Essays on Church and State

Essays on Church and State

Essays on Church and State

Essays on Church and State

Excerpt

When Lord Acton died in 1902 the tributes to him all commented on the disparity between so much massive erudition and the absence of any large sustained work which would remain as a monument to his powers. This was the first feeling of contemporaries who were writing about him as a Regius Professor and as the chief architect of the collective Cambridge Modern History. When his executors began to collect his lectures and other writings, they were quickly found to be sufficient to make four large volumes, two of them university lecture courses on modern history and the French Revolution, while two others, of greater depth and interest, The History of Freedom and Historical Essays and Studies, were mainly drawn from periodicals which had had a short life in the 1860s. Acton's Cambridge executors recorded, not without a note of surprise, that from the files of these periodicals they believed two other volumes of Acton's writings could have been culled. That this was a slight over-estimate, the papers here collected show. But with this volume, I believe that all the considerable articles which he wrote in his early period will have been reprinted. But at the end are some specimens of the shorter writings, the topical notes, and book notices, of which he did a great deal, that still remain in the files of the publications for which they were written.

Acton's intellectual life fell into two divisions. Where with most men, especially men who follow an academic routine, the output commonly describes a parabola, begins slowly, grows in volume in the middle years, and then declines again, Acton's activity shows a period of great industry extending over some twelve years but ending when he was thirty-six in 1870. There followed more than twenty years with but little to show, though these twenty years were never quite barren, the lectures on the . . .

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