Part 5 out of 9
placed in peculiar circumstances. The daughter of a statesman who
was a martyr to the rage of faction may be pardoned for speaking
sharply of the enemies of her parent; and she did speak sharply.
With knitted brows, and flashing eyes, and a look of feminine
vengeance about her beautiful mouth, she gave me such a character
of Peel as he would certainly have had no pleasure in hearing.
In the evening Lord John Russell came; and, soon after, old
Talleyrand. I had seen Talleyrand in very large parties, hut had
never been near enough to hear a word that he said. I now had the
pleasure of listening for an hour and a half to his conversation.
He is certainly the greatest curiosity that I ever fell in with.
His head is sunk down between two high shoulders. One of his feet
is hideously distorted. His face is as pale as that of a corpse,
and wrinkled to a frightful degree. His eyes have an odd glassy
stare quite peculiar to them. His hair, thickly powdered and
pomatumed, hangs down his shoulders on each side as straight as a
pound of tallow candles. His conversation, however, soon makes
you forget his ugliness and infirmities. There is a poignancy
without effort in all that he says, which reminded me a little of
the character which the wits of Johnson's circle give of
Beauclerk. For example, we talked about Metternich and Cardinal
Mazarin. "J'y trouve beaucoup a redire. Le Cardinal trompait;
mais il ne mentait pas. Or, M. de Metternich ment toujours, et ne
trompe jamais." He mentioned M. de St. Aulaire,--now one of the
most distinguished public men of France. I said: "M. de Saint-
Aulaire est beau-pere de M. le duc de Cazes, n'est-ce pas?" "Non,
monsieur," said Talleyrand; "l'on disait, il y a douze ans, que
M. de Saint-Aulaire etoit beau-pere de M. de Cazes; l'on dit
maintenant que M. de Cazes est gendre de M. de Saint-Aulaire."
[This saying remained in Macaulay's mind. He quoted it on the
margin of his Aulus Gellius, as an illustration of the passage in
the nineteenth book in which Julius Caesar is described, absurdly
enough as "perpetuus ille dictator, Cneii Pompeii socer".] It was
not easy to describe the change in the relative positions of two
men more tersely and more sharply; and these remarks were made in
the lowest tone, and without the slightest change of muscle, just
as if he had been remarking that the day was fine. He added: "M.
de Saint-Aulaire a beaucoup d'esprit. Mais il est devot, et, ce
qui pis est, devot honteux. Il va se cacher dans quelque hameau
pour faire ses Paques." This was a curious remark from a Bishop.
He told several stories about the political men of France; not of
any great value in themselves; but his way of telling them was
beyond all praise,--concise, pointed, and delicately satirical.
When he had departed, I could not help breaking out into
admiration of his talent for relating anecdotes. Lady Holland
said that he had been considered for nearly forty years as the
best teller of a story in Europe, and that there was certainly
nobody like him in that respect.
When the Prince was gone, we went to bed. In the morning Lord
John Russell drove me back to London in his cabriolet, much
amused with what I had seen and heard. But I must stop.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
Basinghall Street: July 15 1831.
My dear Sister,--The rage of faction at the present moment
exceeds anything that has been known in our day. Indeed I doubt
whether, at the time of Mr. Pitt's first becoming Premier, at the
time of Sir Robert Walpole's fall, or even during the desperate
struggles between the Whigs and Tories at the close of Anne's
reign, the fury of party was so fearfully violent. Lord Mahon
said to me yesterday that friendships of long standing were
everywhere giving way, and that the schism between the reformers
and the anti-reformers was spreading from the House of Commons
into every private circle. Lord Mahon himself is an exception. He
and I are on excellent terms. But Praed and I become colder every
The scene of Tuesday night beggars description. I left the House
at about three, in consequence of some expressions of Lord
Althorp's which indicated that the Ministry was inclined to yield
on the question of going into Committee on the Bill. I afterwards
much regretted that I had gone away; not that my presence was
necessary; but because I should have liked to have sate through
so tremendous a storm. Towards eight in the morning the Speaker
was almost fainting. The Ministerial members, however, were as
true as steel. They furnished the Ministry with the resolution
which it wanted. "If the noble Lord yields," said one of our men,
"all is lost." Old Sir Thomas Baring sent for his razor, and
Benett, the member for Wiltshire, for his night-cap; and they
were both resolved to spend the whole day in the House rather
than give way. If the Opposition had not yielded, in two hours
half London would have been in Old Palace Yard.
Since Tuesday the Tories have been rather cowed. But their
demeanour, though less outrageous than at the beginning of the
week, indicates what would in any other time be called extreme
violence. I have not been once in bed till three in the morning
since last Sunday. To-morrow we have a holiday. I dine at
Lansdowne House. Next week I dine with Littleton, the member for
Staffordshire, and his handsome wife. He told me that I should
meet two men whom I am curious to see, Lord Plunket and the
Marquess Wellesley; let alone the Chancellor, who is not a
novelty to me.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: July 25, 1831.
My dear Sister,--On Saturday evening I went to Holland House.
There I found the Dutch Ambassador, M. de Weissembourg, Mr. and
Mrs. Vernon Smith, and Admiral Adam, a son of old Adam, who
fought the duel with Fox. We dined like Emperors, and jabbered in
several languages. Her Ladyship, for an esprit fort, is the
greatest coward that I ever saw. The last time that I was there
she was frightened out of her wits by the thunder. She closed all
the shutters, drew all the curtains, and ordered candles in broad
day to keep out the lightning, or rather the appearance of the
lightning. On Saturday she was in a terrible taking about the
cholera; talked of nothing else; refused to eat any ice because
somebody said that ice was bad for the cholera; was sure that the
cholera was at Glasgow; and asked me why a cordon of troops was
not instantly placed around that town to prevent all intercourse
between the infected and the healthy spots. Lord Holland made
light of her fears. He is a thoroughly good-natured, open,
sensible man; very lively; very intellectual; well read in
politics, and in the lighter literature both of ancient and
modern times. He sets me more at ease than almost any person that
I know, by a certain good-humoured way of contradicting that he
has. He always begins by drawing down his shaggy eyebrows, making
a face extremely like his uncle, wagging his head and saying:
"Now do you know, Mr. Macaulay, I do not quite see that. How do
you make it out?" He tells a story delightfully; and bears the
pain of his gout, and the confinement and privations to which it
subjects him, with admirable fortitude and cheerfulness. Her
Ladyship is all courtesy and kindness to me; but her demeanour to
some others, particularly to poor Allen, is such as it quite
pains me to witness. He really is treated like a negro slave.
"Mr. Allen, go into my drawing-room and bring my reticule." "Mr.
Allen, go and see what can be the matter that they do not bring
up dinner." "Mr. Allen, there is not enough turtle-soup for you.
You must take gravy-soup or none." Yet I can scarcely pity the
man. He has an independent income; and, if he can stoop to be
ordered about like a footman, I cannot so much blame her for the
contempt with which she treats him.
Perhaps I may write again to-morrow.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
Library of the House of Commons
July 26, 1831.
My dear Sister,--Here I am seated, waiting for the debate on the
borough of St. Germains with a very quiet party,--Lord Milton,
Lord Tavistock, and George Lamb. But, instead of telling you in
dramatic form my conversations with Cabinet Ministers, I shall, I
think, go back two or three days, and complete the narrative
which I left imperfect in my epistle of yesterday.
[This refers to a passage in a former letter, likewise written
from the Library of the House.
"'Macaulay!' Who calls Macaulay? Sir James Graham. What can he
have to say to me? Take it dramatically:
Sir J. G. Macaulay!
Sir J. G. Whom are you writing to, that you laugh so much over
Macaulay. To my constituents at Caine, to be sure. They expect
news of the Reform Bill every day.
Sir J. G. Well, writing to constituents is less of a plague to
you than to most people, to judge by your face.
Macaulay. How do you know that I am not writing a billet doux to
Sir J. G. You look more like it, by Jove!
Cutlar Ferguson, M.P. for Kirkcudbright. Let ladies and
constituents alone, and come into the House. We are going on to
the case of the borough of Great Bedwin immediately."]
At half after seven on Sunday I was set down at Littleton's
palace, for such it is, in Grosvenor Place. It really is a noble
house; four superb drawing-rooms on the first floor, hung round
with some excellent pictures--a Hobbema, (the finest by that
artist in the world, it is said,) and Lawrence's charming
portrait of Mrs. Littleton. The beautiful original, by the bye,
did not make her appearance. We were a party of gentlemen. But
such gentlemen! Listen, and be proud of your connection with one
who is admitted to eat and drink in the same room with beings so
exalted. There were two Chancellors, Lord Brougham and Lord
Plunket. There was Earl Gower; Lord St. Vincent; Lord Seaford;
Lord Duncannon; Lord Ebrington; Sir James Graham; Sir John
Newport; the two Secretaries of the Treasury, Rice and Ellice;
George Lamb; Denison; and half a dozen more Lords and
distinguished Commoners, not to mention Littleton himself. Till
last year he lived in Portman Square. When he changed his
residence his servants gave him warning. They could not, they
said, consent to go into such an unheard-of part of the world as
Grosvenor Place. I can only say that I have never been in a finer
house than Littleton's, Lansdowne House excepted,--and perhaps
Lord Milton's, which is also in Grosvenor Place. He gave me a
dinner of dinners. I talked with Denison, and with nobody else. I
have found out that the real use of conversational powers is to
put them forth in tete-a-tete. A man is flattered by your talking
your best to him alone. Ten to one he is piqued by your
overpowering him before a company. Denison was agreeable enough.
I heard only one word from Lord Plunket, who was remarkably
silent. He spoke of Doctor Thorpe, and said that, having heard the
Doctor in Dublin, he should like to hear him again in London.
"Nothing easier," quoth Littleton; "his chapel is only two doors
off; and he will be just mounting the pulpit." "No," said Lord
Plunket; "I can't lose my dinner." An excellent saying, though
one which a less able man than Lord Plunket might have uttered.
At midnight I walked away with George Lamb, and went--where for a
ducat? "To bed," says Miss Hannah. Nay, my sister, not so; but to
Brooks's. There I found Sir James Macdonald; Lord Duncannon, who
had left Littleton's just before us; and many other Whigs and
ornaments of human nature. As Macdonald and I were rising to
depart we saw Rogers, and I went to shake hands with him. You
cannot think how kind the old man was to me. He shook my hand
over and over, and told me that Lord Plunket longed to see me in
a quiet way, and that he would arrange a breakfast party in a day
or two for that purpose.
Away I went from Brooks's--but whither? "To bed now, I am sure,"
says little Anne. No, but on a walk with Sir James Macdonald to
the end of Sloane Street, talking about the Ministry, the Reform
Bill, and the East India question.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
House of Commons Smoking Room: Saturday.
My dear Sister,--The newspapers will have, explained the reason
of our sitting to-day. At three this morning I left the House. At
two this afternoon I have returned to it, with the thermometer at
boiling heat, and four hundred and fifty people stowed together
like negroes in the John Newton's slaveship. I have accordingly
left Sir Francis Burdett on his legs, and repaired to the
smoking-room; a large, wainscoted, uncarpeted place, with tables
covered with green baize and writing materials. On a full night
it is generally thronged towards twelve o'clock with smokers. It
is then a perfect cloud of fume. There have I seen, (tell it not
to the West Indians,) Buxton blowing fire out of his mouth. My
father will not believe it. At present, however, all the doors
and windows are open, and the room is pure enough from tobacco to
suit my father himself.
Get Blackwood's new number. There is a description of me in it.
What do you think he says that I am? "A little, splay-footed,
ugly, dumpling of a fellow, with a mouth from ear to ear."
Conceive how such a charge must affect a man so enamoured of his
own beauty as I am.
I said a few words the other night. They were merely in reply,
and quite unpremeditated, and were not ill received. I feel that
much practice will be necessary to make me a good debater on
points of detail; but my friends tell me that I have raised my
reputation by showing that I was quite equal to the work of
extemporaneous reply. My manner, they say, is cold and wants
care. I feel this myself. Nothing but strong excitement, and a
great occasion, overcomes a certain reserve and mauvaise honte
which I have in public speaking; not a mauvaise honte which in
the least confuses me, or makes me hesitate for a word, but which
keeps me from putting any fervour into my tone or my action. This
is perhaps in some respects an advantage; for, when I do warm, I
am the most vehement speaker in the House, and nothing strikes an
audience so much as the animation of an orator who is generally
I ought to tell you that Peel was very civil, and cheered me
loudly; and that impudent leering Croker congratulated the House
on the proof which I had given of my readiness. He was afraid, he
said, that I had been silent so long on account of the many
allusions which had been made to Calne. Now that I had risen
again he hoped that they should hear me often. See whether I do
not dust that varlet's jacket for him in the next number of the
Blue and Yellow. I detest him more than cold boiled veal. ["By
the bye," Macaulay writes elsewhere, "you never saw such a scene
as Croker's oration on Friday night. He abused Lord John Russell;
he abused Lord Althorp; he abused the Lord Advocate, and we took
no notice;--never once groaned or cried 'No!' But he began to
praise Lord Fitzwilliam;--'a venerable nobleman, an excellent and
amiable nobleman' and so forth; and we all broke out together
with 'Question!' 'No, no!' 'This is too bad!' 'Don't, don't!' He
then called Canning his right honourable friend. 'Your friend!
damn your impudent face!' said the member who sate next me."]
After the debate I walked about the streets with Bulwer till near
three o'clock. I spoke to him about his novels with perfect
sincerity, praising warmly, and criticising freely. He took the
praise as a greedy boy takes apple-pie, and the criticism as a
good dutiful boy takes senna-tea. He has one eminent merit, that
of being a most enthusiastic admirer of mine; so that I may be
the hero of a novel yet, under the name of Delamere or Mortimer.
Only think what an honour!
Bulwer is to be editor of the New Monthly Magazine. He begged me
very earnestly to give him something for it. I would make no
promises; for I am already over head and ears in literary
engagements. But I may possibly now and then send him some trifle
or other. At all events I shall expect him to puff me well. I do
not see why I should not have my puffers as well as my
I am glad that you have read Madame de Stael's Allemagne. The
book is a foolish one in some respects; but it abounds with
information, and shows great mental power. She was certainly the
first woman of her age; Miss Edgeworth, I think, the second; and
Miss Austen the third.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: August 29, 1831.
My dear Sister,--Here I am again settled, sitting up in the House
of Commons till three o'clock five days in the week, and getting
an indigestion at great dinners the remaining two. I dined on
Saturday with Lord Althorp, and yesterday with Sir James Graham.
Both of them gave me exactly the same dinner; and, though I am
not generally copious on the repasts which my hosts provide for
me, I must tell you, for the honour of official hospitality, how
our Ministers regale their supporters. Turtle, turbot, venison,
and grouse, formed part of both entertainments.
Lord Althorp was extremely pleasant at the head of his own table.
We were a small party; Lord Ebrington, Hawkins, Captain Spencer,
Stanley, and two or three more. We all of us congratulated Lord
Althorp on his good health and spirits. He told us that he never
took exercise now; that from his getting up, till four o'clock,
he was engaged in the business of his office; that at four he
dined, went down to the House at five, and never stirred till the
House rose, which is always after midnight; that he then went
home, took a basin of arrow-root with a glass of sherry in it,
and went to bed, where he always dropped asleep in three minutes.
"During the week," said he, "which followed my taking office, I
did not close my eyes for anxiety. Since that time I have never
been awake a quarter of an hour after taking off my clothes."
Stanley laughed at Lord Althorp's arrow-root, and recommended his
own supper, cold meat and warm negus; a supper which I will
certainly begin to take when I feel a desire to pass the night
with a sensation as if I was swallowing a nutmeg-grater every
We talked about timidity in speaking. Lord Althorp said that he
had only just got over his apprehensions. "I was as much afraid,"
he said, "last year as when first I came into Parliament. But now
I am forced to speak so often that I am quite hardened. Last
Thursday I was up forty times." I was not much surprised at this
in Lord Althorp, as he is certainly one of the most modest men in
existence. But I was surprised to hear Stanley say that he never
rose without great uneasiness. "My throat and lips," he said,
"when I am going to speak, are as dry as those of a man who is
going to be hanged." Nothing can be more composed and cool than
Stanley's manner. His fault is on that side. A little hesitation
at the beginning of a speech is graceful; and many eminent
speakers have practised it, merely in order to give the
appearance of unpremeditated reply to prepared speeches; but
Stanley speaks like a man who never knew what fear, or even
modesty, was. Tierney, it is remarkable, who was the most ready
and fluent debater almost ever known, made a confession similar
to Stanley's. He never spoke, he said, without feeling his knees
knock together when he rose.
My opinion of Lord Althorp is extremely high. In fact, his
character is the only stay of the Ministry. I doubt whether any
person has ever lived in England who, with no eloquence, no
brilliant talents, no profound information, with nothing in short
but plain good sense and an excellent heart, possessed so much
influence both in and out of Parliament. His temper is an
absolute miracle. He has been worse used than any Minister ever
was in debate; and he has never said one thing inconsistent, I do
not say with gentlemanlike courtesy, but with real benevolence.
Lord North, perhaps, was his equal in suavity and good-nature;
but Lord North was not a man of strict principles. His
administration was not only an administration hostile to liberty,
but it was supported by vile and corrupt means,--by direct
bribery, I fear, in many cases. Lord Althorp has the temper of
Lord North with the principles of Romilly. If he had the
oratorical powers of either of those men, he might do anything.
But his understanding, though just, is slow, and his elocution
painfully defective. It is, however, only justice to him to say
that he has done more service to the Reform Bill even as a
debater than all the other Ministers together, Stanley excepted.
We are going,--by we I mean the Members of Parliament who are for
reform,--as soon as the Bill is through the Commons, to give a
grand dinner to Lord Althorp and Lord John Russell, as a mark of
our respect. Some people wished to have the other Cabinet
Ministers included; but Grant and Palmerston are not in
sufficiently high esteem among the Whigs to be honoured with such
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: September 9, 1835.
My dear Sister,--I scarcely know where to begin, or where to end,
my story of the magnificence of yesterday. No pageant can be
conceived more splendid. The newspapers will happily save me the
trouble of relating minute particulars. I will therefore give you
an account of my own proceedings, and mention what struck me
most. I rose at six. The cannon awaked me; and, as soon as I got
up, I heard the bells pealing on every side from all the steeples
in London. I put on my court-dress, and looked a perfect Lovelace
in it. At seven the glass coach, which I had ordered for myself
and some of my friends, came to the door. I called in Hill Street
for William Marshall, M.P. for Beverley, and in Cork Street for
Strutt the Member for Derby, and Hawkins the Member for
Tavistock. Our party being complete, we drove through crowds of
people, and ranks of horseguards in cuirasses and helmets, to
Westminster Hall, which we reached as the clock struck eight.
The House of Commons was crowded, and the whole assembly was in
uniform. After prayers we went out in order by lot, the Speaker
going last. My county, Wiltshire, was among the first drawn; so I
got an excellent place in the Abbey, next to Lord Mahon, who is a
very great favourite of mine, and a very amusing companion,
though a bitter Tory.
Our gallery was immediately over the great altar. The whole vast
avenue of lofty pillars was directly in front of us. At eleven
the guns fired, the organ struck up, and the procession entered.
I never saw so magnificent a scene. All down that immense vista
of gloomy arches there was one blaze of scarlet and gold. First
came heralds in coats stiff with embroidered lions, unicorns, and
harps; then nobles bearing the regalia, with pages in rich
dresses carrying their coronets on cushions; then the Dean and
Prebendaries of Westminster in copes of cloth of gold; then a
crowd of beautiful girls and women, or at least of girls and
women who at a distance looked altogether beautiful, attending on
the Queen. Her train of purple velvet and ermine was borne by six
of these fair creatures. All the great officers of state in full
robes, the Duke of Wellington with his Marshal's staff, the Duke
of Devonshire with his white rod, Lord Grey with the Sword of
State, and the Chancellor with his seals, came in procession.
Then all the Royal Dukes with their trains borne behind them, and
last the King leaning on two Bishops. I do not, I dare say, give
you the precise order. In fact, it was impossible to discern any
order. The whole abbey was one blaze of gorgeous dresses, mingled
with lovely faces.
The Queen behaved admirably, with wonderful grace and dignity.
The King very awkwardly. The Duke of Devonshire looked as if he
came to be crowned instead of his master. I never saw so princely
a manner and air. The Chancellor looked like Mephistopheles
behind Margaret in the church. The ceremony was much too long,
and some parts of it were carelessly performed. The Archbishop
mumbled. The Bishop of London preached, well enough indeed, but
not so effectively as the occasion required; and, above all, the
bearing of the King made the foolish parts of the ritual appear
monstrously ridiculous, and deprived many of the better parts of
their proper effect. Persons who were at a distance perhaps did
not feel this; but I was near enough to see every turn of his
finger, and every glance of his eye. The moment of the crowning
was extremely fine. When the Archbishop placed the crown on the
head of the King, the trumpets sounded, and the whole audience
cried out "God save the King." All the Peers and Peeresses put on
their coronets, and the blaze of splendour through the Abbey
seemed to be doubled. The King was then conducted to the raised
throne, where the Peers successively did him homage, each of them
kissing his cheek, and touching the crown. Some of them were
cheered, which I thought indecorous in such a place, and on such
an occasion. The Tories cheered the Duke of Wellington; and our
people, in revenge, cheered Lord Grey and Brougham.
You will think this a very dull letter for so great a subject;
but I have only had time to scrawl these lines in order to catch
the post. I have not a minute to read them over. I lost
yesterday, and have been forced to work to-day. Half my article
on Boswell went to Edinburgh the day before yesterday. I have,
though I say it who should not say it, beaten Croker black and
blue. Impudent as he is, I think he must be ashamed of the pickle
in which I leave him. [Mr. Carlyle reviewed Croker's book in
"Fraser's Magazine" a few months after the appearance of
Macaulay's article in the "Edinburgh." The two Critics seem to
have arrived at much the same conclusion as to the merits of the
work. "In fine," writes Mr. Carlyle, "what ideas Mr. Croker
entertains of a literary _whole_, and the thing called _Book_,
and how the very Printer's Devils did not rise in mutiny against
such a conglomeration as this, and refuse to print it, may remain
a problem . . . . It is our painful duty to declare, aloud, if
that be necessary, that his gift, as weighed against the hard
money which the booksellers demand for giving it you, is (in our
judgment) very much the lighter. No portion, accordingly, of our
small floating capital has been embarked in the business, or ever
shall be. Indeed, were we in the market for such a thing, there
is simply no edition of Boswell to which this last would seem
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: September 13, 1831.
My dear Sister,--I am in high spirits at the thought of soon
seeing you all in London, and being again one of a family, and of
a family which I love so much. It is well that one has something
to love in private life; for the aspect of public affairs is very
menacing;--fearful, I think, beyond what people in general
imagine. Three weeks, however, will probably settle the whole,
and bring to an issue the question, Reform or Revolution. One or
the other I am certain that we must and shall have. I assure you
that the violence of the people, the bigotry of the Lords, and
the stupidity and weakness of the Ministers, alarm me so much
that even my rest is disturbed by vexation and uneasy
forebodings; not for myself; for I may gain, and cannot lose; but
for this noble country, which seems likely to be ruined without
the miserable consolation of being ruined by great men. All seems
fair as yet, and will seem fair for a fortnight longer. But I
know the danger from information more accurate and certain than,
I believe, anybody not in power possesses; and I perceive, what
our men in power do not perceive, how terrible the danger is.
I called on Lord Lansdowne on Sunday. He told me distinctly that
he expected the Bill to be lost in the Lords, and that, if it
were lost, the Ministers must go out. I told him, with as much
strength of expression as was suited to the nature of our
connection, and to his age and rank, that, if the Ministers
receded before the Lords, and hesitated to make Peers, they and
the Whig party were lost; that nothing remained but an insolent
oligarchy on the one side, and an infuriated people on the other;
and that Lord Grey and his colleagues would become as odious and
more contemptible than Peel and the Duke of Wellington. Why did
they not think of all this earlier? Why put their hand to the
plough, and look back? Why begin to build without counting the
cost of finishing? Why raise the public appetite, and then baulk
it? I told him that the House of Commons would address the King
against a Tory Ministry. I feel assured that it would do so. I
feel assured that, if those who are bidden will not come, the
highways and hedges will be ransacked to get together a reforming
Cabinet. To one thing my mind is made up. If nobody else will
move an address to the Crown against a Tory Ministry, I will.
T. B. M.
London: October 17, 1831.
My dear Ellis,--I should have written to you before, but that I
mislaid your letter and forgot your direction. When shall you be
in London? Of course you do not mean to sacrifice your
professional business to the work of numbering the gates, and
telling the towers, of boroughs in Wales. [Mr. Ellis was one of
the Commissioners appointed to arrange the boundaries of
Parliamentary boroughs in connection with the Reform Bill.] You
will come back, I suppose, with your head full of ten pound
householders instead of eroes and of Caermarthen and Denbigh
instead of Carians and Pelasgians. Is it true, by the bye, that
the Commissioners are whipped on the boundaries of the boroughs
by the beadles, in order that they may not forget the precise
line which they have drawn? I deny it wherever I go, and assure
people that some of my friends who are in the Commission would
not submit to such degradation.
You must have been hard-worked indeed, and soundly whipped too,
if you have suffered as much for the Reform Bill as we who
debated it. I believe that there are fifty members of the House
of Commons who have done irreparable injury to their health by
attendance on the discussions of this session. I have got through
pretty well, but I look forward, I confess, with great dismay to
the thought of recommencing; particularly as Wetherell's cursed
lungs seem to be in as good condition as ever.
I have every reason to be gratified by the manner in which my
speeches have been received. To say the truth, the station which
I now hold in the House is such that I should not be inclined to
quit it for any place which was not of considerable importance.
What you saw about my having a place was a
blunder of a stupid reporter's. Croker was taunting the
Government with leaving me to fight their battle, and to rally
their followers; and said that the honourable and learned member
for Calne, though only a practising barrister in title, seemed to
be in reality the most efficient member of the Government. By the
bye, my article on Croker has not only smashed his book, but has
hit the Westminster Review incidentally. The Utilitarians took on
themselves to praise the accuracy of the most inaccurate writer
that ever lived, and gave as an instance of it a note in which,
as I have shown, he makes a mistake of twenty years and more.
John Mill is in a rage, and says that they are in a worse scrape
than Croker; John Murray says that it is a damned nuisance; and
Croker looks across the House of Commons at me with a leer of
hatred, which I repay with a gracious smile of pity.
I am ashamed to have said so much about myself. But you asked for
news about me. No request is so certain to be granted, or so
certain to be a curse to him who makes it as that which you have
made to me.
T. B. MACAULAY.
London: January 9, 1832.
Dear Napier,--I have been so much engaged by bankrupt business,
as we are winding up the affairs of many estates, that I shall
not be able to send off my article about Hampden till Thursday
the 12th. It will be, I fear, more than forty pages long. As
Pascal said of his eighteenth letter, I would have made it
shorter if I could have kept it longer. You must indulge me,
however; for I seldom offend in that way.
It is in part a narrative. This is a sort of composition which I
have never yet attempted. You will tell me, I am sure with
sincerity, how you think that I succeed in it. I have said as
little about Lord Nugent's book as I decently could.
T. B. M.
London: January 19, 1832.
Dear Napier,--I will try the Life of Lord Burleigh, if you will
tell Longman to send me the book. However bad the work may be, it
will serve as a heading for an article on the times of Elizabeth.
On the whole, I thought it best not to answer Croker. Almost all
the little pamphlet which he published, (or rather printed, for I
believe it is not for sale,) is made up of extracts from
Blackwood; and I thought that a contest with your grog-drinking,
cock-fighting, cudgel-playing Professor of Moral Philosophy would
be too degrading. I could have demolished every paragraph of the
defence. Croker defended his thuetoi philoi by quoting a passage
of Euripides which, as every scholar knows, is corrupt; which is
nonsense and false metre if read as he reads it; and which
Markland and Matthiae have set right by a most obvious
correction. But, as nobody seems to have read his vindication, we
can gain nothing by refuting it. ["Mr. Croker has favoured us
with some Greek of his own. 'At the altar,' say Dr. Johnson. 'I
recommended my th ph.' 'These letters,' says the editor. (which
Dr. Strahan seems not to have understood,) probably mean
_departed friends._' Johnson was not a first-rate Greek scholar;
but he knew more Greek than most boys when they leave school; and
no schoolboy could venture to use the word thuetoi in the sense
which Mr. Croker ascribes to it without imminent danger of a
flogging."--Macaulay's Review of Croker's Boswell.]
T. B. MACAULAY.
Macaulay is invited to stand for Leeds--The Reform bill passes--
Macaulay appointed Commissioner of the Board of Control--His life in
office--Letters to his sisters--Contested election at Leeds--
Macaulay's bearing as a candidate--Canvassing--Pledges--Intrusion of
religion into politics--Placemen in Parliament--Liverpool--Margaret
Macaulay's marriage--How it affected her brother--He is returned for
Leeds--Becomes Secretary of the Board of Control--Letters to Hannah
Macaulay--Session of 1832--Macaulay's Speech on the India Bill--His
regard for Lord Glenelg--Letters to Hannah Macaulay--The West Indian
question--Macaulay resigns Office--He gains his point, and resumes his
place--Emancipation of the Slaves--Death of Wilberforce--Macaulay is
appointed Member of the Supreme Council of India--Letters to Hannah
Macaulay, Lord Lansdowne, and Mr. Napier--Altercation between Lord
Althorp and Mr. Shiel--Macaulay's appearance before the Committee of
Investigation--He sails for India.
DURING the earlier half of the year 1832 the vessel of Reform was
still labouring heavily; but, long before she was through the
breakers, men had begun to discount the treasures which she was
bringing into port. The time was fast approaching when the country
would be called upon to choose its first Reformed Parliament. As if
the spectacle of what was doing at Westminster did not satisfy their
appetite for political excitement, the Constituencies of the future
could not refrain from anticipating the fancied pleasures of an
electoral struggle. Impatient to exercise their privileges, and to
show that they had as good an eye for a man as those patrons of
nomination seats whose discernment was being vaunted nightly in a
dozen speeches from the Opposition benches of the House of Commons,
the great cities were vying with each other to seek representatives
worthy of the occasion and of themselves. The Whigs of Leeds, already
provided with one candidate in a member of the great local firm of the
Marshalls, resolved to seek for another among the distinguished
politicians of their party. As early as October 1831 Macaulay had
received a requisition from that town, and had pledged himself to
stand as soon as it had been elevated into a Parliamentary borough.
The Tories, on their side, brought forward Mr. Michael Sadler, the
very man on whose behalf the Duke of Newcastle had done "what he liked
with his own" in Newark,--and, at the last general election, had done
it in vain. Sadler, smarting from the lash of the Edinburgh Review,
infused into the contest an amount of personal bitterness that for his
own sake might better have been spared; and, during more than a
twelvemonth to come, Macaulay lived the life of a candidate whose own
hands are full of public work at a time when his opponent has nothing
to do except to make himself disagreeable. But, having once undertaken
to fight the battle of the Leeds Liberals, he fought it stoutly and
cheerily; and he would have been the last to claim it as a merit,
that, with numerous opportunities of a safe and easy election at his
disposal, he remained faithful to the supporters who had been so
forward to honour him with their choice.
The old system died hard; but in May 1832 came its final agony. The
Reform Bill had passed the Commons, and had been read a second time in
the Upper House; but the facilities which Committee affords for
maiming and delaying a measure of great magnitude and intricacy proved
too much for the self-control of the Lords. The King could not bring
himself to adopt that wonderful expedient by which the unanimity of
the three branches of our legislature may, in the last resort, be
secured. Deceived by an utterly fallacious analogy, his Majesty began
to be persuaded that the path of concession would lead him whither it
had led Louis the Sixteenth; and he resolved to halt on that path at
the point where his Ministers advised him to force the hands of their
lordships by creating peers. The supposed warnings of the French
Revolution, which had been dinned into the ears of the country by
every Tory orator from Peel to Sibthorpe, at last had produced their
effect on the royal imagination. Earl Grey resigned, and the Duke of
Wellington, with a loyalty which certainly did not stand in need of
such an unlucky proof, came forward to meet the storm. But its
violence was too much even for his courage and constancy. He could not
get colleagues to assist him in the Cabinet, or supporters to vote
with him in Parliament, or soldiers to fight for him in the streets;
and it was evident that in a few days his position would be such as
could only be kept by fighting.
The revolution had in truth commenced. At a meeting of the political
unions on the slope of Newhall Hill at Birmingham a hundred thousand
voices had sung the words:
God is our guide. No swords we draw.
We kindle not war's battle fires.
By union, justice, reason, law,
We claim the birthright of our sires.
But those very men were now binding themselves by a declaration that,
unless the Bill passed, they would pay no taxes, nor purchase property
distrained by the tax-gatherer. In thus renouncing the first
obligation of a citizen they did in effect draw the sword, and they
would have been cravens if they had left it in the scabbard. Lord
Milton did something to enhance the claim of his historic house upon
the national gratitude by giving practical effect to this audacious
resolve; and, after the lapse of two centuries, another Great
Rebellion, more effectual than its predecessor, but so brief and
bloodless that history does not recognise it as a rebellion at all,
was inaugurated by the essentially English proceeding of a quiet
country gentleman telling the Collector to call again. The crisis
lasted just a week. The Duke had no mind for a succession of
Peterloos, on a vaster scale, and with a different issue. He advised
the King to recall his Ministers; and his Majesty, in his turn,
honoured the refractory lords with a most significant circular letter,
respectful in form, but unmistakable in tenor. A hundred peers of the
Opposition took the hint, and contrived to be absent whenever Reform
was before the House. The Bill was read for a third time by a majority
of five to one on the 4th of June; a strange, and not very
complimentary, method of celebrating old George the Third's birthday.
On the 5th it received the last touches in the Commons; and on the 7th
it became an Act, in very much the same shape, after such and so many
vicissitudes, as it wore when Lord John Russell first presented it to
Macaulay, whose eloquence had signalised every stage of the conflict,
and whose printed speeches are, of all its authentic records, the most
familiar to readers of our own day, was not left without his reward.
He was appointed one of the Commissioners of the Board of Control,
which, for three quarters of a century from 1784 onwards, represented
the Crown in its relations to the East Indian directors. His duties,
like those of every individual member of a Commission, were light or
heavy as he chose to make them; but his own feeling with regard to
those duties must not be deduced from the playful allusions contained
in letters dashed off, during the momentary leisure of an over-busy
day, for the amusement of two girls who barely numbered forty years
between them. His speeches and essays teem with expressions of a far
deeper than official interest in India and her people; and his minutes
remain on record, to prove that he did not affect the sentiment for a
literary or oratorical purpose. The attitude of his own mind with
regard to our Eastern empire is depicted in the passage on Burke, in
the essay on Warren Hastings, which commences with the words, "His
knowledge of India--," and concludes with the sentence, "Oppression in
Bengal was to him the same thing as oppression in the streets of
London." That passage, unsurpassed as it is in force of language, and
splendid fidelity of detail, by anything that Macaulay ever wrote or
uttered, was inspired, as all who knew him could testify, by sincere
and entire sympathy with that great statesman of whose humanity and
breadth of view it is the merited, and not inadequate, panegyric.
In Margaret Macaulay's journal there occurs more than one mention of
her brother's occasional fits of contrition on the subject of his own
idleness; but these regrets and confessions must be taken for what
they are worth, and for no more. He worked much harder than he gave
himself credit for. His nature was such that whatever he did was done
with all his heart, and all his power; and he was constitutionally
incapable of doing it otherwise. He always under-estimated the tension
and concentration of mind which he brought to bear upon his labours,
as compared with that which men in general bestow on whatever business
they may have in hand; and, to-wards the close of life, this
honourable self-deception no doubt led him to draw far too largely
upon his failing strength, under the impression that there was
nothing unduly severe in the efforts to which he continued to brace
himself with ever increasing difficulty.
During the eighteen months that he passed at the Board of Control he
had no time for relaxation, and very little for the industry which he
loved the best. Giving his days to India, and his nights to the
inexorable demands of the Treasury Whip, he could devote a few hours
to the Edinburgh Review only by rising at five when the rules of the
House of Commons had allowed him to get to bed betimes on the previous
evening. Yet, under these conditions, he contrived to provide Mr.
Napier with the highly finished articles on Horace Walpole and Lord
Chatham, and to gratify a political opponent, who was destined to be a
life-long friend, by his kindly criticism and spirited summary of Lord
Mahon's "History of the War of the Succession in Spain." And, in the
"Friendship's Offering" of 1833, one of those mawkish annual
publications of the album species which were then in fashion, appeared
his poem of the Armada; whose swinging couplets read as if somewhat
out of place in the company of such productions as "The Mysterious
Stranger, or the Bravo of Banff;" "Away to the Greenwood, a song;" and
"Lines on a Window that had been frozen," beginning with,
"Pellucid pane, this morn on thee
My fancy shaped both tower and tree."
To Hannah and Margaret Macaulay
Bath: June 10, 1832.
My dear Sisters,--Everything has gone wrong with me. The people at
Calne fixed Wednesday for my re-election on taking office; the very
day on which I was to have been at a public dinner at Leeds. I shall
therefore remain here till Wednesday morning, and read Indian politics
in quiet. I am already deep in Zemindars, Ryots, Polygars, Courts of
Phoujdary, and Courts of Nizamut Adawlut. I can tell you which of the
native Powers are subsidiary, and which independent, and read you
lectures of an hour on our diplomatic transactions at the courts of
Lucknow, Nagpore, Hydrabad, and Poonah. At Poonah, indeed, I need not
tell you that there is no court; for the Paishwa, as you are doubtless
aware, was deposed by Lord Hastings in the Pindarree War. Am I not in
fair training to be as great a bore as if I had myself been in India?--
that is to say, as great a bore as the greatest.
I am leading my watering-place life here; reading, writing, and
walking all day; speaking to nobody but the waiter and the
chambermaid; solitary in a great crowd, and content with solitude. I
shall be in London again on Thursday, and shall also be an M. P. From
that day you may send your letters as freely as ever; and pray do not
be sparing of them. Do you read any novels at Liverpool? I should fear
that the good Quakers would twitch them out of your hands, and appoint
their portion in the fire. Yet probably you have some safe place, some
box, some drawer with a key, wherein a marble-covered book may lie for
Nancy's Sunday reading. And, if you do not read novels, what do you
read? How does Schiller go on? I have sadly neglected Calderon; but,
whenever I have a month to spare, I shall carry my conquests far and
deep into Spanish literature.
T. B. M.
To Hannah and Margaret Macaulay.
London: July 2, 1832.
My dear Sisters,--I am, I think, a better correspondent than you two
put together. I will venture to say that I have written more letters,
by a good many, than I have received, and this with India and the
Edinburgh Review on my hands; the Life of Mirabeau to be criticised;
the Rajah of Travancore to be kept in order; and the bad money, which
the Emperor of the Burmese has had the impudence to send us byway of
tribute, to be exchanged for better. You have nothing to do but to be
good, and write. Make no excuses, for your excuses are contradictory.
If you see sights, describe them; for then you have subjects. If you
stay at home, write; for then you have time. Remember that I never saw
the cemetery or the railroad. Be particular, above all, in your
accounts of the Quakers. I enjoin this especially on Nancy; for from
Meg I have no hope of extracting a word of truth.
I dined yesterday at Holland House; all Lords except myself. Lord
Radnor, Lord Poltimore, Lord King, Lord Russell, and his uncle Lord
John. Lady Holland was very gracious, praised my article on Burleigh
to the skies, and told me, among other things, that she had talked on
the preceding day for two hours with Charles Grant upon religion, and
had found him very liberal and tolerant. It was, I suppose, the
cholera which sent her Ladyship to the only saint in the Ministry for
ghostly counsel. Poor Macdonald's case was most undoubtedly cholera.
It is said that Lord Amesbury also died of cholera, though no very
strange explanation seems necessary to account for the death of a man
of eighty-four. Yesterday it was rumoured that the three Miss
Molyneuxes, of whom by the way there are only two, were all dead in
the same way; that the Bishop of Worcester and Lord Barham were no
more; and many other foolish stories. I do not believe there is the
slightest ground for uneasiness; though Lady Holland apparently
considers the case so serious that she has taken her conscience out of
Allen's keeping, and put it into the hands of Charles Grant.
Here I end my letter; a great deal too long already for so busy a man
to write, and for such careless correspondents to receive.
T. B. M.
To Hannah and Margaret Macaulay.
London: July 6, 1832.
Be you Foxes, be you Pitts,
You must write to silly chits.
Be you Tories, be you Whigs,
You must write to sad young gigs.
On whatever board you are--
Treasury, Admiralty, War,
Customs, Stamps, Excise, Control;--
Write you must, upon my soul.
So sings the judicious poet; and here I sit in my parlour, looking out
on the Thames, and divided, like Garrick in Sir Joshua's picture,
between Tragedy and Comedy; a letter to you, and a bundle of papers
about Hydrabad, and the firm of Palmer and Co., late bankers to the
Poor Sir Walter Scott is going back to Scotland by sea tomorrow. All
hope is over; and he has a restless wish to die at home. He is many
thousand pounds worse than nothing. Last week he was thought to be so
near his end that some people went, I understand, to sound Lord
Althorp about a public funeral. Lord Althorp said, very like himself,
that if public money was to be laid out, it would be better to give it
to the family than to spend it in one day's show. The family, however,
are said to be not ill off.
I am delighted to hear of your proposed tour, but not so well pleased
to be told that you expect to be bad correspondents during your stay
at Welsh inns. Take pens and ink with you, if you think that you shall
find none at the Bard's Head, or the Glendower Arms. But it will be
too bad if you send me no letters during a tour which will furnish so
many subjects. Why not keep a journal, and minute down in it all that
you see and hear? and remember that I charge you, as the venerable
circle charged Miss Byron, to tell me of every person who "regards you
with an eye of partiality."
What can I say more? as the Indians end their letters. Did not Lady
Holland tell me of some good novels? I remember:--Henry Masterton,
three volumes, an amusing story and a happy termination. Smuggle it
in, next time that you go to Liverpool, from some circulating library;
and deposit it in a lock-up place out of the reach of them that are
clothed in drab; and read it together at the curling hour.
My article on Mirabeau will be out in the forthcoming number. I am not
a good judge of my own compositions, I fear; but I think that it will
be popular. A Yankee has written to me to say that an edition of my
works is about to be published in America with my life prefixed, and
that he shall be obliged to me to tell him when I was born, whom I
married, and so forth. I guess I must answer him slick right away.
For, as the judicious poet observes,
Though a New England man lolls back in his chair,
With a pipe in his mouth, and his legs in the air,
Yet surely an Old England man such as I
To a kinsman by blood should be civil and spry.
How I run on in quotation! But, when I begin to cite the verses of our
great writers, I never can stop. Stop I must, however.
T. B. M.
To Hannah and Margaret Macaulay.
London: July 18, 1832.
My dear Sisters,--I have heard from Napier. He speaks rapturously of my
article on Dumont, [Dumont's "Life of Mirabeau." See the Miscellaneous
Writings of Lord Macaulay.] but sends me no money. Allah blacken his
face! as the Persians say. He has not yet paid me for Burleigh.
We are worked to death in the House of Commons, and we are henceforth
to sit on Saturdays. This, indeed, is the only way to get through our
business. On Saturday next we shall, I hope, rise before seven, as I
am engaged to dine on that day with pretty, witty Mrs.--. I fell in
with her at Lady Grey's great crush, and found her very agreeable. Her
husband is nothing in society. Ropers has some very good stories about
their domestic happiness,--stories confirming a theory of mine which,
as I remember, made you very angry. When they first married, Mrs.--
treated her husband with great respect. But, when his novel came out
and failed completely, she changed her conduct, and has, ever since
that unfortunate publication, henpecked the poor author unmercifully.
And the case, says Ropers, is the harder, because it is suspected that
she wrote part of the book herself. It is like the scene in Milton
where Eve, after tempting Adam, abuses him for yielding to temptation.
But do you not remember how I told you that much of the love of women
depended on the eminence of men? And do you not remember how, on
behalf of your sex, you resented the imputation?
As to the present state of affairs, abroad and at home, I cannot sum
it up better than in these beautiful lines of the poet:
Peel is preaching, and Croker is lying.
The cholera's raging, the people are dying.
When the House is the coolest, as I am alive,
The thermometer stands at a hundred and five.
We debate in a heat that seems likely to burn us,
Much like the three children who sang in the furnace.
The disorders at Paris have not ceased to plague us;
Don Pedro, I hope, is ere this on the Tagus;
In Ireland no tithe can be raised by a parson;
Mr. Smithers is just hanged for murder and arson;
Dr. Thorpe has retired from the Lock, and 'tis said
That poor little Wilks will succeed in his stead.
T. B. M.
To Hannah and Margaret Macaulay.
London: July 21 1832.
My dear Sisters,--I am glad to find that there is no chance of Nancy's
turning Quaker. She would, indeed, make a queer kind of female Friend.
What the Yankees will say about me I neither know nor care. I told
them the dates of my birth, and of my coming into Parliament. I told
them also that I was educated at Cambridge. As to my early bon-mots,
my crying for holidays, my walks to school through showers of cats
and dogs, I have left all those for the "Life of the late Right
Honourable Thomas Babington Macaulay, with large extracts from his
correspondence, in two volumes, by the Very Rev. J. Macaulay, Dean of
Durham, and Rector of Bishopsgate, with a superb portrait from the
picture by Pickersgill in the possession of the Marquis of Lansdowne."
As you like my verses, I will some day or other write you a whole
rhyming letter. I wonder whether any man ever wrote doggrel so easily.
I run it off just as fast as my pen can move, and that is faster by
about three words in a minute than any other pen that I know. This
comes of a schoolboy habit of writing verses all day long. Shall I
tell you the news in rhyme? I think I will send you a regular sing-
We gained a victory last night as great as e'er was known.
We beat the Opposition upon the Russian loan.
They hoped for a majority, and also for our places.
We won the day by seventy-nine. You should have seen their faces.
Old Croker, when the shout went down our rank, looked blue with rage.
You'd have said he had the cholera in the spasmodic stage.
Dawson was red with ire as if his face was smeared with berries;
But of all human visages the worst was that of Herries.
Though not his friend, my tender heart I own could not but feel
A little for the misery of poor Sir Robert Peel.
But hang the dirty Tories! and let them starve and pine!
Huzza for the majority of glorious seventy-nine!
T. B. M.
To Hannah and Margaret Macaulay.
House of Commons Smoking-Room
July 23, 1832.
My dear Sisters,--I am writing here, at eleven at night, in this
filthiest of all filthy atmospheres, and in the vilest of all vile
company; with the smell of tobacco in my nostrils, and the ugly,
hypocritical face of Lieutenant-- before my eyes. There he sits writing
opposite to me. To whom, for a ducat? To some secretary of an
Hibernian Bible Society; or to some old woman who gives cheap tracts,
instead of blankets, to the starving peasantry of Connemara; or to
some good Protestant Lord who bullies his Popish tenants. Reject not
my letter, though it is redolent of cigars and genuine pigtail; for
this is the room--
The room,--but I think I'll describe it in rhyme,
That smells of tobacco and chloride of lime.
The smell of tobacco was always the same;
But the chloride was brought since the cholera came.
But I must return to prose, and tell you all that has fallen out since
I wrote last. I have been dining with the Listers at Knightsbridge.
They are in a very nice house, next, or almost next, to that which the
Wilberforces had. We had quite a family party. There were George
Villiers, and Hyde Villiers, and Edward Villiers. Charles was not
there. George and Hyde rank very high in my opinion. I liked their
behaviour to their sister much. She seems to be the pet of the whole
family; and it is natural that she should be so. Their manners are
softened by her presence; and any roughness and sharpness which they
have in intercourse with men vanishes at once. They seem to love the
very ground that she treads on; and she is undoubtedly a charming
woman, pretty, clever, lively, and polite.
I was asked yesterday evening to go to Sir John Burke's, to meet
another heroine who was very curious to see me. Whom do you think?
Lady Morgan. I thought, however, that, if I went, I might not
improbably figure in her next novel; and, as I am not ambitious of
such an honour, I kept away. If I could fall in with her at a great
party, where I could see unseen and hear unheard, I should very much
like to make observations on her; but I certainly will not, if I can
help it, meet her face to face, lion to lioness.
That confounded chattering --, has just got into an argument about
the Church with an Irish papist who has seated himself at my elbow;
and they keep such a din that I cannot tell what I am writing. There
they go. The Lord Lieutenant--the Bishop of Derry-Magee--O'Connell--
your Bible meetings--your Agitation meetings--the propagation of the
Gospel--Maynooth College--the Seed of the Woman shall bruise the
Serpent's head. My dear Lieutenant, you will not only bruise, but
break, my head with your clatter. Mercy! mercy! However, here I am at
the end of my letter, and I shall leave the two demoniacs to tear each
other to pieces.
T. B. M.
To Hannah and Margaret Macaulay.
Library of the H. of C.
July 30, 1832, 11 o'clock at night.
My dear Sisters,--Here I am. Daniel Whittle Harvey is speaking; the
House is thin; the subject is dull; and I have stolen away to write to
you. Lushington is scribbling at my side. No sound is heard but the
scratching of our pens, and the ticking of the clock. We are in a far
better atmosphere than in the smoking-room, whence I wrote to you last
week; and the company is more decent, inasmuch as that naval officer,
whom Nancy blames me for describing in just terms, is not present.
By the bye, you know doubtless the lines which are in the mouth of
every member of Parliament, depicting the comparative merits of the
two rooms. They are, I think, very happy.
If thou goest into the Smoking-room
Three plagues will thee befall,--
The chloride of lime, the tobacco smoke,
And the Captain who's worst of all,
The canting Sea-captain,
The prating Sea-captain,
The Captain who's worst of all.
If thou goest into the Library
Three good things will thee befall,--
Very good books, and very good air,
And M*c**l*y, who's best of all,
The virtuous M*c**l*y,
The prudent M*c**l*y,
M*c**l*y who's best of all.
Oh, how I am worked! I never see Fanny from Sunday to Sunday. All my
civilities wait for that blessed day; and I have so many scores of
visits to pay that I can scarcely find time for any of that Sunday
reading in which, like Nancy, I am in the habit of indulging.
Yesterday, as soon as I was fixed in my best and had breakfasted, I
paid a round of calls to all my friends who had the cholera. Then I
walked to all the clubs of which I am a member, to see the newspapers.
The first of these two works you will admit to be a work of mercy;
the second, in a political man, one of necessity. Then, like a good
brother, I walked under a burning sun to Kensington to ask Fanny how
she did, and stayed there two hours. Then I went to Knightsbridge to
call on Mrs. Listen and chatted with her till it was time to go and
dine at the Athenaeum. Then I dined, and after dinner, like a good
young man, I sate and read Bishop Heber's journal till bedtime. There
is a Sunday for you! I think that I excel in the diary lire. I will
keep a journal like the Bishop, that my memory may
"Smell sweet, and blossom in the dust."
Next Sunday I am to go to Lord Lansdowne's at Richmond, so that I hope
to have something to tell you. But on second thoughts I will tell you
nothing, nor ever will write to you again, nor ever speak to you
again. I have no pleasure in writing to undutiful sisters. Why do you
not send me longer letters? But I am at the end of my paper, so that I
have no more room to scold.
T. B. M.
To Hannah and Margaret Macaulay.
London: August 14, 1832.
My dear Sisters,--Our work is over at last; not, however, till it has
half killed us all.[On the 8th August, 1832, Macaulay writes to Lord
Mahon: "We are now strictly on duty. No furloughs even for a dinner
engagement, or a sight of Taglioni's legs, can be obtained. It is very
hard to keep forty members in the House. Sibthorpe and Leader are on
the watch to count us out; and from six till two we never venture
further than the smoking-room without apprehension. In spite of all
our exertions the end of the Session seems further and further off
every day. If you would do me the favour of inviting Sibthorpe to
Chevening Park you might be the means of saving my life, and that of
thirty or forty more of us who are forced to swallow the last dregs of
the oratory of this Parliament; and nauseous dregs they are."] On
Saturday we met,--for the last time, I hope, on business. When the
House rose, I set off for Holland House. We had a small party, but a
very distinguished one. Lord Grey, the Chancellor, Lord Palmerston,
Luttrell, and myself were the only guests. Allen was of course at the
end of the table, carving the dinner and sparring with my Lady. The
dinner was not so good as usual; for the French cook was ill; and her
Ladyship kept up a continued lamentation during the whole repast. I
should never have found out that everything was not as it should be
but for her criticisms. The soup was too salt; the cutlets were not
exactly comme il faut; and the pudding was hardly enough boiled. I was
amused to hear from the splendid mistress of such a house the same
sort of apologies which -- made when her cook forgot the joint, and
sent up too small a dinner to table. I told Luttrell that it was a
comfort to me to find that no rank was exempted from these
They talked about --'s marriage. Lady Holland vehemently defended the
match; and, when Allen said that -- had caught a Tartar, she quite
went off into one of her tantrums: "She a Tartar! Such a charming girl
a Tartar! He is a very happy man, and your language is insufferable:
insufferable, Mr. Allen." Lord Grey had all the trouble in the world
to appease her. His influence, however, is very great. He prevailed on
her to receive Allen again into favour, and to let Lord Holland have a
slice of melon, for which he had been petitioning most piteously, but
which she had steadily refused on account of his gout. Lord Holland
thanked Lord Grey for his intercession.. "Ah, Lord Grey, I wish you
were always here. It is a fine thing to be Prime Minister." This
tattle is worth nothing, except to show how much the people whose
names will fill the history of our times resemble, in all essential
matters, the quiet folks who live in Mecklenburg Square and Brunswick
I slept in the room which was poor Mackintosh's. The next day, Sunday,
-- came to dinner. He scarcely ever speaks in the society of Holland
House. Rogers, who is the bitterest and most cynical observer of
little traits of character that ever I knew-, once said to me of him:
"Observe that man. He never talks to men; he never talks to girls;
but, when he can get into a circle of old tabbies, he is just in his
element. He will sit clacking with an old woman for hours together.
That always settles my opinion of a young fellow."
I am delighted to find that you like my review on Mirabeau, though I
am angry with Margaret for grumbling at my Scriptural allusions, and
still more angry with Nancy for denying my insight into character. It
is one of my strong points. If she knew how far I see into hers, she
would he ready to hang herself. Ever yours
T. B. M.
To Hannah and Margaret Macaulay.
London: August 16, 1832,
My dear Sisters,--We begin to see a hope of liberation. To-morrow, or
on Saturday at furthest, the hope to finish our business. I did not
reach home till four this morning, after a most fatiguing and yet
rather amusing night. What passed will not find its way into the
papers, as the gallery was locked during most of the time. So I will
tell you the story.
There is a bill before the House prohibiting those processions of
Orangemen which have excited a good deal of irritation in Ireland.
This bill was committed yesterday night. Shaw, the Recorder of Dublin,
an honest man enough, but a bitter Protestant fanatic, complained that
it should be brought forward so late in the Session. Several of his
friends, he said, had left London believing that the measure had been
abandoned. It appeared, however, that Stanley and Lord Althorp had
given fair notice of their intention; so that, if the absent members
had been mistaken, the fault was their own; and the House was for
going on. Shaw said warmly that he would resort to all the means of
delay in his power, and moved that the chairman should leave the
chair. The motion was negatived by forty votes to two. Then the first
clause was read. Shaw divided the House again on that clause. He was
beaten by the same majority. He moved again that the chairman should
leave the chair. He was beaten again. He divided on the second clause.
He was beaten again. He then said that he was sensible that he was
doing very wrong; that his conduct was unhandsome and vexatious; that
he heartily begged our pardons; but that he had said that he would
delay the bill as far as the forms of the House would permit; and that
he must keep his word. Now came a discussion by which Nancy, if she
had been in the ventilator, [A circular ventilator, in the roof of the
House of Commons, was the only Ladies' Gallery that existed in the
year 1832.] might have been greatly edified, touching the nature of
vows; whether a man's promise given to himself,--a promise from which
nobody could reap any advantage, and which everybody wished him to
violate,--constituted an obligation. Jephtha's daughter was a case in
point, and was cited by somebody sitting near me. Peregrine Courtenay
on one side of the House, and Lord Palmerston on the other, attempted
to enlighten the poor Orangeman on the question of casuistry. They
might as well have preached to any madman out of St. Luke's. "I feel,"
said the silly creature, "that I am doing wrong, and acting very
unjustifiably. If gentlemen will forgive me, I will never do so again.
But I must keep my word." We roared with laughter every time he
repeated his apologies. The orders of the House do not enable any
person absolutely to stop the progress of a bill in Committee, but
they enable him to delay it grievously. We divided seventeen times,
and between every division this vexatious Irishman made us a speech of
apologies and self-condemnation. Of the two who had supported him at
the beginning of his freak one soon sneaked away. The other,
Sibthorpe, stayed to the last, not expressing remorse like Shaw, but
glorying in the unaccommodating temper he showed and in the delay
which he produced. At last the bill went through. Then Shaw rose;
congratulated himself that his vow was accomplished; said that the
only atonement he could make for conduct so unjustifiable was to vow
that he would never make such a vow again; promised to let the bill go
through its future stages without any more divisions; and contented
himself with suggesting one or two alterations in the details. "I hint
at these amendments," he said. "If the Secretary for Ireland approves
of them, I hope he will not refrain from introducing them because they
are brought forward by me. I am sensible that I have forfeited all
claim to the favour of the House. I will not divide on any future
stage of the bill." We were all heartily pleased with these events;
for the truth was that the seventeen divisions occupied less time than
a real hard debate would have done, and were infinitely more amusing.
The oddest part of the business is that Shaw's frank good-natured way
of proceeding, absurd as it was, has made him popular. He was never so
great a favourite with the House as after harassing it for two or
three hours with the most frivolous opposition. This is a curious
trait of the House of Commons. Perhaps you will find this long story,
which I have not time to read over again, very stupid and
unintelligible. But I have thought it my duty to set before you the
evil consequences of making vows rashly, and adhering to them
superstitiously; for in truth, my Christian brethren, or rather my
Christian sisters, let us consider &c. &c. &c.
But I reserve the sermon on promises, which I had to preach, for
T. B. M.
To Hannah and Margaret Macaulay
London: August 17, 1832.
My dear Sisters,--I brought down my story of Holland House to
dinnertime on Saturday evening. To resume my narrative, I slept there
on Sunday night. On Monday morning, after breakfast, I walked to town
with Luttrell, whom I found a delightful companion. Before we went, we
sate and chatted with Lord Holland in the library for a quarter of an
hour. He was very entertaining. He gave us an account of a visit which
he paid long ago to the Court of Denmark; and of King Christian, the
madman, who was at last deprived of all real share in the government
on account of his infirmity. "Such a Tom of Bedlam I never saw," said
Lord Holland. "One day the Neapolitan Ambassador came to the levee,
and made a profound bow to his Majesty. His Majesty bowed still lower.
The Neapolitan bowed down his head almost to the ground; when, behold!
the King clapped his hands on his Excellency's shoulders, and jumped
over him like a boy playing at leap-frog. Another day the English
Ambassador was sitting opposite the King at dinner. His Majesty asked
him to take wine. The glasses were filled. The Ambassador bowed, and
put the wine to his lips. The King grinned hideously and threw his
wine into the face of one of the footmen. The other guests kept the
most profound gravity; but the Englishman, who had but lately come to
Copenhagen, though a practised diplomatist, could not help giving some
signs of astonishment. The King immediately addressed him in French:
'Eh, mais, Monsieur l'Envoye d'Angleterre, qu'avez-vous done? Pourquoi
riez-vous? Est-ce qu'il y'ait quelque chose qui vous ait diverti?
Faites-moi le plaisir de me l'indiquer. J'aime beaucoup les
Parliament is up at last. We official men are now left alone at the
West End of London, and are making up for our long confinement in the
mornings by feasting together at night. On Wednesday I dined with
Labouchere at his official residence in Somerset House. It is well
that he is a bachelor; for he tells me that the ladies his neighbours
make bitter complaints of the unfashionable situation in which they
are cruelly obliged to reside gratis. Yesterday I dined with Will
Brougham, and an official party, in Mount Street. We are going to
establish a Club, to be confined to members of the House of Commons in
place under the present Government, who are to dine together weekly at
Grillon's Hotel, and to settle the affairs of the State better, I
hope, than our masters at their Cabinet dinners.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: September 20, 1832
My dear Sister,--I am at home again from Leeds, where everything is
going on as well as possible. I, and most of my friends, feel sanguine
as to the result. About half my day was spent in speaking, and hearing
other people speak; in squeezing and being squeezed; in shaking hands
with people whom I never saw before, and whose faces and names I
forget within a minute after being introduced to them. The rest was
passed in conversation with my leading friends, who are very honest
substantial manufacturers. They feed me on roast beef and Yorkshire
pudding; at night they put me into capital bedrooms; and the only
plague which they give me is that they are always begging me to
mention some food or wine for which I have a fancy, or some article of
comfort and convenience which I may wish them to procure.
I travelled to town with a family of children who ate without
intermission from Market Harborough, where they got into the coach, to
the Peacock at Islington, where they got out of it. They breakfasted
as if they had fasted all the preceding day. They dined as if they
had never breakfasted. They ate on the road one large basket of
sandwiches, another of fruit, and a boiled fowl; besides which there
was not an orange-girl, an old man with cakes, or a boy with
filberts, who came to the coach-side when we stopped to change horses,
of whom they did not buy something.
I am living here by myself with no society, or scarcely any, except my
books. I read a play of Calderon before I breakfast; then look over
the newspaper; frank letters; scrawl a line or two to a foolish girl
in Leicestershire; and walk to my Office. There I stay till near five,
examining claims of money-lenders on the native sovereigns of India,
and reading Parliamentary papers. I am beginning to understand
something about the Bank, and hope, when next I go to Rothley Temple,
to be a match for the whole firm of Mansfield and Babington on
questions relating to their own business. When I leave the Board, I
walk for two hours; then I dine; and I end the day quietly over a
basin of tea and a novel.
On Saturday I go to Holland House, and stay there till Monday. Her
Ladyship wants me to take up my quarters almost entirely there; but I
love my own chambers and independence, and am neither qualified nor
inclined to succeed Allen in his post. On Friday week, that is to-
morrow week, I shall go for three days to Sir George Philips's, at
Weston, in Warwickshire. He has written again in terms half
complaining; and, though I can ill spare time for the visit, yet, as
he was very kind to me when his kindness was of some consequence to
me, I cannot, and will not, refuse.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay
London: September 25, 1832.
My dear Sister,--I went on Saturday to Holland House, and stayed there
Sunday. It was legitimate Sabbath employment,--visiting the sick,--
which, as you well know, always stands first among the works of mercy
enumerated in good books. My Lord was ill, and my Lady thought herself
so. He was, during the greater part of the day, in bed. For a few
hours he lay on his sofa, wrapped in flannels. I sate by him about
twenty minutes, and was then ordered away. He was very weak and
languid; and, though the torture of the gout was over, was still in
pain; but he retained all his courage, and all his sweetness of
temper. I told his sister that I did not think that he was suffering
much. "I hope not," said she; "but it is impossible to judge by what
he says; for through the sharpest pain of the attack he never
complained." I admire him more, I think, than any man whom I know. He
is only fifty-seven, or fifty-eight. He is precisely the man to whom
health would be particularly valuable; for he has the keenest zest for
those pleasures which health would enable him to enjoy. He is,
however, an invalid, and a cripple. He passes some weeks of every year
in extreme torment. When he is in his best health he can only limp a
hundred yards in a day. Yet he never says a cross word. The sight of
him spreads good humour over the face of every one who comes near him.
His sister, an excellent old maid as ever lived, and the favourite of
all the young people of her acquaintance, says that it is quite a
pleasure to nurse him. She was reading the "Inheritance" to him as he
lay in bed, and he enjoyed it amazingly. She is a famous reader; more
quiet and less theatrical than most famous readers, and therefore the
fitter for the bed-side of a sick man. Her Ladyship had fretted
herself into being ill, could eat nothing but the breast of a
partridge, and was frightened out of her wits by hearing a dog howl.
She was sure that this noise portended her death, or my Lord's.
Towards the evening, however, she brightened up, and was in very good
spirits. My visit was not very lively. They dined at four, and the
company was, as you may suppose at this season, but scanty. Charles
Greville, commonly called, heaven knows why, Punch Greville, came on
the Saturday. Byng, named from his hair Poodle Byng, came on the
Sunday. Allen, like the poor, we had with us always. I was grateful,
however, for many pleasant evenings passed there when London was full,
and Lord Holland out of bed. I therefore did my best to keep the house
alive. I had the library and the delightful gardens to myself during
most of the day, and I got through my visit very well.
News you have in the papers. Poor Scott is gone, and I cannot be sorry
for it. A powerful mind in ruins is the most heart-breaking thing
which it is possible to conceive. Ferdinand of Spain is gone too; and,
I fear, old Mr. Stephen is going fast. I am safe at Leeds. Poor Hyde
Villiers is very ill. I am seriously alarmed about him. Kindest love
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
Weston House: September 29, 1832.
My dear Sister,--I came hither yesterday, and found a handsome house,
pretty grounds, and a very kind host and hostess. The house is really
very well planned. I do not know that I have ever seen so happy an
imitation of the domestic architecture of Elizabeth's reign. The
oriels, towers, terraces, and battlements are in the most perfect
keeping; and the building is as convenient within as it is picturesque
without. A few weather-stains, or a few American creepers, and a
little ivy, would make it perfect; and all that will come, I suppose,
with time. The terrace is my favourite spot. I always liked "the trim
gardens" of which Milton speaks, and thought that Brown and his
imitators went too far in bringing forests and sheep-walks up to the
very windows of drawing-rooms.
I came through Oxford. It was as beautiful a day as the second day of
our visit, and the High Street was in all its glory. But it made me
quite sad to find myself there without you and Margaret. All my old
Oxford associations are gone. Oxford, instead of being, as it used to
be, the magnificent old city of the seventeenth century,--still
preserving its antique character among the improvements of modern
times, and exhibiting in the midst of upstart Birminghams and
Manchesters the same aspect which it wore when Charles held his court
at Christchurch, and Rupert led his cavalry over Magdalene Bridge, is
now to me only the place where I was so happy with my little sisters.
But I was restored to mirth, and even to indecorous mirth, by what
happened after we had left the fine old place behind us. There was a
young fellow of about five-and-twenty, mustachioed and smartly
dressed, in the coach with me. He was not absolutely uneducated; for
he was reading a novel, the Hungarian brothers, the whole way. We
rode, as I told you, through the High Street. The coach stopped to
dine; and this youth passed half an hour in the midst of that city of
palaces. He looked about him with his mouth open, as he re-entered the
coach, and all the while that we were driving away past the Ratcliffe
Library, the Great Court of All Souls, Exeter, Lincoln, Trinity,
Balliol, and St. John's. When we were about a mile on the road he
spoke the first words that I had heard him utter. "That was a pretty
town enough. Pray, sir, what is it called?" I could not answer him for
laughing; but he seemed quite unconscious of his own absurdity.
T. B. M.
During all the period covered by this correspondence the town of Leeds
was alive with the agitation of a turbulent, but not very dubious,
contest. Macaulay's relations with the electors whose votes he was
courting are too characteristic to be omitted altogether from the
story of his life; though the style of his speeches and manifestoes is
more likely to excite the admiring envy of modern members of
Parliament, than to be taken as a model for their communications to
their own constituents. This young politician, who depended on office
for his bread, and on a seat in the House of Commons for office,
adopted from the first an attitude of high and almost peremptory
independence which would have sat well on a Prime Minister in his
grand climacteric. The following letter, (some passages of which have
been here omitted, and others slightly condensed,) is strongly marked
in every line with the personal qualities of the writer.
London: August 3, 1832.
"My dear Sir,--I am truly happy to find that the opinion of my friends
at Leeds on the subject of canvassing agrees with that which I have
long entertained. The practice of begging for votes is, as it seems to
me, absurd, pernicious, and altogether at variance with the true
principles of representative government. The suffrage of an elector
ought not to be asked, or to be given as a personal favour. It is as
much for the interest of constituents to choose well, as it can be for
the interest of a candidate to be chosen. To request an honest man to
vote according to his conscience is superfluous. To request him to
vote against his conscience is an insult. The practice of canvassing
is quite reasonable under a system in which men are sent to Parliament
to serve themselves. It is the height of absurdity under a system
under which men are sent to Parliament to serve the public. While we
had only a mock representation, it was natural enough that this
practice should be carried to a great extent. I trust it will soon
perish with the abuses from which it sprung. I trust that the great
and intelligent body of people who have obtained the elective
franchise will see that seats in the House of Commons ought not to be
given, like rooms in an almshouse, to urgency of solicitation; and
that a man who surrenders his vote to caresses and supplications
forgets his duty as much as if he sold it for a bank-note. I hope to
see the day when an Englishman will think it as great an affront to be
courted and fawned upon in his capacity of elector as in his capacity
of juryman. He would be shocked at the thought of finding an unjust
verdict because the plaintiff or the defendant had been very civil and
pressing; and, if he would reflect, he would, I think, be equally
shocked at the thought of voting for a candidate for whose public
character he felt no esteem, merely because that candidate had called
upon him, and begged very hard, and had shaken his hand very warmly.
My conduct is before the electors of Leeds. My opinions shall on all
occasions be stated to them with perfect frankness. If they approve
that conduct, if they concur in those opinions, they ought, not for my
sake, but for their own, to choose me as their member. To be so
chosen, I should indeed consider as a high and enviable honour; but I
should think it no honour to be returned to Parliament by persons who,
thinking me destitute of the requisite qualifications, had yet been
wrought upon by cajolery and importunity to poll for me in despite of
their better judgment.
"I wish to add a few words touching a question which has lately been
much canvassed; I mean the question of pledges. In this letter, and in
every letter which I have written to my friends at Leeds, I have
plainly declared my opinions. But I think it, at this conjuncture, my
duty to declare that I will give no pledges. I will not bind myself to
make or to support any particular motion. I will state as shortly as I
can some of the reasons which have induced me to form this
determination. The great beauty of the representative system is, that
it unites the advantages of popular control with the advantages
arising from a division of labour. Just as a physician understands
medicine better than an ordinary man, just as a shoemaker makes shoes
better than an ordinary man, so a person whose life is passed in
transacting affairs of State becomes a better statesman than an
ordinary man. In politics, as well as every other department of life,
the public ought to have the means of checking those who serve it. If
a man finds that he derives no benefit from the prescription of his
physician, he calls in another. If his shoes do not fit him, he
changes his shoemaker. But when he has called in a physician of whom
he hears a good report, and whose general practice he believes to be
judicious, it would be absurd in him to tie down that physician to
order particular pills and particular draughts. While he continues to
be the customer of a shoemaker, it would be absurd in him to sit by
and mete every motion of that shoemaker's hand. And in the same
manner, it would, I think, be absurd in him to require positive
pledges, and to exact daily and hourly obedience, from his
representative. My opinion is, that electors ought at first to choose
cautiously; then to confide liberally; and, when the term for which
they have selected their member has expired, to review his conduct
equitably, and to pronounce on the whole taken together.
"If the people of Leeds think proper to repose in me that confidence
which is necessary to the proper discharge of the duties of a
representative, I hope that I shall not abuse it. If it be their
pleasure to fetter their members by positive promises, it is in their
power to do so. I can only say that on such terms I cannot
conscientiously serve them.
"I hope, and feel assured, that the sincerity with which I make this
explicit declaration, will, if it deprive me of the votes of my
friends at Leeds, secure to me what I value far more highly, their
"Believe me ever, my dear Sir,
"Your most faithful Servant,
"T. B. MACAULAY."
This frank announcement, taken by many as a slight, and by some as a
downright challenge, produced remonstrances which, after the interval
of a week, were answered by Macaulay in a second letter; worth
reprinting if it were only for the sake of his fine parody upon the
popular cry which for two years past had been the watchword of
"I was perfectly aware that the avowal of my feelings on the subject
of pledges was not likely to advance my interest at Leeds. I was
perfectly aware that many of my most respectable friends were likely
to differ from me; and therefore I thought it the more necessary to
make, uninvited, an explicit declaration of my feelings. If ever there
was a time when public men were in an especial measure _bound to speak
the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth_, to the people,
this is that time. Nothing is easier than for a candidate to avoid
unpopular topics as long as possible, and, when they are forced on
him, to take refuge in evasive and unmeaning phrases. Nothing is
easier than for him to give extravagant promises while an election is
depending, and to forget them as soon as the return is made. I will
take no such course. I do not wish to obtain a single vote on false
pretences. Under the old system I have never been the flatterer of the
great. Under the new system I will not be the flatterer of the people.
The truth, or what appears to me to be such, may sometimes be
distasteful to those whose good opinion I most value. I shall
nevertheless always abide by it, and trust to their good sense, to
their second thoughts, to the force of reason, and the progress of
time. If, after all, their decision should be unfavourable to me, I
shall submit to that decision with fortitude and good humour. It is
not necessary to my happiness that I should sit in Parliament; but it
is necessary to my happiness that I should possess, in Parliament or
out of Parliament, the consciousness of having done what is right."
Macaulay had his own ideas as to the limits within which constituents
are justified in exerting their privilege of questioning a candidate;
and, on the first occasion when those limits were exceeded, he made a
notable example of the transgressor. During one of his public
meetings, a voice was heard to exclaim from the crowd in the body of
the hall: "An elector wishes to know the religious creed of Mr.
Marshall and Mr. Macaulay." The last-named gentleman was on his legs
in a moment. "Let that man stand up!" he cried. "Let him stand on a
form, where I can see him!" The offender, who proved to be a Methodist
preacher, was heisted on to a bench by his indignant neighbours;
nerving himself even in that terrible moment by a lingering hope that
he might yet be able to hold his own. But the unhappy man had not a
chance against Macaulay, who harangued him as if he were the living
embodiment of religious intolerance and illegitimate curiosity. "I
have heard with the greatest shame and sorrow the question which has
been proposed to me; and with peculiar pain do I learn that this
question was proposed by a minister of religion. I do most deeply
regret that any person should think it necessary to make a meeting
like this an arena for theological discussion. I will not be a party
to turning this assembly to such a purpose. My answer is short, and in
one word. Gentlemen, I am a Christian." At this declaration the
delighted audience began to cheer; but Macaulay would have none of
their applause. "This is no subject," he said, "for acclamation. I
will say no more. No man shall speak of me as the person who, when
this disgraceful inquisition was entered upon in an assembly of
Englishmen, brought forward the most sacred subjects to be canvassed
here, and be turned into a matter for hissing or for cheering. If on
any future occasion it should happen that Mr. Carlile should favour
any large meeting with his infidel attacks upon the Gospel, he shall
not have it to say that I set the example. Gentlemen, I have done; I
tell you, I will say no more; and if the person who has thought fit to
ask this question has the feelings worthy of a teacher of religion, he
will not, I think, rejoice that he has called me forth."
This ill-fated question had been prompted by a report, diligently
spread through the town, that the Whig candidates were Unitarians; a
report which, even if correct, would probably have done little to
damage their electioneering prospects. There are few general remarks
which so uniformly hold good as the observation that men are not
willing to attend the religious worship of people who believe less
than themselves, or to vote at elections for people who believe more
than themselves. While the congregations at a high Anglican service
are in part composed of Low churchmen and Broad churchmen; while
Presbyterians and Wesleyans have no objection to a sound discourse
from a divine of the Establishment; it is seldom the case that any but
Unitarians are seen inside a Unitarian chapel. On the other hand, at
the general election of 1874, when not a solitary Roman Catholic was
returned throughout the length and breadth of the island of Great
Britain, the Unitarians retained their long acknowledged pre-eminence
as the most over-represented sect in the kingdom.
While Macaulay was stern in his refusal to gratify his electors with
the customary blandishments, he gave them plenty of excellent
political instruction; which he conveyed to them in rhetoric, not
premeditated with the care that alone makes speeches readable after a
lapse of years, but for this very reason all the more effective when
the passion of the moment was pouring itself from his lips in a stream
of faultless, but unstudied, sentences. A course of mobs, which turned
Cobden into an orator, made of Macaulay a Parliamentary debater; and
the ear and eye of the House of Commons soon detected, in his replies
from the Treasury bench, welcome signs of the invaluable training that
can be got nowhere except on the hustings and the platform. There is
no better sample of Macaulay's extempore speaking than the first words
which he addressed to his committee at Leeds after the Reform Bill had
received the Royal assent. "I find it difficult to express my
gratification at seeing such an assembly convened at such a time. All
the history of our own country, all the history of other countries,
furnishes nothing parallel to it. Look at the great events in our own
former history, and in every one of them, which, for importance, we
can venture to compare with the Reform Bill, we shall find something
to disgrace and tarnish the achievement. It was by the assistance of
French arms and of Roman bulls that King John was harassed into giving
the Great Charter. In the times of Charles I., how much injustice, how
much crime, how much bloodshed and misery, did it cost to assert the
liberties of England! But in this event, great and important as it is
in substance, I confess I think it still more important from the
manner in which it has been achieved. Other countries have obtained
deliverances equally signal and complete, but in no country has that
deliverance been obtained with such perfect peace; so entirely within
the bounds of the Constitution; with all the forms of law observed;
the government of the country proceeding in its regular course; every
man going forth unto his labour until the evening. France boasts of
her three days of July, when her people rose, when barricades fenced
the streets, and the entire population of the capital in grins
successfully vindicated their liberties. They boast, and justly, of
those three days of July; but I will boast of our ten days of May. We,
too, fought a battle, but it was with moral arms. We, too, placed an
impassable barrier between ourselves and military tyranny; but we
fenced ourselves only with moral barricades. Not one crime committed,
not one acre confiscated, not one life lost, not one instance of
outrage or attack on the authorities or the laws. Our victory has not
left a single family in mourning. Not a tear, not a drop of blood, has
sullied the pacific and blameless triumph of a great people."
The Tories of Leeds, as a last resource, fell to denouncing Macaulay
as a placeman; a stroke of superlative audacity in a party which,
during eight-and-forty years, had been out of office for only fourteen
months. It may well be imagined that he found plenty to say in his own
defence. "The only charge which malice can prefer against me is that I
am a placeman. Gentlemen, is it your wish that those persons who are
thought worthy of the public confidence should never possess the
confidence of the King? Is it your wish that no men should be
Ministers but those whom no populous places will take as their
representatives? By whom, I ask, has the Reform Bill been carried? By
Ministers. Who have raised Leeds into the situation to return members
to Parliament? It is by the strenuous efforts of a patriotic Ministry
that that great result has been produced. I should think that the
Reform Bill had done little for the people, if under it the service of
the people was not consistent with the service of the Crown."
Just before the general election Hyde Villiers died, and the
Secretaryship to the Board of Control became vacant. Macaulay
succeeded his old college friend in an office that gave him weighty
responsibility, defined duties, and, as it chanced, exceptional
opportunities for distinction. About the same time, an event occurred
which touched him more nearly than could any possible turn of fortune
in the world of politics. His sisters Hannah and Margaret had for some
months been almost domesticated among a pleasant nest of villas which
lie in the southern suburb of Liverpool, on Dingle Bank; a spot whose
natural beauty nothing can spoil, until in the fulness of time its
inevitable destiny shall convert it into docks. The young ladies were
the guests of Mr. John Cropper, who belonged to the Society of
Friends, a circumstance which readers who have got thus far into the
Macaulay correspondence will doubtless have discovered for themselves.
Before the visit was over, Margaret became engaged to the brother of
her host, Mr. Edward Cropper, a man in every respect worthy of the
personal esteem and the commercial prosperity which have fallen to his
There are many who will be surprised at finding in Macaulay's letters,
both now and hereafter, indications of certain traits in his
disposition with which the world, knowing him only through his
political actions and his published works, may perhaps be slow to
credit him; but which, taking his life as a whole, were predominant in
their power to affect his happiness and give matter for his thoughts.
Those who are least partial to him will allow that his was essentially
a virile intellect. He wrote, he thought, he spoke, he acted, like a
man. The public regarded him as an impersonation of vigour, vivacity,
and self-reliance; but his own family, together with one, and probably
only one, of his friends, knew that his affections were only too
tender, and his sensibilities only too acute. Others may well be loth
to parade what he concealed; but a portrait of Macaulay, from which
these features were omitted, would be imperfect to the extent of
misrepresentation; and it must be acknowledged that, where he loved,
he loved more entirely, and more exclusively, than was well for
himself. It was improvident in him to concentrate such intensity of
feeling upon relations who, however deeply they were attached to him,
could not always be in a position to requite him with the whole of
their time, and the whole of their heart. He suffered much for that
improvidence; but he was too just and too kind to permit that others
should suffer with him; and it is not for one who obtained by
inheritance a share of his inestimable affection to regret a weakness
to which he considers himself by duty bound to refer.
How keenly Macaulay felt the separation from his sister it is
impossible to do more than indicate. He never again recovered that
tone of thorough boyishness, which had been produced by a long
unbroken habit of gay and affectionate intimacy with those younger
than himself; indulged in without a suspicion on the part of any
concerned that it was in its very nature transitory and precarious.
For the first time he was led to doubt whether his scheme of life was
indeed a wise one; or, rather, he began to be aware that he had never
laid out any scheme of life at all. But with that unselfishness which
was the key to his character and to much of his career, (resembling in
its quality what we sometimes admire in a woman, rather than what we
ever detect in a man,) he took successful pains to conceal his
distress from those over whose happiness it otherwise could not have
failed to cast a shadow.
"The attachment between brothers and sisters," he writes in November
1832, "blameless, amiable, and delightful as it is, is so liable to be
superseded by other attachments that no wise man ought to suffer it to
become indispensable to him. That women shall leave the home of their
birth, and contract ties dearer than those of consanguinity, is a law
as ancient as the first records of the history of our race, and as
unchangeable as the constitution of the human body and mind. To repine
against the nature of things, and against the great fundamental law of
all society, because, in consequence of my own want of foresight, it
happens to bear heavily on me, would be the basest and most absurd
"I have still one more stake to lose. There remains one event for
which, when it arrives, I shall, I hope, be prepared. From that
moment, with a heart formed, if ever any man's heart was formed, for
domestic happiness, I shall have nothing left in this world but
ambition. There is no wound, however, which time and necessity will
not render endurable; and, after all, what am I more than my fathers,--
than the millions and tens of millions who have been weak enough to
pay double price for some favourite number in the lottery of life, and
who have suffered double disappointment when their ticket came up a
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
Leeds: December 12, 1832
My dear Sister,--The election here is going on as well as possible.
Today the poll stands thus:
Marshall Macaulay Sadler
1,804 1,792 1,353
The probability is that Sadler will give up the contest. If he
persists, he will be completely beaten. The voters are under 4,000 in
number; those who have already polled are 3,100; and about five
hundred will not poll at all. Even if we were not to bring up another
man, the probability is that we should win. On Sunday morning early I
hope to be in London; and I shall see you in the course of the day.
I had written thus far when your letter was delivered to me. I am
sitting in the midst of two hundred friends, all mad with exultation
and party spirit, all glorying over the Tories, and thinking me the
happiest man in the world. And it is all that I can do to hide my
tears, and to command my voice, when it is necessary for me to reply
to their congratulations. Dearest, dearest sister, you alone are now
left to me. Whom have I on earth but thee? But for you, in the midst
of all these successes, I should wish that I were lying by poor Hyde
Villiers. But I cannot go on. I am wanted to waste an address to the
electors; and I shall lay it on Sadler pretty heavily. By what strange
fascination is it that ambition and resentment exercise such power
over minds which ought to be superior to them? I despise myself for
feeling so bitterly towards this fellow as I do. But the separation
from dear Margaret has jarred my whole temper. I am cried up here to
the skies as the most affable and kind-hearted of then, while I feel a
fierceness and restlessness within me, quite new, and almost
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: December 24, 1832.
My dear Sister,--I am much obliged to you for your letter, and am
gratified by all its contents, except what you say about your own
cough. As soon as you come back, you shall see Dr. Chambers, if you
are not quite well. Do not oppose me in this; for I have set my heart
on it. I dined on Saturday at Lord Essex's in Belgrave Square. But
never was there such a take-in. I had been given to understand that
his Lordship's cuisine was superintended by the first French artists,
and that I should find there all the luxuries of the Almanach des
Gourmands. What a mistake! His lordship is luxurious, indeed, but in
quite a different way. He is a true Englishman. Not a dish on his
table but what Sir Roger de Coverley, or Sir Hugh Tyrold, [The uncle
of Miss Burney's Camilla.] might have set before his guests. A huge
haunch of venison on the sideboard; a magnificent piece of beef at the
bottom of the table; and before my Lord himself smoked, not a dindon
aux truffes, but a fat roasted goose stuffed with sage and onions. I
was disappointed, but very agreeably; for my tastes are, I fear,
incurably vulgar, as you may perceive by my fondness for Mrs. Meeke's
Our party consisted of Sharp; Lubbock; Watson, M.P. for Canterbury;
and Rich, the author of "What will the Lords do?" who wishes to be M.
P. for Knaresborough. Rogers was to have been of the party; but his
brother chose that very day to die upon, so that poor Sam had to
absent himself. The Chancellor was also invited, but he had scampered
off to pass his Christmas with his old mother in Westmoreland. We had
some good talk, particularly about Junius's Letters. I learned some
new facts which I will tell you when we meet. I am more and more
inclined to believe that Francis was one of the people principally
On the 29th of January, 1833, commenced the first Session of the
Reformed Parliament. The main incidents of that Session, so fruitful
in great measures of public utility, belong to general history; if
indeed Clio herself is not fated to succumb beneath the stupendous
undertaking of turning Hansard into a narrative imbued with human
interest. O'Connell,--criticising the King's speech at vast length,
and passing in turns through every mood from the most exquisite pathos
to downright and undisguised ferocity,--at once plunged the House into
a discussion on Ireland, which alternately blazed and smouldered
through four livelong nights. Shed and Grattan spoke finely; Peel and
Stanley admirably; Bulwer made the first of his successes, and Cobbett
the second of his failures; but the longest and the loudest cheers
were those which greeted each of the glowing periods in which
Macaulay, as the champion of the Whig party, met the great agitator
face to face with high, but not intemperate, defiance.["We are called
base, and brutal, and bloody. Such are the epithets which the
honourable and learned member for Dublin thinks it becoming to pour
forth against the party to which he owes every political privilege
that he enjoys. The time will come when history will do justice to the
Whigs of England, and will faithfully relate how much they did and
suffered for Ireland. I see on the benches near me men who might, by
uttering one word against Catholic Emancipation.--nay, by merely
abstaining from uttering a word in favour of Catholic Emancipation,--
have been returned to this House without difficulty or expense, and
who, rather than wrong their Irish fellow-subjects, were content to
relinquish all the objects of their honourable ambition, and to retire
into private life with conscience and fame untarnished. As to one
eminent person, who seems to be regarded with especial malevolence by
those who ought never to mention his name without respect and
gratitude, I will only say this, that the loudest clamour which the
honourable and learned gentleman can excite against Lord Grey will be
trifling when compared with the clamour which Lord Grey withstood in
order to place the honourable and learned gentleman where he now sits.
Though a young member of the Whig party I will venture to speak in the
name of the whole body. I tell the honourable and learned gentleman,
that the same spirit which sustained us in a just contest for him will
sustain us in an equally just contest against him. Calumny, abuse,
royal displeasure, popular fury, exclusion from office, exclusion from
Parliament, we were ready to endure them all, rather than that he
should be less than a British subject. We never will suffer him to be
more."] In spite of this flattering reception, he seldom addressed the
House. A subordinate member of a Government, with plenty to do in his
own department, finds little temptation, and less encouragement, to
play the debater. The difference of opinion between the two Houses