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Cannes, April 5, 1887
Dear Mr. Creighton,
I thank you very sincerely for your letter,
which, though dated April 1, is as
frank as my review was artful and reserved. The postponement gives me time to
correct several errors besides those you point out, if youwill let me have my manuscript out here. The other will also be the
better for leisurely revision. Forgive me if I answer you with a diffuseness
degenerating into garrulity.
The criticism of those who complained that
I attacked the Germans without suggesting a better method seems to me
undeserved. I was trying to indicate the progress and—partial—improvement of
their historical writing; and when I disagreed I seldom said so, but rather
tried to make out a possible case in favour of views I don’t share. Nobody can
be more remote than I am from the Berlin and the Tübingen schools; but I tried
to mark my disagreement by the lightest touch. From the Heidelberg school I
think there is nothing to learn, and I said so. Perhaps I have been ambiguous
sometimes, for you say that appreciation such as yours for the essentials of
the Roman system is no recommendation in my eyes. If that conclusion is drawn
from my own words I am much in fault. But that has nothing of importance to do
with a critique in the H. R. [English Historical Review].
And when you say that I am desirous to show
how the disruption might have been avoided, I only half recognise myself. The
disruption took place over one particular, well-defined point of controversy;
and when they went asunder upon that, the logic of things followed. But they
needed not to part company on that particular. It was a new view that Luther
attacked. Theological authority in its favour there was very little. It was not approved by
Hadrian VI, or by many Tridentine divines, or by many later divines, even among
the Jesuits. Supposing, therefore, there had been men of influence at Rome such
as certain fathers of Constance formerly, or such as Erasmus or Gropper, it
might well have been that they would have preferred the opinion of Luther to
the opinion of Tetzel, and would have effected straightway the desired reform
of the indulgences for the Dead.
But that is what set the stone rolling, and
the consequences were derived from that one special doctrine or practice. Cessante
causa cessat effectus. Introduce, in 1517, the reforms desired six years
later, by the next Pope, demanded by many later divines, adopt, a century and a
half before it was written, the Exposition de la Foi, and then the particular
series of events which ensued would have been cut off.
For the Reformation is not like the
Renaissance or the Revolution, a spontaneous movement springing up in many
places, produced by similar though not identical causes. It all derives, more
or less directly, from Luther, from the consequences he gradually drew from the
resistance of Rome on that one disputed point.
I must, therefore, cast the responsibility
on those who refused to say, in 1517,what everybody had said two centuries before, and
many said a century later. And the motive of these people was not a religious
idea, one system of salvation setup against another; but an ecclesiastical one.
They said, Prierias says quite distinctly, that the whole fabric of authority
would crumble if a thing permitted, indirectly or implicitly sanctioned by the
supreme authority responsible for souls should be given up.
(The English disruption proceeded along
other lines, but nearly parallel. Nearly the same argument applies to it, and
it is not just now the question.)
Of course, an adversary, a philosophical
historian, a Dogmengeschichtslehrer,may say that, even admitting that things arose and went on as I say,
yet there was so much gunpowder about that any spark would have produced much
the same explosion. I cannot disprove it. I do not wish to disprove it. But I
know nothing about it. We must take things as they really occurred. What occurred
is that Luther raised a just objection, that the authority of tradition and the
spiritual interest of man were on his side, and that the Catholic divines
refused to yield to him for a reason not founded on tradition or on charity.
Therefore I lay the burden of separation on
the shoulders of two sets of men—those who, during the Vice
chancellorship and the pontificate of Borgia, promoted the theory of the
Privileged Altars (and indirectly the theory of the Dispensing Power); and
those who, from 1517 to 1520, sacrificed the tradition of the
Church to the credit of the Papacy.
Whether the many reforming rills, partly
springing in different regions—Wyclif, the Bohemians before Hus, Hus, the
Bohemians after him, the Fratres Communis Vitae, the divines described by
Ullmann, and more than twenty other symptoms of somewhat like kind, would have
gathered into one vast torrent, even if Luther had been silenced by knife or
pen, is a speculative question not to be confounded with the one here
discussed. Perhaps America would have gone, without the help of Grenville or
My object is not to show how disruption
might have been avoided, but how it was brought on. It was brought on, secundo
me, by the higher view of the papal monarchy in
spirituals that grew with the papal monarchy in temporals (and with much other
monarchy). The root, I think, is there, while the Italian prince is the branch.
To the growth of those ideas after the fall of the Councils I attribute what
followed, and into that workshop or nursery I want to pry. If Rovere or Borgia
had never sought or won territorial sovereignty, the breach must have come just
the same, with the Saxons if not with the English.
I was disappointed at not learning from you
what I never could find out, how that peculiar discipline established itself at
Rome between the days of Kempis and of Erasmus. It would not have appeared
mysterious or esoteric to your readers if I had said a little more about it.
Nor is this a point of serious difference. When you come to talk of the crisis
I do not doubt you will say how it came about. Probably you will not give quite
the same reasons that occur to me, because you are more sure than I am that the
breach was inevitable. But I did think myself justified in saying that these
two volumes do not contain an account of some of the principal things
pertaining to the Papacy during the Reformation, and in indicating the sort of
explanation I desiderate in Vol. V.
What is not at all a question of
opportunity or degree is our difference about the Inquisition. Here again I do
not admit that there is anything esoteric in my objection. The point is not
whether you like the Inquisition—I mean that is a point which the H.R. may
mark, but ought not to discuss—but whether you can, without reproach to historical accuracy, speak of the later mediaeval
papacy as having been tolerant and enlightened. What you say on that point
struck me exactly as it would strike me to read that the French Terrorists were
tolerant and enlightened, and avoided the guilt of blood. Bear with me whilst I
try to make my meaning quite clear.
We are not speaking of the Papacy towards
the end of the fifteenth or early sixteenth century, when, for a couple of
generations, and down to 1542,there was a decided lull in the persecuting spirit. Nor are we
speaking of the Spanish Inquisition, which is as distinct from the Roman as the
Portuguese, the Maltese, or the Venetian. I mean the Popes of the thirteenth
and fourteenth centuries, from Innocent III down to the time of Hus. These men
instituted a system of Persecution, with a special tribunal, special
functionaries, special laws. They carefully elaborated, and developed, and
applied it. They protected it with every sanction, spiritual and temporal. They
inflicted, as far as they could, the penalties of death and damnation on
everybody who resisted it. They constructed quite a new system of procedure,
with unheard of cruelties, for its maintenance. They devoted to it a whole code
of legislation, pursued for several generations, and not to be found in [ ].
But although not to be found there it is to
be found in books just as common; it is perfectly familiar to every Roman
Catholic student initiated in canon law and papal affairs; it has been worn
threadbare in a thousand controversies; it has been constantly attacked,
constantly defended, and never disputed or denied, by any Catholic authority.
There are some dozens of books, some of them official, containing the
Indeed it is the most conspicuous fact in
the history of the mediaeval papacy, just as the later Inquisition, with what
followed, is the most conspicuous and characteristic fact in the history and
record of the modern papacy. A man is hanged not because he can or cannot prove
his claim to virtues, but because it can be proved that he has committed a
particular crime. That one action overshadows the rest of his career. It is
useless to argue that he is a good husband or a good poet. The one crime swells
out of proportion to the rest. We all agree that Calvin was one of the greatest
writers, many think him the best religious teacher, in the world. But that one
affair of Servetus outweighs the nine folios, and settles, by itself, the
reputation he deserves. So with the mediaeval Inquisition and the Popes that
founded it and worked it. That is the breaking point, the article
of their system by which they stand or fall.
Therefore it is better known than any other
part of their government, and not only determines the judgment but fills the
imagination, and rouses the passions of mankind. I do not complain that it does
not influence your judgment. Indeed I see clearly how a mild and conciliatory
view of Persecution will enable you to speak pleasantly and inoffensively of
almost all the performers in your list, except More and Socinius; whilst a man
with a good word for More and Socinius would have to treat the other actors in
the drama of the Reformation as we treat the successive figures on the inclined
plane of the French Revolution, from Dumouriez to Barras. But what amazes and
disables me is that you speak of the Papacy not as exercising a just severity,
but as not exercising any severity. You do not say, these misbelievers deserved
to fall into the hands of these torturers and Fire-the-faggots; but you ignore,
you even deny, at least implicitly, the existence of the torture-chamber and
I cannot imagine a more inexplicable error,
and I thought I had contrived the gentlest formula of disagreement in coupling
you with Cardinal Newman.
The same thing is the case with Sixtus IV
and the Spanish Inquisition. What you say has been said by Hefele and Gams and
others. They, at least, were in a sort, avowed defenders of the Spanish
Inquisition. Hefele speaks of Ximenes as one might speak of Andrewes or Taylor
or Leighton. But in what sense is the Pope not responsible for the constitution
by which he established the new tribunal? If we passed a law giving Dufferin
powers of that sort, when asked for, we should surely be responsible. No doubt,
the responsibility in such a case is shared by those who ask for a thing. But
if the thing is criminal, if, for instance, it is a license to commit adultery,
the person who authorises the act shares the guilt of the person who commits
it. Now the Liberals think Persecution a crime of a worse order than adultery,
and the acts done by Ximenes considerably worse than the entertainment of Roman
courtesans by Alexander VI. The responsibility exists whether the thing
permitted be good or bad. If the thing be criminal, then the authority
permitting it bears the guilt. Whether Sixtus is infamous or not depends on our
view of persecution and absolutism. Whether he is responsible or not depends
simply on the ordinary evidence of history.
Here, again, what I said is not in any way
mysterious or esoteric. It appeals to no hidden code. It aims at no secret
moral. It supposes nothing and implies nothing but what is universally current
and familiar. It is the common, even the vulgar, code I appeal to.
Upon these two points we differ widely;
still more widely with regard to the principle by which you undertake to judge
men. You say that people in authority are not [to] be snubbed or sneezed at
from our pinnacle of conscious rectitude. I really don’t know whether you
exempt them because of their rank, or of their success and power, or of their
date. The chronological plea may have some little value in a limited sphere of
instances. It does not allow of our saying that such a man did not know right
from wrong, unless we are able to say that he lived before Columbus, before
Copernicus, and could not know right from wrong. It can scarcely apply to the
centre of Christendom, 1500 after
the birth of our Lord. That would imply that Christianity is a mere system of
metaphysics, which borrowed some ethics from elsewhere. It is rather a system
of ethics which borrowed its metaphysics elsewhere. Progress in ethics means a
constant turning of white into black and burning what one has adored. There is
little of that between St. John and the Victorian era.
But if we might discuss this point until we
found that we nearly agreed, and if we do argue thoroughly about the
impropriety of Carlylese denunciations, and Pharisaism in history, I cannot
accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men, with a
favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption it
is the other way against holders of power, increasing as the power increases.
Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility.
Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are
almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority:
still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by
authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder
of it. That is the point at which the negation of Catholicism and the negation
of Liberalism meet and keep high festival, and the end learns to justify the
means. You would hang a man of no position, like Ravaillac; but if what one hears
is true, then Elizabeth asked the gaoler to murder Mary, and William III
ordered his Scots minister to extirpate a clan. Here are the greater names
coupled with the greater crimes. You would spare these criminals, for some
mysterious reason. I would hang them, higher than Haman, for reasons of
quite obvious justice; still more, still higher, for the sake of historical
The standard having been lowered in
consideration of date, is to be still further lowered out of deference to
station. Whilst the heroes of history become examples of morality, the
historians who praise them, Froude, Macaulay, Carlyle, become teachers of
morality and honest men. Quite frankly, I think there is no greater error. The
inflexible integrity of the moral code is, to me, the secret of the authority,
the dignity, the utility of history. If we may debase the currency for the sake
of genius, or success, or rank, or reputation, we may debase it for the sake of
a man’s influence, of his religion, of his party, of the good cause which
prospers by his credit and suffers by his disgrace. Then history ceases to be a
science, an arbiter of controversy, a guide of the wanderer, the upholder of
that moral standard which the powers of earth, and religion itself, tend
constantly to depress. It serves where it ought to reign; and it serves the
worst better than the purest.
Let me propose a crux whereby to part
apologetic history from what I should like to call conscientious history: an
Italian government was induced by the Pope to set a good round price on the
heads of certain of its subjects, presumably Protestants, who had got away.
Nobody came to claim the reward. A papal minister wrote to the government in
question to say that the Holy Father was getting impatient, and hoped to hear
soon of some brave deed of authentic and remunerated homicide. The writer of
that letter lies in the most splendid mausoleum that exists on earth; he has
been canonized by the lawful, the grateful, the congenial authority of Rome;
his statue, in the attitude of blessing, looks down from the Alps upon the
plain of Lombardy; his likeness is in our churches; his name is upon our
altars; his works are in our schools. His editor specially commends the letter
I have quoted; and Newman celebrates him as a glorious Saint.
Here is all you want, and more. He lived
many a year ago; he occupied the highest stations, with success and honour; he
is held in high, in enthusiastic reverence by the most intelligent Catholics,
by converts, by men who, in their time, have drunk in the convictions, haply
the prejudices, of Protestant England; the Church that holds him up as a mirror
of sanctity stands and falls with his good name; thousands of devout men and
women would be wounded and pained if you call him an infamous assassin.
What shall we call him? In foro
conscientiae,what do you think of the man or of his admirers? What should you
think of Charlotte Corday if, instead of Marat, she had stabbed Borromeo? At
what stage of Dante’s pilgrimage should you expect to meet him?
And whereas you say that it is no
recommendation in my eyes to have sympathy with the Roman system in its
essentials, though you did not choose those terms quite seriously, one might
wonder what these essentials are. Is it essential—for salvation within the communion
of Rome—that we should accept what the canonization of such a saint implies, or
that we should reject it? Does Newman or Manning, when he invokes St. Charles
[Borromeo], act in the essential spirit of the Roman system, or in direct
contradiction with it? To put it in a walnutshell: could a man be saved who
allowed himself to be persuaded by such a chain of argument, by such a cloud of
witnesses, by such a concourse of authorities, to live up to the example of St.
Of course I know that you do sometimes
censure great men severely. But the doctrine I am contesting appears in your
preface, and in such places as where you can hardly think that a pope can be a
poisoner. This is a far larger question of method in history than what you mean
when you say that I think you are afraid to be impartial; as if you were
writing with purposes of conciliation and in oppostion to somebody who thinks
that the old man of the Seven Mountains is worse than the old man of one. I do
not mean that, because your language about the Inquisition really baffles and
bewilders me. Moreover, you are far more severe on Sixtus about the Pazzi than
others; more, for instance, than Capponi or Reumont. And my dogma is not the
special wickedness of my own spiritual superiors, but the general wickedness of
men in authority—of Luther and Zwingli and Calvin and Cranmer and Knox, of Mary
Stuart and Henry VIII, of Philip II and Elizabeth, of Cromwell and Louis XIV,
James and Charles and William, Bossuet and Ken. Before this, it is a mere detail
that imperfect sincerity is a greater reproach in divines than in laymen, and
that, in our Church, priests are generally sacrilegious; and sacrilege is a
serious thing. Let me add one word to explain my objection to your use of
materials. Here is Pastor, boasting that he knows much that you do not. He does
not stand on a very high level, and even his religion seems to be chiefly
ecclesiastical. But I do apprehend that his massive information will give him
an advantage over you when he gets farther. In that light I regret whatever
does not tend to increase the authority of a work written on such Culturstufe as yours. I did not mean to overlook what may be urged per contra. When you began there was no rival more jealous than Gregorovius.
That is not the case now. I should have wished your fortification to be
strengthened against a new danger.
I am sure you will take this long and
contentious letter more as a testimony of heart confidence and respect than of
hostility—although as far as I grasp your method I don’t agree with it. Mine
seems to me plainer and safer; but it has never been enough to make me try to
write a history, from mere want of knowledge. I will put it into canons,
leaving their explanation and development to you.
remain, yours most sincerely
Advice to persons about to write History:
Don’t. Visit the Monte Purgatorio, as Austin called the Magnesian rock that
yields Epsom Salts; or: Get rid of Hole and Corner Buffery.
In the Moral Sciences Prejudice is
A Historian has to fight against
temptations special to his mode of life, temptations from Country, Class,
Church, College, Party, authority of talents, solicitation of friends.
The most respectable of these influences
are the most dangerous.
The historian who neglects to root them out
is exactly like a juror who votes according to his personal likes or dislikes.
In judging men and things, Ethics go before
Dogma, Politics or Nationality.
The Ethics of History cannot be
Judge not according to the orthodox standard
of a system, religious, philosophical, political, but according as things
promote or fail to promote the delicacy, integrity and authority of Conscience.
Put Conscience above both System and
History provides neither compensation for
suffering nor penalties for wrong.
The moral code, in its main lines, is not
new; it has long been known; it is not universally accepted in Europe, even
now. The difference in moral insight between past and present is not very
But the notion and analysis of Conscience
is scarely older than 1700; and the notion and analysis of veracity is scarcely
older than our time—barring Sacred Writings of East and West.
In Christendom, time and place do not
excuse—if the Apostle’s Code sufficed for Salvation.
Strong minds think things out, complete the
circle of their thinking, and must not be interpreted by types.
Good men and great men are ex vi
termini, aloof from the action of surroundings.
But goodness generally appeared in unison
with authority, sustained by environment, and rarely manifested the force and
sufficiency of the isolated will and conscience.
The Reign of Sin is more universal, the
influence of unconscious error is less, than historians tell us. Good and evil
lie close together. Seek no artistic unity in character.
History teaches a Psychology which is not
that of private experience and domestic biography.
The principles of public morality are as
definite as those of the morality of private life; but they are not identical.
A good cause proves less in a man’s favour
than a bad cause against him.
The final judgment depends on the worst
Character is tested by true sentiments more
than by conduct. A man is seldom better than his word.
History is better written from letters than
from histories: let a man criminate himself.
No public character has ever stood the
revelation of private utterance and correspondence.
Be prepared to find that the best repute
gives way under closer scrutiny.
In public life, the domain of History, vice
is less than crime.
Active, transitive sins count for more than
The greatest crime is Homicide.
The accomplice is no better than the
assassin; the theorist is worse.
Of killing from private motives or from
public, from political or from religious, eadem est ratio. Morally, the worst is the last. The source of crime is pars
melior nostri. What ought to save, destroys. The
sinner is hardened and proof against Repentance.
Faith must be sincere. When defended by sin
it is not sincere; theologically, it is not Faith. God’s grace does not operate
Transpose the nominative and the accusative
and see how things look then.
History deals with Life; Religion with
Death. Much of its work and spirit escapes our ken.
The systems of Barrow, Baxter, Bossuet
higher, spiritually, constructively, scientifically, than Penn’s. In our scales
his high morality outweighs them.
Crimes by constituted authorities worse
than crimes by Madame Tussand’s private malefactors. Murder may be done by
legal means, by plausible and profitable war, by calumny, as well as by dose or
College, Worcester [April 9, 1887]
My dear Lord Acton,
Your letter is an act of true friendliness,
and I am very grateful to you for it, more grateful than I can say. It is a
rare encouragement to have such a standard set up as you have put before me.
Judged by it I have nothing to say except to submit: efficaci do manus
scientiae. Before such an ideal I can only confess
that I am shallow and frivolous, limited alike in my views and in my knowledge.
You conceive of History as an Architectonic, for the writing of which a man
needs the severest and largest training. And it is impossible not to agree with
you: so it ought to be.
I can only admit that I fall far short of
the equipment necessary for the task that I have undertaken. I was engaged in
reading quietly for the purpose, and the beginning of writing lay in the remote
distance in my mind, when I received a letter asking me to look through the
papers of an old gentleman whom I slightly knew, who on his deathbed had made
me his literary executor. I came across him at Oxford in the Bodleian, where he
came to read for a history of the rise of Universities. He died at the age of
seventy-four, possessor of a vast number of notes, out of which all that I could
piece together was an article on Wyclifs Oxford life. This filled me with a
horror of notebooks and urged me to begin definitely to write. I thought that I
had best frankly do what I could; anything would serve as a step for my
successors. So I wrote.
I entirely agree with your principles of
historical judgments: but apparently I admit casuistry to a larger extent than
you approve. I remember that in 1880
I met John Bright at dinner: he was very cross, apparently a cabinet meeting
had disagreed with him. Amongst other things he said: “If the people knew what
sort of men statesmen were, they would rise and hang the whole lot of
them.” Next day I met a young man who had been talking to Gladstone, who urged
him to parliamentary life, saying: “Statesmanship is the noblest way to serve
I am sufficient of a Hegelian to be able to
combine both judgments; but the results of my combination cannot be expressed
in the terms of the logic of Aristotle. In studying history the question of the
salvability of an archdeacon becomes indefinitely extended to all officials,
kings and popes included. What I meant in my offending sentence in my preface
was that anyone engaged in great affairs occupied a representative
position, which required special consideration. Selfishness, even wrongdoing,
for an idea, an institution, the maintenance of an accepted view of the basis
of society, does not cease to be wrongdoing: but it is not quite the same as
personal wrongdoing. It is more difficult to prove, and it does not equally
shock the moral sense of others or disturb the moral sense of the doer. The
acts of men in power are determined by the effective force behind them of which
they are the exponents: their morality is almost always lower than the morality
of the mass of men: but there is generally a point fixed below which they
cannot sink with impunity. Homicide is always homicide: but there is a
difference between that of a murderer for his own gain, and that of a careless
doctor called in to see a patient who would probably have died anyhow; and the
carelessness of the doctor is a difficult thing to prove.
What is tolerance nowadays? Is it a moral
virtue in the possessor, or is it a recognition of a necessity arising from an
equilibrium of parties? It often seems to me that we speak as if it was the
first, when actually it is the second. My liberalism admits to everyone the
right to his own opinion and imposes on me the duty of teaching him what is
best; but I am by no means sure that that is the genuine conviction of all my
liberal friends. French liberalism does not convince me that it is universal. I
am not quite sure how Frederick Harrison or Cotter Morrison would deal with me
if they were in a majority. The possession of a clear and definite ideal of
society seems to me dangerous to its possessors. The Mediaeval Church had such
an ideal: the result was the Inquisition, which was generally approved by the
common consciousness. In the period of the end of the fifteenth century
the Papacy seemed to me to have wearied of the Inquisition which was not much
supported. The Popes were comparatively tolerant to Jews, Marrani, Turks; they
did not attack the humanists; they did not furbish up the old weapons and apply them to new
cases—except in the recognition of the Spanish Inquisition by Sixtus IV, about
whom I have probably expressed myself loosely, but I have not my volumes here
and I do not exactly [recall] what I said. What I meant was that to Sixtus IV
this recognition was a matter of official routine. To have refused it he would
have had to enunciate a new principle and make a new departure in
ecclesiastical jurisdiction. I should have honoured him if he had done so; but
I do not think him exceptionally persecuting because he did not do so. He
accepted what he found. My purpose was not to justify him, but to put him in
rank with the rest. I think, however, that I was wrong, and that you are right:
his responsibility was graver than I have admitted. I think he knew better.
You judge the whole question of persecution
more rigorously than I do. Society is an organism and its laws are an
expression of the conditions which it considers necessary for its own
preservation. When men were hanged in England for sheep stealing it was because
people thought that sheep stealing was a crime and ought to be severely put
down. We still think it a crime, but we think it can be checked more
effectively by less stringent punishments. Nowadays people are not agreed about
what heresy is; they do not think it a menace to society; hence they do not ask
for its punishment. But the men who conscientiously thought heresy a crime
may be accused of an intellectual mistake, not necessarily of a moral crime.
The immediate results of the Reformation were not to favour free thought, and
the error of Calvin, who knew that ecclesiastical unity was abolished, was a
far greater one than that of Innocent III who struggled to maintain it. I am
hopelessly tempted to admit degrees of criminality, otherwise history becomes a
dreary record of wickedness.
I go so far with you that it supplies me
with few heroes, and records few good actions; but the actors were men like
myself, sorely tempted by the possession of power, trammeled by holding a
representative position (none were more trammeled than popes), and in the sixteenth
century especially looking at things in a very abstract way. I suppose
statesmen rarely regard questions in the concrete. I cannot follow the actions
of contemporary statesmen with much moral satisfaction. In the past I find
myself regarding them with pity—who am I that I should condemn them? Surely
they knew not what they did.
This is no reason for not saying what they
did; but what they did was not always what they tried to do or thought that
they were doing.
Moral progress has indeed been slow; it still
is powerless to affect international relations. If Bright’s remedy were adopted
and every statesman in Europe were hanged, would that mend matters?
In return for your wisdom I have written
enough to show my foolishness. Your letter will give me much food for
meditation, and may in time lead to an amendment of my ways. That you should
have written shows that you think me capable of doing better. I will only
promise that if I can I will; but the labours of practical life multiply, and I
have less time for work at my subject now than I had in the country. For a
period coming on I ought to spend years in Archives: which is impossible. . . .
My jottings bear traces of the incoherence
of one who has preached five sermons this week, and has two more to preach tomorrow.
I have not had time to think over your letter: but I wanted to thank you.
Perhaps the effort to rid myself of prejudice has left me cold and abstract in
my mode of expression and thinking. If so it is an error to be amended and
Will you not someday write an article in
the Historical Review on the Ethics of History?
I have no objection to find my place among the shocking examples. Believe me
that I am genuinely grateful to you.