Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol II (1901).djvu/98

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
Creighton
Creighton
86

Thursday following he was buried in the crypt of St. Paul's Cathedral.

In person Creighton was tall, spare, and upright ; and his lithe and wiry figure showed great capacity for enduring fatigue. His features were regular and finely cut; his hands long and well-shaped, and he wore a long beard. Extremely scrupulous about his dress and personal appearance, he was not averse to a certain degree of external magnificence on proper occasions, and generally wore his mitre as bishop. Hospitably inclined, with a large circle of friends, he was always accessible, and never appeared hurried or preoccupied. His conversation was sparkling and witty, and he had a large fund of humorous anecdote. A certain love of paradox, a shrewdness which some mistook for cynicism, a notable lack of unction, and occasional lapses into flippancy as a protest against cant or a refuge from boredom, sometimes conveyed a wrong impression, concealing the natural kindliness, the wide sympathy, the deep inner seriousness of a man who was more highly appreciated the more fully he was known. His domestic life was of the happiest, and he left a family of three sons and four daughters. Creighton was a D.D. of Oxford and Cambridge ; hon. LL.D. of Glasgow and Harvard ; hon. D.C.L. of Oxford and Durham ; hon. Litt.D. of Dublin. He was a corresponding member of the Massachusetts Historical Society and of the American Church History Society, and a fellow of the Societa Romana di Storia Patria.

In accordance with the decision of a committee formed at the Mansion House, London, in February 1901, with a view to commemorating Creighton's public services, a monument by Mr. Hamo Thorneycroft, R.A., is to be placed in St. Paul's Cathedral, and a portrait by Mr. Hubert Herkomer, R.A., in Fulham Palace. A painting by Mr. Harris Brown, now in the possession of Mrs. Creighton, is destined for the palace at Peterborough.

Few men engaged in administrative work have so tempered and enlarged their minds by historical study ; few have adopted more frankly or more effectively, in dealing with practical questions in church and state, the historical point of view. Few historians, on the other hand, have brought to bear on their literary work a mind more statesmanlike, more sagacious, more devoid of prejudice. Creighton's chief work is the work of a man at once practical and scientific, of a student and a man of letters who was also a consummate man of affairs. He never lived, like a Gibbon, a Freeman, or a Ranke, solely to write history ; the composition of his books, far from engrossing his mind to the exclusion of other interests and pursuits, never occupied even the larger part of his working day. Work done under such conditions both gains and suffers by them. On the one hand there breathes through Creighton's volumes the healthy air of an active practical life. There is an unerring sense of proportion, an admirable flair for the true causes of events, a searching insight into motives, combined with great caution in attributing them, a full appreciation of conditions as limiting action, with due acknowledgment of the capacity of character to override conditions. A wholesome scepticism pervades the work, as of a man who has had frequent occasion to note the inaccuracy of contemporary reports, and who knows that a chronicler is not to be implicitly trusted because he is an ambassador, nor to be hastily condemned because he is a friar. It is also distinguished by an absence of rhetoric, a contempt for mere picturesqueness, a simplicity, terseness, and directness of expression, as of a man whose business it is to lay a clear statement ! before enlightened councillors, and who is anxious rather to provide materials for judgment than to judge. On the other hand, although Creighton goes further than his predecessors in the same field, it can hardly be said that his work is exhaustive or final, even in the sense in which the work of the above-mentioned historians can be called complete or final. In some respects it has been superseded by the work of Pastor, who had larger access to manuscript sources. It also suffers from a certain want of finish ; and the style, though easy, clear, and vigorous, is not elegant and is occasionally even careless.

If the occupations of the writer have thus left their mark upon the work, still more obviously is this the case with his character. The chief merits of the 'History of the Papacy' are width of reading, clearness of statement, soundness of judgment, selection, compression, and impartiality. Creighton chose a subject for the elucidation of which he was, by training and temperament, eminently suited. His independence and intelligent sympathy, his subtlety and his sense of humour, enabled him to deal both acutely and fairly with events and persons too often misrepresented by partisan bigotry. He had thought much about religion on the practical side, and about politics as affected by personal character and religious motives. He rightly regarded the Reformation as the capital event of modern times, the main source from which modern, as distinct from