« Acta Martyrum, Acta Sanctorum Acton, John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acts of the Apostles »

Acton, John Emerich Edward Dalberg

ACTON, JOHN EMERICH EDWARD DALBERG, first Baron Acton: Roman Catholic layman; b. in Naples, Italy, Jan. 10, 1834; d. at Tegernsee (31 m. s. of Munich) June 19, 1902. He was educated at Oscott College, Birmingham, from 1843 to 1848, then at Edinburgh, finally at the University of Munich. At Oscott the president, Nicholas Wiseman, afterward archbishop and cardinal, greatly influenced him, but at Munich the greater scholar, Dr. Döllinger, still more. These men fostered his love of truth and passion for accurate historical knowledge. Being wonderfully gifted and highly trained, he set forth upon a career of learned acquisition which made him the admiration of his associates. But in his own communion he soon became unpopular because he was a pronounced liberal. He conducted the “Home and Foreign Review” from 1862 to 1864 in the interest of anti-Ultramontanism, and so was condemned by the hierarchy and his journal virtually suppressed. He then pursued the same course in the “North British Review” from 1868 to 1872. His chief object of attack was the doctrine of papal infallibility, and he did all he could 30 to prevent its adoption, but when it was promulgated by the Vatican Council of 1870 he did not follow his preceptor and friend Döllinger into the ranks of the Old Catholics, but remained in the Roman obedience. He showed that he had neither altered his views nor would he give up his independence when in 1874 he criticized with learning and candor the views of his patron and friend Gladstone upon Vaticanism. From 1859 to 1864 he represented Carlow in Parliament. In 1869 Mr. Gladstone raised him to the peerage. In 1886 he founded “The English Historical Review” with Professor (afterward Bishop) Mandell Creighton as editor. In 1895 he was made regius professor of modern history at Cambridge. He planned the Cambridge Modern History series, but did not live to see any of it published.

Lord Acton possessed vast stores of accurate information, but he wrote very little except review articles and book-notices. So his list of separate publications is singularly short for so great a scholar. He edited Les Matinées royales, ou l’art de regner, the work of Frederick the Great (London, 1863); made a great sensation by his Sendschreiben an einem deutschen Bischof des vaticanischen Concils (Nördlingen, 1870); by his Zur Geschichte des vaticanischen Concils (Munich, 1871); and by his letters as correspondent of the London “Times” during the Council. His lectures, The War of 1870 (London, 1871), and especially those masterly ones on The History of Freedom in Antiquity and on The History of Freedom in Christianity (both Bridgnorth, 1877), fragments of that complete history of freedom which he dreamed he should one day write, and finally his inaugural lecture at Cambridge on The Study of History (London, 1895), show his range of knowledge and love of truth. Since his death his Letters to Mary [now Mrs. Drew], Daughter of the Right Honorable W. E. Gladstone (1904), edited with a memoir by Herbert Paul, his Cambridge Lectures (1906), and Lectures on Modern History (1906) have been published.

Bibliography: Wm. A. Shaw’s Bibliography of Lord Acton, London, Royal Historical Society, 1903; Lord Acton and His Circle, edited by F. A. Gasquet, London, 1906 (178 letters, mostly on literary subjects, by Lord Acton, with introduction by Gasquet).

« Acta Martyrum, Acta Sanctorum Acton, John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acts of the Apostles »
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