Letters of Lord Acton to Mary Gladstone

Letters of Lord Acton to Mary Gladstone

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Letters of Lord Acton to Mary Gladstone

Letters of Lord Acton to Mary Gladstone

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Excerpt

Lord Acton was dimly known to the general public as a prodigy of learning. He left no great work behind him, and is often quoted as an example of natural gifts buried under an accumulation of excessive or ill-digested knowledge. The image of a Dryasdust, of a bookworm, of a walking Dictionary, was excited by his name among those to whom he was a name and nothing more. To those who had the privilege of his acquaintance he appeared almost the precise opposite of a picture too unlike the truth to be even a caricature. For Lord Acton was a thorough man of the world. An insatiable, systematic, and effective reader, he was anything but a recluse. No man had a keener zest for the society of his intellectual equals. No one took a stronger interest in the events of the day and the gossip of the hour. His learning, though vast and genuine, was never obtruded. Always ready to impart information, he shrank from the semblance of volunteering it. Indeed, if no direct appeal were made to him, he would let people without a tithe of his knowledge lay down the law as if they knew everything, and would betray no other sign of amusement than an enigmatical smile. He had something of Addison's tendency, exhibited in a much more remarkable and much less agreeable form by Mr.

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