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bears the stamp of an original and superior genius. | degeneracy of the times; and resolves to unite,
under one God and one king, the invincible spirit
THOMAS BABINGTON MACAULAY.
THE MOST VERSATILE WRITER OF THE CENTURY.
NE of the most delightful books in the world is "The Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay," by his nephew, George O. Trevelyan. It is delightful because Macaulay was one of the most wonderful characters that ever lived. As a child he exhibited the most phenomenal ability, reading with the utmost avidity books far beyond the capacity of any ordinary boy, acquiring languages with the greatest ease, and, while his manner exhibited some oddities, due to his familiarity with "grown-up" forms of expression, retaining, nevertheless, his boyish interest in play and all the child-life in the large family of which he was a member. When four or five years old he was at tea, with others of his family, at the house of a friend, when an awkward maid spilled hot coffee over his legs. His compassionate hostess presently inquired if he were better, and he replied, with perfect simplicity, "Thank you, madam, the agony is abated."
Macaulay was the son of a West India merchant who was associated with Wilberforce and others in the battle against slavery. He was born at Rothley, in Leicestershire, in 1800. He won distinction at Cambridge, and, after studying law, was called to the bar in 1826, but never did more than enter upon legal practice. He had already begun to contribute to the magazines, articles both in prose and verse having appeared in Knight's Quarterly Magazine. Macaulay began his contributions to the Edinburgh Review in 1825, and continued to write for it for nearly twenty years. These essays were collected and edited by himself, and published in three volumes, which contain much of the finest prose in the language.
He wrote a number of articles for the Encyclopædia Brittanica, notable among which were those upon Bunyan, Goldsmith, Johnson, and Pitt. He entered political life in 1830, when he was elected to Parliament, and took at once an important part in public affairs. His father having become financially embarrassed, Macaulay was from this time burdened with the care of his brother and sisters. He was fortunate in obtaining government posts, and in 1834 was sent to India as a member of the Supreme Council, his special charge being to draw up a new Penal Code for India. This work occupied him four years, and from it he returned to England with a fair competence. He was Secretary of War in 1839, and in 1845 was made Paymaster-General. He had, however, incurred great hostility by his favorable treat
ment of the Roman Catholics, and in 1847 he failed to be re-elected to Parliament. He now devoted himself to his "History of England from the Accession of James II," at which he labored until his death. He completed four volumes, bringing the story down to the death of Queen Mary in 1695, and had prepared notes for the fifth, which was afterward published in this incomplete form by his sister, Lady Trevelyan. He was again elected to Parliament, and was raised to the peerage in 1857; but he took no further part in public affairs.
Macaulay's poems, while they were formerly much read, and compare favorably with the work of many famous writers of verse, are so far outshone by his prose that they have dropped out of public attention. No other book of the century was received with enthusiasm equal to that which greeted the "History." Within a generation after its appearance more than a hundred and forty thousand copies of the "History" have been sold in the United Kingdom alone. No history ever had such a sale in America, and it was translated into almost every European language. The author received a hundred thousand dollars as part of his returns for a single year, and certainly it went far to deserve its reception.
It is what a history ought to be,—a history of the people. It is written in a style of great clearness, force, and eloquence; and the scenes he describes he places, by the vividness of his portrayal, directly before your eyes. You see them and feel them too. The third chapter of this great work, wherein he describes the advance of the people, for the last three centuries, from ignorance to knowledge, from barbarism to civilization, from serfdom to freedom, should be read by all, especially by those elderly gentlemen whose chief delight is to praise the "good old times.'"
With all its great merits it has its imperfections, of course, as its author was subject to like passions and infirmities with other men. He has been accused of partiality and exaggeration, and of gratifying his passion for epigram at the expense of truth; and it must be acknowledged that his views are sometimes biased (and whose are not?) by personal antipathies: such as his description of Scotland; his account of the massacre of Glencoe; his delineation of the character of the English Puritans and the Scotch Covenanters; and especially his portraiture of William Penn.
It must always be a matter of supreme regret that to Macaulay's masterly power of making the scenes of the past spring again into life before the mind of the reader, he did not join that respect for the truth of history that would have cleared him from the accusation that he preferred to sacrifice the facts of the case with which he had to deal rather than to mar the beauty of a rounded period.
In the "Essays" all his excellences appear, while his failures as a historian can not frequently mar his work. His reviews of Hallam's "Constitutional History," and of the memoirs of Lord Clive, Warren Hastings, Sir Robert Walpole, Sir William Temple, Sir Walter Raleigh, etc., contain a series of brilliant and copious historical retrospects unequaled in our literature. His eloquent papers on Lord Bacon, Sir Thomas Browne, Horace Walpole's Letters, Boswell's Johnson, Addison's Memoirs, and other philosophical and literary subjects, are also of firstrate excellence. Whatever topic he takes up he fairly exhausts: nothing is left to the imagination, and the most ample curiosity is gratified.
For many years he held a social position which has been enjoyed by very few Englishmen. One can not wonder that he grew to be something of an autocrat; not, perhaps, after the order of Samuel Johnson, but something like it nevertheless. His positive way of expressing his views is well indicated in the remark of a great contemporary: "I wish I could be as sure of anything as Tom Macaulay is of everything."
He delighted in liberal giving, and used the great income, which was the fruit of his own genius, in helping everyone who had the shadow of a claim upon him. He was particularly munificent in bestowing pecuniary aid upon any needy author, and if he was sometimes imposed upon he was rather amused than chagrined.
In 1859 the great man was laid to rest in the poets' corner in Westminster Abbey. The affection of his family and friends amounted almost to idolatry, and few even of the famous men whose earthly remains keep company with his have better deserved a lasting renown.
FALLACIOUS DISTRUST OF LIBERTY.
RIOSTO tells a pretty story of a fairy, who, by some mysterious law of her nature, was condemned to appear at certain seasons in the form of a foul and poisonous snake. Those who injured her during the period of her disguise were forever excluded from participation in the blessings which she bestowed. But to those who, in spite of her loathsome aspect, pitied and protected her, she afterward revealed herself in the beautiful and celestial form which was natural to her, accompanied their steps, granted all their wishes, filled their houses with wealth, made them happy in love and victorious in war. Such a spirit is Liberty. At times she takes the form of a hateful reptile. She growls, she hisses, she stings. But woe to those who in disgust shall venture to crush her! And happy are those who, having dared to receive her in her degraded and frightful shape, shall at length be rewarded by her in the time of her beauty and her glory.
dom! When a prisoner leaves his cell, he can not bear the light of day; he is unable to discriminate colors or to recognize faces. But the remedy is not to remand him into his dungeon, but to accustom him to the rays of the sun. The blaze of truth and liberty may at first dazzle and bewilder nations which have become half blind in the house of bondage. But let them gaze on, and they will soon be able to bear it. In a few years men learn to reason. The extreme violence of opinion subsides. Hostile theories correct each other. The scattered elements of truth cease to conflict, and begin to coalesce. And at length a system of justice and order is educed out of the chaos.
Many politicians of our time are in the habit of laying it down as a self-evident proposition that no people ought to be free till they are fit to use their freedom. The maxim is worthy of the fool in the old story, who resolved not to go into the water until he had learned to swim! If men are to wait There is only one cure for the evils which newly- for liberty till they become wise and good in acquired freedom produces-and that cure is free-slavery, they may indeed wait forever.
FROM THE Edinburgh Review.
E had indeed left none his like behind him. There still remained, indeed, in his party many acute intellects, many eloquent tongues, many brave and honest hearts. There still remained a rugged and clownish soldier, half fanatic, half buffoon, whose talents, discerned as yet by only one penetrating eye, were equal to all the highest duties of the soldier and the prince. But in Hampden, and in Hampden alone, were united all the qualities which at such a crisis were necessary to save the State—the valor and energy of Cromwell, the discernment and eloquence of Vane, the human moderation of Manchester, the stern integrity of Hale, the ardent public spirit of Sydney.
Others might possess all the qualities which were necessary to save the popular party in the crisis of danger; Hampden alone had both the
power and the inclination to restrain its excesses in the hour of triumph. Others could conquer; he alone could reconcile. A heart as bold as his brought up the cuirassiers who turned the tide of battle on Marston Moor. As skilful an eye as his watched the Scotch army descending from the heights over Dunbar. But it was when to the sullen tyranny of Laud and Charles had succeeded the fierce conflict of sects and factions, ambitious of ascendancy and burning for revenge; it was when the vices and ignorance which the old tyranny had generated threatened the new freedom with destruction, that England missed the sobriety, the self-command, the perfect soundness of judgment, the perfect rectitude of intention, to which the history of revolution furnishes no parallel, or furnishes a parallel in Washington alone.
Those who roused the people to resistancewho directed their measures through a long series of eventful years; who formed, out of the most unpromising materials, the finest army that Europe had even seen; who trampled down king, church, and aristocracy; who, in the short intervals of domestic sedition and rebellion, made the name of England terrible to every nation on the face of the earth-were no vulgar fanatics. Most of their absurdities were mere external badges, like the signs of freemasonry or the dresses of friars. We regret that these badges were not more attractive; we regret that a body, to whose courage and talents mankind has owed inestimable obligations, had not the lofty elegance which distinguished some of the adherents of Charles I, or the easy good-breeding for which the court of Charles II was celebrated. But, if we must make our choice, we shall, like Bassanio in the play, turn from the specious caskets which contain only the Death's
head and the Fool's head, and fix our choice on the plain leaden chest which conceals the treasure.
The Puritans were men whose minds had derived a peculiar character from the daily contemplation of superior beings and eternal interests. Not content with acknowledging, in general terms, an overruling Providence, they habitually ascribed every event to the will of the Great Being, for whose power nothing was too vast, for whose inspection nothing was too minute. To know him, to serve him, to enjoy him, was with them the great end of existence. They rejected with contempt the ceremonious homage which other sects substituted for the pure worship of the soul. Instead of catching occasional glimpses of the Deity through an obscuring veil, they aspired to gaze full on the intolerable brightness, and to commune with him face to face. Hence originated their contempt for terrestrial distinctions. The difference between the greatest and meanest of mankind seemed to vanish when compared with the boundless interval which separated the whole race from Him on whom their own eyes