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(H): LIDDON - 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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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.
[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.