Item 23 - Letter from A.V. Dicey to Nora Sidgwick

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Add. MS c/104/23


Letter from A.V. Dicey to Nora Sidgwick


  • 7 Nov 1902 (Creation)

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Discusses Henry Sidgwick's work The Development of European Polity, the proofs of which he has just finished reading; finds it more complete than he had though possible. There are many points in it that he would have liked to have discussed with Henry; for example, that he attaches far less weight to 'Seeley's speculations about the Government of England during the XVIIIth century' than Henry appears to do. Refers to Henry's thoughts about Switzerland; is certain that had he lived to complete the book he would have dealt with the issue of how 'in the Swiss cantons there never arose a tyrant....'

Now, since the substance of the book cannot be changed, he has little or nothing, as a critic, to say about it; says, however, how deeply the book impressed him with its value, and praises it as a work of historical speculation. It has been of real help to him in his attempt 'to trace the connection between Law and Opinion during the XIXth century'; gives further details, with reference to collectivism, individualism, socialism, Benthamism, despotism, the relations between Church and State, the development of constitutionalism in England and the emergence of the modern state, as well as the 'Factory Acts', the 'Tory Philanthropists', [J.S.] Mill, and [F.D.] Maurice. Is certain that there are many other people to whom the book will be helpful 'by the direction it gives to their thought and by the mode of thinking, which it encourages.'

Remarks on how sad it must be for Nora to have before her the constant feeling of how much more Henry could have done had he lived longer, but hopes that she can understand what a pleasure and comfort it is to his friends to have the book 'as such an exquisite memorial of him.' Is sending back the proofs separately. Will visit his cousin [Caroline Stephen] at 'The Porch' on Saturday 29 November, and is to spend Sunday there; asks Nora if she will be in Cambridge, as it would be a great pleasure for him if she could see him. Referring back to The Development of European Polity, remarks that he noticed that 'every now and then there were passages where the expression "on the one hand" and "on the other hand" seemed to [him] to have got a little confused', and suggests that 'two pieces from different lectures might have been joined together'. Regrets to say that his wife, who is at Tunbridge Wells, is not very well. Asks for Miss Fawcett's address in South Africa, as he wishes to send her a copy of the sixth edition of his book The Law of the Constitution, which is just coming out.

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