Under Six Reigns

Under Six Reigns

Under Six Reigns

Under Six Reigns

Excerpt

Writers of reminiscences fall into two main categories-- those who have made history and those who have watched it in the making. While the former provide essential material for the political historian, the latter furnish testimony to students of social life and literary taste, changes in atmosphere and religious beliefs. Lord Pethick-Lawrence, an old friend from Eton and Trinity, entitled his autobiography Fate Has Been Kind. My own tale could be summarized in the same smiling formula. The greatest privilege of a young man is to shape his career as the deepest urges of his mind and heart dictate. Was man in der Jugend wünscht davon bat man im Alter die Füille. Unfortunately that is not always the case, but it was true of Goethe and it has been true of myself. Nature fashioned me for study and reflection, not for action. This record is a testament of gratitude for my good fortune and for the friendships which have enriched a happy life.

Bishop Creighton used to say that he would have liked to live in the majestic century of Innocent III and Aquinas. Sir William Harcourt would have preferred the age of Walpole. I am satisfied to have been born in mid-Victorian England, the golden age of the middle classes, and to have lived far into the century of the common man. My vivid memories begin with the death of Gordon, the Home Rule split, the acclamations of the first Jubilee, the cold douche of the great dock strike, the shoddy Boulanger intermezzo, the eviction of the Iron Chancellor and the calamitous collapse of Parnell. I have seen Queen Victoria and heard Gladstone speak in the House of Commons. I have always thought and felt as a responsible citizen of the world, ever mindful of the underlying unity of the vast and quarrelsome human family. The classics in which I was bred have bequeathed to us nothing finer than the familiar words: Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum . . .

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