as the chief source of stability to our political system, whereas the consolidation of the states into one vast republic, sure to be aggressive abroad and despotic at home, will be the certain precursor of that ruin which has overwhelmed all those that have preceded it. I need not refer one so well acquainted as you are with American history, to the State papers of Washington and Jefferson, the representatives of the federal and democratic parties, denouncing consolidation and centralisation of power, as tending to the subversion of State Governments, and to despotism. The New England states, whose citizens are the fiercest opponents of the Southern states, did not always avow the opinions they now advocate. Upon the purchase of Louisiana by Mr. Jefferson, they virtually asserted the right of secession through their prominent men; and in the convention which assembled at Hartford in 1814, they threatened the disruption of the Union unless the war should be discontinued. The assertion of this right has been repeatedly made by their politicians when their party was weak, and Massachusetts, the leading state in hostility to the South, declares in the preamble to her constitution, that the people of that commonwealth “have the sole and exclusive right of governing themselves as a free sovereign and independent state, and do, and forever hereafter shall, exercise and enjoy every power, jurisdiction, and right which is not, or may hereafter be by them expressly delegated to the United States of America in congress assembled.” Such has been in substance the language of other State governments, and such the doctrine advocated by the leading men of the country for the last seventy years. Judge Chase, the present Chief Justice of the U.S., as late as 1850, is reported to have stated in the Senate, of which he was a member, that he “knew of no remedy in case of the refusal of a state to perform its stipulations,” thereby acknowledging the sovereignty and independence of state action. But I will not weary you with this unprofitable discussion. Unprofitable because the judgment of reason has been displaced by the arbitrament of war, waged for the purpose as avowed of maintaining the union of the states. If, therefore, the result of the war is to be considered as having decided that the union of the states is inviolable and perpetual under the constitution, it naturally follows that it is as incompetent for the general government to impair its integrity by the exclusion of a state, as for the states to do so by secession; and that the existence and rights of a state by the constitution are as indestructible as the union itself. The legitimate consequence then must be the perfect equality of rights of all the states; the exclusive right of each to regulate its internal affairs under rules established by the Constitution, and the right of each state to prescribe for itself the qualifications of suffrage. The South has contended only for the supremacy of the constitution, and the just administration of the laws made in pursuance to it. Virginia to the last made great efforts to save the union, and urged harmony and compromise. Senator Douglass, in his remarks upon the compromise bill recommended by the committee of thirteen in 1861, stated that every member from the South, including Messrs. Toombs and Davis, expressed their willingness to accept the proposition of Senator Crittenden from Kentucky, as a final settlement of the controversy, if sustained by the republican party, and that the only difficulty in the way of an amicable adjustment was with the republican party. Who then is responsible for the war? Although the South would have preferred any honourable compromise to the fratricidal war which has taken place, she now accepts in good faith its constitutional results, and receives without reserve the amendment which has already been made to the constitution for the extinction of slavery. That is an event that has been long sought, though in a different way, and by none has it been more earnestly desired than by citizens of Virginia. In other respects I trust that the constitution may undergo no change, but that it may be handed down to succeeding generations in the form we received it from our forefathers. The desire I feel that the Southern states should possess the good opinion of one whom I esteem as highly as yourself, has caused me to extend my remarks farther than I intended, and I fear it has led me to exhaust your patience. If what I have said should serve to give any information as regards American politics, and enable you to enlighten public opinion as to the true interests of this distracted country, I hope you will pardon its prolixity.
In regard to your inquiry as to my being engaged in preparing a narrative of the campaigns in Virginia, I regret to state that I progress slowly in the collection of the necessary documents for its completion. I particularly feel the loss of the official returns showing the small numbers with which the battles were fought. I have not seen the work by the Prussian officer you mention and therefore cannot speak of his accuracy in this respect.—With sentiments of great respect, I remain your obt. servant,
R. E. Lee.
Sir John Dalberg Acton
From Dr. Mandell Creighton.
Embleton Vicarage, Chathill, Northumberland,
My Lord,1 —
You are so good that I am afraid if you encourage me I shall prove a nuisance. I have written my book so far practically without consulting any one, because I know no one who is at all interested in my subject. I live away from any literary friends, and I very seldom am able to consult libraries. I do not think that the entire time I spent in London and Oxford for the purposes of study for my two volumes reached the period of a month. I frequently have had to leave points unsolved till I could go, or get some friend to verify points for me—I am obliged to buy most of the books I want when they are possible to be bought, and I lose the opportunity of seeing stray articles that might help me, though I find the excellent abstracts of periodicals in the Revue Historique very useful. If at any time you hear of anything, it would be a great favour to me if you could let me know. I have my eye on Bayonne, though Gherardi2 is probably inaccessible as only twenty-five copies were printed. But I see that the Archivio Storico has given an abstract of him.
The great questions are, as you say, What made Luther? and what made him so strong? But they are very difficult to answer, and I thought that they could only be answered on a large scale. Perhaps you do not feel as strongly as I do how the answer, if it is to be found, is rendered difficult by the existence of claptrap and misrepresentation. The ordinary Protestant believes in a steady growth of evangelical theology from the time of Wyclif. One of my objects was to dispel that view, perhaps hardly worth dispelling. But I thought that it was worth while to try and lift the current history of that time to a more scientific level if I could do so. The absence of even any tolerable book in English dealing with that period led me to do it as thoroughly as I could. I did not write in a popular way, but I hoped that I had perhaps provided the material for more popular books afterwards. I think that the doctrinal reformation would never have taken place if a reformation of the ecclesiastical system had been possible without it.
One part of the strength of Luther lay in the belief that nothing could be got from the Papacy except by threats. I wanted to see what grounds there was for that belief. In dealing with the Councils I only credited them with such good intentions as I thought were at the bottom of all united action; I believed that I had admitted their self-seeking in details and their hopeless policy. About Hus I fully admit that the Papacy was always far more tolerant than the popular spirit, and that ecclesiastical judges were lenient to diversity of opinion, but I could not feel sure that John XXIII would have done differently from the Council, and I shall have enough to say on that point later on. It is, of course, a difficulty in publishing by instalments that one cannot do all things at once. The question of indulgences I reserved till I came to Luther, and the corruption of morals till I came to Charles VIII. Similarly about ideas—it seems to me difficult to record in chronological order indications as they occur. When the questions become part of practical politics, then I must do my best to enquire how they became so; but I think that the method of perpetually pointing out isolated occurrences, and drawing attention to presages is less effective than marshalling details in a mass at the right place, if one can find the place and have observed the details.
Of course the subject of my next volume is the secularisation of the Papacy, but in the hopeless secularisation of Europe it was impossible for the Papacy to avoid it. Europe would not combine for a Crusade. Paul II practically ended the Hussite question. The Papacy was surrounded by Italian powers who cared nothing for religion—self-preservation drove it to do its best, and I incline to think that it was a sound instinct that impelled Sixtus IV to attack the Medici. I am just busy with Leonelli’s Alessandro VI. It is a great pity that the end of Burchard1 has never been fully published.
About Hawkwood, by the way, it was not the omission of the aspirate that struck me: but the form Augud led me to think that the soldiers pronounced the last syllable wood, as a Southern Englishman would do now ’ud. He would say Hawk’ud, even if he kept his aspirate.
Please do not trouble to answer this letter,—Yours very sincerely,
My dear Lord Acton,—
You are most good; be it as you say. The question of form is a matter for your decision; but I do not think that there is much risk of an accusation of dilettantism in your case. The mere fact that you have not fallen into the vulgar error of writing a book gives you an additional claim to attention. Wegele,2 however, may stand as a text to a sermon. The article would appear in the first part, and not in the small type: it may be sufficiently differentiated from ordinary sermons. I understand your difficulties and also I see the scope of your article. I am daily more and more impressed by the exceeding insularity of our historical ideas. The ordinary Englishman seems to consider that anything can be barred from Europe as a whole. Brewer’s work, though it was the work of his lifetime, fails because he would not take the trouble to learn more than he could help about anything save England. I hope that the Review may tend to give greater breadth of view; for such a purpose your article would be most valuable. It would strike a keynote.
You see perhaps why I speak as I do about Stubbs. I have a hope that things may improve by a little organisation—Stubbs never had any. He had no care to form a school: he was a bad lecturer and lectured as little as he could. He resented all invasions of his time as hindrances to editing MSS. That was the work he really enjoyed. He wrote his Constitutional History more because something was expected of him than because he enjoyed doing it. But his career at Oxford was a strong proof of the power of a life devoted to study. He exerted a great influence by the mere fact of his existence. His example and not his precept was valuable.
You will send me your contributions for the first number as soon as you can, I dare say. I write not to hurry you: but by the middle of October I ought to see my first number in shape. It is, alas, very shapeless at present.
By the way, have you looked into the first three vols. of the Dictionary of National Biography? If so, and if anything has struck you I wish you would send me the result of your observations, merely headings and jottings if you will. I am gathering remarks with a view to piecing together something, a method of reviewing such a book which seems to me better than committing it to one man.—Again with many thanks, yours very sincerely,
Dear Lord Acton,—
It shall be as you will with the revise: also I send you Napoleon2 as you desire. But I did not mean to suggest that you should make any changes out of deference to my feelings. I only wished to make out to my own satisfaction my shortcomings that I might give an account of myself to those who asked me. I see that from your point of view, I am not made of stern enough stuff to write history. I have too much natural “pietas”—“mentem mortalia tangunt.” I have no love for heroes, and I rarely find them in my particular path: but I admit that I hesitate to find men so villainous as in your scales of moral judgment they would be. I like to stand aside as much as possible, and content myself with the humble part of a chorus in a Greek play. I try to put myself in the place of my personages. I judge them more severely for their own personal contribution to the world’s misdoings than for their acquiescence in existing systems. I think worse of Sixtus IV for his share in the Pazzi1 matter than for his authorising the Spanish Inquisition. I suppose my readers can draw morals for themselves. I think that in history, as in private life, I hope I try to find out men’s good qualities before their bad ones, their good intentions before their evil means. The statesman always seems to me in a non-moral position, because he has to consider what is possible as well as what is best, and the compromise is necessarily pitiable. The growth of a public conscience has been slow; I don’t wish to antedate its influence. It seems to me that the great charge against the Church after the thirteenth century is that it did not promote, but hindered its growth. Perhaps I have not made this clear.
The more I meditate the more grateful I am to you. I would not have you tone down any expression of dissent. Your standard is so high that I feel braced by its application. There is no one in England who knows much about my subject; very few who care to read my volumes. The only exhortations I get are to be more picturesque and more amusing; and these are not fruitful.
By the way I got a note from Dr. Immelmann2 asking if you are at Cannes, as his translation sticks for want of notes which he has not received.—Yours ever sincerely,
Asti (Piemont), 10 janvier 1892.
Cher Milord Acton,—
Votre lettre m’est arrivée au moment où la mort de mon frère m’a plongé dans la désolation. Il était le chef de ma famille et la perte a pour moi les conséquences les plus doloureuses. Je n’ai ni la tranquillité ni le temps nécessaires pour recueillir mes souvenirs et mes idées, consulter quelques documents et répondre aussi pertinemment que je le devrais aux questions que vous me faites l’honneur de m’adresser. Je ne veux cependant pas retarder trop longtemps à vous répondre. Veuillez donc me permettre de vous dire seulement en peu de mots toute ma pensée.
Je suis convaincu que Cavour était complètement de bonne foi lorsqu’il a émis la formule Libera Chiesa in libero Stato. Je puis me tromper, mais pour moi il n’y a pas de doute sur ce point. Ce n’était pas pour lui un expédient temporaire, ni un stratagème politique. C’était un dogme dans la famille-Cavour que l’Église avait droit à être complètement libre. L’origine de cette doctrine doit remonter au Lamennais de l’Essai sur l’indifférence en matière de religion, à Montalembert, à tout le mouvement d’idées dont le Globe a été l’organe. Cavour avait été élevé dans les idées de l’école libérale française modifiée cependant par son séjour et ses études en Angleterre. Il était convaincu que l’Eglise une fois en possession de toute sa liberté, serait devenue elle même libérale. C’est une conviction qu’on pouvait encore avoir en 1859, dix ans seulement après l’élection de Pie IX. On pouvait supposer que si les Mazziniens n’avait pas effrayé Pie IX, il aurait pu être ramené encore aux idées libérales. Pantaleoni, Tantucci, plusieurs prélats romains nourrissaient cette conviction. Pantaleoni surtout fit croire à Cavour qu’on aurait pu transférer la capitale à Rome d’accord avec la papauté d’accord avec tout le parti catholique et libéral. Cavour en effet voulait arriver à un véritable Concordat. Il n’a jamais envisagé la possibilité d’obtenir Rome par d’autres moyens que d’accord avec la France, et par des négociations diplomatiques. On ne doit donc pas juger de ses idées par ce qu’on a appelé la breccia di Porta Pia.
Les successeurs de Cavour ont dû suivre le sillon qu’il avait tracé. Mais Cavour, qui n’était pas doctrinaire, aurait été bien plus libre qu’eux. Nul ne peut dire si dans la situation toute nouvelle qui s’est formée en 1870, il aurait appliqué plus largement et plus franchement sa formule, ou bien si, réservant ses idées pour l’époque où la conciliation qu’il rêvait aurait été possible, il aurait eu recours pour le moment à d’autres expédients. Peut-être aussi aurait-il pu empêcher la guerre d’éclater en 1870. La formation d’un grand Etat allemand et protestant aurait pu modifier ses idées. Ce qu’il aurait fait dans une situation aussi imprévue est le secret du tombeau. J’ai toujours pensé que c’est une erreur de mettre sur les lèvres des grands qui sont morts des idées et des mots qu’ils n’auraient pas eu. Cavour n’était pas homme à cristalliser son intelligence dans une formule et son existence même aurait été un élément politique d’une très grande valeur en 1870.
Notre loi des garanties est loin d’être parfaite, mais elle répond grosso modo aux besoins et aux nécessités de la situation où l’Italie s’est trouvé placée après 1870. Du reste la formule Libera Chiesa in libero Stato n’est rien par elle-même. Tant dépend de son application. Or il est bien difficile d’appliquer une formule de paix à un état de choses qui est loin d’être la paix. Vous êtes du reste infiniment plus compétent que moi sur ces questions. Je me borne à affirmer la parfaite bonne foi de Cavour. C’est un devoir que je remplis vis-à-vis de sa mémoire qui m’est chère.
THE NORTH BRITISH REVIEW
July 1, 1869.
The North British Review completes its 100th number at a time when the principle in which it originated has won a signal victory. Founded in connection with a movement which will always be memorable in the history of religious liberty, it has gradually extended its scope over the domain of general politics and secular learning; and through a quarter of a century it has upheld the supremacy of principle and conscience in the various spheres of human activity. The idea with which it is primarily associated has now, in a conspicuous instance, been adopted and applied by the State. And the same event which marks a new epoch in the national policy opens a new career to the Review, and invites it to a wider range in the field of literature, and a closer connection with public affairs.
The great measure which has occupied the present session of Parliament is not an isolated fact. It is one indication of a change which is beginning to affect all the nations of Christendom in all the departments of their life. The vast progress of the age in wealth and comfort has been exceeded by its progress in knowledge; and its intellectual conquests are less significant than its advance in intellectual morality. Perceiving that theory must be tested by experience, and practice regulated by theory, it is beginning to combine the precision of inductive philosophy with the constancy, the patience, and the flexibility which are learned by historical research. The new spirit has already established its ascendancy over those branches of learning which have perfected their methods in the study of nature, and over those departments of government which are subject to the doctrines of political economy. Their example is producing an analogous revolution in historical and political literature. And the great act of legislative justice which is growing to completion before our eyes bears witness to the consciousness that political obligation is determined, not by arbitrary maxims of expediency, but by definite and consistent principles—principles which can establish the policy of the State on a sure foundation, beyond the antagonism of classes and the tumult of fluctuating opinion.
A literary organ which is to take part in the serious culture of the time, and to exert an influence on the progress of affairs, must frankly identify itself with the conquests and demands of the new epoch. Passing beyond the narrow formalism of schools and parties, it must appeal to a wider range of sympathies, and a higher integrity of conviction. It must welcome truth from whatever quarter, and pursue justice at whatever cost. Its aim must be the victory of scientific truth over ignorance and error, over passion and interest, over the irresponsible authority of tradition, and the blind force of numbers. Its instruments must be those impartial methods of inquiry in which the strength and discipline of the intellect are sustained by an unflinching sincerity. And it must be animated by that spirit of genial tolerance and various adaptiveness which is taught by the analysis of human nature, and the manifold permutations of history.
Such is the ideal to which this Review aspires, not in forgetfulness of the responsibility it assumes, nor of the difficulties over which its path will lie, but drawing confidence from the magnitude of its objects, and believing that in politics, and in religious as well as secular literature, the moment is opportune for its endeavour.
The political connection which, in spite of many errors and shortcomings, has been identified with the development of our constitutional liberties, and with the advance of science in our legislation, has entered on a new phase of its existence. It has come forth from its contact with the enlarged constituencies, purified from the ignoble terrors and the wayward vanity which had justly reduced it to impotence in the immediate past. And it follows a wise and resolute leader, at whose call the nation has risen, for the first time in history, to the full height of its imperial vocation. To the policy symbolised by his name the Review will give that hearty support which is due to the beginning and the promise of a salutary and momentous reform. It will pursue in the blended light of history and reason the solution of those problems which lie before us in the sphere of government, and which constitute the danger and the hope of our society. Maintaining a foreign policy based on the knowledge of foreign countries, it will recognise the obligations of international morality, and the mutual fellowship of civilised States. And, looking beyond the external form of institutions, and the superficial resemblance of party designations and watchwords, it will sympathise abroad with the struggle and the progress of the same principles which it proclaims at home.
The advance of religious knowledge is signalised by a successive transfer of questions from the region of denominational controversy to the sphere of scientific discussion; and so far as they occupy this sphere they can be adequately treated, like other metaphysical and historical subjects, without the necessity of assuming or denying the postulates of confessional theology. The Review will not enter the arena in which ecclesiastical systems contend; nor will it, either expressly or by implication, disparage the issues of their struggle. But it will labour in the field of that religious science which exists apart from the conflict of Churches, and can be studied and promoted without immediate reference to their claims.
In dealing with purely secular literature, it will exclude no branch of intellectual activity which it has space and opportunity to treat with effect. The desire of the age is for substantial knowledge, and the pursuit of truth has divested learning of its academic character, and freed it from the restrictions of nationality. Its advance can no longer be followed within the confines of this or that particular language; nor can a competent criticism now exist without the concurrence of scholars of every country in which the spiritual and material sciences are cultivated with originality and independence. The Review is justified by the extent of its foreign as well as home relations in addressing itself to the work it has chosen. A change which will be made in its form will enable it, quarter by quarter, to combine with its longer papers a series of notices of important books; and, by means of these notices, it will endeavour to provide, by degrees, a systematic critical survey of the higher contemporary literature of our own and other countries.
At the outset of its new career, the Review invites the literary assistance of scholars who appreciate the principle on which it rests. Those who are best qualified to give instruction to others best understand to how small a portion of the field of knowledge their own qualification extends; and a Review which dedicates itself to the advance of scientific learning can only attain its purpose by the constant accession of new contributors in all the departments of research. It cannot become the literary monopoly of any given body of men, however numerous or energetic they may be. The pages of this Review, therefore, will be always open to those who, whether eminent or obscure, have acquired a mastery of the methods by which the results of science are obtained. Without allowing actual controversy between its writers, it will admit that wide diversity of view which is inseparable from the process of honest investigation. And, while fully recognising the importance of literary form, it will assign a higher value to the fruits of patient study and the evidence of systematic thought.
The 101st number will be published in London in October 1869.
[Page 100, note,]for “Is Healthful Reunion Possible?” read “Is Healthful Reunion Impossible?”
[Page 276, line 11,]for “qui” read “que.”
[1 ] The paper is that on “The Political Causes of the American Revolution,” published in The Rambler, May 1861.
[1 ] On Cobden’s visit to Hawarden, cf. Morley’s Life of Cobden, ii. ch. xi. pp. 359 et seq.
[1 ]F. A. Paley (1815-88) was an M.A. of S. John’s College, Cambridge; he became a Roman Catholic in 1846; returned to Cambridge in 1860, acted as private tutor, and edited classical texts.
[1 ]Das Kapital.
[1 ] This letter refers to Acton’s appointment as Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge.
[2 ] Sir John Seeley.
[3 ] Acton seems here to take for granted the erroneous supposition that Seeley was the author of Supernatural Religion, a book to which Lightfoot made a crushing reply.
[1 ] This letter was written in view of the approaching general election. A little after this Mr. Chamberlain produced the unauthorised programme.
[2 ] The change of Government and Miss Gladstone’s marriage.
[1 ] The allusion here is to the acceptance of office in Lord Salisbury’s government by Lord Hartington and Mr. Goschen. Hitherto the Liberal Unionists had not accepted office under the Conservatives.
[1 ] This refers to the round table conference in which Mr. Chamberlain and Sir George Trevelyan took part. It led to the return of the latter to the Gladstoman fold.
[1 ] This letter refers to Gladstone’s article on “Mr. Lecky and Political Morality” in the Nineteenth Century for 1887.
[1 ]Bonghi, Ruggiero (1828-95), an Italian politician and writer of great weight. That mentioned by Acton is La Vita e i Tempi di V. Pasini, Firenze, 1867.
Valentino Pasini (1806-63) was an Italian of the risorgimento.
[1 ]Surratt, John H., was supposed to be the assailant of Seward, when President Lincoln was assassinated. Surratt fled into Canada and England. Ultimately his mother, Mary E. Surratt, was hanged for conspiracy before the son was caught. He, however, was acquitted. Cf. De Witt, The Judicial Murder of Mary E. Surratt. It is to his hiding that Acton alludes.
[2 ]Gioberti, Vincenzo (1801-51), an Italian statesman and philosopher. He wrote one work, Il primato civile e morale degli Italiani, in which he summoned the Pope to become head of a federation of Italian States. He had much influence over Victor Emmanuel.
[3 ] This letter refers to Gladstone’s article, “Further Notes on the Irish Demand,” published in the Contemporary Review, March 1888.
[1 ]Hervé, Aimé Marie Édouard (1835-99), was an Orleanist, who fought a duel with Edmond About. He was a great opponent of Jules Ferry. After the death of the Comte de Chambord he secured the union of the two branches of the Monarchist party. In 1885 he published La Crise Irlandaise depuis la fin du XVIIIe Siècle jusqu’à nos jours.
[1 ] This letter deals with the effects of the Parnell-O’Shea divorce suit.
[2 ]Geffcken, Friedrich Heinrich von (1830-96). Professor Geffcken became famous through his publishing the Diary of the Emperor Frederic. Bismarck persecuted him in consequence of his telling the truth. Cf. Busch’s Bismarck.
[3 ]Arnold Morley, Liberal Whip, son of Samuel Morley, thought that the effect on the next general election would be disastrous for the Home Rule Party. He was right, as against Acton. Had the elections been taken before the case came on, Gladstone would probably have had a larger majority instead of the small one with which he took office.
[1 ]Séché, Léon, author of Les Derniers Jansénistes, 1891, and Les Origines du Concordat, 1894, and many works on the Romantic Movement.
[2 ]Grégoire, Henri (1750-1831), was the leading bishop of the Constitutional clergy. He was a sincere and convinced democrat, and was President of the Convention. During the Empire he was a senator.
[3 ]Sir James Ferguson’s Answer was a reply to a question of Mr. Labouchere on August 19, 1889. Bismarck did his best to bring England into the circle of the Triple Alliance, and had even threatened a rapprochement with France if we did not make an accord with Italy. England was on bad terms with France ever since 1882 on account of the Egyptian question. What Acton alludes to was the belief that we had entered into some arrangements to prevent France using her Navy against Italy. It is discussed by Mr. Gladstone under the pseudonym of “Outidanos” in the Contemporary Review for October 1889. Gladstone, it must be remembered, was also Franco-phile and disliked Bismarck. He deplored, and rightly, the policy of Crispi, which turned Italy away from the French to the German side.
[1 ] The Kaiser Wilhelm II.
[1 ]Holst’s book. This refers to Hermann von Holst’s Verfassung und Demokratie der Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika, 4 vols., 1873-91. A translation began to appear in 1876. Holst wrote also on Jackson’s administration.
[2 ]Calhoun, John Caldwell (1782-1850), was a strong supporter of State Rights in America. His most important works are—A Disquisition on Government; A Discourse on the Constitution and Government of the United States. He invented the doctrine of nullification. Acton admired him as an exponent of the theory of liberty within the State as against the absolute power of a majority.
[3 ]Manzoni, Alexander (1785-1873), the famous novelist and poet, best known as the author of I Promessi Sposi. He was a strong Catholic, but Liberal in politics. In 1860 he became a Sardinian Senator.
[4 ]Hohenwart, Ck. Karl, Count (1823-99), was Prime Minister of Austria, 1871. He had been inspired by Beust, who was dismissed one week after Hohenwart.
[1 ] Signor Bonghi did write a good deal in the Speaker.
[1 ] This refers to an article contributed by Mr. Gladstone over the signature “Outidanos.” The article was entitled, “The Triple Alliance and Italy’s Place in it.” It was published in the Contemporary Review, September 1889.
[2 ] Mr. Percy Bunting, editor of the Contemporary Review.
[1 ]Stauffenberg, François Auguste, Baron Schenk de (1854), was elected in 1866 to the Chamber of Bavaria. He was President in 1873-75.
[2 ] This letter refers to the article on the causes of the Franco-Prussian War, printed in the Historical Essays.
[1 ]Parieu, Marie-Louis-Pierre-Félix, Esquirou de (1815-86); a great economist and financier; for a long time was president of the financial section of the Conseil d’Etat under the Emperor Louis Napoléon. In 1870 he became Minister-President of the Council of State in the Liberal Cabinet of Émile Ollivier. The book is Considérations sur l’histoire du second Empire, 1877. Cf. also on this topic É. Ollivier, L’Empire Libéral, xiv, Appendix xiii, “c’est ma guerre.” Acton alludes to this in his essay (Historical Essays, p. 220). “Lastly Parieu, the President of the Council of State, who was present at the Council referred to by Lord Malmesbury, says that when they were leaving he asked him what he thought of it. He replied that he wished England would do them the service of finding some way out of it. ‘M. Parieu,’ said the Empress, ‘I am much of the same opinion.’ This is in a published book. But in a private letter he wrote to a person that I knew that her words were, ‘C’est ma guerre à moi.’ ”
[1 ] Charles Gore, Bishop successively of Worcester, Birmingham, and Oxford.
[1 ]Dumont, Etienne (1759-1829), popularised Bentham’s ideas and issued French adaptations of his works. It was first of all through Dumont that many of Bentham’s ideas became known.
[1 ]Hampden, Renn Dickson (1793-1868), was Bampton Lecturer in 1832. His lectures on “The Scholastic Philosophy” were made the occasion of an outcry. When Melbourne made him Regius Professor, Newman wrote a pamphlet against him. In 1847 he became Bishop of Hereford, again not without a struggle.
[2 ]Faussett, Godfrey, Canon of Christ Church, Margaret Professor, was one of the leaders of the Opposition to the Tractarian Movement. He preached a famous sermon on The Revival of Popery, May 1838.
[3 ]Hawkins, Edward (1789-1882), was provost of Oriel. Newman had voted for him as against Keble. He quarrelled with Newman and Hurrell Froude, who wished to take their tutorship seriously, and on their resignation got in Hampden to do the official work. He was a hard and unattractive person, without sympathy, who despised devotion.
[1 ]i.e. Séché.
[2 ] Dean Church’s History of the Oxford Movement.
[1 ] The book referred to is Christian Theology and Modern Scepticism, by Edward Adolphus Seymour, Twelfth Duke of Somerset (1872).
[2 ] R. W. Church.
[1 ] This is an error. T. H. Green in Robert Elsmere is represented by Mr. Gray, the tutor. J. R. Green is supposed to have served as a model for the hero.
[2 ] Mrs. Ward is a daughter of Thomas Arnold, son of Dr. Arnold of Rugby.
[1 ] The Rev. W. E. Addis was ordained in the Roman Church, and was afterwards Vice-Principal of Manchester College, Oxford, and since has become Rector of St. Botolph’s, Aldgate, and All Saints’, Ennismore Gardens. He died in 1916.
[1 ]Beugnot, Arthur Auguste, Comte (1797-1865), a French publicist and archæologist. The book alluded to is his Histoire de la Destruction du Paganisme en occident, 2 tom., 1835.
[2 ] Alexander von Humboldt’s book with that title was published in 1845.
[1 ]Joule, James Prescott (1818-89), a great physicist and discoverer.
[2 ]Mayer, Julius Robert von (1818-78), a great German physicist, who has been called the Galileo of the nineteenth century.
[1 ]Reimarus, Hermann Samuel (1694-1768), the founder of modern criticism of the New Testament. His most famous book is Von dem Zwecke Jesu und seiner Junger, 1778.
[1 ]Bayle, Pierre (1647-1706), author of the famous Dictionnaire historique et critique, and also the Nouvelles de la République des Lettres. Bayle was falsely accused of being an infidel.
[2 ]Toland, John (1670-1722), a deist and author of Christianity not Mysterious, 1696. His publication was the beginning of the battle between the Deists and the Orthodox.
[3 ] Dugald Stewart, the Edinburgh philosopher.
[1 ]Stade, Bernard, Professor at Giessen, author of Geschichte des Volkes Israel.
[1 ] The Library at Hawarden Castle.
[1 ]I.e. Newton.
[1 ] Budinszky, Die Universität Paris und die Fremden an derselben im Mittelalter (Berlin, 1876).
[2 ]Zart, Gustav. Einfluss der englischen Philosophen seit Bacon auf die deutsche Philosophie des 18 Jahrhunderts.
[3 ]Michael, Emil. Ignaz von Döllinger, eine Characteristik.
[1 ]Hauréau, Jean Barthélemy, author of Histoire de la Philosophie scolastique, 2 vols., 1877-80.
[1 ]De Dominis, Marco Antonio (1566-1624), was a Roman Bishop who was for some time a convert to the English Church. Ultimately he went back and made his submission. The tract is Consilium Reditus.
[2 ]Le Courayer, Pierre François (1681-1786), a Roman theologian who wrote strongly in favour of Anglican Orders. He lived for some time in England on easy terms with Archbishop Wake, but he died in the Roman faith.
[1 ]Andrewes and Bishop Buckeridge sanctioned the burning of Leggatt for Arianism, and voted for the divorce of Essex. Archbishop Ussher argued before the Council the right of enforcing the act de heretico.
[1 ]Nicole, Pierre (1625-1695), was one of the most celebrated of the Port-Royalists. His best known book is his Essais de Morale.
[1 ]Hicks, William, or Hicks Pasha (1830-83), was betrayed and killed in battle by the army of the Mahdi (November 1883).
[1 ] J. W. Cross, Life of George Eliot.
[2 ] George Eliot.
[3 ]Hamilton, Walter Kerr (1808-69), Bishop of Salisbury (1854-69), was one of the strongest of Tractarians. He developed the organization of the diocese, and wrote important charges on the Eucharistic sacrifice, one of which was attacked in the House of Lords. He was a man of great holiness of life.
[1 ]Lenbach, Franz von (1836-94), the famous Munich painter of portraits. He painted among others Acton, Döllinger, and Gladstone.
[1 ] Parnell.
[1 ] See on this point Morley’s Life of Gladstone, iii. 508. Mr. Gladstone’s figures, to which Acton objects, are in the Appendix, 563.
[1 ]Rhossis, Zikos or Zeios, was Professor in the Theological Seminary, Rizarion, and Lecturer in the University of Athens. He was a member of the two Bonn Conferences.
[2 ] This refers to the argument of Pusey, What is of Faith as to Everlasting Punishment; more especially pp. 7-16.
[3 ]Mivart, St. George Jackson (1827-1900), the biologist. After many daring statements of the case of the scientific man in the Roman Church, Mivart was excommunicated in 1900. Acton’s diagnosis was correct. In later years it appeared that he was no more than an agnostic.
[1 ]Schuyler, Eugene. Notes of a Journey in Russian Turkestan, 2 vols., 1876.
[1 ] Ex-Emperor of Brazil.
[1 ] Probably this is a dialect phrase for travelling brother.
[2 ]i.e. the illness of the Emperor Frederic.
[1 ] This letter refers to an article, “Lord Macaulay,” which Mr. Gladstone contributed to the Quarterly Review in July 1876.
[1 ]Hope Scott, J. R. (1812-73). See Ormsby, Memoirs of Hope Scott, 1884, 2 vols. Hope-Scott was a distinguished barrister who married Lockhart’s daughter, and was received into the Church of Rome together with Manning in April 1851. Through his wife he succeeded to Abbotsford. He is mentioned by Newman at the end of the Apologia.
[1 ] General Gordon.
[1 ] Gladstone wrote an article on “The Influence of Authority in Matters of Opinion” in the Nineteenth Century, March 1877.
[2 ]Pecock, Reginald (1395-1460), Bishop of Chichester, author of The Repressor of overmuch blaming of the Clergy.
[1 ] This letter refers to the defeat of the Government in 1885 on the Vote by a combination of Tories and Irish.
[1 ] Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, who at that time was Lord Acton’s tenant at Princes Gate.
[1 ]I.e. the defeat of the Conservative Government leading to the formation of Gladstone’s Home Rule Ministry; and the marriage of his daughter Mary to the Rev. Harry Drew.
[1 ]The description of Newman. This refers to Gladstone’s rejoinder to Newman’s letter to the Duke of Norfolk in reply to Gladstone on the Vatican Decrees. At the beginning of this rejoinder Gladstone pays a compliment to Newman, but goes on to say that his published work has deteriorated since he became a Roman Catholic.
[2 ]Kenealy, Edward Vaughan Hyde (1819-80). Dr. Kenealy was famous as the defender of the Tichborne claimant. He was elected M.P. for Stoke in 1875.
[1 ] Charlotte, Lady Blennerhassett, née Countess von Leyden, is the recipient of these letters, a favourite pupil and friend of Döllinger. Eminent in learning, she is especially known for her works on Madame de Staël and Talleyrand. Also, she has written what is, we believe, the first German biography of Newman. She is a contributor to the Deutsche Rundschau and other important periodicals. Rumour attributes to her the authorship of the article on Acton, which appeared in the Edinburgh Review of October 1904. Acton was a friend of Lady Blennerhassett, and at one period was accustomed to confide much in her. She died this year at Munich.
[1 ] The book alluded to is Madame de Staël and the Grand Duchess Louise. The question is discussed pp. 190 sqq. It rests on the point as to whether a document quoted by Thiers is genuine.
[2 ] In February 1886 Lady Blennerhasset published an article in the Deutsche Rundschau entitled “Taine’s Darstellung der französischen Revolution.”
[3 ] See the long letter on this topic in Letters to Mary Drew, pp. 160-3 (2nd edition).
[1 ] This letter is concerned with the first half of Lady Blennerhassett’s Madame de Staël.
[1 ]L’Abbesse de Jouarre. This refers to Lady Blennerhassett’s citation in Frau von Staël, i. 100, from Renan’s L’Abbesse de Jouarre.
[1 ]Turgot, Anne Robert Jacques (1727-81), the great French statesman.
[2 ]Foncin, Pierre, Professor of History at the Lycée of Bordeaux. Essai sur le Ministère de Turgot, Paris, 1877.
[1 ] One-eyed among the blind.
[2 ] Prof. Bernays.
[3 ] M. Necker.
[1 ]Stedingk, a Swedish count, contemporary of Gustavus III (1746-1837). The next letter begins with a discussion of the date of Stedingk’s becoming field-marshal.
This passage concerns the description of the various Swedish nobles who came to Paris in 1771. Among them was Baron de Staël-Holstein, who married the daughter of M. Neckar.—Frau von Staël, i. 187 et seq.
[1 ]Mémoires. These are the Mémoires posthumes du feld-marshall, Comte de Stedingk, 1844.
[2 ]Geffroy. Gustave III et la Cour de France.
[1 ]Montlosier, François Dominique de Reynaud, Comte de (1755-1838). A rather eccentric supporter of a reformed monarchy, with strong feudal predilections.
[2 ]Lanjuinais, Jean-Denis, Comte (1753-1827), did his best to save Louis XVI from condemnation by the Convention. He escaped from Paris and thus was able to live to be a Count of the Empire, and afterwards in the Restored Monarchy. He was always a defender of Liberty, and was a great lawyer.
[1 ] This refers to Lanjuinais. Mémoire historique sur la célèbre maxime de l’édit de Pistes de 864.
Lex fit consensu populi et constitutione regis.
The phrase occurs in the sixth clause of the edict. It is printed in the Monumenta Rerum Germanicarum. ‘Leges,’ vol. ii. 310 sqq.
[1 ] Le troisième volume de Lecky. The chapter on the American Revolution will be found in the third volume of the first (Library) edition of Lecky’s History of England in the Eighteenth Century, pp. 267-459.
[1 ]Les Histoires d’Hamilton. This refers to the various scandals related in the Memoirs of the Comte de Gramont, by Anthony Hamilton.
[1 ] This letter concerns the volume on “Talleyrand,” published by Lady Blennerhassett in 1894.
[1 ] A member of the Constituent Assembly.
[2 ] Baron Stockmar was the adviser of the Prince Consort. Many letters to him are given by Sir Theodore Martin in his Life. The Memoirs also appeared in English.
[3 ]Bacourt, A. de. Correspondance entre le Comte de Mirabeau et le Comte de la Marck, 1851.
The article referred to by Baron L. von Stockmar, entitled Zur Kritik von Bacourts Korrespondenz zwischen Mirabeau und La Marck, is to be found in Sybel’s Historische Zeitschrift, Band 39 (1-21), 1878.
[4 ] “The Memoirs of his father” are Denkwurdigkeiten aus den Papieren des Freiherrn C. F. von Stockmar, 1872.
[5 ]Rémusat, Claire Elizabeth Jeanne, Comtesse de. Her Memoirs were published by her grandson in 1881.
[6 ] This is, Denkwürdigkeiten des Staatskanzlers Filrsten von Hardenberg, edited by Ranke, 5 vols., 1877.
Hardenberg, Karl August Fürst von, was a friend of Stein and Chancellor of Prussia.
[7 ]Hain, Ludwig. Repertorium bibliographicum. This probably refers to Bürger’s edition, 1891.
[1 ] “Perigordiana,” references to Talleyrand.
[2 ]Vandal, Albert. Napoléon et Alexandre Ier. L’Alliance russe sous le premier Empire, 1891.
[3 ]Beaulieu-Marçonnay, Baron Carl von. Karl von Dalberg und seine Zeit, 1879.
[4 ]Browning, Oscar. England and Napoleon in 1803, being the despatches of Lord Whitworth and others, 1887.
[1 ]Masson, Frédéric. Le Département des Affaires Étrangères pendant la Révolution.
[2 ] Cf. Journal Intime de Benjamin Constant for the friendship between him and Madame de Staël, 1895. Also a volume of unpublished letters between Benjamin Constant and Madame de Staël.
[3 ]Bonstetten, Charles Victor de (1745-1832), a Swiss rationalist and philosopher. A friend of Benjamin Constant, Voltaire, and Madame de Staël and her mother.
[4 ] “Votre lettre de 1809.” This refers to Madame de Staël’s letter to Talleyrand, printed in Lady Blennerhassett’s book, iii. 271-3.
[1 ] “Now in God’s name let us appeal to the gods of Olympus.”
[1 ]Fiévée, Joseph (1767-1839), statesman and littérateur, was a strong defender of the royalist party, but with a leaning towards constitutionalism. Made a prefect in 1813, he was removed after the return from Elba. His opposition to the extreme party helped to bring about the revolution of 1830. He wrote much.
[2 ]Berryer, Antoine-Pierre (1790-1868), was one of the greatest French orators. He was a constitutional royalist.
[3 ]Genoude, Antoine-Eugène de (1792-1849), supported Lamennais, revived the Gazette de France. He believed in hereditary monarchy and the popular vote. After his wife’s death he was ordained.
[4 ]Cormenin, Louis-Marie de la Haie, Vicomte de (1788-1868). He was an opponent of Louis Philippe and a great supporter of religious liberty. He was a great pamphleteer but a bad orator.
[5 ] This letter concerns Acton’s article on “The Art of George Eliot,” which was published in the Nineteenth Century in 1885, and is reprinted in Historical Essays.
[6 ]Hutton, R. H., the editor of the Spectator.
[1 ]Jefferson, Thomas, the American (1743-1826). Revolutionist. He represented, in America, the views of the extreme equalitarian democrats, as against the Whig theories of Alexander Hamilton. He is the author of the Declaration of Independence. He approved of Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man, and had in Washington’s Cabinet continual discussions with his co-Secretary Hamilton. In 1801 he became the third President of the United States.
[2 ]Baader. Franz Xavier von Baader (1765-1841) held a chair of philosophy at Munich, and wrote on many topics connected with mysticism and religion. He greatly influenced Montalembert and Döllinger.
[3 ]Daub, Karl (1763-1836), was Professor of Theology at Heidelberg. He did much to popularise Kant. But the advent of Hegel changed his view, and his most important work is dedicated to Hegel.
[4 ]Rothe, Richard (1799-1897), a great Protestant theologian, was a pupil of Daub at Heidelberg. He was afterwards for twelve years a professor there, then went to Bonn, but back again to Heidelberg. His great work, Theological Ethics, Acton used to regard as that most likely to convert a candid reader to Catholicism.
[5 ]Gournay, Vincent de (1712-59), was the master of Turgot, who wrote an Eloge de Gournay; French economist, and the author of the phrase “Laissez faire.”
“L’homme, dont nous allons parler, n’a jamais occupé de grandes places, il n’a été mêlé à aucun événement historique, il n’a écrit aucun livre. Cependant il a exercé une influence très réelle sur son temps et aussi sur le vôtre.”—G. Schelle, Vincent de Gournay.
[1 ]Feuerbach, Ludwig Andreas, the Philosopher (1804-72). He was a pupil of Daub at Heidelberg.
[1 ]Giżycki, Georg von, a writer on ethics, who has published books on Kant und Schopenhauer, Grundzüge der Moral, etc.
[2 ]Guyau, Marie Jean, the writer on ethics and philosophy. His best known work is Esquisse d’une morale sans obligation ni sanction. This, together with L’irréligion de l’avenir, was much studied by Nietzsche.
[1 ]Rossi, Pellegrino Luigi Edvardo, Comte (1787-1848), an Italian statesman and publicist. He was Professor of Law at Geneva and afterwards at the Collège de France. He was naturalised, and was at one time sent as minister to the Pope. In the early days of Pio Nono, Rossi was his reforming premier. He was shortly after assassinated. This caused the flight of the Pope to Gaeta and the end of the liberal régime.
[2 ]Reuss, Edward Wilhelm Eugène (1804-91), Professor of Theology at Strasburg, wrote Histories of the Books of the New Testament and of the Canon of the Holy Scriptures. He wrote much in defence of liberal theology.
[3 ]Vinet (1797-1847), a great Protestant theologian and professor at Lausanne.
[1 ] This letter refers to Acton’s honorary degree at Oxford.
[1 ] Prince Hohenlohe-Waldenburg-Schillingsfürst (1794-1849). He became Bishop of Sardica in partibus, 1844. The Prince was a very devout and liberal-minded man and wrought many cures by faith. Pius VII forbade this, saying Questo far dei miracoli. He compiled a book of prayers for faith-healing. This is known popularly as the Mirakelbüchlein. Presumably that is why Acton speaks of them as une soie légendaire.
[2 ] J. Bryce, “American Commonwealth,” E. H. Review, 1889.
[1 ]Charras, Jean Baptiste Adolphe. Histoire de la Campagne de 1815. It may be noted incidentally that the campaign of Waterloo was a topic in which Acton took a deep interest.
[2 ]Maurice, i.e. Colonel Sir Frederick Maurice, son and biographer of Frederick Denison Maurice, author of War, and many books on military topics.
[3 ]Siborne, William, author of the Waterloo Campaign, etc.
[1 ]Heidenthum und Judenthum, one of Döllinger’s best known works.
[2 ] The Master of University College, Rev. Dr. Franck Bright, was shot by a woman, not fatally, who mistook him for a fellow of the College.
[1 ]Abbott, Edwin A., headmaster of the City of London School; author of Philochristus; published a Life of Francis Bacon in 1885.
[1 ]Fowler, Thomas, President of Corpus Christi College, Oxford; edited the Novum Organum, and published a book on Bacon in 1881.
[2 ] This refers to the contributions of Lady Blennerhassett to the Cambridge Modern History.
[1 ] The stanzas are of no literary merit and have been omitted.
[1 ] This letter refers to the first two volumes of Creighton’s History of the Papacy during the Reformation, published in 1882.
[2 ]Gherardi, Alessandro, published in 1887 Nuovi documenti e studi intorno a Girolamo Savonarola; also Le Consulte della Repubblica Fiorentina.
[1 ]Burchard, Giovanni, papal secretary from 1483-1505, Bishop of Cività Castellano and Orte. The book referred to is his Diarium sive rerum urbanarum commentarii. The first complete edition was published, edited by L. Thuasne, 1883-86. He was secretary of Alexander VI.
[2 ]Wegele, Franz Xavier von (1823-97). The first article in the English Historical Review was that by Acton on “German Schools of History.” It took the form of a review of Dr. Wegele’s book Geschichte der deutschen Historiographie.
Wegele was Professor at Würzburg, and also editor of the Allgemeine deutsche Biographie.
[1 ] This letter deals with Acton’s review of Creighton’s second two volumes. The review was published in the English Historical Review. On this topic cf. Life of Mandell Creighton, ii.; also Creighton’s letter printed in the Appendix to Acton’s History of Freedom.
[2 ]Napoleon. Acton contributed to the English Historical Review for July 1887 a notice of Seeley’s Short History of Napoleon the First, and J. C. Ropes’ Napoleon the First.
[1 ]The conspiracy of the Pazzi in 1478 was an attempt to get rid of Lorenzo dei Medici, to which Pope Sixtus IV was privy. The Pazzi were the Florentine family next in importance to the Medici. Cf. Creighton’s History of the Papacy, iv. 84 et seq.
[2 ]Immelmann, J., translated Acton’s article on “German Schools of History.”
[1 ]Artom, Isaaco, an Italian diplomat of Jewish origin, was private secretary to Cavour, and filled many other posts. He wrote books on Cavour and Victor Emmanuel.