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Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay by George Otto Trevelyan

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Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay

by Sir George Otto Trevelyan





WHEN publishing the Second Edition of Lord MACAULAY'S Life and
Letters, I may be permitted to say that no pains were spared in
order that the First Edition should be as complete as possible.
But, in the course of the last nine months, I have come into
possession of a certain quantity of supplementary matter, which
the appearance of the book has elicited from various quarters.
Stray letters have been hunted up. Half-forgotten anecdotes have
been recalled. Floating reminiscences have been reduced to
shape;--in one case, as will be seen from the extracts from Sir
William Stirling Maxwell's letter, by no unskilful hand. I should
have been tempted to draw more largely upon these new resources,
if it had not been for the examples, which literary history only
too copiously affords, of the risk that attends any attempt to
alter the form, or considerably increase the bulk, of a work
which, in its original shape, has had the good fortune not to
displease the public. I have, however, ventured, by a very
sparing selection from sufficiently abundant material, slightly
to enlarge, and, I trust, somewhat to enrich the book.

If this Second Edition is not rigidly correct in word and
substance, I have no valid excuse to offer. Nothing more
pleasantly indicates the wide-spread interest with which Lord
MACAULAY has inspired his readers, both at home and in foreign
countries, than the almost microscopic care with which these
volumes have been studied. It is not too much to say that, in
several instances, a misprint, or a verbal error, has been
brought to my notice by at least five-and-twenty different
persons; and there is hardly a page in the book which has not
afforded occasion for comment or suggestion from some friendly
correspondent. There is no statement of any importance throughout
the two volumes the accuracy of which has been circumstantially
impugned; but some expressions, which have given personal pain or
annoyance, have been softened or removed.

There is another class of criticism to which I have found myself
altogether unable to defer. I have frequently been told by
reviewers that I should "have better consulted MACAULAY'S
reputation," or "done more honour to MACAULAY'S memory," if I had
omitted passages in the letters or diaries which may be said to
bear the trace of intellectual narrowness, or political and
religious intolerance. I cannot but think that strictures, of
this nature imply a serious misconception of the biographer's
duty. It was my business to show my Uncle as he was, and not as
I, or any one else, would have had him. If a faithful picture of
MACAULAY could not have been produced without injury to his
memory, I should have left the task of drawing that picture to
others; but, having once undertaken the work, I had no choice but
to ask myself, with regard to each feature of the portrait, not
whether it was attractive, but whether it was characteristic. We
who had the best opportunity of knowing him have always been
convinced that his character would stand the test of an exact,
and even a minute, delineation; and we humbly believe that our
confidence was not misplaced, and that the reading world has now
extended to the man the approbation which it has long conceded to
his hooks.

G. O. T.

December 1876.




THIS work has been undertaken principally from a conviction that
it is the performance of a duty which, to the best of my ability,
it is incumbent on me to fulfil. Though even on this ground I
cannot appeal to the forbearance of my readers, I may venture to
refer to a peculiar difficulty which I have experienced in
dealing with Lord MACAULAY'S private papers.

To give to the world compositions not intended for publication
may be no injury to the fame of writers who, by habit, were
careless and hasty workmen; but it is far otherwise in the case
of one who made it a rule for himself to publish nothing which
was not carefully planned, strenuously laboured, and minutely
finished. Now, it is impossible to examine Lord MACAULAY'S
journals and correspondence without being persuaded that the idea
of their being printed, even in part, never was present to his
mind; and I should not feel myself justified in laying them
before the public if it were not that their unlaboured and
spontaneous character adds to their biographical value all, and
perhaps more than all, that it detracts from their literary

To the heirs and relations of Mr. Thomas Flower Ellis and Mr.
Adam Black, to the Marquis of Lansdowne, to Mr. Macvey Napier,
and to the executors of Dr. Whewell, my thanks are due for
the courtesy with which thhey have placed the different portions
of my Uncle's correspondence at my disposal. Lady Caroline
Lascelles has most kindly permitted me to use as much of
Lord Carlisle's journal as relates to the subject of this work;
and Mr. Charles Cowan, my Uncle's old opponent at Edinburgh, has
sent me a considerable mass of printed matter bearing upon the
elections of 1847 and 1852. The late Sir Edward Ryan, and Mr.
Fitzjames Stephen, spared no pains to inform me with regard to
Lord MACAULAY'S work at Calcutta. His early letters, with much
that relates to the whole course of his life, have been
preserved, studied, and arranged, by the affectionate industry of
his sister, Miss Macaulay; and material of high interest has been
entrusted to my hands by Mr. and the Hon. Mrs. Edward Cropper. I
have been assisted throughout the book by the sympathy, and the
recollections, of my sister Lady Holland, the niece to whose
custody Lord MACAULAY'S papers by inheritance descend.


March 1876.






Plan and scope of the work--History of the Macaulay family--
Aulay--Kenneth--Johnson and Boswell--John Macaulay and his
children--Zachary Macaulay--His career in the West Indies and in
Africa--His character--Visit of the French squadron to Sierra
Leone--Zachary Macaulay's marriage--Birth of his eldest son--Lord
Macaulay's early years--His childish productions--Mrs. Hannah
More--General Macaulay--Choice of a school--Shelford--Dean
Milner--Macaulay's early letters--Aspenden hall--The boy's habits
and mental endowments--His home--The Clapham set--The boy's
relations with his father--The political ideas amongst which he
was brought up, and their influence on the work of his life.

HE who undertakes to publish the memoirs of a distinguished man
may find a ready apology in the custom of the age. If we measure
the effective demand for biography by the supply, the person
commemorated need possess but a very moderate reputation, and
have played no exceptional part, in order to carry the reader
through many hundred pages of anecdote, dissertation, and
correspondence. To judge from the advertisements of our
circulating libraries, the public curiosity is keen with regard
to some who did nothing worthy of special note, and others who
acted so continuously in the face of the world that, when their
course was run, there was little left for the world to learn about
them. It may, therefore, be taken for granted that a desire
exists to hear something authentic about the life of a man who
has produced works which are universally known, but which bear
little or no indication of the private history and the personal
qualities of the author.

This was in a marked degree the case with Lord Macaulay. His two
famous contemporaries in English literature have, consciously or
unconsciously, told their own story in their books. Those who
could see between the lines in "David Copperfield" were aware
that they had before them a delightful autobiography; and all who
knew how to read Thackeray could trace him in his novels through
every stage in his course, on from the day when as a little boy,
consigned to the care of English relatives and schoolmasters, he
left his mother on the steps of the landing-place at Calcutta.
The dates and names were wanting, but the man was there; while
the most ardent admirers of Macaulay will admit that a minute
study of his literary productions left them, as far as any but an
intellectual knowledge of the writer himself was concerned, very
much as it found them. A consummate master of his craft, he
turned out works which bore the unmistakable marks of the
artificer's hand, but which did not reflect his features. It
would be almost as hard to compose a picture of the author from
the History, the Essays, and the Lays, as to evolve an idea of
Shakespeare from Henry the Fifth and Measure for Measure.

But, besides being a man of letters, Lord Macaulay was a
statesman, a jurist, and a brilliant ornament of society, at a
time when to shine in society was a distinction which a man of
eminence and ability might justly value. In these several
capacities, it will be said, he was known well, and known widely.
But in the first place, as these pages will show, there was one
side of his life (to him, at any rate, the most important,) of
which even the persons with whom he mixed most freely and
confidentially in London drawing-rooms, in the Indian Council
chamber, and in the lobbies and on the benches of the House of
Commons, were only in part aware. And in the next place, those
who have seen his features and heard his voice are few already
and become yearly fewer; while, by a rare fate in literary
annals, the number of those who read his books is still rapidly
increasing. For everyone who sat with him in private company or
at the transaction of public business,--for every ten who have
listened to his oratory in Parliament or from the hustings,--
there must be tens of thousands whose interest in history and
literature he has awakened and informed by his pen, and who would
gladly know what manner of man it was that has done them so great
a service.

To gratify that most legitimate wish is the duty of those who have
the means at their command. His lifelike image is indelibly
impressed upon their minds, (for how could it be otherwise with
any who had enjoyed so close relations with such a man?) although
the skill which can reproduce that image before the general eye
may well be wanting. But his own letters will supply the
deficiencies of the biographer. Never did any one leave behind him
more copious materials for enabling others to put together a
narrative which might be the history, not indeed of his times, but
of the man himself. For in the first place he so soon showed
promise of being one who would give those among whom his early
years were passed reason to be proud, and still more certain
assurance that he would never afford them cause for shame, that
what he wrote was preserved with a care very seldom bestowed on
childish compositions; and the value set upon his letters by those
with whom he corresponded naturally enough increased as years went
on. And in the next place he was by nature so incapable of
affectation or concealment that he could not write otherwise than
as he felt, and, to one person at least, could never refrain from
writing all that he felt; so that we may read in his letters, as
in a clear mirror, his opinions and inclinations, his hopes and
affections, at every succeeding period of his existence. Such
letters could never have been submitted to an editor not connected
with both correspondents by the strongest ties; and even one who
stands in that position must often be sorely puzzled as to what he
has the heart to publish and the right to withhold.

I am conscious that a near relative has peculiar temptations
towards that partiality of the biographer which Lord Macaulay
himself so often and so cordially denounced; and the danger is
greater in the case of one whose knowledge of him coincided with
his later years; for it would not be easy to find a nature which
gained more by time than his, and lost less. But believing, as I
do, (to use his own words,) that "if he were now living he would
have sufficient judgment and sufficient greatness of mind" to
wish to be shown as himself, I will suppress no trait in his
disposition, or incident in his career, which might provoke blame
or question. Such in all points as he was, the world, which has
been so indulgent to him, has a right to know him; and those who
best love him do not fear the consequences of freely submitting
his character and his actions to the public verdict.

The most devout believers in the doctrine of the transmission of
family qualities will be content with tracing back descent
through four generations; and all favourable hereditary
influences, both intellectual and moral, are assured by a
genealogy which derives from a Scotch Manse. In the first decade
of the eighteenth century Aulay Macaulay, the great-grandfather
of the historian, was minister of Tiree and Coll; where he was
"grievously annoyed by a decreet obtained after instance of the
Laird of Ardchattan, taking away his stipend." The Duchess of
Argyll of the day appears to have done her best to see him
righted; "but his health being much impaired, and there being no
church or meeting-house, he was exposed to the violence of the
weather at all seasons; and having no manse or plebe, and no fund
for communion elements, and no mortification for schools or any
pious purpose in either of the islands, and the air being
unwholesome, he was dissatisfied;" and so, to the great regret of
the parishioners whom he was leaving behind, he migrated to
Harris, where he discharged the clerical duties for nearly half a

Aulay was the father of fourteen children, of whom one, Kenneth,
the minister of Ardnamurchan, still occupies a very humble niche
in the temple of literature. He wrote a History of St. Kilda
which happened to fall into the hands of Dr. Johnson, who spoke
of it more than once with favour. His reason for liking the book
is characteristic enough. Mr. Macaulay had recorded the belief
prevalent in St. Kilda that, as soon as the factor landed on the
island, all the inhabitants had an attack which from the account
appears to have partaken of the nature both of influenza and
bronchitis. This touched the superstitious vein in Johnson, who
praised him for his "magnanimity" in venturing to chronicle so
questionable a phenomenon; the more so because,--said the
Doctor,--"Macaulay set out with a prejudice against prejudice,
and wanted to be a smart modern thinker." To a reader of our day
the History of St. Kilda appears to be innocent of any trace of
such pretension; unless it be that the author speaks slightingly
of second-sight, a subject for which Johnson always had a strong
hankering. In 1773 Johnson paid a visit to Mr. Macaulay, who by
that time had removed to Calder, and began the interview by
congratulating him on having produced "a very pretty piece of
topography,"--a compliment which did not seem to the taste of the
author. The conversation turned upon rather delicate subjects,
and, before many hours had passed, the guest had said to the host
one of the very rudest things recorded by Boswell! Later on in
the same evening he atoned for his incivility by giving one of
the boys of the house a pocket Sallust, and promising to procure
him a servitorship at Oxford. Subsequently Johnson pronounced
that Mr. Macaulay was not competent to have written the book that
went by his name; a decision which, to those who happen to have
read the work, will give a very poor notion of my ancestor's

The eldest son of old Aulay, and the grandfather of Lord
Macaulay, was John, born in the year 1720. He was minister
successively of Barra, South Uist, Lismore, and Inverary; the
last appointment being a proof of the interest which the family
of Argyll continued to take in the fortunes of the Macaulays. He,
likewise, during the famous tour in the Hebrides, came across the
path of Boswell, who mentions him in an exquisitely absurd
paragraph, the first of those in which is described the visit to
Inverary Castle. ["Monday, Oct. 25.--My acquaintance, the Rev.
Mr. John M'Aulay, one of the ministers of Inverary, and brother
to our good friend at Calder, came to us this morning, and
accompanied us to the castle, where I presented Dr. Johnson to
the Duke of Argyll. We were shown through the house; and I never
shall forget the impression made upon my fancy by some of the
ladies' maids tripping about in neat morning dresses. After
seeing for a long time little but rusticity, their lively manner,
and gay inciting appearance, pleased me so much, that I thought
for a moment I could have been a knight-errant for them."] Mr.
Macaulay afterwards passed the evening with the travellers at
their inn, and provoked Johnson into what Boswell calls warmth,
and anyone else would call brutality, by the very proper remark
that he had no notion of people being in earnest in good
professions if their practice belied them. When we think what
well-known ground this was to Lord Macaulay, it is impossible to
suppress a wish that the great talker had been at hand to avenge
his grandfather and grand-uncle. Next morning "Mr. Macaulay
breakfasted with us, nothing hurt or dismayed by his last night's
correction. Being a man of good sense he had a just admiration of
Dr. Johnson." He was rewarded by seeing Johnson at his very best,
and hearing him declaim some of the finest lines that ever were
written in a manner worthy of his subject.

There is a tradition that, in his younger days, the minister of
Inverary proved his Whiggism by giving information to the
authorities which almost led to the capture of the young
Pretender. It is perhaps a matter of congratulation that this
item was not added to the heavy account that the Stuarts have
against the Macaulay family. John Macaulay enjoyed a high
reputation as a preacher, and was especially renowned for his
fluency. In 1774 he removed to Cardross in Dumbartonshire, where,
on the bank of the noble estuary of the Clyde, he spent the last
fifteen years of a useful and honoured life. He was twice
married. His first wife died at the birth of his first child.
Eight years afterwards, in 1757, he espoused Margaret, daughter
of Colin Campbell of Inveresragan, who survived him by a single
year. By her he had the patriarchal number of twelve children,
whom he brought up on the old Scotch system,--common to the
households of minister, man of business, farmer, and peasant
alike,--on fine air, simple diet, and a solid training in
knowledge human and divine. Two generations after, Mr. Carlyle,
during a visit to the late Lord Ashburton at the Grange, caught
sight of Macaulay's face in unwonted repose, as he was turning
over the pages of a book. "I noticed," said he, "the homely Norse
features that you find everywhere in the Western Isles, and I
thought to myself 'Well! Anyone can see that you are an honest
good sort of fellow, made out of oatmeal.'"

Several of John Macaulay's children obtained position in the
world. Aulay, the eldest by his second wife, became a clergyman
of the Church of England. His reputation as a scholar and
antiquary stood high, and in the capacity of a private tutor he
became known even in royal circles. He published pamphlets and
treatises, the list of which it is not worth while to record, and
meditated several large works that perhaps never got much beyond
a title. Of all his undertakings the one best deserving
commemoration in these pages was a tour that he made into
Scotland in company with Mr. Thomas Babington, the owner of
Rothley Temple in Leicestershire, in the course of which the
travellers paid a visit to the manse at Cardross. Mr. Babington
fell in love with one of the daughters of the house, Miss Jean
Macaulay, and married her in 1787. Nine years afterwards he had
an opportunity of presenting his brother-in-law Aulay Macaulay
with the very pleasant living of Rothley.

Alexander, another son of John Macaulay, succeeded his father as
minister of Cardross. Colin went into the Indian army, and died a
general. He followed the example of the more ambitious among his
brother officers, and exchanged military for civil duties. In
1799 he acted as secretary to a political and diplomatic
Commission which accompanied the force that marched under General
Harris against Seringapatam. The leading Commissioner was Colonel
Wellesley, and to the end of General Macaulay's life the great
Duke corresponded with him on terms of intimacy, and (so the
family flattered themselves) even of friendship. Soon after the
commencement of the century Colin Macaulay was appointed Resident
at the important native state of Travancore. While on this
employment he happened to light upon a valuable collection of
books, and rapidly made himself master of the principal European
languages, which he spoke and wrote with a facility surprising in
one who had acquired them within a few leagues of Cape Comorin.

There was another son of John Macaulay, who in force and
elevation of character stood out among his brothers, and who was
destined to make for himself no ordinary career. The path which
Zachary Macaulay chose to tread did not lead to wealth, or
worldly success, or indeed to much worldly happiness. Born in
1768, he was sent out at the age of sixteen by a Scotch house of
business as bookkeeper to an estate in Jamaica, of which he soon
rose to be sole manager. His position brought him into the
closest possible contact with negro slavery. His mind was not
prepossessed against the system of society which he found in the
West Indies. His personal interests spoke strongly in its favour,
while his father, whom he justly respected, could see nothing to
condemn in an institution recognised by Scripture. Indeed, the
religious world still allowed the maintenance of slavery to
continue an open question. John Newton, the real founder of that
school in the Church of England of which in after years Zachary
Macaulay was a devoted member, contrived to reconcile the
business of a slave trader with the duties of a Christian, and to
the end of his days gave scandal to some of his disciples, (who
by that time were one and all sworn abolitionists,) by his
supposed reluctance to see that there could be no fellowship
between light and such darkness.

But Zachary Macaulay had eyes of his own to look about him, a
clear head for forming a judgment on what he saw, and a
conscience which would not permit him to live otherwise than in
obedience to its mandates. The young Scotchman's innate respect
for his fellows, and his appreciation of all that instruction and
religion can do for men, was shocked at the sight of a population
deliberately kept ignorant and heathen. His kind heart was
wounded by cruelties practised at the will and pleasure of a
thousand petty despots. He had read his Bible too literally to
acquiesce easily in a state of matters under which human beings
were bred and raised like a stock of cattle, while outraged
morality was revenged on the governing race by the shameless
licentiousness which is the inevitable accompaniment of slavery.
He was well aware that these evils, so far from being superficial
or remediable, were essential to the very existence of a social
fabric constituted like that within which he lived. It was not
for nothing that he had been behind the scenes in that tragedy of
crime and misery. His philanthropy was not learned by the royal
road of tracts, and platform speeches, and monthly magazines.
What he knew he had spelt out for himself with no teacher except
the aspect of human suffering, and degradation, and sin.

He was not one of those to whom conviction comes in a day; and,
when convinced, he did nothing sudden. Little more than a boy in
age, singularly modest, and constitutionally averse to any course
that appeared pretentious or theatrical, he began by a sincere
attempt to make the best of his calling. For some years he
contented himself with doing what he could, (so he writes to a
friend,) "to alleviate the hardships of a considerable number of
my fellow-creatures, and to render the bitter cup of servitude as
palatable as possible." But by the time he was four-and-twenty he
became tired of trying to find a compromise between right and
wrong, and, refusing really great offers from the people with
whom he was connected, he threw up his position, and returned to
his native country. This step was taken against the wishes of his
father, who was not prepared for the construction which his son
put upon the paternal precept that a man should make his practice
square with his professions.

But Zachary Macaulay soon had more congenial work to do. The
young West Indian overseer was not alone in his scruples. Already
for some time past a conviction had been abroad that individual
citizens could not divest themselves of their share in the
responsibility in which the nation was involved by the existence
of slavery in our colonies. Already there had been formed the
nucleus of the most disinterested, and perhaps the most
successful, popular movement which history records. The question
of the slave trade was well before Parliament and the country.
Ten years had passed since the freedom of all whose feet touched
the soil of our island had been vindicated before the courts at
Westminster, and not a few negroes had become their own masters
as a consequence of that memorable decision. The patrons of the
race were somewhat embarrassed by having these expatriated
freedmen on their hands; an opinion prevailed that the traffic in
human lives could never be efficiently checked until Africa had
obtained the rudiments of civilisation; and, after long
discussion, a scheme was matured for the colonisation of Sierra
Leone by liberated slaves. A company was organised, with a
charter from the Crown, and a board which included the names of
Granville Sharpe and Wilberforce. A large capital was speedily
subscribed, and the Chair was accepted by Mr. Henry Thornton, a
leading City banker and a member of Parliament, whose determined
opposition to cruelty and oppression in every form was such as
might be expected in one who had inherited from his father the
friendship of the poet Cowper. Mr. Thornton heard Macaulay's
story from Thomas Babington, with whom he lived on terms of close
intimacy and political alliance. The Board, by the advice of its
Chairman, passed a resolution appointing the young man Second
Member in the Sierra Leone Council, and early in the year 1793 he
sailed for Africa, where soon after his arrival he succeeded to
the position and duties of Governor.

The Directors had done well to secure a tried man. The colony was
at once exposed to the implacable enmity of merchants whose
market the agents of the new company spoiled in their capacity of
traders, and slave-dealers with whom they interfered in their
character of philanthropists. The native tribes in the vicinity,
instigated by European hatred and jealousy, began to inflict upon
the defenceless authorities of the settlement a series of those
monkey-like impertinences which, absurdly as they may read in a
narrative, are formidable and ominous when they indicate that
savages feel their power. These barbarians, who had hitherto
commanded as much rum and gunpowder as they cared to have by
selling their neighbours at the nearest barracoon, showed no
appreciation for the comforts and advantages of civilisation.
Indeed, those advantages were displayed in anything but an
attractive shape even within the pale of the company's territory.
An aggregation of negroes from Jamaica, London, and Nova Scotia,
who possessed no language except an acquired jargon, and shared
no associations beyond the recollections of a common servitude,
were not very promising apostles for the spread of Western
culture and the Christian faith. Things went smoothly enough as
long as the business of the colony was mainly confined to eating
the provisions that had been brought in the ships; but as soon as
the work became real, and the commons short, the whole community
smouldered down into chronic mutiny.

Zachary Macaulay was the very man for such a crisis. To a rare
fund of patience, and self-command, and perseverance, he united a
calm courage that was equal to any trial. These qualities were,
no doubt, inherent in his disposition; but no one except those
who have turned over his voluminous private journals can
understand what constant effort, and what incessant watchfulness,
went to maintain throughout a long life a course of conduct, and
a temper of mind, which gave every appearance of being the
spontaneous fruit of nature. He was not one who dealt in personal
experiences; and few among even the friends who loved him like
father or brother, and who would have trusted him with all their
fortune on his bare word, knew how entirely his outward behaviour
was the express image of his religious belief. The secret of his
character and of his actions lay in perfect humility and an
absolute faith. Events did not discompose him, because they were
sent by One who best knew his own purposes. He was not fretted by
the folly of others, or irritated by their hostility, because he
regarded the humblest or the worst of mankind as objects, equally
with himself, of the divine love and care. On all other points he
examined himself so closely that the meditations of a single
evening would fill many pages of diary; but so completely in his
case had the fear of God cast out all other fear that amidst the
gravest perils, and the most bewildering responsibilities, it
never occurred to him to question whether he was brave or not. He
worked strenuously and unceasingly, never amusing himself from
year's end to year's end, and shrinking from any public praise or
recognition as from an unlawful gratification, because he was
firmly persuaded that, when all had been accomplished and
endured, he was yet but an unprofitable servant, who had done
that which was his duty to do. Some, perhaps, will consider such
motives as oldfashioned, and such convictions as out of date; but
self-abnegation, self-control, and self-knowledge that does not
give to self the benefit of any doubt, are virtues which are not
oldfashioned, and for which, as time goes on, the world is likely
to have as much need as ever. [Sir James Stephen writes thus of
his friend Macaulay: "That his understanding was proof against
sophistry, and his nerves against fear, were, indeed, conclusions
to which a stranger arrived at the first interview with him. But
what might be suggesting that expression of countenance, at once
so earnest and so monotonous--by what manner of feeling those
gestures, so uniformly firm and deliberate were prompted--whence
the constant traces of fatigue on those overhanging brows and on
that athletic though ungraceful figure--what might be the charm
which excited amongst his chosen circle a faith approaching to
superstition, and a love rising to enthusiasm, towards a man
whose demeanour was so inanimate, if not austere:--it was a
riddle of which neither Gall nor Lavater could have found the

That Sir James himself could read the riddle is proved by the
concluding words of a passage marked by a force and tenderness of
feeling unusual even in him: "His earthward affections,--active
and all--enduring as they were, could yet thrive without the
support of human sympathy, because they were sustained by so
abiding a sense of the divine presence, and so absolute a
submission to the divine will, as raised him habitually to that
higher region where the reproach of man could not reach, and the
praise of man might not presume to follow him."]

Mr. Macaulay was admirably adapted for the arduous and uninviting
task of planting a negro colony. His very deficiencies stood him
in good stead; for, in presence of the elements with which he had
to deal, it was well for him that nature had denied him any sense
of the ridiculous. Unconscious of what was absurd around him, and
incapable of being flurried, frightened, or fatigued, he stood as
a centre of order and authority amidst the seething chaos of
inexperience and insubordination. The staff was miserably
insufficient, and every officer of the Company had to do duty for
three in a climate such that a man is fortunate if he can find
health for the work of one during a continuous twelvemonth. The
Governor had to be in the counting-house, the law-court, the
school, and even the chapel. He was his own secretary, his own
paymaster, his own envoy. He posted ledgers, he decided causes,
he conducted correspondence with the Directors at home, and
visited neighbouring potentates on diplomatic missions which made
up in danger what they lacked in dignity. In the absence of
properly qualified clergymen, with whom he would have been the
last to put himself in competition, he preached sermons and
performed marriages;--a function which must have given honest
satisfaction to one who had been so close a witness of the
enforced and systematised immorality of a slave-nursery. Before
long, something fairly resembling order was established, and the
settlement began to enjoy a reasonable measure of prosperity. The
town was built, the fields were planted, and the schools filled.
The Governor made a point of allotting the lightest work to the
negroes who could read and write; and such was the stimulating
effect of this system upon education that he confidently looked
forward "to the time when there would be few in the colony unable
to read the Bible." A printing-press was in constant operation,
and in the use of a copying-machine the little community was
three-quarters of a century ahead of the London public offices.

But a severe ordeal was in store for the nascent civilisation of
Sierra Leone. On a Sunday morning in September 1794, eight French
sail appeared off the coast. The town was about as defensible as
Brighton; and it is not difficult to imagine the feelings which
the sansculottes inspired among Evangelical colonists whose last
advices from Europe dated from the very height of the Reign of
Terror. There was a party in favour of escaping into the forest
with as much property as could be removed at so short a notice;
but the Governor insisted that there would be no chance of saving
the Company's buildings unless the Company's servants could make
up their minds to remain at their posts, and face it out. The
squadron moored within musket-shot of the quay, and swept the
streets for two hours with grape and bullets; a most gratuitous
piece of cruelty that killed a negress and a child, and gave one
unlucky English gentleman a fright which ultimately brought him
to his grave. The invaders then proceeded to land, and Mr.
Macaulay had an opportunity of learning something about the
condition of the French marine during the heroic period of the

A personal enemy of his own, the captain of a Yankee slaver,
brought a party of sailors straight to the Governor's house. What
followed had best be told in Mr. Macaulay's own words. "Newell,
who was attended by half-a-dozen sans-culottes, almost foaming
with rage, presented a pistol to me, and with many oaths demanded
instant satisfaction for the slaves who had run away from him to
my protection. I made very little reply, but told him he must now
_take_ such satisfaction as he judged equivalent to his claims,
as I was no longer master of my actions. He became so very
outrageous that, after bearing with him a little while, I
thought it most prudent to repair myself to the French officer,
and request his safe-conduct on board the Commodore's ship. As I
passed along the wharf the scene was curious enough. The
Frenchmen, who had come ashore in filth and rags, were now many
of them dressed out with women's shifts, gowns, and petticoats.
Others had quantities of cloth wrapped about their bodies, or
perhaps six or seven suits of clothes upon them at a time. The
scene which presented itself on my getting on board the flag-ship
was still more singular. The quarter-deck was crowded by a set of
ragamuffins whose appearance beggared every previous description,
and among whom I sought in vain for some one who looked like a
gentleman. The stench and filth exceeded anything I had ever
witnessed in any ship, and the noise and confusion gave me some
idea of their famous Mountain. I was ushered into the Commodore's
cabin, who at least received me civilly. His name was Citizen
Allemand. He did not appear to have the right of excluding any of
his fellow-citizens even from this place. Whatever might be their
rank, they crowded into it, and conversed familiarly with him."
Such was the discipline of the fleet that had been beaten by Lord
Hove on the first of June; and such the raw material of the
armies which, under firm hands, and on an element more suited to
the military genius of their nation, were destined to triumph at
Rivoli and Hohenlinden.

Mr. Macaulay, who spoke French with ease and precision, in his
anxiety to save the town used every argument which might prevail
on the Commodore, whose Christian name, (if one may use such a
phrase with reference to a patriot of the year two of the
Republic,) happened oddly enough to be the same as his own. He
appealed first to the traditional generosity of Frenchmen towards
a fallen enemy, but soon discerned that the quality in question
had gone out with the old order of things, if indeed it ever
existed. He then represented that a people, who professed to be
waging war with the express object of striking off the fetters of
mankind, would be guilty of flagrant inconsistency if they
destroyed an asylum for liberated slaves; but the Commodore gave
him to understand that sentiments, which sounded very well in the
Hall of the Jacobins, were out of place on the West Coast of
Africa. The Governor returned on shore to find the town already
completely gutted. It was evident at every turn that, although
the Republican battalions might carry liberty and fraternity
through Europe on the points of their bayonets, the Republican
sailors had found a very different use for the edge of their
cutlasses. "The sight of my own and of the Accountant's offices
almost sickened me. Every desk, and every drawer, and every
shelf, together with the printing and copying presses, had been
completely demolished in the search for money. The floors were
strewed with types, and papers, and leaves of books; and I had
the mortification to see a great part of my own labour, and of
the labour of others, for several years totally destroyed. At the
other end of the house I found telescopes, hygrometers,
barometers, thermometers, and electrical machines, lying about in
fragments. The view of the town library filled me with lively
concern. The volumes were tossed about and defaced with the
utmost wantonness; and, if they happened to bear any resemblance
to Bibles, they were torn in pieces and trampled on. The
collection of natural curiosities next caught my eye. Plants,
seeds, dried birds, insects, and drawings were scattered about in
great confusion, and some of the sailors were in the act of
killing a beautiful musk-cat, which they afterwards ate. Every
house was full of Frenchmen, who were hacking, and destroying,
and tearing up everything which they could not convert to their
own use. The destruction of live stock on this and the following
day was immense. In my yard alone they killed fourteen dozen of
fowls, and there were not less than twelve hundred hogs shot in
the town." It was unsafe to walk in the streets of Freetown
during the forty-eight hours that followed its capture, because
the French crews, with too much of the Company's port wine in
their heads to aim straight, were firing at the pigs of the poor
freedmen over whom they had achieved such a questionable victory.

To readers of Erckmann-Chatrian it is unpleasant to be taken thus
behind the curtain on which those skilful artists have painted
the wars of the early Revolution. It is one thing to be told how
the crusaders of '93 and '94 were received with blessings and
banquets by the populations to whom they brought freedom and
enlightenment, and quite another to read the journal in which a
quiet accurate-minded Scotchman tells us how a pack of tipsy
ruffians sat abusing Pitt and George to him, over a fricassee of
his own fowls, and among the wreck of his lamps and mirrors which
they had smashed as a protest against aristocratic luxury.

"There is not a boy among them who has not learnt to accompany
the name of Pitt with an execration. When I went to bed, there
was no sleep to be had on account of the sentinels thinking fit
to amuse me the whole night through with the revenge they meant
to take on him when they got him to Paris. Next morning I went on
board the 'Experiment.' The Commodore and all his officers messed
together, and I was admitted among them. They are truly the
poorest-looking people I ever saw. Even the Commodore has only
one suit which can at all distinguish him, not to say from the
officers, but from the men. The filth and confusion of their
meals was terrible. A chorus of boys usher in the dinner with the
Marseilles hymn, and it finishes in the same way. The enthusiasm
of all ranks among them is astonishing, but not more so than
their blindness. They talk with ecstasy of their revolutionary
government, of their bloody executions, of their revolutionary
tribunal, of the rapid movement of their revolutionary army with
the Corps of justice and the flying guillotine before it;
forgetting that not one of them is not liable to its stroke on
the accusation of the greatest vagabond on board. They asked me
with triumph if yesterday had not been Sunday. 'Oh,' said they,
'the National Convention have decreed that there is no Sunday,
and that the Bible is all a lie.'" After such an experience it is
not difficult to account for the keen and almost personal
interest with which, to the very day of Waterloo, Mr. Macaulay
watched through its varying phases the rise and the downfall of
the French power. He followed the progress of the British arms
with a minute and intelligent attention which from a very early
date communicated itself to his son; and the hearty patriotism of
Lord Macaulay is perhaps in no small degree the consequence of
what his father suffered from the profane and rapacious
sansculottes of the revolutionary squadron.

Towards the middle of October the Republicans took their
departure. Even at this distance of time it is provoking to learn
that they got back to Brest without meeting an enemy that had
teeth to bite. The African climate, however, reduced the squadron
to such a plight, that it was well for our frigates that they had
not the chance of getting its fever-stricken crews under their
hatches. The French never revisited Freetown. Indeed, they had
left the place in such a condition that it was not worth their
while to return. The houses had been carefully burned to the
ground, and the live stock killed. Except the clothes on their
backs, and a little brandy and flour, the Europeans had lost
everything they had in the world. Till assistance came from the
mother country they lived upon such provisions as could be
recovered from the reluctant hands of the negro settlers, who
providentially had not been able to resist the temptation of
helping the Republicans to plunder the Company's stores.
Judicious liberality at home, and a year's hard work on the spot,
did much to repair the damage; and, when his colony was again
upon its feet, Mr. Macaulay sailed to England with the object of
recruiting his health, which had broken down under an attack of
low fever.

On his arrival he was admitted at once and for ever within the
innermost circle of friends and fellow-labourers who were united
round Wilberforce and Henry Thornton by indissoluble bonds of
mutual personal regard and common public ends. As an indispensable
part of his initiation into that very pleasant confederacy, he was
sent down to be introduced to Hannah More, who was living at
Cowslip Green, near Bristol, in the enjoyment of general respect,
mixed with a good deal of what even those who admire her as she
deserved must in conscience call flattery. He there met Selina
Mills, a former pupil of the school which the Miss Mores kept in
the neighbouring city, and a lifelong friend of all the sisters.
The young lady is said to have been extremely pretty and
attractive, as may well be believed by those who saw her in later
years. She was the daughter of a member of the Society of Friends,
who at one time was a bookseller in Bristol, and who built there a
small street called "Mills Place," in which he himself resided.
His grandchildren remembered him as an old man of imposing
appearance, with long white hair, talking incessantly of Jacob
Boehmen. Mr. Mills had sons, one of whom edited a Bristol journal
exceedingly well, and is said to have made some figure in light
literature. This uncle of Lord Macaulay was a very lively, clever
man, full of good stories, of which only one has survived. Young
Mills, while resident in London, had looked in at Rowland Hill's
chapel, and had there lost a new hat. When he reported the
misfortune to his father, the old Quaker replied: "John, if thee'd
gone to the right place of worship, thee'd have kept thy hat upon
thy head." Lord Macaulay was accustomed to say that he got his
"joviality" from his mother's family. If his power of humour was
indeed of Quaker origin, he was rather ungrateful in the use to
which he sometimes put it.

Mr. Macaulay fell in love with Miss Mills, and obtained her
affection in return. He had to encounter the opposition of her
relations, who were set upon her making another and a better
match, and of Mrs. Patty More, (so well known to all who have
studied the somewhat diffuse annals of the More family,) who, in
the true spirit of romantic friendship, wished her to promise
never to marry at all, but to domesticate herself as a youngest
sister in the household at Cowslip Green. Miss Hannah, however,
took a more unselfish view of the situation, and advocated Mr.
Macaulay's cause with firmness and good feeling. Indeed, he must
have been, according to her particular notions, the most
irreproachable of lovers, until her own Coelebs was given to the
world. By her help he carried his point in so far that the
engagement was made and recognised; but the friends of the young
lady would not allow her to accompany him to Africa; and, during
his absence from England, which began in the early months of
1796, by an arrangement that under the circumstances was very
judicious, she spent much of her time in Leicestershire with his
sister Mrs. Babington.

His first business after arriving at Sierra Leone was to sit in
judgment on the ringleaders of a formidable outbreak which had
taken place in the colony; and he had an opportunity of proving
by example that negro disaffection, from the nature of the race,
is peculiarly susceptible to treatment by mild remedies, if only
the man in the post of responsibility has got a heart and can
contrive to keep his head. He had much more trouble with a batch
of missionaries, whom he took with him in the ship, and who were
no sooner on board than they began to fall out, ostensibly on
controversial topics, but more probably from the same motives
that so often set the laity quarrelling during the incessant and
involuntary companionship of a sea-voyage. Mr. Macaulay, finding
that the warmth of these debates furnished sport to the captain
and other irreligious characters, was forced seriously to exert
his authority in order to separate and silence the disputants.
His report of these occurrences went in due time to the Chairman
of the Company, who excused himself for an arrangement which had
turned out so ill by telling a story of a servant who, having to
carry a number of gamecocks from one place to another, tied them
up in the same bag, and found on arriving at his journey's end
that they had spent their time in tearing each other to pieces.
When his master called him to account for his stupidity he
replied: "Sir, as they were all your cocks, I thought they would
be all on one side."

Things did not go much more smoothly on shore. Mr. Macaulay's
official correspondence gives a curious picture of his
difficulties in the character of Minister of Public Worship in a
black community. "The Baptists under David George are decent and
orderly, but there is observable in them a great neglect of family
worship, and sometimes an unfairness in their dealings. To Lady
Huntingdon's Methodists, as a body, may with great justice be
addressed the first verse of the third chapter of the Revelation.
The lives of many of them are very disorderly, and rank
antinomianism prevails among them." But his sense of religion and
decency was most sorely tried by Moses Wilkinson, a so-called
Wesleyan Methodist, whose congregation, not a very respectable one
to begin with, had recently been swollen by a Revival which had
been accompanied by circumstances the reverse of edifying. [Lord
Macaulay had in his youth heard too much about negro preachers,
and negro administrators, to permit him to entertain any very
enthusiastic anticipations with regard to the future of the
African race. He writes in his journal for July 8 1858: "Motley
called. I like him much. We agree wonderfully well about slavery,
and it is not often that I meet any person with whom I agree on
that subject. For I hate slavery from the bottom of my soul; and
yet I am made sick by the cant and the silly mock reasons of the
Abolitionists. The nigger driver and the negrophile are two odious
things to me. I must make Lady Macbeth's reservation: 'Had he not
resembled--,'"] The Governor must have looked back with regret to
that period in the history of the colony when he was underhanded
in the clerical department.

But his interest in the negro could bear ruder shocks than an
occasional outburst of eccentric fanaticism. He liked his work,
because he liked those for whom he was working. "Poor people," he
writes, "one cannot help loving them. With all their trying
humours, they have a warmth of affection which is really
irresistible." For their sake he endured all the risk and worry
inseparable from a long engagement kept by the lady among
disapproving friends, and by the gentleman at Sierra Leone. He
stayed till the settlement had begun to thrive, and the Company
had almost begun to pay; and until the Home Government had given
marked tokens of favour and protection, which some years later
developed into a negotiation under which the colony was
transferred to the Crown. It was not till 1799 that he finally
gave up his appointment, and left a region which, alone among
men, he quitted with unfeigned, and, except in one particular,
with unmixed regret. But for the absence of an Eve, he regarded
the West Coast of Africa as a veritable Paradise, or, to use his
own expression, as a more agreeable Montpelier. With a temper
which in the intercourse of society was proof against being
ruffled by any possible treatment of any conceivable subject, to
the end of his life he showed faint signs of irritation if anyone
ventured in his presence to hint that Sierra Leone was unhealthy.

On his return to England he was appointed Secretary to the
Company, and was married at Bristol on the 26th of August, 1799.
A most close union it was, and, (though in latter years he
became fearfully absorbed in the leading object of his existence,
and ceased in a measure to be the companion that he had been,)
his love for his wife, and deep trust and confidence in her,
never failed. They took a small house in Lambeth for the first
twelve months. When Mrs. Macaulay was near her confinement, Mrs.
Babington, who belonged to the school of matrons who hold that
the advantage of country air outweighs that of London doctors,
invited her sister-in-law to Rothley Temple; and there, in a room
panelled from ceiling to floor, like every corner of the ancient
mansion, with oak almost black from age,--looking eastward across
the park and southward through an ivy-shaded window into a little
garden,--Lord Macaulay was born. It was on the 25th of October
1800, the day of St. Crispin, the anniversary of Agincourt, (as
he liked to say,) that he opened his eyes on a world which he was
destined so thoroughly to learn and so intensely to enjoy. His
father was as pleased as a father could be; but fate seemed
determined that Zachary Macaulay should not be indulged in any
great share of personal happiness. The next morning the noise of
a spinning-jenny, at work in a cottage, startled his horse as he
was riding past. He was thrown, and both arms were broken; and he
spent in a sick-room the remainder of the only holiday worth the
name which, (as far as can be traced in the family records,) he
ever took during his married life. Owing to this accident the
young couple were detained at Rothley into the winter; and the
child was baptised in the private chapel which formed part of the
house, on the 26th November 1800, by the names of Thomas
Babington;--the Rev. Aulay Macaulay, and Mr. and Mrs. Babington,
acting as sponsors.

The two years which followed were passed in a house in Birchin
Lane, where the Sierra Leone Company had its office. The only
place where the child could be taken for exercise, and what might
be called air, was Drapers' Gardens, which (already under
sentence to be covered with bricks and mortar at an early date)
lies behind Throgmorton Street, and within a hundred yards of the
Stock Exchange. To this dismal yard, containing as much gravel as
grass, and frowned upon by a board of Rules and Regulations
almost as large as itself, his mother used to convoy the nurse
and the little boy through the crowds that towards noon swarmed
along Cornhill and Threadneedle Street; and thither she would
return, after a due interval, to escort them back to Birchin
Lane. So strong was the power of association upon Macaulay's mind
that in after years Drapers' Garden was among his favourite
haunts. Indeed, his habit of roaming for hours through and
through the heart of the City, (a habit that never left him as
long as he could roam at all,) was due in part to the
recollection which caused him to regard that region as native

Baby as he was when he quitted it, he retained some impression
of his earliest home. He remembered standing up at the nursery
window by his father's side, looking at a cloud of black smoke
pouring out of a tall chimney. He asked if that was hell; an
inquiry that was received with a grave displeasure which at the
time he could not understand. The kindly father must have been
pained, almost against his own will, at finding what feature of
his creed it was that had embodied itself in so very material a
shape before his little son's imagination. When in after days
Mrs. Macaulay was questioned as to how soon she began to detect
in the child a promise of the future, she used to say that his
sensibilities and affections were remarkably developed at an age
which to her hearers appeared next to incredible. He would cry
for joy on seeing her after a few hours' absence, and, (till her
husband put a stop to it,) her power of exciting his feelings was
often made an exhibition to her friends. She did not regard this
precocity as a proof of cleverness; but, like a foolish young
mother, only thought that so tender a nature was marked for early

The next move which the family made was into as healthy an
atmosphere, in every sense, as the most careful parent could wish
to select. Mr. Macaulay took a house in the High Street of
Clapham, in the part now called the Pavement, on the same side as
the Plough inn, but some doors nearer to the Common. It was a
roomy comfortable dwelling, with a very small garden behind, and
in front a very small one indeed, which has entirely disappeared
beneath a large shop thrown out towards the road-way by the
present occupier, who bears the name of Heywood. Here the boy
passed a quiet and most happy childhood. From the time that he
was three years old he read incessantly, for the most part lying
on the rug before the fire, with his book on the ground, and a
piece of bread and batter in his hand. A very clever woman, who
then lived in the house as parlour-maid, told how he used to sit
in his nankeen frock, perched on the table by her as she was
cleaning the plate, and expounding to her out of a volume as big
as himself. He did not care for toys, but was very fond of taking
his walk, when he would hold forth to his companion, whether
nurse or mother, telling interminable stories out of his own
head, or repeating what he had been reading in language far above
his years. His memory retained without shout effort the
phraseology of the book which he had been last engaged on, and he
talked, as the maid said, "quite printed words," which produced
an effect that appeared formal, and often, no doubt, exceedingly
droll. Mrs. Hannah More was fond of relating how she called at
Mr. Macaulay's, and was met by a fair, pretty, slight child, with
abundance of light hair, about four years of age, who came to the
front door to receive her, and tell her that his parents were
out, but that if she would be good enough to come in he would
bring her a glass of old spirits; a proposition which greatly
startled the good lady, who had never aspired beyond cowslip
wine. When questioned as to what he knew about old spirits, he
could only say that Robinson Crusoe often had some. About this
period his father took him on a visit to Lady Waldegrave at
Strawberry Hill, and was much pleased, to exhibit to his old
friend the fair bright boy, dressed in a green coat with red
cellar and cuffs, a frill at the throat, and white trousers.
After some time had been spent among the wonders of the Orford
Collection, of which he ever after carried a catalogue in his
head, a servant who was waiting upon the company in the great
gallery spilt some hot coffee over his legs. The hostess was all
kindness and compassion, and when, after a while, she asked how
he was feeling, the little fellow looked up in her face and
replied: "Thank you, madam, the agony is abated."

But it must not be supposed that his quaint manners proceeded
from affectation or conceit; for all testimony declares that a
more simple and natural child never lived, or a more lively and
merry one. He had at his command the resources of the Common; to
this day the most unchanged spot within ten miles of St. Paul's,
and which to all appearance will ere long hold that pleasant pre-
eminence within ten leagues. That delightful wilderness of gorse
bushes, and poplar groves, and gravel-pits, and ponds great and
small, was to little Tom Macaulay a region of inexhaustible
romance and mystery. He explored its recesses; he composed, and
almost believed, its legends; he invented for its different
features a nomenclature which has been faithfully preserved by
two generations of children. A slight ridge, intersected by deep
ditches, towards the west of the Common, the very existence of
which no one above eight years old would notice, was dignified
with the title of the Alps; while the elevated island, covered
with shrubs, that gives a name to the Mount pond, was regarded
with infinite awe as being the nearest approach within the
circuit of his observation to a conception of the majesty of
Sinai. Indeed, at this period his infant fancy was much exercised
with the threats and terrors of the Law. He had a little plot of
ground at the back of the house, marked out as his own by a Tory
of oyster-shells, which a maid one day threw away as rubbish. He
went straight to the drawing-room, where his mother was
entertaining some visitors, walked into the circle, and said very
solemnly: "Cursed be Sally; for it is written, Cursed is he that
removeth his neighbour's land-mark."

While still the merest child he was sent as a day-scholar to Mr.
Greaves, a shrewd Yorkshireman with a turn for science, who had
been originally brought to the neighbourhood in order to educate
a number of African youths sent over to imbibe Western
civilisation at the fountain-head. The poor fellows had found as
much difficulty in keeping alive at Clapham as Englishmen
experience at Sierra Leone; and, in the end, their tutor set up a
school for boys of his own colour, and at one time had charge of
almost the entire rising generation of the Common. Mrs. Macaulay
explained to Tom that he must learn to study without the solace
of bread and butter, to which he replied: "Yes, mama, industry
shall be my bread and attention my butter." But, as a matter of
fact, no one ever crept more unwillingly to school. Each several
afternoon he made piteous entreaties to be excused returning
after dinner, and was met by the unvarying formula: "No, Tom, if
it rains cats and dogs, you shall go."

His reluctance to leave home had more than one side to it. Not
only did his heart stay behind, but the regular lessons of the
class took him away from occupations which in his eyes were
infinitely more delightful and important; for these were probably
the years of his greatest literary activity. As an author he
never again had mere facility, or anything like so wide a range.
In September 1808, his mother writes: "My dear Tom continues to
show marks of uncommon genius. He gets on wonderfully in all
branches of his education, and the extent of his reading, and of
the knowledge he has derived from it, are truly astonishing in a
boy not yet eight years old. He is at the same time as playful as
a kitten. To give you some idea of the activity of his mind I
will mention a few circumstances that may interest you and Colin.
You will believe that to him we never appear to regard anything
he does as anything more than a schoolboy's amusement. He took it
into his head to write a compendium of Universal History about a
year ago, and he really contrived to give a tolerably connected
view of the leading events from the Creation to the present time,
filling about a quire of paper. He told me one day that he had
been writing a paper, which Henry Daly was to translate into
Malabar, to persuade the people of Travancore to embrace the
Christian religion. On reading it I found it to contain a very
clear idea of the leading facts and doctrines of that religion,
with some strong arguments for its adoption. He was so fired with
reading Scott's Lay and Marmion, the former of which he got
entirely, and the latter almost entirely, by heart, merely from
his delight in reading them, that he determined on writing
himself a poem in six cantos which he called the 'Battle of
Cheviot.' After he had finished about three of the cantos of
about 120 lines each, which he did in a couple of days, he became
tired of it. I make no doubt he would have finished his design,
but, as he was proceeding with it, the thought struck him of
writing an heroic poem to be called 'Olaus the Great, or the
Conquest of Mona,' in which, after the manner of Virgil, he might
introduce in prophetic song the future fortunes of the family;--
among others, those of the hero who aided in the fall of the
tyrant of Mysore, after having long suffered from his tyranny;
[General Macaulay had been one of Tippoo Sahib's prisoners] and
of another of his race who had exerted himself for the
deliverance of the wretched Africans. He has just begun it. He
has composed I know not how many hymns. I send you one, as a
specimen, in his own handwriting, which he wrote about six months
ago on one Monday morning while we were at breakfast."

The affection of the last generation of his relatives has
preserved all these pieces, but the piety of this generation will
refrain from submitting them to public criticism. A marginal
note, in which Macaulay has expressed his cordial approval of
Uncle Toby's [Tristram Shandy, chapter clxiii.] remark about the
great Lipsius, indicates his own wishes in the matter too clearly
to leave any choice for those who come after him. But there still
may be read in a boyish scrawl the epitome of Universal History,
from "a new king who knew not Joseph,"--down through Rameses, and
Dido, and Tydeus, and Tarquin, and Crassus, and Gallienus, and
Edward the Martyr,--to Louis, who "set off on a crusade against
the Albigenses," and Oliver Cromwell, who "was an unjust and
wicked man." The hymns remain, which Mrs. Hannah More, surely a
consummate judge of the article, pronounced to be "quite
extraordinary for such a baby." To a somewhat later period
probably belongs a vast pile of blank verse, entitled "Fingal, a
poem in xii books;" two of which are in a complete and connected
shape, while the rest of the story is lost amidst a labyrinth of
many hundred scattered lines, so transcribed as to suggest a
conjecture that the boy's demand for foolscap had outrun the
paternal generosity.

Of all his performances, that which attracted most attention at
the time was undertaken for the purpose of immortalising Olaus
Magnus, King of Norway, from whom the clan to which the bard
belonged was supposed to derive its name. Two cantos are extant,
of which there are several exemplars, in every stage of
calligraphy from the largest round hand downwards, a circumstance
which is apparently due to the desire on the part of each of the
little Macaulays to possess a copy of the great family epic. The
opening stanzas, each of which contains more lines than their
author counted years, go swinging along with plenty of animation
and no dearth of historical and geographical allusion.

Day set on Cumbria's hills supreme,
And, Menai, on thy silver stream.
The star of day had reached the West.
Now in the main it sank to rest.
Shone great Eleindyn's castle tall:
Shone every battery, every hall:
Shone all fair Mona's verdant plain;
But chiefly shone the foaming main.

And again

"Long," said the Prince, "shall Olave's name
Live in the high records of fame.
Fair Mona now shall trembling stand
That ne'er before feared mortal hand.
Mona, that isle where Ceres' flower
In plenteous autumn's golden hour
Hides all the fields from man's survey
As locusts hid old Egypt's day."

The passage containing a prophetic mention of his father and
uncle after the manner of the sixth book of the Aeneid, for the
sake of which, according to Mrs. Macaulay, the poem was
originally designed, can nowhere be discovered. It is possible
that in the interval between the conception and the execution the
boy happened to light upon a copy of the Rolliad. If such was the
case, he already had too fine a sense of humour to have
persevered in his original plan after reading that masterpiece of
drollery. It is worthy of note that the voluminous writings of
his childhood, dashed off at headlong speed in the odds and ends
of leisure from school-study and nursery routine, are not only
perfectly correct in spelling and grammar, but display the same
lucidity of meaning, and scrupulous accuracy in punctuation and
the other minor details of the literary art, which characterise
his mature works.

Nothing could be more judicious than the treatment that Mr. and
Mrs. Macaulay adopted towards their boy. They never handed his
productions about, or encouraged him to parade his powers of
conversation or memory. They abstained from any word or act
which might foster in him a perception of his own genius with as
much care as a wise millionaire expends on keeping his son
ignorant of the fact that he is destined to be richer than his
comrades. "It was scarcely ever," writes one who knew him well
from the very first, "that the consciousness was expressed by
either of his parents of the superiority of their son over other
children. Indeed, with his father I never remember any such
expression. What I most observed myself was his extraordinary
command of language. When he came to describe to his mother any
childish play, I took care to be present, when I could, that I
might listen to the way in which he expressed himself, often
scarcely exceeded in his later years. Except this trifle, I
remember him only as a good-tempered boy, always occupied,
playing with his sisters without assumption of any kind." One
effect of this early discipline showed itself in his freedom
from vanity and susceptibility,--those qualities which, coupled
together in our modern psychological dialect under the head of
"self-consciousness," are supposed to be the besetting defects
of the literary character. Another result was his habitual
over-estimate of the average knowledge possessed by mankind.
Judging others by himself, he credited the world at large with
an amount of information which certainly few have the ability to
acquire, or the capacity to retain. If his parents had not been
so diligent in concealing from him the difference between his
own intellectual stores and those of his neighbours, it is
probable that less would have been heard of Lord Macaulay's

The system pursued at home was continued at Barley Wood, the
place where the Misses More resided from 1802 onwards. Mrs.
Macaulay gladly sent her boy to a house where he was encouraged
without being spoiled, and where he never failed to be a welcome
guest. The kind old ladies made a real companion of him, and
greatly relished his conversation; while at the same time, with
their ideas on education, they would never have allowed him, even
if he had been so inclined, to forget that he was a child. Mrs.
Hannah More, who had the rare gift of knowing how to live with
both young and old, was the most affectionate and the wisest of
friends, and readily undertook the superintendence of his
studies, his pleasures, and his health. She would keep him with
her for weeks, listening to him as he read prose by the ell,
declaimed poetry by the hour, and discussed and compared his
favourite heroes, ancient, modern, and fictitious, under all
points of view and in every possible combination; coaxing him
into the garden under pretence of a lecture on botany; sending
him from his books to run round the grounds, or play at cooking
in the kitchen; giving him Bible lessons which invariably ended
in a theological argument, and following him with her advice and
sympathy through his multifarious literary enterprises. ["The
next time," (my uncle once said to us,) "that I saw Hannah More
was in 1807. The old ladies begged my parents to leave me with
them for a week, and this visit was a great event in my life. In
parlour and kitchen they could not make enough of me. They taught
me to cook; and I was to preach, and they got in people from the
fields and I stood on a chair, and preached sermons. I might have
been indicted for holding a conventicle."] She writes to his
father in 1809: "I heartily hope that the sea air has been the
means of setting you up, and Mrs. Macaulay also, and that the
dear little poet has caught his share of bracing . . . . Tell Tom
I desire to know how 'Olaus' goes on. The sea, I suppose,
furnished him with some new images."

The broader and more genial aspect under which life showed itself
to the boy at Barley Wood has left its trace in a series of
childish squibs and parodies, which may still be read with an
interest that his Cambrian and Scandinavian rhapsodies fail to
inspire. The most ambitious of these lighter efforts is a
pasquinade occasioned by some local scandal, entitled "Childe
Hugh and the labourer, a pathetic ballad." The "Childe" of the
story was a neighbouring baronet, and the "Abbot" a neighbouring
rector, and the whole performance, intended, as it was, to mimic
the spirit of Percy's Reliques, irresistibly suggests a
reminiscence of John Gilpin. It is pleasant to know that to Mrs.
Hannah More was due the commencement of what eventually became
the most readable of libraries, as is shown in a series of
letters extending over the entire period of Macaulay's education.
When he was six years old she writes; "Though you are a little
boy now, you will one day, if it please God, be a man; but long
before you are a man I hope you will be a scholar. I therefore
wish you to purchase such books as will be useful and agreeable
to you _then_, and that you employ this very small sum in laying a
little tiny corner-stone for your future library." A year or two
afterwards she thanks him for his "two letters, so neat and free
from blots. By this obvious improvement you have entitled
yourself to another book. You must go to Hatchard's and choose. I
think we have nearly exhausted the Epics. What say you to a
little good prose? Johnson's Hebrides, or Walton's Lives, unless
you would like a neat edition of Cowper's poems or Paradise Lost
for your own eating? In any case choose something which you do
not possess. I want you to become a complete Frenchman, that I
may give you Racine, the only dramatic poet I know in any modern
language that is perfectly pure and good. I think you have hit
off the Ode very well, and I am much obliged to you for the
Dedication." The poor little author was already an adept in the
traditional modes of requiting a patron.

He had another Maecenas in the person of General Macaulay, who
came back from India in 1810. The boy greeted him with a copy of
verses, beginning

"Now safe returned from Asia's parching strand,
Welcome, thrice welcome to thy native land."

To tell the unvarnished truth, the General's return was not
altogether of a triumphant character. After very narrowly
escaping with his life from an outbreak at Travancore, incited by
a native minister who owed him a grudge, he had given proof of
courage and spirit during some military operations which ended in
his being brought back to the Residency with flying colours. But,
when the fighting was over, he countenanced, and perhaps
prompted, measures of retaliation which were ill taken by his
superiors at Calcutta. In his congratulatory effusion the nephew
presumes to remind the uncle that on European soil there still
might be found employment for so redoubtable a sword.

"For many a battle shall be lost and won
Ere yet thy glorious labours shall be done."

The General did not take the hint, and spent the remainder of his
life peacefully enough between London, Bath, and the Continental
capitals. He was accustomed to say that his travelling carriage
was his only freehold; and, wherever he fixed his temporary
residence, he had the talent of making himself popular. At Geneva
he was a universal favourite; he always was welcome at Coppet;
and he gave the strongest conceivable proof of a cosmopolitan
disposition by finding himself equally at home at Rome and at
Clapham. When in England he lived much with his relations, to
whom he was sincerely attached. He was generous in a high degree,
and the young people owed to him books which they otherwise could
never have obtained, and treats and excursions which formed the
only recreations that broke the uniform current of their lives.
They regarded their uncle Colin as the man of the world of the
Macaulay family.

Zachary Macaulay's circumstances during these years were good,
and constantly improving. For some time he held the post of
Secretary to the Sierra Leone Company, with a salary of L500 per
annum. He subsequently entered into partnership with a nephew,
and the firm did a large business as African merchants under the
names of Macaulay and Babington. The position of the father was
favourable to the highest interests of his children. A boy has
the best chance of being well brought up in a household where
there is solid comfort, combined with thrift and simplicity; and
the family was increasing too fast to leave any margin for
luxurious expenditure. Before the eldest son had completed his
thirteenth year he had three brothers and five sisters.

[It was in the course of his thirteenth year that the boy wrote
his "Epitaph on Henry Martyn."

Here Martyn lies. In manhood's early bloom
The Christian hero finds a Pagan tomb.
Religion, sorrowing o'er her favourite son,
Points to the glorious trophies that he won.
Eternal trophies! not with carnage red,
Not stained with tears by hapless captives shed,
But trophies of the Cross. For that dear name,
Through every form of danger, death, and shame,
Onward he journeyed to a happier shore,
Where danger, death and shame assault no more."]

In the course of 1812 it began to be evident that Tom had got
beyond the educational capabilities of Clapham; and his father
seriously contemplated the notion of removing to London in order
to place him as a day-scholar at Westminster. Thorough as was the
consideration which the parents gave to the matter, their
decision was of more importance than they could at the time
foresee. If their son had gone to a public school, it is more
than probable that he would have turned out a different man, and
have done different work. So sensitive and homeloving a boy might
for a while have been too depressed to enter fully unto the ways
of the place; but, as he gained confidence, he could not have
withstood the irresistible attractions which the life of a great
school exercises over a vivid eager nature, and he would have
sacrificed to passing pleasures and emulations a part, at any
rate, of those years which, in order to be what he was, it was
necessary that he should spend wholly among his books.
Westminster or Harrow might have sharpened his faculties for
dealing with affairs and with men; but the world at large would
have lost more than he could by any possibility have gained. If
Macaulay had received the usual education of a young Englishman,
he might in all probability have kept his seat for Edinburgh; but
he could hardly have written the Essay on Von Ranke, or the
description of England in the third chapter of the History.

Mr. Macaulay ultimately fixed upon a private school, kept by the
Rev. Mr. Preston, at Little Shelford, a village in the immediate
vicinity of Cambridge. The motives which guided this selection
were mainly of a religious nature. Mr. Preston held extreme Low
Church opinions, and stood in the good books of Mr. Simeon, whose
word had long been law in the Cambridge section of the
Evangelical circle. But whatever had been the inducement to make
it, the choice proved singularly fortunate. The tutor, it is
true, was narrow in his views, and lacked the taste and judgment
to set those views before his pupils in an attractive form.
Theological topics dragged into the conversation at unexpected
moments, inquiries about their spiritual state, and long sermons
which had to be listened to under the dire obligation of
reproducing them in an epitome, fostered in the minds of some of
the boys a reaction against the outward manifestations of
religion;--a reaction which had already begun under the strict
system pursued in their respective homes. But, on the other hand,
Mr. Preston knew both how to teach his scholars, and when to
leave them to teach themselves. The eminent judge, who divided
grown men into two sharply defined and most uncomplimentary
categories, was accustomed to say that private schools made poor
creatures, and public schools sad dogs; but Mr. Preston succeeded
in giving a practical contradiction to Sir William Maine's
proposition. His pupils, who were limited to an average of a
dozen at a time, got far beyond their share of honours at the
university and of distinction in after life. George Stainforth, a
grandson of Sir Francis Baring, by his success at Cambridge was
the first to win the school an honourable name, which was more
than sustained by Henry Malden, now Greek Professor at University
College, London, and by Macaulay himself. Shelford was strongly
under the influence of the neighbouring university; an influence
which Mr. Preston, himself a fellow of Trinity, wisely
encouraged. The boys were penetrated with Cambridge ambitions and
ways of thought; and frequent visitors brought to the table,
where master and pupils dined in common, the freshest Cambridge
gossip of the graver sort.

Little Macaulay received much kindness from Dean Milner, the
President of Queen's College, then at the very summit of a
celebrity which is already of the past. Those who care to search
among the embers of that once brilliant reputation can form a
fair notion of what Samuel Johnson would have been if he had
lived a generation later, and had been absolved from the
necessity of earning his bread by the enjoyment of ecclesiastical
sinecures, and from any uneasiness as to his worldly standing by
the possession of academical dignities and functions. The Dean
who had boundless goodwill for all his fellow-creatures at every
period of life, provided that they were not Jacobins or sceptics,
recognised the promise of the boy, and entertained him at his
college residence on terms of friendliness, and almost of
equality. After one of these visits he writes to Mr. Macaulay;
"Your lad is a fine fellow. He shall stand before kings, he shall
not stand before mean men."

Shelford: February 22, 1813.

My dear Papa,--As this is a whole holiday, I cannot find a better
time for answering your letter. With respect to my health, I am
very well, and tolerably cheerful, as Blundell, the best and most
clever of all the scholars, is very kind, and talks to me, and
takes my part. He is quite a friend of Mr. Preston's. The other
boys, especially Lyon, a Scotch boy, and Wilberforce, are very
good-natured, and we might have gone on very well had not one,
a Bristol fellow, come here. He is unanimously alloyed to be a
queer fellow, and is generally characterised as a foolish boy,
and by most of us as an ill-natured one. In my learning I do
Xenophon every day, and twice a week the Odyssey, in which I am
classed with Wilberforce, whom all the boys allow to be very
clever, very droll, and very impudent. We do Latin verses trice a
week, and I have not yet been laughed at, as Wilberforce is the
only one who hears them, being in my class. We are exercised also
once a week in English composition, and once in Latin
composition, and letters of persons renowned in history to each
other. We get by heart Greek grammar or Virgil every evening. As
for sermon-writing, I have hitherto got off with credit, and I
hope I shall keep up my reputation. We have had the first meeting
of our debating society the other day, when a vote of censure was
moved for upon Wilberforce, but he getting up said, "Mr.
President, I beg to second the motion." By this means he escaped.
The kindness which Mr. Preston shows me is very great. He always
assists me in what I cannot do, and takes me to walk out with him
every now and then. My room is a delightful snug little chamber,
which nobody can enter, as there is a trick about opening the
door. I sit like a king, with my writing-desk before me; for,
(would you believe it?) there is a writing-desk in my chest of
drawers; my books on one side, my box of papers on the other, with
my arm-chair and my candle; for every boy has a candlestick,
snuffers, and extinguisher of his own. Being pressed for room, I
will conclude what I have to say to-morrow, and ever remain,

Your affectionate son,


The youth who on this occasion gave proof of his parentage by his
readiness and humour was Wilberforce's eldest son. A fortnight
later on, the subject chosen for discussion was "whether Lord
Wellington or Marlborough was the greatest general. A very warm
debate is expected."

Shelford: April 20, 1813.

My dear Mama,--Pursuant to my promise I resume my pen to write to
you with the greatest pleasure. Since I wrote to you yesterday, I
have enjoyed myself more than I have ever done since I came to
Shelford. Mr. Hodson called about twelve o'clock yesterday
morning with a pony for me, and took me with him to Cambridge.
How surprised and delighted was I to learn that I was to take a
bed at Queen's College in Dean Milner's apartments! Wilberforce
arrived soon after, and I spent the day very agreeably, the Dean
amusing me with the greatest kindness. I slept there, and came
home on horseback to-day just in time for dinner. The Dean has
invited me to come again, and Mr. Preston has given his consent.
The books which I am at present employed in reading to myself
are, in English, Plutarch's Lives, and Milner's Ecclesiastical
History; in French, Fenelon's Dialogues of the Dead. I shall send
you back the volumes of Madame de Genlis's petits romans as soon
as possible, and I should be very much obliged for one or two
more of them. Everything now seems to feel the influence of
spring. The trees are all out. The lilacs are in bloom. The days
are long, and I feel that I should be happy were it not that I
want home. Even yesterday, when I felt more real satisfaction
than I have done for almost three months, I could not help
feeling a sort of uneasiness, which indeed I have always felt
more or less since I have been here, and which is the only thing
that hinders me from being perfectly happy. This day two months
will put a period to my uneasiness.

"Fly fast the hours, and dawn th' expected morn."

Every night when I lie down I reflect that another day is cut off
from the tiresome time of absence.

Your affectionate son,


Shelford: April 26 1813.

My dear Papa,--Since I have given you a detail of weekly duties,
I hope you will be pleased to be informed of my Sunday's
occupations. It is quite a day of rest here, and I really look to
it with pleasure through the whole of the week. After breakfast
we learn a chapter in the Greek Testament that is with the aid of
our Bibles, and without doing it with a dictionary like other
lessons. We then go to church. We dine almost as soon as we come
back, and we are left to ourselves till afternoon church. During
this time I employ myself in reading, and Mr. Preston lends me
any books for which I ask him, so that I am nearly as well off in
this respect as at home, except for one thing, which, though I
believe it is useful, is not very pleasant. I can only ask for
one book at a time, and cannot touch another till I have read it
through. We then go to church, and after we come hack I read as
before till tea-time. After tea we write out the sermon. I cannot
help thinking that Mr. Preston uses all imaginable means to make
us forget it, for he gives us a glass of wine each on Sunday, and
on Sunday only, the very day when we want to have all our
faculties awake; and some do literally go to sleep during the
sermon, and look rather silly when they wake. I, however, have
not fallen into this disaster.

Your affectionate son,


The constant allusions to home politics and to the progress of
the Continental struggle, which occur throughout Zachary
Macaulay's correspondence with his son, prove how freely, and on
what an equal footing, the parent and child already conversed on
questions of public interest. The following letter is curious as
a specimen of the eagerness with which the boy habitually flung
himself into the subjects which occupied his father's thoughts.
The renewal of the East India Company's charter was just then
under the consideration of Parliament, and the whole energies of
the Evangelical party were exerted in order to signalise the
occasion by securing our Eastern dominions as a field for the
spread of Christianity. Petitions against the continued exclusion
of missionaries were in course of circulation throughout the
island, the drafts of which had been prepared by Mr. Macaulay.

Shelford: May 8, 1813.

My dear Papa,--As on Monday it will be out of my power to write,
since the examination subjects are to be given out I write to-day
instead to answer your kind and long letter.

I am very much pleased that the nation seems to take such
interest in the introduction of Christianity into India. My
Scotch blood begins to boil at the mention of the 1,750 names
that went up from a single country parish. Ask Mama and Selina if
they do not now admit my argument with regard to the superior
advantages of the Scotch over the English peasantry.

As to my examination preparations, I will if you please give you
a sketch of my plan. On Monday, the day on which the examination
subjects are given out, I shall begin. My first performance will
be my verses and my declamation. I shall then translate the Greek
and Latin. The first time of going over I shall mark the passages
which puzzle me, and then return to them again. But I shall have
also to rub up my Mathematics, (by the bye, I begin the second
book of Euclid to-day,) and to study whatever History may be
appointed for the examination. I shall not be able to avoid
trembling, whether I know my subjects or not. I am however
intimidated at nothing but Greek. Mathematics suit my taste,
although, before I came, I declaimed against them, and asserted
that, when I went to College, it should not be to Cambridge. I am
occupied with the hope of lecturing Mama and Selina upon
Mathematics, as I used to do upon Heraldry, and to change Or, and
Argent, and Azure, and Gules, for squares, and points, and
circles, and angles, and triangles, and rectangles, and
rhomboids, and in a word "all the pomp and circumstance" of
Euclid. When I come home I shall, if my purse is sufficient,
bring a couple of rabbits for Selina and Jane.

Your affectionate son,


It will be seen that this passing fondness for mathematics soon
changed into bitter disgust.

Clapham May 28, 1813.

My dear Tom,--I am very happy to hear that you have so far
advanced in your different prize exercises, and with such little
fatigue. I know you write with great ease to yourself, and would
rather write ten poems than prune one; but remember that
excellence is not attained at first. All your pieces are much
mended after a little reflection, and therefore take some
solitary walks, and think over each separate thing. Spare no time
or trouble to render each piece as perfect as you can, and then
leave the event without one anxious thought. I have always
admired a saying of one of the old heathen philosophers. When a
friend was condoling with him that he so well deserved of the
gods, and yet that they did not shower their favours on him, as
on some others less worthy, he answered, "I will, however,
continue to deserve well of them." So do you, my dearest. Do
your best because it is the will of God you should improve every
faculty to the utmost now, and strengthen the powers of your mind
by exercise, and then in future you will be better enabled to
glorify God with all your powers and talents, be they of a more
humble, or higher order, and you shall not fail to be received
into everlasting habitations, with the applauding voice of your
Saviour, "Well done, good and faithful servant." You see how
ambitious your mother is. She must have the wisdom of her son
acknowledged before Angels, and an assembled world. My wishes can
soar no higher, and they can be content with nothing less for any
of my children. The first time I saw your face, I repeated those
beautiful lines of Watts' cradle hymn,

Mayst thou live to know and fear Him,
Trust and love Him all thy days
Then go dwell for ever near Him,
See His face, and sing His praise.

and this is the substance of all my prayers for you. In less than
a month you and I shall, I trust, be rambling over the Common,
which now looks quite beautiful.

I am ever, my dear Tom,

Your affectionate mother,


The commencement of the second half-year at school, perhaps the
darkest season of a boy's existence, was marked by an unusually
severe and prolonged attack of home-sickness. It would be cruel
to insert the first letter written after the return to Shelford
from the summer holidays. That which follows it is melancholy

Shelford: August 14. 1813.

My dear Mama,--I must confess that I have been a little
disappointed at not receiving a letter from home to-day. I hope,
however, for one to-morrow. My spirits are far more depressed by
leaving home than they were last half-year. Everything brings
home to my recollection. Everything I read, or see, or hear,
brings it to my mind. You told me I should be happy when I once
came here, but not an hour passes in which I do not shed tears at
thinking of home. Every hope, however unlikely to be realised,
affords me some small consolation. The morning on which I went,
you told me that possibly I might come home before the holidays.
If you can confirm this hope, believe me when I assure you that
there is nothing which I would not give for one instant's sight
of home. Tell me in your next, expressly, if you can, whether or
no there is any likelihood of my coming home before the holidays.
If I could gain Papa's leave, I should select my birthday on
October 25 as the time which I should wish to spend at that home
which absence renders still dearer to me. I think I see you
sitting by Papa just after his dinner, reading my letter, and
turning to him, with an inquisitive glance, at the end of the
paragraph. I think too that I see his expressive shake of the
head at it. O, may I be mistaken! You cannot conceive what an
alteration a favourable answer would produce in me. If your
approbation of my request depends upon my advancing in study, I
will work like a cart-horse. If you should refuse it, you will
deprive me of the most pleasing illusion which I ever experienced
in my life. Pray do not fail to write speedily.

Your dutiful and affectionate son,


His father answered him in a letter of strong religious
complexion, full of feeling, and even of beauty, but too long for
reproduction in a biography that is not his own.

Mr. Macaulay's deep anxiety for his son's welfare sometimes
induced him to lend too ready an ear to busybodies, who informed
him of failings in the boy which would have been treated more
lightly, and perhaps more wisely, by a less devoted father. In
the early months of 1814 he writes as follows, after hearing the
tale of some guest of Mr. Preston whom Tom had no doubt
contradicted at table in presence of the assembled household.

London: March 4, 1814.

My dear Tom,--In taking up my pen this morning a passage in
Cowper almost involuntarily occurred to me. You will find it at
length in his "Conversation."

"Ye powers who rule the Tongue, if such there are,
And make colloquial happiness your care,
Preserve me from the thing I dread and hate,
A duel in the form of a debate.
Vociferated logic kills me quite.
A noisy man is always in the right."

You know how much such a quotation as this would fall in with my
notions, averse as I am to loud and noisy tones, and self-
confident, overwhelming, and yet perhaps very unsound arguments.
And you will remember how anxiously I dwelt upon this point while
you were at home. I have been in hopes that this half-year would
witness a great change in you in this respect. My hopes, however,
have been a little damped by something which I heard last week
through a friend, who seemed to have received an impression that
you had gained a high distinction among the young gentlemen at
Shelford by the loudness and vehemence of your tones. Now, my
dear Tom, you cannot doubt that this gives me pain; and it does
so not so much on account of the thing itself, as because I
consider it a pretty infallible test of the mind within. I do
long and pray most earnestly that the ornament of a meek and
quiet spirit may be substituted for vehemence and self-
confidence, and that you may be as much distinguished for the
former as ever you have been for the latter. It is a school in
which I am not ambitious that any child of mine should take a
high degree.

If the people of Shelford be as bad as you represent them in your
letters, what are they but an epitome of the world at large? Are
they ungrateful to you for your kindnesses? Are they foolish, and
wicked, and wayward in the use of their faculties? What is all
this but what we ourselves are guilty of every day? Consider how
much in our case the guilt of such conduct is aggravated by our
superior knowledge. We shall not have ignorance to plead in its
extenuation, as many of the people of Shelford may have. Now,
instead of railing at the people of Shelford, I think the best
thing which you and your schoolfellows could do would be to try
to reform them. You can buy and distribute useful and striking
tracts, as well as Testaments, among such as can read. The cheap
Repository and Religious Tract Society will furnish tracts suited
to all descriptions of persons; and for those who cannot read--
why should you not institute a Sunday school to be taught by
yourselves, and in which appropriate rewards being given for good
behaviour, not only at school but through the week, great effects
of a moral kind might soon be produced? I have exhausted my
paper, and must answer the rest of your letter in a few days. In
the meantime,

I am ever your most affectionate father,


A father's prayers are seldom fulfilled to the letter. Many years
were to elapse before the son ceased to talk loudly and with
confidence; and the literature that he was destined to
distribute through the world was of another order from that which
Mr. Macaulay here suggests. The answer, which is addressed to the
mother, affords a proof that the boy could already hold his own.
The allusions to the Christian Observer, of which his father was
editor, and to Dr. Herbert Marsh, with whom the ablest pens of
Clapham were at that moment engaged in hot and embittered
controversy, are thrown in with an artist's hand.

Shelford: April 11. 1814.

My dear Mama,--The news is glorious indeed. Peace! Peace with a
Bourbon, with a descendant of Henri Quatre, with a prince who is
bound to us by all the ties of gratitude. I have some hopes that
it will be a lasting peace; that the troubles of the last twenty
years may make kings and nations wiser. I cannot conceive a
greater punishment to Buonaparte than that which the allies have
inflicted on him. How can his ambitious mind support it? All his
great projects and schemes, which once made every throne in
Europe tremble, are buried in the solitude of an Italian isle.
How miraculously everything has been conducted! We almost seem to
hear the Almighty saying to the fallen tyrant, "For this cause
have I raised thee up, that I might show in thee My power."

As I am in very great haste with this letter, I shall have but
little time to write. I am sorry to hear that some nameless
friend of Papa's denounced my voice as remarkably loud. I have
accordingly resolved to speak in a moderate key except on the
undermentioned special occasions. Imprimis, when I am speaking at
the same time with three others. Secondly, when I am praising the
Christian Observer. Thirdly, when I am praising Mr. Preston or
his sisters I may be allowed to speak in my loudest voice, that
they may hear me.

I saw to-day that greatest of churchmen, that pillar of
Orthodoxy, that true friend to the Liturgy, that mortal enemy to
the Bible Society,--Herbert Marsh, D.D., Professor of Divinity on
Lady Margaret's foundation. I stood looking at him for about ten
minutes, and shall always continue to maintain that he is a very
ill-favoured gentleman as far as outward appearance is concerned.
I am going this week to spend a day or two at Dean Milner's,
where I hope, nothing unforeseen preventing, to see you in about
two months' time.

Ever your affectionate son,


In the course of the year 1814 Mr. Preston removed his establishment
to Aspenden Hall near Buntingford, in Hertfordshire; a large
old-fashioned mansion, standing amidst extensive shrubberies, and
a pleasant undulating domain sprinkled with fine timber. The house
has been rebuilt within the last twenty years, and nothing remains
of it except the dark oak panelling of the hall in which the
scholars made their recitations on the annual speech day. The very
pretty church, which stands hard by within the grounds, was
undergoing restoration in 1873 and by this time the only existing
portion of the former internal fittings is the family pew, in
which the boys sat on drowsy summer afternoons, doing what they
could to keep their impressions of the second sermon distinct from
their reminiscences of the morning. Here Macaulay spent four most
industrious years, doing less and less in the class-room as time
went on, but enjoying the rare advantage of studying Greek and
Latin by the side of such a scholar as Malden. The two companions
were equally matched in age and classical attainments, and at the
university maintained a rivalry so generous as hardly to deserve
the name. Each of the pupils had his own chamber, which the others
were forbidden to enter under the penalty of a shilling fine. This
prohibition was in general not very strictly observed; but the
tutor had taken the precaution of placing Macaulay in a room next
his own;--a proximity which rendered the position of an intruder
so exceptionally dangerous that even Malden could not remember
having once passed his friend's threshold during the whole of
their stay at Aspenden.

In this seclusion, removed from the delight of family
intercourse, (the only attraction strong enough to draw him from
his books,) the boy read widely, unceasingly, more than rapidly.
The secret of his immense acquirements lay in two invaluable
gifts of nature,--an unerring memory, and the capacity for taking
in at a glance the contents of a printed page. During the first
part of his life he remembered whatever caught his fancy without
going through the process of consciously getting it by heart. As a
child, during one of the numerous seasons when the social duties
devolved upon Mr. Macaulay, he accompanied his father on an
afternoon call, and found on a table the Lay of the Last
Minstrel, which he had never before met with. He kept himself
quiet with his prize while the elders were talking, and, on his
return home, sat down upon his mother's bed, and repeated to her
as many cantos as she had the patience or the strength to listen
to. At one period of his life he was known to say that, if by
some miracle of Vandalism all copies of Paradise Lost and the
Pilgrim's Progress were destroyed off the face of the earth, he
would undertake to reproduce them both from recollection whenever
a revival of learning came. In 1813, while waiting in a Cambridge
coffee-room for a postchaise which was to take him to his school,
he picked up a county newspaper containing two such specimens of
provincial poetical talent as in those days might be read in the
corner of any weekly journal. One piece was headed "Reflections
of an Exile;" while the other was a trumpery parody on the Welsh
ballad "Ar hyd y nos," referring to some local anecdote of an
ostler whose nose had been bitten off by a filly. He looked them
once through, and never gave them a thought for forty years, at
the end of which time he repeated them both without missing,--or,
as far as he knew, changing,--a single word.

[Sir William Stirling Maxwell says, in a letter with which he has
honoured me: "Of his extraordinary memory I remember Lord Jeffrey
telling me an instance. They had had a difference about a
quotation from Paradise Lost, and made a wager about it; the
wager being a copy of the hook, which, on reference to the
passage, it was found Jeffrey had won. The bet was made just
before, and paid immediately after, the Easter vacation. On
putting the volume into Jeffrey's hand, your uncle said, 'I don't
think you will find me tripping again. I knew it, I thought,
pretty well before; but I am sure I know it now.' Jeffrey
proceeded to examine him, putting him on at a variety of the
heaviest passages--the battle of the angels--the dialogues of
Adam and the archangels,--and found him ready to declaim them
all, till he begged him to stop. He asked him how he had acquired
such a command of the poem, and had for answer: 'I had him in the
country, and I read it twice over, and I don't think that I shall
ever forget it again.' At the same time he told Jeffrey that he
believed he could repeat everything of his own he had ever
printed, and nearly all he had ever written, 'except, perhaps,
some of my college exercises.'

"I myself had an opportunity of seeing and hearing a remarkable
proof of your uncle's hold upon the most insignificant verbiage
that chance had poured into his ear. I was staying with him at
Bowood, in the winter of 1852. Lord Elphinstone--who had been
many years before Governor of Madras,--was telling one morning at
breakfast of a certain native barber there, who was famous, in
his time, for English doggrel of his own making, with which he
was wont to regale his customers. 'Of course,' said Lord
Elphinstone, 'I don't remember any of it; but was very funny, and
used to be repeated in society.' Macaulay, who was sitting a good
way off, immediately said: 'I remember being shaved by the
fellow, and he recited a quantity of verse to me during the
operation, and here is some of it;' and then he went off in a
very queer doggrel about the exploits of Bonaparte, of which I
recollect the recurring refrain--

But when he saw the British boys,
He up and ran away.

It is hardly conceivable that he had ever had occasion to recall
that poem since the day when he escaped from under the poet's

As he grew older, this wonderful power became impaired so far
that getting by rote the compositions of others was no longer an
involuntary process. He has noted in his Lucan the several
occasions on which he committed to memory his favourite passages
of an author whom he regarded as unrivalled among rhetoricians;
and the dates refer to 1836, when he had just turned the middle
point of life. During his last years, at his dressing-table in
the morning, he would learn by heart one or another of the little
idylls in which Martial expatiates on the enjoyments of a Spanish
country-house, or a villa-farm in the environs of Rome;--those
delicious morsels of verse which, (considering the sense that
modern ideas attach to the name,) it is an injustice to class
under the head of epigrams.

Macaulay's extraordinary faculty of assimilating printed matter
at first sight remained the same through life. To the end he read
books more quickly than other people skimmed them, and skimmed
them as fast as anyone else could turn the leaves. "He seemed to
read through the skin," said one who had often watched the
operation. And this speed was not in his case obtained at the
expense of accuracy. Anything which had once appeared in type,
from the highest effort of genius down to the most detestable
trash that ever consumed ink and paper manufactured for better
things, had in his eyes an authority which led him to look upon
misquotation as a species of minor sacrilege.

With these endowments, sharpened by an insatiable curiosity, from
his fourteenth year onward he was permitted to roam almost at
will over the whole expanse of literature. He composed little
beyond his school exercises, which themselves bear signs of
having been written in a perfunctory manner. At this period he
had evidently no heart in anything but his reading. Before
leaving Shelford for Aspenden he had already invoked the epic
muse for the last time.

"Arms and the man I sing, who strove in vain
To save green Erin from a foreign reign."

The man was Roderic, king of Connaught, whom he got tired of
singing before he had well completed two books of the poem.
Thenceforward he appears never to have struck his lyre, except in
the first enthusiasm aroused by the intelligence of some
favourable turn of fortune on the Continent. The flight of
Napoleon from Russia was celebrated in a "Pindaric Ode" duly
distributed into strophes and antistrophes; and, when the allies
entered Paris, the school put his services into requisition to
petition for a holiday in honour of the event. He addressed his
tutor in a short poem, which begins with a few sonorous and
effective couplets, grows more and more like the parody on
Fitzgerald in "Rejected Addresses," and ends in a peroration of
which the intention is unquestionably mock-heroic:

"Oh, by the glorious posture of affairs,
By the enormous price that Omnium hears,
By princely Bourbon's late recovered Crown,
And by Miss Fanny's safe return from town,
Oh, do not thou, and thou alone, refuse
To show thy pleasure at this glorious news!"

Touched by the mention of his sister, Mr. Preston yielded and
young Macaulay never turned another verse except at the bidding
of his schoolmaster, until, on the eve of his departure for
Cambridge, he wrote between three and four hundred lines of a
drama, entitled "Don Fernando," marked by force and fertility of
diction, but somewhat too artificial to be worthy of publication
under a name such as his. Much about the same time he
communicated to Malden the commencement of a burlesque poem on
the story of Anthony Babington; who, by the part that he took in
the plots against the life of Queen Elizabeth, had given the
family a connection with English history which, however
questionable, was in Macaulay's view better than none.

"Each, says the proverb, has his taste. 'Tis true.
Marsh loves a controversy; Coates a play;
Bennet a felon; Lewis Way a Jew;
The Jew the silver spoons of Lewis Way.
The Gipsy Poetry, to own the truth,
Has been my love through childhood and in youth."

It is perhaps as well that the project to all appearance stopped
with the first stanza, which in its turn was probably written for
the sake of a single line. The young man had a better use for his
time than to spend it in producing frigid imitations of Beppo.

He was not unpopular among his fellow-pupils, who regarded him
with pride and admiration, tempered by the compassion which his
utter inability to play at any sort of game would have excited in
every school, private or public alike. He troubled himself very
little about the opinion of those by whom he was surrounded at
Aspenden. It required the crowd and the stir of a university to
call forth the social qualities which he possessed in so large a
measure. The tone of his correspondence during these years

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