Category Archives: History

Stratford Festival Review: Richard III by William Shakespeare

The thought will not down that an unfortunate choice was made when King Richard III was selected as the spearhead stage offering. It is definitely the most unwholesome of all Shakespeare’s tragedies, and its only character of any real dramatic interest is that of Richard himself — a physically repulsive hypocrite, liar & murderer without one redeeming feature.

— The Stratford Beacon-Herald, June 30, 1953

Defying the Beacon-Herald’s strictures, the Stratford Festival nonetheless opened its inaugural season with Richard III — with no less a personage than Alec Guinness (“the old Obi-Wan”, as I overheard a Festival-going mom telling her son a few years back) in the title role, and the results were raved about throughout the Anglophone world. Since then, the Festival has mounted the tragedy at least seven more times, with both widely-known actors such as Alan Bates (1967) and Brian Bedford (1977) and talented company members like Stephen Ouimette (1997) and Tom McCamus (2002’s 50th season) flocking to fill the part.

Having paid his dues at Stratford before launching into a well-rounded career that spans Canadian biopics of Pierre Trudeau & Glenn Gould and comic book movies (Thor: The Dark World and The Amazing Spider Man 2), it’s intriguing to see Colm Feore become a repeat Richard, 35 years after he first essayed the role at the 1988 Festival. His deeply physical take on the Duke of Gloucester, complete with a gait that evokes the scoliosis evident in the monarch’s recently-discovered skeleton, is visually riveting. His way with the text is equally arresting; doing without the scene-chewing excess of an Olivier, he’s nonetheless “determined to prove a villain” from the opening soliloquy, unabashedly eager to walk the Tom Patterson Theatre audience through his machinations as he claws his way toward the throne. And like Feore’s other role this season as Molière’s The Miser, his Richard becomes the focal point around which Shakespeare’s cast revolves, constantly manipulated and mesmerized by him whether they realize it or not.

Sooner or later, however, most of the other characters do discover what Richard really wants. Freed from their self-deception and ambition, it’s their reactions that give the tragedy both its recurring sparks of conflict and its building momentum. Michael Blake’s Duke of Clarence, with his dreamed intimations of his brother’s betrayal; Jessica B. Hill’s Lady Anne, whose loathing of Richard is palpable even as he perversely woos her (and wins her!); Ben Carlson’s clueless Hastings and Andre Sills’ scheming Buckingham, whose death row regrets soar to commanding heights — all these keep any empathy the audience may be developing for the would-be usurper at arm’s length.

Towering over all these are Seana McKenna (who played Richard in 2011!) as the mad, prophetic dowager Queen Margaret, calling down curses on all and sundry; Lucy Peacock, whose Queen Elizabeth soars to dizzy heights of spite and bereavement following Richard’s slaughter of her children; and Diana LeBlanc, whose Duchess of York is shocked into cursing her upstart son just as he gains the throne. This is titanic stuff — the loosely historical narrative may drive the action of the play, but the clash of deep — and deeply flawed — characters is what keeps us from joining Team Richard, despite the combined allure of Shakespeare’s words and Feore’s strange appeal. In fact, no sooner does Richard become king than we (and possibly he) realize that his downfall is inevitable — and that we need to see it, to make some sense of these tumultyous events.

Even in the intimate TPT (with one-third the capacity of the Festival Theatre), there’s spectacle aplenty to be mined by director Antoni Cimolino and the populous, well-drilled cast as Richard approaches his necessary end. Royal processions, civil unrest, a coronation, ghostly visitations and the final battle between the forces of the usurper and Jamie Mac’s enigmatic, recessive Henry Tudor stir the blood, even as they bring Richard’s lurid dreams to both their culmination and their dissolution. And while this generally traditional production is a feast for the eyes and ears that I can’t recommend highly enough, Cimolino leaves us with more food for thought as well. His prologue and epilogue are set in the present day, with the discovery of Richard’s skeleton and his reburial in Leicester Cathedral bookending the tragedy — as if to remind us that, no matter how high Shakespeare’s characters may fly, as the Bard wrote later in his career,

Golden lads and girls all must,
Like chimney sweepers come to dust.

(Cymbeline)

Richard III runs through October 30th at the Stratford Festival’s Tom Patterson Theatre. Tickets available at stratfordfestival.ca.

— Rick Krueger

Stratford Festival Review: Freedom Cabaret 2.0

In last year’s cut-down Stratford Festival lineup, actor/musician/playwright Beau Dixon’s Freedom Cabaret (part of the Festival’s Forum of other performing arts and speakers) garnered some of the strongest reviews. Walking out of yesterday’s performance of Freedom Cabaret 2.0, I completely understood why.

Subtitled “How Black Music Shaped the Dream of America”, this year’s cabaret is loosely structured around the life of work and Martin Luther King, Jr. Dixon’s command of the black musical tradition is formidable and thrillingly eclectic; grasping the connections between decades and genres with a firm hand, his new set comfortably mingles jazz, soul, folk, gospel and even a touch of hip-hop in an arc that illuminates both King’s journey and the idealism he set loose during the era of the Civil Rights Movement.

And the ensemble that Dixon has reconstituted for this year — serving as the lynchpin on piano and vocals for a trio of singers with rhythm section — grasps those connections at the same level, vividly painting a compelling portrait of King’s context, life, death and legacy. Shakura Dickson’s floating soprano and Alana Bridgewater’s earthy alto scale the gospel heights of “Oh, Happy Day” and “Move On Up A Little Higher”, then pull back for an eerie, hovering “Strange Fruit” and Nina Simone’s wrenching “Four Women”; Aadin Church runs the emotional and vocal gamut from soaring tenor to down-home baritone on showcases like Louis Armstrong’s “(What Did I Do to Be So) Black and Blue”. Rohan Staton on guitar, Roger Williams on bass and Joe Bowden on drums lay down one irresistible groove after another, slipping serenely from a Jeff Beck quote in “People Get Ready” to the abstracted jazz of “Freedom Day”. And Dixon ties it all together with his supple piano, his power-packed voice and his understated yet emotional narration.

Most fascinating to me were the artists Dixon chose to anchor King’s story. Stevie Wonder’s “Love’s in Need of Love Today” and “Living for the City” bookended the narrative, melding harmonic sophistication with unaffected idealism; the Staples Singers “Why? (Am I Treated So Bad)”, “Freedom Highway” and “Respect Yourself” embodied both the lament of the oppressed and the spiritual grit to stand up against that oppression. But the searing quartet of pieces by chanteuse Nina Simone provided the real key to unlock the heart of King’s message. From unflinching confrontation with racism’s deepest horrors in “Mississippi Goddamn” (operatic in structure, visceral in its impact) through the heartbroken elegy for the fallen leader “Why? (The King of Love Is Dead)” pivoting to the visionary hope of “To Be Young, Gifted and Black”, Simone’s music is brutally honest and unsparing — but it also incarnates how King’s dream of hatred conquered by love was set loose in the 1960s and how its ramifications have been rippling out ever since.

The dream and its spread — even after the horrors of black history in the United States, even in the face of what obstacles remain following the progress of the Civil Rights era — are why Dixon and his ensemble can finish Freedom Cabaret with a hearty invitation for the Festival audience to join the “Love Train” that King set in motion. If you can, I highly recommend you catch it.

Setlist:

  • Oh, Freedom
  • Love’s in Need of Love Today (Stevie Wonder)
  • Why? (Am I Treated So Bad) (The Staples Singers)
  • Oh, Happy Day (The Edwin Hawkins Singers)
  • Move On Up A Little Higher (Mahalia Jackson)
  • Strange Fruit (Billie Holliday)
  • Mississippi Goddam (Nina Simone)
  • Freedom Highway (The Staples Singers)
  • People Get Ready (The Impressions)
  • We Shall Not Be Moved
  • John Henry (Harry Belafonte)
  • Black Man in a White World (Michael Kiwanuka)
  • (What Did I Do to Be So) Black and Blue? (Louis Armstrong)
  • Respect Yourself (The Staples Singers)/Respect (Aretha Franklin)
  • Freedom Day (Max Roach & Abbey Lincoln)
  • Phenomenal Woman (Maya Angelou)/Four Women (Nina Simone)
  • So Much Trouble in the World (Bob Marley and the Wailers)
  • Why? (The King of Love Is Dead) (Nina Simone)
  • Harlem (Langston Hughes)/To Be Young, Gifted and Black (Nina Simone)
  • Living for the City (conclusion) (Stevie Wonder)
  • Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now (McFadden & Whitehead)
  • Move On Up (Curtis Mayfield)
  • Love Train (The O’Jays)

Personnel:

  • Joe Bowden, drums
  • Alana Bridgewater, singer
  • Aadin Church, singer
  • Shakura Dickson, singer
  • Beau Dixon, piano, singer, musical director
  • Rohan Staton, guitars
  • Roger Williams, basses

Freedom Cabaret 2.0: How Black Music Shaped the Dream of America runs through August 28th at the Tom Patterson Theatre’s Lazaridis Hall in Stratford, Ontario. Tickets are available at stratfordfestival.ca.

— Rick Krueger

Live from the Stratford Festival

This is an exciting time for the Stratford Festival. In 2022, we reopen our theatres, honour the excellence of the past and embark on a new leg of our journey together. A fresh start: an opportunity to reassess ourselves in the world today, reaffirm what we value and take the best path to an extraordinary future.

This will also be a year to celebrate milestones: our 70th season, the 20th anniversary of the Studio Theatre, the 10th season of The Meighen Forum, and the grand opening of our glorious new Tom Patterson Theatre.

It’s fitting, then, that our season theme for 2022 is New Beginnings. Our playbill explores the difficult moral and ethical decisions a new journey entails: What is the best way to start again? How can we avoid the traps of the past? In an imperfect world, what is good?

From Shakespeare’s most iconic play, Hamlet, to the American family classic Little Women; from the great Nigerian Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman to such captivating new plays as 1939 and Hamlet-911, we offer you stories about navigating a new start in life.

Antoni Cimolino, Artistic Director, Stratford Festival

Since 2004, my wife and I have been regular visitors to the Stratford Festival in southwestern Ontario. We’ve fallen in love with the Festival’s unbroken ethos across 70 seasons — dynamic, top-level performances by a dedicated repertory company of classics by William Shakespeare, Molière, Anton Chekhov, Berthold Brecht and others, as well as substantive, appealing musicals and fresh, often experimental works by today’s playwrights. We’ve also fallen in love with the city of Stratford; set in the heart of Ontario farm country, it combines picturesque architecture, unique shops and eateries, and a stunningly beautiful park system along the Avon River and Lake Victoria. And the thought of everyone who’s trod a stage at the Festival’s multiple theatres, played a rock show at the hockey rink or busked for change on the streets (ranging from Alec Guinness and William Shatner to Richard Manuel of The Band and native son Justin Bieber) makes the place a performing arts lover’s dream.

Which is why it hit hard when, in the wake of the worldwide pandemic, the Festival’s 2020 season was cancelled and the 2021 season only went on under severe limitations and restrictions. It’s true that the summer of 2020 brought welcome YouTube screenings of the Festival’s ongoing project to film every play by Shakespeare (along with other archival videos), culminating in the online Stratfest At Home subscription service. But, a few days back at a local B&B, with a full season of 10 productions energizing the town around us, has served to remind me that there’s nothing like the real thing. And that experience is what I plan to share here with you.

Over the next few days, we’ll be attending Molière’s The Miser (currently in previews at the Festival Theatre), Shakespeare’s Richard III (at the new Tom Patterson Theatre), and Freedom Cabaret 2.0: How Black Music Shaped the Dream of America (at the TPT’s Lazaridis Hall). Look for reviews posted here ASAP after each performance. Whether you’re able to visit the Stratford Festival this season or in the future (or take in what it offers online), my hope is to capture at least a bit of the serious fun, the sheer emotional and intellectual sweep, the thrills, spills, heartbreak and heart’s ease — in short, the immersive, cathartic experience live theatre at its best can provide, and that the two of us have come to love and crave.

— Rick Krueger

COSMOGRAF – ANNOUNCE NEW ALBUM – HEROIC MATERIALS


We are really pleased to announce that Cosmograf returns with their ninth new studio album, Heroic Materials to be released on 9th September 2022.
 
William ‘Billy’ May looks back on his life at the age of 99 and realises the world has completely changed since he was a young man put into an impossible scenario, defending his country from the air. He no longer recognises much of the modern world but understands that the human race must live in a different way in the future.
 
“This album is really about change, our refusal to accept it, but also recognising that it’s essential to our survival”, says Cosmograf’s Robin Armstrong. “The story centres on a WWII Spitfire pilot who laments a lost golden era, but reflects that the human race must change its ways in order to preserve our existence on the earth.” 

Robin is joined once again by drummer, Kyle Fenton, and there is a special guest appearance from ex-Big Big Train keyboard player Danny Manners, who plays piano on the 13 min title track, set in three parts.
 
The lead track from the album, British Made is released on our Bandcamp page today, and the video for the track is available to view on YouTube now. 
British Made is really a nostalgic throw back to a golden era of motoring where design and craftsmanship was more important than carbon footprints.  I think it’s incredibly sad that we are coming to the end of this present journey with the motor car, as we reject fossil fuels for electric power, even if it’s for good reasons” says Robin.

The album sees the character wrestling with his memories of the war, and harbouring nostalgia for a past era but he realises that change is essential if we are to avoid climate catastrophe.

Heroic Materials will be available in CD, Deluxe Media book edition, Vinyl and Digital formats and pre-ordering is now live on the Gravity Dream Music website.

Heroic Materials Pre-order link: https://bit.ly/2YObrzH

 


The new single ‘British Made’ on YouTube: https://youtu.be/Lqj40KJLrtA

Book Review: Christopher Gehrz’s Religious Biography of Charles Lindbergh

Christopher Gehrz, Charles Lindbergh: A Religious Biography of America’s Most Infamous Pilot, Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2021, 265 pages.

Christopher Gehrz - Charles LindberghCharles Lindbergh is simultaneously the most fascinating and the most frustrating individual I have ever encountered. Since December 2019, I have been cataloging the Missouri Historical Society’s collection of over 2000 objects that Lindbergh donated following his May 1927 New York to Paris flight. The collection ranges from artifacts carried on that flight to the hundreds of medals and awards he received, personal effects, artwork, two aircraft, jewelry, and the random gifts people and governments sent him or gave him and his wife, Anne, on their travels. In studying the material culture owned by and given to Lindbergh, I have learned a lot about him. Perhaps I have learned too much.

I imagine Christopher Gehrz, professor of history at Bethel University in Lindbergh’s home state of Minnesota, might also say he has learned too much about Lindbergh in the course of writing the latest biography on the aviator. There have been many biographies written about Lindbergh since the pilot, outspoken isolationist, and conservationist died in 1974, with A. Scott Berg’s 1998 biography widely considered to be the standard text on Lindbergh’s life.

A lot has come out of the woodwork on Lindbergh since 1998, most prominently the discovery of his multiple extramarital affairs and the children he had with three German women. Over the past twenty years, historians have also unpacked Lindbergh’s legacy in light of his views on eugenics and race, as well as his anti-Semitic remarks made during his isolationist America First speeches in the run-up to World War II.

Despite the numerous books that have been written about Lindbergh over the years, one aspect of his life has been woefully overlooked, until now. Gehrz’s biography is the first to analyze Lindbergh’s life, writings, and actions through a religious lens. Perhaps you might not think religious or spiritual when you think of Charles Lindbergh (if you even think of him at all – increasing numbers of people I run across have never even heard of him). That would be fair, since Lindbergh was not an orthodox Christian. He did not believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, yet he was fascinated by Jesus and thought deeply about his own spirituality. Lindbergh’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1953 book The Spirit of St. Louis drips with religious imagery, as do some of his other later writings.

Gehrz’s biography investigates Lindbergh’s beliefs and writings on Jesus, religion, spirituality, the afterlife, and how Lindbergh’s beliefs influenced his actions. Through intense archival research and analysis of published works, Gehrz unpacks Lindbergh’s spiritual complexity. Since Lindbergh’s spirituality flourished in his later years (he was only 25 when he made his famous flight), the foundational part of Gehrz’s argument rests upon the period of Lindbergh’s life spanning the 1930s until his death. The book begins by looking at the religious elements in the lives of Lindbergh’s parents and grandparents, shining a light on the rather unorthodox beliefs in which he grew up.

This book is perhaps best suited for those who already know the fundamental stories of Lindbergh’s life: his 1927 flight, his marriage to Anne Morrow, the 1932 kidnapping and murder of their son, dubbed the “crime of the century,” and Lindbergh’s involvement in the isolationist America First committee from 1940-41. Gehrz touches on Lindbergh’s early life and the 1927 flight, but he does not dwell on those periods as that is not the point of the book. Instead he briefly tells those stories through a religious lens. It is quite the literary feat to pull this narrative style off. I am fascinated and impressed by Gehrz’s skills as a writer. He tells a familiar story in a brand new way.

Gehrz looks at his subject openly and honestly.  When I sat down to read this book, I honestly expected it to be a hate-fest, but it isn’t. He simply tells the story of Lindbergh’s spiritual side in a “matter-of-fact” way, which I believe is how history should be written. Gehrz also tells this story in a very readable way. The book flows very well, and it is exceptionally well written. The biography is very focused, which makes it digestible in a way a broader biography might not be. I actually found the book to be quite the page-turner.

One of my few complaints with this tale of Lindbergh’s spirituality is one omission: there is no discussion of Lindbergh’s involvement in freemasonry. Lindbergh was a 32nd degree freemason in the Scottish Rite. He attained that level in a masonic temple in St. Louis, Missouri, when he was working as an airmail pilot prior to his transatlantic flight. I have cataloged a few artifacts given to him by that masonic group as well as others across the nation. My frustration in researching those objects was how little I could find about Lindbergh’s masonic past. About all I could find were references to it in newspapers at the time. I assume Gehrz does not mention it because either he was not aware or because there is no additional information about that part of Lindbergh’s life. There appears to be little to no related primary sources, apart from the gold masonic gifts held in the Missouri Historical Society collection. (Shameless self promotion: a coworker and I wrote a blog post about objects in the collection connected to secret societies, including a few masonic pieces: https://mohistory.org/blog/secret-societies/.)

If Gehrz had come across information related to Lindbergh’s masonic involvement, he probably would have included it. It is possible that Lindbergh never had anything to do with freemasonry after he left St. Louis. Maybe we will never know.  

One of Gehrz’s best contributions to the Lindbergh story is his analysis of Lindbergh’s journal entries from the run-up to World War II. Lindbergh published these journals in an edited form in 1970, but Gehrz dug into the original journals housed at Yale. What Lindbergh omitted from their published form says a lot.

Perhaps the most offensive thing Gehrz uncovers in his book is a journal entry from November 5, 1940 where Lindbergh, in recounting a conversation he had with friends, questions the validity of universal franchise, specifically arguing that African Americans should not be allowed to vote. In the same entry, Lindbergh discussed “the Jewish problem,” hoping to solve that “problem” without resorting to the violent racism seen in Nazi Germany (page 135).

One cannot help but be disappointed and angry with Lindbergh at such statements. Many have accused Lindbergh of being a Nazi sympathizer, which I think goes a stretch too far and misses a lot of the nuance of Lindbergh’s actions in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Nevertheless, Lindbergh, at least at this point in his life, held racist views of other human beings who are created in the image of God. He never publicly repented of such beliefs.

Gehrz’s honesty with the reader is refreshing. Rather than a distant biographer, Gehrz reminds us of his presence without inserting himself needlessly. The following is my favorite paragraph of the whole book because it perfectly encapsulates how I have felt about Lindbergh over the past twenty months of studying him (page 138):

It can’t be you! If not as intensely as his youngest child, that’s still how most of us feel when we come to this chapter in the story of Charles Lindbergh. If we have any appreciation for his historic achievements, any admiration for his courage and modesty, any compassion for the tragedies he endured, or if we simply nod along with the honest questions he asked about God, science, and mortality, we don’t want to accept that he believed what he said about Jews.

Even so, it is hard not to be a little sympathetic towards Lindbergh. The man was treated as if he were the Messiah. Gehrz has a chapter entitled “The New Christ,” where he discusses the religious language used to embrace Lindbergh following his 1927 flight. An entire monograph could be written about the reasons why Americans and Europeans embraced Lindbergh with the enthusiasm they did. Gehrz argues that the media and public created a version of Lindbergh that fit what they wanted: “Lindy.” Gehrz writes,

For all the public scrutiny that would soon make Charles Lindbergh more protective of his privacy, no one was interested in uncovering the more complicated story of their hero’s upbringing, influences, and beliefs. Whether politicians or pastors, reporters or their readers, Americans wanted a type, not a person: Lindy, not Lindbergh. (page 64)  

The media pressure on Lindbergh was intense. How is any mortal man supposed to live up to the Messiah image the public created? Add to that the kidnapping and murder of his firstborn son a few years later, which he perhaps rightly blamed on press publicity. None of this excuses his racism and lack of compassion for those he deemed lesser than himself, but it is clear that America set Lindbergh up to fail. For that I cannot help but pity him, even if I find some of his beliefs to be offensive and sinful.

The saddest part of Lindbergh’s story, however, is how it ends. Based upon Gehrz’s research and narrative of Lindbergh’s final days, I see no evidence that Lindbergh ever let go of his arrogance and pride and acknowledged Jesus as Lord and Savior. Maybe he had some sort of deathbed conversion as he died of cancer at his home on Maui, but based upon the witness of those who spent those last days with him, it does not sound like it.

In that regard, let Charles Lindbergh be a warning to us all. Lindbergh knew that scientific achievement falls far short in its attempts to explain the meaning of life, but his example also shows us that unsanctified human reason also falls short. Christopher Gehrz’s biography does an excellent job of exploring that aspect of Lindbergh’s life.

Bryan Morey

https://www.eerdmans.com/Products/7621/charles-lindbergh.aspx

Reflections on Lord Acton

Introduction for Dan Hugger’s LORD ACTON: HISTORICAL AND MORAL ESSAYS (2017).

When scholars discuss the nineteenth century of western civilization, they automatically and reflexively conjure images of the three most profound and original minds of the period: Karl Marx, Charles Darwin, and Sigmund Freud.  Sometimes, depending on the scholar, one might list Friedrich Nietzsche as well.  This is obvious in the massive and tedious surveys of western civilization as well as in the remaining and lingering canons of Great Books.  None of this is false, of course, and the three (or four) men remembered certainly were among the greatest of minds to come into this world of sorrows.

One might, with equal accuracy and a bit more humanity and justice, create a different trinity.  What about John Henry Newman, Alexis de Tocqueville, and Lord Acton?  After all, as the great Russell Kirk once argued, “In every age, society has been relieved only by the endeavors of a few people moved by the grace of God.”  With the possible exception of Darwin, neither the taken-for granted trinity nor their followers were wont to taint the men or their ideas with the airy notion of the “grace of God.” 

With the newly-proposed trinity of nineteenth-century thinkers, though, the men and their followers would lovingly accept the grace of [g]od. 

Even among these proposed three, however, Lord Acton—the author of the essays you now hold in hands–remains the least known, the least studied, and the least understood.  True, every American with any education at all remembers his assertion that “power corrupts.”  Other than this, though, he’s largely forgotten or dismissed.  It’s as though his entire existence from 1843 through 1902 mattered only for that one sentence.  Truly, this is to both our discredit and our loss.  Thanks to the Acton Institute and Daniel Hugger, we can begin to rectify this massive error near the beginning of the twenty-first century.

A profound thinker and essayist, Acton argued in his seminal piece of 1862, “Nationality”: “Christianity rejoices at the mixture of races as Paganism, however, identifies itself with their differences, because truth is universal, errors various and particular.” The modern and rising nation-states, though, demand unity of thought, culture, and politics.  In essence, Acton believed, the world was re-paganizing, returning to its worship of the state as god.  After all, he wrote, “in the ancient world idolatry and nationality went together, and the same term is applied in Scripture to both.”

While this is just one of many profound arguments that Acton advanced during his writing career, it is critical to see him not only as important in his own day and age, but also as the critical link in the arguments about natural rights, liberty, and human dignity between Edmund Burke and Thomas Jefferson, a century earlier, and Friedrich Hayek and Christopher Dawson, a century later.

In his own day and age, though, Acton tapped into something rather deep in the currents and movements of the western tradition.  Imagine for a moment the influence the original trinity mentioned above had on the West and on the World.  When looking at the depth and intelligence and brilliance of their arguments, one can readily narrow down each to one fundamental element.  For Darwin, all things were biological and adaptive.  For Marx, they were economic.  For Freud, they were psychological.  As Acton would well understand, none of these things were untrue.  The problem with each was not falsity, but lack of context.  Man is biological, economic, and psychological, but not singularly.  Rather man is all of these plus a million other things.  As with Burke before and Dawson after, Acton knew that man’s greatness and his sin simultaneously resided in the immense complexity of each individual human person, made uniquely in the infinite image of God.  With Socrates as well as Hayek, Acton knew that we knew very little and that, through humility, we recognized our limitations of knowledge.

Thus, one can readily picture Acton writing “Christianity rejoices at the mixture of and mysteries of human complexities as Darwinism, however, “identifies itself with their biological adaptation.”  Or, as Marxism, however, “identifies itself with their economic base.” Or, as Freudianism, however, “identifies itself with their psychological urges.”  To which, each can be answer, “yes, but there’s more.”  Again, no matter how significant Darwin, Marx, and Freud were, Acton is more nuanced, broader, and, thus, in the long run, more accurate and insightful.  Unlike the three more famous men, Acton never demanded any gnostic sureties in this world or the next.  Faith is, after all, not fact.

Of course, this book you now are reading is much deeper than what I’ve just given.  Hugger has ably and, indeed, lovingly crafted a book of some of the best arguments Acton made in his life.  From a philosophy of history to the history of liberty, from specific personalities to the grand movement of ideas, Acton looked at all with a Catholic and classical wisdom so often lacking in his day.  We would do well to remember Acton.  In so doing, we remember not just the man, but the insight of one man into a much larger and unfathomably complicated world.  True, in choosing Acton over Darwin, Marx, and Freud, we choose an ignorance and humility that the world hates.  But, then, the world has generally hated what’s good for it.  Have your ideologies if you must, but I’ll take truth, beauty, and goodness anytime. 

Oh, and, by the way, power does corrupt.