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(U): MISCELLANEOUS - 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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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,
[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.