Изображения страниц

prescribed by the best writers, and in a few | hours lost eighteen thousand men, a hundred and twenty standards, all his baggage and all his artillery." *

These incivilities are all the stronger, because the ordinary tone is noble and serious.

Hitherto we have seen only the reasoner, the scholar, the orator, and the wit there is still in Macaulay a poet; and if we had not read his Lays of Ancient Rome, it would suffice to read a few of his periods, in which the imagination, long held in check by the severity of the proof, breaks out suddenly in splendid metaphors, and expands into magnificent comparisons, worthy by their amplitude of being introduced into an epic:

"Ariosto tells a pretty story of a fairy, who, by some mysterious law of her nature, was condemned to appear at certain seasons in the form of a foul and poisonous snake. Those who injured her during the period of her disguise were forever excluded from participation in the blessings which she bestowed. But to those who, in spite of her loathsome aspect, pitied and protected her, she afterwards revealed herself in the beautiful and celestial form which was natural to her, accompanied their steps, granted all their wishes, filled their houses with wealth, made them happy in love and victorious in war. Such a spirit is Liberty. At times she takes the form of a hateful reptile. She grovels, she hisses, she stings. But woe to those who in disgust shall venture to crush

her! And happy are those who, having dared to receive her in her degraded and frightful shape, shall at length be rewarded by her in the time of her beauty and her glory!" f

These noble words come from the heart; the fount is full, and though it flows, it never becomes dry. As soon as the writer speaks of a cause which he loves, as soon as he sees Liberty rise before him, with Humanity and Justice, Poetry bursts forth spontaneously from his soul, and sets her crown on the brows of her noble sisters:

"The Reformation is an event long past. That volcano has spent its rage. The wide waste produced by its outbreak is forgotten. The landmarks which were swept away have been replaced. The ruined edifices have been repaired. The lava has covered with a rich incrustation the fields which it once devastated, and, after having turned a beautiful and fruitful garden into a desert, has again turned the desert into a still more beautiful and fruitful garden. The second great eruption is not yet over.

* Macaulay, v. 672; Lord Mahon's War of the Succession in Spain.

Macaulay, v. 31; Milton.

The marks of its ravages ae still all around us. The ashes are still hot beneath our feet. In some directions, the deluge of fire still continues to spread. Yet experience surely entitles us to believe that this explosion, like that which preceded it, will fertilize the soil which it has devastated. Already, in those parts which have suffered most severely, rich cultivaamidst the waste. The more we read of the tion and secure dwellings have begun to appear history of past ages, the more we observe the signs of our own times, the more do we fee' for the future destinies of the human race.” our hearts filled and swelled up by a good hope

I ought, perhaps, in concluding this analysis, to point out the imperfections caused by these high qualities; how ease, charm, a vein of amiability, variety, simplicity, playfulness, are wanting in this manly eloquence, this solid reasoning, and this glowing dialectic; why the art of writing and classical purity are not always found in this partisan, fighting from his platform; in short, why an Englishman is not a Frenchman or an Athenian. I prefer to transcribe another passage, the solemnity and magnificence of which will give some idea of the grave and rich ornament which Macaulay throws over his narrative, a sort of potent vegetation, flowers of brilliant purple, like those which are spread over every page of Paradise Lost and Childe Harold. Warren Hastings had returned from India, and had just been placed on his trial:

"On the thirteenth of February, 1788, the sittings of the Court commenced. There have been spectacles more dazzling to the eye, more gorgeous with jewellery and cloth of gold, more attractive to grown up children, than that which was then exhibited at Westminster; but, perhaps, there never was a spectacle so well calculated to strike a highly cultivated, a re flecting, an imaginative mind. All the various and to the distant, to the present and to the kinds of interests which belong to the near past, were collected on one spot, and in one hour. All the talents and all the accomplishments which are developed by !iberty and civilization were now displayea, with every adva0tage that could be derived both from co-operation and from contrast. Every step in the proceedings carried the mind either backward, through many troubled centuries, to the days when the roundations of our constitution were laid; or far away, over boundless seas and deserts, to dusky nations living under strange stars, worshipping strange gods, and writing strange characters from right to left. High Court of Parliament was to sit, according to forms handed down from the days of the


* Macaulay, v. 593; Burleigh and his Times.

Plantagenets, on an Englishman accused of exercising tyranny over the lord of the noly city of Benares, and ver the ladies of the princely house of Oude.

"The place was worthy of such a trial. It was the great Hall of William Rufus, the hall which had resounded with acclamations at the inauguration of thirty kings, the hall which had witnessed the just sentence of Bacon and the just absolution of Somers, the hall where the eloquence of Strafford had for a moment awed and melted a victorious party inflamed with just resentment, the hall where Charles had con onted the High Court of Justice with the placid Courage which has half redeemed his fame. Neither military nor civil pomp was wanting. The avenues were lined with grenadiers. The streets were kept clear by cavalry. The peers, robed in gold and ermine, were marshalled by the heralds under Garter King-at-arms. The judges in their vestments of state attended to give advice on points of law. Near a hundred and seventy lords, three-fourths of the Upper House as the Upper House then was, walked in solemn order from their usual place of assembling to the tribunal. The junior baron present led the way, George Eliott, Lord Heathfield, recently ennobled for his memorable defence of Gibraltar against the fleets and armies of France and Spain. The long procession was closed by the Duke of Norfolk, Earl Marshal of the realm, by the great dignitaries, and by the brothers and sons of the King. Last of all came the Prince of Wales, conspicuous by his fine person and noble bearing. The grey old walls were hung with scarlet. The long galleries were crowded by an audience such as has rarely excited the fears or the emulation of an orator. There were gathered together, from all parts of a great, free, enlightened, and prosperous empire, grace and female loveliness, wit

and learning, the representatives of every science and of every art. There were seated round the Queen the fair-haired young daughters of the house of Brunswick. There the Ambassadors of great Kings and Commonwealths gazed with admiration on a spectacle which no other country in the world could present. There Siddons, in the prime of her majestic beauty, looked with emotion on a scene surpassing all the imitations of the stage: There the historian of the Roman Empire thought of the days when Cicero pleaded the cause of Sicily against Verres, and when, before a senate which still retained some show of freedom, Tacitus thundered against the oppressor of Africa. There were seen, side by side, the greatest painter and the greatest scholar of the age. The spectacle had allured Reynolds from that easei which has preserved to us the thoughtful foreheads of so many writers and statesmen, and the sweet smiles of so many noble matrons. It had induced Parr to suspend his labours in that dark and profound mine from which he had extracted a vast treasure of erudition, a treasure too often buried in the earth, too often paraded with injudicious and inelegant ostentation, bu. still precious, massive, and splendid. There appeared the voluptuous charms of her to whom the heir of the throne had in secret plighted his faith. There too was she, the beauul mother of a beautiful race, the Saint Cecilia whose delicate features, lighted up by

[ocr errors]

love and music, art has rescoed from the con mon decay. There were the members of that brilliant society which quoted, criticised, and ex changed repartees, under the rich peacock. hangings of Mrs. Montague. And there the ladies whose lips, more persuasive than those of Fox himself, had carried the Westminster election against palace and treasury, shone round Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.' • This evocation of the national history, glory, and constitution, forms a picture of a unique kind. The species of patriotism and poetry which it reveals is an abstract of Macaulay's talent and the talent, like the picture, is thoroughly English.


Thus prepared, he entered upon the History of England; and he chose therefrom the period best suited to his political opinions, his style, his pas sion, his knowledge, the national taste, the sympathy of Europe. He related the establishment of the English constitution, and concentrated all the res of history about this unique event, "the finest in the world," to the mind of an Englishman and a politician. He brought to this work a new method of great beauty, extreme power; its suc cess has been extraordinary. When the second volume appeared, 30,000 copies were ordered beforehand. us try to describe this history, to connect it with that method, and that method to that order of mind.


The history is universal and no broken. It comprehends events of every kind, and treats of them simultaneously. Some have related the

history of races, others of classes, others of governments, others of senti ments, ideas, and manners; Macaulay has related all.

"I should very imperfectly execute the task which I have undertaken if I were merely to treat of battles and sieges, of the rise and fall of administrations, of intrigues in the palace, and of debates in the parliament. It will be my endeavour to relate the history of the peo ple as well as the history of the government, to trace the progress of useful and ornamental arts, to describe the rise of religious sects and the changes of literary taste, to portray the manners of successive generations, and not to pass by with neglect even the revolutions which have taken place in dress, furniture, repasts, and public amusements. I shall cheerfully bear the reproach of having descended below

* Macaulay, vi. 628; Warren Hastings.

tors." *

the dignity of history, if I can succeed in plac- | successively an economist, a literary ing before the English of the nineteenth century a true picture of the life of their ances- man, a publicist, an artist, a historian, a biographer, a story-teller, even philosopher; by this diversity of parts he imitates the diversity of human life and presents to the eyes, heart, mind, all the faculties of man, the complete history of the civilization of his country.

He kept his word. He has omitted nothing, and passed nothing by. His portraits are mingled with his narrative. We find those of Danby, Nottingham, Shrewsbury, Howe, during the account Others, like Hume, have tried or are of a session, between two parliament- trying to do it. They set forth now re ry divisions. Short curious anecdotes, ligious matters, a little further political domestic details, the description of fur- events, then literary details, finally niture, intersect, without disjointing, general considerations on the change the record of a war. Quitting the nar- of society and government, beiieving rative of important business, we gladly that a collection of histories is history, look upon the Dutch tastes of William, and that parts joined endwise are a body. the Chinese museum, the grottos, the Macaulay did not believe it and he did mazes, aviaries, ponds, geometrical well. Though English, he had the garden-beds, with which he defaced spirit of harmony. So many accumuHampton Court. A political disserta- lated events form with him not a total, tion precedes or follows the relation of but a whole. Explanations, accounts, a battle; at other times the author is a dissertations, anecdotes, illustrations, tourist or a psychologist before becomng a politician or a tactician. He describes the highlands of Scotland, semipapistical and semi-pagan, the seers wrapped in bulls' hides to await the moment of inspiration, Christians making libations of milk or beer to the demons of the place; pregnant women, girls of eighteen, working a wretched patch of oats, whilst their husbands or fathers, athletic men, basked in the sun; robbery and barbarities looked upon as honorable deeds; men stabbed from behind or burnt alive; repulsive food, coarse oats, and cakes made of the blood of a live cow, offered to guests as a mark of favor and politeness; infected hovels where men lay on the bare ground, and where they woke up half smothered, half blinded by the smoke, and half mad with the itch. The next instant he stops to mark a change in the public taste, the horror then experienced on account of these brigands' ereats, this country of wild rocks and barren moors; the admiration now felt for this land of heroic warriors, this country of grand mountains, seething waterfalls, picturesque defiles. He finds in the progress of physical welfare the causes of this moral revolution, and concludes that, if we praise mountains and an uncivilized life, it is because we are satiated with security. He is

Macaulay, i. a; History of England before the Restoration, ch. i.

comparisons, allusions to modern events, every thing is connected in his book. It is because every thing is connected in his mind. He had a most lively consciousness of causes; and causes unite facts. By them, scattered events are assembled into a single event; they unite them because they produce them, and the historian, who seeks them all out, cannot fail to perceive or to feel the unity which is their effect. Read, for instance, the voyage of James II. to Ireland: no picture is more curious. Is it, however, nothing more than a curious picture? When the king arrived at Cork, there were no horses to be found. The country is a desert. No more industry, cultivation, civilization, since the English and Prot estant colonists were driven out, rob bed, and slain. James was received between two hedges of half-naked Rap; parees, armed with skeans, stakes, and half-pikes; under his horse's feet they spread by way of carpet the rough frieze mantles, such as the brigands and shepherds wore. He was offered garlands of cabbage stalks for crowns of laurel. In a large district he only. found two carts. The palace of the lord-lieutenant in Dublin was so ill built, that the rain drenched the rooms. The king left for Ulster; the French officers thought they were travelling "through the deserts of Arabia." The Count d'Avaux wrote to the French

court, that to get one truss of hay they | te oe reminded of a disposition or a had to send five or six miles. At quality which explains it? No; for Charlemont, with great difficulty, as a since it has for a cause a whole matter of favor, they obtained a bag of situation and a whole character, I oatmeal for the French legation. The must see at one glance, and in absuperior officers lay in dens which they stract, the whole character and situa would have thought too foul for their tion which produced it. Genius con dogs. The Irish soldiers were half- centrates. It is measured by the num savage marauders, who could only ber of recollections and ideas which it shout, cut throats, and disband. Ill assembles in one point. That which fed on potatoes and sour milk, they | Macaulay has assembled is enormous cast themselves like starved men on I know no historian who has a suret the great flocks belonging to the Prot- better furnished, better regulated mem estants. They greedily tore the flesh ory. When he is relating the action of oxen and sheep, and swallowed it of a man or a party, he sees in an inhalf raw and half rotten. For lack of stant all the events of his history, and kettles they cooked it in the skin. all the maxims of his conduct; he has When Lent began, the plunderers all the details present; he remembers generally ceased to devour, but con- them every moment, and a great many tinued to destroy. A peasant would of them. He has forgotten nothing; he kill a cow merely in order to get a pair runs through them as easily, as com of brogues. At times a band slaught-pletely, as surely, as on the day when ered fifty or sixty beasts, took the he enumerated or wrote them. No skins, and left the bodies to poison the one has so well taught or known hisair. The French ambassador reckoned tory. He is as much steeped in it as that in six weeks, there had been slain his personages. The ardent Whig or 50,000 horned cattle, which were rot-Tory, experienced, trained to business, ting on the ground. They counted the number of the sheep and lambs slain at 400,000. Cannot the result of the rebellion be seen beforehand? What could be expected of these glut conous serfs, so stupid and savage? What could be drawn from a devastated land, peopled with robbers? To what kind of discipline could these marauders and butchers be subjected? What resistance will they make on the Boyne, when they see William's old regiments, the furious squadrons of French refugees, the enraged and insulted Protestants of Londonderry and Enniskillen, leap into the river and run with uplifted swords against their muskets? They will flee, the king at their head; and the minute anecdotes scattered amidst the account of receptions, voyages, and ceremonies, will have announced the victory of the Protestants. The history of manners is thus seen to be involved in the history of events; the one is the cause of the other, and the description explains the narrative. It is not enough to see some causes; we must see a great many of them. Every event has a multitude. Is it enough for me, if I wish to understand the action of Marlborough or of James,


who rose and shook the House, had
not more numerous, better arranged,
more precise arguments. He did not
better know the strength and weakness
of his cause; he was not more familiar
with the intrigues, rancors, variation
of parties, the chances of the strife,
individual and public interests.
great novelists penetrate the soul of
their characters, assume their feelings,
ideas, language; it seems as if Balzac
had been a commercial traveller, a fe-
male door-keeper, a courtesan, an old
maid, a poet, and that he had spent
his life in being each of these person-
ages: his existence is multiplied, and
his name is legion. With a different
talent, Macaulay has the same power:
an incomparable advocate, he pleads
an infinite number of causes; and he
is master of each cause, as fully as his
client. He has answers for all objec
tions, explanations for all obscurities,
reasons for all tribunals. He is ready
at every moment, and on all parts of
his case. It seems as if he had beet
Whig, Tory, Puritan, Member of the
Privy Council, Ambassador. He it
not a poet like Michelet; he is not a
philosopher like Guizot; but he pos
sesses so well all the oratorical powers

he accumulates and arranges so many
facts, he holds them so closely in his
hand, he manages them with so much
ease and vigor, that he succeeds in re-
composing the whole and harmonious
woof of history, not losing or separat-
ing one thread. The poet reanimates
the dead; the philosopher formulates
creative laws; the orator knows, ex-
founds, and pleads causes.
The poet
resuscitates souls, the philosopher
composes a system, the orator redis-
poses chains of arguments; but all
three march towards the same end by
different routes, and the orator as well
as his rivals, and by other, means than
his rivals, reproduces in his work the
unity and complexity of life.

should make no allowance for the imperfection of his materials, his whole apparatus of beams, ruin, and, with all his geometrical skill, he wheels, and ropes would soon come down in would be found a far inferior builder to those painted barbarians who, though they never to pile up Stonehenge. What the engineer is heard of the parallelogram of forces, managed to the mathematician, the active statesman is to the contemplative statesman. It is indeed most important that legislators and administra. tors should be versed in the philosophy of government, as it is most important that the architect who has to fix an obelisk on its pedestal, or to hang a tubular bridge over an estuary, should be versed in the philosophy of equilibrium and motion. But, as he who has actually to build must bear in mind many things never noticed by D'Alembert and Euler, so must he who has actually to govern be perpetually guided by considerations to which no allusion can be found in the writings of Adam Smith or Jérémy Bentham. The perfect lawA second feature of this history is giver is a just temper between the mere man clearness. It is popular; no one exof theory, who can see nothing but general plains better, or so much, as Macaulay. principles, and the mere man of business, who can see nothing but particular circumstances. It seems as if he were making a wager Of lawgivers in whom the speculative element with his reader, and said to him: Be has prevailed to the exclusion of the practical, as absent in mind, as stupid, as ignorant the world has during the last eighty years been as you please; in vain you will be ab- and America have owed scores of abortive confruitful. To their wisdom Europe singularly sent in mind, you shall listen to me; institutions, scores of constitutions which have vain you will be stupid, you shall under-lived just long enough to make a miserable stand; in vain you will be ignorant, you shall learn. I will repeat the same idea in so many different forms, I will make it sensible by such familiar and precise examples, I will announce it so clearly at the beginning, I will resume it so carefully at the end, I will mark the divisions so well, follow the order of ideas so exactly, I will display so great a desire to enlighten and convince you, that you cannot help being enlightened and convinced. He certainly thought thus, when he was preparing the following passage on the law which, for the first time, granted to Dissenters the liberty of exercising their worship:

"Of all the Acts that have ever been passed sy Parliament, the Toleration Act is perhaps that whie most strikingly illustrates the pecudar vices and the peculiar excellences of Engfish legislation. The science of Politics bears in one respect a close analogy to the science of Mechanics. The mathematician can easily demonstrate that a certain power, applied by means of a certain lever or of a certain system of pulleys, will suffice to raise a certain weight. But his demonstration proceeds on the supposition that the machinery is such as no load will bend or break. If the engineer, who has to lift a great mass of real granite by the instrumentality of real timber and real hemp, should absolutely rely on the propositions which he finds in treatises on Dynamics, and

noise, and have then gone off in convulsions. But in English legislation the practical element has always predominated, and not seldom unduly predominated, over the speculative. To think nothing of symmetry and much of convenience; never to remove an anomaly merely because it is an anomaly; never to innovate except when some grievance is felt; never to innovate except so far as to get rid of the griev ance; never to lay down any proposition of it is necessary to provide; these are the rules wider extent than the particular case for which which have, from the age of John to the age of Victoria, generally guided the deliberations of our two hundred and fifty Parliaments."

Is the idea still obscure or doubtful? Does it still need proofs, illustrations? Do we wish for any thing more? You answer, No; Macaulay answers, Yes. After the general explanation comes the particular; after the theory, the application; after the theoretical deraon. stration, the pratical. We would fain stop; but he proceeds:

"The Toleration Act approaches very near to the idea of a great English law. To a jurist, versed in the theory of legislation, but not intimately acquainted with the temper of the sects and parties into which the nation was divided at the time of the Revolution, that Act would seem to be a mere chaos of absurdities and contradictions. It will not bear to be tried by sound general principles. Nay, it will

* Macaulay, ii. 463. History of England ch. xi.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »