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Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay by George Otto Trevelyan

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is as great a moral evil as can be found in any zenana. In
whatever degree infant schools relax that tie they do mischief.
For my own part, I would rather hear a boy of three years old
lisp all the bad words in the language than that he should have
no feelings of family affection--that his character should be that
which must be expected in one who has had the misfortune of
having a schoolmaster in place of a mother."

"I do not see the reason for establishing any limit as to the age
of scholars. The phenomena are exactly the same which have always
been found to exist when a new mode of education has been rising
into fashion. No man of fifty now learns Greek with boys; but in
the sixteenth century it was not at all unusual to see old
Doctors of Divinity attending lectures side by side with young

"With respect to making our College libraries circulating
libraries, there is much to be said on both sides. If a proper
subscription is demanded from those who have access to them, and
if all that is raised by this subscription is laid out in adding
to the libraries, the students will be no losers by the plan. Our
libraries, the best of them at least, would be better than any
which would be readily accessible at an up-country station; and I
do not know why we should grudge a young officer the pleasure of
reading our copy of Boswell's Life of Johnson or Marmontel's
Memoirs, if he is willing to pay a few rupees for the

These utterances of cultured wisdom or homely mother-wit are
sometimes expressed in phrases almost as amusing, though not so
characteristic, as those which Frederic the Great used to scrawl
on the margin of reports and despatches for the information of
his secretaries.

"We are a little too indulgent to the whims of the people in our
employ. We pay a large sum to send a master to a distant station.
He dislikes the place. The collector is uncivil; the surgeon
quarrels with him; and he must be moved. The expenses of the
journey have to be defrayed. Another man is to be transferred
from a place where he is comfortable and useful. Our masters run
from station to station at our cost, as vapourised ladies at home
run about from spa to spa. All situations have their discomforts;
and there are times when we all wish that our lot had been cast
in some other line of life, or in some other place."

With regard to a proposed coat of arms for Hooghly College, he

"I do not see why the mummeries of European heraldry should be
introduced into any part of our Indian system. Heraldry is not a
science which has any eternal rules. It is a system of arbitrary
canons, originating in pure caprice. Nothing can be more absurd
and grotesque than armorial bearings, considered in themselves.
Certain recollections, certain associations, make them
interesting in many cases to an Englishman; but in those
recollections and associations the natives of India do not
participate. A lion, rampant, with a folio in his paw, with a man
standing on each side of him, with a telescope over his head, and
with a Persian motto under his feet, must seem to them either
very mysterious, or very absurd."

In a discussion on the propriety of printing some books of
Oriental science, Macaulay writes

"I should be sorry to say anything disrespectful of that liberal
and generous enthusiasm for Oriental literature which appears in
Mr. Sutherland's minute; but I own that I cannot think that we
ought to be guided in the distribution of the small sum, which
the Government has allotted for the purpose of education, by
considerations which seem a little romantic. That the Saracens a
thousand years ago cultivated mathematical science is hardly, I
think, a reason for our spending any money in translating English
treatises on mathematics into Arabic. Mr. Sutherland would
probably think it very strange if we were to urge the destruction
of the Alexandrian Library as a reason against patronising Arabic
literature in the nineteenth century. The undertaking may be, as
Mr. Sutherland conceives, a great national work. So is the
breakwater at Madras. But under the orders which we have received
from the Government, we have just as little to do with one as
with the other."

Now and then a stroke, aimed at Hooghly College, hits nearer home.
That men of thirty should be bribed to continue their education
into mature life "seems very absurd. Moghal Jan has been paid to
learn something during twelve years. We are told that he is lazy
and stupid; but there are hopes that in four years more he will
have completed his course of study. We have had quite enough of
these lazy, stupid schoolboys of thirty."

"I must frankly own that I do not like the list of books. Grammars
of rhetoric and grammars of logic are among the most useless
furniture of a shelf. Give a boy Robinson Crusoe. That is worth
all the grammars of rhetoric and logic in the world. We ought to
procure such books as are likely to give the children a taste for
the literature of the West; not books filled with idle
distinctions and definitions, which every man who has learned them
makes haste to forget. Who ever reasoned better for having been
taught the difference between a syllogism and an enthymeme? Who
ever composed with greater spirit and elegance because he could
define an oxymoron or an aposiopesis? I am not joking, but writing
quite seriously, when I say that I would much rather order a
hundred copies of Jack the Giant-killer for our schools than a
hundred copies of any grammar of rhetoric or logic that ever was

"Goldsmith's Histories of Greece and Rome are miserable
performances, and I do not at all like to lay out 50 pounds on
them, even after they have received all Mr. Pinnock's
improvements. I must own too, that I think the order for globes
and other instruments unnecessarily large. To lay out 324 pounds
at once on globes alone, useful as I acknowledge those articles to
be, seems exceedingly profuse, when we have only about 3,000
pounds a year for all purposes of English education. One 12-inch
or 18-inch globe for each school is quite enough; and we ought
not, I think, to order sixteen such globes when we are about to
establish only seven schools. Useful as the telescopes, the
theodolites, and the other scientific instruments mentioned in the
indent undoubtedly are, we must consider that four or five such
instruments run away with a year's salary of a schoolmaster, and
that, if we purchase them, it will be necessary to defer the
establishment of schools."

At one of the colleges at Calcutta the distribution of prizes was
accompanied by some histrionic performances on the part of the

"I have no partiality," writes Macaulay, "for such ceremonies. I
think it a very questionable thing whether, even at home, public
spouting and acting ought to form part of the system of a place
of education. But in this country such exhibitions are peculiarly
out of place. I can conceive nothing more grotesque than the
scene from the Merchant of Venice, with Portia represented by a
little black boy. Then, too, the subjects of recitation were ill
chosen. We are attempting to introduce a great nation to a
knowledge of the richest and noblest literature in the world. The
society of Calcutta assemble to see what progress we are making;
and we produce as a sample a boy who repeats some blackguard
doggerel of George Colman's, about a fat gentleman who was put to
bed over an oven, and about a man-midwife who was called out of
his bed by a drunken man at night. Our disciple tries to hiccup,
and tumbles and staggers about in imitation of the tipsy English
sailors whom he has seen at the punch houses. Really, if we can
find nothing better worth reciting than this trash, we had better
give up English instruction altogether."

"As to the list of prize books, I am not much better satisfied.
It is absolutely unintelligible to me why Pope's Works and my old
friend Moore's Lalla Rookh should be selected from the whole mass
of English poetry to be prize books. I will engage to frame,
currente calamo, a better list. Bacon's Essays, Hume's England,
Gibbon's Rome, Robertson's Charles V., Robertson's Scotland,
Robertson's America, Swift's Gulliver, Robinson Crusoe,
Shakespeare's Works, Paradise Lost, Milton's smaller poems,
Arabian Nights, Park's Travels, Anson's Voyage, the Vicar of
Wakefield, Johnson's Lives, Gil Blas, Voltaire's Charles XII.,
Southey's Nelson, Middleton's Life of Cicero.

"This may serve as a specimen. These are books which will amuse
and interest those who obtain them. To give a boy Abercrombie on
the Intellectual Powers, Dick's Moral Improvement, Young's
Intellectual Philosophy, Chalmers's Poetical Economy!!! (in
passing I may be allowed to ask what that means?) is quite
absurd. I would not give orders at random for books about which
we know nothing. We are under no necessity of ordering at
haphazard. We know Robinson Crusoe, and Gulliver, and the Arabian
Nights, and Anson's Voyage, and many other delightful works which
interest even the very young, and which do not lose their
interest to the end of our lives. Why should we order blindfold
such books as Markham's New Children's Friend, the juvenile Scrap
Book, the Child's Own Book, Niggens's Earth, Mudie's Sea, and
somebody else's Fire and Air?--books which, I will be bound for
it, none of us ever opened.

"The list ought in all its parts to be thoroughly recast. If Sir
Benjamin Malkin will furnish the names of ten or twelve works of
a scientific kind, which he thinks suited for prizes, the task
will not be difficult; and, with his help, I will gladly
undertake it. There is a marked distinction between a prize book
and a school book. A prize book ought to be a book which a boy
receives with pleasure, and turns over and over, not as a task,
but spontaneously. I have not forgotten my own school-boy
feelings on this subject. My pleasure at obtaining a prize was
greatly enhanced by the knowledge that my little library would
receive a very agreeable addition. I never was better pleased
than when at fourteen I was master of Boswell's Life of Johnson,
which I had long been wishing to read. If my master had given me,
instead of Boswell, a Critical Pronouncing Dictionary, or a
Geographical Class book, I should have been much less gratified
by my success."

The idea had been started of paying authors to write books in the
languages of the country. On this Macaulay remarks

"To hire four or five people to make a literature is a course
which never answered and never will answer, in any part of the
world. Languages grow. They cannot be built. We are now following
the slow but sure course on which alone we can depend for a
supply of good books in the vernacular languages of India. We are
attempting to raise up a large class of enlightened natives. I
hope that, twenty years hence, there will be hundreds, nay
thousands, of natives familiar with the best models of
composition, and well acquainted with Western science. Among them
some persons will be found who will have the inclination and the
ability to exhibit European knowledge in the vernacular dialects.
This I believe to be the only way in which we can raise up a good
vernacular literature in this country."

These hopeful anticipations have been more than fulfilled. Twice
twenty years have brought into existence, not hundreds or
thousands, but hundreds of thousands, of natives who can
appreciate European knowledge when laid before them in the
English language, and can reproduce it in their own. Taking one
year with another, upwards of a thousand works of literature and
science are published annually in Bengal alone, and at least four
times that number throughout the entire continent. Our colleges
have more than six thousand students on their books, and two
hundred thousand boys are receiving a liberal education in
schools of the higher order. For the improvement of the mass of
the people, nearly seven thousand young men are in training as
Certificated Masters. The amount allotted in the budget to the
item of Public Instruction has increased more than seventy-fold
since 1835; and is largely supplemented by the fees which parents
of all classes willingly contribute when once they have been
taught the value of a commodity the demand for which is created
by the supply. During many years past the generosity of wealthy
natives has to a great extent been diverted from the idle
extravagance of pageants and festivals, to promote the
intellectual advancement of their fellow-countrymen. On several
different occasions, at a single stroke of the pen, our Indian
universities have been endowed with twice, three times, four
times the amount of the slender sum which Macaulay had at his
command. But none the less was he the master-engineer, whose
skill and foresight determined the direction of the channels,
along which this stream of public and private munificence was to
flow for the regeneration of our Eastern Empire.

It may add something to the merit of Macaulay's labours in the
cause of Education that those labours were voluntary and unpaid;
and voluntary and unpaid likewise was another service which he
rendered to India, not less durable than the first, and hardly
less important. A clause in the Act of 1833 gave rise to the
appointment of a Commission to inquire into the jurisprudence and
jurisdiction of our Eastern Empire. Macaulay, at his own
instigation, was appointed President of that Commission. He had
not been many months engaged in his new duties before he
submitted a proposal, by the adoption of which his own industry
and the high talents of his colleagues, Mr. Cameron and Sir John
Macleod, might be turned to the best account by being employed in
framing a Criminal Code for the whole Indian Empire. "This Code,"
writes Macaulay, "should not be a mere digest of existing usages
and regulations, but should comprise all the reforms which the
Commission may think desirable. It should be framed on two great
principles, the principle of suppressing crime with the smallest
possible amount of suffering, and the principle of ascertaining
truth at the smallest possible cost of time and money. The
Commissioners should be particularly charged to study
conciseness, as far as it is consistent with perspicuity. In
general, I believe, it will be found that perspicuous and concise
expressions are not only compatible, but identical."

The offer was eagerly accepted, and the Commission fell to work.
The results of that work did not show themselves quickly enough
to satisfy the most practical, and, (to its credit be it spoken,)
the most exacting of Governments; and Macaulay was under the
necessity of explaining and excusing a procrastination, which was
celerity itself as compared with any codifying that had been done
since the days of Justinian.

"During the last rainy season,--a season, I believe, peculiarly
unhealthy,--every member of the Commission, except myself, was
wholly incapacitated for exertion. Mr. Anderson has been twice
under the necessity of leaving Calcutta, and has not, till very
lately, been able to labour with his accustomed activity. Mr.
Macleod has been, till within the last week or ten days, in so
feeble a state that the smallest effort seriously disordered him;
and his health is so delicate that, admirably qualified as he is,
by very rare talents, for the discharge of his functions, it
would be imprudent, in forming any prospective calculation, to
reckon on much service from him. Mr. Cameron, of the importance
of whose assistance I need not speak, has been, during more than
four months, utterly unable to do any work, and has at length
been compelled to ask leave of absence, in order to visit the
Cape for the recovery of his health. Thus, as the Governor-
General has stated, Mr. Millett and myself have, during a
considerable time, constituted the whole effective strength of
the Commission. Nor has Mr. Millett been able to devote to the
business of the Commission his whole undivided attention.

"I must say that, even if no allowance be made for the untoward
occurrences which have retarded our progress, that progress
cannot be called slow. People who have never considered the
importance and difficulty of the task in which we are employed
are surprised to find that a Code cannot be spoken of extempore,
or written like an article in a magazine. I am not ashamed to
acknowledge that there are several chapters in the Code on which
I have been employed for months; of which I have changed the
whole plan ten or twelve times; which contain not a single word
as it originally stood; and with which I am still very far
indeed from being satisfied. I certainly shall not hurry on my
share of the work to gratify the childish impatience of the
ignorant. Their censure ought to be a matter of perfect
indifference to men engaged in a task, on the right performance
of which the welfare of millions may, during a long series of
years, depend. The cost of the Commission is as nothing when
compared with the importance of such a work. The time during
which the Commission has sat is as nothing compared with the time
during which that work will produce good, or evil, to India.

"Indeed, if we compare the progress of the Indian Code with the
progress of Codes under circumstances far more favourable, we
shall find little reason to accuse the Law Commission of
tardiness. Buonaparte had at his command the services of
experienced jurists to any extent to which he chose to call for
them; yet his legislation proceeded at a far slower rate than
ours. The French Criminal Code was begun, under the Consulate, in
March 1801; and yet the Code of Criminal Procedure was not
completed till 1808, and the Penal Code not till 1810. The
Criminal Code of Louisiana was commenced in February 1821. After
it had been in preparation during three years and a half, an
accident happened to the papers which compelled Mr. Livingstone
to request indulgence for another year. Indeed, when I remember
the slow progress of law reforms at home, and when I consider
that our Code decides hundreds of questions, every one of which,
if stirred in England, would give occasion to voluminous
controversy and to many animated debates, I must acknowledge that
I am inclined to fear that we have been guilty rather of
precipitation than of delay."

This Minute was dated the end of January, 1837; and in the course
of the same year the Code appeared, headed by an Introductory
Report in the shape of a letter to the Governor-General, and
followed by an Appendix containing eighteen notes, each in itself
an essay. The most readable of all Digests, its pages are alive
with illustrations drawn from history, from literature, and from
the habits and occurrences of everyday life. The offence of
fabricating evidence is exemplified by a case which may easily be
recognised as that of Lady Macbeth and the grooms; ["A, after
wounding a person with a knife, goes into the room where Z is
sleeping, smears Z's clothes with blood, and lays the knife under
Z's pillow; intending not only that suspicion may thereby be
turned away front himself, but also that Z may be convicted of
voluntarily causing grievous hurt. A is liable to punishment as a
fabricator of false evidence."] and the offence of voluntary
culpable homicide by an imaginary incident of a pit covered with
sticks and turf, which irresistibly recalls a reminiscence of
Jack the Giant-killer. The chapters on theft and trespass
establish the rights of book owners as against book stealers,
book borrowers, and book defacers, with an affectionate precision
which would have gladdened the heart of Charles Lamb or Sir
Walter Scott. ["A, being on friendly terms with Z, goes into Z's
library, in Z's absence, and takes a book without Z's express
consent. Here, it is probable that A may have conceived that he
had Z's implied consent to use Z's books. If this was A's
impression, A has not committed theft."

"A takes up a book belonging to Z, and reads it, not having any
right over the book, and not having the consent of any person
entitled to authorise A so to do. A trespasses.

"A, being exasperated at a passage in a book which is lying on
the counter of Z, snatches it up, and tears it to pieces. A has
not committed theft, as he has not acted fraudulently, though he
may have committed criminal trespass and mischief."] In the
chapter on manslaughter, the judge is enjoined to treat with
lenity an act done in the first anger of a husband or father,
provoked by the intolerable outrage of a certain kind of criminal
assault. "Such an assault produced the Sicilian Vespers. Such an
assault called forth the memorable blow of Wat Tyler." And, on
the question whether the severity of a hurt should be considered
in apportioning the punishment, we are reminded of "examples
which are universally known. Harley was laid up more than twenty
days by the wound which he received from Guiscard;" while "the
scratch which Damien gave to Louis the Fifteenth was so slight
that it was followed by no feverish symptoms." Such a sanguine
estimate of the diffusion of knowledge with regard to the details
of ancient crimes could proceed from no pen but that of the
writer who endowed schoolboys with the erudition of professors,
and the talker who, when he poured forth the stores of his
memory, began each of his disquisitions with the phrase, "don't
you remember?"

If it be asked whether or not the Penal Code fulfils the ends for
which it was framed, the answer may safely be left to the
gratitude of Indian civilians, the younger of whom carry it about
in their saddle-bags, and the older in their heads. The value
which it possesses in the eyes of a trained English lawyer may be
gathered from the testimony of Macaulay's eminent successor, Mr.
Fitzjames Stephen, who writes of it thus:

"In order to appreciate the importance of the Penal Code, it must
be borne in mind what crime in India is. Here, in England, order
is so thoroughly well established that the crime of the country is
hardly more than an annoyance. In India, if crime is allowed to
let to a head, it is capable of destroying the peace and
prosperity of whole tracts of country. The mass of the people in
their common moods are gentle, submissive, and disposed to be
innocent; but, for that very reason, bold and successful
criminals are dangerous in the extreme. In old days, when they
joined in gangs or organised bodies, they soon acquired political
importance. Now, in many parts of India, crime is quite as
uncommon as in the least criminal parts of England; and the old
high-handed systematised crime has almost entirely disappeared.
This great revolution (for it is nothing less) in the state of
society of a whole continent has been brought about by the
regular administration of a rational body of criminal law.

"The administration of criminal justice is entrusted to a very
small number of English magistrates, organised according to a
carefully-devised system of appeal and supervision which
represents the experience of a century. This system is not
unattended by evils; but it is absolutely necessary to enable a
few hundred civilians to govern a continent. Persons in such a
position must be provided with the plainest instructions as to
the nature of their duties. These instructions, in so far as the
administration of criminal justice is concerned, are contained in
the Indian Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure. The
Code of Criminal Procedure contains 541 sections, and forms a
pamphlet of 210 widely printed octavo pages. The Penal Code
consists of 510 sections. Pocket editions of these Codes are
published, which may be carried about as easily as a pocket
Bible; and I doubt whether, even in Scotland, you would find many
people who know their Bibles as Indian civilians know their

After describing the confusion and complication of the criminal
law of our Indian Empire before it was taken in hand by the
Commission of 1834, Mr. Stephen proceeds to say:

"Lord Macaulay's great work was far too daring and original to be
accepted at once. It was a draft when he left India in 1838. His
successors made remarks on it for twenty-two years. Those years
were filled with wars and rumours of wars. The Afghan disasters
and triumphs, the war in Central India, the wars with the Sikhs,
Lord Dalhousie's annexations, threw law reform into the
background, and produced a state of mind not very favourable to
it. Then came the Mutiny, which in its essence was the breakdown
of an old system; the renunciation of an attempt to effect an
impossible compromise between the Asiatic and the European view
of things, legal, military, and administrative. The effect of the
Mutiny on the Statute-book was unmistakable. The Code of Civil
Procedure was enacted in 1859. The Penal Code was enacted in
1860, and came into operation on the 1st of January 1862. The
credit of passing the Penal Code into law, and of giving to every
part of it the improvements which practical skill and technical
knowledge could bestow, is due to Sir Barnes Peacock, who held
Lord Macaulay's place during the most anxious years through which
the Indian Empire has passed. The Draft and the Revision are both
eminently creditable to their authors; and the result of their
successive efforts has been to reproduce in a concise, and even
beautiful, form the spirit of the law of England; the most
technical, the most clumsy, and the most bewildering of all
systems of criminal law; though I think, if its principles are
fully understood, it is the most rational. If anyone doubts this
assertion, let him compare the Indian Penal Code with such a book
as Mr. Greaves's edition of Russell on Crimes. The one subject of
homicide, as treated by Mr. Greaves and Russell, is, I should
think, twice as long as the whole Penal Code; and it does not
contain a tenth part of the matter."

"The point which always has surprised me most in connection with
the Penal Code is, that it proves that Lord Macaulay must have
had a knowledge of English criminal law which, considering how
little he had practised it, may fairly be called extraordinary.
[Macaulay's practice at the bar had been less than little,
according to an account which he gave of it at a public dinner:
"My own forensic experience, gentlemen, has been extremely small;
for my only recollection of an achievement that way is that at
quarter sessions I once convicted a boy of stealing a parcel of
cocks and hens."] He must have possessed the gift of going at
once to the very root of the matter, and of sifting the corn from
the chaff to a most unusual degree; for his Draft gives the
substance of the criminal law of England, down to its minute
working details, in a compass which, by comparison with the
original, may be regarded as almost absurdly small. The Indian
Penal Code is to the English criminal law what a manufactured
article ready for use is to the materials out of which it is
made. It is to the French 'Code Penal,' and, I may add, to the
North German Code of 1871, what a finished picture is to a
sketch. It is far simpler, and much better expressed, than
Livingstone's Code for Louisiana; and its practical success has
been complete. The clearest proof of this is that hardly any
questions have arisen upon it which have had to be determined by
the courts; and that few and slight amendments have had to be
made in it by the Legislature."

Without troubling himself unduly about the matter, Macaulay was
conscious that the world's estimate of his public services would
be injuriously affected by the popular notion, which he has
described as "so flattering to mediocrity," that a great writer
cannot be a great administrator; and it is possible that this
consciousness had something to do with the heartiness and fervour
which he threw into his defence of the author of "Cato" against
the charge of having been an inefficient Secretary of State.
There was much in common between his own lot and that of the
other famous essayist who had been likewise a Whig statesman; and
this similarity in their fortunes may account in part for the
indulgence, and almost tenderness, with which he reviewed the
career and character of Addison. Addison himself, at his villa in
Chelsea, and still more amidst the gilded slavery of Holland
House, might have envied the literary seclusion, ample for so
rapid a reader, which the usages of Indian life permitted
Macaulay to enjoy. "I have a very pretty garden," he writes, "not
unlike our little grass-plot at Clapham, but larger. It consists
of a fine sheet of turf, with a gravel walk round it, and flower-
beds scattered over it. It looks beautiful just now after the
rains, and I hear that it keeps its verdure during a great part
of the year. A flight of steps leads down from my library into
the garden, and it is so well shaded that you may walk there till
ten o'clock in the morning."

Here, book in hand, and in dressing-gown and slippers, he would
spend those two hours after sun-rise which Anglo-Indian gentlemen
devote to riding, and Anglo-Indian ladies to sleeping off the
arrears of the sultry night. Regularly, every morning, his
studies were broken in upon by the arrival of his baby niece, who
came to feed the crows with the toast which accompanied his early
cup of tea; a ceremony during which he had much ado to protect
the child from the advances of a multitude of birds, each almost
as big as herself, which hopped and fluttered round her as she
stood on the steps of the verandah. When the sun drove him
indoors, (which happened sooner than he had promised himself,
before he had learned by experience what the hot season was,) he
went to his bath and toilette, and then to breakfast; "at which
we support nature under the exhausting effects of the climate by
means of plenty of eggs, mango-fish, snipe-pies, and frequently a
hot beefsteak. My cook is renowned through Calcutta for his
skill. He brought me attestations of a long succession of
gourmands, and among them one from Lord Dalhousie, who pronounced
him decidedly the first artist in Bengal. [Lord Dalhousie, the
father of the Governor-General, was Commander-In-Chief in India
during the years 1830 and 1831.] This great man, and his two
assistants, I am to have for thirty rupees a month. While I am on
the subject of the cuisine, I may as well say all that I have to
say about it at once. The tropical fruits are wretched. The best
of them is inferior to our apricot or gooseberry. When I was a
child, I had a notion of its being the most exquisite of treats
to eat plantains and yams, and to drink palm-wine. How I envied
my father for having enjoyed these luxuries! I have now enjoyed
them all, and I have found like much greater men on much more
important occasions, that all is vanity. A plantain is very like
a rotten pear,--so like that I would lay twenty to one that a
person blindfolded would not discover the difference. A yam is
better. It is like an indifferent potato. I tried palm-wine at a
pretty village near Madras, where I slept one night. I told
Captain Barron that I had been curious to taste that liquor ever
since I first saw, eight or nine and twenty years ago, the
picture of the negro climbing the tree in Sierra Leone. The next
morning I was roused by a servant, with a large bowl of juice
fresh from the tree. I drank it, and found it very like ginger-
beer in which the ginger has been sparingly used."

Macaulay necessarily spent away from home the days on which the
Supreme Council, or the Law Commission, held their meetings; but
the rest of his work, legal, literary, and educational, he
carried on in the quiet of his library. Now and again, a morning
was consumed in returning calls, an expenditure of time which it
is needless to say that he sorely grudged. "Happily, the good
people here are too busy to be at home. Except the parsons, they
are all usefully occupied somewhere or other, so that I have only
to leave cards; but the reverend gentlemen are always within
doors in the heat of the day, lying on their backs, regretting
breakfast, longing for tiffin, and crying out for lemonade."
After lunch he sate with Mrs. Trevelyan, translating Greek or
reading French for her benefit; and Scribe's comedies and Saint
Simon's Memoirs beguiled the long languid leisure of the Calcutta
afternoon, while the punkah swung overhead, and the air came
heavy and scented through the moistened grass-matting which
shrouded the windows. At the approach of sunset, with its
attendant breeze, he joined his sister in her drive along the
banks of the Hooghly; and they returned by starlight,--too often
to take part in a vast banquet of forty guests, dressed as
fashionably as people can dress at ninety degrees East from
Paris; who, one and all, had far rather have been eating their
curry, and drinking their bitter beer, at home, in all the
comfort of muslin and nankeen. Macaulay is vehement in his
dislike of "those great formal dinners, which unite all the
stiffness of a levee to all the disorder and discomfort of a two-
shilling ordinary. Nothing can be duller. Nobody speaks except to
the person next him. The conversation is the most deplorable
twaddle, and, as I always sit next to the lady of the highest
rank, or, in other words, to the oldest, ugliest, and proudest
woman in the company, I am worse off than my neighbours."

Nevertheless he was far too acute a judge of men to undervalue
the special type of mind which is produced and fostered by the
influences of an Indian career. He was always ready to admit that
there is no better company in the world than a young and rising
civilian; no one who has more to say that is worth hearing, and
who can say it in a manner better adapted to interest those who
know good talk from bad. He delighted in that freedom from
pedantry, affectation, and pretension which is one of the most
agreeable characteristics of a service, to belong to which is in
itself so effectual an education, that a bore is a phenomenon
notorious everywhere within a hundred miles of the station which
has the honour to possess him, and a fool is quoted by name
throughout all the three Presidencies. Macaulay writes to his
sisters at home: "The best way of seeing society here is to have
very small parties. There is a little circle of people whose
friendship I value, and in whose conversation I take pleasure:
the Chief Justice, Sir Edward Ryan; my old friend, Malkin;
Cameron and Macleod, the Law Commissioners; Macnaghten, among the
older servants of the Company, and Mangles, Colvin, and John
Peter Grant among the younger. [It cannot be said that all the
claims made upon Macaulay's friendship were acknowledged as
readily as those of Sir Benjamin Malkin. "I am dunned
unmercifully by place-hunters. The oddest application that I have
received is from that rascal --, who is somewhere in the
interior. He tells me he is sure that prosperity has not changed
me; that I am still the same John Macaulay who was his dearest
friend, his more than brother; and that he means to come up, and
live with me at Calcutta. If he fulfils his intention, I will
have him taken before the police-magistrates."] These, in my
opinion, are the flower of Calcutta society, and I often ask some
of them to a quiet dinner." On the Friday of every week, these
chosen few met round Macaulay's breakfast table to discuss the
progress which the Law Commission had made in its labours; and
each successive point which was started opened the way to such a
flood of talk,--legal, historical, political, and personal,--that
the company would sit far on towards noon over the empty teacups,
until an uneasy sense of accumulating despatch-boxes drove them,
one by one, to their respective offices.

There are scattered passages in these letters which prove that
Macaulay's feelings, during his protracted absence from his
native country, were at times almost as keen as those which
racked the breast of Cicero, when he was forced to exchange the
triumphs of the Forum, and the cozy suppers with his brother
augurs, for his hateful place of banishment at Thessalonica, or
his hardly less hateful seat of government at Tarsus. The
complaints of the English statesman do not, however, amount in
volume to a fiftieth part of those reiterated out pourings of
lachrymose eloquence with which the Roman philosopher bewailed an
expatriation that was hardly one-third as long. "I have no
words," writes Macaulay, very much under-estimating the wealth of
his own vocabulary, "to tell you how I pine for England, or how
intensely bitter exile has been to me, though I hope that I have
borne it well. I feel as if I had no other wish than to see my
country again and die. Let me assure you that banishment is no
light matter. No person can judge of it who has not experienced
it. A complete revolution in all the habits of life; an
estrangement from almost every old friend and acquaintance;
fifteen thousand miles of ocean between the exile and everything
that he cares for; all this is, to me at least, very trying.
There is no temptation of wealth, or power, which would induce
me to go through it again. But many people do not feel as I do.
Indeed, the servants of the Company rarely have such a feeling;
and it is natural that they should not have it, for they are sent
out while still schoolboys, and when they know little of the
world. The moment of emigration is to them also the moment of
emancipation; and the pleasures of liberty and affluence to a
great degree compensate them for the loss of their home. In a few
years they become orientalised, and, by the time that they are of
my age, they would generally prefer India, as a residence, to
England. But it is a very different matter when a man is
transplanted at thirty-three."

Making, as always, the best of everything, he was quite ready to
allow that he might have been placed in a still less agreeable
situation. In the following extract from a letter to his friend,
Mrs. Drummond, there is much which will come home to those who
are old enough to remember how vastly the Dublin of 1837
differed, for the worse, from the Dublin of 1875, "It now seems
likely that you may remain in Ireland for years. I cannot
conceive what has induced you to submit to such an exile. I
declare, for my own part, that, little as I love Calcutta, I
would rather stay here than be settled in the Phoenix Park. The
last residence which I would choose would be a place with all the
plagues, and none of the attractions, of a capital; a provincial
city on fire with factions political and religious, peopled by
raving Orangemen and raving Repealers, and distracted by a
contest between Protestantism as fanatical as that of Knot and
Catholicism as fanatical as that of Bonner. We have our share of
the miseries of life in this country. We are annually baked four
months, boiled four more, and allowed the remaining four to
become cool if we can. At this moment, the sun is blazing like a
furnace. The earth, soaked with oceans of rain, is steaming like
a wet blanket. Vegetation is rotting all round us. Insects and
undertakers are the only living creatures which seem to enjoy the
climate. But, though our atmosphere is hot, our factions are
lukewarm. A bad epigram in a newspaper, or a public meeting
attended by a tailor, a pastry-cook, a reporter, two or three
barristers, and eight or ten attorneys, are our most formidable
annoyances. We have agitators in our own small way, Tritons of
the minnows, bearing the same sort of resemblance to O'Connell
that a lizard bears to an alligator. Therefore Calcutta for me,
in preference to Dublin."

He had good reason for being grateful to Calcutta, and still
better for not showing his gratitude by prolonging his stay there
over a fourth summer and autumn. "That tremendous crash of the
great commercial houses which took place a few years ago has
produced a revolution in fashions. It ruined one half of the
English society in Bengal, and seriously injured the other half.
A large proportion of the most important functionaries here are
deeply in debt, and accordingly, the mode of living is now
exceedingly quiet and modest. Those immense subscriptions, those
public tables, those costly equipages and entertainments of which
Heber, and others who saw Calcutta a few years back, say so much,
are never heard of. Speaking for myself, it was a great piece of
good fortune that I came hither just at the time when the general
distress had forced everybody to adopt a moderate way of living.
Owing very much to that circumstance, (while keeping house, I
think, more handsomely than any other member of Council,) I have
saved what will enable me to do my part towards making my family
comfortable; and I shall have a competency for myself, small
indeed, but quite sufficient to render me as perfectly
independent as if I were the possessor of Burleigh or
Chatsworth." [Macaulay writes to Lord Mahon on the last day of
December 1836: "In another year I hope to leave this country,
with a fortune which you would think ridiculously small, but
which will make me as independent as if I had all that Lord
Westminster has above the ground, and Lord Durham below it. I
have no intention of again taking part in politics; but I cannot
tell what effect the sight of the old Hall and Abbey may produce
on me."]

"The rainy season of 1837 has been exceedingly unhealthy. Our
house has escaped as well as any; yet Hannah is the only one of
us who has come off untouched. The baby has been repeatedly
unwell. Trevelyan has suffered a good deal, and is kept right
only by occasional trips in a steamer down to the mouth of the
Hooghly. I had a smart touch of fever, which happily stayed but
an hour or two, and I took such vigorous measures that it never
came again; but I remained unnerved and exhausted for nearly a
fortnight. This was my first, and I hope my last, taste of Indian
maladies. It is a happy thing for us all that we are not to pass
another year in the reek of this deadly marsh." Macaulay wisely
declined to set the hope of making another lac of rupees against
the risk, to himself and others of such a fate as subsequently
befell Lord Canning and Mr. James Wilson. He put the finishing
stroke to his various labours; resigned his seat in the Council,
and his Presidentships of the Law Commission and the Committee of
Public Instruction; and, in company with the Trevelyans, sailed
for England in the first fortnight of the year 1838.

To Mr Thomas Flower Ellis.

Calcutta: December 16, 1834.

Dear Ellis,--Many thanks for your letter. It is delightful in
this strange land to see the handwriting of such a friend. We
must keep up our spirits. We shall meet, I trust, in little more
than four years, with feelings of regard only strengthened by
our separation. My spirits are not bad; and they ought not to be
bad. I have health; affluence; consideration; great power to do
good; functions which, while they are honourable and useful, are
not painfully burdensome; leisure for study; good books; an
unclouded and active mind; warm affections; and a very dear
sister. There will soon be a change in my domestic arrangements.
My sister is to be married next week. Her lover, who is lover
enough to be a knight of the Round Table, is one of the most
distinguished of our young Civilians.

I have the very highest opinion of his talents both for action
and for discussion. Indeed, I should call him a man of real
genius. He is also, what is even more important, a man of the
utmost purity of honour, of a sweet temper, and of strong
principle. His public virtue has gone through very severe trials,
and has come out resplendent. Lord William, in congratulating me
the other day, said that he thought my destined brother-in-law
the ablest young man in the service. His name is Trevelyan. He is
a nephew of Sir John Trevelyan, a baronet; in Cornwall I suppose,
by the name; for I never took the trouble to ask.

He and my sister will live with me during my stay here. I have a
house about as large as Lord Dudley's in Park Lane, or rather
larger, so that I shall accommodate them without the smallest
difficulty. This arrangement is acceptable to me, because it
saves me from the misery of parting with my sister in this
strange land; and is, I believe, equally gratifying to Trevelyan,
whose education, like that of other Indian servants, was huddled
up hastily at home; who has an insatiable thirst for knowledge of
every sort; and who looks on me as little less than an oracle of
wisdom. He came to me the other morning to know whether I
would advise him to keep up his Greek, which he feared he had
nearly lost. I gave him Homer, and asked him to read a page; and
I found that, like most boys of any talent who had been at the
Charterhouse, he was very well grounded in that language. He read
with perfect rapture, and has marched off with the book,
declaring that he shall never be content till he has finished the
whole. This, you will think, is not a bad brother-in-law for a
man to pick up in 22 degrees of North latitude, and l00 degrees
of East longitude.

I read much, and particularly Greek; and I find that I am, in all
essentials, still not a bad scholar. I could, I think, with a
year's hard study, qualify myself to fight a good battle for a
Craven's scholarship. I read, however, not as I read at College,
but like a man of the world. If I do not know a word, I pass it
by unless it is important to the sense. If I find, as I have of
late often found, a passage which refuses to give up its meaning
at the second reading, I let it alone. I have read during the
last fortnight, before breakfast, three books of Herodotus, and
four plays of Aeschylus. My admiration of Aeschylus has been
prodigiously increased by this reperusal. I cannot conceive how
any person of the smallest pretension to taste should doubt about
his immeasurable superiority to every poet of antiquity, Homer
only excepted. Even Milton, I think, must yield to him. It is
quite unintelligible to me that the ancient critics should have
placed him so low. Horace's notice of him in the Ars Poetica is
quite ridiculous. There is, to be sure, the "magnum loqui;" but
the great topic insisted on is the skill of Aeschylus as a
manager, as a property-man; the judicious way in which he boarded
the stage; the masks, the buskins, and the dresses.

["Post hunc personae pallaeque repertor honestae
Aeschylus et modicis instravit pulpita tignis,
Et docuit magnumnque loqui, nitique cothuruo."]

And, after all, the "magnum loqui," though the most obvious
characteristic of Aeschylus, is by no means his highest or his
best. Nor can I explain this by saying that Horace had too tame
and unimaginative a mind to appreciate Aeschylus. Horace knew
what he could himself do, and, with admirable wisdom, he confined
himself to that; but he seems to have had a perfectly clear
comprehension of the merit of those great masters whom he never
attempted to rival. He praised Pindar most enthusiastically. It
seems incomprehensible to me that a critic, who admired Pindar,
should not admire Aeschylus far more.

Greek reminds me of Cambridge and of Thirlwall. When you see
Thirlwall, tell him that I congratulate him from the bottom of my
soul on having suffered in so good a cause; and that I would
rather have been treated as he has been treated, on such an
account, than have the Mastership of Trinity. [The subjoined
extract from the letter of a leading member of Trinity College
explains Macaulay's indignation. "Thirlwall published a pamphlet
in 1834, on the admission of Dissenters to the University. The
result was that he was either deprived of his Assistant
Tutorship or had to give it up. Thirlwall left Cambridge soon
afterwards. I suppose that, if he had remained, he would have
been very possibly Wordsworth's successor in the Mastership."]
There would be some chance for the Church, if we had more
Churchmen of the same breed, worthy successors of Leighton and

From one Trinity Fellow I pass to another. (This letter is quite
a study to a metaphysician who wishes to illustrate the Law of
Association.) We have no official tidings yet of Malkin's
appointment to the vacant seat on the Bench at Calcutta. I cannot
tell you how delighted I am at the prospect of having him here.
An honest enlightened Judge, without professional narrowness, is
the very man whom we want on public grounds. And, as to my
private feelings, nothing could be more agreeable to me than to
have an old friend, and so estimable a friend, brought so near to
me in this distant country.

Ever, dear Ellis,

Yours very affectionately


Calcutta: February 8, 1835.

Dear Ellis,--The last month has been the most painful that I ever
went through. Indeed, I never knew before what it was to be
miserable. Early in January, letters from England brought me news
of the death of my youngest sister. What she was to me no words
can express. I will not say that she was dearer to me than
anything in the world; for my sister who was with me was equally
dear; but she was as dear to me as one human being can be to
another. Even now, when time has begun to do its healing office,
I cannot write about her without being altogether unmanned. That
I have not utterly sunk under this blow I owe chiefly to
literature. What a blessing it is to love books as I love them;--
to be able to converse with the dead, and to live amidst the
unreal! Many times during the last few weeks I have repeated to
myself those fine lines of old Hesiod:

ei gar tis kai penthos egon neokedei thumo
aksetai kradien akakhemenos, autar aoidos
mousaon therapon kleia proteron anthropon
umnese, makaras te theous oi Olumpon ekhousi,
aips oge dusphroneon epilethetai oude ti kedeon
memnetai takheos de paretrape dora theaon.

["For if to one whose grief is fresh as he sits silent with
sorrow-stricken heart, a minstrel, the henchman of the Muses,
celebrates the men of old and the gods who possess Olympus;
straightway he forgets his melancholy, and remembers not at all
his grief, beguiled by the blessed gift of the goddesses of
song." In Macaulay's Hesiod this passage is scored with three
lines in pencil.]

I have gone back to Greek literature with a passion quite
astonishing to myself. I have never felt anything like it. I was
enraptured with Italian during the six months which I gave up to
it; and I was little less pleased with Spanish. But, when I went
back to the Greek, I felt as if I had never known before what
intellectual enjoyment was. Oh that wonderful people! There is
not one art, not one science, about which we may not use the same
expression which Lucretius has employed about the victory over
superstition, "Primum Graius homo--."

I think myself very fortunate in having been able to return to
these great masters while still in the full vigour of life, and
when my taste and judgment are mature. Most people read all the
Greek that they ever read before they are five and twenty. They
never find time for such studies afterwards till they are in the
decline of life; and then their knowledge of the language is in a
great measure lost, and cannot easily be recovered. Accordingly,
almost all the ideas that people have of Greek literature, are
ideas formed while they were still very young. A young man,
whatever his genius may be, is no judge of such a writer as
Thucydides. I had no high opinion of him ten years ago. I have
now been reading him with a mind accustomed to historical
researches, and to political affairs; and I am astonished at my
own former blindness, and at his greatness. I could not bear
Euripides at college. I now read my recantation. He has faults
undoubtedly. But what a poet! The Medea, the Alcestis, the
Troades, the Bacchae, are alone sufficient to place him in the
very first rank. Instead of depreciating him, as I have done, I
may, for aught I know, end by editing him.

I have read Pindar,--with less pleasure than I feel in reading the
great Attic poets, but still with admiration. An idea occurred to
me which may very likely have been noticed by a hundred people
before. I was always puzzled to understand the reason for the
extremely abrupt transitions in those Odes of Horace which are
meant to be particularly fine. The "justum et tenacem" is an
instance. All at once you find yourself in heaven, Heaven knows
how. What the firmness of just men in times of tyranny, or of
tumult, has to do with Juno's oration about Troy it is hardly
possible to conceive. Then, again, how strangely the fight between
the Gods and the Giants is tacked on to the fine hymn to the Muses
in that noble ode, "Descende coelo et die age tibia"! This always
struck me as a great fault, and an inexplicable one; for it is
peculiarly alien from the calm good sense, and good taste, which
distinguish Horace.

My explanation of it is this. The Odes of Pindar were the
acknowledged models of lyric poetry. Lyric poets imitated his
manner as closely as they could; and nothing was more remarkable
in his compositions than the extreme violence and abruptness of
the transitions. This in Pindar was quite natural and defensible.
He had to write an immense number of poems on subjects extremely
barren, and extremely monotonous. There could be little
difference between one boxing-match and another. Accordingly, he
made all possible haste to escape from the immediate subject, and
to bring in, by hook or by crook, some local description; some
old legend; something or other, in short, which might be more
susceptible of poetical embellishment, and less utterly
threadbare, than the circumstances of a race or a wrestling-
match. This was not the practice of Pindar alone. There is an old
story which proves that Simonides did the same, and that
sometimes the hero of the day was nettled at finding how little
was said about him in the Ode for which he was to pay. This
abruptness of transition was, therefore, in the Greek lyric
poets, a fault rendered inevitable by the peculiarly barren and
uniform nature of the subjects which they had to treat. But, like
many other faults of great masters, it appeared to their
imitators a beauty; and a beauty almost essential to the grander
Ode. Horace was perfectly at liberty to choose his own subjects,
and to treat them after his own fashion. But he confounded what
was merely accidental in Pindar's manner with what was essential;
and because Pindar, when he had to celebrate a foolish lad from
Aegina who had tripped up another's heels at the Isthmus, made
all possible haste to get away from so paltry a topic to the
ancient heroes of the race of Aeacus, Horace took it into his
head that he ought always to begin as far from the subject as
possible, and then arrive at it by some strange and sudden bound.
This is my solution. At least I can find no better. The most
obscure passage,--at least the strangest passage,--in all Horace
may be explained by supposing that he was misled by Pindar's
example: I mean that odd parenthesis in the "Qualem Ministrum:"

Mos unde deductus per omne--.

This passage, taken by itself, always struck me as the harshest,
queerest, and most preposterous digression in the world. But
there are several things in Pindar very like it. [Orelli makes an
observation, much to the same effect, in his note on this passage
in his edition of 1850.]

You must excuse all this, for I labour at present under a
suppression of Greek, and am likely to do so for at least three
years to come. Malkin may be some relief; but I am quite unable
to guess whether he means to come to Calcutta. I am in excellent
bodily health, and I am recovering my mental health; but I have
been sorely tried. Money matters look well. My new brother-in-law
and I are brothers in more than law. I am more comfortable than I
expected to be in this country; and, as to the climate, I think
it, beyond all comparison, better than that of the House of

Yours affectionately


Writing three days after the date of the foregoing letter,
Macaulay says to his old friend Mr. Sharp: "You see that my mind
is not in great danger of rusting. The danger is that I may
become a mere pedant. I feel a habit of quotation growing on me;
but I resist that devil, for such it is, and it flees from me. It
is all that I can do to keep Greek and Latin out of all my
letters. Wise sayings of Euripides are even now at my fingers'
ends. If I did not maintain a constant struggle against this
propensity, my correspondence would resemble the notes to the
'Pursuits of Literature.' It is a dangerous thing for a man with a
very strong memory to read very much. I could give you three or
four quotations this moment in support of that proposition; but I
will bring the vicious propensity under subjection, if I can."
[Many years later Macaulay wrote to my mother: "Dr. -- came, and
I found him a very clever man; a little of a coxcomb, but, I dare
say, not the worse physician for that. He must have quoted Horace
and Virgil six times at least a propos of his medical inquiries.
Horace says, in a poem in which he jeers the Stoics, that even a
wise man is out of sort when 'pituita molesta est;' which is,
being interpreted, 'when, his phlegm is troublesome.' The Doctor
thought it necessary to quote this passage in order to prove that
phlegm is troublesome;--a proposition, of the truth of which, I
will venture to say, no man on earth is better convinced than

Calcutta, May 29, 1835.

Dear Ellis,--I am in great want of news. We know that the Tories
dissolved at the end of December, and we also know that they were
beaten towards the end of February. [In November 1834 the King
called Sir Robert Peel to power; after having of his own accord
dismissed the Whig Ministry. Parliament was dissolved, but the
Tories did not succeed in obtaining a majority. After three
months of constant and angry fighting, Peel was driven from
office in April 1835.] As to what passed in the interval, we are
quite in the dark. I will not plague you with comments on events
which will have been driven out of your mind by other events
before this reaches you, or with prophecies which may be
falsified before you receive them. About the final issue I am
certain. The language of the first great reformer is that which I
should use in reply to the exultation of our Tories here, if
there were any of them who could understand it

sebou, proseukhou thopte ton kratount aei
emoi d'elasson Zeuos e meden melei.
drato krateito tonde ton brakhun khronon
opes thelei daron gar ouk arksei theois

["Worship thou, adore, and flatter the monarch of the hour. To me
Jove is of less account than nothing. Let him have his will, and
his sceptre, for this brief season; for he will not long be the
ruler of the Gods." It is needless to say that poor William the
Fourth was the Jove of the Whig Prometheus.]

As for myself, I rejoice that I am out of the present storm.
"Suave mari magno;" or, as your new Premier, if he be still
Premier, construes. "It is a source of melancholy satisfaction."
I may, indeed, feel the effects of the changes here, but more on
public than private grounds. A Tory Governor-General is not very
likely to agree with me about the very important law reforms
which I am about to bring before the Council. But he is not
likely to treat me ill personally; or, if he does,

all ou ti khairon, en tod orthothe Belos,

["It shall be to his cost, so long as this bow carries true."]

as Philoctetes says. In a few months I shall have enough to
enable me to live, after my very moderate fashion, in perfect
independence at home; and whatever debts any Governor-General may
choose to lay on me at Calcutta shall be paid off, he may rely on
it, with compound interest, at Westminster.

My time is divided between public business and books. I mix with
society as little as I can. My spirits have not yet recovered,--I
sometimes think that they will never wholly recover,--the shock
which they received five months ago. I find that nothing soothes
them so much as the contemplation of those miracles of art which
Athens has bequeathed to us. I am really becoming, I hope not a
pedant, but certainly an enthusiast about classical literature. I
have just finished a second reading of Sophocles. I am now deep
in Plato, and intend to go right through all his works. His
genius is above praise. Even where he is most absurd,--as, for
example, in the Cratylus,--he shows an acuteness, and an expanse
of intellect, which is quite a phenomenon by itself. The
character of Socrates does not rise upon me. The more I read
about him, the less I wonder that they poisoned him. If he had
treated me as he is said to have treated Protagoras, Hippias, and
Gorgias, I could never have forgiven him.

Nothing has struck me so much in Plato's dialogues as the
raillery. At college, somehow or other, I did not understand or
appreciate it. I cannot describe to you the way in which it now
tickles me. I often sink forward on my huge old Marsilius Ficinus
in a fit of laughter. I should say that there never was a vein of
ridicule so rich, at the same time so delicate. It is superior to
Voltaire's; nay, to Pascal's. Perhaps there are one or two
passages in Cervantes, and one or two in Fielding, that might
give a modern reader a notion of it.

I have very nearly finished Livy. I never read him through
before. I admire him greatly, and would give a quarter's salary
to recover the lost Decades. While I was reading the earlier
books I went again through Niebuhr. And I am sorry to say that,
having always been a little sceptical about his merits, I am now
a confirmed unbeliever. I do not of course mean that he has no
merit. He was a man of immense learning, and of great ingenuity.
But his mind was utterly wanting in the faculty by which a
demonstrated truth is distinguished from a plausible supposition.
He is not content with suggesting that an event may have
happened. He is certain that it happened, and calls on the reader
to be certain too, (though not a trace of it exists in any record
whatever,) because it would solve the phenomena so neatly. Just
read over again, if you have forgotten it, the conjectural
restoration of the Inscription in page 126 of the second volume;
and then, on your honour as a scholar and a man of sense, tell me
whether in Bentley's edition of Milton there is anything which
approaches to the audacity of that emendation. Niebuhr requires
you to believe that some of the greatest men in Rome were burned
alive in the Circus; that this event was commemorated by an
inscription on a monument, one half of which is sill in
existence; but that no Roman historian knew anything about it;
and that all tradition of the event was lost, though the memory
of anterior events much less important has reached our time. When
you ask for a reason, he tells you plainly that such a thing
cannot be established by reason; that he is sure of it; and that
you must take his word. This sort of intellectual despotism
always moves me to mutiny, and generates a disposition to pull
down the reputation of the dogmatist. Niebuhr's learning was
immeasurably superior to mine; but I think myself quite as good a
judge of evidence as he was. I might easily believe him if he
told me that there were proofs which I had never seen; but, when
he produces all his proofs, I conceive that I am perfectly
competent to pronounce on their value.

As I turned over his leaves just now, I lighted on another
instance of what I cannot but call ridiculous presumption. He
says that Martial committed a blunder in making the penultimate
of Porsena short. Strange that so great a scholar should not know
that Horace had done so too!

Minacis aut Etrusca Porsenae manus.

There is something extremely nauseous to me in a German
Professor telling the world, on his own authority, and without
giving the smallest reason, that two of the best Latin poets were
ignorant of the quantity of a word which they must have used in
their exercises at school a hundred times.

As to the general capacity of Niebuhr for political speculations,
let him be judged by the Preface to the Second Volume. He there
says, referring to the French Revolution of July 1830, that
"unless God send us some miraculous help, we have to look forward
to a period of destruction similar to that which the Roman world
experienced about the middle of the third century." Now, when I
see a man scribble such abject nonsense about events which are
passing under our eyes, what confidence can I put in his judgment
as to the connection of causes and effects in times very
imperfectly known to us.

But I must bring my letter, or review, to a close. Remember me
most kindly to your wife. Tell Frank that I mean to be a better
scholar than he when I come back, and that he must work hard if
he means to overtake me.

Ever, dear Ellis,

Your affectionate friend


Calcutta: August 25, 1835.

Dear Ellis,--Cameron arrived here about a fortnight ago, and we
are most actively engaged in preparing a complete Criminal Code
for India. He and I agree excellently. Ryan, the most liberal of
Judges, lends us his best assistance. I heartily hope, and fully
believe, that we shall put the whole Penal law, and the whole law
of Criminal Procedure, into a moderately sized volume. I begin to
take a very warm interest in this work. It is, indeed, one of the
finest employments of the intellect that it is easy to conceive.
I ought, however, to tell you that, the more progress I make as a
legislator, the more intense my contempt for the mere technical
study of law becomes.

I am deep in the examination of the political theories of the old
philosophers. I have read Plato's Republic, and his laws; and I
am now reading Aristotle's Politics; after which I shall go
through Plato's two treatises again. I every now and then read
one of Plutarch's Lives on an idle afternoon; and in this way I
have got through a dozen of them. I like him prodigiously. He is
inaccurate, to be sure, and a romancer; but he tells a story
delightfully, and his illustrations and sketches of character are
as good as anything in ancient eloquence. I have never, till now,
rated him fairly.

As to Latin, I am just finishing Lucan, who remains pretty much
where he was in my opinion; and I am busily engaged with Cicero,
whose character, moral and intellectual, interests me
prodigiously. I think that I see the whole man through and
through. But this is too vast a subject for a letter. I have gone
through all Ovid's poems. I admire him; but I was tired to death
before I got to the end. I amused myself one evening with turning
over the Metamorphoses, to see if I could find any passage of ten
lines which could, by possibility, have been written by Virgil.
Whether I was in ill luck or no I cannot tell; but I hunted for
half an hour without the smallest success. At last I chanced to
light on a little passage more Virgilian, to my thinking, than
Virgil himself. Tell me what you say to my criticism. It is part
of Apollo's speech to the laurel

Semper habebunt
Te coma, te citharae, te nostrae, laure, pharetrae
Tu ducibus Latiis aderis, cum laeta triumphum
Vox canet, et longas visent Capitolia pompas.
Portibus Augustis cadem fidissima custos
Ante fores stabis, mediamque tuebere quercum.

As to other Latin writers, Sallust has gone sadly down in my
opinion. Caesar has risen wonderfully. I think him fully entitled
to Cicero's praise. [In the dialogue "De Claris Oratoribus"
Cicero makes Atticus say that 'A consummate judge of style (who
is evidently intended for Cicero himself,) pronounces Caesar's
Latin to be the most elegant, with one implied exception, that
had ever been heard in the Senate or the Forum'. Atticus then goes
on to detail at full length a compliment which Caesar had paid to
Cicero's powers of expression; and Brutus declares with
enthusiasm that such praise, coming from such a quarter, is worth
more than a Triumph, as Triumphs were then given; and inferior in
value only to the honours which were voted to the statesman who
had baffled Catiline. The whole passage is a model of self-
glorification, exquisite in skill and finish.] He has won the
honour of an excellent historian while attempting merely to give
hints for history. But what are they all to the great Athenian? I
do assure you that there is no prose composition in the world,
not even the De Corona, which I place so high as the seventh book
of Thucydides. It is the ne plus ultra of human art. I was
delighted to find in Gray's letters the other day this query to
Wharton: "The retreat from Syracuse--Is it or is it not the
finest thing you ever read in your life?"

Did you ever read Athenaeus through? I never did; but I am
meditating an attack on him. The multitude of quotations looks
very tempting; and I never open him for a minute without being
paid for my trouble.

Yours very affectionately


Calcutta: December 30, 1835,

Dear Ellis,--What the end of the Municipal Reform Bill is to be I
cannot conjecture. Our latest English intelligence is of the 15th
of August. The Lords were then busy in rendering the only great
service that I expect them ever to render to the nation; that is
to say, in hastening the day of reckoning. [In the middle of
August the Irish Tithe Bill went up to the House of Lords, where
it was destined to undergo a mutilation which was fatal to its
existence.] But I will not fill my paper with English politics.

I am in excellent health. So are my sister and brother-in-law,
and their little girl, whom I am always nursing; and of whom I am
becoming fonder than a wise man, with half my experience, would
choose to be of anything except himself. I have but very lately
begun to recover my spirits. The tremendous blow which fell on me
at the beginning of this year has left marks behind it which I
shall carry to my grave. Literature has saved my life and my
reason. Even now, I dare not, in the intervals of business,
remain alone for a minute without a book in my hand. What my
course of life will be, when I return to England, is very
doubtful. But I am more than half determined to abandon politics,
and to give myself wholly to letters; to undertake some great
historical work, which may be at once the business and the
amusement of my life; and to leave the pleasures of pestiferous
rooms, sleepless nights, aching heads, and diseased stomachs to
Roebuck and to Praed.

In England I might probably be of a very different opinion. But,
in the quiet of my own little grass-plot,--when the moon, at its
rising, finds me with the Philoctetes or the De Finibus in my
hand,--I often wonder what strange infatuation leads men who can
do something better to squander their intellect, their health,
their energy, on such subjects as those which most statesmen are
engaged in pursuing. I comprehend perfectly how a man who can
debate, but who would make a very indifferent figure as a
contributor to an annual or a magazine,--such a man as Stanley,
for example,--should take the only line by which he can attain
distinction. But that a man before whom the two paths of
literature and politics lie open, and who might hope for eminence
in either, should choose politics, and quit literature, seems to
me madness. On the one side is health, leisure, peace of mind,
the search after truth, and all the enjoyments of friendship and
conversation. On the other side is almost certain ruin to the
constitution, constant labour, constant anxiety. Every friendship
which a man may have, becomes precarious as soon as he engages in
politics. As to abuse, men soon become callous to it, but the
discipline which makes them callous is very severe. And for what
is it that a man who might, if he chose, rise and lie down at his
own hour, engage in any study, enjoy any amusement, and visit any
place, consents to make himself as much a prisoner as if he were
within the rules of the Fleet; to be tethered during eleven
months of the year within the circle of half a mile round Charing
Cross; to sit, or stand, night after night for ten or twelve
hours, inhaling a noisome atmosphere, and listening to harangues
of which nine-tenths are far below the level of a leading article
in a newspaper? For what is it that he submits, day after day, to
see the morning break over the Thames, and then totters home,
with bursting temples, to his bed? Is it for fame? Who would
compare the fame of Charles Townshend to that of Hume, that of
Lord North to that of Gibbon, that of Lord Chatham to that of
Johnson? Who can look back on the life of Burke and not regret
that the years which he passed in ruining his health and temper
by political exertions were not passed in the composition of some
great and durable work? Who can read the letters to Atticus, and
not feel that Cicero would have been an infinitely happier and
better man, and a not less celebrated man, if he had left us
fewer speeches, and more Academic Questions and Tusculan
Disputations; if he had passed the time which he spent in
brawling with Vatinius and Clodius in producing a history of Rome
superior even to that of Livy? But these, as I said, are
meditations in a quiet garden, situated far beyond the contagious
influence of English action. What I might feel if I again saw
Downing Street and Palace Yard is another question. I tell you
sincerely my present feelings.

I have cast up my reading account, and brought it to the end of
the year 1835. It includes December 1834; for I came into my
house and unpacked my books at the end of November 1834. During
the last thirteen months I have read Aeschylus twice; Sophocles
twice; Euripides once; Pindar twice; Callimachus; Apollonius
Rhodius; Quintus Calaber; Theocritus twice; Herodotus;
Thucydides; almost all Xenophon's works; almost all Plato;
Aristotle's Politics, and a good deal of his Organon, besides
dipping elsewhere in him; the whole of Plutarch's Lives; about
half of Lucian; two or three books of Athenaeus; Plautus twice;
Terence twice; Lucretius twice; Catullus; Tibullus; Propertius;
Lucan; Statius; Silius Italicus; Livy; Velleius Paterculus;
Sallust; Caesar; and, lastly, Cicero. I have, indeed, still a
little of Cicero left; but I shall finish him in a few days. I am
now deep in Aristophanes and Lucian. Of Aristophanes I think as I
always thought; but Lucian has agreeably surprised me. At school
I read some of his Dialogues of the Dead when I was thirteen;
and, to my shame, I never, to the best of my belief, read a line
of him since. I am charmed with him. His style seems to me to be
superior to that of any extant writer who lived later than the
age of Demosthenes and Theophrastus. He has a most peculiar and
delicious vein of humour. It is not the humour of Aristophanes;
it is not that of Plato; and yet it is akin to both; not quite
equal, I admit, to either, but still exceedingly charming. I
hardly know where to find an instance of a writer, in the decline
of a literature, who has shown an invention so rich, and a taste
so pure. But, if I get on these matters, I shall fill sheet after
sheet. They must wait till we take another long walk, or another
tavern dinner, together; that is, till the summer of 1838.

I had a long story to tell you about a classical examination
here; but I have not time. I can only say that some of the
competitors tried to read the Greek with the papers upside down;
and that the great man of the examination, the Thirlwall of
Calcutta, a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, translated the
words of Theophrastus, osas leitourgias leleitroupgeke "how many
times he has performed divine service." ["How many public
services he had discharged at his own expense." Macaulay used to
say that a lady who dips into Mr. Grote's history, and learns
that Alcibiades won the heart of his fellow-citizens by the
novelty of his theories and the splendour of his liturgies, may
get a very false notion of that statesman's relations with the
Athenian public.]

Ever yours affectionately


That the enormous list of classical works recorded in the
foregoing letter was not only read through, but read with care,
is proved by the pencil marks, single, double, and treble, which
meander down the margin of such passages as excited the
admiration of the student; and by the remarks, literary,
historical, and grammatical, with which the critic has
interspersed every volume, and sometimes every page. In the case
of a favourite writer, Macaulay frequently corrects the errors of
the press, and even the punctuation, as minutely as if he were
preparing the book for another edition. He read Plautus, Terence,
and Aristophanes four times through at Calcutta; and Euripides
thrice. [See the Appendix at the end.] In his copy of Quintus
Calaber, (a versifier who is less unknown by the title of Quintus
Smyrnaeus,) appear the entries,

"September 22, 1833."
"Turned over, July 13, 1837."

It may be doubted whether the Pandects would have attained the
celebrity which they enjoy, if, in the course of the three years
during which Justinian's Law Commission was at work, the
president Tribonian had read Quintus Smyrnaeus twice.

Calcutta; May 30, 1836.

Dear Ellis,--I have just received your letter dated December,
28; How time flies! Another hot season has almost passed away,
and we are daily expecting the beginning of the rains. Cold
season, hot season, and rainy season are all much the same to me.
I shall have been two years on Indian ground in less than a
fortnight, and I have not taken ten grains of solid, or a pint of
liquid, medicine during the whole of that time. If I judged only
from my own sensations, I should say that this climate is
absurdly maligned; but the yellow, spectral, figures which
surround me serve to correct the conclusions which I should be
inclined to draw from the state of my own health.

One execrable effect the climate produces. It destroys all the
works of man with scarcely one exception. Steel rusts; razors
lose their edge; thread decays; clothes fall to pieces; books
moulder away, and drop out of their bindings; plaster cracks;
timber rots; matting is in shreds. The sun, the steam of this
vast alluvial tract, and the infinite armies of white ants, make
such havoc with buildings that a house requires a complete repair
every three years. Ours was in this situation about three months
ago; and, if we had determined to brave the rains without any
precautions, we should, in all probability, have had the roof
down on our heads. Accordingly we were forced to migrate for six
weeks from our stately apartments and our flower-beds, to a
dungeon where we were stifled with the stench of native cookery,
and deafened by the noise of native music. At last we have
returned to our house. We found it all snow-white and pea-green;
and we rejoice to think that we shall not again be under the
necessity of quitting it, till we quit it for a ship bound on a
voyage to London.

We have been for some months in the middle of what the people
here think a political storm. To a person accustomed to the
hurricanes of English faction this sort of tempest in a horsepond
is merely ridiculous. We have put the English settlers up the
country under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Company's Courts
in civil actions in which they are concerned with natives. The
English settlers are perfectly contented; but the lawyers of the
Supreme Court have set up a yelp which they think terrible, and
which has infinitely diverted me. They have selected me as the
object of their invectives, and I am generally the theme of five
or six columns of prose and verse daily. I have not patience to
read a tenth part of what they put forth. The last ode in my
praise which I perused began,

"Soon we hope they will recall ye,
Tom Macaulay, Tom Macaulay."

The last prose which I read was a parallel between me and Lord

My mornings, from five to nine, are quite my own. I still give
them to ancient literature. I have read Aristophanes twice
through since Christmas; and have also read Herodotus, and
Thucydides again. I got into a way last year of reading a Greek
play every Sunday. I began on Sunday the 18th of October with the
Prometheus, and next Sunday I shall finish with the Cyclops of
Euripides. Euripides has made a complete conquest of me. It has
been unfortunate for him that we have so many of his pieces. It
has, on the other hand, I suspect, been fortunate for Sophocles
that so few of his have come down to us. Almost every play of
Sophocles, which is now extant, was one of his masterpieces.
There is hardly one of them which is not mentioned with high
praise by some ancient writer. Yet one of them, the Trachiniae,
is, to my thinking, very poor and insipid. Now, if we had
nineteen plays of Sophocles, of which twelve or thirteen should
be no better than the Trachiniae,--and if, on the other hand,
only seven pieces of Euripides had come down to us, and if those
seven had been the Medea, the Bacchae, the Iphigenia in Aulis,
the Orestes, the Phoenissae, the Hippolytus, and the Alcestis, I
am not sure that the relative position which the two poets now
hold in our estimation would not be greatly altered.

I have not done much in Latin. I have been employed in turning
over several third-rate and fourth-rate writers. After finishing
Cicero, I read through the works of both the Senecas, father and
son. There is a great deal in the Controversiae both of curious
information, and of judicious criticism. As to the son, I cannot
bear him. His style affects me in something the same way with
that of Gibbon. But Lucius Seneca's affectation is even more rank
than Gibbon's. His works are made up of mottoes. There is hardly
a sentence which might not be quoted; but to read him
straightforward is like dining on nothing but anchovy sauce. I
have read, as one does read such stuff, Valerius Maximus, Annaeus
Florus, Lucius Ampelius, and Aurelius Victor. I have also gone
through Phaedrus. I am now better employed. I am deep in the
Annals of Tacitus, and I am at the same time reading Suetonius.

You are so rich in domestic comforts that I am inclined to envy
you. I am not, however, without my share. I am as fond of my
little niece as her father. I pass an hour or more every day in
nursing her, and teaching her to talk. She has got as far as Ba,
Pa, and Ma; which, as she is not eight months old, we consider as
proofs of a genius little inferior to that of Shakespeare or Sir
Isaac Newton.

The municipal elections have put me in good spirits as to
English politics. I was rather inclined to despondency.

Ever yours affectionately


Calcutta: July 25, 1836.

My dear Ellis,--I have heard from you again, and glad I always am
to hear from you. There are few things to which I look forward
with more pleasure than to our meeting. It is really worth while
to go into banishment for a few years for the pleasure of going
home again. Yet that home will in some things be a different
home--oh how different a home!--from that to which I expected to
return. But I will not stir up the bitterness of sorrow which has
at last subsided.

You take interest, I see, in my Greek and Latin studies. I
continue to pursue them steadily and actively. I am now reading
Demosthenes with interest and admiration indescribable. I am
slowly, at odd minutes, getting through the stupid trash of
Diodorus. I have read through Seneca, and an affected empty
scribbler he is. I have read Tacitus again, and, by the bye, I
will tell you a curious circumstance relating to that matter. In
my younger days I always thought the Annals a prodigiously
superior work to the History. I was surprised to find that the
Annals seemed cold and poor to me on the last reading. I began to
think that I had overrated Tacitus. But, when I began the
History, I was enchanted, and thought more highly of him than
ever. I went back to the Annals, and liked them even better than
the History. All at once the explanation of this occurred to me.
While I was reading the Annals I was reading Thucydides. When I
began the History, I began the Hellenics. What made the Annals
appear cold and poor to me was the intense interest which
Thucydides inspired. Indeed, what colouring is there which would
not look tame when placed side by side with the magnificent
light, and the terrible shade, of Thucydides? Tacitus was a great
man, but he was not up to the Sicilian expedition. When I
finished Thucydides, and took up Xenophon, the case was reversed.
Tacitus had been a foil to Thucydides. Xenophon was a foil to

I have read Pliny the Younger. Some of the Epistles are
interesting. Nothing more stupid than the Panegyric was ever
preached in the University church. I am reading the Augustan
History, and Aulus Gellius. Aulus is a favourite of mine. I think
him one of the best writers of his class.

I read in the evenings a great deal of English, French, and
Italian; and a little Spanish. I have picked up Portuguese enough
to read Camoens with care; and I want no more. I have adopted an
opinion about the Italian historians quite different from that
which I formerly held, and which, I believe, is generally
considered as orthodox. I place Fra Paolo decidedly at the head
of them, and next to him Davila, whom I take to be the best
modern military historian except Colonel Napier. Davila's battle
of Ivry is worthy of Thucydides himself. Next to Davila I put
Guicciardini, and last of all Machiavelli. But I do not think
that you ever read much Italian.

The English poetry of the day has very few attractions for me.
Van Artevelde is far the best specimen that I have lately seen. I
do not much like Talfourd's Ion; but I mean to read it again. It
contains pretty lines; but, to my thinking, it is neither fish
nor flesh. There is too much, and too little, of the antique
about it. Nothing but the most strictly classical costume can
reconcile me to a mythological plot; and Ion is a modern
philanthropist, whose politics and morals have been learned from
the publications of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful

I do not know whether the noise which the lawyers of the Supreme
Court have been raising against our legislative authority has
reached, or will reach, England. They held a public meeting,
which ended,--or rather began, continued, and ended,--in a riot;
and ever since then the leading agitators have been challenging
each other, refusing each other's challenges, libelling each
other, swearing the peace against each other, and blackballing
each other. Mr. Longueville Clarke, who aspires to be the
O'Connell of Calcutta, called another lawyer a liar. The last-
mentioned lawyer challenged Mr. Longueville Clarke. Mr.
Longueville Clarke refused to fight, on the ground that his
opponent had been guilty of hugging attorneys. The Bengal Club
accordingly blackballed Longueville. This, and some other similar
occurrences, have made the opposition here thoroughly ridiculous
and contemptible. They will probably send a petition home; but,
unless the House of Commons has undergone a great change since
1833, they have no chance there.

I have almost brought my letter to a close without mentioning the
most important matter about which I had to write. I dare say you
have heard that my uncle General Macaulay, who died last
February, has left me L10,000 This legacy, together with what I
shall have saved by the end of 1837, will make me quite a rich
man; richer than I even wish to be as a single man; and every day
renders it more unlikely that I should marry.

We have had a very unhealthy season; but sickness has not come
near our house. My sister, my brother-in-law, and their little
child, are as well as possible. As to me, I think that, as
Buonaparte said of himself after the Russian campaign, J'ai le
diable au corps.

Ever yours affectionately


To Macvey Napier, Esq.

Calcutta: November 26, 1836.

Dear Napier,--At last I send you an article of interminable
length about Lord Bacon. I hardly know whether it is not too long
for an article in a Review; but the subject is of such vast
extent that I could easily have made the paper twice as long as
it is.

About the historical and political part there is no great
probability that we shall differ in opinion; but what I have said
about Bacon's philosophy is widely at variance with what Dugald
Stuart, and Mackintosh, have said on the same subject. I have not
your essay; nor have I read it since I read it at Cambridge, with
very great pleasure, but without any knowledge of the subject. I
have at present only a very faint and general recollection of its
contents, and have in vain tried to procure a copy of it here. I
fear, however, that, differing widely as I do from Stewart and
Mackintosh, I shall hardly agree with you. My opinion is formed,
not at second hand, like those of nine-tenths of the people who
talk about Bacon; but after several very attentive perusals of
his greatest works, and after a good deal of thought. If I am in
the wrong, my errors may set the minds of others at work, and may
be the means of bringing both them, and me, to a knowledge of the
truth. I never bestowed so much care on anything that I have
written. There is not a sentence in the latter half of the
article which has not been repeatedly recast. I have no
expectation that the popularity of the article will bear any
proportion to the trouble which I have expended on it. But the
trouble has been so great a pleasure to me that I have already
been greatly overpaid. Pray look carefully to the printing.

In little more than a year I shall be embarking for England, and
I have determined to employ the four months of my voyage in
mastering the German language. I should be much obliged to you to
send me out, as early as you can, so that they may be certain to
arrive in time, the best grammar, and the best dictionary, that
can be procured; a German Bible; Schiller's works; Goethe's
works; and Niebuhr's History, both in the original, and in the
translation. My way of learning a language is always to begin
with the Bible, which I can read without a dictionary. After a
few days passed in this way, I am master of all the common
particles, the common rules of syntax, and a pretty large
vocabulary. Then I fall on some good classical work. It was in
this way that I learned both Spanish and Portuguese, and I shall
try the same course with German.

I have little or nothing to tell you about myself. My life has
flowed away here with strange rapidity. It seems but yesterday
that I left my country; and I am writing to beg you to hasten
preparations for my return. I continue to enjoy perfect health,
and the little political squalls which I have had to weather here
are mere capfuls of wind to a man who has gone through the great
hurricanes of English faction.

I shall send another copy of the article on Bacon by another

Yours very truly


Calcutta: November 28, 1836.

Dear Napier,--There is an oversight in the article on Bacon which
I shall be much obliged to you to correct. I have said that Bacon
did not deal at all in idle rants "like those in which Cicero and
Mr. Shandy sought consolation for the loss of Tullia and of
Bobby." Nothing can, as a general remark, be more true, but it
escaped my recollection that two or three of Mr. Shandy's
consolatory sentences are quoted from Bacon's Essays. The
illustration, therefore, is singularly unfortunate. Pray alter it
thus; "in which Cicero vainly sought consolation for the loss of
Tullia." To be sure, it is idle to correct such trifles at a
distance of fifteen thousand miles.

Yours ever


From Lord Jeffrey to Macvey Napier, Esq.

May 2, 1837.

My dear N.,--What mortal could ever dream of cutting out the
least particle of this precious work, to make it fit better into
your Review? It would be worse than paring down the Pitt Diamond
to fit the old setting of a Dowager's ring. Since Bacon himself,
I do not know that there has been anything so fine. The first
five or six pages are in a lower tone, but still magnificent, and
not to be deprived of a word.

Still, I do not object to consider whether it might not be best
to serve up the rich repast in two courses; and on the whole I
incline to that partition. 120 pages might cloy even epicures,
and would be sure to surfeit the vulgar; and the biography and
philosophy are so entirely distinct, and of not very unequal
length, that the division would not look like a fracture.


In the end, the article appeared entire; occupying 104 pages of
the Review; and accompanied by an apology for its length in the
shape of one of those editorial appeals to "the intelligent
scholar," and "the best class of our readers," which never fail
of success.

The letters addressed to Zachary Macaulay are half filled with
anecdotes of the nursery; pretty enough, but such as only a
grandfather could be expected to read. In other respects, the
correspondence is chiefly remarkable for the affectionate
ingenuity with which the son selects such topics as would
interest the father.

Calcutta: October 12 1836.

My dear Father, We were extremely gratified by receiving, a few
days ago, a letter from you which, on the whole, gave a good
account of your health and spirits. The day after tomorrow is the
first anniversary of your little grand-daughter's birthday. The
occasion is to be celebrated with a sort of droll puppet-show,
much in fashion among the natives; an exhibition much in the
style of Punch in England, but more dramatic and more showy. All
the little boys and girls from the houses of our friends are
invited, and the party will, I have no doubt, be a great deal
more amusing than the stupid dinners and routs with which the
grown-up people here kill the time.

In a few months,--I hope, indeed, in a few weeks,--we shall send
up the Penal Code to Government. We have got rid of the
punishment of death, except in the case of aggravated treason and
wilful murder. We shall also get rid indirectly of everything
that can properly be called slavery in India. There will remain
civil claims on particular people for particular services, which
claims may be enforced by civil action; but no person will be
entitled, on the plea of being the master of another, to do
anything to that other which it would be an offence to do to a

Our English schools are flourishing wonderfully. We find it
difficult,--indeed, in some places impossible,--to provide
instruction for all who want it. At the single town of Hoogly
fourteen hundred boys are learning English. The effect of this
education on the Hindoos is prodigious. No Hindoo, who has
received an English education, ever remains sincerely attached to
his religion. Some continue to profess it as matter of policy;
but many profess themselves pure Deists, and some embrace
Christianity. It is my firm belief that, if our plans of
education are followed up, there will not be a single idolater
among the respectable classes in Bengal thirty years hence. And
this will be effected without any efforts to proselytise; without
the smallest interference with religious liberty; merely by the
natural operation of knowledge and reflection. I heartily rejoice
in the prospect.

I have been a sincere mourner for Mill. He and I were on the best
terms, and his services at the India House were never so much
needed as at this time. I had a most kind letter from him a few
weeks before I heard of his death. He has a son just come out, to
whom I have shown such little attentions as are in my power.

Within half a year after the time when you read this we shall be
making arrangements for our return. The feelings with which I
look forward to that return I cannot express. Perhaps I should be
wise to continue here longer, in order to enjoy during a greater
number of months the delusion,--for I know that it will prove a
delusion,--of this delightful hope. I feel as if I never could be
unhappy in my own country; as if to exist on English ground and
among English people, seeing the old familiar sights and hearing
the sound of my mother tongue, would be enough for me. This
cannot be; yet some days of intense happiness I shall surely
have; and one of those will be the day when I again see my dear
father and sisters.

Ever yours most affectionately

Calcutta: November 30, 1836.

Dear Ellis,--How the months run away! Here is another cold
season; morning fogs, cloth coats, green peas, new potatoes, and
all the accompaniments of a Bengal winter. As to my private life,
it has glided on, since I wrote to you last, in the most peaceful
monotony. If it were not for the books which I read, and for the
bodily and mental growth of my dear little niece, I should have
no mark to distinguish one part of the year from another. Greek
and Latin, breakfast; business, an evening walk with a book, a
drive after sunset, dinner, coffee, my bed,--there you have the
history of a day. My classical studies go on vigorously. I have
read Demosthenes twice,--I need not say with what delight and
admiration. I am now deep in Isocrates and from him I shall pass
to Lysias. I have finished Diodorus Siculus at last, after
dawdling over him at odd times ever since last March. He is a
stupid, credulous, prosing old ass; yet I heartily wish that we
had a good deal more of him. I have read Arrian's expedition of
Alexander, together with Quintus Curtius. I have at stray hours
read Longus's Romance and Xenophon's Ephesiaca; and I mean to go
through Heliodorus, and Achilles Tatius, in the same way. Longus
is prodigiously absurd; but there is often an exquisite
prettiness in the style. Xenophon's Novel is the basest thing to
be found in Greek. [Xenophon the Ephesian lived in the third or
fourth century of the Christian era. At the end of his work
Macaulay has written: "A most stupid worthless performance, below
the lowest trash of an English circulating library." Achilles
Tatius he disposes of with the words "Detestable trash;" and the
Aethiopics of Heliodorus, which he appears to have finished on
Easter-day, 1837, he pronounces "The best of the Greek Romances,
which is not saying much for it."] It was discovered at Florence,
little more than a hundred years ago, by an English envoy.
Nothing so detestable ever came from the Minerva Press. I have
read Theocritus again, and like him better than ever.

As to Latin, I made a heroic attempt on Pliny's Natural History;
but I stuck after getting through about a quarter of it. I have
read Ammianus Marcellinus, the worst written book in ancient
Latin. The style would disgrace a monk of the tenth century; but
Marcellinus has many of the substantial qualities of a good
historian. I have gone through the Augustan history, and much
other trash relating to the lower empire; curious as illustrating
the state of society, but utterly worthless as composition. I
have read Statius again and thought him as bad as ever. I really
found only two lines worthy of a great poet in all the Thebais.
They are these. What do you think of my taste?

"Clamorem, bello qualis supremus apertis
Urbibus, aut pelago jam descendente carina."

I am now busy with Quintilian and Lucan, both excellent writers.
The dream of Pompey in the seventh book of the Pharsalia is a
very noble piece of writing. I hardly know an instance in poetry
of so great an effect produced by means so simple. There is
something irresistibly pathetic in the lines

"Qualis erat populi facies, clamorque faventum
Olim cum juvenis--"

and something unspeakably solemn in the sudden turn which follows

"Crastina dira quies--"

There are two passages in Lucan which surpass in eloquence
anything that I know in the Latin language. One is the
enumeration of Pompey's exploits

"Quod si tam sacro dignaris nomine saxum--"

The other is the character which Cato gives of Pompey,

"Civis obit, inquit--"

a pure gem of rhetoric, without one flaw, and, in my opinion, not
very far from historical truth. When I consider that Lucan died
at twenty-six, I cannot help ranking him among the most
extraordinary men that ever lived.

[The following remarks occur at the end of Macaulay's copy of the

August 30, 1835.

"When Lucan's age is considered, it is impossible not to allow
that the poem is a very extraordinary one; more extraordinary,
perhaps, than if it had been of a higher kind; for it is more
common for the imagination to be in full vigour at an early time
of life than for a young man to obtain a complete mastery of
political and philosophical rhetoric. I know no declamation in
the world, not even Cicero's best, which equals some passages in
the Pharsalia. As to what were meant for bold poetical flights,--
the sea-fight at Marseilles, the Centurion who is covered with
wounds, the snakes in the Libyan desert, it is all as detestable
as Cibber's Birthday Odes. The furious partiality of Lucan takes
away much of the pleasure which his talents would otherwise
afford. A poet who is, as has often been said, less a poet than a
historian, should to a certain degree conform to the laws of
history. The manner in which he represents the two parties is not
to be reconciled with the laws even of fiction. The senators are
demigods; Pompey, a pure lover of his country; Cato, the abstract
idea of virtue; while Caesar, the finest gentleman, the most
humane conqueror, and the most popular politician that Rome ever
produced, is a bloodthirsty ogre. If Lucan had lived, he would
probably have improved greatly." "Again, December 9, 1836,"]

I am glad that you have so much business, and sorry that you have
so little leisure. In a few years you will be a Baron of the
Exchequer; and then we shall have ample time to talk over our
favourite classics. Then I will show you a most superb emendation
of Bentley's in Ampelius, and I will give you unanswerable
reasons for pronouncing that Gibbon was mistaken in supposing
that Quintus Curtius wrote under Gordian.

Remember me most kindly to Mrs. Ellis. I hope that I shall find
Frank writing as good Alcaics as his father.

Ever yours affectionately


Calcutta: March 8, 1837.

Dear Ellis,--I am at present very much worked, and have been so
for a long time past. Cameron, after being laid up for some
months, sailed at Christmas for the Cape, where I hope his health
will be repaired; for this country can very ill spare him.
However, we have almost brought our great work to a conclusion.
In about a month we shall lay before the Government a complete
penal Code for a hundred millions of people, with a commentary
explaining and defending the provisions of the text. Whether it
is well, or ill, done heaven knows. I only know that it seems to
me to be very ill done when I look at it by itself; and well done
when I compare it with Livingstone's Code, with the French Code,
or with the English statutes which have been passed for the
purpose of consolidating and amending the Criminal Law. In health
I am as well as ever I was in my life. Time glides fast. One day
is so like another that, but for a habit which I acquired soon
after I reached India of pencilling in my books the date of my
reading them, I should have hardly any way of estimating the
lapse of time. If I want to know when an event took place, I call
to mind which of Calderon's plays, or of Plutarch's Lives, I was
reading on that day. I turn to the book; find the date; and am
generally astonished to see that, what seems removed from me by
only two or three months, really happened nearly a year ago.

I intend to learn German on my voyage home, and I have indented
largely, (to use our Indian official term), for the requisite
books. People tell me that it is a hard language; but I cannot
easily believe that there is a language which I cannot master in
four months, by working ten hours a day. I promise myself very
great delight and information from German literature; and, over
and above, I feel a soft of presentiment, a kind of admonition of
the Deity, which assures me that the final cause of my existence,
--the end for which I was sent into this vale of tears,--was to
make game of certain Germans. The first thing to be done in
obedience to this heavenly call is to learn German; and then
I may perhaps try, as Milton says,

"Frangere Saxonicas Britonum sub Marte phalanges."

Ever yours affectionately


The years which Macaulay spent in India formed a transition
period between the time when he kept no journal at all, and the
time when the daily portion of his journal was completed as
regularly as the daily portion of his History. Between 1834 and
1838, he contented himself with jotting down any circumstance
that struck his fancy in the book which he happened to have in
hand. The records of his Calcutta life, written in half a dozen
different languages, are scattered throughout the whole range of
classical literature from Hesiod to Macrobius. At the end of the
eighty-ninth Epistle of Seneca we read: "April 11, 1836. Hodie
praemia distribui tois en to mouseio Sanskritiko neaniskois. [To-
day I distributed the prizes to the students of the Sanscrit

On the last page of the Birds of Aristophanes: "Jan. 16, 1836. Oi
presbeis of papa ton Basileos ton Nepauliton eisegonto khthes es
Kalkouttan." ["The ambassadors from the King of Nepaul entered
Calcutta yesterday." It may be observed that Macaulay wrote Greek
with or without accents, according to the humour, or hurry, of
the moment.]

On the first page of Theocrats: "March 20, 1835. Lord W. Bentinck
sailed this morning."

On the last page of the "De Amicitia:" "March 5, 1836. Yesterday
Lord Auckland arrived at Government House, and was sworn in."

Beneath an idyl of Moschus, of all places in the world, Macaulay
notes the fact of Peel being First Lord of the Treasury; and he
finds space, between two quotations in Athenaeus, to commemorate
a Ministerial majority of 29 on the Second Reading of the Irish
Church Bill.

A somewhat nearer approach to a formal diary may be found in his
Catullus, which contains a catalogue of the English books that he
read in the cold season of 1835-36; as for instance

Gibbon's Answer to Davis. November 6 and 7
Gibbon on Virgil's VI Aeneid November 7
Whately's Logic November 15
Thirlwall's Greece November 22
Edinburgh Review November 29

And all this was in addition to his Greek and Latin studies, to
his official work, to the French that he read with his sister, and
the unrecorded novels that he read to himself; which last would
alone have afforded occupation for two ordinary men, unless this
month of November was different from every other month of his
existence since the day that he left Mr. Preston's schoolroom.
There is something refreshing, amidst the long list of graver
treatises, to light upon a periodical entry of "Pikwikina"; the
immortal work of a Classic who has had more readers in a single
year than Statius and Seneca in all their eighteen centuries
together. Macaulay turned over with indifference, and something of
distaste, the earlier chapters of that modern Odyssey. The first
touch which came home to him was Jingle's "Handsome Englishman?"
In that phrase he recognised a master; and, by the time that he
landed in England, he knew his Pickwick almost as intimately as
his Grandison.

Calcutta: June 15, 1837

Dear Napier,--Your letter about my review of Mackintosh
miscarried, vexatiously enough. I should have been glad to know

Book of the day: