Front Page Titles (by Subject) (L): OLD TESTAMENT CRITICISM - Selections from the Correspondence of the First Lord Acton, Vol. I (Cardinal Newman, Lady Blennerhassett, W.E. Gladstone)
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(L): OLD TESTAMENT CRITICISM - 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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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.
[1 ]Stade, Bernard, Professor at Giessen, author of Geschichte des Volkes Israel.
[1 ] The Library at Hawarden Castle.