Изображения страниц

persuades, and spreads as much ev dence over obscure questions as certi tude over doubtful points. It is im possible not to understand him; he approaches the subject under every as pect, he turns it over on every side; it seems as though he addressed himself himself understood by every individ to every spectator, and studied to make ual; he calculates the scope of every mind, and seeks for each a fit mode of exposition; he takes us all by the hand and leads us alternately to the end which he has marked out beforehand. He sets out from the simplest facts, he descends to our level, he brings him. self even with our mind; he spares us the pain of the slightest effort; then he leads us on, and smoothes the road throughout; we rise gradually with

"He (Pope) asked Addison's advice. Addison said that the poem as it stood was a delicious little thing, and entreated Pope not to run the risk of marring what was so excellent in trying to mend it. Pope afterwards declared that this insidious counsel first opened his eyes to the baseness of him who gave it. "Now there can be no doubt that Pope's plan was most ingenious, and that he afterwards executed it with great skill and success. does it necessarily follow that Addison's advice But was bad? And if Addison's advice was bad, does it necessarily follow that it was given from Lad motives? If a friend were to ask us whether we would advise him to risk his all in a lottery of which the chances were ten to one against him, we should do our best to dissuade bim from running such a risk. Even if he were so lucky as to get the thirty thousand pound prize, we should not admit that we had counselled him ill; and we should certainly think it the height of injustice in him to accuse us of having been actuated by malice. We think Addison's advice good advice. It rested on a sound principle, the result of long and wide experience. The general rule undoubtedly is that, when a successful work of imagina-out perceiving the slope, and at the tion has been produced, it should not be recast. We cannot at this moment call to mind a single instance in which this rule has been transgressed with happy effect, except the instance of the Rape of the Lock. Tasso recast his Jerusalem, Akenside recast his Pleasures of the Imagination and his Epistle to Curio. Pope himself, emboldened no doubt by the success with which he had expanded and remodelled the Rape of the Lock, made the same experiment on the Dunciad. All these attempts failed. Who was to foresee that Pope would, once in his life, be able to do what he could not himself do twice, and what nobody else has

ever done?

end we find ourselves at the top, after having walked as easily as on the plain. When a subject is obscure, he is not content with a first explanation; he gives a second, then a third: he sheds light in abundance from all sides, he searches for it in all regions of history; and the wonderful thing is, that he is never prolix. In reading him we find ourselves in our proper sphere; we feel as though we could understand; we are annoyed to have "Addison's advice was good. But had it taken twilight so long for day; we rebeen bad, why should we pronounce it dis-joice to see this abounding light rising honest? Scott tells us that one of his best friends predicted the failure of Waverley. Herder adjured Goethe not to take so unpromising a subject as Faust. Hume tried to dissuade Robertson from writing the History of Charles the Fifth. Nay, Pope himself was one of those who prophesied that Cato would never succeed on the stage, and advised Addison to print it without risking a representation. But Scott, Goethe, Robertson, Addison, had the good sense and generosity to give their advisers credit for the best intentions. Pope's heart was not of the same kind with theirs."

What does the reader think of this filemma, and this double series of in

and leaping forth in tcrrents; the exact style, the antithesis of ideas, the harmonious construction, the artfully balanced paragraphs, the vigorous summaries, the regular sequence of thoughts, the frequent comparisons, the fine arrangement of the whole-not an idea or phrase of his writings in which the talent and the desire to explain, the characteristic of an orator, member of Parliament, and spoke so does not shine forth. Macaulay was a well, we are told, that he was listened The habit of public speaking is per to for the mere pleasure of listening.

Juctions? The demonstrations would not be more studied or rigorous, if a physical law were in question. This demonstrative talent was in-haps the cause of this incomparable creased by his talent for development. bly, we must address all the members; lucidity. To convince a great assem Macaulay enlightens inattentive minds, to rivet the attention of absent-minded as well as he convinces opposing and weary men, we must save them minds; he manifests, as well as he from all fatigue; they must take in to Public speaking vulgarizes ideas; i much in order to take in enough.

* Macaulay, vii. 109; Life and Writings of


it dwells, with some thinkers, to bring it amongst the crowd; it reduces it to the level of ordinary minds, who, without this intervention, would only have seen it from afar, and high above them. Thus, when great orators consent to write, they are the most powerful of writers; they make philosophy popular; they lift all minds a stage higher, and seem to enlarge human intelligence. In the hands of Cicero, the dogmas of the Stoics and the dialectics of the Academicians lose their prickles. The subtle Greek arguments become united and easy; the hard problems of providence, immortality, highest good, become public property. Senators, men of business, lawyers, lovers of formulas and procedure, the massive and narrow intelligence of publicists, comprehend the deductions of Chrysippus; and the book De Officiis has made the morality of Panatius popular. In our days, M. Thiers, in his two great histories, has placed within reach of everybody the most nvolved questions of strategy and finance; if he would write a course of political economy for street-porters, I am sure he would be understood; and pupils of the lower classes at school have been able to read M. Guizot's History of Civilization.

drags truth from the height at which | urged forward by internal passion sweeping away objections in its course, and adding to the dash of eloquence the irresistible force of its mass and weight. We might say that the his tory of James II. is a discourse in tw volumes, spoken without stopping, and with never-failing voice. We see the oppression and discontent begin, increase, widen, the partisans of James abandoning him one by one, the idea of revolution arise in all hearts, confirmed, fixed, the preparations made, the event approaching, growing immi nent, then suddenly falling on the blind and unjust monarch, and sweeping away his throne and dynasty, with the violence of a foreseen and fatal tempest. True eloquence is that which thus perfects argument by emotion, which reproduces the unity of events by the unity of passion, which repeats the motion and the chain of facts by the motion and the chain of ideas. It is a genuine imitation of nature; more complete than pure analysis; it reanimates beings; its dash and vehemence form part of science and of truth. Of whatever subject Macaulay treats, political economy, morality, philosophy, literature, history, he is impassioned for his subject. The current which bears away events, excites in him, as soon as he sees it, a curren. When, with the faculty for proof which bears forward his thought. He and explanation, a man feels the desire does not set forth his opinion; he of proving, he arrives at vehemence. pleads it. He has that energetic, sus These serried and multiplied argu-tained, and vibrating tone which dows ments which all tend to a single aim, those reiterated logical points, returning every instant, one upon the other, to shake the opponent, give heat and passion to the style. Rarely was eloquence more captivating than Macaulay's. He has the oratorical afflatus; all his phrases have a tone; we feel that he would govern minds, that he is irritated by resistance, that he fights as he discusses. In his books the discussion always seizes and carries away the realer; it advances evenly, with accumulating force, straightforward, like those great American rivers, impetuous as a torrent and wide as a sea. This abundance of thought and style, this multitude of explanations, ideas, and facts, this vast aggregate of his torical knowledge goes rolling on,

down opposition and conquers belief.
His thought is an active force; it is
imposed on the hearer; it attacks him
with such superiority, faus apon him
with such a train of proofs, such a
manifest and legitimate authority, such
a powerful impulse, that we
think of resisting it; and it masters
the heart by its vehemence, whilst at
the same time it masters the reason by
its evidence.


All these gifts are common to ora. tors; they are found in different proportions and degrees, in men like Cicero and Livy, Bourdaloue and Bossuet, Fox and Burke. These fine and solid minds form a natural family, and all have for their chief feature the habit and talent of passing from par. ticular to general ideas, orderly an

successively, as we climb a ladder by | scalpel-ut in a living body, an unlooked setting our feet one after the other on for color in a liquid These are le every round. The inconvenience of cisive specimens. The whole substance of theory, the whole force of proof, is contained in this. Truth is here, as a nut in its shell: painful and ingenious discussion adds nothing thereto; it only extracts the nut. Thus, if we would rightly prove, we must before every thing present these specimens, insist upon them, make them visible and tangible to the reader, as far as may be done in words. This is difficult, for words are not things. The only resource of the writer is to employ words which bring things before the eyes. For this he must appeal to the reader's personal observation, set out from his experience, compare the unknown objects presented to him with the known objects which he sees every day, place past events beside contemporary events. Macaulay always has before his mind English imaginations, full of English images, I mean full of the detailed and present recollections of a London Street, a dram-shop, a wretched alley, an afternoon in Hyde Park, a moist, green landscape, a white, ivy-covered countryhouse, a clergyman in a white tie, a sailor in a sou'-wester. He has recourse to such recollections; he makes them still more precise by descriptions and statistics; he notes colors and qualities; he has a passion for exactness; his descriptions are worthy both of a painter and topographer; he writes like a man who sees a physical and sensible object, and who at the same time classifies and weighs it. We will see him carry his figures even to moral or literary worth, assign to an action, a virtue, a book, a talent, its com. partment and its step in the scale, with such clearness and relief, that we could easily imagine ourselves in a classified museum, not of stuffed skins, ut of feeling, suffering, living animals.

this art is the use of commonplace. They who practise it do not depict objects with precision; they fall easily into vague rhetoric. They hold in their hands ready-made developments, a sort of portable scales, equally applicable on both sides of the same and very question. They continue willingly in a middle region, amongst the tirades and arguments of the special pleader, with an indifferent knowledge of the human heart, and a fair number of amplifications on that which is useful and just. In France and at Rome, amongst the Latin races, especially in the seventeenth century, these men love to hover above the earth, amidst grand words or general considerations, in the style of the drawing-room and the academy. They do not descend to minor facts, convincing details, circumstantial examples of every-day life. They are more inclined to plead than to prove. In this Macaulay is distinguished from them. His principle is, that a special fact has more hold on the mind than a general reflection. He knows that, to give men a clear and vivid idea, they must be brought back to their personal experience. He remarks* that, in order to make them realize a storm, the only method is to recall to them some storm which they have themselves seen and heard, with which their memory is still charged, and which still re-echoes through all their senses. He practises in his style the philosophy of Bacon and Locke. With him, as well as with them, the origin of every idea is a sensation. Every complicated argument, every entire conception, has certain particular facts for its only support. It is so for every structure of ideas, as well as for a scientific theory. Beneath long calculations, algebraical formulas, subtle le ductions, written volumes which contain the combinations and elaborations of learned minds, there are two or three sensible experiences, two or three little facts on which we may lay our finger, a turn of the wheel in a machine, a

See in his Essay on the Life and Writngs of Addison (vii. 78); Macaulay's observations on the Campaign.

Consider, for instance, these phrases, by which he tries to render visible to an English public, events in India:

"During that interval the business of a ser vant of the Company was simply to wring out sand pounds as speedily as possible, that he of the natives a hundred or two hundred thou might return home before his constitution har suffered from the heat, to marry a peer's daughter, to buy rotten boroughs in Cornwall

empire, under which the village crowds assem ble; the thatched roof of the peasant's hut; the rich tracery of the mosque where the imaum prays with his face to Mecca, the drums, and banner 3, and gaudy idols, the devotee swinging

and to give balls in St. James's Square.* There was still a nabob of Bengal, who stood to the English rulers of his country in the same relation in which Augustulus stood to Odoacer, of the last Merovingians to Charles Martel and Pepin. He lived at Moorshedabad, surround-in the air, the graceful maiden, with the pitcher ed by princely magnificence. He was approached with outward marks of reverence, and his name was used in public instruments. But in the government of the country he had less real share than the youngest writer or cadet in the Company's service." t

on her head, descending the steps to the riverside, the black faces, the long beards, the yellow streaks of sect, the turbans and the flowing robes, the spears and the silver maces, the ele phants with their canopies of state, the gorge ous palanquin of the prince, and the close litte of the noble lady, all those things were to hin

Of Nuncomar, the native servant of the as the objects amidst which his own life had Company, he writes:

"Of his moral character it is difficult to give a notion to those who are acquainted with human nature only as it appears in our island. What the Italian is to the Englishman, what the Hindoo is to the Italian, what the Bengalee is to other Hindoos, that was Nuncomar to other Bengalees. The physical organization of the Bengalee is feeble even to effeminacy. He lives in a constant vapour bath. His pursuits are sedentary, his limbs delicate, his movements languid. During many ages he has been trampled upon by men of bolder and m. re hardy breeds. Courage, independence, veracity, are qualities to which his constitution and his situation are equally unfavourable. His mind bears a singular analogy to his body. It is weak even to helplessness, for purposes of manly resistance; but its suppleness and its tact move the children of sterner climates to admiration not unmingled with contempt. All those arts which are the natural defence of the weak are more familiar to this subtle race than to the Ionian of the time of Juvenal, or to the Jew of the dark ages. What the horns are to the buffalo, what the paw is to the tiger, what the sting is to the bee, what beauty, according to the old Greek song, is to woman, deceit is to the Bengalee. Large promises, smooth ex

cuses, elaborate tissues of circumstantial falsehood, chicanery, perjury, forgery, are the weapons, offensive and defensive, of the people of the Lower Ganges. All those millions do not furnish one sepoy to the armies of the Company. But as usurers, as money-changers, as sharp legal practitioners, no class of human beings can bear a comparison with them." ‡ It was such men and such affairs, which were to provide Burke with the amplest and most brilliant subject matter for his eloquence; and when Macaulay described the distinctive talent of the great orator, he described his own:

He (Burke) had, in the highest degree, that aoble faculty whereby man is able to live in the past and in the future, in the distant and in the unreal. India and its inhabitants were not to him, as to most Englishmen, mere names and abstractions, but a real country and a real people. The burning sun, the strange vegetation of the palm and the cocoa-tree, the rice-field, the tank, the huge trees, older than the Mogul

* Macaulay, v 549; Warren Hastings. + Ibid. 553.

tbid. 555.

been passed, as the objects which lay on the road between Beaconsfield and St. James's Street. All India was present to the eye of his mind, from the halls where suitors laid gold and perfumes at the feet of sovereigns, to the wild moor where the gipsy camp was pitched, from the bazaar, humming like a bee-hive with the crowd of buyers and sellers, to the jungle where the lonely courier shakes his bunch of iron rings to scare away the hyenas. He had just as lively an idea of the insurrection at Benares as of Lord George Gordon's riots, and of the execution of Nuncomar as of the execution of Dr. Dodd. Oppression in Bengal was to him the same thing as oppression in the streets of London.” *


Other forms of his talent are more peculiarly English. Macaulay has a rough touch; when he strikes, he knocks down. Béranger sings:

"Chez nous, point, Point de ces coups de poing Qui font tant d'honneur à l'Angleterre." t And a French reader would be astonished if he heard a great historian treat an illustrious poet in this style:

"But in all those works in which Mr. Southey has completely abandoned narration, and has undertaken to argue moral and political questions, his failure has been complete and igno minious. On such occasions his writings are rescued from utter contempt and derision solely by the beauty and purity of the English. We find, we confess, so great a charm in Mr. Southey's style that, even when he writes nonsense, we generally read it with pleasure, except indeed when he tries to be droll. A more insuffera...e jester never existed. He very ften attempts to be humourous, and yet we do not remember a single occasion on which he has succeeded In one of his works he tells us that Bishop further than to be quaintly and flippantly dull. Spratt was very properly so called, inasmuch as he was a very small poet. And in the book now before us he cannot quote Francis Bugg, the renegade Quaker, without a remark on his unsavoury name. A wise man might talk folly like this by his own fireside; but that any human being, after having made such a joke

[blocks in formation]

should write it down, and copy it out, and transmit it to the printer, and correct the proof-sheets, and send it forth into the world, is enough to make us ashamed of our species." * We may imagine that Macaulay does not treat the dead better than the living. Thus he speaks of Archbishop Laud:

"The severest punishment which the two cuses could have inflicted on him would have ord. There he might have staid, tortured by is own diabolical temper, hungering for Purians to pillory and mangle, plaguing the Cavaliers, for wat of somebody else to plague with his peevishness and absurdity, performing grimaces and antics in th: cathedral, continuing that incomparable diary, which we never see without forgetting the vices of his heart in the imbecility of his intellect, minuting down his dreams, counting the drops of blood which fell from his nose, watching the direction of the salt, and listening for the note of the screechowls. Contemptuous mercy was the only vengeance which it became the Parliament to take on such a ridiculous old bigot." t

been to set him at liberty and send him to Ox

While he jests he remains grave, as do almost all the writers of his country. Humor consists in saying extremely comical things in a solemn tone, and in preserving a lofty style and ample phraseology, at the very moment when the author is making all his hearers laugh. Such is the beginning of an article on a new historian of Burleigh: "The work of Dr. Nares has filled us with astonishment similar to that which Captain Lemuel Gulliver felt when first he landed in Brobdingnag, and saw corn as high as the oaks in the New Forest, thimbles as large as buckets, and wrens of the bulk of turkeys. The whole book, and every component part of it, is on a gigantic scale. The title is as long as an ordinary preface; the prefatory matter would furnish out an ordinary book: and the book contains as much reading as an ordinary library. We cannot sum up the merits of the stupendous mass of paper which lies before us better than by saying that it consists of about two thousand closely printed quarto pages, that it occupies fifteen hundred inches cubic measure, and that it weighs sixty pounds avoirdupois. Such a book might, before the deluge, have been considered as light reading by Hilpah and Shalum. But unhappily the life of man is now threescore years and ten; and we cannot but think it somewhat unfair in Dr. Nares to

demand from us so large a portion of so short an existence." t

This comparison, borrowed from Swift, is a mockery in Swift's taste. * Macaulay, v. 333; Southey's Colloquies on


† Macaulay, v. 204; Hallam's Constitutional History.

Mathematics become in English hands an excellent means of raillery; and we remember how the Dean, comparing Roman and English generosity by num bers, overwhelmed Marlborough by a sum in addition. Humor employs against the people it attacks, positive facts, commercial arguments, odd contrasts drawn from ordinary life. This surprises and perplexes the reader, without warning; he falls abruptly into some familiar and grotesque detail; the shock is violent; he bursts out laugh ing without being much amused; the trigger is pulled so suddenly and so roughly, that it is like a knockdown blow. For instance, Macaulay is refuting those who would not print the indecent classical authors:

"We find it difficult to believe that, in a world so full of temptations as this, any gentleman whose life would have been virtuous if he had not read Aristophanes and Juvenal will be made vicious by reading them. A man who, exposed to all the influences of such a state of exposing himself to the influence of a few society as that in which we live, is yet afraid of Greek or Latin verses, acts, we think, much like the felon who begged the sheriffs to let him have an umbrella held over his head from the door of Newgate to the gallows, because it was a drizzling morning, and he was apt to take cold." *

Irony, sarcasm, the bitterest kinds of pleasantry, are the rule with Englishmen. They tear when they scratch. To be convinced of this, we should compare French scandal, as Molière represents it in the Misanthrope. with English scandal as Sheridan represents it, imitating Molière and the Misanthrope. Célimène pricks, but does not wound; Lady Sneerwell's friends wound, and leave bloody marks on all the reputa tions which they handle. The raillery, which I am about to give, is one of Macaulay's tenderest:

"They (the ministers) therefore gave the command to Lord Galway, an experienced veteran, a man who was in war what Molière's doctors were in medicine, who thought it much more honourable to fail according to rule, than to succeed by innovation, and who would have been very much ashamed of himself if he had taken Monjuich by means so strange as those which Peterborough employed. This great commandscientific manner. er conducted the campaign of 1707 in the most On the plain of Almanza he encountered the army of the Bourbons. He drew up his troops according to the methods

[ocr errors]

Macaulay, vi. 491; Com& Dramatists d Macaulay, v 587; Burleigh and his Times. | the Restoration.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »