We spring from the earth at the winter's birth
When the ground is bare, And we reign supreme, like a passing dream,
Till the world is fair.
We brave the gale, and the rain and hail,
Afraid of none! While our petals blaze like the golden rays
Of the setting sun.
From bronze we shade, and to pink we fade,
As the rosy morn; And our lips are kissed by the dewy mist
Of the early dawn.
To mauve we turn and to crimson burn-
Then fiercer glow. But our souls delight in our petals white
As the driven snow.
Some of the critics of my other books twitted me with my admiration of Mr. John Morley, but that admiration has been even heightened by his consistent and dignified attitude in political life during the last three years. The few people whom I have seen during the present week had, I found, entirely missed the letter in which he announced his magnificent gift to Cambridge ; and if this can happen within sixteen miles of London, I feel it may the more easily occur to those abroad, or ill, or temporarily debarred from seeing the daily papers. These may be grateful to me for giving the full text of the letter here, for is it possible to express generosity more graciously and interestingly than in these words, which, apart from all else, are a model of noble English prose ?
My dear Duke of Devonshire, - You may have heard some months ago that what I hope will be known as the Acton Library passed, by the signal regard of a friend, into my hands.
For some time I played with the fancy of retaining it for my own use and delectation. But I am not covetous of splendid possessions; life is very short; and such a collection is fitter for a public and undying institution than for any private individual. After due inquiry and deliberation, and with the possible reservation of an in-considerableportionof quitesecondary importance, I have decided respectfully to ask the University of Cambridge, in which you hold the high office of Chancellor, to do me the favour of accepting this gift from me.
The library has none of the treasures that are the glory of Chatsworth. Nor is it one of those noble and miscellaneous accumulations that have been gathered by the chances of time and taste in colleges and other places of old foundation. It was collected by Lord Acton to be the material for a history of Liberty, the emancipation of Conscience from power, and the gradual substitution of Freedom for Force in the government of men. That guiding object gives to these sixty or seventy thousand volumes a unity that I would fain preserve by placing them where they can be kept intact and in some degree apart. I am led to believe that at Cambridge this desire of mine could be complied with. There is no other condition that I wish to impose.
In this way, I believe, Cambridge will have the most appropriate monument of a man whom, though she thrice refused him as a learner, she afterwards welcomed as a teacher - one of the most remarkable men of our time, extraordinary in his acquisitions, extraordinary in the depth and compass of his mind. The books will, in the opinion of scholars more competent to judge than I, be a valuable instrument of knowledge ; but that is hardly all. The very sight of this vast and ordered array in all departments, tongues, and times, of the history of civilised governments, the growth of faiths and institutions, the fluctuating movements of human thought, all the struggles of churches and creeds, the diverse types of great civil and ecclesiastical governors, the diverse ideals of States - all this will be to the ardent scholar a powerful stimulus to thought. And it was Acton himself who said that the gifts of historical thinking are better than historical learning.His books are sure to inspire both, for, multitudinous though they be, they concentrate the cardinal problems of modern history.
I need not say that it will be a lasting pride and privilege to me that my name should, even for a transitory moment, be associated in the mind of the University with the establishment of the Acton Library within the precincts of a home so famous.
Believe me to remain, yours sincerely,