Изображения страниц

less ornate and florid, and became gradually | Indian Empire. The year after his retara, more and more remarkable for a perfect and Macaulay was elected for Edinburgh, and in exquisite simplicity. By his connexion with the followieng year accepted office as Secretathis journal, he gained the intimacy and ry at War. When the Whig ascendancy friendship of Mr. Jeffrey (since Lord Jeffrey), was broken up in 1841, he steadily and conthe editor ; an agreeable relationship, which sistently supported his party in opposition. subsisted as long as the latter lived. Some of his votes, however, gave offence to

In 1831, Mr. Macaulay entered Parliament his constituents - a memorable one on the as member for Calne, a borough in the inter- Maynooth grant especially-and at the genest of Lord Lansdowne. Ho made his first eral election of 1847, he lost his seat for the speech in favor of the Reform Bill, and short- Scottish capital. He would have had little ly came to be considered a prominent mem- difficulty in getting returned for some one of ber of the Whig party. With this party he the English boroughs, but he declined all sa has been all along associated, and in his po- licitations, and refused to sit for any other litical disquisitions appears chiefly as its place than the one which had rejected him. champion and philosophical representative. Time wears down many prejudices ; and the His eloquence and manifest capacity for the honor that was then denied him, was last discussion of affairs gave him great popularity year restored, and that in a manner highly in the House, and won for him the respect flattering to himself. It will be remembered and favor of the leaders in the ministry. He that without canvassing, without even coming was not a frequent speaker, but when he did forward as a candidate, he was triumphantly speak, it was generally on some important returned for Edinburgh at the head of the poll. question, with all the bearings and particu- His four years' exclusion from public life are lars of which he had made himself intimately understood to have been industriously devoted acquainted. Those who were in a position to to literary pursuits — mainly, we believe, appreciate his powers, spoke of him in the to the preparation of his elaborate History of highest terms of eulogy. Jeffrey, writing to England from the Accession of James II. ; Lord Cockburn in 1833, observes: “Mac is two volumes of which were published at the a marvellous person. He made the very best close of 1848, and have now reached their sixth speech that has been made this session on edition ; and two other volumes are expected India, a few nights ago, to a house of less to be forthcoming in the course of the presthan fifty. The speaker, who is a severe ent year. Of the merits of this work we judge, says he rather thinks it the best speech shall have occasion to speak hereafter. Both he ever heard.” The men of the Whig admin- as a statesman and a writer, though in genistration must have entertained a somewhat eral a supporter of Whig principles, Mr. Maesimilar opinion ; at any rate, they kept their aulay has sometimes been the advocate of a eyes upon him, and embraced an early oppor- more liberal national policy than that astunity for enlisting him in their service. In pired after by his party; and, upon the whole, 1834, after being elected for Leeds, he was it may be said, that he has used the influence appointed to the office of Secretary to the In- of his position in behalf of free opinion, comdia Board. The aptness for business and gen- mercial liberty, a more general extension of eral ability he manifested in this position, education among the people, and a better adcaused him shortly afterwards to be made a justment of those relations of ranks and member of the East India Company's Supreme classes which are commonly believed, by adCouncil at Calcutta ; an appointment for vanced thinkers, to require emendation as a which he vacated his seat in Parliament, and consequence and a condition of our material proceeded forthwith to India. He was ab- and social progress. sent four years, returning to England in 1838. We now pass on to a consideration of Mr. During his stay in India, he largely extended Macaulay's writings, beginning with a notice his knowledge of its policy and affairs ; 80 of his collected contributions to the Edinthat when writing subsequently on the careers burgh Review. These embrace an extensive of Clive and Warren Hastings, he showed range of subjects. They are scarcely separ

himself accurately informed of all their per- able, according to the title, into Critical and sonal proceedings, and thoroughly conversant Historical Essays, for the critical are nearly

with the whole range of circumstances con- all partially historical or biographical, and -nected with the rise and consolidation of our the historical deal considerably in criticism.

The most purely critical and literary are the he has as clear and just a recognition as he before-mentioned article on Milton, the re- manifests for the characteristics of excellency views of Moore’s Life of Byron, Boswell's and worthiness. The homage he pays to Life of Johnson, Horace Walpole's Letters, genius is not extended to its failings or defiSouthey's Colloquies on Society, the Diary ciencies ; nor does he suffer the moral sense and Letters of Madame d'Arblay, the Life within him to be dazzled by the brilliancy of and Writings of Addison, and the elaborate the aberrations and eccentricities by which it dissertations on Lord Bacon and Sir William has sometimes been disfigured. To the CæTemple. Among the professedly historical sars of human intelleet he would render the essays, the most notable and attractive are things that may be due to them ; but for those on Lord Burleigh, the Earl of Chatham, every violation of the truth and justice, for Lord Clive, and Warren Hastings. These every perversion of honor or integrity, he contain complete and finished representations relentlessly brings them to judgment. Not of the genius and characters of the individu- that he has no generous compassion for the als treated of, along with graphic and excel- errors of the tempted, or for the heedless inlent descriptions of the circumstances in discretions into which the inexperienced and which they lived and acted. They are all impetuous may chance to fall; but knowing the striking and instructive studies of human na- weight and the solemnity of human responsiture, and are not only memorable for the bility, he dares forbear not, even in the patuinterest of personality which attaches to the ral overflowings of his mercy towards the subjects, but may be read with profit for their offender, to visit his offences with condemnastores of valuable information, their fair and tion. impartial estimates of character, and their This Rhadamanthine impartiality is illusjust moral judgments and conclusions. trated in the article on Bacon. Whilst he

Perhaps the first quality that strikes a admiringly extols the grandeurs of Bacon's reader fresh from Macaulay's pages, is the intellect, he will not condescend to varnish fulness of his sympathy with genius. Near- the rottenness of his moral reputation. Honly all his articles in the Edinburgh Review oring the philosopher and the thinker, he have been devoted to great men, or to men yet denounces the selfishness, the perfidy, who hold some special characteristic position and the meanness of the man. Neverthein literature or history by virtue of their ge- less, with justice he discriminates between nius. Bacon, Milton, Bunyan, Addison, the acts which may be reckoned instances of Johnson, Byron, are persons of widely differ- personal depravity, and those that were siment peculiarities of mental constitution, but ply adventitious or accessory to his position. being all unquestionably possessed of what as a placeman and a politician. The vices we understand by genius, they are severally and shortcomings of his age are not incontiand individually welcomed with the warmest nently charged upon the head of the individhomage and appreciation. He delights to ual. Macaulay, indeed, discerns in Bacon track the footsteps of the bold original travel- two separable and distinct characters. Under lers in the realms of thought and power, and the speculative aspect, the man is to be ranked glows with admiration over the narrative of with the noblest specimens of his race ; their discoveries. The things that interest him under the practical and personal manifestamost are the great strokes of character, the tion, he is shown to have had very much in subtile graces of act and movement, that can- common with the basest and most unprincinot be imitated or repeated, the beauty and pled. “ The difference," says Macaulay, the glory that is shed from the presence of ex-" between the soaring angel and the creeping alted intellects. Before the high throne of snake was but a type of the difference besuperiority, he bows his head with reverence, tween Bacon the philosopher and Bacon the and extols, with a glowing and rapturous en attorney-general - Bacon seeking for truth thusiasm, the majesty he venerates. But his and Bacon seeking for the seals. Those who worship is by no means fanatical or supersti- survey only one half of his character may tious ; it is not the expression of a mere un- speak of him with unmixed admiration, or discerning sentiment, but the bold and fear- with unmixed contempt; but those only judge less admiration of a mind that claims relation of him correctly, who take in at one view, ship with the object it admires. For all Bacon in speculation and Bacon in action. manner of limitations and imperfections, They will have no difficulty in comprehending

how one and the same man should have been | and character, than any one could be wha far before his age and far behind it - in one approaches the subject in the attitude of & line, the boldest and most useful of innova- partisan. The position taken by Mr. Montors ; in another line, the most obstinate tagu is that of an advocate, who conceives champion of the foulest abuses. In his li- himself called upon to exculpate his client brary, all his rare powers were under the from all suspicion of blame : Mr. Macaulay, guidance of an honest ambition, of an en- more appropriately, assumes the functions of larged philanthropy, of a sincere love of a judge, who, hearing and investigating the entruth. There, no temptation drew him away tire case, pronounces a decision according to from the right course. Thomas Aquinas the evidence. So just an apprehension of the could pay no fees — Duns Scotus could confer lights and shades of character as is indicated no peerages — the Master of the Sentences in the sentences just quoted, and appears had no rich reversions in his gift. Far dif- still more abundantly throughout the article, ferent was the situation of the great philoso- seems to us to mark Macaulay as a writer pher, when he came forth from his study admirably qualified for faithful and impar and his laboratory to mingle with the crowd tial criticism of character. Another quality which filled the galleries of Whitehall. In which well befits him in this capacity, is his all that crowd there was no man equally considerate and honorable candor towards qualified to render great and lasting services honestly-intentioned persons with whom he to mankind. But in all that crowd there finds it necessary to differ in opinion. There was not a heart more set on things which no are some remarks in this same article on man ought to suffer to be necessary to his Bacon, which may be not inaptly cited, by happiness - on things which can often be way of showing how gently he is disposed to obtained only by the sacrifice of integrity and deal with the unconscious exaggerations and honor. To be the leader of the human race misjudgments of those admirers of the illus in the career of improvement - to found trious who are apt to be unduly ardent, and on the ruins of ancient intellectual dynasties not sufficiently discriminating. Speaking of a more prosperous and a more enduring em- the difficulty there is in treating, with strict pire to be revered by the latest generations impartiality, of the memories of men who as the most illustrious among the benefactors have been in any manner benefactors of their of mankind; all this was within his reach. kind, he observes : But all this availed him nothing while some There is scarcely any delusion which has quibbling special pleader was promoted a better claim to be indulgently treated, than before him to the bench — while soine heavy that under the influence of which a man ascountry gentleman took precedence of him, cribes every moral excellence to those who by virtue of a purchased coronet - while have left imperishable monuments of their some pander, happy in a fair wife, could ob- genius. The causes of this error lie deep in tain a more cordial salute from Buckingham the inmost recesses of human nature. We

-while some buffoon, versed in all the latest are all inclined to judge of others as we find scandal of the court, could draw a louder them. Our estimate of a character always laugh from James." Further on, our author depends much on the manner in which that adds : “Had his life been passed in literary character affects our interests and passions. retirement, he would, in all probability, have We find it difficult to think well of those by deserved to be considered, not only as a great whom we are thwarted or depressed ; and philosopher, but as a worthy and good-natured we are ready to admit every excuse for the member of society. But neither his princi- vices of those who are useful or agreeable to ple nor his spirit was such as could be us. This is, we believe, one of those illutrusted, when strong temptations were to be sions to which the whole human race is subresisted, and serious dangers to be braved.” ject, and which experience and reflection can

This wide discrepancy between the intel- only partially remove. It is, in the phraselectual and moral elements of Bacon's nature ology of Bacon, one of the idola iribus.* is a thing to be lamented; but being undeni- Hence it is that the moral character of a ably a fact, it cannot rightly be overlooked man eminent in letters or in the fine arts in our estimation of his greatness. But it is treated, often by contemporaries, almost is precisely the thing which a less bold and always by posterity, with extraordinary tenconscientious critic, so largely sympathizing derness. The world derives pleasure and adwith Bacon's genius, would have been tempted vantage from the performances of such a man. to explain away. This was, indeed, the The number of those who suffer by his percourse pursued by Mr. Basil Montagu in his sonal vices is small, even in his own time, life of the great philosopher, and is the very when compared with the number of those to thing which impairs the worth of that other- whom his talents are a source of gratificawise valuable and carefully-composed biogra- tion. In a few years, all those whom he has phy. Mr. Macaulay is, accordingly, a much safer guide to the study of Bacon's history * Idols or illusions of the tribe or species.

injured disappear; but his works remain, and an impartial judge can contemplate with are a source of delight to millions. The gen- approbation." ius of Sallust is still with us; but the Nu These last remarks have obtained ample and midians whom he plundered, and the unfortu- varied illustration in Mr. Macaulay's disquisinate husbands who caught him in their tions. As a reviewer, notwithstanding, he is houses at unseasonable hours, are forgotten. apt to be very hard upon dunces, and indeed We suffer ourselves to be delighted by the seems not disinclined to hunt them out of the keenness of Clarendon's observation, and by provinces of literature, without benefit of the sober majesty of his style, till we forget clergy. The measure he dealt some years the oppressor and the bigot in the historian. ago to a celebrated writer of verse, whose Falstaff and Tom Jones have survived the works have gone through numerous editions, gamekeepers whom Shakspeare cudgelled, and is a memorable instance of the severity of the landladies whom Fielding bilked. A which he is capable on fit occasions. The great writer is the friend and benefactor of gentleman in question is the well-known auhis readers ; and they cannot but judge of thor of Satan, and the Omnipresence of the bim under the deluding influence of friend- Deity, and also of several other works that ship and gratitude. We all know how unwill have been more or less popular with a considing we are to admit the truth of any dis- erable class of readers. Mr. Macaulay, we graceful story about a person whose society think wrongly, ascribed his incomprehensible we like, and from whom we have received success to the agency of puffery. This stimfavors; how long we struggle against evi-ulant to notoriety may have been concerned in dence — how fondly, when the facts cannot it, but we fancy it is in great part attributabe disputed, we cling to the hope that there ble to that liking for inilated metaphor and may be some explanation or some extenuating sounding phraseology, so commonly observable circumstance with which we are unacquaint- in common minds. The vulgar melodramas ed. Just such is the feeling which a man that are represented in the inferior London of liberal education naturally entertains theatres, meet with a correspondingly vulgar, towards the great minds of former ages. The but a very hearty and undeniable approbation. debt which he owes to them is incalculable. Such compositions as Satan, and others of the They have guided him to truth — they have class, might in like manner find some natural filled his mind with noble and graceful images admirers. Puffery might have carried Mr. -they have stood by him in all vicissitudes, Montgomery hastily through two or three edicomforters in sorrow, nurses in sickness, com- tions, but it would be hardly a sufficient mopanions in solitude. These friendships are tive power to bear him triumphantly forward exposed to no danger from the occurrences by to a dozen. However, believing the cause to which other attachments are weakened or be simple puffery, Mr. Macaulay sets himself dissolved. Timo glides on, fortune is incon- to expose and denounce it, and then rigorously stant, tempers are soured, bonds which analyzes Mr. Montgomery's pretensions. The seemed indissoluble are daily sundered by unsparing critic convicts him of nearly all the interest, by emulation, or by caprice. But poetical sins a man could possibly commit. no such cause can affect the silent converse - His writing,” says he," bears the same rewhich we hold with the highest human in- lation to poetry which a Turkey-carpet bears tellects. That placid intercourse is disturbed to a picture. There are colors in a Turkeyby no jealousies or resentments. These are carpet out of which a picture might be made ; the old friends who are never seen with new there are words in Mr. Montgomery's writing faces, who are the same in wealth and in which, when disposed in certain orders and poverty, in glory and in obscurity.... Noth- combinations, have made, and will again make, ing, then, can be more natural, than that a good poetry. But as they now stand, they person endowed with sensibility and imagi- seem to be put together on principle, in such nation should entertain a respectful and af- a manner as to give no image of anything in fectionate feeling towards those great men the heavens above, or in the earth beneath, or with whose minds he holds daily communion. in the waters under the earth.” He convicts Yet,” he continues, with a just consideration him of the grossest plagiarism, of false taste, for what can be advanced on the other side, of an irreverent handling of sacred things, of “ nothing can be more certain, than that such confusion of imagery, of inflation of style and men have not always deserved to be regarded phraseology, of absurd personification and rewith respect or affection. Some writers, Hection, of spoiling almost everything he pilwhose works will continue to instruct and fers, of violating even the common rules of delight mankind to the remotest ages, have syntax; and then, having, as it were, turned been placed in such situations that their ac- him utterly inside out, and exposed the bomtions and motives are as well known to us as bastic patchwork with which he has clothed the actions and motives of one human being his intellectual insignificancy, he finally discan be known to another; and unhappily misses him with a bland and gentlemanly contheir conduct has not always been such as tempt. On reading such a criticism, à man

is apt to thank his stars that he never fancied | pages as another man; and one of his pages himself a poet,

is as tedious as another man's three. His But it is not always in a style so truculent book is swelled to its vast dimensions by endthat Mr. Macaulay treats an incompetent or less repetitions, by episodes which have nothpompous author. "If the author be only un- ing to do with the main action, by quotations gainly, or innocently commonplace, his judg- from books which are in every circulating liment of him may not the less positively ex- brary, and by reflections which, when they press disapprobation ; but the manner in which happen to be just, are so obvious, that they he conveys it is more gentle, and not so em- must necessarily occur to the mind of every phatically contemptuous. Yet we scarcely reader. He employs more words in expoundknow which might be the more difficult to ing and defending a truism, than any other bear - his sharp castigations, or the provok- writer would employ in supporting a paradox. ing complacency of his milder disapproval. Of the rules of historical perspective he has He has a habit of what may be called pleasant not the faintest notion. There is neither foredepreciation, which has often a very damaging ground nor background in his delineation. effect. Here is a short extractable passage, The wars of Charles V. in Germany are dewhich will serve, better than any remarks,

to tailed at almost as much length as in Robertillustrate what we mean. The subject under son's life of that prince. The troubles of review is the Memoirs of Lord Burleigh, ed- Scotland are related as fully as in M'Crie's ited by Dr. Nares, some time Regius Professor Life of John Knox. It would be most unjust of Modern History at Oxford ; and in intro- to deny, that Dr. Nares is a man of great inducing the work to his readers, Mr. Macaulay dustry and research ; but he is so utterly inthus describes it :

competent to arrange the materials which he “The work of Dr. Nares has filled us with has collected, that he might as well have left astonishment similar to that which Captain them in their original repositories." Gulliver felt when first he landed in Brob Dr. Nares appears to be one of those heavy dignag, and saw corn as high as the oaks in and pains-taking authors, whom the Germans the New Forest, thimbles as large as buckets, are accustomed to call « literary hod-men." and wrens of the bulk of turkeys. The whole Nevertheless, we conceive some moderate debook, and every component part of it, is on a gree of praise is due to him, inasmuch as he gigantic scale. The title is as long as an ordi- undoubtedly brought together, in three suffinary, preface; the prefatory matter would cient volumes, the whole or chief materials furnish out an ordinary book; and the book out of which Mr. Macaulay raised his own contains as much reading as an ordinary li-elegant monument, in commemoration of Burbrary. We cannot sum up the merits of the leigh and his Times. This paper is an excelstupendous mass of paper which lies before lent specimen of our author's science of comus, better than by saying, that it consists of position; for, with Mr. Macaulay, as with all about 2000 closely-printed quarto pages, that good writers, composition is a science, and it occupies 1500 inches cubic measure, and therefore requiring the observance of appropri'that it weighs sixty pounds avoirdupois. Such ate rules and principles. Among his most a book might, before the deluge, have been prominent characteristics may be noted his considered as light reading by Hilpa and Shal- rare powers of representation. He sketches a lum. But unhappily the life of man is now biography, or renders an episode in history, threescore years and ten ; and we cannot but with the lightest and gracefulest effect, often think it somewhat unfair in Dr. Nares to de- throwing a charm and an interest around parmand from us so large a portion of so short an ticulars which, in the hands of a meaner existence.

writer, would be simply tame and tedious. “ Compared with the labor of reading And then, when the subject matter chances to through these volumes, all other labor, the be interesting, the masterly skill with which labor of thieves on the tread-mill, of children he adapts and sets it forth, im parts to it addiin factories, of negroes in sugar-plantations, tional attractions. There is scarcely any more is an agreeable recreation. There was, it is delightful reading in the language than M&said, a criminal in Italy who was suffered to caulay's rapid and airy sketches of the lives make his choice between Guicciardini and the of authors and distinguished statesmen ; so galleys. He chose the history. But the war full of information, yet so light and sparkling of Pisa was too much for him. He changed in manner, so choicely seasoned with anecdote his mind, and went to the oar. Guicciardini, and historical allusion, so complete in all the though certainly not the most amusing of essentials which go to form a vivid represenwriters, is a Herodotus or a Froïssart when tation of character, events, and circumstances. compared with Dr. Nares. It is not merely These portions of his works are perfect picin bulk, but in specific gravity, also, that tures of the customs, modes of thought, and these memoirs exceed all other human compo: ways of living, of former generations. Thus, sitions. On every subject which the professor in the review of Burleigh and his Times, we discusses, he produces three times as many have the age of Queen Elizabeth, and the con

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »