Part 6 out of 9
concerning the Irish Church Temporalities Bill, which constituted the
crisis of the year, was the one circumstance that excited in
Macaulay's mind any very lively emotions; but those emotions, being
denied their full and free expression in the oratory of a partisan,
found vent in the doleful prognostications of a despairing patriot
which fill his letters throughout the months of June and July. His
abstinence from the passing topics of Parliamentary controversy
obtained for him a friendly, as well as an attentive, hearing from
both sides of the House whenever he spoke on his own subjects; and did
much to smooth the progress of those immense and salutary reforms with
which the Cabinet had resolved to accompany the renewal of the India
So rapid had been the march of events under that strange imperial
system established in the East by the enterprise and valour of three
generations of our countrymen, that each of the periodical revisions
of that system was, in effect, a revolution. The legislation of 1813
destroyed the monopoly of the Indian trade. In 1833 the time had
arrived when it was impossible any longer to maintain the monopoly of
the China trade; and the extinction of this remaining commercial
privilege could not fail to bring upon the Company commercial ruin.
Skill, and energy, and caution, however happily combined, would not
enable rulers who were governing a population larger than that
governed by Augustus, and making every decade conquests more extensive
than the conquests of Trajan, to compete with private merchants in an
open market. England, mindful of the inestimable debt which she owed
to the great Company, did not intend to requite her benefactors by
imposing on them a hopeless task. Justice and expediency could be
reconciled by one course, and one only;--that of buying up the assets
and liabilities of the Company on terms the favourable character of
which should represent the sincerity of the national gratitude.
Interest was to be paid from the Indian exchequer at the rate of ten
guineas a year on every hundred pounds of stock; the Company was
relieved of its commercial attributes, and became a corporation
charged with the function of ruling Hindoostan; and its directors, as
has been well observed, remained princes, but merchant princes no
The machinery required for carrying into effect this gigantic
metamorphosis was embodied in a bill every one of whose provisions
breathed the broad, the fearless, and the tolerant spirit with which
Reform had inspired our counsels. The earlier Sections placed the
whole property of the Company in trust for the Crown, and enacted that
"from and after the 22nd day of April 1834 the exclusive right of
trading with the dominions of the Emperor of China, and of trading in
tea, shall cease." Then came clauses which threw open the whole
continent of India as a place of residence for all subjects of his
Majesty; which pronounced the doom of Slavery; and which ordained that
no native of the British territories in the East should "by reason
only of his religion, place of birth, descent, or colour, be disabled
from holding any place, office, or employment." The measure was
introduced by Mr. Charles Grant, the President of the Board of
Control, and was read a second time on Wednesday the 10th July. On
that occasion Macaulay defended the bill in a thin House; a
circumstance which may surprise those who are not aware that on a
Wednesday, and with an Indian question on the paper, Cicero replying
to Hortensius would hardly draw a quorum. Small as it was, the
audience contained Lord John Russell, Peel, O'Connell, and other
masters in the Parliamentary craft. Their unanimous judgment was
summed up by Charles Grant, in words which every one who knows the
House of Commons will recognise as being very different from the
conventional verbiage of mutual senatorial flattery. "I must embrace
the opportunity of expressing, not what I felt, (for language could
not express it,) but of making an attempt to convey to the House my
sympathy with it in its admiration of the speech of my honourable and
learned friend; a speech which, I will venture to assert, has never
been exceeded within these walls for the development of statesmanlike
policy and practical good sense. It exhibited all that is noble in
oratory; all that is sublime, I had almost said, in poetry; all that
is truly great, exalted, and virtuous in human nature. If the House at
large felt a deep interest in this magnificent display, it may judge
of what were my emotions when I perceived in the hands of my honourable
friend the great principles which he expounded glowing with fresh
colours, and arrayed in all the beauty of truth."
There is no praise more gratefully treasured than that which is
bestowed by a generous chief upon a subordinate with whom he is on the
best of terms. Macaulay to the end entertained for Lord Glenelg that
sentiment of loyalty which a man of honour and feeling will always
cherish with regard to the statesman under whom he began his career as
a servant of the Crown. [The affinity between this sentiment and that
of the Quaestor towards his first Proconsul, so well described in the
Orations against Verres, is one among the innumerable points of
resemblance between the public life of ancient Rome and modern
England.] The Secretary repaid the President for his unvarying
kindness and confidence by helping him to get the bill through
committee with that absence of friction which is the pride and delight
of official men. The vexed questions of Establishment and Endowment,
(raised by the clauses appointing bishops to Madras and Bombay, and
balancing them with as many salaried Presbyterian chaplains,)
increased the length of the debates and the number of the divisions;
but the Government carried every point by large majorities, and, with
slight modifications in detail, and none in principle, the measure
became law with the almost universal approbation both of Parliament
and the country.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
House of Commons.
Monday night, half-past 12.
My dear Sister,--The papers will scarcely contain any account of what
passed yesterday in the House of Commons in the middle of the day.
Grant and I fought a battle with Briscoe and O'Connell in defence of
the Indian people, and won it by 38 to 6. It was a rascally claim of a
dishonest agent of the Company against the employers whom he had
cheated, and sold to their own tributaries. [In his great Indian
speech Macaulay referred to this affair, in a passage, the first
sentence of which has, by frequent quotation, been elevated into an
apophthegm: "A broken head in Cold Bath Fields produces a greater
sensation than three pitched battles in India. A few weeks ago we had
to decide on a claim brought by an individual against the revenues of
India. If it had been an English question the walls would scarcely
have held the members who would have flocked to the division. It was
an Indian question; and we could scarcely, by dint of supplication,
make a House."] The nephew of the original claimant has been pressing
his case on the Board most vehemently. He is an attorney living in
Russell Square, and very likely hears the word at St. John's Chapel.
He hears it however to very little purpose; for he lies as much as if
he went to hear a "cauld clatter of morality" at the parish church.
I remember that, when you were at Leamington two years ago, I used to
fill my letters with accounts of the people with whom I dined. High
life was new to me then; and now it has grown so familiar that I
should not, I fear, be able, as I formerly was, to select the striking
circumstances. I have dined with sundry great folks since you left
London, and I have attended a very splendid rout at Lord Grey's. I
stole thither, at about eleven, from the House of Commons with Stewart
Mackenzie. I do not mean to describe the beauty of the ladies, nor the
brilliancy of stars and uniforms. I mean only to tell you one
circumstance which struck, and even affected me. I was talking to Lady
Charlotte Lindsay, the daughter of Lord North, a great favourite of
mine, about the apartments and the furniture, when she said with a
good deal of emotion: "This is an interesting visit to me. I have
never been in this house for fifty years. It was here that I was
born; I left it a child when my father fell from power in 1782,
and I have never crossed the threshold since." Then she told me
how the rooms seemed dwindled to her; how the staircase, which
appeared to her in recollection to be the most spacious and
magnificent that she had ever seen, had disappointed her. She
longed, she said, to go over the garrets and rummage her old
nursery. She told me how, in the No-Popery riots of 1780, she was
taken out of bed at two o'clock in the morning. The mob threatened
Lord North's house. There were soldiers at the windows, and an
immense and furious crowd in Downing Street. She saw, she said,
from her nursery the fires in different parts of London; but she
did not understand the danger; and only exulted in being up at
midnight. Then she was conveyed through the Park to the Horse
Guards as the safest place; and was laid, wrapped up in blankets,
on the table in the guardroom in the midst of the officers. "And
it was such fun," she said, "that I have ever after had rather a
liking for insurrections."
I write in the midst of a crowd. A debate on Slavery is going on in
the Commons; a debate on Portugal in the Lords. The door is slamming
behind me every moment, and people are constantly going out and in.
Here comes Vernon Smith. "Well, Vernon, what are they doing?"
"Gladstone has just made a very good speech, and Howick is answering
him." "Aye, but in the House of Lords?" "They will beat us by twenty,
they say." "Well, I do not think it matters much." "No; nobody out of
the House of Lords cares either for Don Pedro, or for Don Miguel."
There is a conversation between two official men in the Library of the
House of Commons on the night of the 3rd June 1833, reported word for
word. To the historian three centuries hence this letter will be
invaluable. To you, ungrateful as you are, it will seem worthless.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
Smoking-Room of the House of Commons
June 6, 1833.
My Darling,--Why am I such a fool as to write to a gypsey at
Liverpool, who fancies that none is so good as she if she sends one
letter for my three? A lazy chit whose fingers tire with penning a
page in reply to a quire! There, Miss, you read all the first sentence
of my epistle, and never knew that you were reading verse. I have some
gossip for you about the Edinburgh Review. Napier is in London, and
has called on me several times. He has been with the publishers, who
tell him that the sale is falling off; and in many private parties,
where he hears sad complaints. The universal cry is that the long dull
articles are the ruin of the Review. As to myself, he assures me that
my articles are the only things which keep the work up at all. Longman
and his partners correspond with about five hundred booksellers in
different parts of the kingdom. All these booksellers, I find, tell
them that the Review sells, or does not sell, according as there are,
or are not, articles by Mr. Macaulay. So, you see, I, like Mr.
Darcy,[The central male figure in "Pride and Prejudice."] shall not
care how proud I am. At all events, I cannot but be pleased to learn
that, if I should be forced to depend on my pen for subsistence, I can
command what price I choose.
The House is sitting; Peel is just down; Lord Palmerston is speaking;
the heat is tremendous; the crowd stifling; and so here I am in the
smoking-room, with three Repealers making chimneys of their mouths
under my very nose.
To think that this letter will bear to my Anna
The exquisite scent of O'Connor's Havannah!
You know that the Lords have been foolish enough to pass a vote
implying censure on the Ministers.[On June 3rd, 1833, a vote of
censure on the Portuguese policy of the Ministry was moved by the Duke
of Wellington, and carried in the Lords by 79 votes to 69. On June 6th
a counter-resolution was carried in the Commons by 361 votes to 98.]
The Ministers do not seem inclined to take it of them. The King has
snubbed their Lordships properly; and in about an hour, as I guess,
(for it is near eleven), we shall have come to a Resolution in direct
opposition to that agreed to by the Upper House. Nobody seems to care
one straw for what the Peers say about any public matter. A Resolution
of the Court of Common Council, or of a meeting at Freemasons' Hall,
has often made a greater sensation than this declaration of a branch of
the Legislature against the Executive Government. The institution of
the Peerage is evidently dying a natural death.
I dined yesterday--where, and on what, and at what price, I am ashamed
to tell you. Such scandalous extravagance and gluttony I will not
commit to writing. I blush when I think of it. You, however, are not
wholly guiltless in this matter. My nameless offence was partly
occasioned by Napier; and I have a very strong reason for wishing to
keep Napier in good humour. He has promised to be at Edinburgh when I
take a certain damsel thither; to loop out for very nice lodgings for
us in Queen Street; to show us everything and everybody; and to see us
as far as Dunkeld on our way northward, if we do go northward. In
general I abhor visiting; but at Edinburgh we must see the people as
well as the walls and windows; and Napier will be a capital guide.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: June 14, 1833.
My dear Sister,--I do not know what you may have been told. I may have
grumbled, for ought I know, at not having more letters from you; but,
as to being angry, you ought to know by this time what sort of anger
mine is when you are its object.
You have seen the papers, I dare say, and you will perceive that I did
not speak yesterday night.[The night of the First Reading of the India
Bill.] The House was thin. The debate was languid. Grant's speech had
done our work sufficiently for one night; and both he and Lord Althorp
advised me to reserve myself for the Second Reading.
What have I to tell you? I will look at my engagement book, to see
where I am to dine.
Friday June 14 . Lord Grey.
Saturday June 15 . Mr. Boddington.
Sunday June 16 . Mr. S. Rice.
Saturday June 22 . Sir R. Inglis.
Thursday June 27 . The Earl of Ripon.
Saturday June 29 . Lord Morpeth.
Read, and envy, and pine, and die. And yet I would give a large slice
of my quarter's salary, which is now nearly due, to be at the Dingle.
I am sick of Lords with no brains in their heads, and Ladies with
paint on their cheeks, and politics, and politicians, and that reeking
furnace of a House. As the poet says,
Oh! rather would I see this day
My little Nancy well and merry
Than the blue riband of Earl Grey,
Or the blue stockings of Miss Berry.
Margaret tells us that you are better, and better, and better. I want
to hear that you are well. At all events our Scotch tour will set you
up. I hope, for the sake of the tour, that we shall keep our places;
but I firmly believe that, before many days have passed, a desperate
attempt will be made in the House of Lords to turn us out. If we stand
the shock, we shall be firmer than ever. I am not without anxiety as to
the result; yet I believe that Lord Grey understands the position in
which he is placed, and, as for the King, he will not forget his last
blunder, I will answer for it, even if he should live to the age of
his father. [This "last blunder" was the refusal of the King to stand
by his Ministers in May 1832. Macaulay proved a bad prophet; for,
after an interval of only three years, William the Fourth repeated his
blunder in an aggravated form.]
But why plague ourselves about politics when we have so much
pleasanter things to talk of? The Parson's Daughter; don't you like
the Parson's Daughter? What a wretch Harbottle was! And Lady Frances,
what a sad worldly woman! But Mrs. Harbottle, dear suffering angel!
and Emma Level, all excellence! Dr. Mac Gopus you doubtless like; but
you probably do not admire the Duchess and Lady Catherine. There is a
regular cone over a novel for you! But, if you will have my opinion, I
think it Theodore Book's worst performance; far inferior to the
Surgeon's Daughter; a set of fools making themselves miserable by
their own nonsensical fancies and suspicions. Let me hear your
opinion, for I will be sworn that,
In spite of all the serious world,
Of all the thumbs that ever twirled,
Of every broadbrim-shaded brow,
Of every tongue that e'er said "thou,"
You still read books in marble covers
About smart girls and dapper lovers.
But what folly I have been scrawling! I must go to work.
I cannot all day
Be neglecting Madras
And slighting Bombay
For the sake of a lass.
Kindest love to Edward, and to the woman who owns him.
T. B. M.
London: June 17, 1833.
Dear Hannah,--All is still anxiety here. Whether the House of
Lords will throw out the Irish Church Bill, whether the King will
consent to create new Peers, whether the Tories will venture to
form a Ministry, are matters about which we are all in complete
doubt. If the Ministry should really be changed, Parliament will,
I feel quite sure, be dissolved. Whether I shall have a seat in
the next Parliament I neither know nor care. I shall regret
nothing for myself but our Scotch tour. For the public I shall,
if this Parliament is dissolved, entertain scarcely any hopes. I
see nothing before us but a frantic conflict between extreme
opinions; a short period of oppression; then a convulsive
reaction; and then a tremendous crash of the Funds, the Church,
the Peerage, and the Throne. It is enough to make the most
strenuous royalist lean a little to republicanism to think that
the whole question between safety and general destruction may
probably, at this most fearful conjuncture, depend on a single
man whom the accident of his birth has placed in a situation to
which certainly his own virtues or abilities would never have
The question must come to a decision, I think, within the
fortnight. In the meantime the funds are going down, the
newspapers are storming, and the faces of men on both sides are
growing day by day more gloomy and anxious. Even during the most
violent part of the contest for the Reform Bill I do not remember
to have seen so much agitation in the political circles. I have
some odd anecdotes for you, which I will tell you when we meet.
If the Parliament should be dissolved, the West Indian and East
Indian Bills are of course dropped. What is to become of the
slaves? What is to become of the tea-trade? Will the negroes,
after receiving the Resolutions of the House of Commons promising
them liberty, submit to the cart-whip? Will our merchants consent
to have the trade with China, which has just been offered to
them, snatched away? The Bank Charter, too, is suspended. But
that is comparatively a trifle. After all, what is it to me who
is in or out, or whether those fools of Lords are resolved to
perish, and drag the King to perish with them in the ruin which
they have themselves made? I begin to wonder what the fascination
is which attracts men, who could sit over their tea and their
books in their own cool quiet room, to breathe bad air, hear bad
speeches, lounge up and down the long gallery, and doze uneasily
on the green benches till three in the morning. Thank God, these
luxuries are not necessary to me. My pen is sufficient for my
support, and my sister's company is sufficient for my happiness.
Only let me see her well and cheerful, and let offices in
Government, and seats in Parliament, go to those who care for
them. If I were to leave public life to-morrow, I declare that,
except for the vexation which it might give you and one or two
others, the event would not be in the slightest degree painful to
me. As you boast of having a greater insight into character than
I allow to you, let me know how you explain this philosophical
disposition of mine, and how you reconcile it with my ambitious
inclinations. That is a problem for a young lady who professes
knowledge of human nature.
Did I tell you that I dined at the Duchess of Kent's, and sate
next that loveliest of women, Mrs. Littleton? Her husband, our
new Secretary for Ireland, told me this evening that Lord
Wellesley, who sate near us at the Duchess's, asked Mrs.
Littleton afterwards who it was that was talking to her. "Mr.
Macaulay." "Oh! "said the Marquess," I am very sorry I did not
know it. I have a most particular desire to be acquainted with
that man." Accordingly Littleton has engaged me to dine with him,
in order to introduce me to the Marquess. I am particularly
curious, and always was, to know him. He has made a great and
splendid figure in history, and his weaknesses, though they make
his character less worthy of respect, make it more interesting as
a study. Such a blooming old swain I never saw; hair combed with
exquisite nicety, a waistcoat of driven snow, and a star and
garter put on with rare skill.
To-day we took up our Resolutions about India to the House of
Lords. The two Houses had a conference on the subject in an old
Gothic room called the Painted Chamber. The painting consists in
a mildewed daub of a woman in the niche of one of the windows.
The Lords sate in little cocked hats along a table; and we stood
uncovered on the other side, and delivered in our Resolutions. I
thought that before long it may be our turn to sit, and theirs to
T. B. M.
London: June 21, 1833.
Dear Hannah,--I cannot tell you how delighted I was to learn from
Fanny this morning that Margaret pronounces you to be as well as
she could wish you to be. Only continue so, and all the changes
of public life will be as indifferent to me as to Horatio. If I
am only spared the misery of seeing you suffer, I shall be found
A man that fortune's buffets and rewards
Has ta'en with equal thanks.
Whether we are to have buffets or rewards is known only to Heaven
and to the Peers. I think that their Lordships are rather cowed.
Indeed, if they venture on the course on which they lately seemed
bent, I would not give sixpence for a coronet or a penny for a
I shall not read the Repealers; and I think it very impudent in
you to make such a request. Have I nothing to do but to be your
novel-taster? It is rather your duty to be mine. What else have
you to do? I have read only one novel within the last week, and a
most precious one it was: the Invisible Gentleman. Have you ever
read it? But I need not ask. No doubt it has formed part of your
Sunday studies. A wretched, trumpery, imitation of Godwin's worst
manner. What a number of stories I shall have to tell you when we
meet!--which will be, as nearly as I can guess, about the 10th or
12th of August. I shall be as rich as a Jew by that time.
Next Wednesday will be quarter-day;
And then, if I'm alive,
Of sterling pounds I shall receive
Three hundred seventy-five.
Already I possess in cash
Two hundred twenty-four,
Besides what I have lent to John
Which makes up twenty more.
Also the man who editeth
The Yellow and the Blue
Doth owe me ninety pounds at least,
All for my last review.
So, if my debtors pay their debts,
You'll find, dear sister mine,
That all my wealth together makes
Seven hundred pounds and nine.
T. B. M.
The rhymes in which Macaulay unfolds his little budget derive a
certain dignity and meaning from the events of the ensuing weeks.
The unparalleled labours of the Anti-Slavery leaders were at
length approaching a successful issue, and Lord Grey's Cabinet
had declared itself responsible for the emancipation of the West
Indian negroes. But it was already beginning to be known that the
Ministerial scheme, in its original shape, was not such as would
satisfy even the more moderate Abolitionists. Its most
objectionable feature was shadowed forth in the third of the
Resolutions with which Mr. Stanley, who had the question in
charge, prefaced the introduction of his bill: "That all persons,
now slaves, be entitled to be registered as apprenticed
labourers, and to acquire thereby all the rights and privileges
of freemen, subject to the restriction of labouring, for a time
to be fixed by Parliament, for their present owners." It was
understood that twelve years would be proposed as the period of
apprenticeship; although no trace of this intention could be
detected in the wording of the Resolution. Macaulay, who thought
twelve years far too long, felt himself justified in supporting
the Government during the preliminary stages; but he took
occasion to make some remarks indicating that circumstances might
occur which would oblige him to resign office, and adopt a line
of his own.
As time went on it became evident that his firmness would be put
to the test; and a severe test it was. A rising statesman, whose
prospects would be irremediably injured by abruptly quitting a
Government that seemed likely to be in power for the next quarter
of a century; a zealous Whig, who shrank from the very appearance
of disaffection to his party; a man of sense, with no ambition to
be called Quixotic; a member for a large constituency, possessed
of only seven hundred pounds in the world when his purse was at
its fullest; above all, an affectionate son and brother, now,
more than ever, the main hope and reliance of those whom he held
most dear;--it may well be believed that he was not in a hurry
to act the martyr. His father's affairs were worse than bad. The
African firm, without having been reduced to declare itself
bankrupt, had ceased to exist as a house of business; or existed
only so far that for some years to come every penny that Macaulay
earned, beyond what the necessities of life demanded, was
scrupulously devoted to paying, and at length to paying off, his
father's creditors; a dutiful enterprise in which he was assisted
by his brother Henry, [Henry married in 1841 a daughter of his
brother's old political ally, Lord Denman. He died at Boa Vista,
in 1846, leaving two sons, Henry, and Joseph, Macaulay.] a young
man of high spirit and excellent abilities, who had recently been
appointed one of the Commissioners of Arbitration in the Prize
Courts at Sierra Leone.
The pressure of pecuniary trouble was now beginning to make
itself felt even by the younger members of the family. About this
time, or perhaps a little earlier, Hannah Macaulay writes thus to
one of her cousins: "You say nothing about coming to us. You must
come in good health and spirits. Our trials ought not greatly to
depress us; for, after all, all we want is money, the easiest
want to bear; and, when we have so many mercies--friends who love
us and whom we love; no bereavements; and, above all, (if it be
not our own fault,) a hope full of immortality--let us not be so
ungrateful as to repine because we are without what in itself
cannot make our happiness."
Macaulay's colleagues, who, without knowing his whole story, knew
enough to be aware that he could ill afford to give up office,
were earnest in their remonstrances; but he answered shortly, and
almost roughly: "I cannot go counter to my father. He has devoted
his whole life to the question, and I cannot grieve him by giving
way when he wishes me to stand firm." During the crisis of the
West India Bill, Zachary Macaulay and his son were in constant
correspondence. There is something touching in the picture which
these letters present of the older man, (whose years were coming
to a close in poverty which was the consequence of his having
always lived too much for others,) discussing quietly and gravely
how, and when, the younger was to take a step that in the opinion
of them both would be fatal to his career; and this with so
little consciousness that there was anything heroic in the course
which they were pursuing, that it appears never to have occurred
to either of their that any other line of conduct could possibly
Having made up his mind as to what he should do, Macaulay set
about it with as good a grace as is compatible with the most
trying position in which a man, and especially a young man, can
find himself. Carefully avoiding the attitude of one who bargains
or threatens, he had given timely notice in the proper quarter of
his intentions and his views. At length the conjuncture arrived
when decisive action could no longer be postponed. On the 24th of
July Mr. Thomas Fowell Buxton moved an amendment in Committee,
limiting the apprenticeship to the shortest period necessary for
establishing the system of free labour. Macaulay, whose
resignation was already in Lord Althorp's hands, made a speech
which produced all the more effect as being inornate, and, at
times, almost awkward. Even if deeper feelings had not restrained
the range of his fancy and the flow of his rhetoric, his judgment
would have told him that it was not the moment for an oratorical
display. He began by entreating the House to extend to him that
indulgence which it had accorded on occasions when he had
addressed it "with more confidence and with less harassed
feelings." He then, at some length, exposed the effects of the
Government proposal. "In free countries the master has a choice
of labourers, and the labourer has a choice of masters; but in
slavery it is always necessary to give despotic power to the
master. This bill leaves it to the magistrate to keep peace
between master and slave. Every time that the slave takes twenty
minutes to do that which the master thinks he should do in
fifteen, recourse must be had to the magistrate. Society would
day and night be in a constant state of litigation, and all
differences and difficulties must be solved by judicial
He did not share in Mr. Buxton's apprehension of gross cruelty as
a result of the apprenticeship. "The magistrate would be
accountable to the Colonial Office, and the Colonial Office to
the House of Commons, in which every lash which was inflicted
under magisterial authority would be told and counted. My
apprehension is that the result of continuing for twelve years
this dead slavery,--this state of society destitute of any vital
principle,--will be that the whole negro population will sink
into weak and drawling inefficacy, and will be much less fit for
liberty at the end of the period than at the commencement. My
hope is that the system will die a natural death; that the
experience of a few months will so establish its utter
inefficiency as to induce the planters to abandon it, and to
substitute for it a state of freedom. I have voted," he said,
"for the Second Reading, and I shall vote for the Third Reading;
but, while the bill is in Committee, I shall join with other
honourable gentlemen in doing all that is possible to amend it."
Such a declaration, coming from the mouth of a member of the
Government, gave life to the debate, and secured to Mr. Buxton
an excellent division, which under the circumstances was
equivalent to a victory. The next day Mr. Stanley rose; adverted
shortly to the position in which the Ministers stood; and
announced that the term of apprenticeship would be reduced from
twelve years to seven. Mr. Buxton, who, with equal energy and
wisdom, had throughout the proceedings acted as leader of the
Anti-slavery party in the House of Commons, advised his friends
to make the best of the concession; and his counsel was followed
by all those Abolitionists who were thinking more of their cause
than of themselves. It is worthy of remark that Macaulay's
prophecy came true, though not at so early a date as he ventured
to anticipate. Four years of the provisional system brought all
parties to acquiesce in the premature termination of a state of
things which denied to the negro the blessings of freedom, and to
the planter the profits of slavery.
"The papers," Macaulay writes to his father, "will have told you
all that has happened, as far as it is known to the public. The
secret history you will have heard from Buxton. As to myself,
Lord Althorp told me yesterday night that the Cabinet had
determined not to accept my resignation. I have therefore the
singular good luck of having saved both my honour and my place,
and of having given no just ground of offence either to the
Abolitionists or to my party-friends. I have more reason than
ever to say that honesty is the best policy."
This letter is dated the 27th of July. On that day week,
Wilberforce was carried to his grave in Westminster Abbey. "We
laid him," writes Macaulay, "side by side with Canning, at the
feet of Pitt, and within two steps of Fox and Grattan." He died
with the promised land full in view. Before the end of August
Parliament abolished slavery, and the last touch was put to the
work that had consumed so many pure and noble lives. In a letter
of congratulation to Zachary Macaulay, Mr. Buxton says: "Surely
you have reason to rejoice. My sober and deliberate opinion is
that you have done more towards this consummation than any other
man. For myself, I take pleasure in acknowledging that you have
been my tutor all the way through, and that I could have done
nothing without you." Such was the spirit of these men, who,
while the struggle lasted, were prodigal of health and ease; but
who, in the day of triumph, disclaimed, each for himself, even
that part of the merit which their religion allowed them to
ascribe to human effort and self-sacrifice.
London: July 11, 1833.
Dear Hannah,--I have been so completely overwhelmed with business
for some days that I have not been able to find time for writing
a line. Yesterday night we read the India Bill a second time. It
was a Wednesday, and the reporters gave hardly any account of
what passed. They always resent being forced to attend on that
day, which is their holiday. I made the best speech, by general
agreement, and in my own opinion, that I ever made in my life. I
was an hour and three-quarters up; and such compliments as I had
from Lord Althorp, Lord Palmerston, Lord John Russell, Wynne,
O'Connell, Grant, the Speaker, and twenty other people, you never
heard. As there is no report of the speech, I have been
persuaded, rather against my will, to correct it for publication.
I will tell you one compliment that was paid me, and which
delighted me more than any other. An old member said to me: "Sir,
having heard that speech may console the young people for never
having heard Mr. Burke." [A Tory member said that Macaulay
resembled both the Burkes: that he was like the first from his
eloquence, and like the second from his stopping other people's
The Slavery Bill is miserably bad. I am fully resolved not to be
dragged through the mire, but to oppose, by speaking and voting,
the clauses which I think objectionable. I have told Lord Althorp
this, and have again tendered my resignation. He hinted that he
thought that the Government would leave me at liberty to take my
own line, but that he must consult his colleagues. I told him
that I asked for no favour; that I knew what inconvenience would
result if official men were allowed to dissent from Ministerial
measures, and yet to keep their places; and that I should not
think myself in the smallest degree ill-used if the Cabinet
accepted my resignation. This is the present posture of affairs.
In the meantime the two Houses are at daggers drawn. Whether the
Government will last to the end of the Session I neither know nor
care. I am sick of Boards, and of the House of Commons; and pine
for a few quiet days, a cool country breeze, and a little
chatting with my dear sister.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay
London: July 19, 1833.
My dear Sister,--I snatch a few minutes to write a single line to
you. We went into Committee on the India Bill at twelve this
morning, sate till three, and are just set at liberty for two
hours. At five we recommence, and shall be at work till midnight.
In the interval between three and five I have to despatch the
current business of the office, which, at present, is fortunately
not heavy; to eat my dinner, which I shall do at Grant's; and to
write a short scrawl to my little sister.
My work, though laborious, has been highly satisfactory. No Bill,
I believe, of such importance,--certainly no important Bill in my
time, has been received with such general approbation. The very
cause of the negligence of the reporters, and of the thinness of
the House, is that we have framed our measure so carefully as to
give little occasion for debate. Littleton, Denison, and many
other members, assure me that they never remember to have seen a
Bill better drawn or better conducted.
On Monday night, I hope, my work will be over. Our Bill will have
been discussed, I trust, for the last time in the House of
Commons; and, in all probability, I shall within forty-eight
hours after that time be out of office. I am fully determined not
to give way about the West India Bill; and I can hardly expect,--
I am sure I do not wish,--that the Ministers should suffer me to
keep my place and oppose their measure. Whatever may befall me or
my party, I am much more desirous to come to an end of this
interminable Session than to stay either in office or in
Parliament. The Tories are quite welcome to take everything, if
they will only leave me my pen and my books, a warm fireside, and
you chattering beside it. This sort of philosophy, an odd kind of
cross between Stoicism and Epicureanism, I have learned, where
most people unlearn all their philosophy, in crowded senates and
But time flies, and Grant's dinner will be waiting. He keeps open
house for us during this fight.
T. B. M.
London: July 22, 1833.
My dear Father,--We are still very anxious here. The Lords, though
they have passed the Irish Church Bill through its first stage,
will very probably mutilate it in Committee. It will then be for
the Ministers to decide whether they can with honour keep their
places. I believe that they will resign if any material
alteration should be made; and then everything is confusion.
These circumstances render it very difficult for me to shape my
course right with respect to the West India Bill, the Second
Reading of which stands for this evening. I am fully resolved to
oppose several of the clauses. But to declare my intention
publicly, at a moment when the Government is in danger, would
have the appearance of ratting. I must be guided by
circumstances; but my present intention is to say nothing on the
Second Reading. By the time that we get into Committee the
political crisis, will, I hope, be over; the fate of the Church
Bill will be decided one way or the other; and I shall be able to
take my own course on the Slavery question without exposing
myself to the charge of deserting my friends in a moment of
Ever yours affectionately
T. B. MACAULAY.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: July 24, 1833,
My dear Sister,--You will have seen by the papers that the West
India debate on Monday night went off very quietly in little more
than an hour. To-night we expect the great struggle, and I fear
that, much against my inclination, I must bear a part in it. My
resignation is in Lord Althorp's hands. He assures me that he
will do his utmost to obtain for me liberty to act as I like on
this question; but Lord Grey and Stanley are to be consulted, and
I think it very improbable that they will consent to allow me so
extraordinary a privilege. I know that, if I were Minister, I
would not allow such latitude to any man in office; and so I told
Lord Althorp. He answered in the kindest and most flattering
manner; told me that in office I had surpassed their
expectations, and that, much as they wished to bring me in last
year, they wished much more to keep me in now. I told him in
reply that the matter was one for the Ministers to settle, purely
with a view to their own interest; that I asked for no
indulgence; that I could make no terms; and that, what I would
not do to serve them, I certainly would not do to keep my place.
Thus the matter stands. It will probably be finally settled
within a few hours.
This detestable Session goes on lengthening, and lengthening,
like a human hair in one's mouth. (Do you know that delicious
sensation?) Last month we expected to have been up before the
middle of August. Now we should be glad to be quite certain of
being in the country by the first of September. One comfort I
shall have in being turned out: I will not stay a day in London
after the West India Bill is through Committee; which I hope it
will be before the end of next week.
The new Edinburgh Review is not much amiss; but I quite agree
with the publishers, the editor, and the reading public
generally, that the number would have been much the better for an
article of thirty or forty pages from the pen of a gentleman who
shall be nameless.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: July 25, 1833.
My dear Sister,--The plot is thickening. Yesterday Buxton moved
an instruction to the Committee on the Slavery Bill, which the
Government opposed, and which I supported. It was extremely
painful to me to speak against all my political friends; so
painful that at times I could hardly go on. I treated them as
mildly as I could; and they all tell me that I performed my
difficult task not ungracefully. We divided at two this morning,
and were 151 to 158. The Ministers found that, if they persisted,
they would infallibly be beaten. Accordingly they came down to
the House at twelve this day, and agreed to reduce the
apprenticeship to seven years for the agricultural labourers, and
to five years for the skilled labourers. What other people may do
I cannot tell; but I am inclined to be satisfied with this
concession; particularly as I believe that, if we press the thing
further, they will resign, and we shall have no Bill at all, but
instead of it a Tory Ministry and a dissolution. Some people
flatter me with the assurance that our large minority, and the
consequent change in the Bill, have been owing to me. If this be
so, I have done one useful act at least in my life.
I shall now certainly remain in office; and if, as I expect, the
Irish Church Bill passes the Lords, I may consider myself as safe
till the next Session; when Heaven knows what may happen. It is
still quite uncertain when we may rise. I pine for rest, air, and
a taste of family life, more than I can express. I see nothing
but politicians, and talk about nothing but politics.
I have not read Village Belles. Tell me, as soon as you can get
it, whether it is worth reading. As John Thorpe [The young Oxford
man in "Northanger Abbey."]
says "Novels! Oh Lord! I never read novels. I have something else
T. B. M,
To Hannah M. Macaulay,
London: July 27, 1833.
My dear Sister,--Here I am, safe and well, at the end of one of
the most stormy weeks that the oldest man remembers in
Parliamentary affairs. I have resigned my office, and my
resignation has been refused. I have spoken and voted against the
Ministry under which I hold my place. The Ministry has been so
hard run in the Commons as to be forced to modify its plan; and
has received a defeat in the Lords, [On the 25th of July the
Archbishop of Canterbury carried an amendment on the Irish Church
Bill, against the Government, by 84 votes to 82.]--a slight one
to be sure, and on a slight matter,--yet such that I, and many
others, fully believed twenty-four hours ago that they would have
resigned. In fact, some of the Cabinet,--Grant among the rest, to
my certain knowledge, were for resigning. At last Saturday has
arrived. The Ministry is as strong as ever. I am as good friends
with the Ministers as ever. The East India Bill is carried
through our House. The West India Bill is so far modified that, I
believe, it will be carried. The Irish Church Bill has got
through the Committee in the Lords; and we are all beginning to
look forward to a Prorogation in about three weeks.
To-day I went to Hayden's to be painted into his great picture of
the Reform Banquet. Ellis was with me, and declares that Hayden
has touched me off to a nicety. I am sick of pictures of my own
face. I have seen within the last few days one drawing of it, one
engraving, and three paintings. They all make me a very handsome
fellow. Hayden pronounces my profile a gem of art, perfectly
antique; and, what is worth the praise of ten Haydens, I was told
yesterday that Mrs. Littleton, the handsomest woman in London,
had paid me exactly the same compliment. She pronounced Mr.
Macaulay's profile to be a study for an artist. I have bought a
new looking-glass and razor-case on the strength of these
compliments, and am meditating on the expediency of having my
hair cut in the Burlington Arcade, rather than in Lamb's Conduit
Street. As Richard says,
"Since I am crept in favour with myself,
I will maintain it with some little cost."
I begin, like Sir Walter Elliot, [The Baronet in "Persuasion."]
to rate all my acquaintance according to their beauty. But what
nonsense I write, and in times that make many merry men look
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: July 29, 1833.
My dear Sister,--I dined last night at Holland House. There was a
very pleasant party. My Lady was courteous, and my Lord
extravagantly entertaining, telling some capital stories about
old Bishop Horsley, which were set off with some of the drollest
mimicry that I ever saw. Among many others there were Sir James
Graham; and Dr. Holland, who is a good scholar as well as a good
physician; and Wilkie, who is a modest, pleasing companion as
well as an excellent artist. For ladies, we had her Grace of--;
and her daughter Lady--, a fine, buxom, sonsy lass, with more
colour than, I am sorry to say, is often seen among fine ladies.
So our dinner and our soiree were very agreeable.
We narrowly escaped a scene at one time. Lord is in the navy, and
is now on duty in the fleet at the Tagus. We got into a
conversation about Portuguese politics. His name was mentioned,
and Graham, who is First Lord of the Admiralty, complimented the
Duchess on her son's merit, to which, he said, every despatch
bore witness. The Duchess forthwith began to entreat that he
might be recalled. He was very ill, she said. If he stayed longer
on that station she was sure that he would die; and then she
began to cry. I cannot bear to see women cry, and the matter
became serious, for her pretty daughter began to bear her
company. That hardhearted Lord-- seemed to be diverted by the
scene. He, by all accounts, has been doing little else than
making women cry during the last five-and-twenty years. However,
we all were as still as death while the wiping of eyes and the
blowing of noses proceeded. At last Lord Holland contrived to
restore our spirits; but, before the Duchess went away, she
managed to have a tete-a-tete with Graham, and, I have no doubt,
begged and blubbered to some purpose. I could not help thinking
how many honest stout-hearted fellows are left to die on the most
unhealthy stations for want of being related to some Duchess who
has been handsome, or to some Duchess's daughter who still is so.
The Duchess said one thing that amused us. We were talking about
Lady Morgan. "When she first came to London," said Lord Holland,
"I remember that she carried a little Irish harp about with her
wherever she went." Others denied this. I mentioned what she says
in her Book of the Boudoir. There she relates how she went one
evening to Lady--'s with her little Irish harp, and how strange
everybody thought it. "I see nothing very strange," said her
Grace, "in her taking her harp to Lady--'s. If she brought it
safe away with her, that would have been strange indeed." On
this, as a friend of yours says, we la-a-a-a-a-a-a-ft.
I am glad to find that you approve of my conduct about the
Niggers. I expect, and indeed wish, to be abused by the Agency
Society. My father is quite satisfied, and so are the best part
of my Leeds friends.
I amuse myself, as I walk back from the House at two in the
morning, with translating Virgil. I am at work on one of the most
beautiful episodes, and am succeeding pretty well. You shall have
what I have done when I come to Liverpool, which will be, I hope,
in three weeks or thereanent.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: July 31, 1833.
My dear Sister,--Political affairs look cheeringly. The Lords
passed the Irish Church Bill yesterday, and mean, we understand,
to give us little or no trouble about the India Bill. There is
still a hitch in the Commons about the West India Bill,
particularly about the twenty millions for compensation to the
planters; but we expect to carry our point by a great majority.
By the end of next week we shall be very near the termination of
our labours. Heavy labours they have been.
So Wilberforce is gone! We talk of burying him in Westminster
Abbey; and many eminent men, both Whigs and Tories, are desirous
to join in paying him this honour. There is, however, a story
about a promise given to old Stephen that they should both lie in
the same grave. Wilberforce kept his faculties, and, except when
he was actually in fits, his spirits, to the very last. He was
cheerful and full of anecdote only last Saturday. He owned that
he enjoyed life much, and that he had a great desire to live
longer. Strange in a man who had, I should have said, so little
to attach him to this world, and so firm a belief in another; in
a man with an impaired fortune, a weak spine, and a worn-out
stomach! What is this fascination which makes us cling to
existence in spite of present sufferings and of religious hopes?
Yesterday evening I called at the house in Cadogan Place, where
the body is lying. I was truly fond of him; that is, "je l'aimais
comme l'on aime." And how is that? How very little one human
being generally cares for another! How very little the world
misses anybody! How soon the chasm left by the best and wisest
men closes! I thought, as I walked back from Cadogan Place, that
our own selfishness when others are taken away ought to teach us
how little others will suffer at losing us. I thought that, if I
were to die to-morrow, not one of the fine people, whom I dine
with every week, will take a cotelette aux petits pois the less
on Saturday at the table to which I was invited to meet them, or
will smile less gaily at the ladies over the champagne. And I am
quite even with them. What are those pretty lines of Shelley?
Oh, world, farewell!
Listen to the passing bell.
It tells that thou and I must part
With a light and heavy heart.
There are not ten people in the world whose deaths would spoil my
dinner; but there are one or two whose deaths would break my
heart. The more I see of the world, and the more numerous my
acquaintance becomes, the narrower and more exclusive my
affection grows, and the more I cling to my sisters, and to one
or two old tried friends of my quiet days. But why should I go on
preaching to you out of Ecclesiastes? And here comes,
fortunately, to break the train of my melancholy reflections, the
proof of my East India Speech from Hansard; so I must put my
letter aside, and correct the press. Ever yours
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: August 2, 1833.
My dear Sister,--I agree with your judgment on Chesterfield's
Letters. They are for the most part trash; though they contain
some clever passages, and the style is not bad. Their celebrity
must be attributed to causes quite distinct from their literary
merit, and particularly to the position which the author held in
society. We see in our own time that the books written by public
men of note are generally rated at more than their real value:
Lord Granville's little compositions, for example; Canning's
verses; Fox's history; Brougham's treatises. The writings of
people of high fashion, also, have a value set on them far higher
than that which intrinsically belongs to them. The verses of the
late Duchess of Devonshire, or an occasional prologue by Lord
Alvanley, attract a most undue share of attention. If the present
Duke of Devonshire, who is the very "glass of fashion and mould
of form," were to publish a book with two good pages, it would be
extolled as a masterpiece in half the drawing-rooms of London.
Now Chesterfield was, what no person in our time has been or can
be, a great political leader, and at the same time the
acknowledged chief of the fashionable world; at the head of the
House of Lords, and at the head of laze; Mr. Canning and the Duke
of Devonshire in one. In our time the division of labour is
carried so far that such a man could not exist. Politics require
the whole of energy, bodily and mental, during half the year; and
leave very little time for the bow window at White's in the day,
or for the crush-room of the Opera at night. A century ago the
case was different. Chesterfield was at once the most
distinguished orator in the Upper House, and the undisputed
sovereign of wit and fashion. He held this eminence for about
forty years. At last it became the regular custom of the higher
circles to laugh whenever he opened his mouth, without waiting
for his bon mot. He used to sit at White's with a circle of young
men of rank round him, applauding every syllable that he uttered.
If you wish for a proof of the kind of position which
Chesterfield held among his contemporaries, look at the
prospectus of Johnson's Dictionary. Look even at Johnson's angry
letter. It contains the strongest admission of the boundless
influence which Chesterfield exercised over society. When the
letters of such a man were published, of course they were
received more favourably by far than they deserved.
So much for criticism. As to politics, everything seems tending
to repose; and I should think that by this day fortnight we shall
probably be prorogued. The Jew Bill was thrown out yesterday
night by the Lords. No matter. Our turn will come one of these
If you want to see me puffed and abused by somebody who evidently
knows nothing about me, look at the New Monthly for this month.
Bulwer, I see, has given up editing it. I suppose he is making
money in some other way; for his dress must cost as much as that
of any five other members of Parliament.
To-morrow Wilberforce is to be buried. His sons acceded, with
great eagerness, to the application made to them by a
considerable number of the members of both Houses that the
funeral should be public. We meet to-morrow at twelve at the
House of Commons, and we shall attend the coffin into the Abbey.
The Duke of Wellington, Lord Eldon, and Sir R. Peel have put down
their names, as well as the Ministers and the Abolitionists.
My father urges me to pay some tribute to Wilberforce in the
House of Commons. If any debate should take place on the third
reading of the West India Bill in which I might take part, I
should certainly embrace the opportunity of doing honour to his
memory. But I do not expect that such an occasion will arise. The
House seems inclined to pass the Bill without more contest; and
my father must be aware that anything like theatrical display,--
anything like a set funeral oration not springing naturally out
of the discussion of a question,--is extremely distasteful to the
House of Commons.
I have been clearing off a great mass of business, which had
accumulated at our office while we were conducting our Bill
through Parliament. Today I had the satisfaction of seeing the
green boxes, which a week ago were piled up with papers three or
four feet high, perfectly empty. Admire my superhuman industry.
This I will say for myself, that, when I do sit down to work, I
work harder and faster than any person that I ever knew.
T. B. M.
The next letter, in terms too clear to require comment,
introduces the mention of what proved to be the most important
circumstance in Macaulay's life.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: August 17, 1833.
My dear Sister,--I am about to write to you on a subject which to
you and Margaret will be one of the most agitating interest; and
which, on that account chiefly, is so to me.
By the new India bill it is provided that one of the members of
the Supreme Council, which is to govern our Eastern Empire, is to
be chosen from among persons who are not servants of the Company.
It is probable, indeed nearly certain, that the situation will be
offered to me.
The advantages are very great. It is a post of the highest
dignity and consideration. The salary is ten thousand pounds a
year. I am assured by persons who know Calcutta intimately, and
who have themselves mixed in the highest circles and held the
highest offices at that Presidency, that I may live in splendour
there for five thousand a year, and may save the rest of the
salary with the accruing interest. I may therefore hope to return
to England at only thirty-nine, in the full vigour of life, with
a fortune of thirty thousand pounds. A larger fortune I never
I am not fond of money, or anxious about it. But, though every
day makes me less and less eager for wealth, every day shows me
more and more strongly how necessary a competence is to a man who
desires to be either great or useful. At present the plain fact
is that I can continue to be a public man only while I can
continue in office. If I left my place in the Government, I must
leave my seat in Parliament too. For I must live; I can live only
by my pen; and it is absolutely impossible for any man to write
enough to procure him a decent subsistence, and at the same time
to take an active part in politics. I have not during this
Session been able to send a single line to the Edinburgh Review;
and, if I had been out of office, I should have been able to do
very little. Edward Bulwer has just given up the New Monthly
Magazine on the ground that he cannot conduct it, and attend to
his Parliamentary duties. Cobbett has been compelled to neglect
his Register so much that its sale has fallen almost to nothing.
Now, in order to live like a gentleman, it would be necessary for
me to write, not as I have done hitherto, but regularly, and even
daily. I have never made more than two hundred a year by my pen.
I could not support myself in comfort on less than five hundred;
and I shall in all probability have many others to support. The
prospects of our family are, if possible, darker than ever.
In the meantime my political outlook is very gloomy. A schism in
the Ministry is approaching. It requires only that common
knowledge of public affairs, which any reader of the newspapers
may possess, to see this; and I have more, much more, than common
knowledge on the subject. They cannot hold together. I tell you
in perfect seriousness that my chance of keeping my present
situation for six months is so small, that I would willingly sell
it for fifty pounds down. If I remain in office, I shall, I fear,
lose my political character. If I go out, and engage in
opposition, I shall break most of the private ties which I have
formed during the last three years. In England I see nothing
before me, for some time to come, but poverty, unpopularity, and
the breaking up of old connections.
If there were no way out of these difficulties, I would encounter
them with courage. A man can always act honourably and uprightly;
and, if I were in the Fleet Prison or the rules of the King's
Bench, I believe that I could find in my own mind resources which
would preserve me from being positively unhappy. But, if I could
escape from these impending disasters, I should wish to do so. By
accepting the post which is likely to be offered to me, I
withdraw myself for a short time from the contests of faction
here. When I return, I shall find things settled, parties formed
into new combinations, and new questions under discussion. I
shall then be able, without the scandal of a violent separation,
and without exposing myself to the charge of inconsistency, to
take my own line. In the meantime I shall save my family from
distress; and shall return with a competence honestly earned, as
rich as if I were Duke of Northumberland or Marquess of
Westminster, and able to act on all public questions without even
a temptation to deviate from the strict line of duty. While in
India, I shall have to discharge duties not painfully laborious,
and of the highest and most honourable kind. I shall have
whatever that country affords of comfort or splendour; nor will
my absence be so long that my friends, or the public here, will
be likely to lose sight of me.
The only persons who know what I have written to you are Lord
Grey, the Grants, Stewart Mackenzie, and George Babington.
Charles Grant and Stewart Mackenzie, who know better than most
men the state of the political world, think that I should act
unwisely in refusing this post; and this though they assure me,--
and, I really believe, sincerely,--that they shall feel the loss
of my society very acutely. But what shall I feel? And with what
emotions, loving as I do my country and my family, can I look
forward to such a separation, enjoined, as I think it is, by
prudence and by duty? Whether the period of my exile shall be one
of comfort,--and, after the first shock, even of happiness,--
depends on you. If, as I expect, this offer shall be made to me,
will you go with me? I know what a sacrifice I ask of you. I know
how many dear and precious ties you must, for a time, sunder. I
know that the splendour of the Indian Court, and the gaieties of
that brilliant society of which you would be one of the leading
personages, have no temptation for you. I can bribe you only by
telling you that, if you will go with me, I will love you better
than I love you now, if I can.
I have asked George Babington about your health and mine. He says
that he has very little apprehension for me, and none at all for
you. Indeed, he seemed to think that the climate would be quite
as likely to do you good as harm.
All this is most strictly secret. You may, of course, show the
letter to Margaret; and Margaret may tell Edward; for I never
cabal against the lawful authority of husbands. But further the
thing must not go. It would hurt my father, and very justly, to
hear of it from anybody before he hears of it from myself; and,
if the least hint of it were to get abroad, I should be placed in
a very awkward position with regard to the people at Leeds. It is
possible, though not probable, that difficulties may arise at the
India House; and I do not mean to say anything to any person, who
is not already in the secret, till the Directors have made their
choice, and till the King's pleasure has been taken.
And now think calmly over what I have written. I would not have
written on the subject even to you, till the matter was quite
settled, if I had not thought that you ought to have full time to
make up your mind. If you feel an insurmountable aversion to
India, I will do all in my power to make your residence in
England comfortable during my absence, and to enable you to
confer instead of receiving benefits. But if my dear sister would
consent to give me, at this great crisis of my life, that proof,
that painful and arduous proof, of her affection, which I beg of
her, I think that she will not repent of it. She shall not, if
the unbounded confidence and attachment of one to whom she is
dearer than life can compensate her for a few years' absence from
much that she loves.
Dear Margaret! She will feel this. Consult her, my love, and let
us both have the advantage of such advice as her excellent
understanding, and her warm affection for us, may furnish. On
Monday next, at the latest, I expect to be with you. Our Scotch
tour, under these circumstances, must be short. By Christmas it
will be fit that the new Councillor should leave England. His
functions in India commence next April. We shall leave our dear
Margaret, I hope, a happy mother.
Farewell, my dear sister. You cannot tell how impatiently I shall
wait for your answer.
T. B. M.
This letter, written under the influence of deep and varied
emotions, was read with feelings of painful agitation and
surprise. India was not then the familiar name that it has become
to a generation which regards a visit to Cashmere as a trip to be
undertaken between two London seasons, and which discusses over
its breakfast table at home the decisions arrived at on the
previous afternoon in the Council-room of Simla or Calcutta. In
those rural parsonages and middle-class households where service
in our Eastern territories now presents itself in the light of a
probable and desirable destiny for a promising son, those same
territories were forty years ago regarded as an obscure and
distant region of disease and death. A girl who had seen no
country more foreign than Wales, and crossed no water broader and
more tempestuous than the Mersey, looked forward to a voyage
which (as she subsequently learned by melancholy experience),
might extend over six weary months, with an anxiety that can
hardly be imagined by us who spend only half as many weeks on the
journey between Dover and Bombay. A separation from beloved
relations under such conditions was a separation indeed; and, if
Macaulay and his sister could have foreseen how much of what they
left at their departure they would fail to find on their return,
it is a question whether any earthly consideration could have
induced them to quit their native shore. But Hannah's sense of
duty was too strong for these doubts and tremors; and, happily,
(for on the whole her resolution was a fortunate one,) she
resolved to accompany her brother in an expatriation which he
never would have faced without her. With a mind set at ease by a
knowledge of her intention, he came down to Liverpool as soon as
the Session was at an end; and carried her off on a jaunt to
Edinburgh, in a post-chaise furnished with Horace Walpole's
letters for their common reading, and Smollett's collected works
for his own. Before October he was back at the Board of Control;
and his letters recommenced, as frequent and rather more serious
and business-like than of old.
London: October 5, 1833
Dear Hannah,--Life goes on so quietly here, or rather stands so
still, that I have nothing, or next to nothing, to say. At the
Athenaeum I now and then fall in with some person passing through
town on his way to the Continent or to Brighton. The other day I
met Sharp, and had a long talk with him about everything and
everybody,--metaphysics, poetry, politics, scenery, and painting.
One thing I have observed in Sharp, which is quite peculiar to
him among town-wits and diners-out. He never talks scandal. If he
can say nothing good of a man, he holds his tongue. I do not, of
course, mean that in confidential communication about politics he
does not speak freely of public men; but about the foibles of
private individuals I do not believe that, much as I have talked
with him, I ever heard him utter one word. I passed three or four
hours very agreeably in his company at the club.
I have also seen Kenny for an hour or two. I do not know that I
ever mentioned Kenny to you. When London is overflowing, I meet
such numbers of people that I cannot remember half their names.
This is the time at which every acquaintance, however slight,
attracts some degree of attention. In the desert island, even
poor Poll was something of a companion to Robinson Crusoe. Kenny
is a writer of a class which, in our time, is at the very bottom
of the literary scale. He is a dramatist. Most of the farces, and
three-act plays, which have succeeded during the last eight or
ten years, are, I am told, from his pen. Heaven knows that, if
they are the farces and plays which I have seen, they do him but
little honour. However, this man is one of our great comic
writers. He has the merit, such as it is, of hitting the very bad
taste of our modern audiences better than any other person who
has stooped to that degrading work. We had a good deal of
literary chat; and I thought him a clever shrewd fellow.
My father is poorly; not that anything very serious is the matter
with him; but he has a cold, and is in low spirits.
T. B. M.
London: October 14, 1833
Dear Hannah,--I have just finished my article on Horace Walpole.
This is one of the happy moments of my life; a stupid task
performed; a weight taken off my mind. I should be quite joyous
if I had only you to read it to. But to Napier it must go
forthwith; and, as soon as I have finished this letter, I shall
put it into the general post with my own fair hands. I was up at
four this morning to put the last touch to it. I often differ
with the majority about other people's writings, and still
oftener about my own; and therefore I may very likely be
mistaken; but I think that this article will be a hit. We shall
see. Nothing ever cost me more pains than the first half; I never
wrote anything so flowingly as the latter half; and I like the
latter half the best. I have laid it on Walpole so unsparingly
that I shall not be surprised if Miss Berry should cut me. You
know she was Walpole's favourite in her youth. Neither am I sure
that Lord and Lady Holland will be well pleased. But they ought
to be obliged to me; for I refrained for their sake from laying a
hand, which has been thought to be not a light one, on that old
rogue the first Lord Holland. [Lord Holland, once upon a time,
speaking to Macaulay of his grandfather, said: "He had that
temper which kind folks have been pleased to say belongs to my
family; but he shared the fault that belonged to that school of
statesmen, an utter disbelief in public virtue."]
Charles Grant is still at Paris; ill, he says. I never knew a man
who wanted setting to rights so often. He goes as badly as your
My father is at me again to provide for P--. What on earth have I
to do with P--? The relationship is one which none but Scotchmen
would recognise. The lad is such a fool that he would utterly
disgrace my recommendation. And, as if to make the thing more
provoking, his sisters say that he must be provided for in
England, for that they cannot think of parting with him. This, to
be sure, matters little; for there is at present just as little
chance of getting anything in India as in England.
But what strange folly this is which meets me in every quarter;
people wanting posts in the army, the navy, the public offices,
and saying that, if they cannot find such posts, they must
starve! How do all the rest of mankind live? If I had not
happened to be engaged in politics, and if my father had not been
connected, by very extraordinary circumstances, with public men,
I should never have dreamed of having places. Why cannot P-- be
apprenticed to some hatter or tailor? He may do well in such a
business; he will do detestably ill as a clerk in my office. He
may come to make good coats; he will never, I am sure, write good
despatches. There is nothing truer than Poor Richard's say: "We
are taxed twice as heavily by our pride as by the state." The
curse of England is the obstinate determination of the middle
classes to make their sons what they call gentlemen. So we are
overrun by clergymen without livings; lawyers without briefs;
physicians without patients; authors without readers; clerks
soliciting employment, who might have thriven, and been above the
world, as bakers, watchmakers, or innkeepers. The next time my
father speaks to me about P--, I will offer to subscribe twenty
guineas towards making a pastry-cook of him. He had a sweet tooth
when he was a child.
So you are reading Burnet! Did you begin from the beginning? What
do you think of the old fellow? He was always a great favourite
of mine; honest, though careless; a strong party man on the right
side, yet with much kind feeling towards his opponents, and even
towards his personal enemies. He is to me a most entertaining
writer; far superior to Clarendon in the art of amusing, though
of course far Clarendon's inferior in discernment, and in dignity
and correctness of style. Do you know, by the bye, Clarendon's
life of himself? I like it, the part after the Restoration at
least, better than his great History.
I am very quiet; rise at seven or half-past; read Spanish till
ten; breakfast; walk to my office; stay there till four; take a
long walk, dine towards seven; and am in bed before eleven. I am
going through Don Quixote again, and admire it more than ever. It
is certainly the best novel in the world, beyond all comparison.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: October 21, 1833.
My dear Sister,--Grant is here at last, and we have had a very
long talk about matters both public and private. The Government
would support my appointment; but he expects violent opposition
from the Company. He mentioned my name to the Chairs, and they
were furious. They know that I have been against them through the
whole course of the negotiations which resulted in the India
Bill. They put their opposition on the ground of my youth,--a
very flattering objection to a man who this week completes his
thirty-third year. They spoke very highly of me in other
respects; but they seemed quite obstinate.
The question now is whether their opposition will be supported by
the other Directors. If it should be so, I have advised Grant
most strongly to withdraw my name, to put up some other man, and
then to fight the battle to the utmost. We shall be suspected of
jobbing if we proceed to extremities on behalf of one of
ourselves; but we can do what we like, if it is in favour of some
person whom we cannot be suspected of supporting from interested
motives. From the extreme unreasonableness and pertinacity which
are discernible in every communication that we receive from the
India House at present, I am inclined to think that I have no
chance of being chosen by them, without a dispute in which I
should not wish the Government to engage for such a purpose. Lord
Grey says that I have a right to their support if I ask for it;
but that, for the sake of his administration generally, he is
very adverse to my going. I do not think that I shall go.
However, a few days will decide the matter.
I have heard from Napier. He praises my article on Walpole in
terms absolutely extravagant. He says that it is the best that I
ever wrote; and, entre nous, I am not very far from agreeing with
him. I am impatient to have your opinion. No flattery pleases me
so much as domestic flattery. You will have the Number within the
T. B. M
To Macvey Napier, Esq.
London: October 21, 1833.
Dear Napier,--I am glad to learn that you like my article. I like
it myself; which is not much my habit. Very likely the public,
which has often been kinder to my performances than I was, may on
this, as on other occasions, differ from me in opinion. If the
paper has any merit, it owes it to the delay of which you must, I
am sure, have complained very bitterly in your heart. I was so
thoroughly dissatisfied with the article, as it stood at first,
that I completely re-wrote it; altered the whole arrangement;
left out ten or twelve pages in one part; and added twice as many
in another. I never wrote anything so slowly as the first half,
or so rapidly as the last half.
You are in an error about Akenside, which I must clear up for his
credit, and for mine. You are confounding the Ode to Curio and
the Epistle to Curio. The latter is generally printed at the end
of Akenside's works, and is, I think, the best thing that he ever
wrote. The Ode is worthless. It is merely an abridgment of the
Epistle executed in the most unskilful way. Johnson says, in his
Life of Akenside, that no poet ever so much mistook his powers as
Akenside when he took to lyric composition. "Having," I think the
words are, "written with great force and poignancy his Epistle to
Curio, he afterwards transformed it into an Ode only disgraceful
to its author." ["Akenside was one of the fiercest and the most
uncompromising of the young patriots out of Parliament. When he
found that the change of administration had produced no change of
system, he gave vent to his indignation in the 'Epistle to
Curio,' the best poem that he ever wrote; a poem, indeed, which
seems to indicate that, if he had left lyrical composition to
Cray and Collins, and had employed his powers in grave and
elevated satire, he might have disputed the pre-eminence of
Dryden." This passage occurs in Macaulay's Essay on Horace
Walpole. In the course of the same Essay, Macaulay remarks that
"Lord Chesterfield stands much lower in the estimation of
posterity than he would have done if his letters had never been
When I said that Chesterfield had lost by the publication of his
letters, I of course considered that he had much to lose; that he
has left an immense reputation, founded on the testimony of all
his contemporaries of all parties, for wit, taste, and eloquence;
that what remains of his Parliamentary oratory is superior to
anything of that time that has come down to us, except a little
of Pitt's. The utmost that can be said of the letters is that
they are the letters of a cleverish man; and there are not many
which are entitled even to that praise. I think he would have
stood higher if we had been left to judge of his powers,--as we
judge of those of Chatham, Mansfield, Charles Townshend, and many
others,--only by tradition, and by fragments of speeches
preserved in Parliamentary reports.
I said nothing about Lord Byron's criticism on Walpole, because I
thought it, like most of his Lordship's criticism, below
refutation. On the drama Lord Byron wrote more nonsense than on
any subject. He wanted to have restored the unities. His practice
proved as unsuccessful as his theory was absurd. His admiration
of the "Mysterious Mother" was of a piece with his thinking
Gifford, and Rogers, greater poets than Wordsworth, and
Ever yours truly
T. B. MACAULAY.
London: October 28, 1833.
Dear Hannah,--I wish to have Malkin as head of the Commission at
Canton, and Grant seems now to be strongly bent on the same
plan. [Sir Benjamin Malkin, a college friend of Macaulay, was
afterwards a judge in the Supreme Court at Calcutta.] Malkin is a
man of singular temper, judgment, and firmness of nerve. Danger
and responsibility, instead of agitating and confusing him,
always bring out whatever there is in him. This was the
reason of his great success at Cambridge. He made a figure there
far beyond his learning or his talents, though both his learning
and his talents are highly respectable. But the moment that he
sate down to be examined, which is just the situation in which
all other people, from natural flurry, do worse than at other
times, be began to do his very best. His intellect became
clearer, and his manner more quiet, than usual. He is the very
man to make up his mind in three minutes if the Viceroy of Canton
were in a rage, the mob bellowing round the doors of the factory,
and an English ship of war making preparations to bombard the
A propos of places, my father has been at me again about P--.
Would you think it? This lad has a hundred and twenty pounds a
year for life! I could not believe my ears; but so it is; and I,
who have not a penny, with half a dozen brothers and sisters as
poor as myself, am to move heaven and earth to push this boy who,
as he is the silliest, is also, I think, the richest relation
that I have in the world.
I am to dine on Thursday with the Fishmongers' Company, the first
company for gourmandise in the world. Their magnificent Hall near
London Bridge is not yet built, but, as respects eating and
drinking, I shall be no loser; for we are to be entertained at
the Albion Tavern. This is the first dinner-party that I shall
have been to for a long time. There is nobody in town that I know
except official men, and they have left their wives and
households in the country. I met Poodle Byng, it is true, the day
before yesterday in the street; and he begged me to make haste to
Brooks's; for Lord Essex was there, he said, whipping up for a
dinner-party; cursing and swearing at all his friends for being
out of town; and wishing--what an honour!--that Macaulay was in
London. I preserved all the dignity of a young lady in an affaire
du coeur. "I shall not run after my Lord, I assure you. If he
wants me, he knows where he may hear of me." This nibble is the
nearest approach to a dinner-party that I have had.
T. B. M.
London: November 1, 1833.
Dear Hannah,--I have not much to add to what I told you
yesterday; but everything that I have to add looks one way. We
have a new Chairman and Deputy Chairman, both very strongly in my
favour. Sharp, by whom I sate yesterday at the Fishmongers'
dinner, told me that my old enemy James Mill had spoken to him on
the subject. Mill is, as you have heard, at the head of one of
the principal departments of the India House. The late Chairman
consulted him about me; hoping, I suppose, to have his support
against me. Mill said, very handsomely, that he would advise the
Company to take me; for, as public men went, I was much above the
average, and, if they rejected me, he thought it very unlikely
that they would get anybody so fit. This is all the news that I
have to give you. It is not much. But I wish to keep you as fully
informed of what is going on as I am myself.
Old Sharp told me that I was acting quite wisely, but that he
should never see me again; and he cried as he said it. [Mr. Sharp
died in 1837, before Macaulay's return from India.] I encouraged
him; and told him that I hoped to be in England again before the
end of 1839, and that there was nothing impossible in our meeting
again. He cheered up after a time; told me that he should
correspond with me, and give me all the secret history both of
politics and of society; and promised to select the best books,
and send them regularly to me.
The Fishmongers' dinner was very good, but not so profusely
splendid as I had expected. There has been a change, I find, and
not before it was wanted. They had got at one time to dining at
ten guineas a head. They drank my health, and I harangued them
with immense applause. I talked all the evening to Sharp. I told
him what a dear sister I had, and how readily she had agreed to
go with me. I had told Grant the same in the morning. Both of
them extolled my good fortune in having such a companion.
T. B. M.
London: November--, 1833.
Dear Hannah,--Things stand as they stood; except that the report
of my appointment is every day spreading more widely; and that I
am beset by advertising dealers begging leave to make up a
hundred cotton shirts for me, and fifty muslin gowns for you, and
by clerks out of place begging to be my secretaries. I am not in
very high spirits to-day, as I have just received a letter from
poor Ellis, to whom I had not communicated my intentions till
yesterday. He writes so affectionately and so plaintively that he
quite cuts me to the heart. There are few indeed from whom I
shall part with so much pain; and he, poor fellow, says that,
next to his wife, I am the person for whom he feels the most
thorough attachment, and in whom he places the most unlimited
On the 11th of this month there is to be a dinner given to
Lushington by the electors of the Tower Hamlets. He has
persecuted me with importunities to attend, and make a speech for
him; and my father has joined in the request. It is enough, in
these times, Heaven knows, for a man who represents, as I do, a
town of a hundred and twenty thousand people to keep his own
constituents in good humour; and the Spitalfields weavers, and
Whitechapel butchers, are nothing to me. But, ever since I
succeeded in what everybody allows to have been the most
hazardous attempt of the kind ever made,--I mean in persuading an
audience of manufacturers, all Whigs or Radicals, that the
immediate alteration of the corn-laws was impossible,--I have
been considered as a capital physician for desperate cases in
politics. However,--to return from that delightful theme, my own
praises,--Lushington, who is not very popular with the rabble of
the Tower Hamlets, thinks that an oration from me would give him
a lift. I could not refuse him directly, backed as he was by my
father. I only said that I would attend if I were in London on
the 11th; but I added that, situated as I was, I thought it very
probable that I should be out of town.
I shall go to-night to Miss Berry's soiree. I do not know whether
I told you that she resented my article on Horace Walpole so much
that Sir Stratford Canning advised me not to go near her. She was
Walpole's greatest favourite. His Reminiscences are addressed to
her in terms of the most gallant eulogy. When he was dying at
past eighty, he asked her to marry him, merely that he might make
her a Countess and leave her his fortune. You know that in Vivian
Grey she is called Miss Otranto. I always expected that my
article would put her into a passion, and I was not mistaken; but
she has come round again, and sent me a most pressing and kind
invitation the other day.
I have been racketing lately, having dined twice with Rogers, and
once with Grant. Lady Holland is in a most extraordinary state.
She came to Rogers's, with Allen, in so bad a humour that we were
all forced to rally, and make common cause against her. There was
not a person at table to whom she was not rude; and none of us
were inclined to submit. Rogers sneered; Sydney made merciless
sport of her. Tom Moore looked excessively impertinent; Bobus put
her down with simple straightforward rudeness; and I treated her
with what I meant to be the coldest civility. Allen flew into a
rage with us all, and especially with Sydney, whose guffaws, as
the Scotch say, were indeed tremendous. When she and all the rest
were gone, Rogers made Tom Moore and me sit down with him for
half an hour, and we coshered over the events of the evening.
Rogers said that he thought Allen's firing up in defence of his
patroness the best thing that he had seen in him. No sooner had
Tom and I got into the street than he broke forth: "That such an
old stager as Rogers should talk such nonsense, and give Allen
credit for attachment to anything but his dinner! Allen was
bursting with envy to see us so free, while he was conscious of
his own slavery."
Her Ladyship has been the better for this discipline. She has
overwhelmed me ever since with attentions and invitations. I have
at last found out the cause of her ill-humour, or at least of
that portion of it of which I was the object. She is in a rage at
my article on Walpole, but at what part of it I cannot tell. I
know that she is very intimate with the Waldegraves, to whom the
manuscripts belong, and for whose benefit the letters were
published. But my review was surely not calculated to injure the
sale of the book. Lord Holland told me, in an aside, that he
quite agreed with me, but that we had better not discuss the
A note; and, by my life, from my Lady Holland: "Dear Mr. Macaulay,
pray wrap yourself very warm, and come to us on Wednesday." No, my
good Lady. I am engaged on Wednesday to dine at the Albion Tavern
with the Directors of the East India Company; now my servants;
next week, I hope, to be my masters.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: November 22, 1833.
My dear Sister,--The decision is postponed for a week; but there
is no chance of an unfavourable result. The Chairs have collected
the opinions of their brethren; and the result is, that, of the
twenty-four Directors, only six or seven at the most will vote
I dined with the Directors on Wednesday at the Albion Tavern. We
had a company of about sixty persons, and many eminent military
men amongst them. The very courteous manner in which several of
the Directors begged to be introduced to me, and drank my health
at dinner, led me to think that the Chairs have not overstated
the feeling of the Court. One of them, an old Indian and a great
friend of our uncle the General, told me in plain words that he
was glad to hear that I was to be in their service. Another, whom
I do not even know by sight, pressed the Chairman to propose my
health. The Chairman with great judgment refused. It would have
been very awkward to have had to make a speech to them in the
Of course, my love, all your expenses, from the day of my
appointment, are my affair. My present plan, formed after
conversation with experienced East Indians, is not to burden
myself with an extravagant outfit. I shall take only what will be
necessary for the voyage. Plate, wine, coaches, furniture, glass,
china, can be bought in Calcutta as well as in London. I shall
not have money enough to fit myself out handsomely with such
things here; and to fit myself out shabbily would be folly. I
reckon that we can bring our whole expense for the passage within
the twelve hundred pounds allowed by the Company. My calculation
is that our cabins and board will cost L250 apiece. The passage
of our servants L50 apiece. That makes up L600. My clothes and
etceteras, as Mrs. Meeke observes, I will, I am quite sure, come
within L200. [Mrs. Meeke was his favourite among bad novel-
writers, See page 96.] Yours will, of course, be more. I will
send you L300 to lay out as you like; not meaning to confine you
to it, by any means; but you would probably prefer having a sum
down to sending in your milliner's bills to me. I reckon my
servant's outfit at L50; your maid's at as much more. The whole
will be L1200.
One word about your maid. You really must choose with great
caution. Hitherto the Company has required that all ladies, who
take maidservants with them from this country to India, should
give security to send them back within two years. The reason was,
that no class of people misconducted themselves so much in the
East as female servants from this country. They generally treat
the natives with gross insolence; an insolence natural enough to
people accustomed to stand in a subordinate relation to others
when, for the first time, they find a great population placed in
a servile relation towards them. Then, too, the state of society
is such that they are very likely to become mistresses of the
wealthy Europeans, and to flaunt about in magnificent palanquins,
bringing discredit on their country by the immorality of their
lives and the vulgarity of their manners. On these grounds the
Company has hitherto insisted upon their being sent back at the
expense of those who take them out. The late Act will enable your
servant to stay in India, if she chooses to stay. I hope,
therefore, that you will be careful in your selection. You see
how much depends upon it. The happiness and concord of our native
household, which will probably consist of sixty or seventy
people, may be destroyed by her, if she should be ill-tempered
and arrogant. If she should be weak and vain, she will probably
form connections that will ruin her morals and her reputation. I
am no preacher, as you very well know; but I have a strong sense
of the responsibility under which we shall both lie with respect
to a poor girl, brought by us into the midst of temptations of
which she cannot be aware, and which have turned many heads that
might have been steady enough in a quiet nursery or kitchen in
To find a man and wife, both of whom would suit us, would be very
difficult; and I think it right, also, to offer to my clerk to
keep him in my service. He is honest, intelligent, and
respectful; and, as he is rather inclined to consumption, the
change of climate would probably be useful to him. I cannot bear
the thought of throwing any person who has been about me for five
years, and with whom I have no fault to find, out of bread, while
it is in my power to retain his services.
T. B. M.
London: December 5, 1833
Dear Lord Lansdowne,--I delayed returning an answer to your kind
letter till this day, in order that I might be able to send you
definite intelligence. Yesterday evening the Directors appointed
me to a seat in the Council of India. The votes were nineteen for
me, and three against me.
I feel that the sacrifice which I am about to make is great. But
the motives which urge me to make it are quite irresistible.
Every day that I live I become less and less desirous of great
wealth. But every day makes me more sensible of the importance of
a competence. Without a competence it is not very easy for a
public man to be honest; it is almost impossible for him to be
thought so. I am so situated that I can subsist only in two ways:
by being in office, and by my pen. Hitherto, literature has been
merely my relaxation,--the amusement of perhaps a month in the
year. I have never considered it as the means of support. I have
chosen my own topics, taken my own time, and dictated my own
terms. The thought of becoming a bookseller's hack; of writing to
relieve, not the fulness of the mind, but the emptiness of the
pocket; of spurring a jaded fancy to reluctant exertion; of
filling sheets with trash merely that the sheets may be filled;
of bearing from publishers and editors what Dryden bore from
Tonson, and what, to my own knowledge, Mackintosh bore from
Lardner, is horrible to me. Yet thus it must be, if I should quit
office. Yet to hold office merely for the sake of emolument would
be more horrible still. The situation, in which I have been
placed for some time back, would have broken the spirit of many
men. It has rather tended to make me the most mutinous and
unmanageable of the followers of the Government. I tendered my
resignation twice during the course of the last Session. I
certainly should not have done so if I had been a man of fortune.
You, whom malevolence itself could never accuse of coveting
office for the sake of pecuniary gain, and whom your salary very
poorly compensates for the sacrifice of ease, and of your tastes,
to the public service, cannot estimate rightly the feelings of a
man who knows that his circumstances lay him open to the
suspicion of being actuated in his public conduct by the lowest
motives. Once or twice, when I have been defending unpopular
measures in the House of Commons, that thought has disordered my
ideas, and deprived me of my presence of mind.
If this were all, I should feel that, for the sake of my own
happiness and of my public utility, a few years would be well
spent in obtaining an independence. But this is not all. I am not
alone in the world. A family which I love most fondly is
dependent on me. Unless I would see my father left in his old age
to the charity of less near relations; my youngest brother unable
to obtain a good professional education; my sisters, who are more
to me than any sisters ever were to a brother, forced to turn
governesses or humble companions,--I must do something, I must
make some effort. An opportunity has offered itself. It is in my
power to make the last days of my father comfortable, to educate
my brother, to provide for my sisters, to procure a competence
for myself. I may hope, by the time I am thirty-nine or forty, to
return to England with a fortune of thirty thousand pounds. To me
that would be affluence. I never wished for more.
As far as English politics are concerned, I lose, it is true, a
few years. But, if your kindness had not introduced me very early
to Parliament,--if I had been left to climb up the regular path
of my profession, and to rise by my own efforts,--I should have
had very little chance of being in the House of Commons at forty.
If I have gained any distinction in the eyes of my countrymen,--
if I have acquired any knowledge of Parliamentary and official
business, and any habitude for the management of great affairs,--
I ought to consider these things as clear gain.
Then, too, the years of my absence, though lost, as far as
English politics are concerned, will not, I hope, be wholly lost,
as respects either my own mind or the happiness of my fellow-
creatures. I can scarcely conceive a nobler field than that which
our Indian Empire now presents to a statesman. While some of my
partial friends are blaming me for stooping to accept a share in
the government of that Empire, I am afraid that I am aspiring too
high for my qualifications. I sometimes feel, I most unaffectedly
declare, depressed and appalled by the immense responsibility
which I have undertaken. You are one of the very few public men
of our time who have bestowed on Indian affairs the attention
which they deserve; and you will therefore, I am sure, fully
enter into my feelings.
And now, dear Lord Lansdowne, let me thank you most warmly for
the kind feeling which has dictated your letter. That letter is,
indeed, but a very small part of what I ought to thank you for.
That at an early age I have gained some credit in public life;
that I have done some little service to more than one good cause;
that I now have it in my power to repair the ruined fortunes of
my family, and to save those who are dearest to me from the
misery and humiliation of dependence; that I am almost certain,
if I live, of obtaining a competence by honourable means before I
am past the full vigour of manhood,--this I owe to your
kindness. I will say no more. I will only entreat you to believe
that neither now, nor on any former occasion, have I ever said
one thousandth part of what I feel.
If it will not be inconvenient to you, I propose to go to Bowood
on Wednesday next. Labouchere will be my fellow-traveller. On
Saturday we must both return to town. Short as my visit must be,
I look forward to it with great pleasure.
Believe me, ever,
Yours most faithfully and affectionately
T. B. MACAULAY.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: December 5, 1833
My dear Sister,--I am overwhelmed with business, clearing off my
work here, and preparing for my new functions. Plans of ships,
and letters from captains, pour in without intermission. I really
am mobbed with gentlemen begging to have the honour of taking me
to India at my own time. The fact is that a Member of Council is
a great catch, not merely on account of the high price which he
directly pays for accommodation, but because other people are
attracted by him. Every father of a young writer, or a young
cadet, likes to have his son on board the same vessel with the
great man, to dine at the same table, and to have a chance of
attracting his notice. Everything in India is given by the
Governor in Council; and, though I have no direct voice in the
disposal of patronage, my indirect influence may be great.
Grant's kindness through all these negotiations has been such as
I really cannot describe. He told me yesterday, with tears in his
eyes, that he did not know what the Board would do without me. I
attribute his feeling partly to Robert Grant's absence; not that
Robert ever did me ill offices with him far from it; but Grant's
is a mind that cannot stand alone. It is begging your pardon for
my want of gallantry, a feminine mind. It turns, like ivy, to
some support. When Robert is near him, he clings to Robert.
Robert being away, he clings to me. This may be a weakness in a
public man; but I love him the better for it.
I have lately met Sir James Graham at dinner. He took me aside,
and talked to me on my appointment with a warmth of kindness
which, though we have been always on good terms, surprised me.
But the approach of a long separation, like the approach of
death, brings out all friendly feelings with unusual strength.
The Cabinet, he said, felt the loss strongly. It was great at the
India Board, but in the House of Commons, (he used the word over
and over,) "irreparable." They all, however, he said, agreed
that a man of honour could not make politics a profession unless
he had a competence of his own, without exposing himself to
privation of the severest kind. They felt that they had never had
it in their power to do all they wished to do for me. They had no
means of giving me a provision in England; and they could not
refuse me what I asked in India. He said very strongly that they
all thought that I judged quite wisely; and added that, if God
heard his prayers, and spared my health, I should make a far
greater figure in public life than if I had remained during the
next five or six years in England.
I picked up in a print-shop the other day some superb views of
the suburbs of Chowringhee, and the villas of the Garden Reach.
Selina professes that she is ready to die with envy of the fine
houses and verandahs. I heartily wish we were back again in a
nice plain brick house, three windows in front, in Cadogan Place
or Russell Square, with twelve or fifteen hundred a year, and a
spare bedroom,--(we, like Mrs. Norris, [A leading personage in
Miss Austen's "Mansfield Park."] must always have a spare
bedroom,)--for Edward and Margaret, Love to them both.
T. B. M.
To Macvey Napier, Esq.
London: December 5, 1833
Dear Napier,--You are probably not unprepared for what I am about
to tell you. Yesterday evening the Directors of the East India
Company elected me one of the members of the Supreme Council. It
will, therefore, be necessary that in a few weeks,--ten weeks, at
furthest,--I should leave this country for a few years.
It would be mere affectation in me to pretend not to know that my
support is of some importance to the Edinburgh Review. In the
situation in which I shall now be placed, a connection with the
Review will be of some importance to me. I know well how
dangerous it is for a public man wholly to withdraw himself from
the public eye. During an absence of six years, I run some risk
of losing most of the distinction, literary and political, which
I have acquired. As a means of keeping myself in the recollection
of my countrymen during my sojourn abroad the Review will be
invaluable to me; nor do I foresee that there will be the
slightest difficulty in my continuing to write for you at least
as much as ever. I have thought over my late articles, and I
really can scarcely call to mind a single sentence in any one of
them which might not have been written at Calcutta as easily as
in London. Perhaps in India I might not have the means of
detecting two or three of the false dates in Croker's Boswell.
But that would have been all. Very little, if any, of the effect
of my most popular articles is produced either by minute research
into rare books, or by allusions to mere topics of the day.
I think therefore that we might easily establish a commerce
mutually beneficial. I shall wish to be supplied with all the
good books which come out in this part of the world. Indeed, many
books which in themselves are of little value, and which, if I
were in England, I should not think it worth while to read, will
be interesting to me in India; just as the commonest daubs, and
the rudest vessels, at Pompeii attract the minute attention of
people who would not move their eyes to see a modern signpost, or
a modern kettle. Distance of place, like distance of time, makes
What I propose, then, is that you should pay me for the articles
which I may send you from India, not in money, but in books. As
to the amount I make no stipulations. You know that I have never
haggled about such matters. As to the choice of books, the mode
of transmission, and other matters, we shall have ample time to
discuss them before my departure. Let me know whether you are
willing to make an arrangement on this basis.
I have not forgotten Chatham in the midst of my avocations. I
hope to send you an article on him early next week.