Part 4 out of 9
kindliness, and even their courtesies, for those with whom they
stood shoulder to shoulder in the fray. Politicians, Conservative
and Liberal alike, who were themselves young during the Sessions
of 1866 and 1867, and who can recall the sensations evoked by a
contest of which the issues were far less grave and the passions
less strong than of yore, will make allowances for one who, with
the imagination of a poet and the temperament of an orator, at
thirty years old was sent straight into the thickest of the
tumult which then raged round the standard of Reform, and will
excuse him for having borne himself in that battle of giants as a
determined and a fiery partisan.
If to live intensely be to live happily, Macaulay had an enviable
lot during those stirring years; and, if the old songwriters had
reason on their side when they celebrated the charms of a light
purse, he certainly possessed that element of felicity. Among the
earliest economical reforms undertaken by the new Government was
a searching revision of our Bankruptcy jurisdiction, in the
course of which his Commissionership was swept away, without
leaving him a penny of compensation. "I voted for the Bankruptcy
Court Bill," he said in answer to an inquisitive constituent.
"There were points in that Bill of which I did not approve, and I
only refrained from stating those points because an office of my
own was at stake." When this source fell dry he was for a while a
poor man; for a member of Parliament, who has others to think of
besides himself, is anything but rich on sixty or seventy pounds
a quarter as the produce of his pen, and a college income which
has only a few more months to run. At a time when his
Parliamentary fame stood at its highest he was reduced to sell
the gold medals which he had gained at Cambridge; but he was
never for a moment in debt; nor did he publish a line prompted by
any lower motive than the inspiration of his political faith, or
the instinct of his literary genius. He had none but pleasant
recollections connected with the period when his fortunes were at
their lowest. From the secure prosperity of after life he
delighted in recalling the time when, after cheering on the
fierce debate for twelve or fifteen hours together, he would walk
home by daylight to his chambers, and make his supper on a cheese
which was a present from one of his Wiltshire constituents, and a
glass of the audit ale which reminded him that he was still a
fellow of Trinity.
With political distinction came social success, more rapid and
more substantial, perhaps, than has ever been achieved by one who
took so little trouble to win or to retain it. The circumstances
of the time were all in his favour. Never did our higher circles
present so much that would attract a new-comer, and never was
there more readiness to admit within them all who brought the
honourable credentials of talent and celebrity. In 1831 the
exclusiveness of birth was passing away, and the exclusiveness of
fashion had not set in. The Whig party, during its long period of
depression, had been drawn together by the bonds of common hopes,
and endeavours, and disappointments; and personal reputation,
whether literary, political, or forensic, held its own as against
the advantages of rank and money to an extent that was never
known before, and never since. Macaulay had been well received in
the character of an Edinburgh Reviewer, and his first great
speech in the House of Commons at once opened to him all the
doors in London that were best worth entering. Brought up, as he
had been, in a household which was perhaps the strictest and the
homeliest among a set of families whose creed it was to live
outside the world, it put his strength of mind to the test when
he found himself courted and observed by the most distinguished
and the most formidable personages of the day. Lady Holland
listened to him with unwonted deference, and scolded him with a
circumspection that was in itself a compliment. Rogers spoke of
him with friendliness, and to him with positive affection, and
gave him the last proof of his esteem and admiration by asking
him to name the morning for a breakfast-party. He was treated
with almost fatherly kindness by the able and worthy man who is
still remembered by the name of Conversation Sharp. Indeed, his
deference for the feelings of all whom he liked and respected,
which an experienced observer could detect beneath the eagerness
of his manner and the volubility of his talk, made him a
favourite among those of a generation above his own. He bore his
honours quietly, and enjoyed them with the natural and hearty
pleasure of a man who has a taste for society, but whose
ambitions lie elsewhere. For the space of three seasons he dined
out almost nightly, and spent many of his Sundays in those
suburban residences which, as regards the company and the way of
living, are little else than sections of London removed into a
Before very long his habits and tastes began to incline in the
direction of domesticity, and even of seclusion; and, indeed, at
every period of his life he would gladly desert the haunts of
those whom Pope and his contemporaries used to term "the great,"
to seek the cheerful and cultured simplicity of his home, or the
conversation of that one friend who had a share in the familiar
confidence which Macaulay otherwise reserved for his nearest
relatives. This was Mr. Thomas Flower Ellis, whose reports of the
proceedings in King's Bench, extending over a whole generation,
have established and perpetuated his name as that of an acute and
industrious lawyer. He was older than Macaulay by four years.
Though both Fellows of the same college, they missed each other
at the university, and it was not until 1827, on the Northern
circuit, that their acquaintance began. "Macaulay has joined,"
writes Mr. Ellis; "an amusing person; somewhat boyish in his
manner, but very original." The young barristers had in common an
insatiable love of the classics; and similarity of character, not
very perceptible on the surface, soon brought about an intimacy
which ripened into an attachment as important to the happiness of
both concerned as ever united two men through every stage of life
and vicissitude of fortune. Mr. Ellis had married early; but in
1839 he lost his wife, and Macaulay's helpful and heartfelt
participation in his great sorrow riveted the links of a chain
that was already indissoluble.
The letters contained in this volume will tell, better than the
words of any third person, what were the points of sympathy
between the two companions, and in what manner they lived
together till the end came. Mr. Ellis survived his friend little
more than a year; not complaining or lamenting but going about
his work like a man from whose day the light has departed.
Brief and rare were the vacations of the most hard-worked
Parliament that had sat since the times of Pym and Hampden. In
the late autumn of 1831, the defeat of the Reform Bill in the
House of Lords delivered over the country to agitation,
resentment, and alarm; and gave a short holiday to public men who
were not Ministers, magistrates, or officers in the yeomanry.
Hannah and Margaret Macaulay accompanied their brother on a
visit to Cambridge, where they met with the welcome which young
Masters of Arts delight in providing for the sisters of a comrade
of whom they are fond and proud.
"On the evening that we arrived," says Lady Trevelyan, "we met at
dinner Whewell, Sedgwick, Airy, and Thirlwail and how pleasant
they were, and how much they made of us two happy girls, who
were never tired of seeing, and hearing and admiring! We
breakfasted, lunched, and dined with one or the other of the set
during our stay, and walked about the colleges all day with the
whole train. [A reminiscence from that week of refined and genial
hospitality survives in the Essay on Madame d'Arblay. The
reception which Miss Burney would have enjoyed at Oxford, if she
had visited it otherwise than as an attendant on Royalty, is
sketched off with all the writer's wonted spirit, and more than
his wonted grace.] Whewell was then tutor; rougher, but less
pompous, and much more agreeable, than in after years; though I
do not think that he ever cordially liked your uncle. We then
went on to Oxford, which from knowing no one there seemed
terribly dull to us by comparison with Cambridge, and we rejoiced
our brother's heart by sighing after Trinity."
During the first half of his life Macaulay spent some months of
every year at the seat of his uncle, Mr. Babington, who kept open
house for his nephews and nieces throughout the summer and
autumn. Rothley Temple, which lies in a valley beyond the first
ridge that separates the flat unattractive country immediately
round Leicester from the wild and beautiful scenery of Charnwood
Forest, is well worth visiting as a singularly unaltered specimen
of an old English home. The stately trees; the grounds, half park
and half meadow; the cattle grazing up to the very windows; the
hall, with its stone pavement rather below than above the level
of the soil, hung with armour rude and rusty enough to dispel the
suspicion of its having passed through a collector's hands; the
low ceilings; the dark oak wainscot, carved after primitive
designs, that covered every inch of wall in bedroom and corridor;
the general air which the whole interior presented of having been
put to rights at the date of the Armada and left alone ever
since;--all this antiquity contrasted quaintly, but prettily
enough, with the youth and gaiety that lit up every corner of the
ever-crowded though comfortable mansion. In wet weather there was
always a merry group sitting on the staircase, or marching up and
down the gallery; and, wherever the noise and fun were most
abundant, wherever there was to be heard the loudest laughter and
the most vehement expostulation, Macaulay was the centre of a
circle which was exclaiming at the levity of his remarks about
the Blessed Martyr; disputing with him on the comparative merits
of Pascal, Racine, Corneille, Moliere, and Boileau or checking
him as he attempted to justify his godparents by running off a
list of all the famous Thomases in history. The place is full of
his memories. His favourite walk was a mile of field-road and
lane which leads from the house to a lodge on the highway; and
his favourite point of view in that walk was a slight acclivity,
whence the traveller from Leicester catches his first sight of
Rothley Temple, with its background of hill and greenwood. He is
remembered as sitting at the window in the hall, reading Dante to
himself, or translating it aloud as long as any listener cared to
remain within ear-shot. He occupied, by choice, a very small
chamber on the ground floor, through the window of which he
could escape unobserved while afternoon callers were on their way
between the front door and the drawing-room. On such occasions he
would take refuge in a boat moored under the shade of some fine
oaks which still exist, though the ornamental water on whose bank
they stood has since been converted into dry land.
A journal kept at intervals by Margaret Macaulay, some extracts
from which have here been arranged in the form of a continuous
narrative, affords a pleasant and faithful picture of her
brother's home-life during the years 1831 and 1832. With an
artless candour, from which his reputation will not suffer, she
relates the alternations of hope and disappointment through which
the young people passed when it began to be a question whether or
not he would be asked to join the Administration.
"I think I was about twelve when I first became very fond of my
brother, and from that time my affection for him has gone on
increasing during a period of seven years. I shall never forget
my delight and enchantment when I first found that he seemed to
like talking to me. His manner was very flattering to such a
child, for he always took as much pains to amuse me, and to
inform me on anything I wished to know, as ho could have done to
the greatest person in the land. I have heard him express great
disgust towards those people who, lively and agreeable abroad,
are a dead weight in the family circle. I think the remarkable
clearness of his style proceeds in some measure from the habit of
conversing with very young people, to whom he has a great deal to
explain and impart.
"He reads his works to us in the manuscript, and, when we find
fault, as I very often do with his being too severe upon people,
he takes it with the greatest kindness, and often alters what we
do not like. I hardly ever, indeed, met with a sweeter temper
than his. He is rather hasty, and when he has not time for an
instant's thought, he will sometimes return a quick answer, for
which he will be sorry the moment he has said it. But in a
conversation of any length, though it may be on subjects that
touch him very nearly, and though the person with whom he
converses may be very provoking and extremely out of temper, I
never saw him lose his. He never uses this superiority, as some
do, for the purpose of irritating another still more by coolness;
but speaks in a kind, good-natured manner, as if he wished to
bring the other back to temper without appearing to notice that
he had lost it.
"He at one time took a very punning turn, and we laid a wager in
books, my Mysteries of Udolpho against his German Theatre, that
he could not make two hundred puns in one evening. He did it,
however, in two hours, and, although they were of course most of
them miserably bad, yet it was a proof of great quickness.
"Saturday, February 26, 1831--At dinner we talked of the Grants.
Tom said he had found Mr. Robert Grant walking about in the
lobbies of the House of Commons, and saying that he wanted
somebody to defend his place in the Government, which he heard
was going to be attacked. 'What did you say to him?' we asked.
'Oh, I said nothing; but, if they'll give me the place, I'll
defend it. When I am Judge Advocate, I promise you that I will
not go about asking anyone to defend me.'
"After dinner we played at capping verses, and after that at a
game in which one of the party thinks of something for the others
to guess at. Tom gave the slug that killed Perceval, the lemon
that Wilkes squeezed for Doctor Johnson, the pork-chop which
Thurtell ate after he had murdered Weare, and Sir Charles
Macarthy's jaw which was sent by the Ashantees as a present to
George the Fourth.
"Some one mentioned an acquaintance who had gone to the West
Indies, hoping to make money, but had only ruined the complexions
of his daughters. Tom said:
Mr. Walker was sent to Berbice
By the greatest of statesmen and earls.
He went to bring back yellow boys,
But he only brought back yellow girls.
"I never saw anything like the fun and humour that kindles in his
eye when a repartee or verse is working in his brain.
"March 3, 1831.--Yesterday morning Hannah and I walked part of
the way to his chambers with Tom, and, as we separated, I
remember wishing him good luck and success that night. He went
through it most triumphantly, and called down upon himself
admiration enough to satisfy even his sister. I like so much the
manner in which he receives compliments. He does not pretend to
be indifferent, but smiles in his kind and animated way, with 'I
am sure it is very kind of you to say so,' or something of that
nature. His voice from cold and over-excitement got quite into a
scream towards the last part. A person told him that he had not
heard such speaking since Fox. 'You have not heard such screaming
since Fox,' he said.
"March 24, 1831.--By Tom's account, there never was such a scene
of agitation as the House of Commons presented at the passing of
the second reading of the Reform Bill the day before yesterday,
or rather yesterday, for they did not divide till three or four
in the morning. When dear Tom came the next day he was still very
much excited, which I found to my cost, for when I went out to
walk with him he walked so very fast that I could scarcely keep
up with him at all. With sparkling eyes he described the whole
scene of the preceding evening in the most graphic manner.
"'I suppose the Ministers are all in high spirits,' said Mamma.
'In spirits, Ma'am? I'm sure I don't know. In bed, I'll answer
for it.' Mamma asked him for franks, that she might send his
speech to a lady [This lady was Mrs. Hannah More.] who, though of
high Tory principles, is very fond of Tom, and has left him in
her will her valuable library. 'Oh, no,' he said, 'don't send it.
If you do, she'll cut me off with a prayer-book.'
"Tom is very much improved in his appearance during the last two
or three years. His figure is not so bad for a man of thirty as
for a man of twenty-two. He dresses better, and his manners, from
seeing a great deal of society, are very much improved. When
silent and occupied in thought, walking up and down the room as
he always does, his hands clenched and muscles working with the
intense exertion of his mind, strangers would think his
countenance stern; but I remember a writing-master of ours, when
Tom had come into the room and left it again, saying, 'Ladies,
your brother looks like a lump of good-humour!'
"March 30, 1831--Tom has just left me, after a very interesting
conversation. He spoke of his extreme idleness. He said: 'I never
knew such an idle man as I am. When I go in to Empson or Ellis
their tables are always covered with books and papers. I cannot
stick at anything for above a day or two. I mustered industry
enough to teach myself Italian. I wish to speak Spanish. I know I
could master the difficulties in a week, and read any book in the
language at the end of a month, but I have not the courage to
attempt it. If there had not been really something in me,
idleness would have ruined me.'
"I said that I was surprised at the great accuracy of his
information, considering how desultory his reading had been. 'My
accuracy as to facts,' he said, 'I owe to a cause which many men
would not confess. It is due to my love of castle-building. The
past is in my mind soon constructed into a romance.' He then went
on to describe the way in which from his childhood his
imagination had been filled by the study of history. 'With a
person of my turn,' he said, 'the minute touches are of as great
interest, and perhaps greater, than the most important events.
Spending so much time as I do in solitude, my mind would have
rusted by gazing vacantly at the shop windows. As it is, I am no
sooner in the streets than I am in Greece, in Rome, in the midst
of the French Revolution. Precision in dates, the day or hour in
which a man was born or died, becomes absolutely necessary. A
slight fact, a sentence, a word, are of importance in my romance.
Pepys's Diary formed almost inexhaustible food for my fancy. I
seem to know every inch of Whitehall. I go in at Hans Holbein's
gate, and come out through the matted gallery. The conversations
which I compose between great people of the time are long, and
sufficiently animated; in the style, if not with the merits, of
Sir Walter Scott's. The old parts of London, which you are
sometimes surprised at my knowing so well, those old gates and
houses down by the river, have all played their part in my
stories.' He spoke, too, of the manner in which he used to wander
about Paris, weaving tales of the Revolution, and he thought that
he owed his command of language greatly to this habit.
"I am very sorry that the want both of ability and memory should
prevent my preserving with greater truth a conversation which
interested me very much.
"May 21, 1831.--Tom was from London at the time my mother's death
occurred, and things fell out in such a manner that the first
information he received of it was from the newspapers. He came
home directly. He was in an agony of distress, and gave way at
first to violent bursts of feeling. During the whole of the week
he was with us all day, and was the greatest comfort to us
imaginable. He talked a great deal of our sorrow, and led the
conversation by degrees to other subjects, bearing the whole
burden of it himself and interesting us without jarring with the
predominant feeling of the time. I never saw him appear to
greater advantage--never loved him more dearly.
"September 1831.--Of late we have walked a good deal. I remember
pacing up and down Brunswick Square and Lansdowne Place for two
hours one day, deep in the mazes of the most subtle metaphysics;-
-up and down Cork Street, engaged over Dryden's poetry and the
great men of that time;--making jokes all the way along Bond
Street, and talking politics everywhere.
"Walking in the streets with Tom and Hannah, and talking about
the hard work the heads of his party had got now, I said:
"'How idle they must think you, when they meet you here in the
busy part of the day!' 'Yes, here I am,' said he, 'walking with
two unidea'd girls. [Boswell relates in his tenth chapter how
Johnson scolded Langton for leaving "his social friends, to go
and sit with a set of wretched unidea'd girls."] However, if one
of the Ministry says to me, "Why walk you here all the day idle?"
I shall say, "Because no man has hired me."'
"We talked of eloquence, which he has often compared to fresco-
painting: the result of long study and meditation, but at the
moment of execution thrown off with the greatest rapidity; what
has apparently been the work of a few hours being destined to
last for ages.
"Mr. Tierney said he was sure Sir Philip Francis had written
Junius, for he was the proudest man he ever knew, and no one ever
heard of anything he had done to be proud of.
"November 14, 1831, half-past-ten.--On Friday last Lord Grey sent
for Tom. His note was received too late to be acted on that day.
On Saturday came another, asking him to East Sheen on that day,
or Sunday. Yesterday, accordingly, he went, and stayed the night,
promising to be here as early as possible to-day. So much depends
upon the result of this visit! That he will be offered a place I
have not the least doubt. He will refuse a Lordship of the
Treasury, a Lordship of the Admiralty, or the Mastership of the
Ordnance. He will accept the Secretaryship of the Board of
Control, but will not thank them for it; and would not accept
that, but that he thinks it will be a place of importance during
the approaching discussions on the East Indian monopoly.
"If he gets a sufficient salary, Hannah and I shall most likely
live with him. Can I possibly look forward to anything happier? I
cannot imagine a course of life that would suit him better than
thus to enjoy the pleasures of domestic life without its
restraints; with sufficient business, but not, I hope, too much.
"At one o'clock he came. I went out to meet him. 'I have nothing
to tell you. Nothing. Lord Grey sent for me to speak about a
matter of importance, which must be strictly private.'
"November 27.--I am just returned from a long walk, during which
the conversation turned entirely on one subject. After a little
previous talk about a certain great personage, [The personage was
Lord Brougham, who at this time was too formidable for the poor
girl to venture to write his name at length even in a private
journal.] I asked Tom when the present coolness between them
began. He said: 'Nothing could exceed my respect and admiration
for him in early days. I saw at that time private letters in
which he spoke highly of my articles, and of me as the most
rising man of the time. After a while, however, I began to remark
that he became extremely cold to me, hardly ever spoke to me on
circuit, and treated me with marked slight. If I were talking to
a man, if he wished to speak to him on politics or anything else
that was not in any sense a private matter, he always drew him
away from me instead of addressing us both. When my article on
Hallam came out, he complained to Jeffrey that I took up too much
of the Review; and, when my first article on Mill appeared, he
foamed with rage, and was very angry with Jeffrey for having
"'But,' said I,' the Mills are friends of his, and he naturally
did not like them to be attacked.'
"'On the contrary,' said Tom, 'he had attacked them fiercely
himself; but he thought I had made a hit, and was angry
accordingly. When a friend of mine defended my articles to him,
he said: "I know nothing of the articles. I have not read
Macaulay's articles." What can be imagined more absurd than his
keeping up an angry correspondence with Jeffrey about articles he
has never read? Well, the next thing was that Jeffrey, who was
about to give up the editorship, asked me if I would take it. I
said that I would gladly do so, if they would remove the
headquarters of the Review to London. Jeffrey wrote to him about
it. He disapproved of it so strongly that the plan was given up.
The truth was that he felt that his power over the Review
diminished as mine increased, and he saw that he would have
little indeed if I were editor.
"'I then came into Parliament. I do not complain that he should
have preferred Denman's claims to mine, and that he should have
blamed Lord Lansdowne for not considering him. I went to take my
seat. As I turned from the table at which I had been taking the
oaths, he stood as near to me as you do now, and he cut me dead.
We never spoke in the House, excepting once, that I can remember,
when a few words passed between us in the lobby. I have sat close
to him when many men of whom I knew nothing have introduced
themselves to me to shake hands, and congratulate me after making
a speech, and he has never said a single word. I know that it is
jealousy, because I am not the first man whom he has used in this
way. During the debate on the Catholic claims he was so enraged
because Lord Plunket had made a very splendid display, and
because the Catholics had chosen Sir Francis Burdett instead of
him to bring the Bill forward, that he threw every difficulty in
its way. Sir Francis once said to him: "Really, Mr.-- you are so
jealous that it is impossible to act with you." I never will
serve in an Administration of which he is the head. On that I
have most firmly made up my mind. I do not believe that it is in
his nature to be a month in office without caballing against his
colleagues. ["There never was a direct personal rival, or one who
was in a position which, however reluctantly, implied rivalry, to
whom he has been just; and on the fact of this ungenerous
jealousy I do not understand that there is any difference of
opinion."--Lord Cockburn's Journal.]
"'He is, next to the King, the most popular man in England. There
is no other man whose entrance into any town in the kingdom would
be so certain to be with huzzaing and taking off of horses. At
the same time he is in a very ticklish situation, for he has no
real friends. Jeffrey, Sydney Smith, Mackintosh, all speak of him
as I now speak to you. I was talking to Sydney Smith of him the
other day, and said that, great as I felt his faults to be, I
must allow him a real desire to raise the lower orders, and do
good by education, and those methods upon which his heart has
been always set. Sydney would not allow this, or any other,
merit. Now, if those who are called his friends feel towards him,
as they all do, angry and sore at his overbearing, arrogant, and
neglectful conduct, when those reactions in public feeling, which
must come, arrive, he will have nothing to return upon, no place
of refuge, no hand of such tried friends as Fox and Canning had
to support him. You will see that he will soon place himself in a
false position before the public. His popularity will go down,
and he will find himself alone. Mr. Pitt, it is true, did not
study to strengthen himself by friendships but this was not from
jealousy. I do not love the man, but I believe he was quite
superior to that. It was from a solitary pride he had. I heard at
Holland House the other day that Sir Philip Francis said that,
though he hated Pitt, he must confess there was something fine in
seeing how he maintained his post by himself. "The lion walks
alone," he said. "The jackals herd together."'"
This conversation, to those who have heard Macaulay talk, bears
unmistakable signs of having been committed to paper while the
words,--or, at any rate, the outlines,--of some of the most
important sentences were fresh in his sister's mind. Nature had
predestined the two men to mutual antipathy. Macaulay, who knew
his own range and kept within it, and who gave the world nothing
except his best and most finished work, was fretted by the
slovenly omniscience of Brougham, who affected to be a walking
encyclopaedia, "a kind of semi-Solomon, half knowing everything
from the cedar to the hyssop." [These words are extracted from a
letter written by Macaulay.] The student, who, in his later
years, never left his library for the House of Commons without
regret, had little in common with one who, like Napoleon, held
that a great reputation was a great noise; who could not change
horses without making a speech, see the Tories come in without
offering to take a judgeship, or allow the French to make a
Revolution without proposing to naturalise himself as a citizen
of the new Republic. The statesman who never deserted an ally, or
distrusted a friend, could have no fellowship with a free-lance,
ignorant of the very meaning of loyalty; who, if the surfeited
pen of the reporter had not declined its task, would have
enriched our collections of British oratory by at least one
Philippic against every colleague with whom he had ever acted.
The many who read this conversation by the light of the public
history of Lord Melbourne's Administration, and still more the
few who have access to the secret history of Lord Grey's Cabinet,
will acknowledge that seldom was a prediction so entirely
fulfilled, or a character so accurately read. And that it was not
a prophecy composed after the event is proved by the circumstance
that it stands recorded in the handwriting of one who died before
it was accomplished.
"January 3, 1832.--Yesterday Tom dined at Holland House, and
heard Lord Holland tell this story. Some paper was to be
published by Mr. Fox, in which mention was made of Mr. Pitt
having been employed at a club in a manner that would have
created scandal. Mr. Wilberforce went to Mr. Fox, and asked him
to omit the passage. 'Oh, to be sure,' said Mr. Fox; 'if there
are any good people who would be scandalised, I will certainly
put it out!' Mr. Wilberforce then preparing to take his leave, he
said: 'Now, Mr. Wilberforce, if, instead of being about Mr. Pitt,
this had been an account of my being seen gaming at White's on a
Sunday, would you have taken so much pains to prevent it being
known?' 'I asked this,' said Mr. Fox, 'because I wanted to see
what he would say, for I knew he would not tell a lie about it.
He threw himself back, as his way was, and only answered: "Oh,
Mr. Fox, you are always so pleasant!"'
"January 8, 1832.--Yesterday Tom dined with us, and stayed late.
He talked almost uninterruptedly for six hours. In the evening he
made a great many impromptu charades in verse. I remember he
mentioned a piece of impertinence of Sir Philip Francis. Sir
Philip was writing a history of his own time, with characters of
its eminent men, and one day asked Mr. Tierney if he should like
to hear his own character. Of course he said 'Yes,' and it was
read to him. It was very flattering, and he expressed his
gratification for so favourable a description of himself.
'Subject to revision, you must remember, Mr. Tierney,' said Sir
Philip, as he laid the manuscript by; 'subject to revision
according to what may happen in the future.'
"I am glad Tom has reviewed old John Bunyan. Many are reading it
who never read it before. Yesterday, as he was sitting in the
Athenaeum, a gentleman called out: 'Waiter, is there a copy of
the Pilgrim's Progress in the library?' As might be expected,
there was not.
"February 12, 1832.--This evening Tom came in, Hannah and I being
alone. He was in high boyish spirits. He had seen Lord Lansdowne
in the morning, who had requested to speak with him. His Lordship
said that he wished to have a talk about his taking office, not
with any particular thing in view, as there was no vacancy at
present, and none expected, but that he should be glad to know
his wishes in order that he might be more able to serve him in
"Tom, in answer, took rather a high tone. He said he was a poor
man, but that he had as much as he wanted, and, as far as he was
personally concerned, had no desire for office. At the same time
he thought that, after the Reform Bill had passed, it would be
absolutely necessary that the Government should be strengthened;
that he was of opinion that he could do it good service; that he
approved of its general principles, and should not be unwilling
to join it. Lord Lansdowne said that they all,--and he
particularly mentioned Lord Grey,--felt of what importance to
them his help was, and that he now perfectly understood his
"February 13, 1832.--It has been much reported, and has even
appeared in the newspapers, that the Ministers were doing what
they could to get Mr. Robert Grant out of the way to make room
for Tom. Last Sunday week it was stated in the John Bull that
Madras had been offered to the Judge Advocate for this purpose,
but that he had refused it. Two or three nights since, Tom, in
endeavouring to get to a high bench in the House, stumbled over
Mr. Robert Grant's legs, as he was stretched out half asleep.
Being roused he apologised in the usual manner, and then added,
oddly enough: 'I am very sorry, indeed, to stand in the way of
"March 15, 1832.--Yesterday Hannah and I spent a very agreeable
afternoon with Tom.
"He began to talk of his idleness. He really came and dawdled
with us all day long; he had not written a line of his review of
Burleigh's Life, and he shrank from beginning on such a great
work. I asked him to put it by for the present, and write a
light article on novels. This he seemed to think he should like,
and said he could get up an article on Richardson in a very short
time, but he knew of no book that he could hang it on. Hannah
advised that he should place at the head of this article a
fictitious title in Italian of a critique on Clarissa Harlowe,
published at Venice. He seemed taken with this idea, but said
that, if he did such a thing, he must never let his dearest
"I was amused with a parody of Tom's on the nursery song 'Twenty
pounds shall marry me,' as applied to the creation of Peers.
What though now opposed I be?
Twenty Peers shall carry me.
If twenty won't, thirty will,
For I'm his Majesty's bouncing Bill.
Sir Robert Peel has been extremely complimentary to him. One
sentence he repeated to us: 'My only feeling towards that
gentleman is a not ungenerous envy, as I listened to that
wonderful flow of natural and beautiful language, and to that
utterance which, rapid as it is, seems scarcely able to convey
its rich freight of thought and fancy!' People say that these
words were evidently carefully prepared.
"I have just been looking round our little drawing-room, as if
trying to impress every inch of it on my memory, and thinking how
in future years it will rise before my mind as the scene of many
hours of light-hearted mirth; how I shall again see him, lolling
indolently on the old blue sofa, or strolling round the narrow
confines of our room. With such a scene will come the remembrance
of his beaming countenance, happy affectionate smile, and joyous
laugh; while, with everyone at ease around him, he poured out the
stores of his full mind in his own peculiarly beautiful and
expressive language, more delightful here than anywhere else,
because more perfectly unconstrained. The name which passes
through this little room in the quiet, gentle tones of sisterly
affection is a name which will be repeated through distant
generations, and go down to posterity linked with eventful times
and great deeds."
The last words here quoted will be very generally regarded as the
tribute of a sister's fondness. Many, who readily admit that
Macaulay's name will go down to posterity linked with eventful
times and great deeds, make that admission with reference to
times not his own, and deeds in which he had no part except to
commemorate them with his pen. To him, as to others, a great
reputation of a special order brought with it the consequence
that the credit, which he deserved for what he had done well, was
overshadowed by the renown of what he did best. The world, which
has forgotten that Newton excelled as an administrator, and
Voltaire as a man of business, remembers somewhat faintly that
Macaulay was an eminent orator and, for a time at least, a
strenuous politician. The universal voice of his contemporaries,
during the first three years of his parliamentary career,
testifies to the leading part which he played in the House of
Commons, so long as with all his heart he cared, and with all his
might he tried, to play it. Jeffrey, (for it is well to adduce
none but first-rate evidence,) says in his account of an
evening's discussion on the second reading of the Reform Bill:
"Not a very striking debate. There was but one exception, and it
was a brilliant one. I mean Macaulay, who surpassed his former
appearance in closeness, fire, and vigour, and very much improved
the effect of it by a more steady and graceful delivery. It was
prodigiously cheered, as it deserved, and I think puts him
clearly at the head of the great speakers, if not the debaters,
of the House." And again, on the 17th of December: "Macaulay
made, I think, the best speech he has yet delivered; the most
condensed, at least, and with the greatest weight of matter. It
contained, indeed, the only argument to which any of the speakers
who followed him applied themselves." Lord Cockburn, who sat
under the gallery for twenty-seven hours during the last three
nights of the Bill, pronounced Macaulay's speech to have been "by
far the best;" though, like a good Scotchman, he asserts that he
heard nothing at Westminster which could compare with Dr.
Chalmers in the General Assembly. Sir James Mackintosh writes
from the Library of the House of Commons: "Macaulay and Stanley
have made two of the finest speeches ever spoken in Parliament;"
and a little further on he classes together the two young orators
as "the chiefs of the next, or rather of this, generation."
To gain and keep the position that Mackintosh assigned him
Macaulay possessed the power, and in early days did not lack the
will. He was prominent on the Parliamentary stage, and active
behind the scenes;--the soul of every honourable project which
might promote the triumph of his principles, and the ascendency
of his party. One among many passages in his correspondence may
be quoted without a very serious breach of ancient and time-worn
confidences. On the 17th of September, 1831, he writes to his
sister Hannah: "I have been very busy since I wrote last, moving
heaven and earth to render it certain that, if our ministers are
so foolish as to resign in the event of a defeat in the Lords,
the Commons may be firm and united; and I think that I have
arranged a plan which will secure a bold and instant declaration
on our part, if necessary. Lord Ebrington is the man whom I have
in my eye as our leader. I have had much conversation with him,
and with several of our leading county members. They are all
staunch; and I will answer for this,--that, if the ministers
should throw us over, we will be ready to defend ourselves."
The combination of public spirit, political instinct, and
legitimate self-assertion, which was conspicuous in Macaulay's
character, pointed him out to some whose judgment had been
trained by long experience of affairs as a more than possible
leader in no remote future; and it is not for his biographer to
deny that they had grounds for their conclusion. The prudence,
the energy, the self-reliance, which he displayed in another
field, might have been successfully directed to the conduct of an
executive policy, and the management of a popular assembly.
Macaulay never showed himself deficient in the qualities which
enable a man to trust his own sense; to feel responsibility, but
not to fear it; to venture where others shrink; to decide while
others waver; with all else that belongs to the vocation of a
ruler in a free country. But it was not his fate; it was not his
work; and the rank which he might have claimed among the
statesmen of Britain was not ill exchanged for the place which he
occupies in the literature of the world.
To Macvey Napier, Esq.
York: March 22, 1830.
My dear Sir,--I was in some doubt as to what I should be able to
do for Number 101, and I deferred writing till I could make up my
mind. If my friend Ellis's article on Greek History, of which I
have formed high expectations, could have been ready, I should
have taken a holiday. But, as there is no chance of that for the
next number, I ought, I think, to consider myself as his bail,
and to surrender myself to your disposal in his stead.
I have been thinking of a subject, light and trifling enough, but
perhaps not the worse for our purpose on that account. We seldom
want a sufficient quantity of heavy matter. There is a wretched
poetaster of the name of Robert Montgomery who has written some
volumes of detestable verses on religious subjects, which by mere
puffing in magazines and newspapers have had an immense sale, and
some of which are now in their tenth or twelfth editions. I have
for some time past thought that the trick of puffing, as it is
now practised both by authors and publishers, is likely to
degrade the literary character, and to deprave the public taste,
in a frightful degree. I really think that we ought to try what
effect satire will have upon this nuisance, and I doubt whether
we can ever find a better opportunity.
Yours very faithfully
T. B. MACAULAY.
To Macvey Napier, Esq.
London: August 19, 1830.
My dear Sir,--The new number appeared this morning in the shop
windows. The article on Niebuhr contains much that is very
sensible; but it is not such an article as so noble a subject
required. I am not like Ellis, Niebuhr-mad; and I agree with many
of the remarks which the reviewer has made both on this work, and
on the school of German critics and historians. But surely the
reviewer ought to have given an account of the system of
exposition which Niebuhr has adopted, and of the theory which he
advances respecting the Institutions of Rome. The appearance of
the book is really an era in the intellectual history of Europe,
and I think that the Edinburgh Review ought at least to have
given a luminous abstract of it. The very circumstance that
Niebuhr's own arrangement and style are obscure, and that his
translators have need of translators to make them intelligible to
the multitude, rendered it more desirable that a clear and neat
statement of the points in controversy should be laid before the
public. But it is useless to talk of what cannot be mended. The
best editors cannot always have good writers, and the best
writers cannot always write their best.
I have no notion on what ground Brougham imagines that I am going
to review his speech. He never said a word to me on the subject.
Nor did I ever say either to him, or to anyone else, a single
syllable to that effect. At all events I shall not make
Brougham's speech my text. We have had quite enough of puffing
and flattering each other in the Review. It is a vile taste for
men united in one literary undertaking to exchange their favours.
I have a plan of which I wish to know your opinion. In ten days,
or thereabouts, I set off for France, where I hope to pass six
weeks. I shall be in the best society, that of the Duc de
Broglie, Guizot, and so on. I think of writing an article on the
Politics of France since the Restoration, with characters of the
principal public men, and a parallel between the present state of
France and that of England. I think that this might be made an
article of extraordinary interest. I do not say that I could make
it so. It must, you will perceive, be a long paper, however
concise I may try to be; but as the subject is important, and I
am not generally diffuse, you must not stint me. If you like this
scheme, let me know as soon as possible.
Ever yours truly
T. B. MACAULAY.
It cannot be denied that there was some ground for the imputation
of systematic puffing which Macaulay urges with a freedom that a
modern editor would hardly permit to the most valued contributor.
Brougham had made a speech on Slavery in the House of Commons;
but time was wanting to get the Corrected Report published soon
enough for him to obtain his tribute of praise in the body of the
Review. The unhappy Mr. Napier was actually reduced to append a
notice to the July number regretting that "this powerful speech,
which, as we are well informed, produced an impression on those
who heard it not likely to be forgotten, or to remain barren of
effects, should have reached us at a moment when it was no longer
possible for us to notice its contents at any length. . . . On
the eve of a general election to the first Parliament of a new
reign, we could have wished to be able to contribute our aid
towards the diffusion of the facts and arguments here so
strikingly and commandingly stated and enforced, among those who
are about to exercise the elective franchise. . . . We trust that
means will be taken to give the widest possible circulation to
the Corrected Report. Unfortunately, we can, at present, do
nothing more than lay before our readers its glowing peroration--
so worthy of this great orator, this unwearied friend of liberty
To Macvey Napier, Esq.
Paris: September 16, 1830.
My dear Sir,--I have just received your letter, and I cannot deny
that I am much vexed at what has happened. It is not very
agreeable to find that I have thrown away the labour, the not
unsuccessful labour as I thought, of a month; particularly as I
have not many months of perfect leisure. This would not have
happened if Brougham had notified his intentions to you earlier,
as he ought in courtesy to you, and to everybody connected with
the Review, to have done. He must have known that this French
question was one on which many people would be desirous to write.
I ought to tell you that I had scarcely reached Paris when I
received a letter containing a very urgent application from a
very respectable quarter. I was desired to write a sketch, in one
volume, of the late Revolution here. Now, I really hesitated
whether I should not make my excuses to you, and accept this
proposal,--not on account of the pecuniary terms, for about these
I have never much troubled myself--but because I should have had
ampler space for this noble subject than the Review would have
afforded. I thought, however, that this would not be a fair or
friendly course towards you. I accordingly told the applicants
that I had promised you an article, and that I could not well
write twice in one month on the same subject without repeating
myself. I therefore declined; and recommended a person whom I
thought quite capable of producing an attractive book on these
events. To that person my correspondent has probably applied. At
all events I cannot revive the negotiation. I cannot hawk my
rejected articles up and down Paternoster Row.
I am, therefore, a good deal vexed at this affair; but I am not
at all surprised at it. I see all the difficulties of your
situation. Indeed, I have long foreseen them. I always knew that
in every association, literary or political, Brougham would wish
to domineer. I knew also that no Editor of the Edinburgh Review
could, without risking the ruin of the publication, resolutely
oppose the demands of a man so able and powerful. It was because
I was certain that he would exact submissions which I am not
disposed to make that I wished last year to give up writing for
the Review. I had long been meditating a retreat. I thought
Jeffrey's abdication a favourable time for effecting it; not, as
I hope you are well assured, from any unkind feeling towards you;
but because I knew that, under any Editor, mishaps such as that
which has now occurred would be constantly taking place. I
remember that I predicted to Jeffrey what has now come to pass
almost to the letter.
My expectations have been exactly realised. The present
constitution of the Edinburgh Review is this, that, at whatever
time Brougham may be pleased to notify his intention of writing
on any subject, all previous engagements are to be considered as
annulled by that notification. His language translated into plain
English is this: "I must write about this French Revolution, and
I will write about it. If you have told Macaulay to do it, you
may tell him to let it alone. If he has written an article, he
may throw it behind the grate. He would not himself have the
assurance to compare his own claims with mine. I am a man who act
a prominent part in the world; he is nobody. If he must be
reviewing, there is my speech about the West Indies. Set him to
write a puff on that. What have people like him to do, except to
eulogise people like me?" No man likes to be reminded of his
inferiority in such a way, and there are some particular
circumstances in this case which render the admonition more
unpleasant than it would otherwise be. I know that Brougham
dislikes me; and I have not the slightest doubt that he feels
great pleasure in taking this subject out of my hands, and at
having made me understand, as I do most clearly understand, how
far my services are rated below his. I do not blame you in the
least. I do not see how you could have acted otherwise. But, on
the other hand, I do not see why I should make any efforts or
sacrifices for a Review which lies under an intolerable
dictation. Whatever my writings may be worth, it is not for want
of strong solicitations, and tempting offers, from other quarters
that I have continued to send them to the Edinburgh Review. I
adhered to the connection solely because I took pride and
pleasure in it. It has now become a source of humiliation and
I again repeat, my dear Sir, that I do not blame you in the
least. This, however, only makes matters worse. If you had used
me ill, I might complain, and might hope to be better treated
another time. Unhappily you are in a situation in which it is
proper for you to do what it would be improper in me to endure.
What has happened now may happen next quarter, and must happen
before long, unless I altogether refrain from writing for the
Review. I hope you will forgive me if I say that I feel what has
passed too strongly to be inclined to expose myself to a
recurrence of the same vexations.
Yours most truly
T. B. MACAULAY.
A few soft words induced Macaulay to reconsider his threat of
withdrawing from the Review; but, even before Mr. Napier's answer
reached him, the feeling of personal annoyance had already been
effaced by a greater sorrow. A letter arrived, announcing that
his sister Jane had died suddenly and most unexpectedly. She was
found in the morning lying as though still asleep, having passed
away so peacefully as not to disturb a sister who had spent the
night in the next room, with a door open between them. Mrs.
Macaulay never recovered from this shock. Her health gave way,
and she lived into the coming year only so long as to enable her
to rejoice in the first of her son's Parliamentary successes.
Paris: September 26.
My dear Father,--This news has broken my heart. I am fit neither
to go nor to stay. I can do nothing but sit down in my room, and
think of poor dear Jane's kindness and affection. When I am
calmer, I will let you know my intentions. There will be neither
use nor pleasure in remaining here. My present purpose, as far as
I can form one, is to set off in two or three days for England;
and in the meantime to see nobody, if I can help it, but Dumont,
who has been very kind to me. Love to all,--to all who are left
me to love. We must love each other better.
T. B. M.
London: March 30, 1831
Dear Ellis,--I have little news for you, except what you will
learn from the papers as well as from me. It is clear that the
Reform Bill must pass, either in this or in another Parliament.
The majority of one does not appear to me, as it does to you, by
any means inauspicious. We should perhaps have had a better plea
for a dissolution if the majority had been the other way. But
surely a dissolution under such circumstances would have been a
most alarming thing. If there should be a dissolution now, there
will not be that ferocity in the public mind which there would
have been if the House of Commons had refused to entertain the
Bill at all. I confess that, till we had a majority, I was half
inclined to tremble at the storm which we had raised. At present
I think that we are absolutely certain of victory, and of victory
Such a scene as the division of last Tuesday I never saw, and
never expect to see again. If I should live fifty years, the
impression of it will be as fresh and sharp in my mind as if it
had just taken place. It was like seeing Caesar stabbed in the
Senate House, or seeing Oliver taking the mace from the table; a
sight to be seen only once, and never to be forgotten. The crowd
overflowed the House in every part. When the strangers were
cleared out, and the doors locked, we had six hundred and eight
members present,--more by fifty-five than ever were in a division
before. The Ayes and Noes were like two volleys of cannon from
opposite sides of a field of battle. When the opposition went out
into the lobby, an operation which took up twenty minutes or
more, we spread ourselves over the benches on both sides of the
House; for there were many of us who had not been able to find a
seat during the evening. ["The practice in the Commons, until
1836, was to send one party forth into the lobby, the other
remaining in the House."--Sir T. Erskine May's "Parliamentary
Practice."] When the doors were shut we began to speculate on our
numbers. Everybody was desponding. "We have lost it. We are only
two hundred and eighty at most. I do not think we are two hundred
and fifty. They are three hundred. Alderman Thompson has counted
them. He says they are two hundred and ninety-nine." This was the
talk on our benches. I wonder that men who have been long in
Parliament do not acquire a better coup d'oeil for numbers. The
House, when only the Ayes were in it, looked to me a very fair
House,--much fuller than it generally is even on debates of
considerable interest. I had no hope, however, of three hundred.
As the tellers passed along our lowest row on the left hand side
the interest was insupportable,--two hundred and ninety-one,--two
hundred and ninety-two ,--we were all standing up and stretching
forward, telling with the tellers. At three hundred there was a
short cry of joy,--at three hundred and two another,--suppressed
however in a moment; for we did not yet know what the hostile
force might be. We knew, however, that we could not be severely
beaten. The doors were thrown open, and in they came. Each of
them, as he entered, brought some different report of their
numbers. It must have been impossible, as you may conceive, in
the lobby, crowded as they were, to form any exact estimate.
First we heard that they were three hundred and three; then that
number rose to three hundred and ten; then went down to three
hundred and seven. Alexander Barry told me that he had counted,
and that they were three hundred and four. We were all breathless
with anxiety, when Charles Wood, who stood near the door, jumped
up on a bench and cried out, "They are only three hundred and
one." We set up a shout that you might have heard to Charing
Cross, waving our hats, stamping against the floor, and clapping
our hands. The tellers scarcely got through the crowd; for the
House was thronged up to the table, and all the floor was
fluctuating with heads like the pit of a theatre. But you might
have heard a pin drop as Duncannon read the numbers. Then again
the shouts broke out, and many of us shed tears. I could scarcely
refrain. And the jaw of Peel fell; and the face of Twiss was as
the face of a damned soul; and Herries looked like Judas taking
his necktie off for the last operation. We shook hands, and
clapped each other on the back, and went out laughing, crying,
and huzzaing into the lobby. And no sooner were the outer doors
opened than another shout answered that within the House. All the
passages, and the stairs into the waiting-rooms, were thronged by
people who had waited till four in the morning to know the
issue. We passed through a narrow lane between two thick masses
of them; and all the way down they were shouting and waving their
hats, till we got into the open air. I called a cabriolet, and
the first thing the driver asked was, "Is the Bill carried?"
"Yes, by one." "Thank God for it, Sir." And away I rode to Gray's
Inn,--and so ended a scene which will probably never be equalled
till the reformed Parliament wants reforming; and that I hope
will not be till the days of our grandchildren, till that truly
orthodox and apostolical person Dr. Francis Ellis is an
archbishop of eighty.
As for me, I am for the present a sort of lion. My speech has set
me in the front rank, if I can keep there; and it has not been my
luck hitherto to lose ground when I have once got it. Sheil and I
are on very civil terms. He talks largely concerning Demosthenes
and Burke. He made, I must say, an excellent speech; too florid
and queer, but decidedly successful.
Why did not Price speak? If he was afraid, it was not without
reason; for a more terrible audience there is not in the world. I
wish that Praed had known to whom he was speaking. But, with all
his talent, he has no tact, and he has fared accordingly. Tierney
used to say that he never rose in the House without feeling his
knees tremble under him; and I am sure that no man who has not
some of that feeling will ever succeed there.
T. B. MACAULAY.
London: May 27, 1835.
My dear Hannah,--Let me see if I can write a letter a la
Richardson:--a little less prolix it must be, or it will exceed
my ounce. By the bye, I wonder that Uncle Selby never grudged the
postage of Miss Byron's letters. According to the nearest
calculation that I can make, her correspondence must have
enriched the post office of Ashby Canons by something more than
the whole annual interest of her fifteen thousand pounds.
I reached Lansdowne House by a quarter to eleven, and passed
through the large suite of rooms to the great Sculpture Gallery.
There were seated and standing perhaps three hundred people,
listening to the performers, or talking to each other. The room
is the handsomest and largest, I am told, in any private house in
London. I enclose our musical bill of fare. Fanny, I suppose,
will be able to expound it better than I. The singers were more
showily dressed than the auditors, and seemed quite at home. As
to the company, there was just everybody in London (except that
little million and a half that you wot of,)--the Chancellor, and
the First Lord of the Admiralty, and Sydney Smith, and Lord
Mansfield, and all the Barings and the Fitzclarences, and a
hideous Russian spy, whose face I see everywhere, with a star on
his coat. During the interval between the delights of "I tuoi
frequenti," and the ecstasies of "Se tu m'ami," I contrived to
squeeze up to Lord Lansdowne. I was shaking hands with Sir James
Macdonald, when I heard a command behind us: "Sir James,
introduce me to Mr. Macaulay;" and we turned, and there sate a
large bold-looking woman, with the remains of a fine person, and
the air of Queen Elizabeth. "Macaulay," said Sir James, "let me
present you to Lady Holland." Then was her ladyship gracious
beyond description, and asked me to dine and take a bed at
Holland House next Tuesday. I accepted the dinner, but declined
the bed, and I have since repented that I so declined it. But I
probably shall have an opportunity of retracting on Tuesday.
To-night I go to another musical party at Marshall's, the late
M.P. for Yorkshire. Everybody is talking of Paganini and his
violin. The man seems to be a miracle. The newspapers say that
long streamy flakes of music fall from his string, interspersed
with luminous points of sound which ascend the air and appear
like stars. This eloquence is quite beyond me.
T. B. M.
London: May 28, 1831.
My dear Hannah,--More gaieties and music-parties; not so fertile
of adventures as that memorable masquerade whence Harriet Byron
was carried away; but still I hope that the narrative of what
passed there will gratify "the venerable circle." Yesterday I
dressed, called a cab, and was whisked away to Hill Street. I
found old Marshall's house a very fine one. He ought indeed to
have a fine one; for he has, I believe, at least thirty thousand
a year. The carpet was taken up, and chairs were set out in rows,
as if we had been at a religious meeting. Then we had flute-
playing by the first flute-player in England, and pianoforte-
strumming by the first pianoforte-strummer in England, and
singing by all the first singers in England, and Signor Rubini's
incomparable tenor, and Signor Curioni's incomparable counter-
tenor, and Pasta's incomparable expression. You who know how airs
much inferior to these take my soul, and lap it in Elysium, will
form some faint conception of my transport. Sharp beckoned me to
sit by him in the back row. These old fellows are so selfish.
"Always," said he, "establish yourself in the middle of the row
against the wall; for, if you sit in the front or next the edges,
you will be forced to give up your seat to the ladies who are
standing." I had the gallantry to surrender mine to a damsel who
had stood for a quarter of an hour; and I lounged into the ante-
rooms, where I found Samuel Rogers. Rogers and I sate together on
a bench in one of the passages, and had a good deal of very
pleasant conversation. He was,--as indeed he has always been to
me,--extremely kind, and told me that, if it were in his power,
he would contrive to be at Holland House with me, to give me an
insight into its ways. He is the great oracle of that circle.
He has seen the King's letter to Lord Grey, respecting the
Garter; or at least has authentic information about it. It is a
happy stroke of policy, and will, they say, decide many wavering
votes in the House of Lords. The King, it seems, requests Lord
Grey to take the order, as a mark of royal confidence in him "at
so critical a time;"--significant words, I think.
T. B. MACAULAY.
To Hannah More Macaulay.
London: May 30, 1831.
Well, my dear, I have been to Holland House. I took a glass
coach, and arrived, through a fine avenue of elms, at the great
entrance towards seven o'clock. The house is delightful;--the
very perfection of the old Elizabethan style;--a considerable
number of very large and very comfortable rooms, rich with
antique carving and gilding, but carpeted and furnished with all
the skill of the best modern upholsterers. The library is a very
long room,--as long, I should think, as the gallery at Rothley
Temple,--with little cabinets for study branching out of it.
warmly and snugly fitted up, and looking out on very beautiful
grounds. The collection of books is not, like Lord Spencer's,
curious; but it contains almost everything that one ever wished
to read. I found nobody there when I arrived but Lord Russell,
the son of the Marquess of Tavistock. We are old House of Commons
friends; so we had some very pleasant talk, and in a little while
in came Allen, who is warden of Dulwich College, and who lives
almost entirely at Holland House. He is certainly a man of vast
information and great conversational powers. Some other gentlemen
dropped in, and we chatted till Lady Holland made her appearance.
Lord Holland dined by himself on account of his gout. We sat down
to dinner in a fine long room, the wainscot of which is rich with
gilded coronets, roses, and portcullises. There were Lord
Albemarle, Lord Alvanley, Lord Russell, Lord Mahon,--a violent
Tory, but a very agreeable companion, and a very good scholar.
There was Cradock, a fine fellow who was the Duke of Wellington's
aide-de-camp in 1815, and some other people whose names I did not
catch. What however is more to the purpose, there was a most
excellent dinner. I have always heard that Holland House is
famous for its good cheer, and certainly the reputation is not
unmerited. After dinner Lord Holland was wheeled in, and placed
very near me. He was extremely amusing and good-natured.
In the drawing-room I had a long talk with Lady Holland about the
antiquities of the house, and about the purity of the English
language, wherein she thinks herself a critic. I happened, in
speaking about the Reform Bill, to say that I wished that it had
been possible to form a few commercial constituencies, if the
word constituency were admissible. "I am glad you put that in,"
said her ladyship. "I was just going to give it you. It is an
odious word. Then there is _talented_ and _influential_, and
_gentlemanly_. I never could break Sheridan of _gentlemanly_,
though he allowed it to be wrong." We talked about the word
_talents_ and its history. I said that it had first appeared in
theological writing, that it was a metaphor taken from the
parable in the New Testament, and that it had gradually passed
from the vocabulary of divinity into common use. I challenged her
to find it in any classical writer on general subjects before the
Restoration, or even before the year 1700. I believe that I might
safely have gone down later. She seemed surprised by this theory,
never having, so far as I could judge, heard of the parable of
the talents. I did not tell her, though I might have done so,
that a person who professes to be a critic in the delicacies of
the English language ought to have the Bible at his fingers'
She is certainly a woman of considerable talents and great
literary acquirements. To me she was excessively gracious; yet
there is a haughtiness in her courtesy which, even after all that
I had heard of her, surprised me. The centurion did not keep his
soldiers in better order than she keeps her guests. It is to one
"Go," and he goeth; and to another "Do this," and it is done.
"Ring the bell, Mr. Macaulay." "Lay down that screen, Lord
Russell; you will spoil it." "Mr. Allen, take a candle and show
Mr. Cradock the picture of Buonaparte." Lord Holland is, on the
other hand, all kindness, simplicity, and vivacity. He talked
very well both on politics and on literature. He asked me in a
very friendly manner about my father's health, and begged to be
remembered to him.
When my coach came, Lady Holland made me promise that I would on
the first fine morning walk out to breakfast with them, and see
the grounds;--and, after drinking a glass of very good iced
lemonade, I took my leave, much amused and pleased. The house
certainly deserves its reputation for pleasantness, and her
ladyship used me, I believe, as well as it is her way to use
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
Court of Commissioners,
Basinghall Street: May 31, 1831.
My dear Sister,--How delighted I am that you like my letters, and
how obliged by yours! But I have little more than my thanks to
give for your last. I have nothing to tell about great people to-
day. I heard no fine music yesterday, saw nobody above the rank
of a baronet, and was shut up in my own room reading and writing
all the morning. This day seems likely to pass in much the
same way, except that I have some bankruptcy business to do,
and a couple of sovereigns to receive. So here I am, with
three of the ugliest attorneys that ever deserved to be
transported sitting opposite to me; a disconsolate-looking
bankrupt, his hands in his empty pockets, standing behind;
a lady scolding for her money, and refusing to be comforted
because it is not; and a surly butcher-like looking creditor,
growling like a house-dog, and saying, as plain as looks
can say "If I sign your certificate, blow me, that's all."
Among these fair and interesting forms, on a piece of official
paper, with a pen and with ink found at the expense of the
public, am I writing to Nancy.
These dirty courts, filled with Jew money-lenders, sheriffs'
officers, attorneys' runners, and a crowd of people who live by
giving sham bail and taking false oaths, are not by any means
such good subjects for a lady's correspondent as the Sculpture
Gallery at Lansdowne House, or the conservatory at Holland House,
or the notes of Pasta, or the talk of Rogers. But we cannot be
always fine. When my Richardsonian epistles are published, there
must be dull as well as amusing letters among them; and this
letter is, I think, as good as those sermons of Sir Charles to
Geronymo which Miss Byron hypocritically asked for, or as the
greater part of that stupid last volume.
We shall soon have more attractive matter. I shall walk out to
breakfast at Holland House; and I am to dine with Sir George
Philips, and with his son the member for Steyning, who have the
best of company; and I am going to the fancy ball of the Jew. He
met me in the street, and implored me to come. "You need not
dress more than for an evening party. You had better come. You
will be delighted. It will be so very pretty." I thought of Dr.
Johnson and the herdsman with his "See, such pretty goats." [See
Boswell's Tour to the Hebrides, Sept. 1 1773. "The Doctor was
prevailed with to mount one of Vass's grays. As he rode upon it
downhill, it did not go well, and he grumbled. I walked on a
little before, but was excessively entertained with the method
taken to keep him in good humour. Hay led the horse's head,
talking to Dr. Johnson as much as he could and, (having heard
him, in the forenoon, express a pastoral pleasure on seeing the
goats browsing,) just when the Doctor was uttering his
displeasure, the fellow cried, with a very Highland accent, 'See,
such pretty goats!' Then he whistled whu! and made them jump."]
However, I told my honest Hebrew that I would come. I may
perhaps, like the Benjamites, steal away some Israelite damsel in
the middle of her dancing.
But the noise all round me is becoming louder, and a baker in a
white coat is bellowing for the book to prove a debt of nine
pounds fourteen shillings and fourpence. So I must finish my
letter and fall to business.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London June 1, 1831.
My dear Sister,--My last letter was a dull one. I mean this to be
very amusing. My last was about Basinghall Street, attorneys, and
bankrupts. But for this,--take it dramatically in the German
Fine morning. Scene, the great entrance of Holland House.
Enter MACAULAY and Two FOOTMEN in livery.
First Footman.--Sir, may I venture to demand your name?
Macaulay.--Macaulay, and thereto I add M.P.
And that addition, even in these proud halls,
May well ensure the bearer some respect.
Second Footman.--And art thou come to breakfast with our Lord?
Macaulay.--I am for so his hospitable will,
And hers--the peerless dame ye serve--hath bade.
First Footman.--Ascend the stair, and thou above shalt find,
On snow-white linen spread, the luscious meal.
(Exit MACAULAY up stairs.)
In plain English prose, I went this morning to breakfast at
Holland House. The day was fine, and I arrived at twenty minutes
after ten. After I had lounged a short time in the dining-room, I
heard a gruff good-natured voice asking, "Where is Mr. Macaulay?
Where have you put him?" and in his arm-chair Lord Holland was
wheeled in. He took me round the apartments, he riding and I
walking. He gave me the history of the most remarkable portraits
in the library, where there is, by the bye, one of the few bad
pieces of Lawrence that I have seen--a head of Charles James Fox,
an ignominious failure. Lord Holland said that it was the worst
ever painted of so eminent a man by so eminent an artist. There
is a very fine head of Machiavelli, and another of Earl Grey, a
very different sort of man. I observed a portrait of Lady Holland
painted some thirty years ago. I could have cried to see the
change. She must have been a most beautiful woman. She still
looks, however, as if she had been handsome, and shows in one
respect great taste and sense. She does not rouge at all; and her
costume is not youthful, so that she looks as well in the morning
as in the evening. We came back to the dining-room. Our breakfast
party consisted of my Lord and Lady, myself, Lord Russell, and
Luttrell. You must have heard of Luttrell. I met him once at
Rogers's; and I have seen him, I think, in other places. He is a
famous wit,--the most popular, I think, of all the professed
wits,--a man who has lived in the highest circles, a scholar, and
no contemptible poet. He wrote a little volume of verse entitled
"Advice to Julia,"--not first rate, but neat, lively, piquant,
and showing the most consummate knowledge of fashionable life.
We breakfasted on very good coffee, and very good tea, and very
good eggs, butter kept in the midst of ice, and hot rolls. Lady
Holland told us her dreams; how she had dreamed that a mad dog
bit her foot, and how she set off to Brodie, and lost her way in
St. Martin's Lane, and could not find him. She hoped, she said,
the dream would not come true. I said that I had had a dream
which admitted of no such hope; for I had dreamed that I heard
Pollock speak in the House of Commons, that the speech was very
long, and that he was coughed down. This dream of mine diverted
After breakfast Lady Holland offered to conduct me to her own
drawing-room, or, rather, commanded my attendance. A very
beautiful room it is, opening on a terrace, and wainscoted with
miniature paintings interesting from their merit, and interesting
from their history. Among them I remarked a great many,--thirty,
I should think,--which even I, who am no great connoisseur, saw
at once could come from no hand but Stothard's. They were all on
subjects from Lord Byron's poems. "Yes," said she; "poor Lord
Byron sent them to me a short time before the separation. I sent
them back, and told him that, if he gave them away, he ought to
give them to Lady Byron. But he said that he would not, and that
if I did not take them, the bailiffs would, and that they would
be lost in the wreck." Her ladyship then honoured me so far as to
conduct me through her dressing-room into the great family
bedchamber to show me a very fine picture by Reynolds of Fox,
when a boy, birds-nesting. She then consigned me to Luttrell,
asking him to show me the grounds.
Through the grounds we went, and very pretty I thought them. In
the Dutch garden is a fine bronze bust of Napoleon, which Lord
Holland put up in 1817, while Napoleon was a prisoner at St.
Helena. The inscription was selected by his lordship, and is
remarkably happy. It is from Homer's Odyssey. I will translate
it, as well as I can extempore, into a measure which gives a
better idea of Homer's manner than Pope's singsong couplet.
For not, be sure, within the grave
Is hid that prince, the wise, the brave;
But in an islet's narrow bound,
With the great Ocean roaring round,
The captive of a foeman base
He pines to view his native place.
There is a seat near the spot which is called Rogers's seat. The
poet loves, it seems, to sit there. A very elegant inscription by
Lord Holland is placed over it.
"Here Rogers sate; and here for ever dwell
With me those pleasures which he sang so well."
Very neat and condensed, I think. Another inscription by Luttrell
hangs there. Luttrell adjured me with mock pathos to spare his
blushes; but I am author enough to know what the blushes of
authors mean. So I read the lines, and very pretty and polished
they were, but too many to be remembered from one reading.
Having gone round the grounds I took my leave, very much pleased
with the place. Lord Holland is extremely kind. But that is of
course; for he is kindness itself. Her ladyship too, which is by
no means of course, is all graciousness and civility. But, for
all this, I would much rather be quietly walking with you; and
the great use of going to these fine places is to learn how happy
it is possible to be without them. Indeed, I care so little for
them that I certainly should not have gone to-day, but that I
thought that I should be able to find materials for a letter
which you might like.
T. B. MACAULAY.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: June 3, 1831.
My dear Sister,--I cannot tell you how delighted I am to find
that my letters amuse you. But sometimes I must be dull like my
neighbours. I paid no visits yesterday, and have no news to
relate to-day. I am sitting again in Basinghall Street and Basil
Montagu is haranguing about Lord Verulam, and the way of
inoculating one's mind with truth; and all this a propos of a
lying bankrupt's balance-sheet. ["Those who are acquainted with
the Courts in which Mr. Montagu practises with so much ability
and success, will know how often he enlivens the discussion of a
point of law by citing some weighty aphorism, or some brilliant
illustration, from the De Augmentis or the Novum Organum."--
Macaulay's Review of Basil Montagu's Edition of Bacon.]
Send me some gossip, my love. Tell me how you go on with German.
What novel have you commenced? Or, rather, how many dozen have
you finished? Recommend me one. What say you to "Destiny"? Is the
"Young Duke" worth reading? and what do you think of "Laurie
I am writing about Lord Byron so pathetically that I make
Margaret cry, but so slowly that I am afraid I shall make Napier
wait. Rogers, like a civil gentleman, told me last week to write
no more reviews, and to publish separate works; adding, what for
him is a very rare thing, a compliment: "You may do anything, Mr.
Macaulay." See how vain and insincere human nature is! I have
been put into so good a temper with Rogers that I have paid him,
what is as rare with me as with him, a very handsome compliment
in my review. ["Well do we remember to have heard a most correct
judge of poetry revile Mr. Rogers for the incorrectness of that
most sweet and graceful passage:--
'Such grief was ours,--it seems but yesterday,--
When in thy prime, wishing so much to stay,
Twas thine, Maria, thine without a sigh
At midnight in a sister's arms to die,
Oh! thou wast lovely; lovely was thy frame,
And pure thy spirit as from heaven it came;
And, when recalled to join the blest above,
Thou diedst a victim to exceeding love
Nursing the young to health. In happier hours,
When idle Fancy wove luxuriant flowers,
Once in thy mirth thou badst me write on thee;
And now I write what thou shalt never see.'
Macaulay's Essay on Byron.] It is not undeserved; but I confess
that I cannot understand the popularity of his poetry. It is
pleasant and flowing enough; less monotonous than most of the
imitations of Pope and Goldsmith; and calls up many agreeable
images and recollections. But that such men as Lord Granville,
Lord Holland, Hobhouse, Lord Byron, and others of high rank in
intellect, should place Rogers, as they do, above Southey, Moore,
and even Scott himself, is what I cannot conceive. But this comes
of being in the highest society of London. What Lady Jane
Granville called the Patronage of Fashion can do as much for a
middling poet as for a plain girl like Miss Arabella Falconer.
[Lady Jane, and Miss Arabella, appear in Miss Edgeworth's
But I must stop. This rambling talk has been scrawled in the
middle of haranguing, squabbling, swearing, and crying. Since I
began it I have taxed four bills, taken forty depositions, and
rated several perjured witnesses.
T. B. M.
To Hannah and Margaret Macaulay.
London: June 7, 1831.
Yesterday I dined at Marshall's, and was almost consoled for not
meeting Ramohun Roy by a very pleasant party. The great sight was
the two wits, Rogers and Sydney Smith. Singly I have often seen
them; but to see them both together was a novelty, and a novelty
not the less curious because their mutual hostility is well
known, and the hard hits which they have given to each other are
in everybody's mouth. They were very civil, however. But I was
struck by the truth of what Matthew Bramble, a person of whom you
probably never heard, says in Smollett's Humphrey Clinker: that
one wit in a company, like a knuckle of ham in soup, gives a
flavour; but two are too many. Rogers and Sydney Smith would not
come into conflict. If one had possession of the company, the
other was silent; and, as you may conceive, the one who had
possession of the company was always Sydney Smith, and the one
who was silent was always Rogers. Sometimes, however, the company
divided, and each of them had a small congregation. I had a good
deal of talk with both of them; for, in whatever they may
disagree, they agree in always treating me with very marked
I had a good deal of pleasant conversation with Rogers. He was
telling me of the curiosity and interest which attached to the
persons of Sir Walter Scott and Lord Byron. When Sir Walter Scott
dined at a gentleman's in London some time ago, all the servant-
maids in the house asked leave to stand in the passage and see
him pass. He was, as you may conceive, greatly flattered. About
Lord Byron, whom he knew well, he told me some curious anecdotes.
When Lord Byron passed through Florence, Rogers was there. They
had a good deal of conversation, and Rogers accompanied him to
his carriage. The inn had fifty windows in front. All the windows
were crowded with women, mostly English women, to catch a glance
at their favourite poet. Among them were some at whose houses he
had often been in England, and with whom he had lived on friendly
terms. He would not notice them, or return their salutations.
Rogers was the only person that he spoke to.
The worst thing that I know about Lord Byron is the very
unfavourable impression which he made on men, who certainly were
not inclined to judge him harshly, and who, as far as I know,
were never personally ill-used by him. Sharp and Rogers both
speak of him as an unpleasant, affected, splenetic person. I have
heard hundreds and thousands of people who never saw him rant
about him; but I never heard a single expression of fondness for
him fall from the lips of any of those who knew him well. Yet,
even now, after the lapse of five-and-twenty years, there are
those who cannot talk for a quarter of an hour about Charles Fox
Sydney Smith leaves London on the 20th, the day before Parliament
meets for business. I advised him to stay, and see something of
his friends who would be crowding to London. "My flock!" said
this good shepherd. "My dear Sir, remember my flock! The hungry
sheep look up and are not fed."
I could say nothing to such an argument; but I could not help
thinking that, if Mr. Daniel Wilson had said such a thing, it
would infallibly have appeared in his funeral sermon, and in his
Life by Baptist Noel. But in poor Sydney's mouth it sounded like
a joke. He begged me to come and see him at Combe Florey. "There
I am, Sir, the priest of the Flowery Valley, in a delightful
parsonage, about which I care a good deal, and a delightful
country, about which I do not care a straw." I told him that my
meeting him was some compensation for missing Ramohun Roy. Sydney
"Compensation! Do you mean to insult me? A beneficed clergyman,
an orthodox clergyman, a nobleman's chaplain, to be no more than
compensation for a Brahmin; and a heretic Brahmin too, a fellow
who has lost his own religion and can't find another; a vile
heterodox dog, who, as I am credibly informed eats beef-steaks in
private! A man who has lost his caste! who ought to have melted
lead poured down his nostrils, if the good old Vedas were in
force as they ought to be."
These are some Boswelliana of Sydney; not very clerical, you will
say, but indescribably amusing to the hearers, whatever the
readers may think of them. Nothing can present a more striking
contrast to his rapid, loud, laughing utterance, and his rector-
like amplitude and rubicundity, than the low, slow, emphatic
tone, and the corpse-like face of Rogers. There is as great a
difference in what they say as in the voice and look with which
they say it. The conversation of Rogers is remarkably polished
and artificial. What he says seems to have been long meditated,
and might be published with little correction. Sydney talks from
the impulse of the moment, and his fun is quite inexhaustible.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M Macaulay.
London: June 8, 1831.
My dear Sister,--Yesterday night I went to the Jew's. I had
indeed no excuse for forgetting the invitation; for, about a week
after I had received the green varnished billet, and answered it,
came another in the self-same words, and addressed to Mr.
Macaulay, Junior. I thought that my answer had miscarried; so
down I sate, and composed a second epistle to the Hebrews. I
afterwards found that the second invitation was meant for
I set off a little after ten, having attired myself simply as for
a dinner-party. The house is a very fine one. The door was
guarded by peace-officers, and besieged by starers. My host met
me in a superb court-dress, with his sword at his side. There was
a most sumptuous-looking Persian, covered with gold lace. Then
there was an Italian bravo with a long beard. Two old gentlemen,
who ought to have been wiser, were fools enough to come in
splendid Turkish costumes at which everybody laughed. The fancy-
dresses were worn almost exclusively by the young people. The
ladies for the most part contented themselves with a few flowers
and ribands oddly disposed. There was, however, a beautiful Mary
Queen of Scots, who looked as well as dressed the character
perfectly; an angel of a Jewess in a Highland plaid; and an old
woman, or rather a woman,--for through her disguise it was
impossible to ascertain her age,--in the absurdest costume of the
last century. These good people soon began their quadrilles and
galopades, and were enlivened by all the noise that twelve
fiddlers could make for their lives.
You must not suppose the company was made up of these mummers.
There was Dr. Lardner, and Long, the Greek Professor in the
London University, and Sheil, and Strutt, and Romilly, and Owen
the philanthropist. Owen laid bold on Sheil, and gave him a
lecture on Co-operation which lasted for half an hour. At last
Sheil made his escape. Then Owen seized Mrs. Sheil,--a good
Catholic, and a very agreeable woman,--and began to prove to her
that there could be no such thing as moral responsibility. I had
fled at the first sound of his discourse, and was talking with
Strutt and Romilly, when behold! I saw Owen leave Mrs. Sheil and
come towards us. So I cried out "Sauve qui peut!" and we ran off.
But before we had got five feet from where we were standing, who
should meet us face to face but Old Basil Montagu? "Nay, then,"
said I, "the game is up. The Prussians are on our rear. If we are
to be bored to death there is no help for it." Basil seized
Romilly; Owen took possession of Strutt; and I was blessing
myself on my escape, when the only human being worthy to make a
third with such a pair, J--, caught me by the arm, and begged to
have a quarter of an hour's conversation with me. While I was
suffering under J--, a smart impudent-looking young dog, dressed
like a sailor in a blue jacket and check shirt, marched up, and
asked a Jewish-looking damsel near me to dance with him. I
thought that I had seen the fellow before; and, after a little
looking, I perceived that it was Charles; and most knowingly, I
assure you, did he perform a quadrille with Miss Hilpah Manasses.
If I were to tell you all that I saw I should exceed my ounce.
There was Martin the painter, and Proctor, alias Barry Cornwall,
the poet or poetaster. I did not see one Peer, or one star,
except a foreign order or two, which I generally consider as an
intimation to look to my pockets. A German knight is a dangerous
neighbour in a crowd. [Macaulay ended by being a German knight
himself.] After seeing a galopade very prettily danced by the
Israelitish women, I went downstairs, reclaimed my hat, and
walked into the dining-room. There, with some difficulty, I
squeezed myself between a Turk and a Bernese peasant, and
obtained an ice, a macaroon, and a glass of wine. Charles was
there, very active in his attendance on his fair Hilpah. I bade
him good night. "What!" said young Hopeful, "are you going yet?"
It was near one o'clock; but this joyous tar seemed to think it
impossible that anybody could dream of leaving such delightful
enjoyments till daybreak. I left him staying Hilpah with flagons,
and walked quietly home. But it was some time before I could get
to sleep. The sound of fiddles was in mine ears; and gaudy
dresses, and black hair, and Jewish noses, were fluctuating up
and down before mine eyes.
There is a fancy ball for you. If Charles writes a history of it,
tell me which of us does it best.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M Macaulay.
London: June 10. 1835.
My dear Sister,--I am at Basinghall Street, and I snatch this
quarter of an hour, the only quarter of an hour which I am likely
to secure during the day, to write to you. I will not omit
writing two days running, because, if my letters give you half
the pleasure which your letters give me, you will, I am sure,
miss them. I have not, however, much to tell. I have been very
busy with my article on Moore's Life of Byron. I never wrote
anything with less heart. I do not like the book; I do not like
the hero; I have said the most I could for him, and yet I shall be
abused for speaking as coldly of him as I have done.
I dined the day before yesterday at Sir George Philips's with
Sotheby, Morier the author of "Hadji Baba," and Sir James
Mackintosh. Morier began to quote Latin before the ladies had
left the room, and quoted it by no means to the purpose. After
their departure he fell to repeating Virgil, choosing passages
which everybody else knows and does not repeat. He, though he
tried to repeat them, did not know them, and could not get on
without my prompting. Sotheby was full of his translation of
Homer's Iliad, some specimens of which he has already published.
It is a complete failure; more literal than that of Pope, but
still tainted with the deep radical vice of Pope's version, a
thoroughly modern and artificial manner. It bears the same kind
of relation to the Iliad that Robertson's narrative bears to the
story of Joseph in the book of Genesis.
There is a pretty allegory in Homer--I think in the last book,
but I forget precisely where--about two vessels, the one filled
with blessings and the other with sorrow, which stand, says the
poet, on the right and left hand of Jupiter's throne, and from
which he dispenses good and evil at his pleasure among men. What
word to use for these vessels has long posed the translators of
Homer. Pope, who loves to be fine, calls them _urns_. Cowper, who
loves to be coarse, calls them _casks_;--a translation more
improper than Pope's; for a cask is, in our general
understanding, a wooden vessel; and the Greek word means an
earthen vessel. There is a curious letter of Cowper's to one of
his female correspondents about this unfortunate word. She begged
that Jupiter might be allowed a more elegant piece of furniture
for his throne than a cask. But Cowper was peremptory. I
mentioned this incidentally when we were talking about
translations. This set Sotheby off. "I," said he, "have
translated it _vase_. I hope that meets your ideas. Don't you
think vase will do? Does it satisfy you?" I told him, sincerely
enough, that it satisfied me; for I must be most unreasonable to
be dissatisfied at anything that he chooses to put in a book
which I never shall read. Mackintosh was very agreeable; and, as
usually happens when I meet him, I learned something from him.
[Macaulay wrote to one of his nieces in September 1859: "I am
glad that Mackintosh's Life interests you. I knew him well; and a
kind friend he was to me when I was a young fellow, fighting my
The great topic now in London is not, as you perhaps fancy,
Reform, but Cholera. There is a great panic; as great a panic as I
remember, particularly in the City. Rice shakes his head, and
says that this is the most serious thing that has happened in his
time; and assuredly, if the disease were to rage in London as it
has lately raged in Riga, it would be difficult to imagine
anything more horrible. I, however, feel no uneasiness. In the
first place I have a strong leaning towards the doctrines of the
anti-contagionists. In the next place I repose a great confidence
in the excellent food and the cleanliness of the English.
I have this instant received your letter of yesterday with the
enclosed proof-sheets. Your criticism is to a certain extent
just; but you have not considered the whole sentence together.
Depressed is in itself better than weighed down; but "the
oppressive privileges which had depressed industry" would be a
horrible cacophony. I hope that word convinces you. I have often
observed that a fine Greek compound is an excellent substitute
for a reason.
I met Rogers at the Athenaeum. He begged me to breakfast with
him, and name my day, and promised that he would procure me as
agreeable a party as he could find in London. Very kind of the
old man, is it not? and, if you knew how Rogers is thought of,
you would think it as great a compliment as could be paid to a
Duke. Have you seen what the author of the "Young Duke" says
about me: how rabid I am, and how certain I am to rat?
T. B. M.
Macaulay's account of the allusion to himself in the "Young Duke"
is perfectly accurate; and yet, when read as a whole, the passage
in question does not appear to have been ill-naturedly meant. ["I
hear that Mr. Babington Macaulay is to be returned. If he speaks
half as well as he writes, the House will be in fashion again. I
fear that he is one of those who, like the individual whom he has
most studied, will give up to a party what was meant for mankind.
At any rate, he must get rid of his rabidity. He writes now on
all subjects as if he certainly intended to be a renegade, and
was determined to make the contrast complete."--The Young Duke,
book v chap. vi.] It is much what any young literary man outside
the House of Commons might write of another who had only been
inside that House for a few weeks; and it was probably forgotten
by the author within twenty-four hours after the ink was dry. It
is to be hoped that the commentators of the future will not treat
it as an authoritative record of Mr. Disraeli's estimate of Lord
Macaulay's political character.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: June 25, 1831.
My dear Sister,--There was, as you will see, no debate on Lord
John Russell's motion. The Reform Bill is to be brought in, read
once, and printed, without discussion. The contest will be on the
second reading, and will be protracted, I should think, through
the whole of the week after next;--next week it will be, when you
read this letter.
I breakfasted with Rogers yesterday. There was nobody there but
Moore. We were all on the most friendly and familiar terms
possible; and Moore, who is, Rogers tells me, excessively pleased
with my review of his book, showed me very marked attention. I
was forced to go away early on account of bankrupt business; but
Rogers said that we must have the talk out so we are to meet at
his house again to breakfast. What a delightful house it is! It
looks out on the Green Park just at the most pleasant point. The
furniture has been selected with a delicacy of taste quite
unique. Its value does not depend on fashion, but must be the
same while the fine arts are held in any esteem. In the drawing-
room, for example, the chimney-pieces are carved by Flaxman into
the most beautiful Grecian forms. The book-case is painted by
Stothard, in his very best manner, with groups from Chaucer,
Shakespeare, and Boccacio. The pictures are not numerous; but
every one is excellent. In the dining-room there are also some
beautiful paintings. But the three most remarkable objects in
that room are, I think, a cast of Pope taken after death by
Roubiliac; a noble model in terra-cotta by Michael Angelo, from
which he afterwards made one of his finest statues, that of
Lorenzo de Medici; and, lastly, a mahogany table on which stands
an antique vase.
When Chantrey dined with Rogers some time ago he took particular
notice of the vase, and the table on which it stands, and asked
Rogers who made the table. "A common carpenter," said Rogers. "Do
you remember the making of it?" said Chantrey. "Certainly," said
Rogers, in some surprise. "I was in the room while it was
finished with the chisel, and gave the workman directions about
placing it." "Yes," said Chantrey, "I was the carpenter. I
remember the room well, and all the circumstances." A curious
story, I think, and honourable both to the talent which raised
Chantrey, and to the magnanimity which kept him from being
ashamed of what he had been.
Ever yours affectionately
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: June 29, 1831.
My dear Sister,--We are not yet in the full tide of Parliamentary
business. Next week the debates will be warm and long. I should
not wonder if we had a discussion of five nights. I shall
probably take a part in it.
I have breakfasted again with Rogers. The party was a remarkable
one,--Lord John Russell, Tom Moore, Tom Campbell, and Luttrell.
We were all very lively. An odd incident took place after
breakfast, while we were standing at the window and looking into
the Green Park. Somebody was talking about diners-out. "Ay," said
"Ye diners-out from whom we guard our spoons."
Tom Moore asked where the line was. "Don't you know?" said
Campbell. "Not I," said Moore. "Surely," said Campbell, "it is
your own." "I never saw it in my life," said Moore. "It is in one
of your best things in the Times," said Campbell. Moore denied
it. Hereupon I put in my claim, and told them that it was mine.
Do you remember it? It is in some lines called the Political
Georgics, which I sent to the Times about three years ago. They
made me repeat the lines, and were vociferous in praise of them.
Tom Moore then said, oddly enough:
"There is another poem in the Times that I should like to know
the author of;--A Parson's Account of his Journey to the
Cambridge Election." I laid claim to that also. "That is
curious," said Moore. "I begged Barnes to tell me who wrote it.
He said that he had received it from Cambridge, and touched it up
himself, and pretended that all the best strokes were his. I
believed that he was lying, because I never knew him to make a
good joke in his life. And now the murder is out." They asked me
whether I had put anything else in the Times. Nothing, I said,
except the Sortes Virgilianae, which Lord John remembered well. I
never mentioned the Cambridge Journey, or the Georgics, to any
but my own family; and I was therefore, as you may conceive, not
a little flattered to hear in one day Moore praising one of them,
and Campbell praising the other.
I find that my article on Byron is very popular; one among a
thousand proofs of the bad taste of the public. I am to review
Croker's edition of Bozzy. It is wretchedly ill done. The notes
are poorly written, and shamefully inaccurate. There is, however,
much curious information in it. The whole of the Tour to the
Hebrides is incorporated with the Life. So are most of Mrs.
Thrale's anecdotes, and much of Sir John Hawkins's lumbering
book. The whole makes five large volumes. There is a most
laughable sketch of Bozzy, taken by Sir T. Lawrence when young. I
never saw a character so thoroughly hit off. I intend the book for
you, when I have finished my criticism on it. You are, next to
myself, the best read Boswellite that I know. The lady whom
Johnson abused for flattering him [See Boswell's Life of Johnson,
April 15, 1778.] was certainly, according to Croker, Hannah More.
Another ill-natured sentence about a Bath lady ["He would not
allow me to praise a lady then at Bath; observing, 'She does not
gain upon me, sir; I think her empty-headed.'"] whom Johnson
called "empty-headed" is also applied to your godmother.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: July 6, 1835.
My dear Sister,--I have been so busy during the last two or three
days that I have found no time to write to you. I have now good
news for you. I spoke yesterday night with a success beyond my
utmost expectations. I am half ashamed to tell you the
compliments which I have received; but you well know that it is
not from vanity, but to give you pleasure, that I tell you what
is said about me. Lord Althorp told me twice that it was the best
speech he had ever heard; Graham, and Stanley, and Lord John
Russell spoke of it in the same way; and O'Connell followed me
out of the house to pay me the most enthusiastic compliments. I
delivered my speech much more slowly than any that I have before
made, and it is in consequence better reported than its
predecessors, though not well. I send you several papers. You
will see some civil things in the leading articles of some of
them. My greatest pleasure, in the midst of all this praise, is
to think of the pleasure which my success will give to my father
and my sisters. It is happy for me that ambition has in my mind
been softened into a kind of domestic feeling, and that affection
has at least as much to do as vanity with my wish to distinguish
myself. This I owe to my dear mother, and to the interest which
she always took in my childish successes. From my earliest years,
the gratification of those whom I love has been associated with
the gratification of my own thirst for fame, until the two have
become inseparably joined in my mind.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M Macaulay
London: July 8, 1831.
My dear Sister,--Do you want to hear all the compliments that are
paid to me? I shall never end, if I stuff my letters with them;
for I meet nobody who does not give me joy. Baring tells me that
I ought never to speak again. Howick sent a note to me yesterday
to say that his father wished very much to be introduced to me,
and asked me to dine with them yesterday, as, by great good luck,
there was nothing to do in the House of Commons. At seven I went
to Downing Street, where Earl Grey's official residence stands.
It is a noble house. There are two splendid drawing-rooms, which
overlook St. James's Park. Into these I was shown. The servant
told me that Lord Grey was still at the House of Lords, and that
her Ladyship had just gone to dress. Howick had not mentioned the
hour in his note. I sate down, and turned over two large
portfolios of political caricatures. Earl Grey's own face was in
every print. I was very much diverted. I had seen some of them
before; but many were new to me, and their merit is
extraordinary. They were the caricatures of that remarkably able
artist who calls himself H. B. In about half an hour Lady
Georgiana Grey, and the Countess, made their appearance. We had
some pleasant talk, and they made many apologies. The Earl, they
said, was unexpectedly delayed by a question which had arisen in
the Lords. Lady Holland arrived soon after, and gave me a most
gracious reception; shook my hand very warmly, and told me, in
her imperial decisive manner, that she had talked with all the
principal men on our side about my speech, that they all agreed
that it was the best that had been made since the death of Fox,
and that it was more like Fox's speaking than anybody's else.
Then she told me that I was too much worked, that I must go out
of town, and absolutely insisted on my going to Holland House to
dine, and take a bed, on the next day on which there is no
Parliamentary business. At eight we went to dinner. Lord Howick
took his father's place, and we feasted very luxuriously. At nine
Lord Grey came from the House with Lord Durham, Lord Holland, and
the Duke of Richmond. They dined on the remains of our dinner
with great expedition, as they had to go to a Cabinet Council at
ten. Of course I had scarcely any talk with Lord Grey. He was,
however, extremely polite to me, and so were his colleagues. I
liked the ways of the family.
I picked up some news from these Cabinet Ministers. There is to
be a Coronation on quite a new plan; no banquet in Westminster
Hall, no feudal services, no champion, no procession from the
Abbey to the Hall, and back again. But there is to be a service
in the Abbey. All the Peers are to come in state and in their
robes, and the King is to take the oaths, and be crowned and
anointed in their presence. The spectacle will be finer than
usual to the multitude out of doors. The few hundreds who could
obtain admittance to the Hall will be the only losers.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: July 8, 1831.
My dear Sister,--Since I wrote to you I have been out to dine and
sleep at Holland House. We had a very agreeable and splendid
party; among others the Duke and Duchess of Richmond, and the
Marchioness of Clanricarde, who, you know, is the daughter of
Canning. She is very beautiful, and very like her father, with
eyes full of fire, and great expression in all her features. She
and I had a great deal of talk. She showed much cleverness and
information, but, I thought, a little more of political animosity
than is quite becoming in a pretty woman. However, she has been