[Letter of John James Taylor to Francis William Newman.]
February 2nd, 1851
. . . Like yourself, I am much occupied, working hard to get the writing of my college lectures completed and off my hands in the course of the present year—that I may have more unbroken leisure for original inquiry. On matters of real importance I am less and less inclined to put confidence in the very best second-hand authorities, and do not feel satisfied with any thing short of examining the primary sources for myself. I used at one time to hold in a kind of reverential awe the thorough and solid learning of the Germans; and perhaps after all there is no learning of the present day like theirs. But even they are not always to be trusted. They copy from one another. They are too fond of making out a case—and too fond of making new books out of old materials. As one gets older, one gets weary of many books. One longs for classical works in every line, studied with an independent judgment for oneself. If a few classics (I use the word in reference to matter and treatment, not merely to style) be thoroughly mastered, and their essence wrought into the convictions of one's own mind, I think we may dispense with a great amount of second-rate literature, and save a vast deal of time and weariness. Often of late, when I have been toiling through a long, heavy German work, I have been inclined to ask myself, whether the result of ideas bore any fair proportion to the vast sea of words through which it was necessary to wade.—Since I last wrote to you, I have succeeded in getting up a memorial from Manchester on behalf of Kossuth and his companions. It is at least an expression of public sympathy. Whether any effect will be produced by it, I am doubtful. Lord Palmerston's reply on its presentation by Mr. Milner Gibson was cold and cautious, and not very encouraging. I have also tried to enlist the sympathies of some Journalists, by drawing their attention to the Manchester memorial. The suggestion was very cordially received by the editors of the Inquirer and the Examiner (London). The Daily News thought more harm than good would result from agitating the question of Kossuth's liberation, as possibly he and his companions would be allowed to escape silently, if no noise was made about the matter! This is ignoble policy, unworthy of the government of a humane and generous people. With no excitement or canvassing for signatures—in little more than a week our memorial received between seven and eight hundred names. The Mayor's was at the head of the list—those also of one number for each division of the country—many of our principal merchants, and several clergymen and dissenting ministers. In what I thought a good cause, I was impudent enough to write to the Bishop,[*] and got a very civil reply. He was prevented by the etiquette of his position from affixing his name, but expressed his hearty sympathy with the cause, and his regret that, owing to his hands being full of ecclesiastical business, he could not introduce the matter into the Upper House, which he would otherwise have been willing to do. On the whole, I found more sympathy than I expected. But what will it come to? Our Hungarian friends are dispirited; Kossuth and his companions are dying by inches of hardship.
[*James Prince Lee (1804-1869), Bishop of Manchester (1848-1869)—FWNRC.]