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Maitland to Acton

  • D. E. C. Yale


These nine letters written by Maitland to Acton over the years 1896–98 are part of a large number of letters received by Acton from potential contributors to the Cambridge Modern History which Acton was planning and to which Maitland eventually contributed a chapter on “The Anglican Settlement and the Scottish Reformation.” When in 1895 Acton had been appointed Regius Professor of Modern History, Maitland had had his doubts. “Glad as I am that he should come here, I fancy that Oxford was the place for him,” he wrote privately to Lane Poole at Oxford, and he continued to have his doubts as to Acton's talents as an academic politician. As a background to the first letter Maitland had remarked to H. A. L. Fisher in a letter earlier that year: “That History Board still consumes endless time and after all I do not think that I can sign their proposals. At present Acton=0. I wish he would bless or curse or do something.” But for Acton the historian Maitland's regard was unqualified. When Acton died, the loss to Cambridge, Maitland wrote to Leslie Stephen, was “irreparable,” and writing to Lane Poole in 1902 he spoke more fully: “For myself I learnt to admire A. enormously—and on his merits, for I was not by any means prejudiced in his favour.”



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1 CUL. Add.MS. 6443, nos. 196–204; Fifoot, C. H. S., Frederic William Maitland (1971), pp. 214215.

2 Fifoot, C. H. S., Letters of Frederic William Maitland (1965), no. 150.

3 Fifoot, Letters, no. 176.

4 Fifoot, Letters, no. 319.

5 Fifoot, Letters, no. 332, and see Collected Papers, III, 512. Later that year he was offered by A. J. Balfour the Regius Chair in succession to Acton. He declined: Fifoot, Letters, no. 343.

6 CUL. Add.MS. 7006/153, 19 October 1902. Acton's library was acquired by Andrew Carnegie who gave it to John Morley, who in 1903 presented it to Cambridge. The ultimate destination of this great collection was in Maitland's mind in the summer of 1902 and he initiated the proposal: Fifoot, Letters, no. 323, at pp. 251–252.

7 Bell, H. E., Maitland (1965), p. 125.

8 Fifoot, Letters, no. 261.

9 Stanley Leathes (Fellow of Trinity) was one of the co-editors of the Cambridge Modern History after Acton's death.

10 Fifoot, Letters, p. 182, note 4, and Life, p. 275.

11 Trinity, where both Acton and Cunningham (the economic historian) were Fellows.

12 Acton was a generous lender of books. Wilhelm Kahl's Lehrsystem dés Kirchenrechts und der Kirchenpolitik (1894) is in the Acton library.

13 Fifoot, Letters, pp. xxiv and 293. Verrall had been a fellow pupil in chambers with Maitland. Originally a classical scholar, he was elected King Edward VII Professor of English Literature in 1911.

14 For other references to Sohm, see Fifoot, Letters, nos. 92 and 173. “I admire him enormously; indeed he is an idol of mine.”

15 The attempt was unsuccessful. For the reason, see Maitland's biography of Stephen, pp. 283–284.

16 Domesday Book and Beyond was published in 1897.

17 The second edition appeared in 1898 with a new first chapter entitled “the Dark Age in Legal History.” At pp. 6–7 is Maitland's account of the Lex Salica, which “though written in Latin, is very free from the Roman taint.”

18 recte 1896.

19 The discussion on the Report took place on 28 January (University Reporter, 1896–97, p. 505), and Acton spoke. Maitland added his “lukewarm support” which included the remark that “he thought the programme [of studies for the Tripos] was much too English, much too unhistorical, and much too miscellaneous; it resembled rather the programme of a Variety Show than the sober programme of an Historical School.”

20 The announcement was published in The Athenaeum, 12 December 1896.

21 Maitland gave the Rede Lecture for 1901 on English Law and the Renaissance.

22 Lawson, F. H., The Oxford Law School, 1850–1965 (1968), pp. 9398.

23 Maitland's account of the mystery of Amy Robsart's death is given in his chapter on The Anglican Settlement and the Scottish Reformation. See Historical Essays (ed. Helen Cam), pp. 190–192.

24 See The Anglican Settlement and the Scottish Reformation; Historical Essays (ed. Helen Cam), pp. 186–187.

25 For Maitland's use of Roman and Spanish sources, see his Elizabethan Gleanings. Historical Essays (ed. Helen Cam), p. 211 et seq.

26 This was the first winter Maitland was obliged to spend abroad on the advice of “a chorus of doctors” (Fifoot, Letters, no. 236). For the hotel and its literary resources, see letter to Stephen, Letters, no. 231.

27 Auguste Bonnard, Thomas Eraste et la discipline eccésiastique (1894).

28 Kervyn de Lettenhove's Relations Politiques des Pays-Bas et de l'Angleterre.

Maitland to Acton

  • D. E. C. Yale


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