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The 8th edition was published in 1852, 2 vols. 8vo; and, by January, 1856, the sale of vols. i. and ii. had reached nearly 40,000 copies. In the United States, the sale of vols. i. and ii. in five years, (1849–54) amounted to no less than 125,000 copies; and this number may now (1857) be considerably increased. A new edition of vols. i.-iv., to be published in 7 vols. p. 8vo, has been recently (1857) announced. Mr. Macaulay's volumes had hardly got fairly before the world when they were attacked with much asperity by the Rt. Hon. J. Wilson Croker, in the London Quarterly Review for March 1849, 549–630. It is said that Mr. Croker's critical perceptions were sharpened in this case by Mr. Macaulay's strictures (Edin. Rev., Sept. 1831) on his edition of Boswell's Life of Johnson, and that he revenged on the historian the offence of the essayist; but on this subject we have no right to express an opinion. In justice to Mr. Macaulay, we could say no less than we have done on this theme; in justice to Mr. Croker, we can say no more. We give some brief extracts from Mr. Croker's critique:
“It may seem too epigrammatic — but it is, in our serious judgment, strictly true — to say that his History seems to be a kind of combination and exaggeration of the peculiarities of all his former efforts. It is as full of political prejudice and partisan advocacy as any of his parliamentary speeches. It makes the facts of English History as fabulous as his Lays do those of Roman tradition; , and it is written with as captious, as dogmatical, and as cynical a spirit as the bitterest of his reviews. That upon so serious an undertaking he has lavished uncommon exertion is not to be doubted, nor can any one, during the first reading, escape the entrainement of his picturesque, vivid, and pregnant execution; but we have fairly stated the impression left on ourselves by a more calm and leisurely perusal. . . . Mr. Macaulay's historical narration is poisoned with a rangour more violent than even the oassions of the time; and the literary qualities of the work, though n some respects very remarkable, are far from redeeming its substantial defects. There is hardly a page — we speak literally, hardly a page — that does not contain something objectionable N either an substance or in colour; and the whole of the brilliant
and at first captivating narrative is perceived, on examination, to be impregnated to a really marvellous degree with bad taste, bad feeling, and — we are under the painful necessity of adding — bad faith. . . . Mr. Macaulay's pages, whatever may be their other characteristics, are as copious a repertorium of vituperative eloquence as, we believe, our language can produce, and especially against every thing in which he chooses (whether right or wrong) to recognize the shibboleth of Toryism. . . . We premise that we are about to enter into details, because there is, in fact, little to question or debate about but details. We have already hinted that there is absolutely no new fact of any consequence, and, we think we can safely add, hardly a new view of any historical fact, in the whole book. Whatever there may remain questionable or debatable in the history of the period, we should have to argue with Burnet, Dalrymple, or Mackintosh, and not with Mr. Macaulay. . . . Our first complaint is of a comparatively small and almost mechanical, and yet very real, defect, — the paucity and irregularity of his dates, and the mode in which the few that he -: does give are overlaid, as it were, by the text. . . . Our second complaint is one of the least important, perhaps, but most promiment, defects of Mr. Macaulay's book, - his style, – not merely the choice and order of words, commonly called style, but the turn of mind which prompts the choice of expressions as well as of topics. . . . We must next notice the way in which Mr. Macaulay refers to and uses his authorities, – no trivial points in the execution of a historical work, - though we shall begin with comparatively small matters. . . . But, we are sorry to say, we have a heavier complaint against Mr. Macaulay. We accuse him of a habitual and really injurious—perversion of his authorities. This unfortunate indulgence — in whatever juvenile levity it may have originated, and through whatever steps it may have grown into an unconscious habit — seems to us to pervade the whole work, from Alpha to Omega, from Procopius to Mackintosh. . . . We must here observe that one strong mark of his historical impartiality is to call any thing bigoted, intolerant, shameless, cruel, by the comprehensive title of Tory. . . . We are ready to admit, a hundred times over, Mr. Macaulay's literary powers, – brilliant even under the affectation with which he too frequently disfigures them. He is a great painter, but a suspicious narrator: a grand proficient in the picturesque, but a very poor professor of the historic. These volumes have been, and his future volumes as they appear will be, devoured with the same eagerness that Gover Twistor Won # Roirexcites, with the same quality of zest, though perhaps with a higher degree of it; but his pages will seldom, we think, receive a second perusal; and the work, we apprehend, will hardly find a per manent place on the historical shelf, nor ever, assuredly, - if continued in the spirit of the first two volumes, – be quoted as authority on any question or point of the History of England.”.
But this reviewer was himself reviewed in the Edinburgh Quarterly for July, 1849, in the concluding portion of an eulogistic notice of Mr. Macaulay's History:—
“Such is this great national work, - as our countrymen have already pronounced it to be. The loud, clear voice of impartial Fame has sounded her award; and it will stand, without appeal, as long as Englishmen regard their past history and love the Constitution of which he tells. From one quarter only — and that a quarter of which we expected, and which perhaps wished for itself, better things — has the melancholy wailing of disappointed jealousy been heard. The public naturally looked with interest for the notice of Mr. Macaulay's History in the Quarterly Review. The notice had not long appeared, when it was observed, with equal wit and truth, that the writer of it, in attempting murder, had committed suicide. We have doubted whether we should add a word in illustration of a judgment in which the \ public has shown, through almost all its representatives, that it cordially agrees. . . . That a journal of deserved name and reputation should announce of these volumes propositions so openly contradictory as that on the one hand their author has produced no new facts and discovered no new materials, and that on the other he has made the facts of English history ‘as fabulous as his Lays do those of Roman tradition,’ betrays, it is true, some rankling wound behind. . . . It was a great mistake to assail this work on the score of accuracy. Its author was the last man likely to be caught tripping on that head.”— Edin. Rev., xc. 281, 282, 290
Sir Archibald Alison, whilst not hesitating to condemn the historian when he thought condemnation deserved, yet rebukes the too common fault of petty criticism, - exaggeration of the importance of trifling slips of the pen —
“We shall not, in treating of the merits of this very remarkable production, adopt the not-uncommon practice of reviewers on such
occasions. We shall not pretend to be better informed on the de. tails of the subject than the author. We shall not set up the reading of a few weeks or months against the study of half a lifetime. . . . We shall leave such minute and Lilliputian criticisms to the minute and Lilliputian minds by whom alone they are ever made. Mr. Macaulay can afford to smile at all reviewers who affect to possess more than his own gigantic stores of information.”
Sir Archibald then proceeds to a temperate discussion of several of the points involved in Mr. Macaulay's history, concluding with—
“It is this partial and one-sided exposition of the truth, accompanied by a general exaggerated style of composition, more than positive inaccuracy, that we complain of in Mr. Macaulay. It is this statement of the facts on both sides which, amidst all our admiration of his genius, we often desiderate in his entrancing pages; and nothing but the adoption of it, and taking his seat on the Bench instead of the Bar of History, is required to render his noble work as weighty as it is able, and as influential in forming the opinion of future ages as it unquestionably will be successful in interesting the present.”— Blackwood's Mag., April, 1849; and in his Essays, Edin. and Lond. 1850, iii. 628–674.
See also his History of Europe, 1815–1852, chap. v. For other reviews and notices of the first and second volumes of Macaulay's History of England, see Tuckerman's Characteristics of Literature, First Series, Phila., 1849, 171–192; Edin. Rev., lxxxix. 462; N. Brit. Rev., x. 197; Eclec. Rev., 4th ser., xxv. 1; Fraser's Mag., xxxix. 1; Lond. Gent. Mag., 1849, Pt. 1, 338; N. Amer. Rev., lxviii. 511, (by Francis Bowen :) Mass. Quar. Rev., ii. 326; Princeton Rev., xxii. 101; South. Quar. Rev., xv. 374; Brownson's Quar. Rev., 2d ser, iii. 274; Bost. Chris. Exam., xlvi. 253, (by G. E. Ellis :) Democrat. Rev., xxiv. 205; N. York Church Rev., ii. 1, by J. Williams; N. York Eclec. Mag., xvi. 405, 500; Bost. Liv. Age, xx. 298, (from the Lond. Spectator,) 408, (from the Lond. Examiner.) Particular portions of Mr. Macaulay's History have been criticised by different critics: Wm. Hepworth Dixon and Samuel M. Janney have defended the character of William Penn; Hugh Miller and others have espoused the cause of the Scotch; Dr. Lingard (see Lond. Quar. Rev., lxxxix. 289, n.) that of the Roman Catholic Church; and Churchill Babington (see Edin. Rev., xc. 287, n.) contends for a higher status for the clergy of the seventeenth century than Mr. Macaulay will allow them. Other criticisms upon various points discussed in the history have appeared in the columns of the Athenaum, the Times, and other journals of the day. From the date of the publication of the first and second volumes of Mr. Macaulay's History, the public were anxiously awaiting, month after month, year after year, the appearance of the continuation of this fascinating production; but the tedious term of Jacob's servitude elapsed before the eager expectants were gratified. Dec. 17, 1855, will long be remembered in the annals of Paternoster Row. The publishers had promised the third and fourth volumes of the History on that day; and, as the first edition of the first and second volumes had consisted of five thousand copies only, it was presumed that twenty-five thousand would be amply sufficient to meet the public demand. But this enormous pile of books — weighing no less than fifty-six tons — was exhausted the first day, and eleven thousand disappointed applicants remained unsatisfied, to envy the happy possessors and to insist upon a new impression being immediately put to press. The delighted publishers apologized for the disappointment, and asked for another month's time to fill the unsupplied orders. But this demand, extraordinary as it was, was greatly surpassed in America. One publishing-house in New York sold seventy-three thousand volumes in ten days, (three different styles and prices,) and twenty-five thousand more were immediately issued in Philadelphia. Ten thousand copies were stereotyped, printed, and in the hands of the publishers within fifty working-hours, (more than one hundred compositors being employed on the enterprise; *) and editions were