Sivut kuvina


and what is called the Utilitarian philosophy. This essay Macaulay himself, with noble moderation and self-respect, refused to include in his own selection, not because he was disposed to retract one argument, or to recede from the severity of his judgment on the opinions which he undertook to refute, but because he had not done justice to the high character of his adversary, the late Mr. Mill. Some belong to literary criticism, in which he delighted to mingle singularly acute and original observations on the biographies of distinguished authors, their place in society; and the articles on Dryden, the Comic Dramatists of Charles II., Temple, Addison, Johnson, Byron, are the most full, instructive, and amusing'views of the literary life of their respective ages, as well as of their specific works. The greater number, however, and doubtless the most valuable of the essays, are those which belong to history; a few to the history of Europe—Machiavelli, Ranke's Lives of the Popes, Frederick the Great, Mirabeau, Barrere. In these two last, his judgments on the acts and on the men of the French Revolution are very striking. But the chief and the most important are those on English History. This was manifestly the subject which he had thought on most profoundly, investigated with the greatest industry, and studied down to what we may call the very dregs and lees of our political and social and religious life. There is hardly an important period, at least in our later history, which has not passed under his review. With the justly honoured exception of Hallam's "Constitutional History," Macaulay usually dismisses his author with a few words of respect or contempt, and draws almost altogether on his own resources. So Burleigh gives us the reign of Elizabeth; Bacon that of James I.; Milton and Hampden, of Charles I. and the Republic; Temple (with Mackintosh's History), Charles II. and the Revolution; Horace Walpole, Chatham, Pitt, the Georges; Clive and Hastings, the rise of our Indian Empire. 'The variety of topics is almost as nothing to the variety of information on every topic: he seemed to have read everything, and to recollect all that he had read.

As to the style of these essays, of Macaulay's style in general, a few observations. It was eminently his own, but his own not by strange words, or strange collocation of words, by phrases of perpetual occurrence, or the straining after original and striking terms of expression. Its characteristics were vigour and animation, copiousness, clearness, above all, sound English, now a rare excellence. The vigour and life were unabating; perhaps in that conscious strength which cost no exertion he did not always gauge xx A MEMOIR OF

and measure the force of his own words. Those who studied the progress of his writing might perhaps see that the full stream, though it never stagnated, might at first overflow its hanks; in later days it ran with a more direct undivided torrent. His copiousness had nothing tumid, diffuse, Asiatic; no ornament for the sake of ornament. As to its clearness, one may read a sentence of Macaulay twice, to judge of its full force, never to comprehend its meaning. His English was pure, both in idiom and in words, pure to fastidiousness; not that he discarded, or did not make free use of the plainest and most homely terms (he had a sovereign contempt for what is called the dignity of history, which would keep itself above the vulgar tongue), but every word must be genuine English, nothing that approached real vulgarity; nothing that had not the stamp of popular use, or the authority of sound English writers, nothing unfamiliar to the common ear.

The Essays, however, were but preparatory, subsidiary to the great history, which was the final aim, and the palmary ambition of Macaulay. On the function, on the proper rank, on the real province and use of history, he had meditated long and profoundly. His ideal of the perfect historian, such as he aspired to be, may be found in an Essay, somewhat too excursive, in the "Edinburgh Review," republished in the recent volumes. A perfect history, according to Macaulay, would combine the unity and order of the great classical historians, with the diversity and immense range of modern affairs. This was but one condition; the history would not be content with recording the wars and treaties, the revolutions and great constitutional changes, tho lives of kings, statesmen, generals; it would embrace the manners, usages, social habits, letters, arts, the whole life of the nation. It would cease to be haughtily aristocratic; it would show the progress of the people in all its ranks and orders. There can be no doubt that, as to the actual life of certain periods, Shakespeare and Scott are more true and trustworthy historians than Hume or even Clarendon. "Why should not romance surrender up the province which it had usurped? "Why should not all this, which is after all the instructive, not to say amusing part of the annals of mankind, be set in a framework of historic truth, instead of a framework of fiction? If we would really know our ancestors, if we would really know mankind, and look to history for this knowledge, how can history, secluding itself in a kind of stately majesty, affect to disdain this most important part of her office? Nothing can be more clumsy than the devices to which the historian sometimes has recourse. It may be excusable in historic dissertations (the LORD MACAUI.AY. xxi

form which Hallam's works assumed) to have the book half text, half notes—broken, fragmentary, without continuity. Hume and Robertson took refuge in appendices, in which they sum up, with unsatisfactory brevity, what they wanted skill to inweave into their narrative, Henry's history may be read as containing what Hume left out. If there is in notes much beyond citation of authorities, perhaps comparison of conflicting authorities (wo may pardon in Gibbon something more), this can only show that the historian has an unworthy conception of his high art, or that he wants the real power and skill of an historian. But to this lofty view of the historian's function who is equal? It required all Macaulay'8 indefatigable research. For the historian, the true historian, must not confine himself to the chronicles and annals, the public records, the state papers, the political correspondence of statesmen and ambassadors; he must search into, he must make himself familiar with the lowest, the most ephemeral, the most contemptible of the writings of the day. There is no trash which he must not digest; nothing so dull and wearisome that he must not wade through. Nor are books all; much is to be learned from observation; and Macaulay delighted in rambling over England, to visit the scenes of historic events, the residences of remarkable men: the siege of Derry was described from Derry and its neighbourhood; the exquisitely true and vivid epithets with which he paints the old Italian towns in his Roman ballads owe their life and reality to his travels in Italy. Finally, to order, dispose, work into a flowing and uninterrupted narrative, the whole of this matter demanded nothing less than his prodigious memory, ever at the command of his imagination; to arrange it without confusion, to distribute it according to the laws of historic perspective, to make it, in short, a history, as difficult to lay down as the most Stirling and engrossing romance. Alas I that all this matchless power and skill should end in a torso,—yet a torso if, as we fairly may, we take the Revolution and the reign of William III. as a whole, nearly complete in its stature, and in all its limbs! It is deeply to be lamented that Macaulay allowed himself to be called off by generous and grateful friendship to write the lives in the Encyclopaedia. All of these, even that of Pitt (as far as it goes, a perfect biography), we would willingly sacrifice if we could fill up the few chasms in his history. And what would we not give for his Queen Anner William III., to whom he first did justice, and not more than justice, when looked upon from a European, not from an English point of view, was a labour of love: but what would have been xxu A MEMOIR OF

the more congenial age of Anne, in which he knew every one, the Queen and her Court, Harley, St. John, Swift, Pope, Arhuthnot, as if he had lived with them on the most intimate terms? That in the main Macaulay possessed the still higher qualities of an historian, truth and impartiality, we hesitate not to avow our opinion; of this posterity will judge, we quietly and confidently await its award. He spoke out too freely, too strongly, not to encounter some prejudices, some no doubt very honest political or religious feelings. He did not, perhaps, always nicely measure the strength of his own language; and he so abhorred meanness and dishonesty, that they appeared doubly mean and dishonest in men of great fame and high pretensions. As to Marlborough, we are content to place Mr. Hallam's even more condemnatory verdict by the side of Macaulay's; and Macaulay had not reached the brighter part of Marlborough's career: in the last volume that great man is already shaking off the slough of his baser life. Penn's double and conflicting character (assuredly no rare occurrence in history) must be viewed on all sides. In Pennsylvania, the wise, Christian legislator, worthy of all praise, he was, in England, a vain busy man, proud of his influence with the King, who found it his interest to flatter him, and unable to keep himself out of the miserable intrigues of that miserable court.

A few sentences on Macaulay's conversational powers, on his private life still fewer. There is a common impression that in society he was engrossing and overpowering. Every one has heard the witty saying of his old friend (no two men could appreciate each other more highly or more justly) about "flashes of silence." But in the quiet intercourse with the single friend, no great talker was more free, easy and genial, than Macaulay. There was the most equable interchange of thought: he listened with as much courtesy, as he spoke with gentle and pleasant persuasiveness. In a larger circle, such as he delighted to meet and assemble around him to the close of his life, a few chosen intimates, some accomplished ladies, foreigners of the highest distinction, who were eager to make his acquaintance, his manners were frank and open. In conversation in such a circle, a commanding voice, high animal spirits, unrivalled quickness of apprehension, a flow of language as rapid as inexhaustible, gave him perhaps a larger share, but a share which few were not delighted to yield up to him. Hi3 thoughts were like lightning, and clothed themselves at once in words. While other men were thinking what they should say, and how they should say it, Macaulay had said it all, and a great deal moro. And the stores LORD MACAULAY. xxiii

which his memory had at instantaneous command! A wide range of Greek and Latin history and literature, English, French, Italian, Spanish; of German he had not so full a stock, but he knew the best works of the best authors; Dutch he learned for the purpose of his History. With these came anecdote, touches of character, drollery, fun, excellent stories excellently told. Tho hearer often longed for Macaulay's memory to carry oft" what he heard in a single morning, in an after-dinner colloquy, or hi a few hours in a country house.

Lord Macaulay was never married; his strong domestic affections were chiefly centred in his sister, happily married to his friend Sir Charles Trevelyan, and her family. Her children were to him as his own, and cherished with almost parental tenderness. As a friend, he was singularly stedfast; he was impatient of anything disparaging of one for whom he entertained sincere esteem. In the war of political life, he made, we believe, no lasting enemy; he secured the unswerving attachment of his political friends, to whom he had been unswervingly true. No act inconsistent with the highest honour and integrity was ever whispered against him. In all his writings, however his opinions, so strongly uttered, may have given offence to men of different sentiments, no sentence has been impeached as jarring against the loftiest principles of honour, justice, pure morality, rational religion.

In early life he was robust and active; and though his friends at a later period could not but perceive the progress of some mysterious malady (he was long harassed by a distressing cough), yet he rallied so frequently, and seemed to have so much buoyancy of constitution, that they hoped he might have life to achieve his great work. He himself felt inward monitions; his ambition receded from the hope of reaching the close of the first Brunswicks: before his last illness he had reduced his plan to the reign of Queen Anne.

His end, though not without warning to those who watched him with friendship and affection, was sudden and singularly quiet; on December 28, 1859, he fell asleep and woke not again.

He was buried, January 9, 1860, in Westminster Abbey, in Poet's Corner, his favourite haunt; and he was known to have expressed a modest hope that he might be thought worthy to repose there with the illustrious dead. He lies at the foot of Addison's statue, near to Johnson, and among many other of our most famous statesmen and men of letters.


« EdellinenJatka »