Page:Historical Lectures and Addresses.djvu/256

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through the medium of literature and art; some create educational institutions; and some leave behind them monumental buildings. But all alike must be convinced of the greatness of what they are doing, of its possibilities in the future, and of its inherent power. All of them are more or less animated by the spirit of the founder of one of the colleges at Cambridge, who, when challenged about the object of his foundation answered, "I have set an acorn which, when it becomes an oak, God only knows what may be the fruit thereof".[1]

Perhaps in an ordinary way we do not sufficiently recognise the value of great buildings as a means of inspiring great ideas and keeping alive a sense of the nobility of life. Yet surely nothing appeals so directly and so powerfully to every one alike. Try to imagine London without this Abbey and the Houses of Parliament on this site, and you will dimly realise what I mean. Travel in new countries which have no memorials of an historic past, and you find your mental atmosphere entirely changed. Somehow or other you think on a lower level. Places have characters of their own which influence you in spite of yourself. And if you carry your investigation far enough you will find that that character was the creation of some individual mind, susceptible, of course, to the influences which were at work around it, but giving them conscious form, and so making a decided mark which determined future development. The character impressed upon its capital is a great

  1. This was said by Sir Walter Mildmay, founder of Emmanuel College.