Page:Lectures on Modern History.djvu/16
LECTURES ON MODERN HISTORY
Cambridge, from the pregnant address "Fellow Students!" which prefaced his Inaugural, Acton bore the manner of one who was after many tempests "in the haven where he would be." No one who reverenced so deeply the scholar's calling could fail to be proud of this final if belated recognition of his rightful place as a scholar among scholars. But there were other things of which he was proud. His delight in finding himself a Cambridge man, his feeling for the College which adopted him and made him an Honorary Fellow, his interest in the young, even his pleasure in his rooms in Nevile's Court, were the symbol of what he had lacked in early days, and of the fact, elsewhere noted by himself, that he never "had any contemporaries." The result was seen in his willingness to take part in labours sometimes deemed beneath professorial dignity, and in that freshness of sympathy with which he would enter into the mind of the youngest pupils—provided only they recognised that History was a goddess, not a plaything. Perhaps also it was shown in his keen desire to know everything about people, for Acton's interest in human beings was no less piercing than his love of books.
In this place, it is bare justice that the impression made by Acton upon Cambridge should be decisively recorded. This is the more needful, because there has been in some quarters a tendency to belittle the activity of the late Professor, a tendency which indicates the same limited intellectual horizon as the denial that he was a historian. As a matter of fact, when we remember that Acton came to Cambridge at the age of sixty-one; that he bore within him the scars of an arduous and unsuccessful conflict; that he was not, and, with his conception of history, could not be a recluse; that he was familiar neither with teaching nor examining, much less with administration; that his effective tenure of his office