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Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay by George Otto Trevelyan

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sufficiently indicates that he lived almost exclusively among
books. His letters, which had hitherto been very natural and
pretty, began to smack of the library, and please less than those
written in early boyhood. His pen was overcharged with the
metaphors and phrases of other men; and it was not till maturing
powers had enabled him to master and arrange the vast masses of
literature which filled his memory that his native force could
display itself freely through the medium of a style which was all
his own. In 1815 he began a formal literary correspondence, after
the taste of the previous century, with Mr. Hudson, a gentleman
in the Examiner's Office of the East India House.

Aspenden Hall: August 22, 1815.

Dear Sir,--The Spectator observes, I believe in his first paper,
that we can never read an author with much zest unless we are
acquainted with his situation. I feel the same in my epistolary
correspondence; and, supposing that in this respect we may be
alike, I will just tell you my condition. Imagine a house in the
middle of pretty large grounds, surrounded by palings. These I
never pass. You may therefore suppose that I resemble the Hermit
of Parnell.

"As yet by books and swains the world he knew,
Nor knew if books and swains report it true."

If you substitute newspapers and visitors for books and swains,
you may form an idea of what I know of the present state of
things. Write to me as one who is ignorant of every event except
political occurrences. These I learn regularly; but if Lord Byron
were to publish melodies or romances, or Scott metrical tales
without number, I should never see them, or perhaps hear of them,
till Christmas. Retirement of this kind, though it precludes me
from studying the works of the hour, is very favourable for the
employment of "holding high converse with the mighty dead."

I know not whether "peeping at the world through the loopholes of
retreat" be the best way of forming us for engaging in its busy
and active scenes. I am sure it is not a way to my taste. Poets
may talk of the beauties of nature, the enjoyments of a country
life, and rural innocence; but there is another kind of life
which, though unsung by bards, is yet to me infinitely superior
to the dull uniformity of country life. London is the place for
me. Its smoky atmosphere, and its muddy river, charm me more than
the pure air of Hertfordshire, and the crystal currents of the
river Rib. Nothing is equal to the splendid varieties of London
life, "the fine flow of London talk," and the dazzling brilliancy
of London spectacles. Such are my sentiments, and, if ever I
publish poetry, it shall not be pastoral. Nature is the last
goddess to whom my devoirs shall be paid.

Yours most faithfully,


This votary of city life was still two months short of completing
his fifteenth year!

Aspenden Hall: August 23, 1815.

My dear Mama,--You perceive already in so large a sheet, and so
small a hand, the promise of a long, a very long letter, longer,
as I intend it, than all the letters which you send in a half-
year together. I have again begun my life of sterile monotony,
unvarying labour, the dull return of dull exercises in dull
uniformity of tediousness. But do not think that I complain.

My mind to me a kingdom is,
Such perfect joy therein I find
As doth exceed all other bliss
That God or nature hath assigned.

Assure yourself that I am philosopher enough to be happy,--I
meant to say not particularly unhappy,--in solitude; but man is
an animal made for society. I was gifted with reason, not to
speculate in Aspenden Park, but to interchange ideas with some
person who can understand me. This is what I miss at Aspenden.
There are several here who possess both taste and reading; who
can criticise Lord Byron and Southey with much tact and "savoir
du metier." But here it is not the fashion to think. Hear what I
have read since I came here. Hear and wonder! I have in the first
place read Boccacio's Decameron, a tale of a hundred cantos. He
is a wonderful writer. Whether he tells in humorous or familiar
strains the follies of the silly Calandrino, or the witty pranks
of Buffalmacco and Bruno, or sings in loftier numbers

Dames, knights, and arms, and love, the feats that spring
From courteous minds and generous faith,

or lashes with a noble severity and fearless independence the
vices of the monks and the priestcraft of the established
religion, he is always elegant, amusing, and, what pleases and
surprises most in a writer of so unpolished an age, strikingly
delicate and chastised. I prefer him infinitely to Chaucer. If
you wish for a good specimen of Boccacio, as soon as you have
finished my letter, (which will come, I suppose, by dinner-time,)
send Jane up to the library for Dryden's poems, and you will find
among them several translations from Boccacio, particularly one
entitled "Theodore and Honoria."

But, truly admirable as the bard of Florence is, I must not
permit myself to give him more than his due share of my letter. I
have likewise read Gil Blas, with unbounded admiration of the
abilities of Le Sage. Malden and I have read Thalaba together,
and are proceeding to the Curse of Kehama. Do not think, however,
that I am neglecting more important studies than either Southey
or Boccacio. I have read the greater part of the History of James
I. and Mrs. Montague's essay on Shakspeare, and a great deal of
Gibbon. I never devoured so many books in a fortnight. John
Smith, Bob Hankinson, and I, went over the Hebrew Melodies
together. I certainly think far better of them than we used to do
at Clapham. Papa may laugh, and indeed he did laugh me out of my
taste at Clapham; but I think that there is a great deal of
beauty in the first melody, "She walks in beauty," though indeed
who it is that walks in beauty is not very exactly defined. My
next letter shall contain a production of my muse, entitled "An
Inscription for the Column of Waterloo," which is to be shown to
Mr. Preston to-morrow. What he may think of it I do not know. But
I am like my favourite Cicero about my own productions. It is all
one to me what others think of them. I never like them a bit less
for being disliked by the rest of mankind. Mr. Preston has
desired me to bring him up this evening two or three subjects for
a Declamation. Those which I have selected are as follows: 1st, a
speech in the character of Lord Coningsby, impeaching the Earl of
Oxford; 2nd, an essay on the utility of standing armies; 3rd, an
essay on the policy of Great Britain with regard to continental
possessions. I conclude with sending my love to Papa, Selina,
Jane, John, ("but he is not there," as Fingal pathetically says,
when in enumerating his sons who should accompany him to the
chase he inadvertently mentions the dead Ryno,) Henry, Fanny,
Hannah, Margaret, and Charles. Valete.


This exhaustive enumeration of his brothers and sisters invites
attention to that home where he reigned supreme. Lady Trevelyan
thus describes their life at Clapham: "I think that my father's
strictness was a good counterpoise to the perfect worship of your
uncle by the rest of the family. To us he was an object of
passionate love and devotion. To us he could do no wrong. His
unruffled sweetness of temper, his unfailing flow of spirits, his
amusing talk, all made his presence so delightful that his wishes
and his tastes were our law. He hated strangers; and his notion
of perfect happiness was to see us all working round him while he
read aloud a novel, and then to walk all together on the Common,
or, if it rained, to have a frightfully noisy game of hide-and-
seek. I have often wondered how our mother could ever have
endured our noise in her little house. My earliest recollections
speak of the intense happiness of the holidays, beginning with
finding him in Papa's room in the morning; the awe at the idea of
his having reached home in the dark after we were in bed, and the
Saturnalia which at once set in;--no lessons; nothing but fun and
merriment for the whole six weeks. In the year 1816 we were at
Brighton for the summer holidays, and he read to us Sir Charles
Grandison. It was always a habit in our family to read aloud
every evening. Among the books selected I can recall Clarendon,
Burnet, Shakspeare, (a great treat when my mother took the
volume,) Miss Edgeworth, Mackenzie's Lounger and Mirror, and, as
a standing dish, the Quarterly and the Edinburgh Reviews. Poets
too, especially Scott and Crabbe, were constantly chosen. Poetry
and novels, except during Tom's holidays, were forbidden in the
daytime, and stigmatised as 'drinking drams in the morning.'"

Morning or evening, Mr. Macaulay disapproved of novel-reading;
but, too indulgent to insist on having his own way in any but
essential matters, he lived to see himself the head of a family
in which novels were more read, and better remembered, than in
any household of the United Kingdom. The first warning of the
troubles that were in store for him was an anonymous letter
addressed to him as editor of the Christian Observer, defending
works of fiction, and eulogising Fielding and Smollett. This he
incautiously inserted in his periodical, and brought down upon
himself the most violent objurgations from scandalised
contributors, one of whom informed the public that he had
committed the obnoxious number to the flames, and should
thenceforward cease to take in the Magazine. The editor replied
with becoming spirit; although by that time he was aware that the
communication, the insertion of which in an unguarded moment had
betrayed him into a controversy for which he had so little heart,
had proceeded from the pen of his son. Such was young Macaulay's
first appearance in print, if we except the index to the
thirteenth volume of the Christian Observer, which he drew up
during his Christmas holidays of 1814. The place where he
performed his earliest literary work can be identified with
tolerable certainty. He enjoyed the eldest son's privilege of a
separate bedchamber; and there, at the front window on the top
story, furthest from the Common and nearest to London, we can
fancy him sitting, apart from the crowded play-room, keeping
himself warm as best he might, and travelling steadily through
the blameless pages the contents of which it was his task to
classify for the convenience of posterity.

Lord Macaulay used to remark that Thackeray introduced too much
of the Dissenting element into his picture of Clapham in the
opening chapters of "The Newcomes." The leading people of the
place,--with the exception of Mr. William Smith, the Unitarian
member of Parliament,--were one and all staunch Churchmen; though
they readily worked in concert with those religious communities
which held in the main the same views, and pursued the same
objects, as themselves. Old John Thornton, the earliest of the
Evangelical magnates, when he went on his annual tour to the
South Coast or the Scotch mountains, would take with him some
Independent or Wesleyan minister who was in need of a holiday;
and his followers in the next generation had the most powerful
motives for maintaining the alliance which he had inaugurated.
They could not neglect such doughty auxiliaries in the memorable
war which they waged against cruelty, ignorance, and irreligion,
and in their less momentous skirmishes with the votaries of the
stage, the racecourse, and the card-table. Without the aid of
nonconformist sympathy, and money, and oratory, and organisation,
their operations would have been doomed to certain failure. The
cordial relations entertained with the members of other
denominations by those among whom his youth was passed did much
to indoctrinate Macaulay with a lively and genuine interest in
sectarian theology. He possessed a minute acquaintance, very rare
among men of letters, with the origin and growth of the various
forms of faith and practice which have divided the allegiance of
his countrymen; not the least important of his qualifications for
writing the history of an epoch when the national mind gave
itself to religious controversy even more largely than has been
its wont.

The method of education in vogue among the Clapham families was
simple, without being severe. In the spacious gardens, and the
commodious houses of an architecture already dating a century
back, which surrounded the Common, there was plenty of freedom,
and good fellowship, and reasonable enjoyment for young and old
alike. Here again Thackeray has not done justice to a society
that united the mental culture, and the intellectual activity,
which are developed by the neighbourhood of a great capital, with
the wholesome quiet and the homely ways of country life. Hobson
and Brian Newcome are not fair specimens of the effect of Clapham
influences upon the second generation. There can have been
nothing vulgar, and little that was narrow, in a training which
produced Samuel Wilberforce, and Sir James Stephen, and Charles
and Robert Grant, and Lord Macaulay. The plan on which children
were brought up in the chosen home of the Low Church party,
during its golden age, will bear comparison with systems about
which, in their day, the world was supposed never to tire of
hearing, although their ultimate results have been small indeed.

It is easy to trace whence the great bishop and the great writer
derived their immense industry. Working came as naturally as
walking to sons who could not remember a time when their fathers
idled. "Mr. Wilberforce and Mr. Babington have never appeared
downstairs lately, except to take a hasty dinner, and for half an
hour after we have supped. The slave-trade now occupies them nine
hours daily. Mr. Babington told me last night that he had fourteen
hundred folio pages to read, to detect the contradictions, and to
collect the answers which corroborate Mr. Wilberforce's assertions
in his speeches. These, with more than two thousand pages to be
abridged, must be done within a fortnight, and they talk of
sitting up one night in every week to accomplish it. The two
friends begin to look very ill, but they are in excellent spirits,
and at this moment I hear them laughing at some absurd questions
in the examination." Passages such as this are scattered broadcast
through the correspondence of Wilberforce and his friends.
Fortitude, and diligence, and self- control, and all that makes
men good and great, cannot be purchased from professional
educators. Charity is not the only quality which begins at home.
It is throwing away money to spend a thousand a year on the
teaching of three boys, if they are to return from school only to
find the older members of their family intent on amusing
themselves at any cost of time and trouble, or sacrificing
self-respect in ignoble efforts to struggle into a social grade
above their own. The child will never place his aims high, and
pursue them steadily, unless the parent has taught him what
energy, and elevation of purpose, mean not less by example than by

In that company of indefatigable workers none equalled the
labours of Zachary Macaulay. Even now, when he has been in his
grave for more than the third of a century, it seems almost an
act of disloyalty to record the public services of a man who
thought that he had done less than nothing if his exertions met
with praise, or even with recognition. The nature and value of
those services may be estimated from the terms in which a very
competent judge, who knew how to weigh his words, spoke of the
part which Mr. Macaulay played in one only of his numerous
enterprises,--the suppression of slavery and the slave-trade.
"That God had called him into being to wage war with this
gigantic evil became his immutable conviction. During forty
successive years he was ever burdened with this thought. It was
the subject of his visions by day and of his dreams by night. To
give them reality he laboured as men labour for the honours of a
profession or for the subsistence of their children. In that
service he sacrificed all that a man may lawfully sacrifice--
health, fortune, repose, favour, and celebrity. He died a poor
man, though wealth was within his reach. He devoted himself to
the severest toil, amidst allurements to luxuriate in the
delights of domestic and social intercourse, such as few indeed
have encountered. He silently permitted some to usurp his hardly-
earned honours, that no selfish controversy might desecrate their
common cause. He made no effort to obtain the praises of the
world, though he had talents to command, and a temper peculiarly
disposed to enjoy them. He drew upon himself the poisoned shafts
of calumny, and, while feeling their sting as generous spirits
only can feel it, never turned a single step aside from his path
to propitiate or to crush the slanderers."

Zachary Macaulay was no mere man of action. It is difficult to
understand when it was that he had time to pick up his knowledge
of general literature; or how he made room for it in a mind so
crammed with facts and statistics relating to questions of the day
that when Wilberforce was at a loss for a piece of information he
used to say, "Let us look it out in Macaulay." His private papers,
which are one long register of unbroken toil, do nothing to clear
up the problem. Highly cultivated, however, he certainly was, and
his society was in request with many who cared little for the
objects which to him were everything. That he should have been
esteemed and regarded by Lord Brougham, Francis Homer, and Sir
James Mackintosh, seems natural enough, but there is something
surprising in finding him in friendly and frequent intercourse
with some of his most distinguished French contemporaries.
Chateaubriand, Sismondi, the Duc de Broglie, Madame de Stael, and
Dumont, the interpreter of Bentham, corresponded with him freely
in their own language, which he wrote to admiration. The
gratification that his foreign acquaintance felt at the sight of
his letters would have been unalloyed but for the pamphlets and
blue-books by which they were too often accompanied. It is not
difficult to imagine the feelings of a Parisian on receiving two
quarto volumes, with the postage only in part pre-paid, containing
the proceedings of a Committee on Apprenticeship in the West
Indies, and including the twelve or fifteen thousand questions and
answers on which the Report was founded. It would be hard to meet
with a more perfect sample of the national politeness than the
passage in which M. Dumont acknowledges one of the less formidable
of these unwelcome gifts. "Mon cher Ami,--Je ne laisserai pas
partir Mr. Inglis sans le charger de quelques lignes pour vous,
afin de vous remercier du Christian Observer que vous avez eu la
bonte de m'envoyer. Vous savez que j'ai a great taste for it; mais
il faut vous avouer une triste verite, c'est que je manque
absolument de loisir pour le lire. Ne m'en envoyez plus; car je me
sens peine d'avoir sous les yeux de si bonnes choses, dont je n'ai
pas le temps de tue nourrir."

"In the year 1817," Lady Trevelyan writes, "my parents made a
tour in Scotland with your uncle. Brougham gave them a letter to
Jeffrey, who hospitably entertained them; but your uncle said
that Jeffrey was not at all at his ease, and was apparently so
terrified at my father's religious reputation that he seemed
afraid to utter a joke. Your uncle complained grievously that
they travelled from manse to manse, and always came in for very
long prayers and expositions. [Macaulay writes in his journal of
August 8, 1859: "We passed my old acquaintance, Dumbarton castle,
I remembered my first visit to Dumbarton, and the old minister,
who insisted on our eating a bit of cake with him, and said a
grace over it which might have been prologue to a dinner of the
Fishmongers' Company, or the Grocers' Company."] I think, with
all the love and reverence with which your uncle regarded his
father's memory, there mingled a shade of bitterness that he had
not met quite the encouragement and appreciation from him which
he received from others. But such a son as he was! Never a
disrespectful word or look; always anxious to please and amuse;
and at last he was the entire stay and support of his father's
declining years.

"Your uncle was of opinion that the course pursued by his father
towards him during his youth was not judicious. But here I am
inclined to disagree with him. There was no want of proof of the
estimation in which his father held him, corresponding with him
from a very early age as with a man, conversing with him freely,
and writing of him most fondly. But, in the desire to keep down
any conceit, there was certainly in my father a great outward
show of repression and depreciation. Then the faults of your
uncle were peculiarly those that my father had no patience with.
Himself precise in his arrangements, writing a beautiful hand,
particular about neatness, very accurate and calm, detesting
strong expressions, and remarkably self-controlled; while his
eager impetuous boy, careless of his dress, always forgetting to
wash his hands and brush his hair, writing an execrable hand, and
folding his letters with a great blotch for a seal, was a
constant care and irritation. Many letters to your uncle have I
read on these subjects. Sometimes a specimen of the proper way of
folding a letter is sent him, (those were the sad days before
envelopes were known,) and he is desired to repeat the experiment
till he succeeds. General Macaulay's fastidious nature led him to
take my father's line regarding your uncle, and my youthful soul
was often vexed by the constant reprimands for venial
transgressions. But the great sin was the idle reading, which was
a thorn in my father's side that never was extracted. In truth,
he really acknowledged to the full your uncle's abilities, and
felt that if he could only add his own morale, his unwearied
industry, his power of concentrating his energies on the work in
hand, his patient painstaking calmness, to the genius and fervour
which his son possessed, then a being might be formed who could
regenerate the world. Often in later years I have heard my
father, after expressing an earnest desire for some object,
exclaim, 'If I had only Tom's power of speech!' But he should
have remembered that all gifts are not given to one, and that
perhaps such a union as he coveted is even impossible. Parents
must be content to see their children walk in their own path, too
happy if through any road they attain the same end, the living
for the glory of God and the good of man."

From a marvellously early date in Macaulay's life public affairs
divided his thoughts with literature, and, as he grew to manhood,
began more and more to divide his aspirations. His father's house
was much used as a centre of consultation by members of
Parliament who lived in the suburbs on the Surrey side of London;
and the boy could hardly have heard more incessant, and assuredly
not more edifying, political talk if he had been brought up in
Downing Street. The future advocate and interpreter of Whig
principles was not reared in the Whig faith. Attached friends of
Pitt, who in personal conduct, and habits of life, certainly came
nearer to their standard than his great rival,--and warmly in
favour of a war which, to their imagination, never entirely lost
its early character of an internecine contest with atheism.--the
Evangelicals in the House of Commons for the most part acted with
the Tories. But it may be doubted whether, in the long run, their
party would not have been better without them. By the zeal, the
munificence, the laborious activity, with which they pursued
their religious and semi-religious enterprises, they did more to
teach the world how to get rid of existing institutions than by
their votes and speeches at Westminster they contributed to
preserve them. [Macaulay, writing to one of his sisters in 1844,
says: "I think Stephen's article on the Clapham Sect the best
thing he ever did, I do not think with you that the Claphamites
were men too obscure for such delineation. The truth is that from
that little knot of men emanated all the Bible Societies, and
almost all the Missionary Societies, in the world. The whole
organisation of the Evangelical party was their work. The share
which they had in providing means for the education of the people
was great. They were really the destroyers of the slave-trade,
and of slavery. Many of those whom Stephen describes were public
men of the greatest weight, Lord Teignmouth governed India in
Calcutta, Grant governed India in Leadenhall Street, Stephen's
father was Perceval's right-hand man in the House of Commons. It
is needless to speak of Wilberforce. As to Simeon, if you knew
what his authority and influence were, and how they extended from
Cambridge to the most remote corners of England, you would allow
that his real sway in the Church was far greater than that of any
primate. Thornton, to my surprise, thinks the passage about my
father unfriendly. I defended Stephen. The truth is that he asked
my permission to draw a portrait of my father for the Edinburgh
Review. I told him that I had only to beg that he would not give
it the air of a puff; a thing which, for myself and for my
friends, I dread far more than any attack. My influence over the
Review is so well known that a mere eulogy of my father appearing
in that work would only call forth derision. I therefore am
really glad that Stephen has introduced into his sketch some
little characteristic traits which, in themselves, were not
beauties."] With their May meetings, and African Institutions,
and Anti-slavery Reporters, and their subscriptions of tens of
thousands of pounds, and their petitions bristling with hundreds
of thousands of signatures, and all the machinery for informing
opinion and bringing it to bear on ministers and legislators
which they did so much to perfect and even to invent, they can be
regarded as nothing short of the pioneers and fuglemen of that
system of popular agitation which forms a leading feature in our
internal history during the past half-century. At an epoch when
the Cabinet which they supported was so averse to manifestations
of political sentiment that a Reformer who spoke his mind in
England was seldom long out of prison, and in Scotland ran a very
serious risk of transportation, Toryism sat oddly enough on men
who spent their days in the committee-room and their evenings on
the platform, and each of whom belonged to more Associations
combined for the purpose of influencing Parliament than he could
count on the fingers of both his hands.

There was something incongruous in their position; and as time
went on they began to perceive the incongruity. They gradually
learned that measures dear to philanthropy might be expected to
result from the advent to power of their opponents; while their
own chief too often failed them at a pinch out of what appeared
to them an excessive, and humiliating, deference to interests
powerfully represented on the benches behind him. Their eyes were
first opened by Pitt's change of attitude with regard to the
object that was next all their hearts. There is something almost
pathetic in the contrast between two entries in Wilberforce's
diary, of which the first has become classical, but the second is
not so generally known. In 1787, referring to the movement
against the slave-trade, he says: "Pitt recommended me to
undertake its conduct, as a subject suited to my character and
talents. At length, I well remember, after a conversation in the
open air at the root of an old tree at Holwood, just above the
vale of Keston, I resolved to give notice on a fit occasion in
the House of Commons of my intention to bring the subject
forward." Twelve years later Mr. Henry Thornton had brought in a
bill for confining the trade within certain limits upon the coast
of Africa. "Upon the second reading of this bill," writes
Wilberforce, "Pitt coolly put off the debate when I had
manifested a design of answering P.'s speech, and so left
misrepresentations without a word. William Smith's anger;--Henry
Thornton's coolness;--deep impression on me, but conquered, I
hope, in a Christian way."

Besides instructing their successors in the art of carrying on a
popular movement, Wilberforce and his followers had a lesson to
teach, the value of which not so many perhaps will be disposed to
question. In public life, as in private, they habitually had the
fear of God before their eyes. A mere handful as to number, and
in average talent very much on a level with the mass of their
colleagues;--counting in their ranks no orator, or minister, or
boroughmonger;--they commanded the ear of the House, and exerted
on its proceedings an influence, the secret of which those who
have studied the Parliamentary history of the period find it only
too easy to understand. To refrain from gambling and ball-giving,
to go much to church and never to the theatre, was not more at
variance with the social customs of the day than it was the
exception in the political world to meet with men who looked to
the facts of the case and not to the wishes of the minister, and
who before going into the lobby required to be obliged with a
reason instead of with a job. Confidence and respect, and (what
in the House of Commons is their unvarying accompaniment) power,
were gradually, and to a great extent involuntarily, accorded to
this group of members. They were not addicted to crotchets, nor
to the obtrusive and unseasonable assertion of conscientious
scruples. The occasions on which they made proof of independence
and impartiality were such as justified, and dignified, their
temporary renunciation of party ties. They interfered with
decisive effect in the debates on the great scandals of Lord
Melville and the Duke of York, and in more than one financial or
commercial controversy that deeply concerned the national
interests, of which the question of the retaining the Orders in
Council was a conspicuous instance. A boy who, like young
Macaulay, was admitted to the intimacy of politicians such as
these, and was accustomed to hear matters of state discussed
exclusively from a public point of view without any afterthought
of ambition, or jealousy, or self-seeking, could hardly fail to
grow up a patriotic and disinterested man. "What is far better
and more important than all is this, that I believe Macaulay to
be incorruptible. You might lay ribbons, stars, garters, wealth,
titles before him in vain. He has an honest genuine love of his
country, and the world would not bribe him to neglect her
interests." Thus said Sydney Smith, who of all his real friends
was the least inclined to over-praise him.

The memory of Thornton and Babington, and the other worthies of
their day and set, is growing dim, and their names already mean
little in our ears. Part of their work was so thoroughly done
that the world, as its wont is, has long ago taken the credit of
that work to itself. Others of their undertakings, in weaker
hands than theirs, seem out of date among the ideas and beliefs
which now are prevalent. At Clapham, as elsewhere, the old order
is changing, and not always in a direction which to them would be
acceptable or even tolerable. What was once the home of Zachary
Macaulay stands almost within the swing of the bell of a stately
and elegant Roman Catholic chapel; and the pleasant mansion of
Lord Teignmouth, the cradle of the Bible Society, is now a
religious house of the Redemptorist Order. But in one shape or
another honest performance always lives, and the gains that
accrued from the labours of these men are still on the right side
of the national ledger. Among the most permanent of those gains
is their undoubted share in the improvement of our political
integrity by direct, and still more by indirect, example. It
would be ungrateful to forget in how large a measure it is due to
them that one, whose judgments upon the statesmen of many ages
and countries have been delivered to an audience vast beyond all
precedent, should have framed his decisions in accordance with
the dictates of honour and humanity, of ardent public spirit and
lofty public virtue.



Macaulay goes to the University--His love for Trinity College--
His contemporaries at Cambridge--Charles Austin--The Union
Debating Society--University studies, successes, and failures--
The Mathematical Tripos--The Trinity Fellowship--William the
Third--Letters--Prize poems--Peterloo--Novel-reading--The Queen's
Trial--Macaulay's feeling towards his mother--A Reading-party--
Hoaxing an editor--Macaulay takes pupils.

IN October 1818 Macaulay went into residence at Trinity College,
Cambridge. Mr. Henry Sykes Thornton, the eldest son of the member
for Southwark, was his companion throughout his university
career. The young men lived in the same lodgings, and began by
reading with the same tutor; a plan which promised well, because,
in addition to what was his own by right, each had the benefit of
the period of instruction paid for by the other. But two hours
were much the same as one to Macaulay, in whose eyes algebra and
geometry were so much additional material for lively and
interminable argument. Thornton reluctantly broke through the
arrangement, and eventually stood highest among the Trinity
wranglers of his year; an elevation which he could hardly have
attained if he had pursued his studies in company with one who
regarded every successive mathematical proposition as an open
question. A Parliamentary election took place while the two
friends were still quartered together in Jesus Lane. A tumult in
the neighbouring street announced that the citizens were
expressing their sentiments by the only channel which was open to
them before the days of Reform; and Macaulay, to whom any
excitement of a political nature was absolutely irresistible,
dragged Thornton to the scene of action, and found the mob
breaking the windows of the Hoop hotel, the head-quarters of the
successful candidates. His ardour was cooled by receiving a dead
cat full in the face. The man who was responsible for the animal
came up and apologised very civilly, assuring him that there was
no town and gown feeling in the matter, and that the cat had been
meant for Mr. Adeane. "I wish," replied Macaulay, "that you had
meant it for me, and hit Mr. Adeane."

After no long while he removed within the walls of Trinity, and
resided first in the centre rooms of Bishop's Hostel, and
subsequently in the Old Court, between the Gate and the Chapel.
The door, which once bore his name, is on the ground floor, to the
left hand as you face the staircase. In more recent years,
undergraduates who are accustomed to be out after lawful hours
have claimed a right of way through the window which looks
towards the town;--to the great annoyance of any occupant who is
too good-natured to refuse the accommodation to others, and too
steady to need it himself. This power of surreptitious entry had
not been discovered in Macaulay's days; and, indeed, he would
have cared very little for the privilege of spending his time
outside walls which contained within them as many books as even
he could read, and more friends than even he could talk to.
Wanting nothing beyond what his college had to give, he revelled
in the possession of leisure and liberty, in the almost complete
command of his own time, in the power of passing at choice from
the most perfect solitude to the most agreeable company. He
keenly appreciated a society which cherishes all that is genuine,
and is only too out-spoken in its abhorrence of pretension and
display:--a society in which a man lives with those whom he
likes, and with those only; choosing his comrades for their own
sake, and so indifferent to the external distinctions of wealth
and position that no one who has entered fully into the spirit of
college life can ever unlearn its priceless lesson of manliness
and simplicity.

Of all his places of sojourn during his joyous and shining
pilgrimage through the world, Trinity, and Trinity alone, had any
share with his home in Macaulay's affection and loyalty. To the
last he regarded it as an ancient Greek, or a mediaeval Italian,
felt towards his native city. As long as he had place and
standing there, he never left it willingly or returned to it
without delight. The only step in his course about the wisdom of
which he sometimes expressed misgiving was his preference of a
London to a Cambridge life. The only dignity that in his later
days he was known to covet was an honorary fellowship, which
would have allowed him again to look through his window upon the
college grass-plots, and to sleep within sound of the splashing
of the fountain; again to breakfast on commons, and dine beneath
the portraits of Newton and Bacon on the dais of the hall; again
to ramble by moonlight round Neville's cloister, discoursing the
picturesque but somewhat exoteric philosophy which it pleased him
to call by the name of metaphysics. From the door of his rooms,
along the wall of the Chapel, there runs a flagged pathway which
affords an acceptable relief from the rugged pebbles that
surround it. Here as a Bachelor of Arts he would walk, book in
hand, morning after morning throughout the long vacation, reading
with the same eagerness and the same rapidity whether the volume
was the most abstruse of treatises, the loftiest of poems, or the
flimsiest of novels. That was the spot where in his failing years
he specially loved to renew the feelings of the past; and some
there are who can never revisit it without the fancy that there,
if anywhere, his dear shade must linger.

He was fortunate in his contemporaries. Among his intimate
friends were the two Coleridges--Derwent, the son, and Henry
Nelson, who was destined to be the son-in-law of the poet; and
how exceptional that destiny was the readers of Sara Coleridge's
letters are now aware. Hyde Villiers, whom an untimely death
alone prevented from taking an equal place in a trio of
distinguished brothers, was of his year, though not of his
college. [Lord Clarendon, and his brothers, were all Johnians.]
In the year below were the young men who now bear the titles of
Lord Grey, Lord Belper, and Lord Romilly; [This paragraph was
written in the summer of 1874. Three of Macaulay's old college
friends, Lord Romilly, Moultrie, and Charles Austin, died, in the
hard winter that followed, within a few days of each other.] and
after the same interval came Moultrie, who in his "Dream of
Life," with a fidelity which he himself pronounced to have been
obtained at some sacrifice of grace, has told us how the heroes
of his time looked and lived, and Charles Villiers, who still
delights our generation by showing us how they talked. Then there
was Praed, fresh from editing the Etonian, as a product of
collective boyish effort unique in its literary excellence and
variety; and Sidney Walker, Praed's gifted school fellow, whose
promise was blighted by premature decay of powers; and Charles
Austin, whose fame would now be more in proportion to his
extraordinary abilities, had not his unparalleled success as an
advocate tempted him before his day to retire from the toils of a
career of whose rewards he already had enough.

With his vigour and fervour, his depth of knowledge and breadth
of humour, his close reasoning illustrated by an expansive
imagination,--set off, as these gifts were, by the advantage, at
that period of life so irresistible, of some experience of the
world at home and abroad,--Austin was indeed a king among his

"Grave, sedate,
And (if the looks may indicate the age,)
Our senior some few years; no keener wit,
No intellect more subtle, none more bold,
Was found in all our host."

So writes Moultrie, and the testimony of his verse is borne out
by John Stuart Mill's prose. "The impression he gave was that of
boundless strength, together with talents which, combined with
such apparent force of will and character, seemed capable of
dominating the world." He certainly was the only man who ever
succeeded in dominating Macaulay. Brimming over with ideas that
were soon to be known by the name of Utilitarian, a panegyrist of
American institutions, and an unsparing assailant of
ecclesiastical endowments and hereditary privileges, he
effectually cured the young undergraduate of his Tory opinions,
which were never more than skin deep, and brought him nearer to
Radicalism than he ever was before or since. The report of this
conversion, of which the most was made by ill-natured tale-
bearers who met with more encouragement than they deserved,
created some consternation in the family circle; while the
reading set at Cambridge was duly scandalised at the influence
which one, whose classical attainments were rather discursive
than exact, had gained over a Craven scholar. To this hour men
may be found in remote parsonages who mildly resent the
fascination which Austin of Jesus exercised over Macaulay of
Trinity. [It was at this period of his career that Macaulay said
to the late Mr. Hampden Gurney: "Gurney, I have been a Tory, I am
a Radical; _but I never will be a Whig_."]

The day and the night together were too short for one who was
entering on the journey of life amidst such a band of travellers.
So long as a door was open, or a light burning, in any of the
courts, Macaulay was always in the mood for conversation and
companionship. Unfailing in his attendance at lecture and chapel,
blameless with regard to college laws and college discipline, it
was well for his virtue that no curfew was in force within the
precincts of Trinity. He never tired of recalling the days when
he supped at midnight on milk-punch and roast turkey, drank tea
in floods at an hour when older men are intent upon anything
rather than on the means of keeping themselves awake, and made
little of sitting over the fire till the bell rang for morning
chapel in order to see a friend off by the early coach. In the
license of the summer vacation, after some prolonged and festive
gathering, the whole party would pour out into the moonlight, and
ramble for mile after mile through the country, till the noise of
their wide-flowing talk mingled with the twittering of the birds
in the hedges which bordered the Coton pathway or the Madingley
road. On such occasions it must have been well worth the loss of
sleep to hear Macaulay plying Austin with sarcasms upon the
doctrine of the Greatest Happiness, which then had still some
gloss of novelty; putting into an ever-fresh shape the time-
honoured jokes against the Johnians for the benefit of the
Villierses; and urging an interminable debate on Wordsworth's
merits as a poet, in which the Coleridges, as in duty bound, were
ever ready to engage. In this particular field he acquired a
skill of fence which rendered him the most redoubtable of
antagonists. Many years afterwards, at the time when the Prelude
was fresh from the press, he was maintaining against the opinion
of a large and mixed society that the poem was unreadable. At
last, overborne by the united indignation of so many of
Wordsworth's admirers, he agreed that the question should be
referred to the test of personal experience; and on inquiry it
was discovered that the only individual present who had got
through the Prelude was Macaulay himself.

It is not only that the witnesses of these scenes unanimously
declare that they have never since heard such conversation in the
most renowned of social circles. The partiality of a generous
young man for trusted and admired companions may well colour his
judgment over the space of even half a century. But the estimate
of university contemporaries was abundantly confirmed by the
outer world. While on a visit to Lord Lansdowne at Bowood, years
after they had left Cambridge, Austin and Macaulay happened to
get upon college topics one morning at breakfast. When the meal
was finished they drew their chairs to either end of the chimney-
piece, and talked at each other across the hearth-rug as if they
were in a first-floor room in the Old Court of Trinity. The whole
company, ladies, artists, politicians, and diners-out, formed a
silent circle round the two Cantabs, and, with a short break for
lunch, never stirred till the bell warned them that it was time
to dress for dinner.

It has all irrevocably perished. With life before them, and each
intent on his own future, none among that troop of friends had
the mind to play Boswell to the others. One repartee survives,
thrown off in the heat of discussion, but exquisitely perfect in
all its parts. Acknowledged without dissent to be the best
applied quotation that ever was made within five miles of the
Fitzwilliam Museum, it is unfortunately too strictly classical
for reproduction in these pages.

We are more easily consoled for the loss of the eloquence which
then flowed so full and free in the debates of the Cambridge
Union. In 1820 that Society was emerging from a period of
tribulation and repression. The authorities of the university,
who, as old constituents of Mr. Pitt and warm supporters of Lord
Liverpool, had never been very much inclined to countenance the
practice of political discussion among the undergraduates, set
their faces against it more than ever at an epoch when the temper
of the time increased the tendency of young men to run into
extremes of partisanship. At length a compromise was extorted
from the reluctant hands of the Vice-Chancellor, and the Club was
allowed to take into consideration public affairs of a date
anterior to the century. It required less ingenuity than the
leaders of the Union had at their command to hit upon a method of
dealing with the present under the guise of the past. Motions
were framed that reflected upon the existing Government under
cover of a censure on the Cabinets of the previous generation.
Resolutions which called upon the meeting to declare that the
boon of Catholic Emancipation should have been granted in the
year 1795, or that our Commercial Policy previous to 1800 should
have been founded on the basis of Free Trade, were clearly
susceptible of great latitude of treatment. And, again, in its
character of a reading club, the Society, when assembled for the
conduct of private business, was at liberty to review the
political creed of the journals of the day in order to decide
which of them it should take in, and which it should discontinue.
The Examiner newspaper was the flag of many a hard-fought battle;
the Morning Chronicle was voted in and out of the rooms half-a-
dozen times within a single twelvemonth; while a series of
impassioned speeches on the burning question of interference in
behalf of Greek Independence were occasioned by a proposition of
Malden's "that 'e Ellenike salpigks' do lie upon the table."

At the close of the debates, which were held in a large room at
the back of the Red Lion in Petty Cury, the most prominent
members met for supper in the Hotel, or at Moultrie's lodgings,
which were situated close at hand. They acted as a self-appointed
Standing Committee, which watched over the general interests of
the Union, and selected candidates whom they put in nomination
for its offices. The Society did not boast a Hansard;--an
omission which, as time went on, some among its orators had no
reason to regret. Faint recollections still survive of a
discussion upon the august topic of the character of George the
Third. "To whom do we owe it," asked Macaulay, "that while Europe
was convulsed with anarchy and desolated with war, England alone
remained tranquil, prosperous, and secure? To whom but the Good
Old King? Why was it that, when neighbouring capitals were
perishing in the flames, our own was illuminated only for
triumphs? [This debate evidently made some noise in the
university world. There is an allusion to it in a squib of
Praed's, very finished and elegant, and beyond all doubt
contemporary. The passage relating to Macaulay begins with the
lines--"Then the favourite comes with his trumpets and drums,
And his arms and his metaphors crossed."] You may find the cause
in the same three words: the Good Old King." Praed, on the other
hand, would allow his late monarch neither public merits nor
private virtues. "A good man! If he had been a plain country
gentleman with no wider opportunities for mischief, he would at
least have bullied his footmen and cheated his steward."

Macaulay's intense enjoyment of all that was stirring and vivid
around him undoubtedly hindered him in the race for university
honours; though his success was sufficient to inspirit him at the
time, and to give him abiding pleasure in the retrospect. He
twice gained the Chancellor's medal for English verse, with poems
admirably planned, and containing passages of real beauty, but
which may not be republished in the teeth of the panegyric which,
within ten years after they were written, he pronounced upon Sir
Roger Newdigate. Sir Roger had laid down the rule that no
exercise sent in for the prize which he established at Oxford was
to exceed fifty lines. This law, says Macaulay, seems to have
more foundation in reason than is generally the case with a
literary canon, "for the world, we believe, is pretty well agreed
in thinking that the shorter a prize poem is, the better."

Trinity men find it difficult to understand how it was that he
missed getting one of the three silver goblets given for the best
English Declamations of the year. If there is one thing which all
Macaulay's friends, and all his enemies, admit, it is that he
could declaim English. His own version of the affair was that the
Senior Dean, a relative of the victorious candidate, sent for him
and said: "Mr. Macaulay, as you have not got the first cup, I do
not suppose that you will care for either of the others." He was
consoled, however, by the prize for Latin Declamation; and in
1821 he established his classical repute by winning a Craven
University scholarship in company with his friend Malden, and Mr.
George Long, who preceded Malden as Professor of Greek at
University College, London.

Macaulay detested the labour of manufacturing Greek and Latin
verse in cold blood as an exercise; and his Hexameters were never
up to the best Etonian mark, nor his Iambics to the highest
standard of Shrewsbury. He defined a scholar as one who reads
Plato with his feet on the fender. When already well on in his
third year he writes: "I never practised composition a single
hour since I have been at Cambridge." "Soak your mind with
Cicero," was his constant advice to students at that time of life
when writing Latin prose is the most lucrative of
accomplishments. The advantage of this precept was proved in the
Fellowship examination of the year 1824, when he obtained the
honour which in his eyes was the most desirable that Cambridge
had to give. The delight of the young man at finding himself one
of the sixty masters of an ancient and splendid establishment;
the pride with which he signed his first order for the college
plate, and dined for the first time at the high table in his own
right; the reflection that these privileges were the fruit, not
of favour or inheritance, but of personal industry and ability,--
were matters on which he loved to dwell long after the world had
loaded him with its most envied prizes. Macaulay's feeling on
this point is illustrated by the curious reverence which he
cherished for those junior members of the college who, some
ninety years ago, by a spirited remonstrance addressed to the
governing body, brought about a reform in the Trinity Fellowship
examination that secured to it the character for fair play, and
efficiency, which it has ever since enjoyed. In his copy of the
Cambridge Calendar for the year 1859, (the last of his life,)
throughout the list of the old mathematical Triposes the words
"one of the eight" appear in his hand-writing opposite the name
of each of these gentlemen. And I can never remember the time
when it was not diligently impressed upon me that, if I minded my
syntax, I might eventually hope to reach a position which would
give me three hundred pounds a year, a stable for my horse, six
dozen of audit ale every Christmas, a loaf and two pats of butter
every morning, and a good dinner for nothing, with as many
almonds and raisins as I could eat at dessert.

Macaulay was not chosen a Fellow until his last trial, nominally
for the amazing reason that his translations from Greek and
Latin, while faithfully representing the originals, were rendered
into English that was ungracefully bald and inornate. The real
cause was, beyond all doubt, his utter neglect of the special
study of the place; a liberty which Cambridge seldom allows to be
taken with impunity even by her most favoured sons. He used to
profess deep and lasting regret for his early repugnance to
scientific subjects; but the fervour of his penitence in after
years was far surpassed by the heartiness with which he inveighed
against mathematics as long as it was his business to learn them.
Everyone who knows the Senate House may anticipate the result.
When the Tripos of 1822 made its appearance, his name did not
grace the list. In short, to use the expressive vocabulary of the
university, Macaulay was gulfed--a mishap which disabled him from
contending for the Chancellor's medals, then the crowning
trophies of a classical career. "I well remember," says Lady
Trevelyan, "that first trial of my life. We were spending the
winter at Brighton when a letter came giving an account of the
event. I recollect my mother taking me into her room to tell me,
for even then it was known how my whole heart was wrapped up in
him, and it was thought necessary to break the news. When your
uncle arrived at Brighton, I can recall my mother telling him
that he had better go at once to his father, and get it over, and
I can see him as he left the room on that errand."

During the same year he engaged in a less arduous competition. A
certain Mr. Greaves of Fulbourn had long since provided a reward
of ten pounds for "the Junior Bachelor of Trinity College who
wrote the best essay on the Conduct and Character of William the
Third." As the prize is annual, it is appalling to reflect upon
the searching analysis to which the motives of that monarch must
by this time have been subjected. The event, however, may be
counted as an encouragement to the founders of endowments; for,
amidst the succession of juvenile critics whose attention was by
his munificence turned in the direction of his favourite hero,
Mr. Greaves had at last fallen in with the right man. It is more
than probable that to this old Cambridgeshire Whig was due the
first idea of that History in whose pages William of Orange
stands as the central figure. The essay is still in existence, in
a close neat hand, which twenty years of Reviewing never rendered
illegible. Originally written as a fair copy, but so disfigured
by repeated corrections and additions as to be unfit for the eyes
of the college authorities, it bears evident marks of having been
held to the flames, and rescued on second, and in this case it
will be allowed, on better thoughts. The exercise, (which is
headed by the very appropriate motto,

"Primus qui legibus urbem
Fundabit, Curibus parvis et paupere terra
Missus in imperium magnum,")

is just such as will very likely be produced in the course of
next Easter term by some young man of judgment and spirit, who
knows his Macaulay by heart, and will paraphrase him without
scruple. The characters of James, of Shaftesbury, of William
himself; the Popish plot; the struggle over the Exclusion bill;
the reaction from Puritanic rigour into the license of the
Restoration, are drawn on the same lines and painted in the same
colours as those with which the world is now familiar. The style
only wants condensation, and a little of the humour which he had
not yet learned to transfer from his conversation to his
writings, in order to be worthy of his mature powers. He thus
describes William's lifelong enemy and rival, whose name he
already spells after his own fashion.

"Lewis was not a great general. He was not a great legislator.
But he was, in one sense of the words, a great king. He was a
perfect master of all the mysteries of the science of royalty,--
of all the arts which at once extend power and conciliate
popularity,--which most advantageously display the merits, or
most dexterously conceal the deficiencies, of a sovereign. He was
surrounded by great men, by victorious commanders, by sagacious
statesmen. Yet, while he availed himself to the utmost of their
services, he never incurred any danger from their rivalry. His
was a talisman which extorted the obedience of the proudest and
mightiest spirits. The haughty and turbulent warriors whose
contests had agitated France during his minority yielded to the
irresistible spell, and, like the gigantic slaves of the ring and
lamp of Aladdin, laboured to decorate and aggrandise a master
whom they could have crushed. With incomparable address he
appropriated to himself the glory of campaigns which had been
planned, and counsels which had been suggested, by others. The
arms of Turenne were the terror of Europe. The policy of Colbert
was the strength of France. But in their foreign successes, and
their internal prosperity, the people saw only the greatness and
wisdom of Lewis."

In the second chapter of the History much of this is compressed
into the sentence: "He had shown, in an eminent degree, two
talents invaluable to a prince,--the talent of choosing his
servants well, and the talent of appropriating to himself the
chief part of the credit of their acts."

In a passage that occurs towards the close of the essay may be
traced something more than an outline of the peroration in which,
a quarter of a century later on, he summed up the character and
results of the Revolution of 1688.

"To have been a sovereign, yet the champion of liberty; a
revolutionary leader, yet the supporter of social order, is the
peculiar glory of William. He knew where to pause. He outraged no
national prejudice. He abolished no ancient form. He altered no
venerable name. He saw that the existing institutions possessed
the greatest capabilities of excellence, and that stronger
sanctions, and clearer definitions, were alone required to make
the practice of the British constitution as admirable as the
theory. Thus he imparted to innovation the dignity and stability
of antiquity. He transferred to a happier order of things the
associations which had attached the people to their former
government. As the Roman warrior, before he assaulted Veii,
invoked its guardian gods to leave its walls, and to accept the
worship and patronise the cause of the besiegers, this great
prince, in attacking a system of oppression, summoned to his aid
the venerable principles and deeply seated feelings to which that
system was indebted for protection."

A letter, written during the latter years of his life, expresses
Macaulay's general views on the subject of University honours.
"If a man brings away from Cambridge self-knowledge, accuracy of
mind, and habits of strong intellectual exertion, he has gained
more than if he had made a display of showy superficial Etonian
scholarship, got three or four Browne's medals, and gone forth
into the world a schoolboy and doomed to be a schoolboy to the
last. After all, what a man does at Cambridge is, in itself,
nothing. If he makes a poor figure in life, his having been
Senior Wrangler or University scholar is never mentioned but with
derision. If he makes a distinguished figure, his early honours
merge in those of a later date. I hope that I do not overrate my
own place in the estimation of society. Such as it is, I would
not give a halfpenny to add to the consideration which I enjoy,
all the consideration that I should derive from having been
Senior Wrangler. But I often regret, and even acutely, my want of
a Senior Wrangler's knowledge of physics and mathematics; and I
regret still more some habits of mind which a Senior Wrangler is
pretty certain to possess." Like all men who know what the world
is, he regarded the triumph of a college career as of less value
than its disappointments. Those are most to be envied who soonest
learn to expect nothing for which they have not worked hard, and
who never acquire the habit, (a habit which an unbroken course of
University successes too surely breeds,) of pitying themselves
overmuch if ever in after life they happen to work in vain.

Cambridge: Wednesday.
(Post-mark, 1818)

My dear Mother,--King, I am absolutely certain, would take no
more pupils on any account. And, even if he would, he has
numerous applicants with prior claims. He has already six, who
occupy him six hours in the day, and is likewise lecturer to the
college. It would, however, be very easy to obtain an excellent
tutor. Lefevre and Malkin are men of first-rate mathematical
abilities, and both of our college. I can scarcely bear to write
on Mathematics or Mathematicians. Oh for words to express my
abomination of that science, if a name sacred to the useful and
embellishing arts may be applied to the perception and
recollection of certain properties in numbers and figures! Oh
that I had to learn astrology, or demonology, or school divinity!
Oh that I were to pore over Thomas Aquinas, and to adjust the
relation of Entity with the two Predicaments, so that I were
exempted from this miserable study! "Discipline" of the mind! Say
rather starvation, confinement, torture, annihilation! But it
must be. I feel myself becoming a personification of Algebra, a
living trigonometrical canon, a walking table of Logarithms. All
my perceptions of elegance and beauty gone, or at least going. By
the end of the term my brain will be "as dry as the remainder
biscuit after a voyage." Oh to change Cam for Isis! But such is
my destiny; and, since it is so, be the pursuit contemptible,
below contempt, or disgusting beyond abhorrence, I shall aim at
no second place. But three years! I cannot endure the thought. I
cannot bear to contemplate what I must have to undergo. Farewell
then Homer and Sophocles and Cicero.

Farewell happy fields
Where joy for ever reigns
Hail, horrors, hail, Infernal world!

How does it proceed? Milton's descriptions have been driven out
of my head by such elegant expressions as the following

[Long mathematical formula]

My classics must be Woodhouse, and my amusements summing an
infinite series. Farewell, and tell Selina and Jane to be
thankful that it is not a necessary part of female education to
get a headache daily without acquiring one practical truth or
beautiful image in return. Again, and with affectionate love to
my Father, farewell wishes your most miserable and mathematical


Cambridge: November 9, 1818.

My dear Father,--Your letter, which I read with the greatest
pleasure, is perfectly safe from all persons who could make a bad
use of it. The Emperor Alexander's plans as detailed in the
conversation between him and Clarkson [Thomas Clarkson, the
famous assailant of slavery.] are almost superhuman; and tower as
much above the common hopes and aspirations of philanthropists as
the statue which his Macedonian namesake proposed to hew out of
Mount Athos excelled the most colossal works of meaner
projectors. As Burke said of Henry the Fourth's wish that every
peasant in France might have the chicken in his pot comfortably
on a Sunday, we may say of these mighty plans, "The mere wish,
the unfulfilled desire, exceeded all that we hear of the splendid
professions and exploits of princes." Yet my satisfaction in the
success of that noble cause in which the Emperor seems to be
exerting himself with so much zeal is scarcely so great as my
regret for the man who would have traced every step of its
progress with anxiety, and hailed its success with the most
ardent delight. Poor Sir Samuel Romilly! Quando ullum invenient
parem? How long may a penal code at once too sanguinary and too
lenient, half written in blood like Draco's, and half undefined
and loose as the common law of a tribe of savages, be the curse
and disgrace of the country? How many years may elapse before a
man who knows like him all that law can teach, and possesses at
the same time like him a liberality and a discernment of general
rights which the technicalities of professional learning rather
tend to blunt, shall again rise to ornament and reform our
jurisprudence? For such a man, if he had fallen in the maturity
of years and honours, and been borne from the bed of sickness to
a grave by the side of his prototype Hale amidst the tears of
nobles and senators, even then, I think, the public sorrow would
have been extreme. But that the last moments of an existence of
high thoughts and great virtues should have been passed as his
were passed! In my feelings the scene at Claremont [The death of
Princess Charlotte.] this time last year was mere dust in the
balance in comparison.

Ever your affectionate son,

T. B. M.

Cambridge: Friday, February 5, 1819.

My dear Father,--I have not of course had time to examine with
attention all your criticisms on Pompeii. [The subject of the
English poem for the Chancellor's prize of 1819 was the
Destruction of Pompeii.] I certainly am much obliged to you for
withdrawing so much time from more important business to correct
my effusions. Most of the remarks which I have examined are
perfectly just; but as to the more momentous charge, the want of
a moral, I think it might be a sufficient defence that, if a
subject is given which admits of none, the man who writes without
a moral is scarcely censurable. But is it the real fact that no
literary employment is estimable or laudable which does not lead
to the spread of moral truth or the excitement of virtuous
feeling? Books of amusement tend to polish the mind, to improve
the style, to give variety to conversation, and to lend a grace
to more important accomplishments. He who can effect this has
surely done something. Is no useful end served by that writer
whose works have soothed weeks of languor and sickness, have
relieved the mind exhausted from the pressure of employment by an
amusement which delights without enervating, which relaxes the
tension of the powers without rendering them unfit for future
exercise? I should not be surprised to see these observations
refuted; and I shall not be sorry if they are so. I feel
personally little interest in the question. If my life be a life
of literature, it shall certainly be one of literature directed
to moral ends.

At all events let us be consistent. I was amused in turning over
an old volume of the Christian Observer to find a gentleman
signing himself Excubitor, (one of our antagonists in the
question of novel-reading,) after a very pious argument on the
hostility of novels to a religious frame of mind, proceeding to
observe that he was shocked to hear a young lady who had
displayed extraordinary knowledge of modern ephemeral literature
own herself ignorant of Dryden's fables! Consistency with a
vengeance! The reading of modern poetry and novels excites a
worldly disposition and prevents ladies from reading Dryden's
fables! There is a general disposition among the more literary
part of the religious world to cry down the elegant literature of
our own times, while they are not in the slightest degree shocked
at atrocious profaneness or gross indelicacy when a hundred years
have stamped them with the title of classical. I say: "If you
read Dryden you can have no reasonable objection to reading
Scott." The strict antagonist of ephemeral reading exclaims, "Not
so. Scott's poems are very pernicious. They call away the mind
from spiritual religion, and from Tancred and Sigismunda." But I
am exceeding all ordinary limits. If these hasty remarks fatigue
you, impute it to my desire of justifying myself from a charge
which I should be sorry to incur with justice. Love to all at

Affectionately yours,

T. B. M.

With or without a moral, the poem carried the day. The subject
for the next year was Waterloo. The opening lines of Macaulay's
exercise were pretty and simple enough to ruin his chance in an
academical competition.

It was the Sabbath morn. How calm and fair
Is the blest dawning of the day of prayer!
Who hath not felt how fancy's mystic power
With holier beauty decks that solemn hour;
A softer lustre in its sunshine sees;
And hears a softer music in its breeze?
Who hath not dreamed that even the skylark's throat
Hails that sweet morning with a gentler note?
Fair morn, how gaily shone thy dawning smile
On the green valleys of my native isle!
How gladly many a spire's resounding height
With peals of transport hailed thy newborn light!
Ah! little thought the peasant then, who blest
The peaceful hour of consecrated rest,
And heard the rustic Temple's arch prolong
The simple cadence of the hallowed song,
That the same sun illumed a gory field,
Where wilder song and sterner music pealed;
Where many a yell unholy rent the air,
And many a hand was raised,--but not in prayer.

The prize fell to a man of another college, and Trinity comforted
itself by inventing a story to the effect that the successful
candidate had run away from the battle.

In the summer of 1819 there took place a military affair, less
attractive than Waterloo as a theme for poets, but which, as far
as this country is concerned, has proved even more momentous in
its ultimate consequences. On the 16th of August a Reform
demonstration was arranged at Manchester resembling those which
were common in the Northern districts during the year 1866,
except that in 1819 women formed an important element in the
procession. A troop of yeomanry, and afterwards two squadrons of
hussars, were sent in among the crowd, which was assembled in St.
Peter's Fields, the site on which the Free Trade Hall now stands.
The men used their swords freely, and the horses their hoofs. The
people, who meant anything but fighting, trampled each other down
in the attempt to escape. Five or six lives were lost, and fifty
or sixty persons were badly hurt; but the painful impression
wrought upon the national conscience was well worth the price.
British blood has never since been shed by British hands in any
civic contest that rose above the level of a lawless riot. The
immediate result, however, was to concentrate and embitter party
feeling. The grand jury threw out the bills against the yeomen,
and found true bills against the popular orators who had called
the meeting together. The Common Councilmen of the City of
London, who had presented an Address to the Prince Regent
reflecting upon the conduct of the Government, were roundly
rebuked for their pains. Earl Fitzwilliam was dismissed from the
office of Lord Lieutenant, for taking part in a Yorkshire county
gathering which had passed resolutions in the same sense as the
Address from the City. On the other hand, a Peterloo medal was
struck, which is still treasured in such Manchester families as
have not learned to be ashamed of the old Manchester politics.

In this heated state of the political atmosphere the expiring
Toryism of the Anti-Slavery leaders flamed up once again. "I
declare," said Wilberforce, "my greatest cause of difference with
the democrats is their laying, and causing people to lay, so
great a stress on the concerns of this world as to occupy their
whole minds and hearts, and to leave a few scanty and lukewarm
thoughts for the heavenly treasure." Zachary Macaulay, who never
canted, and who knew that on the 16th of August the Manchester
Magistrates were thinking just as much or as little about
religion as the Manchester populace, none the less took the same
side as Wilberforce. Having formed for himself, by observations
made on the spot, a decided opinion that the authorities ought to
be supported, he was much disturbed by reports which came to him
from Cambridge.

September, 1819.

My dear Father,--My mother's letter, which has just arrived, has
given me much concern. The letter which has, I am sorry to learn,
given you and her uneasiness was written rapidly and thoughtlessly
enough, but can scarcely, I think, as far as I remember its
tenour, justify some of the extraordinary inferences which it has
occasioned. I can only assure you most solemnly that I am not
initiated into any democratical societies here, and that I know no
people who make politics a common or frequent topic of
conversation, except one man who is a determined Tory. It is true
that this Manchester business has roused some indignation here, as
at other places, and drawn philippics against the powers that be
from lips which I never heard opened before but to speak on
university contests or university scandal. For myself I have long
made it a rule never to talk on politics except in the most
general manner; and I believe that my most intimate associates
have no idea of my opinions on the questions of party. I can
scarcely be censured, I think, for imparting them to you;--which,
however, I should scarcely have thought of doing, (so much is my
mind occupied with other concerns,) had not your letter invited me
to state my sentiments on the Manchester business.

I hope that this explanation will remove some of your uneasiness.
As to my opinions, I have no particular desire to vindicate them.
They are merely speculative, and therefore cannot partake of the
nature of moral culpability. They are early formed, and I am not
solicitous that you should think them superior to those of most
people at eighteen. I will, however, say this in their defence.
Whatever the affectionate alarm of my dear mother may lead her to
apprehend, I am not one of the "sons of anarchy and confusion"
with whom she classes me. My opinions, good or bad, were learnt,
not from Hunt and Waithman, but from Cicero, from Tacitus, and
from Milton. They are the opinions which have produced men who
have ornamented the world, and redeemed human nature from the
degradation of ages of superstition and slavery. I may be wrong
as to the facts of what occurred at Manchester; but, if they be
what I have seen them stated, I can never repent speaking of them
with indignation. When I cease to feel the injuries of others
warmly, to detest wanton cruelty, and to feel my soul rise
against oppression, I shall think myself unworthy to be your son.

I could say a great deal more. Above all I might, I think, ask,
with some reason, why a few democratical sentences in a letter, a
private letter, of a collegian of eighteen, should be thought so
alarming an indication of character, when Brougham and other
people, who at an age which ought to have sobered them talk with
much more violence, are not thought particularly ill of? But I
have so little room left that I abstain, and will only add thus
much. Were my opinions as decisive as they are fluctuating, and
were the elevation of a Cromwell or the renown of a Hampden the
certain reward of my standing forth in the democratic cause, I
would rather have my lips sealed on the subject than give my
mother or you one hour of uneasiness. There are not so many
people in the world who love me that I can afford to pain them
for any object of ambition which it contains. If this assurance
be not sufficient, clothe it in what language you please, and
believe me to express myself in those words which you think the
strongest and most solemn. Affectionate love to my mother and
sisters. Farewell.

T. B. M.

Cambridge: January 5, 1820.

My dear Father,--Nothing that gives you disquietude can give me
amusement. Otherwise I should have been excessively diverted by
the dialogue which you have reported with so much vivacity; the
accusation; the predictions; and the elegant agnomen of "the
novel-reader" for which I am indebted to this incognito. I went
in some amazement to Malden, Romilly, and Barlow. Their
acquaintance comprehends, I will venture to say, almost every man
worth knowing in the university in every field of study. They had
never heard the appellation applied to me by any man. Their
intimacy with me would of course prevent any person from speaking
to them on the subject in an insulting manner; for it is not
usual here, whatever your unknown informant may do, for a
gentleman who does not wish to be kicked downstairs to reply to a
man who mentions another as his particular friend, "Do you mean
the blackguard or the novel-reader?" But I am fully convinced
that had the charge prevailed to any extent it must have reached
the ears of one of those whom I interrogated. At all events I
have the consolation of not being thought a novel-reader by three
or four who are entitled to judge upon the subject, and whether
their opinion be of equal value with that of this John-a-Nokes
against whom I have to plead I leave you to decide.

But stronger evidence, it seems, is behind. This gentleman was in
company with me. Alas that I should never have found out how
accurate an observer was measuring my sentiments, numbering the
novels which I criticised, and speculating on the probability of
my being plucked. "I was familiar with all the novels whose names
he had ever heard." If so frightful an accusation did not stun me
at once, I might perhaps hint at the possibility that this was to
be attributed almost as much to the narrowness of his reading on
this subject as to the extent of mine. There are men here who are
mere mathematical blocks; who plod on their eight hours a day to
the honours of the Senate House; who leave the groves which
witnessed the musings of Milton, of Bacon, and of Gray, without
one liberal idea or elegant image, and carry with them into the
world minds contracted by unmingled attention to one part of
science, and memories stored only with technicalities. How often
have I seen such men go forth into society for people to stare at
them, and ask each other how it comes that beings so stupid in
conversation, so uninformed on every subject of history, of
letters, and of taste, could gain such distinction at Cambridge!

It is in such circles, which, I am happy to say, I hardly know
but by report, that knowledge of modern literature is called
novel-reading; a commodious name, invented by ignorance and
applied by envy, in the same manner as men without learning call
a scholar a pedant, and men without principle call a Christian a
Methodist. To me the attacks of such men are valuable as
compliments. The man whose friend tells him that he is known to
be extensively acquainted with elegant literature may suspect
that he is flattering him; but he may feel real and secure
satisfaction when some Johnian sneers at him for a novel-reader.
[My uncle was fond of telling us how he would walk miles out of
Cambridge in order to meet the coach which brought the last new
Waverley novel.]

As to the question whether or not I am wasting time, I shall
leave that for time to answer. I cannot afford to sacrifice a day
every week in defence and explanation as to my habits of reading.
I value, most deeply value, that solicitude which arises from
your affection for me; but let it not debar me from justice and
candour. Believe me ever, my dear Father,

Your most affectionate son,

T. B. M.

The father and son were in sympathy upon what, at this distance
of time, appears as the least inviting article of the Whig creed.
They were both partisans of the Queen. Zachary Macaulay was
inclined in her favour by sentiments alike of friendship, and of
the most pardonable resentment. Brougham, her illustrious
advocate, had for ten years been the main hope and stay of the
movement against Slavery and the Slave Trade; while the John
Bull, whose special mission it was to write her down, honoured
the Abolitionist party with its declared animosity. However full
its columns might be of libels upon the honour of the wives and
daughters of Whig statesmen, it could always find room for
calumnies against Mr. Macaulay which in ingenuity of fabrication,
and in cruelty of intention, were conspicuous even among the
contents of the most discreditable publication that ever issued
from the London press. When Queen Caroline landed from the
Continent in June 1820 the young Trinity undergraduate greeted
her Majesty with a complimentary ode, which certainly little
resembled those effusions that, in the old courtly days, an
University was accustomed to lay at the feet of its Sovereign.
The piece has no literary value, and is curious only as
reflecting the passion of the hour. The first and last stanzas
run as follows:--

Let mirth on every visage shine
And glow in every soul.
Bring forth, bring forth, the oldest wine,
And crown the largest bowl.
Bear to her home, while banners fly
From each resounding steeple,
And rockets sparkle in the sky,
The Daughter of the People.
E'en here, for one triumphant day,
Let want and woe be dumb,
And bonfires blaze, and schoolboys play.
Thank Heaven, our Queen is come.

* * * *

Though tyrant hatred still denies
Each right that fits thy station,
To thee a people's love supplies
A nobler coronation;
A coronation all unknown
To Europe's royal vermin;
For England's heart shall be thy throne,
And purity thine ermine;
Thy Proclamation our applause,
Applause denied to some;
Thy crown our love; thy shield our laws.
Thank Heaven, our Queen is come!

Early in November, warned by growing excitement outside the House
of Lords, and by dwindling majorities within, Lord Liverpool
announced that the King's Ministers had come to the determination
not to proceed further with the Bill of Pains and Penalties. The
joy which this declaration spread through the country has been
described as "beyond the scope of record."

Cambridge: November 13, 1820.

My dear Father,--All here is ecstasy. "Thank God, the country is
saved," were my first words when I caught a glimpse of the papers
of Friday night. "Thank God, the country is saved," is written on
every face and echoed by every voice. Even the symptoms of
popular violence, three days ago so terrific, are now displayed
with good humour and received with cheerfulness. Instead of
curses on the Lords, on every post and every wall is written,
"All is as it should be;" "Justice done at last;" and similar
mottoes expressive of the sudden turn of public feeling. How the
case may stand in London I do not know; but here the public
danger, like all dangers which depend merely on human opinions
and feelings, has disappeared from our sight almost in the
twinkling of an eye. I hope that the result of these changes may
be the secure reestablishment of our commerce, which I suppose political
apprehension must have contributed to depress. I hope, at least,
that there is no danger to our own fortunes of the kind at which
you seem to hint. Be assured however, my dear Father, that, be
our circumstances what they may, I feel firmly prepared to
encounter the worst with fortitude, and to do my utmost to
retrieve it by exertion. The best inheritance you have already
secured to me,--an unblemished name and a good education. And for
the rest, whatever calamities befall us, I would not, to speak
without affectation, exchange adversity consoled, as with us it
must ever be, by mutual affection and domestic happiness, for
anything which can be possessed by those who are destitute of the
kindness of parents and sisters like mine. But I think, on
referring to your letter, that I insist too much upon the
signification of a few words. I hope so, and trust that
everything will go well. But it is chapel time, and I must

Ever most affectionately yours,


Trin. Coll.: March 25, 1821.

My dear Mother,--I entreat you to entertain no apprehensions
about my health. My fever, cough, and sore-throat have all
disappeared for the last four days. Many thanks for your
intelligence about poor dear John's recovery, which has much
exhilarated me. Yet I do not know whether illness to him is not
rather a prerogative than an evil. I am sure that it is well
worth while being sick to be nursed by a mother. There is nothing
which I remember with such pleasure as the time when you nursed
me at Aspenden. The other night, when I lay on my sofa very ill
and hypochondriac, I was thinking over that time. How sick, and
sleepless, and weak I was, lying in bed, when I was told that you
were come! How well I remember with what an ecstasy of joy I saw
that face approaching me, in the middle of people that did not
care if I died that night except for the trouble of burying me!
The sound of your voice, the touch of your hand, are present to
me now, and will be, I trust in God, to my last hour. The very
thought of these things invigorated me the other day; and I
almost blessed the sickness and low spirits which brought before
me associated images of a tenderness and an affection, which,
however imperfectly repaid, are deeply remembered. Such scenes
and such recollections are the bright half of human nature and
human destiny. All objects of ambition, all rewards of talent,
sink into nothing compared with that affection which is
independent of good or adverse circumstances, excepting that it
is never so ardent, so delicate, or so tender as in the hour of
languor or distress. But I must stop. I had no intention of
pouring out on paper what I am much more used to think than to
express. Farewell, my dear Mother.

Ever yours affectionately,


Macaulay liked Cambridge too well to spend the long vacation
elsewhere except under strong compulsion; but in 1821, with the
terrors of the Mathematical Tripos already close at hand, he was
persuaded into joining a reading party in Wales with a Mr. Bird
as tutor. Eardley Childers, the father of the statesman of that
name, has preserved a pleasant little memorial of the expedition.

To Charles Smith Bird, Eardley Childers, Thos. B. Macaulay,
William Clayton Walters, Geo. B. Paley, Robert Jarratt, Thos.
Jarratt, Edwin Kempson, Ebenezer Ware, Wm. Cornwall, John
Greenwood, J. Lloyd, and Jno. Wm. Gleadall, Esquires.

Gentlemen,--We the undersigned, for ourselves and the inhabitants
in general of the town of Llanrwst in the county of Denbigh,
consider it our duty to express to you the high sense we
entertain of your general good conduct and demeanour during your
residence here, and we assure you that we view with much regret
the period of your separation and departure from amongst us. We
are very sensible of the obligation we are under for your
uniformly benevolent and charitable exertions upon several public
occasions, and we feel peculiar pleasure in thus tendering to you
individually our gratitude and thanks.

Wishing you all possible prosperity and happiness in your future
avocations, we subscribe ourselves with unfeigned respect,

Your most obedient servants,


&c., &c.

(25 signatures.)

In one respect Macaulay hardly deserved his share of this
eulogium. A scheme was on foot in the town to found an auxiliary
branch of the Bible Society. A public meeting was called, and Mr.
Bird urged his eloquent pupil to aid the project with a specimen
of Union rhetoric. Macaulay, however, had had enough of the Bible
Society at Clapham, and sturdily refused to come forward as its
champion at Llanrwst.

Llanrwst: July--, 1821.

My dear Mother,--You see I know not how to date my letter. My
calendar in this sequestered spot is as irregular as Robinson
Crusoe's after he had missed one day in his calculation. I have
no intelligence to send you, unless a battle between a drunken
attorney and an impudent publican which took place here yesterday
may deserve the appellation. You may perhaps be more interested
to hear that I sprained my foot, and am just recovering from the
effects of the accident by means of opodeldoc which I bought at
the tinker's. For all trades and professions here lie in a most
delightful confusion. The druggist sells hats; the shoemaker is
the sole bookseller, if that dignity may be allowed him on the
strength of the three Welsh Bibles, and the guide to Caernarvon,
which adorn his window; ink is sold by the apothecary; the grocer
sells ropes, (a commodity which, I fear, I shall require before
my residence here is over,) and tooth-brushes. A clothes-brush is
a luxury yet unknown to Llanrwst. As to books, for want of any
other English literature, I intend to learn Paradise Lost by
heart at odd moments. But I must conclude. Write to me often, my
dear Mother, and all of you at home, or you may have to answer
for my drowning myself, like Gray's bard, in "Old Conway's
foaming flood," which is most conveniently near for so poetical
an exit.

Ever most affectionately yours,

T. B. M.

Llanrwst: August 32, 1821.

My dear Father,--I have just received your letter, and cannot but
feel concerned at the tone of it. I do not think it quite fair to
attack me for filling my letters with remarks on the King's Irish
expedition. It has been the great event of this part of the
world. I was at Bangor when he sailed. His bows, and the Marquis
of Anglesea's fete, were the universal subjects of conversation;
and some remarks on the business were as natural from me as
accounts of the coronation from you in London. In truth I have
little else to say. I see nothing that connects me with the world
except the newspapers. I get up, breakfast, read, play at quoits,
and go to bed. This is the history of my life. It will do for
every day of the last fortnight.

As to the King, I spoke of the business, not at all as a
political, but as a moral question,--as a point of correct
feeling and of private decency. If Lord were to issue tickets for
a gala ball immediately after receiving intelligence of the
sudden death of his divorced wife, I should say the same. I
pretend to no great insight into party politics; but the question
whether it is proper for any man to mingle in festivities while
his wife's body lies unburied is one, I confess, which I thought
myself competent to decide. But I am not anxious about the fate
of my remarks, which I have quite forgot, and which, I dare say,
were very foolish. To me it is of little importance whether the
King's conduct were right or wrong; but it is of great importance
that those whom I love should not think me a precipitate, silly,
shallow sciolist in politics, and suppose that every frivolous
word that falls from my pen is a dogma which I mean to advance as
indisputable; and all this only because I write to them without
reserve; only because I love them well enough to trust them with
every idea which suggests itself to me. In fact, I believe that I
am not more precipitate or presumptuous than other people, but
only more open. You cannot be more fully convinced than I am how
contracted my means are of forming a judgment. If I chose to
weigh every word that I uttered or wrote to you, and, whenever I
alluded to politics, were to labour and qualify my expressions as
if I were drawing up a state paper, my letters might be a great
deal wiser, but would not be such letters as I should wish to
receive from those whom I loved. Perfect love, we are told,
casteth out fear. If I say, as I know I do, a thousand wild and
inaccurate things, and employ exaggerated expressions about
persons or events in writing to you or to my mother, it is not, I
believe, that I want power to systematise my ideas or to measure
my expressions, but because I have no objection to letting you
see my mind in dishabille. I have a court dress for days of
ceremony and people of ceremony, nevertheless. But I would not
willingly be frightened into wearing it with you; and I hope you
do not wish me to do so.

Ever yours,

T. B. M.

To hoax a newspaper has, time out of mind, been the special
ambition of undergraduate wit. In the course of 1821 Macaulay
sent to the Morning Post a burlesque copy of verses, entitled
"Tears of Sensibility." The editor fell an easy victim, but
unfortunately did not fall alone.

No pearl of ocean is so sweet
As that in my Zuleika's eye.
No earthly jewel can compete
With tears of sensibility.

Like light phosphoric on the billow,
Or hermit ray of evening sky,
Like ripplings round a weeping willow
Are tears of sensibility.

Like drops of Iris-coloured fountains
By which Endymion loved to lie,
Like dew-gems on untrodden mountains
Are tears of sensibility.

While Zephyr broods o'er moonlight rill
The flowerets droop as if to die,
And from their chaliced cup distil
The tears of sensibility.

The heart obdurate never felt
One link of Nature's magic tie
If ne'er it knew the bliss to melt
In tears of sensibility.

The generous and the gentle heart
Is like that balmy Indian tree
Which scatters from the wounded part
The tears of sensibility.

Then oh! ye Fair, if Pity's ray
E'er taught your snowy breasts to sigh,
Shed o'er my contemplative lay
The tears of sensibility.

November 2, 1821.

My dear Mother,--I possess some of the irritability of a poet, and
it has been a good deal awakened by your criticisms. I could not
have imagined that it would have been necessary for me to have
said that the execrable trash entitled "Tears of Sensibility" was
merely a burlesque on the style of the magazine verses of the day.
I could not suppose that you could have suspected me of
_seriously_ composing such a farrago of false metaphor and
unmeaning epithet. It was meant solely for a caricature on the
style of the poetasters of newspapers and journals; and, (though I
say it who should not say it,) has excited more attention and
received more praise at Cambridge than it deserved. If you have
it, read it over again, and do me the justice to believe that such
a compound of jargon, nonsense, false images, and exaggerated
sentiment, is not the product of my serious labours. I sent it to
the Morning Post, because that paper is the ordinary receptacle of
trash of the description which I intended to ridicule, and its
admission therefore pointed the jest. I see, however, that for the
future I must mark more distinctly when I intend to be ironical.

Your affectionate son

T. B. M.

Cambridge: July 26, 1822.

My dear Father,--I have been engaged to take two pupils for nine
months of the next year. They are brothers, whose father, a Mr.
Stoddart, resides at Cambridge. I am to give them an hour a day,
each; and am to receive a hundred guineas. It gives me great
pleasure to be able even in this degree to relieve you from the
burden of my expenses here. I begin my tutorial labours to-
morrow. My pupils are young, one being fifteen and the other
thirteen years old, but I hear excellent accounts of their
proficiency, and I intend to do my utmost for them. Farewell.

T. B. M.

A few days later on he writes "I do not dislike teaching whether
it is that I am more patient than I had imagined, or that I have
not yet had time to grow tired of my new vocation. I find, also,
what at first sight may appear paradoxical, that I read much more
in consequence, and that the regularity of habits necessarily
produced by a periodical employment which cannot be procrastinated
fully compensates for the loss of the time which is consumed in

Trinity College, Cambridge: October 1, 1824.

My dear Father,--I was elected Fellow this morning, shall be
sworn in to-morrow, and hope to leave Cambridge on Tuesday for
Rothley Temple. The examiners speak highly of the manner in which
I acquitted myself, and I have reason to believe that I stood
first of the candidates.

I need not say how much I am delighted by my success, and how
much I enjoy the thought of the pleasure which it will afford to
you, my mother, and our other friends. Till I become a Master of
Arts next July the pecuniary emolument which I shall derive will
not be great. For seven years from that time it will make me
almost an independent man.

Malden is elected. You will take little interest in the rest of
our Cambridge successes and disappointments.

Yours most affectionately,

T. B. M.



Macaulay is called to the bar--Does not make it a serious
profession--Speech before the Anti-Slavery Society--Knight's
Quarterly Magazine--The Edinburgh Review and the Essay on Milton-
-Macaulay's personal appearance and mode of existence--His
defects and virtues, likings and antipathies--Croker Sadler--
Zachary Macaulay's circumstances--Description of the family habits
of life in Great Ormond Street--Macaulay's sisters--Hannah
Macaulay--the Judicious Poet--Macaulay's humour in conversation--
His articles in the Review--His attacks on the Utilitarians and
on Southey--Blackwood's Magazine--Macaulay is made Commissioner
of Bankruptcy--Enters Parliament--Letters from Circuit and

MACAULAY was called to the bar in 1826, and joined the Northern
circuit. On the evening that he first appeared at mess, when the
company were retiring for the night, he was observed to be
carefully picking out the longest candle. An old King's Counsel,
who noticed that he had a volume under his arm, remonstrated with
him on the danger of reading in bed, upon which he rejoined with
immense rapidity of utterance "I always read in bed at home; and,
if I am not afraid of committing parricide, and matricide, and
fratricide, I can hardly be expected to pay any special regard to
the lives of the bagmen of Leeds." And, so saying, he left his
hearers staring at one another, and marched off to his room,
little knowing that, before many years were out, he would have
occasion to speak much more respectfully of the Leeds bagmen.

Under its social aspect Macaulay heartily enjoyed his legal
career. He made an admirable literary use of the Saturnalia which
the Northern circuit calls by the name of "Grand Night," when
personalities of the most pronounced description are welcomed by
all except the object of them, and forgiven even by him. His hand
may be recognised in a macaronic poem, written in Greek and
English, describing the feast at which Alexander murdered Clitus.
The death of the victim is treated with an exuberance of
fantastic drollery, and a song, put into the mouth of Nearchus,
the admiral of the Macedonian fleet, and beginning with the lines

"When as first I did come back from ploughing the salt water
They paid me off at Salamis, three minae and a quarter,--"

is highly Aristophanic in every sense of the word.

He did not seriously look to the bar as a profession. No
persuasion would induce him to return to his chambers in the
evening, according to the practice then in vogue. After the first
year or two of the period during which he called himself a
barrister he gave up even the pretence of reading law, and spent
many more hours under the gallery of the House of Commons, than in
all the Courts together. The person who knew him best said of him:
"Throughout life he never really applied himself to any pursuit
that was against the grain." Nothing is more characteristic of the
man than the contrast between his unconquerable aversion to the
science of jurisprudence at the time when he was ostensibly
preparing himself to be an advocate, and the zest with which, on
his voyage to India, he mastered that science in principle and
detail as soon as his imagination was fired by the prospect of the
responsibilities of a law-giver.

He got no business worth mention, either in London or on circuit.
Zachary Macaulay, who was not a man of the world, did what he
could to make interest with the attorneys, and, as a last
resource, proposed to his son to take a brief in a suit which he
himself had instituted against the journal that had so grossly
libelled him. "I am rather glad," writes Macaulay from York in
March 1827, "that I was not in London, if your advisers thought it
right that I should have appeared as your counsel. Whether it be
contrary to professional etiquette I do not know; but I am sure
that it would be shocking to public feeling, and particularly
imprudent against adversaries whose main strength lies in
detecting and exposing indecorum or eccentricity. It would have
been difficult to avoid a quarrel with Sugden, with Wetherell, and
with old Lord Eldon himself. Then the John Bull would have been
upon us with every advantage. The personal part of the
consideration it would have been my duty, and my pleasure and
pride also, to overlook; but your interests must have suffered."

Meanwhile he was busy enough in fields better adapted than the
law to his talents and his temperament. He took a part in a
meeting of the Anti-Slavery Society held at Freemasons' Tavern,
on the 25th of June 1824, with the Duke of Gloucester in the
chair. The Edinburgh Review described his speech as "a display of
eloquence so signal for rare and matured excellence that the most
practised orator may well admire how it should have come from one
who then for the first time addressed a public assembly."

Those who know what the annual meeting of a well-organised and
disciplined association is, may imagine the whirlwind of cheers
which greeted the declaration that the hour was at hand when "the
peasant of the Antilles will no longer crawl in listless and
trembling dejection round a plantation from whose fruits he must
derive no advantage, and a hut whose door yields him no
protection; but, when his cheerful and voluntary labour is
performed, he will return with the firm step and erect brow of a
British citizen from the field which is his freehold to the
cottage which is his castle."

Surer promise of aptitude for political debate was afforded by
the skill with which the young speaker turned to account the
recent trial for sedition, and death in prison, of Smith, the
Demerara missionary; an event which was fatal to Slavery in the
West Indies in the same degree as the execution of John Brown was
its deathblow in the United States. "When this country has been
endangered either by arbitrary power or popular delusion, truth
has still possessed one irresistible organ, and justice one
inviolable tribunal. That organ has been an English press, and
that tribunal an English jury. But in those wretched islands we
see a press more hostile to truth than any censor, and juries
more insensible to justice than any Star Chamber. In those
islands alone is exemplified the full meaning of the most
tremendous of the curses denounced against the apostate Hebrews,
'I will curse your blessings.' We can prove this assertion out of
the mouth of our adversaries. We remember, and God Almighty
forbid that we ever should forget, how, at the trial of Mr.
Smith, hatred regulated every proceeding, was substituted for
every law, and allowed its victim no sanctuary in the house of
mourning, no refuge in the very grave. Against the members of
that court-martial the country has pronounced its verdict. But
what is the line of defence taken by its advocates? It has been
solemnly and repeatedly declared in the House of Commons that a
jury composed of planters would have acted with far more
injustice than did this court;--this court which has never found
a single lawyer to stake his professional character on the
legality of its proceedings. The argument is this. Things have
doubtless been done which should not have been done. The court-
martial sat without a jurisdiction; it convicted without
evidence; it condemned to a punishment not warranted by law. But
we must make allowances. We must judge by comparison. 'Mr Smith
ought to have been very thankful that it was no worse. Only think
what would have been his fate if he had been tried by a jury of
planters!' Sir, I have always lived under the protection of the
British laws, and therefore I am unable to imagine what could be
worse; but, though I have small knowledge, I have a large faith;
I by no means presume to set any limits to the possible injustice
of a West Indian judicature. And since the colonists maintain
that a jury composed of their own body not only possibly might,
but necessarily must, have acted with more iniquity than this
court-martial, I certainly shall not dispute the assertion,
though I am utterly unable to conceive the mode."

That was probably the happiest half-hour of Zachary Macaulay's
life. "My friend," said Wilberforce, when his turn came to speak,
"would doubtless willingly bear with all the base falsehoods, all
the vile calumnies, all the detestable artifices which have been
aimed against him, to render him the martyr and victim of our
cause, for the gratification he has this day enjoyed in hearing
one so dear to him plead such a cause in such a manner." Keen as
his pleasure was, he took it in his own sad way. From the first
moment to the last, he never moved a muscle of his countenance,
but sat with his eyes fixed on a piece of paper, on which he
seemed to be writing with a pencil. While talking with his son
that evening, he referred to what had passed only to remark that
it was ungraceful in so young a man to speak with folded arms in
the presence of royalty.

In 1823 the leading members of the cleverest set of boys who ever
were together at a public school found themselves collected once
more at Cambridge. Of the former staff of the Etonian, Praed,
Moultrie, Nelson Coleridge, and, among others, Mr. Edmond Beales,
so well known to our generation as an ardent politician, were now
in residence at King's or Trinity. Mr. Charles Knight, too
enterprising a publisher to let such a quantity of youthful
talent run to waste, started a periodical, which was largely
supported by undergraduates and Bachelors of Arts, among whom the
veterans of the Eton press formed a brilliant, and, as he vainly
hoped, a reliable nucleus of contributors.

Knight's Quarterly Magazine is full of Macaulay, and of Macaulay
in the attractive shape which a great author wears while he is
still writing to please no one but himself. He unfortunately did
not at all please his father. In the first number, besides a
great deal of his that is still worth reading, there were printed
under his adopted signature of Tristram Merton two little poems,
the nature of which may be guessed from Praed's editorial
comments. "Tristram Merton, I have a strong curiosity to know who
Rosamond is. But you will not tell me; and, after all, as far as
your verses are concerned, the surname is nowise germane to the
matter. As poor Sheridan said, it is too formal to be registered
in love's calendar." And again: "Tristram, I hope Rosamond and
your Fair Girl of France will not pull caps; but I cannot forbear
the temptation of introducing your Roxana and Statira to an
admiring public." The verses were such as any man would willingly
look back to having written at two and twenty; but their
appearance occasioned real misery to Zachary Macaulay, who indeed
disapproved of the whole publication from beginning to end, with
the exception of an article on West Indian Slavery which his son
had inserted with the most filial intention, but which, it must
be allowed, was not quite in keeping with the general character
of the magazine.

July 9, 1823.

My dear Father,--I have seen the two last letters which you have
sent to my mother. They have given me deep pain; but pain without
remorse. I am conscious of no misconduct, and whatever uneasiness
I may feel arises solely from sympathy for your distress.

You seem to imagine that the book is edited, or principally
written, by friends of mine. I thought that you had been aware
that the work is conducted in London, and that my friends and
myself are merely contributors, and form a very small proportion
of the contributors. The manners of almost all of my acquaintances
are so utterly alien from coarseness, and their morals from
libertinism, that I feel assured that no objection of that nature
can exist to their writings. As to my own contributions I can only
say that the Roman Story was read to my mother before it was
published, and would have been read to you if you had happened to
be at home. Not one syllable of censure was uttered.

The Essay on the Royal Society of Literature was read to you. I
made the alterations which I conceived that you desired, and
submitted them afterwards to my mother. As to the poetry which
you parallel with Little's, if anything vulgar or licentious has
been written by myself, I am willing to bear the consequences. If
anything of that cast has been written by my friends, I allow
that a certain degree of blame attaches to me for having chosen
them at least indiscreetly. If, however, a bookseller of whom we
knew nothing has coupled improper productions with ours in a work
over which we had no control, I cannot plead guilty to anything
more than misfortune; a misfortune in which some of the most
rigidly moral and religious men of my acquaintance have
participated in the present instance.

I am pleading at random for a book which I never saw. I am
defending the works of people most of whose names I never heard.
I am therefore writing under great disadvantages. I write also in
great haste. I am unable even to read over what I have written.

Affectionately yours

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