Plan and scope of the work -- History of the Macaulay family -- Aulay -- Kenneth -- Johnson and Boswell -- John Macaulay and his children -- Zachary Macaulay -- His career in the West Indies and in Africa -- His character -- Visit of the French squadron to Sierra Leone -- Zachary Macaulay's marriage -- Birth of his eldest son -- Lord Macaulay's early years -- His childish productions -- Mrs. Hannah More -- General Macaulay -- Choice of a school -- Shelford -- Dean Milner -- Macaulay's early letters -- Aspenden hall -- The boy's habits and mental endowments -- [[At the age of 7, he composed *an argument* to persuade the people of Travancore to embrace Christianity, and planned *a long Virgilian poem* about his family history, including his father's work in Africa, and his uncle Alexander's role in the defeat of Tipu Sultan]] -- His home -- [[At the age of 12, he composed *an epitaph* in honor of Henry Martyn, who had gone to India as a missionary and died young]] -- The Clapham set -- The boy's relations with his father -- [[At the age of 13, he discussed *in a letter* the East India Company as a missionary vehicle]] -- The political ideas amongst which he was brought up, and their influence on the work of his life.
This was in a marked degree the case with Lord Macaulay. His two famous contemporaries in English literature have, consciously or unconsciously, told their own story in their books. Those who could see between the lines in "David Copperfield" were aware that they had before them a delightful autobiography; and all who knew how to read Thackeray could trace him in his novels through every stage in his course, on from the day when as a little boy, consigned to the care of English relatives and schoolmasters, he left his mother on the steps of the landing-place at Calcutta. The dates and names were wanting, but the man was there; while the most ardent admirers of Macaulay will admit that a minute study of his literary productions left them, as far as any but an intellectual knowledge of the writer himself was concerned, very much as it found them. A consummate master of his craft, he turned out works which bore the unmistakable marks of the artificer's hand, but which did not reflect his features. It would be almost as hard to compose a picture of the author from the History, the Essays, and the Lays, as to evolve an idea of Shakespeare from Henry the Fifth and Measure for Measure.
But, besides being a man of letters, Lord Macaulay was a statesman, a jurist, and a brilliant ornament of society, at a time when to shine in society was a distinction which a man of eminence and ability might justly value. In these several capacities, it will be said, he was known well, and known widely. But in the first place, as these pages will show, there was one side of his life (to him, at any rate, the most important,) of which even the persons with whom he mixed most freely and confidentially in London drawing-rooms, in the Indian Council chamber, and in the lobbies and on the benches of the House of Commons, were only in part aware. And in the next place, those who have seen his features and heard his voice are few already and become yearly fewer; while, by a rare fate in literary annals, the number of those who read his books is still rapidly increasing. For everyone who sat with him in private company or at the transaction of public business,--for every ten who have listened to his oratory in Parliament or from the hustings,-- there must be tens of thousands whose interest in history and literature he has awakened and informed by his pen, and who would gladly know what manner of man it was that has done them so great a service.
To gratify that most legitimate wish is the duty of those who have the means at their command. His lifelike image is indelibly impressed upon their minds, (for how could it be otherwise with any who had enjoyed so close relations with such a man?) although the skill which can reproduce that image before the general eye may well be wanting. But his own letters will supply the deficiencies of the biographer. Never did any one leave behind him more copious materials for enabling others to put together a narrative which might be the history, not indeed of his times, but of the man himself. For in the first place he so soon showed promise of being one who would give those among whom his early years were passed reason to be proud, and still more certain assurance that he would never afford them cause for shame, that what he wrote was preserved with a care very seldom bestowed on childish compositions; and the value set upon his letters by those with whom he corresponded naturally enough increased as years went on. And in the next place he was by nature so incapable of affectation or concealment that he could not write otherwise than as he felt, and, to one person at least, could never refrain from writing all that he felt; so that we may read in his letters, as in a clear mirror, his opinions and inclinations, his hopes and affections, at every succeeding period of his existence. Such letters could never have been submitted to an editor not connected with both correspondents by the strongest ties; and even one who stands in that position must often be sorely puzzled as to what he has the heart to publish and the right to withhold.
I am conscious that a near relative has peculiar temptations towards that partiality of the biographer which Lord Macaulay himself so often and so cordially denounced; and the danger is greater in the case of one whose knowledge of him coincided with his later years; for it would not be easy to find a nature which gained more by time than his, and lost less. But believing, as I do, (to use his own words,) that "if he were now living he would have sufficient judgment and sufficient greatness of mind" to wish to be shown as himself, I will suppress no trait in his disposition, or incident in his career, which might provoke blame or question. Such in all points as he was, the world, which has been so indulgent to him, has a right to know him; and those who best love him do not fear the consequences of freely submitting his character and his actions to the public verdict.
The most devout believers in the doctrine of the transmission of family qualities will be content with tracing back descent through four generations; and all favourable hereditary influences, both intellectual and moral, are assured by a genealogy which derives from a Scotch Manse. In the first decade of the eighteenth century Aulay Macaulay, the great-grandfather of the historian, was minister of Tiree and Coll; where he was "grievously annoyed by a decreet obtained after instance of the Laird of Ardchattan, taking away his stipend." The Duchess of Argyll of the day appears to have done her best to see him righted; "but his health being much impaired, and there being no church or meeting-house, he was exposed to the violence of the weather at all seasons; and having no manse or plebe, and no fund for communion elements, and no mortification for schools or any pious purpose in either of the islands, and the air being unwholesome, he was dissatisfied;" and so, to the great regret of the parishioners whom he was leaving behind, he migrated to Harris, where he discharged the clerical duties for nearly half a century.
Aulay was the father of fourteen children, of whom one, Kenneth, the minister of Ardnamurchan, still occupies a very humble niche in the temple of literature. He wrote a History of St. Kilda which happened to fall into the hands of Dr. Johnson, who spoke of it more than once with favour. His reason for liking the book is characteristic enough. Mr. Macaulay had recorded the belief prevalent in St. Kilda that, as soon as the factor landed on the island, all the inhabitants had an attack which from the account appears to have partaken of the nature both of influenza and bronchitis. This touched the superstitious vein in Johnson, who praised him for his "magnanimity" in venturing to chronicle so questionable a phenomenon; the more so because,--said the Doctor,--"Macaulay set out with a prejudice against prejudice, and wanted to be a smart modern thinker." To a reader of our day the History of St. Kilda appears to be innocent of any trace of such pretension; unless it be that the author speaks slightingly of second-sight, a subject for which Johnson always had a strong hankering. In 1773 Johnson paid a visit to Mr. Macaulay, who by that time had removed to Calder, and began the interview by congratulating him on having produced "a very pretty piece of topography,"--a compliment which did not seem to the taste of the author. The conversation turned upon rather delicate subjects, and, before many hours had passed, the guest had said to the host one of the very rudest things recorded by Boswell! Later on in the same evening he atoned for his incivility by giving one of the boys of the house a pocket Sallust, and promising to procure him a servitorship at Oxford. Subsequently Johnson pronounced that Mr. Macaulay was not competent to have written the book that went by his name; a decision which, to those who happen to have read the work, will give a very poor notion of my ancestor's abilities.
The eldest son of old Aulay, and the grandfather of Lord Macaulay, was John, born in the year 1720. He was minister successively of Barra, South Uist, Lismore, and Inverary; the last appointment being a proof of the interest which the family of Argyll continued to take in the fortunes of the Macaulays. He, likewise, during the famous tour in the Hebrides, came across the path of Boswell, who mentions him in an exquisitely absurd paragraph, the first of those in which is described the visit to Inverary Castle. ["Monday, Oct. 25.--My acquaintance, the Rev. Mr. John M'Aulay, one of the ministers of Inverary, and brother to our good friend at Calder, came to us this morning, and accompanied us to the castle, where I presented Dr. Johnson to the Duke of Argyll. We were shown through the house; and I never shall forget the impression made upon my fancy by some of the ladies' maids tripping about in neat morning dresses. After seeing for a long time little but rusticity, their lively manner, and gay inciting appearance, pleased me so much, that I thought for a moment I could have been a knight-errant for them."] Mr. Macaulay afterwards passed the evening with the travellers at their inn, and provoked Johnson into what Boswell calls warmth, and anyone else would call brutality, by the very proper remark that he had no notion of people being in earnest in good professions if their practice belied them. When we think what well-known ground this was to Lord Macaulay, it is impossible to suppress a wish that the great talker had been at hand to avenge his grandfather and grand-uncle. Next morning "Mr. Macaulay breakfasted with us, nothing hurt or dismayed by his last night's correction. Being a man of good sense he had a just admiration of Dr. Johnson." He was rewarded by seeing Johnson at his very best, and hearing him declaim some of the finest lines that ever were written in a manner worthy of his subject.
There is a tradition that, in his younger days, the minister of Inverary proved his Whiggism by giving information to the authorities which almost led to the capture of the young Pretender. It is perhaps a matter of congratulation that this item was not added to the heavy account that the Stuarts have against the Macaulay family. John Macaulay enjoyed a high reputation as a preacher, and was especially renowned for his fluency. In 1774 he removed to Cardross in Dumbartonshire, where, on the bank of the noble estuary of the Clyde, he spent the last fifteen years of a useful and honoured life. He was twice married. His first wife died at the birth of his first child. Eight years afterwards, in 1757, he espoused Margaret, daughter of Colin Campbell of Inveresragan, who survived him by a single year. By her he had the patriarchal number of twelve children, whom he brought up on the old Scotch system,--common to the households of minister, man of business, farmer, and peasant alike,--on fine air, simple diet, and a solid training in knowledge human and divine. Two generations after, Mr. Carlyle, during a visit to the late Lord Ashburton at the Grange, caught sight of Macaulay's face in unwonted repose, as he was turning over the pages of a book. "I noticed," said he, "the homely Norse features that you find everywhere in the Western Isles, and I thought to myself 'Well! Anyone can see that you are an honest good sort of fellow, made out of oatmeal.'"
Several of John Macaulay's children obtained position in the world. Aulay, the eldest by his second wife, became a clergyman of the Church of England. His reputation as a scholar and antiquary stood high, and in the capacity of a private tutor he became known even in royal circles. He published pamphlets and treatises, the list of which it is not worth while to record, and meditated several large works that perhaps never got much beyond a title. Of all his undertakings the one best deserving commemoration in these pages was a tour that he made into Scotland in company with Mr. Thomas Babington, the owner of Rothley Temple in Leicestershire, in the course of which the travellers paid a visit to the manse at Cardross. Mr. Babington fell in love with one of the daughters of the house, Miss Jean Macaulay, and married her in 1787. Nine years afterwards he had an opportunity of presenting his brother-in-law Aulay Macaulay with the very pleasant living of Rothley.
Alexander, another son of John Macaulay, succeeded his father as minister of Cardross. Colin went into the Indian army, and died a general. He followed the example of the more ambitious among his brother officers, and exchanged military for civil duties. In 1799 he acted as secretary to a political and diplomatic Commission which accompanied the force that marched under General Harris against Seringapatam. The leading Commissioner was Colonel Wellesley, and to the end of General Macaulay's life the great Duke corresponded with him on terms of intimacy, and (so the family flattered themselves) even of friendship. Soon after the commencement of the century Colin Macaulay was appointed Resident at the important native state of Travancore. While on this employment he happened to light upon a valuable collection of books, and rapidly made himself master of the principal European languages, which he spoke and wrote with a facility surprising in one who had acquired them within a few leagues of Cape Comorin.
There was another son of John Macaulay, who in force and elevation of character stood out among his brothers, and who was destined to make for himself no ordinary career. The path which Zachary Macaulay chose to tread did not lead to wealth, or worldly success, or indeed to much worldly happiness. Born in 1768, he was sent out at the age of sixteen by a Scotch house of business as bookkeeper to an estate in Jamaica, of which he soon rose to be sole manager. His position brought him into the closest possible contact with negro slavery. His mind was not prepossessed against the system of society which he found in the West Indies. His personal interests spoke strongly in its favour, while his father, whom he justly respected, could see nothing to condemn in an institution recognised by Scripture. Indeed, the religious world still allowed the maintenance of slavery to continue an open question. John Newton, the real founder of that school in the Church of England of which in after years Zachary Macaulay was a devoted member, contrived to reconcile the business of a slave trader with the duties of a Christian, and to the end of his days gave scandal to some of his disciples, (who by that time were one and all sworn abolitionists,) by his supposed reluctance to see that there could be no fellowship between light and such darkness.
But Zachary Macaulay had eyes of his own to look about him, a clear head for forming a judgment on what he saw, and a conscience which would not permit him to live otherwise than in obedience to its mandates. The young Scotchman's innate respect for his fellows, and his appreciation of all that instruction and religion can do for men, was shocked at the sight of a population deliberately kept ignorant and heathen. His kind heart was wounded by cruelties practised at the will and pleasure of a thousand petty despots. He had read his Bible too literally to acquiesce easily in a state of matters under which human beings were bred and raised like a stock of cattle, while outraged morality was revenged on the governing race by the shameless licentiousness which is the inevitable accompaniment of slavery. He was well aware that these evils, so far from being superficial or remediable, were essential to the very existence of a social fabric constituted like that within which he lived. It was not for nothing that he had been behind the scenes in that tragedy of crime and misery. His philanthropy was not learned by the royal road of tracts, and platform speeches, and monthly magazines. What he knew he had spelt out for himself with no teacher except the aspect of human suffering, and degradation, and sin.
He was not one of those to whom conviction comes in a day; and, when convinced, he did nothing sudden. Little more than a boy in age, singularly modest, and constitutionally averse to any course that appeared pretentious or theatrical, he began by a sincere attempt to make the best of his calling. For some years he contented himself with doing what he could, (so he writes to a friend,) "to alleviate the hardships of a considerable number of my fellow-creatures, and to render the bitter cup of servitude as palatable as possible." But by the time he was four-and-twenty he became tired of trying to find a compromise between right and wrong, and, refusing really great offers from the people with whom he was connected, he threw up his position, and returned to his native country. This step was taken against the wishes of his father, who was not prepared for the construction which his son put upon the paternal precept that a man should make his practice square with his professions.
But Zachary Macaulay soon had more congenial work to do. The young West Indian overseer was not alone in his scruples. Already for some time past a conviction had been abroad that individual citizens could not divest themselves of their share in the responsibility in which the nation was involved by the existence of slavery in our colonies. Already there had been formed the nucleus of the most disinterested, and perhaps the most successful, popular movement which history records. The question of the slave trade was well before Parliament and the country. Ten years had passed since the freedom of all whose feet touched the soil of our island had been vindicated before the courts at Westminster, and not a few negroes had become their own masters as a consequence of that memorable decision. The patrons of the race were somewhat embarrassed by having these expatriated freedmen on their hands; an opinion prevailed that the traffic in human lives could never be efficiently checked until Africa had obtained the rudiments of civilisation; and, after long discussion, a scheme was matured for the colonisation of Sierra Leone by liberated slaves. A company was organised, with a charter from the Crown, and a board which included the names of Granville Sharpe and Wilberforce. A large capital was speedily subscribed, and the Chair was accepted by Mr. Henry Thornton, a leading City banker and a member of Parliament, whose determined opposition to cruelty and oppression in every form was such as might be expected in one who had inherited from his father the friendship of the poet Cowper. Mr. Thornton heard Macaulay's story from Thomas Babington, with whom he lived on terms of close intimacy and political alliance. The Board, by the advice of its Chairman, passed a resolution appointing the young man Second Member in the Sierra Leone Council, and early in the year 1793 he sailed for Africa, where soon after his arrival he succeeded to the position and duties of Governor.
The Directors had done well to secure a tried man. The colony was at once exposed to the implacable enmity of merchants whose market the agents of the new company spoiled in their capacity of traders, and slave-dealers with whom they interfered in their character of philanthropists. The native tribes in the vicinity, instigated by European hatred and jealousy, began to inflict upon the defenceless authorities of the settlement a series of those monkey-like impertinences which, absurdly as they may read in a narrative, are formidable and ominous when they indicate that savages feel their power. These barbarians, who had hitherto commanded as much rum and gunpowder as they cared to have by selling their neighbours at the nearest barracoon, showed no appreciation for the comforts and advantages of civilisation. Indeed, those advantages were displayed in anything but an attractive shape even within the pale of the company's territory. An aggregation of negroes from Jamaica, London, and Nova Scotia, who possessed no language except an acquired jargon, and shared no associations beyond the recollections of a common servitude, were not very promising apostles for the spread of Western culture and the Christian faith. Things went smoothly enough as long as the business of the colony was mainly confined to eating the provisions that had been brought in the ships; but as soon as the work became real, and the commons short, the whole community smouldered down into chronic mutiny.
Zachary Macaulay was the very man for such a crisis. To a rare fund of patience, and self-command, and perseverance, he united a calm courage that was equal to any trial. These qualities were, no doubt, inherent in his disposition; but no one except those who have turned over his voluminous private journals can understand what constant effort, and what incessant watchfulness, went to maintain throughout a long life a course of conduct, and a temper of mind, which gave every appearance of being the spontaneous fruit of nature. He was not one who dealt in personal experiences; and few among even the friends who loved him like father or brother, and who would have trusted him with all their fortune on his bare word, knew how entirely his outward behaviour was the express image of his religious belief. The secret of his character and of his actions lay in perfect humility and an absolute faith. Events did not discompose him, because they were sent by One who best knew his own purposes. He was not fretted by the folly of others, or irritated by their hostility, because he regarded the humblest or the worst of mankind as objects, equally with himself, of the divine love and care. On all other points he examined himself so closely that the meditations of a single evening would fill many pages of diary; but so completely in his case had the fear of God cast out all other fear that amidst the gravest perils, and the most bewildering responsibilities, it never occurred to him to question whether he was brave or not. He worked strenuously and unceasingly, never amusing himself from year's end to year's end, and shrinking from any public praise or recognition as from an unlawful gratification, because he was firmly persuaded that, when all had been accomplished and endured, he was yet but an unprofitable servant, who had done that which was his duty to do. Some, perhaps, will consider such motives as oldfashioned, and such convictions as out of date; but self-abnegation, self-control, and self-knowledge that does not give to self the benefit of any doubt, are virtues which are not oldfashioned, and for which, as time goes on, the world is likely to have as much need as ever. [Sir James Stephen writes thus of his friend Macaulay: "That his understanding was proof against sophistry, and his nerves against fear, were, indeed, conclusions to which a stranger arrived at the first interview with him. But what might be suggesting that expression of countenance, at once so earnest and so monotonous--by what manner of feeling those gestures, so uniformly firm and deliberate were prompted--whence the constant traces of fatigue on those overhanging brows and on that athletic though ungraceful figure--what might be the charm which excited amongst his chosen circle a faith approaching to superstition, and a love rising to enthusiasm, towards a man whose demeanour was so inanimate, if not austere:--it was a riddle of which neither Gall nor Lavater could have found the key."
That Sir James himself could read the riddle is proved by the concluding words of a passage marked by a force and tenderness of feeling unusual even in him: "His earthward affections,--active and all--enduring as they were, could yet thrive without the support of human sympathy, because they were sustained by so abiding a sense of the divine presence, and so absolute a submission to the divine will, as raised him habitually to that higher region where the reproach of man could not reach, and the praise of man might not presume to follow him."]
Mr. Macaulay was admirably adapted for the arduous and uninviting task of planting a negro colony. His very deficiencies stood him in good stead; for, in presence of the elements with which he had to deal, it was well for him that nature had denied him any sense of the ridiculous. Unconscious of what was absurd around him, and incapable of being flurried, frightened, or fatigued, he stood as a centre of order and authority amidst the seething chaos of inexperience and insubordination. The staff was miserably insufficient, and every officer of the Company had to do duty for three in a climate such that a man is fortunate if he can find health for the work of one during a continuous twelvemonth. The Governor had to be in the counting-house, the law-court, the school, and even the chapel. He was his own secretary, his own paymaster, his own envoy. He posted ledgers, he decided causes, he conducted correspondence with the Directors at home, and visited neighbouring potentates on diplomatic missions which made up in danger what they lacked in dignity. In the absence of properly qualified clergymen, with whom he would have been the last to put himself in competition, he preached sermons and performed marriages;--a function which must have given honest satisfaction to one who had been so close a witness of the enforced and systematised immorality of a slave-nursery. Before long, something fairly resembling order was established, and the settlement began to enjoy a reasonable measure of prosperity. The town was built, the fields were planted, and the schools filled. The Governor made a point of allotting the lightest work to the negroes who could read and write; and such was the stimulating effect of this system upon education that he confidently looked forward "to the time when there would be few in the colony unable to read the Bible." A printing-press was in constant operation, and in the use of a copying-machine the little community was three-quarters of a century ahead of the London public offices.
But a severe ordeal was in store for the nascent civilisation of Sierra Leone. On a Sunday morning in September 1794, eight French sail appeared off the coast. The town was about as defensible as Brighton; and it is not difficult to imagine the feelings which the sansculottes inspired among Evangelical colonists whose last advices from Europe dated from the very height of the Reign of Terror. There was a party in favour of escaping into the forest with as much property as could be removed at so short a notice; but the Governor insisted that there would be no chance of saving the Company's buildings unless the Company's servants could make up their minds to remain at their posts, and face it out. The squadron moored within musket-shot of the quay, and swept the streets for two hours with grape and bullets; a most gratuitous piece of cruelty that killed a negress and a child, and gave one unlucky English gentleman a fright which ultimately brought him to his grave. The invaders then proceeded to land, and Mr. Macaulay had an opportunity of learning something about the condition of the French marine during the heroic period of the Republic.
A personal enemy of his own, the captain of a Yankee slaver, brought a party of sailors straight to the Governor's house. What followed had best be told in Mr. Macaulay's own words. "Newell, who was attended by half-a-dozen sans-culottes, almost foaming with rage, presented a pistol to me, and with many oaths demanded instant satisfaction for the slaves who had run away from him to my protection. I made very little reply, but told him he must now take such satisfaction as he judged equivalent to his claims, as I was no longer master of my actions. He became so very outrageous that, after bearing with him a little while, I thought it most prudent to repair myself to the French officer, and request his safe-conduct on board the Commodore's ship. As I passed along the wharf the scene was curious enough. The Frenchmen, who had come ashore in filth and rags, were now many of them dressed out with women's shifts, gowns, and petticoats. Others had quantities of cloth wrapped about their bodies, or perhaps six or seven suits of clothes upon them at a time. The scene which presented itself on my getting on board the flag-ship was still more singular. The quarter-deck was crowded by a set of ragamuffins whose appearance beggared every previous description, and among whom I sought in vain for some one who looked like a gentleman. The stench and filth exceeded anything I had ever witnessed in any ship, and the noise and confusion gave me some idea of their famous Mountain. I was ushered into the Commodore's cabin, who at least received me civilly. His name was Citizen Allemand. He did not appear to have the right of excluding any of his fellow-citizens even from this place. Whatever might be their rank, they crowded into it, and conversed familiarly with him." Such was the discipline of the fleet that had been beaten by Lord Hove on the first of June; and such the raw material of the armies which, under firm hands, and on an element more suited to the military genius of their nation, were destined to triumph at Rivoli and Hohenlinden.
Mr. Macaulay, who spoke French with ease and precision, in his anxiety to save the town used every argument which might prevail on the Commodore, whose Christian name, (if one may use such a phrase with reference to a patriot of the year two of the Republic,) happened oddly enough to be the same as his own. He appealed first to the traditional generosity of Frenchmen towards a fallen enemy, but soon discerned that the quality in question had gone out with the old order of things, if indeed it ever existed. He then represented that a people, who professed to be waging war with the express object of striking off the fetters of mankind, would be guilty of flagrant inconsistency if they destroyed an asylum for liberated slaves; but the Commodore gave him to understand that sentiments, which sounded very well in the Hall of the Jacobins, were out of place on the West Coast of Africa. The Governor returned on shore to find the town already completely gutted. It was evident at every turn that, although the Republican battalions might carry liberty and fraternity through Europe on the points of their bayonets, the Republican sailors had found a very different use for the edge of their cutlasses. "The sight of my own and of the Accountant's offices almost sickened me. Every desk, and every drawer, and every shelf, together with the printing and copying presses, had been completely demolished in the search for money. The floors were strewed with types, and papers, and leaves of books; and I had the mortification to see a great part of my own labour, and of the labour of others, for several years totally destroyed. At the other end of the house I found telescopes, hygrometers, barometers, thermometers, and electrical machines, lying about in fragments. The view of the town library filled me with lively concern. The volumes were tossed about and defaced with the utmost wantonness; and, if they happened to bear any resemblance to Bibles, they were torn in pieces and trampled on. The collection of natural curiosities next caught my eye. Plants, seeds, dried birds, insects, and drawings were scattered about in great confusion, and some of the sailors were in the act of killing a beautiful musk-cat, which they afterwards ate. Every house was full of Frenchmen, who were hacking, and destroying, and tearing up everything which they could not convert to their own use. The destruction of live stock on this and the following day was immense. In my yard alone they killed fourteen dozen of fowls, and there were not less than twelve hundred hogs shot in the town." It was unsafe to walk in the streets of Freetown during the forty-eight hours that followed its capture, because the French crews, with too much of the Company's port wine in their heads to aim straight, were firing at the pigs of the poor freedmen over whom they had achieved such a questionable victory.
To readers of Erckmann-Chatrian it is unpleasant to be taken thus behind the curtain on which those skilful artists have painted the wars of the early Revolution. It is one thing to be told how the crusaders of '93 and '94 were received with blessings and banquets by the populations to whom they brought freedom and enlightenment, and quite another to read the journal in which a quiet accurate-minded Scotchman tells us how a pack of tipsy ruffians sat abusing Pitt and George to him, over a fricassee of his own fowls, and among the wreck of his lamps and mirrors which they had smashed as a protest against aristocratic luxury.
"There is not a boy among them who has not learnt to accompany the name of Pitt with an execration. When I went to bed, there was no sleep to be had on account of the sentinels thinking fit to amuse me the whole night through with the revenge they meant to take on him when they got him to Paris. Next morning I went on board the 'Experiment.' The Commodore and all his officers messed together, and I was admitted among them. They are truly the poorest-looking people I ever saw. Even the Commodore has only one suit which can at all distinguish him, not to say from the officers, but from the men. The filth and confusion of their meals was terrible. A chorus of boys usher in the dinner with the Marseilles hymn, and it finishes in the same way. The enthusiasm of all ranks among them is astonishing, but not more so than their blindness. They talk with ecstasy of their revolutionary government, of their bloody executions, of their revolutionary tribunal, of the rapid movement of their revolutionary army with the Corps of justice and the flying guillotine before it; forgetting that not one of them is not liable to its stroke on the accusation of the greatest vagabond on board. They asked me with triumph if yesterday had not been Sunday. 'Oh,' said they, 'the National Convention have decreed that there is no Sunday, and that the Bible is all a lie.'" After such an experience it is not difficult to account for the keen and almost personal interest with which, to the very day of Waterloo, Mr. Macaulay watched through its varying phases the rise and the downfall of the French power. He followed the progress of the British arms with a minute and intelligent attention which from a very early date communicated itself to his son; and the hearty patriotism of Lord Macaulay is perhaps in no small degree the consequence of what his father suffered from the profane and rapacious sansculottes of the revolutionary squadron.
Towards the middle of October the Republicans took their departure. Even at this distance of time it is provoking to learn that they got back to Brest without meeting an enemy that had teeth to bite. The African climate, however, reduced the squadron to such a plight, that it was well for our frigates that they had not the chance of getting its fever-stricken crews under their hatches. The French never revisited Freetown. Indeed, they had left the place in such a condition that it was not worth their while to return. The houses had been carefully burned to the ground, and the livestock killed. Except the clothes on their backs, and a little brandy and flour, the Europeans had lost everything they had in the world. Till assistance came from the mother country they lived upon such provisions as could be recovered from the reluctant hands of the negro settlers, who providentially had not been able to resist the temptation of helping the Republicans to plunder the Company's stores. Judicious liberality at home, and a year's hard work on the spot, did much to repair the damage; and, when his colony was again upon its feet, Mr. Macaulay sailed to England with the object of recruiting his health, which had broken down under an attack of low fever.
On his arrival he was admitted at once and for ever within the innermost circle of friends and fellow-labourers who were united round Wilberforce and Henry Thornton by indissoluble bonds of mutual personal regard and common public ends. As an indispensable part of his initiation into that very pleasant confederacy, he was sent down to be introduced to Hannah More, who was living at Cowslip Green, near Bristol, in the enjoyment of general respect, mixed with a good deal of what even those who admire her as she deserved must in conscience call flattery. He there met Selina Mills, a former pupil of the school which the Miss Mores kept in the neighbouring city, and a lifelong friend of all the sisters. The young lady is said to have been extremely pretty and attractive, as may well be believed by those who saw her in later years. She was the daughter of a member of the Society of Friends, who at one time was a bookseller in Bristol, and who built there a small street called "Mills Place," in which he himself resided. His grandchildren remembered him as an old man of imposing appearance, with long white hair, talking incessantly of Jacob Boehmen. Mr. Mills had sons, one of whom edited a Bristol journal exceedingly well, and is said to have made some figure in light literature. This uncle of Lord Macaulay was a very lively, clever man, full of good stories, of which only one has survived. Young Mills, while resident in London, had looked in at Rowland Hill's chapel, and had there lost a new hat. When he reported the misfortune to his father, the old Quaker replied: "John, if thee'd gone to the right place of worship, thee'd have kept thy hat upon thy head." Lord Macaulay was accustomed to say that he got his "joviality" from his mother's family. If his power of humour was indeed of Quaker origin, he was rather ungrateful in the use to which he sometimes put it.
Mr. Macaulay fell in love with Miss Mills, and obtained her affection in return. He had to encounter the opposition of her relations, who were set upon her making another and a better match, and of Mrs. Patty More, (so well known to all who have studied the somewhat diffuse annals of the More family,) who, in the true spirit of romantic friendship, wished her to promise never to marry at all, but to domesticate herself as a youngest sister in the household at Cowslip Green. Miss Hannah, however, took a more unselfish view of the situation, and advocated Mr. Macaulay's cause with firmness and good feeling. Indeed, he must have been, according to her particular notions, the most irreproachable of lovers, until her own Coelebs was given to the world. By her help he carried his point in so far that the engagement was made and recognised; but the friends of the young lady would not allow her to accompany him to Africa; and, during his absence from England, which began in the early months of 1796, by an arrangement that under the circumstances was very judicious, she spent much of her time in Leicestershire with his sister Mrs. Babington.
His first business after arriving at Sierra Leone was to sit in judgment on the ringleaders of a formidable outbreak which had taken place in the colony; and he had an opportunity of proving by example that negro disaffection, from the nature of the race, is peculiarly susceptible to treatment by mild remedies, if only the man in the post of responsibility has got a heart and can contrive to keep his head. He had much more trouble with a batch of missionaries, whom he took with him in the ship, and who were no sooner on board than they began to fall out, ostensibly on controversial topics, but more probably from the same motives that so often set the laity quarrelling during the incessant and involuntary companionship of a sea-voyage. Mr. Macaulay, finding that the warmth of these debates furnished sport to the captain and other irreligious characters, was forced seriously to exert his authority in order to separate and silence the disputants. His report of these occurrences went in due time to the Chairman of the Company, who excused himself for an arrangement which had turned out so ill by telling a story of a servant who, having to carry a number of gamecocks from one place to another, tied them up in the same bag, and found on arriving at his journey's end that they had spent their time in tearing each other to pieces. When his master called him to account for his stupidity he replied: "Sir, as they were all your cocks, I thought they would be all on one side."
Things did not go much more smoothly on shore. Mr. Macaulay's official correspondence gives a curious picture of his difficulties in the character of Minister of Public Worship in a black community. "The Baptists under David George are decent and orderly, but there is observable in them a great neglect of family worship, and sometimes an unfairness in their dealings. To Lady Huntingdon's Methodists, as a body, may with great justice be addressed the first verse of the third chapter of the Revelation. The lives of many of them are very disorderly, and rank antinomianism prevails among them." But his sense of religion and decency was most sorely tried by Moses Wilkinson, a so-called Wesleyan Methodist, whose congregation, not a very respectable one to begin with, had recently been swollen by a Revival which had been accompanied by circumstances the reverse of edifying. [Lord Macaulay had in his youth heard too much about negro preachers, and negro administrators, to permit him to entertain any very enthusiastic anticipations with regard to the future of the African race. He writes in his journal for July 8 1858: "Motley called. I like him much. We agree wonderfully well about slavery, and it is not often that I meet any person with whom I agree on that subject. For I hate slavery from the bottom of my soul; and yet I am made sick by the cant and the silly mock reasons of the Abolitionists. The nigger driver and the negrophile are two odious things to me. I must make Lady Macbeth's reservation: 'Had he not resembled--,'"] The Governor must have looked back with regret to that period in the history of the colony when he was underhanded in the clerical department.
But his interest in the negro could bear ruder shocks than an occasional outburst of eccentric fanaticism. He liked his work, because he liked those for whom he was working. "Poor people," he writes, "one cannot help loving them. With all their trying humours, they have a warmth of affection which is really irresistible." For their sake he endured all the risk and worry inseparable from a long engagement kept by the lady among disapproving friends, and by the gentleman at Sierra Leone. He stayed till the settlement had begun to thrive, and the Company had almost begun to pay; and until the Home Government had given marked tokens of favour and protection, which some years later developed into a negotiation under which the colony was transferred to the Crown. It was not till 1799 that he finally gave up his appointment, and left a region which, alone among men, he quitted with unfeigned, and, except in one particular, with unmixed regret. But for the absence of an Eve, he regarded the West Coast of Africa as a veritable Paradise, or, to use his own expression, as a more agreeable Montpelier. With a temper which in the intercourse of society was proof against being ruffled by any possible treatment of any conceivable subject, to the end of his life he showed faint signs of irritation if anyone ventured in his presence to hint that Sierra Leone was unhealthy.
On his return to England he was appointed Secretary to the Company, and was married at Bristol on the 26th of August, 1799. A most close union it was, and, (though in latter years he became fearfully absorbed in the leading object of his existence, and ceased in a measure to be the companion that he had been,) his love for his wife, and deep trust and confidence in her, never failed. They took a small house in Lambeth for the first twelve months. When Mrs. Macaulay was near her confinement, Mrs. Babington, who belonged to the school of matrons who hold that the advantage of country air outweighs that of London doctors, invited her sister-in-law to Rothley Temple; and there, in a room panelled from ceiling to floor, like every corner of the ancient mansion, with oak almost black from age,--looking eastward across the park and southward through an ivy-shaded window into a little garden,--Lord Macaulay was born. It was on the 25th of October 1800, the day of St. Crispin, the anniversary of Agincourt, (as he liked to say,) that he opened his eyes on a world which he was destined so thoroughly to learn and so intensely to enjoy. His father was as pleased as a father could be; but fate seemed determined that Zachary Macaulay should not be indulged in any great share of personal happiness. The next morning the noise of a spinning-jenny, at work in a cottage, startled his horse as he was riding past. He was thrown, and both arms were broken; and he spent in a sick-room the remainder of the only holiday worth the name which, (as far as can be traced in the family records,) he ever took during his married life. Owing to this accident the young couple were detained at Rothley into the winter; and the child was baptised in the private chapel which formed part of the house, on the 26th November 1800, by the names of Thomas Babington;--the Rev. Aulay Macaulay, and Mr. and Mrs. Babington, acting as sponsors.
The two years which followed were passed in a house in Birchin Lane, where the Sierra Leone Company had its office. The only place where the child could be taken for exercise, and what might be called air, was Drapers' Gardens, which (already under sentence to be covered with bricks and mortar at an early date) lies behind Throgmorton Street, and within a hundred yards of the Stock Exchange. To this dismal yard, containing as much gravel as grass, and frowned upon by a board of Rules and Regulations almost as large as itself, his mother used to convoy the nurse and the little boy through the crowds that towards noon swarmed along Cornhill and Threadneedle Street; and thither she would return, after a due interval, to escort them back to Birchin Lane. So strong was the power of association upon Macaulay's mind that in after years Drapers' Garden was among his favourite haunts. Indeed, his habit of roaming for hours through and through the heart of the City, (a habit that never left him as long as he could roam at all,) was due in part to the recollection which caused him to regard that region as native ground.
Baby as he was when he quitted it, he retained some impression of his earliest home. He remembered standing up at the nursery window by his father's side, looking at a cloud of black smoke pouring out of a tall chimney. He asked if that was hell; an inquiry that was received with a grave displeasure which at the time he could not understand. The kindly father must have been pained, almost against his own will, at finding what feature of his creed it was that had embodied itself in so very material a shape before his little son's imagination. When in after days Mrs. Macaulay was questioned as to how soon she began to detect in the child a promise of the future, she used to say that his sensibilities and affections were remarkably developed at an age which to her hearers appeared next to incredible. He would cry for joy on seeing her after a few hours' absence, and, (till her husband put a stop to it,) her power of exciting his feelings was often made an exhibition to her friends. She did not regard this precocity as a proof of cleverness; but, like a foolish young mother, only thought that so tender a nature was marked for early death.
The next move which the family made was into as healthy an atmosphere, in every sense, as the most careful parent could wish to select. Mr. Macaulay took a house in the High Street of Clapham, in the part now called the Pavement, on the same side as the Plough inn, but some doors nearer to the Common. It was a roomy comfortable dwelling, with a very small garden behind, and in front a very small one indeed, which has entirely disappeared beneath a large shop thrown out towards the road-way by the present occupier, who bears the name of Heywood. Here the boy passed a quiet and most happy childhood. From the time that he was three years old he read incessantly, for the most part lying on the rug before the fire, with his book on the ground, and a piece of bread and butter in his hand. A very clever woman, who then lived in the house as parlour-maid, told how he used to sit in his nankeen frock, perched on the table by her as she was cleaning the plate, and expounding to her out of a volume as big as himself. He did not care for toys, but was very fond of taking his walk, when he would hold forth to his companion, whether nurse or mother, telling interminable stories out of his own head, or repeating what he had been reading in language far above his years. His memory retained without effort the phraseology of the book which he had been last engaged on, and he talked, as the maid said, "quite printed words," which produced an effect that appeared formal, and often, no doubt, exceedingly droll. Mrs. Hannah More was fond of relating how she called at Mr. Macaulay's, and was met by a fair, pretty, slight child, with abundance of light hair, about four years of age, who came to the front door to receive her, and tell her that his parents were out, but that if she would be good enough to come in he would bring her a glass of old spirits; a proposition which greatly startled the good lady, who had never aspired beyond cowslip wine. When questioned as to what he knew about old spirits, he could only say that Robinson Crusoe often had some. About this period his father took him on a visit to Lady Waldegrave at Strawberry Hill, and was much pleased, to exhibit to his old friend the fair bright boy, dressed in a green coat with red cellar and cuffs, a frill at the throat, and white trousers. After some time had been spent among the wonders of the Orford Collection, of which he ever after carried a catalogue in his head, a servant who was waiting upon the company in the great gallery spilt some hot coffee over his legs. The hostess was all kindness and compassion, and when, after a while, she asked how he was feeling, the little fellow looked up in her face and replied: "Thank you, madam, the agony is abated."
But it must not be supposed that his quaint manners proceeded from affectation or conceit; for all testimony declares that a more simple and natural child never lived, or a more lively and merry one. He had at his command the resources of the Common; to this day the most unchanged spot within ten miles of St. Paul's, and which to all appearance will ere long hold that pleasant pre-eminence within ten leagues. That delightful wilderness of gorse bushes, and poplar groves, and gravel-pits, and ponds great and small, was to little Tom Macaulay a region of inexhaustible romance and mystery. He explored its recesses; he composed, and almost believed, its legends; he invented for its different features a nomenclature which has been faithfully preserved by two generations of children. A slight ridge, intersected by deep ditches, towards the west of the Common, the very existence of which no one above eight years old would notice, was dignified with the title of the Alps; while the elevated island, covered with shrubs, that gives a name to the Mount pond, was regarded with infinite awe as being the nearest approach within the circuit of his observation to a conception of the majesty of Sinai. Indeed, at this period his infant fancy was much exercised with the threats and terrors of the Law. He had a little plot of ground at the back of the house, marked out as his own by a Tory of oyster-shells, which a maid one day threw away as rubbish. He went straight to the drawing-room, where his mother was entertaining some visitors, walked into the circle, and said very solemnly: "Cursed be Sally; for it is written, Cursed is he that removeth his neighbour's land-mark."
While still the merest child he was sent as a day-scholar to Mr. Greaves, a shrewd Yorkshireman with a turn for science, who had been originally brought to the neighbourhood in order to educate a number of African youths sent over to imbibe Western civilisation at the fountain-head. The poor fellows had found as much difficulty in keeping alive at Clapham as Englishmen experience at Sierra Leone; and, in the end, their tutor set up a school for boys of his own colour, and at one time had charge of almost the entire rising generation of the Common. Mrs. Macaulay explained to Tom that he must learn to study without the solace of bread and butter, to which he replied: "Yes, mama, industry shall be my bread and attention my butter." But, as a matter of fact, no one ever crept more unwillingly to school. Each several afternoon he made piteous entreaties to be excused returning after dinner, and was met by the unvarying formula: "No, Tom, if it rains cats and dogs, you shall go."
His reluctance to leave home had more than one side to it. Not only did his heart stay behind, but the regular lessons of the class took him away from occupations which in his eyes were infinitely more delightful and important; for these were probably the years of his greatest literary activity. As an author he never again had mere facility, or anything like so wide a range. In September 1808, his mother writes: "My dear Tom continues to show marks of uncommon genius. He gets on wonderfully in all branches of his education, and the extent of his reading, and of the knowledge he has derived from it, are truly astonishing in a boy not yet eight years old. He is at the same time as playful as a kitten. To give you some idea of the activity of his mind I will mention a few circumstances that may interest you and Colin. You will believe that to him we never appear to regard anything he does as anything more than a schoolboy's amusement. He took it into his head to write a compendium of Universal History about a year ago, and he really contrived to give a tolerably connected view of the leading events from the Creation to the present time, filling about a quire of paper. He told me one day that he had been writing a paper, which Henry Daly was to translate into Malabar, to persuade the people of Travancore to embrace the Christian religion. On reading it I found it to contain a very clear idea of the leading facts and doctrines of that religion, with some strong arguments for its adoption. He was so fired with reading Scott's Lay and Marmion, the former of which he got entirely, and the latter almost entirely, by heart, merely from his delight in reading them, that he determined on writing himself a poem in six cantos which he called the 'Battle of Cheviot.' After he had finished about three of the cantos of about 120 lines each, which he did in a couple of days, he became tired of it. I make no doubt he would have finished his design, but, as he was proceeding with it, the thought struck him of writing an heroic poem to be called 'Olaus the Great, or the Conquest of Mona,' in which, after the manner of Virgil, he might introduce in prophetic song the future fortunes of the family;-- among others, those of the hero who aided in the fall of the tyrant of Mysore, after having long suffered from his tyranny; [General Macaulay had been one of Tippoo Sahib's prisoners] and of another of his race who had exerted himself for the deliverance of the wretched Africans. He has just begun it. He has composed I know not how many hymns. I send you one, as a specimen, in his own handwriting, which he wrote about six months ago on one Monday morning while we were at breakfast."
The affection of the last generation of his relatives has preserved all these pieces, but the piety of this generation will refrain from submitting them to public criticism. A marginal note, in which Macaulay has expressed his cordial approval of Uncle Toby's [Tristram Shandy, chapter clxiii.] remark about the great Lipsius, indicates his own wishes in the matter too clearly to leave any choice for those who come after him. But there still may be read in a boyish scrawl the epitome of Universal History, from "a new king who knew not Joseph,"--down through Rameses, and Dido, and Tydeus, and Tarquin, and Crassus, and Gallienus, and Edward the Martyr,--to Louis, who "set off on a crusade against the Albigenses," and Oliver Cromwell, who "was an unjust and wicked man." The hymns remain, which Mrs. Hannah More, surely a consummate judge of the article, pronounced to be "quite extraordinary for such a baby." To a somewhat later period probably belongs a vast pile of blank verse, entitled "Fingal, a poem in xii books;" two of which are in a complete and connected shape, while the rest of the story is lost amidst a labyrinth of many hundred scattered lines, so transcribed as to suggest a conjecture that the boy's demand for foolscap had outrun the paternal generosity.
Of all his performances, that which attracted most attention at the time was undertaken for the purpose of immortalising Olaus Magnus, King of Norway, from whom the clan to which the bard belonged was supposed to derive its name. Two cantos are extant, of which there are several exemplars, in every stage of calligraphy from the largest round hand downwards, a circumstance which is apparently due to the desire on the part of each of the little Macaulays to possess a copy of the great family epic. The opening stanzas, each of which contains more lines than their author counted years, go swinging along with plenty of animation and no dearth of historical and geographical allusion.
Day set on Cumbria's hills supreme,And again
"Long," said the Prince, "shall Olave's nameThe passage containing a prophetic mention of his father and uncle after the manner of the sixth book of the Aeneid, for the sake of which, according to Mrs. Macaulay, the poem was originally designed, can nowhere be discovered. It is possible that in the interval between the conception and the execution the boy happened to light upon a copy of the Rolliad. If such was the case, he already had too fine a sense of humour to have persevered in his original plan after reading that masterpiece of drollery. It is worthy of note that the voluminous writings of his childhood, dashed off at headlong speed in the odds and ends of leisure from school-study and nursery routine, are not only perfectly correct in spelling and grammar, but display the same lucidity of meaning, and scrupulous accuracy in punctuation and the other minor details of the literary art, which characterise his mature works.
Nothing could be more judicious than the treatment that Mr. and Mrs. Macaulay adopted towards their boy. They never handed his productions about, or encouraged him to parade his powers of conversation or memory. They abstained from any word or act which might foster in him a perception of his own genius with as much care as a wise millionaire expends on keeping his son ignorant of the fact that he is destined to be richer than his comrades. "It was scarcely ever," writes one who knew him well from the very first, "that the consciousness was expressed by either of his parents of the superiority of their son over other children. Indeed, with his father I never remember any such expression. What I most observed myself was his extraordinary command of language. When he came to describe to his mother any childish play, I took care to be present, when I could, that I might listen to the way in which he expressed himself, often scarcely exceeded in his later years. Except this trifle, I remember him only as a good-tempered boy, always occupied, playing with his sisters without assumption of any kind." One effect of this early discipline showed itself in his freedom from vanity and susceptibility, --those qualities which, coupled together in our modern psychological dialect under the head of "self-consciousness," are supposed to be the besetting defects of the literary character. Another result was his habitual over-estimate of the average knowledge possessed by mankind. Judging others by himself, he credited the world at large with an amount of information which certainly few have the ability to acquire, or the capacity to retain. If his parents had not been so diligent in concealing from him the difference between his own intellectual stores and those of his neighbours, it is probable that less would have been heard of Lord Macaulay's Schoolboy.
The system pursued at home was continued at Barley Wood, the place where the Misses More resided from 1802 onwards. Mrs. Macaulay gladly sent her boy to a house where he was encouraged without being spoiled, and where he never failed to be a welcome guest. The kind old ladies made a real companion of him, and greatly relished his conversation; while at the same time, with their ideas on education, they would never have allowed him, even if he had been so inclined, to forget that he was a child. Mrs. Hannah More, who had the rare gift of knowing how to live with both young and old, was the most affectionate and the wisest of friends, and readily undertook the superintendence of his studies, his pleasures, and his health. She would keep him with her for weeks, listening to him as he read prose by the ell, declaimed poetry by the hour, and discussed and compared his favourite heroes, ancient, modern, and fictitious, under all points of view and in every possible combination; coaxing him into the garden under pretence of a lecture on botany; sending him from his books to run round the grounds, or play at cooking in the kitchen; giving him Bible lessons which invariably ended in a theological argument, and following him with her advice and sympathy through his multifarious literary enterprises. ["The next time," (my uncle once said to us,) "that I saw Hannah More was in 1807. The old ladies begged my parents to leave me with them for a week, and this visit was a great event in my life. In parlour and kitchen they could not make enough of me. They taught me to cook; and I was to preach, and they got in people from the fields and I stood on a chair, and preached sermons. I might have been indicted for holding a conventicle."] She writes to his father in 1809: "I heartily hope that the sea air has been the means of setting you up, and Mrs. Macaulay also, and that the dear little poet has caught his share of bracing . . . . Tell Tom I desire to know how 'Olaus' goes on. The sea, I suppose, furnished him with some new images."
The broader and more genial aspect under which life showed itself to the boy at Barley Wood has left its trace in a series of childish squibs and parodies, which may still be read with an interest that his Cambrian and Scandinavian rhapsodies fail to inspire. The most ambitious of these lighter efforts is a pasquinade occasioned by some local scandal, entitled "Childe Hugh and the labourer, a pathetic ballad." The "Childe" of the story was a neighbouring baronet, and the "Abbot" a neighbouring rector, and the whole performance, intended, as it was, to mimic the spirit of Percy's Reliques, irresistibly suggests a reminiscence of John Gilpin. It is pleasant to know that to Mrs. Hannah More was due the commencement of what eventually became the most readable of libraries, as is shown in a series of letters extending over the entire period of Macaulay's education. When he was six years old she writes; "Though you are a little boy now, you will one day, if it please God, be a man; but long before you are a man I hope you will be a scholar. I therefore wish you to purchase such books as will be useful and agreeable to you then, and that you employ this very small sum in laying a little tiny corner-stone for your future library." A year or two afterwards she thanks him for his "two letters, so neat and free from blots. By this obvious improvement you have entitled yourself to another book. You must go to Hatchard's and choose. I think we have nearly exhausted the Epics. What say you to a little good prose? Johnson's Hebrides, or Walton's Lives, unless you would like a neat edition of Cowper's poems or Paradise Lost for your own eating? In any case choose something which you do not possess. I want you to become a complete Frenchman, that I may give you Racine, the only dramatic poet I know in any modern language that is perfectly pure and good. I think you have hit off the Ode very well, and I am much obliged to you for the Dedication." The poor little author was already an adept in the traditional modes of requiting a patron.
He had another Maecenas in the person of General Macaulay, who came back from India in 1810. The boy greeted him with a copy of verses, beginning
"Now safe returned from Asia's parching strand,To tell the unvarnished truth, the General's return was not altogether of a triumphant character. After very narrowly escaping with his life from an outbreak at Travancore, incited by a native minister who owed him a grudge, he had given proof of courage and spirit during some military operations which ended in his being brought back to the Residency with flying colours. But, when the fighting was over, he countenanced, and perhaps prompted, measures of retaliation which were ill taken by his superiors at Calcutta. In his congratulatory effusion the nephew presumes to remind the uncle that on European soil there still might be found employment for so redoubtable a sword.
"For many a battle shall be lost and wonThe General did not take the hint, and spent the remainder of his life peacefully enough between London, Bath, and the Continental capitals. He was accustomed to say that his travelling carriage was his only freehold; and, wherever he fixed his temporary residence, he had the talent of making himself popular. At Geneva he was a universal favourite; he always was welcome at Coppet; and he gave the strongest conceivable proof of a cosmopolitan disposition by finding himself equally at home at Rome and at Clapham. When in England he lived much with his relations, to whom he was sincerely attached. He was generous in a high degree, and the young people owed to him books which they otherwise could never have obtained, and treats and excursions which formed the only recreations that broke the uniform current of their lives. They regarded their uncle Colin as the man of the world of the Macaulay family.
Zachary Macaulay's circumstances during these years were good, and constantly improving. For some time he held the post of Secretary to the Sierra Leone Company, with a salary of L500 per annum. He subsequently entered into partnership with a nephew, and the firm did a large business as African merchants under the names of Macaulay and Babington. The position of the father was favourable to the highest interests of his children. A boy has the best chance of being well brought up in a household where there is solid comfort, combined with thrift and simplicity; and the family was increasing too fast to leave any margin for luxurious expenditure. Before the eldest son had completed his thirteenth year he had three brothers and five sisters.
Here Martyn lies. In manhood's early bloomIn the course of 1812 it began to be evident that Tom had got beyond the educational capabilities of Clapham; and his father seriously contemplated the notion of removing to London in order to place him as a day-scholar at Westminster. Thorough as was the consideration which the parents gave to the matter, their decision was of more importance than they could at the time foresee. If their son had gone to a public school, it is more than probable that he would have turned out a different man, and have done different work. So sensitive and homeloving a boy might for a while have been too depressed to enter fully unto the ways of the place; but, as he gained confidence, he could not have withstood the irresistible attractions which the life of a great school exercises over a vivid eager nature, and he would have sacrificed to passing pleasures and emulations a part, at any rate, of those years which, in order to be what he was, it was necessary that he should spend wholly among his books. Westminster or Harrow might have sharpened his faculties for dealing with affairs and with men; but the world at large would have lost more than he could by any possibility have gained. If Macaulay had received the usual education of a young Englishman, he might in all probability have kept his seat for Edinburgh; but he could hardly have written the Essay on Von Ranke, or the description of England in the third chapter of the History.
Mr. Macaulay ultimately fixed upon a private school, kept by the Rev. Mr. Preston, at Little Shelford, a village in the immediate vicinity of Cambridge. The motives which guided this selection were mainly of a religious nature. Mr. Preston held extreme Low Church opinions, and stood in the good books of Mr. Simeon, whose word had long been law in the Cambridge section of the Evangelical circle. But whatever had been the inducement to make it, the choice proved singularly fortunate. The tutor, it is true, was narrow in his views, and lacked the taste and judgment to set those views before his pupils in an attractive form. Theological topics dragged into the conversation at unexpected moments, inquiries about their spiritual state, and long sermons which had to be listened to under the dire obligation of reproducing them in an epitome, fostered in the minds of some of the boys a reaction against the outward manifestations of religion; --a reaction which had already begun under the strict system pursued in their respective homes. But, on the other hand, Mr. Preston knew both how to teach his scholars, and when to leave them to teach themselves. The eminent judge, who divided grown men into two sharply defined and most uncomplimentary categories, was accustomed to say that private schools made poor creatures, and public schools sad dogs; but Mr. Preston succeeded in giving a practical contradiction to Sir William Maine's proposition. His pupils, who were limited to an average of a dozen at a time, got far beyond their share of honours at the university and of distinction in after life. George Stainforth, a grandson of Sir Francis Baring, by his success at Cambridge was the first to win the school an honourable name, which was more than sustained by Henry Malden, now Greek Professor at University College, London, and by Macaulay himself. Shelford was strongly under the influence of the neighbouring university; an influence which Mr. Preston, himself a fellow of Trinity, wisely encouraged. The boys were penetrated with Cambridge ambitions and ways of thought; and frequent visitors brought to the table, where master and pupils dined in common, the freshest Cambridge gossip of the graver sort.
Little Macaulay received much kindness from Dean Milner, the President of Queen's College, then at the very summit of a celebrity which is already of the past. Those who care to search among the embers of that once brilliant reputation can form a fair notion of what Samuel Johnson would have been if he had lived a generation later, and had been absolved from the necessity of earning his bread by the enjoyment of ecclesiastical sinecures, and from any uneasiness as to his worldly standing by the possession of academical dignities and functions. The Dean who had boundless goodwill for all his fellow-creatures at every period of life, provided that they were not Jacobins or sceptics, recognised the promise of the boy, and entertained him at his college residence on terms of friendliness, and almost of equality. After one of these visits he writes to Mr. Macaulay; "Your lad is a fine fellow. He shall stand before kings, he shall not stand before mean men."
Shelford: February 22, 1813.The youth who on this occasion gave proof of his parentage by his readiness and humour was Wilberforce's eldest son. A fortnight later on, the subject chosen for discussion was "whether Lord Wellington or Marlborough was the greatest general. A very warm debate is expected."
Shelford: April 20, 1813.
Shelford: April 26 1813.The constant allusions to home politics and to the progress of the Continental struggle, which occur throughout Zachary Macaulay's correspondence with his son, prove how freely, and on what an equal footing, the parent and child already conversed on questions of public interest. The following letter is curious as a specimen of the eagerness with which the boy habitually flung himself into the subjects which occupied his father's thoughts. The renewal of the East India Company's charter was just then under the consideration of Parliament, and the whole energies of the Evangelical party were exerted in order to signalise the occasion by securing our Eastern dominions as a field for the spread of Christianity. Petitions against the continued exclusion of missionaries were in course of circulation throughout the island, the drafts of which had been prepared by Mr. Macaulay.
Shelford: May 8, 1813.It will be seen that this passing fondness for mathematics soon changed into bitter disgust.
Clapham May 28, 1813.The commencement of the second half-year at school, perhaps the darkest season of a boy's existence, was marked by an unusually severe and prolonged attack of home-sickness. It would be cruel to insert the first letter written after the return to Shelford from the summer holidays. That which follows it is melancholy enough.
Shelford: August 14, 1813.His father answered him in a letter of strong religious complexion, full of feeling, and even of beauty, but too long for reproduction in a biography that is not his own.
Mr. Macaulay's deep anxiety for his son's welfare sometimes induced him to lend too ready an ear to busybodies, who informed him of failings in the boy which would have been treated more lightly, and perhaps more wisely, by a less devoted father. In the early months of 1814 he writes as follows, after hearing the tale of some guest of Mr. Preston whom Tom had no doubt contradicted at table in presence of the assembled household.
London: March 4, 1814.A father's prayers are seldom fulfilled to the letter. Many years were to elapse before the son ceased to talk loudly and with confidence; and the literature that he was destined to distribute through the world was of another order from that which Mr. Macaulay here suggests. The answer, which is addressed to the mother, affords a proof that the boy could already hold his own. The allusions to the Christian Observer, of which his father was editor, and to Dr. Herbert Marsh, with whom the ablest pens of Clapham were at that moment engaged in hot and embittered controversy, are thrown in with an artist's hand.
Shelford: April 11. 1814.In the course of the year 1814 Mr. Preston removed his establishment to Aspenden Hall near Buntingford, in Hertfordshire; a large old-fashioned mansion, standing amidst extensive shrubberies, and a pleasant undulating domain sprinkled with fine timber. The house has been rebuilt within the last twenty years, and nothing remains of it except the dark oak panelling of the hall in which the scholars made their recitations on the annual speech day. The very pretty church, which stands hard by within the grounds, was undergoing restoration in 1873 and by this time the only existing portion of the former internal fittings is the family pew, in which the boys sat on drowsy summer afternoons, doing what they could to keep their impressions of the second sermon distinct from their reminiscences of the morning. Here Macaulay spent four most industrious years, doing less and less in the class-room as time went on, but enjoying the rare advantage of studying Greek and Latin by the side of such a scholar as Malden. The two companions were equally matched in age and classical attainments, and at the university maintained a rivalry so generous as hardly to deserve the name. Each of the pupils had his own chamber, which the others were forbidden to enter under the penalty of a shilling fine. This prohibition was in general not very strictly observed; but the tutor had taken the precaution of placing Macaulay in a room next his own; --a proximity which rendered the position of an intruder so exceptionally dangerous that even Malden could not remember having once passed his friend's threshold during the whole of their stay at Aspenden.
In this seclusion, removed from the delight of family intercourse, (the only attraction strong enough to draw him from his books,) the boy read widely, unceasingly, more than rapidly. The secret of his immense acquirements lay in two invaluable gifts of nature, --an unerring memory, and the capacity for taking in at a glance the contents of a printed page. During the first part of his life he remembered whatever caught his fancy without going through the process of consciously getting it by heart. As a child, during one of the numerous seasons when the social duties devolved upon Mr. Macaulay, he accompanied his father on an afternoon call, and found on a table the Lay of the Last Minstrel, which he had never before met with. He kept himself quiet with his prize while the elders were talking, and, on his return home, sat down upon his mother's bed, and repeated to her as many cantos as she had the patience or the strength to listen to. At one period of his life he was known to say that, if by some miracle of Vandalism all copies of Paradise Lost and the Pilgrim's Progress were destroyed off the face of the earth, he would undertake to reproduce them both from recollection whenever a revival of learning came. In 1813, while waiting in a Cambridge coffee-room for a postchaise which was to take him to his school, he picked up a county newspaper containing two such specimens of provincial poetical talent as in those days might be read in the corner of any weekly journal. One piece was headed "Reflections of an Exile;" while the other was a trumpery parody on the Welsh ballad "Ar hyd y nos," referring to some local anecdote of an ostler whose nose had been bitten off by a filly. He looked them once through, and never gave them a thought for forty years, at the end of which time he repeated them both without missing, --or, as far as he knew, changing, --a single word.
(Sir William Stirling Maxwell says, in a letter with which he has honoured me: "Of his extraordinary memory I remember Lord Jeffrey telling me an instance. They had had a difference about a quotation from Paradise Lost, and made a wager about it; the wager being a copy of the hook, which, on reference to the passage, it was found Jeffrey had won. The bet was made just before, and paid immediately after, the Easter vacation. On putting the volume into Jeffrey's hand, your uncle said, 'I don't think you will find me tripping again. I knew it, I thought, pretty well before; but I am sure I know it now.' Jeffrey proceeded to examine him, putting him on at a variety of the heaviest passages-- the battle of the angels-- the dialogues of Adam and the archangels, --and found him ready to declaim them all, till he begged him to stop. He asked him how he had acquired such a command of the poem, and had for answer: 'I had him in the country, and I read it twice over, and I don't think that I shall ever forget it again.' At the same time he told Jeffrey that he believed he could repeat everything of his own he had ever printed, and nearly all he had ever written, 'except, perhaps, some of my college exercises.'
"I myself had an opportunity of seeing and hearing a remarkable proof of your uncle's hold upon the most insignificant verbiage that chance had poured into his ear. I was staying with him at Bowood, in the winter of 1852. Lord Elphinstone-- who had been many years before Governor of Madras, --was telling one morning at breakfast of a certain native barber there, who was famous, in his time, for English doggerel of his own making, with which he was wont to regale his customers. 'Of course,' said Lord Elphinstone, 'I don't remember any of it; but was very funny, and used to be repeated in society.' Macaulay, who was sitting a good way off, immediately said: 'I remember being shaved by the fellow, and he recited a quantity of verse to me during the operation, and here is some of it;' and then he went off in a very queer doggrel about the exploits of Bonaparte, of which I recollect the recurring refrain--
But when he saw the British boys,It is hardly conceivable that he had ever had occasion to recall that poem since the day when he escaped from under the poet's razor.)
As he grew older, this wonderful power became impaired so far that getting by rote the compositions of others was no longer an involuntary process. He has noted in his Lucan the several occasions on which he committed to memory his favourite passages of an author whom he regarded as unrivalled among rhetoricians; and the dates refer to 1836, when he had just turned the middle point of life. During his last years, at his dressing-table in the morning, he would learn by heart one or another of the little idylls in which Martial expatiates on the enjoyments of a Spanish country-house, or a villa-farm in the environs of Rome; --those delicious morsels of verse which, (considering the sense that modern ideas attach to the name,) it is an injustice to class under the head of epigrams.
Macaulay's extraordinary faculty of assimilating printed matter at first sight remained the same through life. To the end he read books more quickly than other people skimmed them, and skimmed them as fast as anyone else could turn the leaves. "He seemed to read through the skin," said one who had often watched the operation. And this speed was not in his case obtained at the expense of accuracy. Anything which had once appeared in type, from the highest effort of genius down to the most detestable trash that ever consumed ink and paper manufactured for better things, had in his eyes an authority which led him to look upon misquotation as a species of minor sacrilege.
With these endowments, sharpened by an insatiable curiosity, from his fourteenth year onward he was permitted to roam almost at will over the whole expanse of literature. He composed little beyond his school exercises, which themselves bear signs of having been written in a perfunctory manner. At this period he had evidently no heart in anything but his reading. Before leaving Shelford for Aspenden he had already invoked the epic muse for the last time.
"Arms and the man I sing, who strove in vainThe man was Roderic, king of Connaught, whom he got tired of singing before he had well completed two books of the poem. Thenceforward he appears never to have struck his lyre, except in the first enthusiasm aroused by the intelligence of some favourable turn of fortune on the Continent. The flight of Napoleon from Russia was celebrated in a "Pindaric Ode" duly distributed into strophes and antistrophes; and, when the allies entered Paris, the school put his services into requisition to petition for a holiday in honour of the event. He addressed his tutor in a short poem, which begins with a few sonorous and effective couplets, grows more and more like the parody on Fitzgerald in "Rejected Addresses," and ends in a peroration of which the intention is unquestionably mock-heroic:
"Oh, by the glorious posture of affairs,Touched by the mention of his sister, Mr. Preston yielded and young Macaulay never turned another verse except at the bidding of his schoolmaster, until, on the eve of his departure for Cambridge, he wrote between three and four hundred lines of a drama, entitled "Don Fernando," marked by force and fertility of diction, but somewhat too artificial to be worthy of publication under a name such as his. Much about the same time he communicated to Malden the commencement of a burlesque poem on the story of Anthony Babington; who, by the part that he took in the plots against the life of Queen Elizabeth, had given the family a connection with English history which, however questionable, was in Macaulay's view better than none.
"Each, says the proverb, has his taste. 'Tis true.It is perhaps as well that the project to all appearance stopped with the first stanza, which in its turn was probably written for the sake of a single line. The young man had a better use for his time than to spend it in producing frigid imitations of Beppo.
He was not unpopular among his fellow-pupils, who regarded him with pride and admiration, tempered by the compassion which his utter inability to play at any sort of game would have excited in every school, private or public alike. He troubled himself very little about the opinion of those by whom he was surrounded at Aspenden. It required the crowd and the stir of a university to call forth the social qualities which he possessed in so large a measure. The tone of his correspondence during these years sufficiently indicates that he lived almost exclusively among books. His letters, which had hitherto been very natural and pretty, began to smack of the library, and please less than those written in early boyhood. His pen was overcharged with the metaphors and phrases of other men; and it was not till maturing powers had enabled him to master and arrange the vast masses of literature which filled his memory that his native force could display itself freely through the medium of a style which was all his own. In 1815 he began a formal literary correspondence, after the taste of the previous century, with Mr. Hudson, a gentleman in the Examiner's Office of the East India House.
Aspenden Hall: August 22, 1815.This votary of city life was still two months short of completing his fifteenth year!
Aspenden Hall: August 23, 1815.This exhaustive enumeration of his brothers and sisters invites attention to that home where he reigned supreme. Lady Trevelyan thus describes their life at Clapham: "I think that my father's strictness was a good counterpoise to the perfect worship of your uncle by the rest of the family. To us he was an object of passionate love and devotion. To us he could do no wrong. His unruffled sweetness of temper, his unfailing flow of spirits, his amusing talk, all made his presence so delightful that his wishes and his tastes were our law. He hated strangers; and his notion of perfect happiness was to see us all working round him while he read aloud a novel, and then to walk all together on the Common, or, if it rained, to have a frightfully noisy game of hide-and- seek. I have often wondered how our mother could ever have endured our noise in her little house. My earliest recollections speak of the intense happiness of the holidays, beginning with finding him in Papa's room in the morning; the awe at the idea of his having reached home in the dark after we were in bed, and the Saturnalia which at once set in; --no lessons; nothing but fun and merriment for the whole six weeks. In the year 1816 we were at Brighton for the summer holidays, and he read to us Sir Charles Grandison. It was always a habit in our family to read aloud every evening. Among the books selected I can recall Clarendon, Burnet, Shakspeare, (a great treat when my mother took the volume,) Miss Edgeworth, Mackenzie's Lounger and Mirror, and, as a standing dish, the Quarterly and the Edinburgh Reviews. Poets too, especially Scott and Crabbe, were constantly chosen. Poetry and novels, except during Tom's holidays, were forbidden in the daytime, and stigmatised as 'drinking drams in the morning.'"
Morning or evening, Mr. Macaulay disapproved of novel-reading; but, too indulgent to insist on having his own way in any but essential matters, he lived to see himself the head of a family in which novels were more read, and better remembered, than in any household of the United Kingdom. The first warning of the troubles that were in store for him was an anonymous letter addressed to him as editor of the Christian Observer, defending works of fiction, and eulogising Fielding and Smollett. This he incautiously inserted in his periodical, and brought down upon himself the most violent objurgations from scandalised contributors, one of whom informed the public that he had committed the obnoxious number to the flames, and should thenceforward cease to take in the Magazine. The editor replied with becoming spirit; although by that time he was aware that the communication, the insertion of which in an unguarded moment had betrayed him into a controversy for which he had so little heart, had proceeded from the pen of his son. Such was young Macaulay's first appearance in print, if we except the index to the thirteenth volume of the Christian Observer, which he drew up during his Christmas holidays of 1814. The place where he performed his earliest literary work can be identified with tolerable certainty. He enjoyed the eldest son's privilege of a separate bedchamber; and there, at the front window on the top story, furthest from the Common and nearest to London, we can fancy him sitting, apart from the crowded play-room, keeping himself warm as best he might, and travelling steadily through the blameless pages the contents of which it was his task to classify for the convenience of posterity.
Lord Macaulay used to remark that Thackeray introduced too much of the Dissenting element into his picture of Clapham in the opening chapters of "The Newcomes." The leading people of the place, --with the exception of Mr. William Smith, the Unitarian member of Parliament, --were one and all staunch Churchmen; though they readily worked in concert with those religious communities which held in the main the same views, and pursued the same objects, as themselves. Old John Thornton, the earliest of the Evangelical magnates, when he went on his annual tour to the South Coast or the Scotch mountains, would take with him some Independent or Wesleyan minister who was in need of a holiday; and his followers in the next generation had the most powerful motives for maintaining the alliance which he had inaugurated. They could not neglect such doughty auxiliaries in the memorable war which they waged against cruelty, ignorance, and irreligion, and in their less momentous skirmishes with the votaries of the stage, the racecourse, and the card-table. Without the aid of nonconformist sympathy, and money, and oratory, and organisation, their operations would have been doomed to certain failure. The cordial relations entertained with the members of other denominations by those among whom his youth was passed did much to indoctrinate Macaulay with a lively and genuine interest in sectarian theology. He possessed a minute acquaintance, very rare among men of letters, with the origin and growth of the various forms of faith and practice which have divided the allegiance of his countrymen; not the least important of his qualifications for writing the history of an epoch when the national mind gave itself to religious controversy even more largely than has been its wont.
The method of education in vogue among the Clapham families was simple, without being severe. In the spacious gardens, and the commodious houses of an architecture already dating a century back, which surrounded the Common, there was plenty of freedom, and good fellowship, and reasonable enjoyment for young and old alike. Here again Thackeray has not done justice to a society that united the mental culture, and the intellectual activity, which are developed by the neighbourhood of a great capital, with the wholesome quiet and the homely ways of country life. Hobson and Brian Newcome are not fair specimens of the effect of Clapham influences upon the second generation. There can have been nothing vulgar, and little that was narrow, in a training which produced Samuel Wilberforce, and Sir James Stephen, and Charles and Robert Grant, and Lord Macaulay. The plan on which children were brought up in the chosen home of the Low Church party, during its golden age, will bear comparison with systems about which, in their day, the world was supposed never to tire of hearing, although their ultimate results have been small indeed.
It is easy to trace whence the great bishop and the great writer derived their immense industry. Working came as naturally as walking to sons who could not remember a time when their fathers idled. "Mr. Wilberforce and Mr. Babington have never appeared downstairs lately, except to take a hasty dinner, and for half an hour after we have supped. The slave-trade now occupies them nine hours daily. Mr. Babington told me last night that he had fourteen hundred folio pages to read, to detect the contradictions, and to collect the answers which corroborate Mr. Wilberforce's assertions in his speeches. These, with more than two thousand pages to be abridged, must be done within a fortnight, and they talk of sitting up one night in every week to accomplish it. The two friends begin to look very ill, but they are in excellent spirits, and at this moment I hear them laughing at some absurd questions in the examination." Passages such as this are scattered broadcast through the correspondence of Wilberforce and his friends. Fortitude, and diligence, and self-control, and all that makes men good and great, cannot be purchased from professional educators. Charity is not the only quality which begins at home. It is throwing away money to spend a thousand a year on the teaching of three boys, if they are to return from school only to find the older members of their family intent on amusing themselves at any cost of time and trouble, or sacrificing self-respect in ignoble efforts to struggle into a social grade above their own. The child will never place his aims high, and pursue them steadily, unless the parent has taught him what energy, and elevation of purpose, mean not less by example than by precept.
In that company of indefatigable workers none equalled the labours of Zachary Macaulay. Even now, when he has been in his grave for more than the third of a century, it seems almost an act of disloyalty to record the public services of a man who thought that he had done less than nothing if his exertions met with praise, or even with recognition. The nature and value of those services may be estimated from the terms in which a very competent judge, who knew how to weigh his words, spoke of the part which Mr. Macaulay played in one only of his numerous enterprises, --the suppression of slavery and the slave-trade. "That God had called him into being to wage war with this gigantic evil became his immutable conviction. During forty successive years he was ever burdened with this thought. It was the subject of his visions by day and of his dreams by night. To give them reality he laboured as men labour for the honours of a profession or for the subsistence of their children. In that service he sacrificed all that a man may lawfully sacrifice-- health, fortune, repose, favour, and celebrity. He died a poor man, though wealth was within his reach. He devoted himself to the severest toil, amidst allurements to luxuriate in the delights of domestic and social intercourse, such as few indeed have encountered. He silently permitted some to usurp his hardly-earned honours, that no selfish controversy might desecrate their common cause. He made no effort to obtain the praises of the world, though he had talents to command, and a temper peculiarly disposed to enjoy them. He drew upon himself the poisoned shafts of calumny, and, while feeling their sting as generous spirits only can feel it, never turned a single step aside from his path to propitiate or to crush the slanderers."
Zachary Macaulay was no mere man of action. It is difficult to understand when it was that he had time to pick up his knowledge of general literature; or how he made room for it in a mind so crammed with facts and statistics relating to questions of the day that when Wilberforce was at a loss for a piece of information he used to say, "Let us look it out in Macaulay." His private papers, which are one long register of unbroken toil, do nothing to clear up the problem. Highly cultivated, however, he certainly was, and his society was in request with many who cared little for the objects which to him were everything. That he should have been esteemed and regarded by Lord Brougham, Francis Homer, and Sir James Mackintosh, seems natural enough, but there is something surprising in finding him in friendly and frequent intercourse with some of his most distinguished French contemporaries. Chateaubriand, Sismondi, the Duc de Broglie, Madame de Stael, and Dumont, the interpreter of Bentham, corresponded with him freely in their own language, which he wrote to admiration. The gratification that his foreign acquaintance felt at the sight of his letters would have been unalloyed but for the pamphlets and blue-books by which they were too often accompanied. It is not difficult to imagine the feelings of a Parisian on receiving two quarto volumes, with the postage only in part pre-paid, containing the proceedings of a Committee on Apprenticeship in the West Indies, and including the twelve or fifteen thousand questions and answers on which the Report was founded. It would be hard to meet with a more perfect sample of the national politeness than the passage in which M. Dumont acknowledges one of the less formidable of these unwelcome gifts. "Mon cher Ami, --Je ne laisserai pas partir Mr. Inglis sans le charger de quelques lignes pour vous, afin de vous remercier du Christian Observer que vous avez eu la bonte de m'envoyer. Vous savez que j'ai a great taste for it; mais il faut vous avouer une triste verite, c'est que je manque absolument de loisir pour le lire. Ne m'en envoyez plus; car je me sens peine d'avoir sous les yeux de si bonnes choses, dont je n'ai pas le temps de tue nourrir."
"In the year 1817," Lady Trevelyan writes, "my parents made a tour in Scotland with your uncle. Brougham gave them a letter to Jeffrey, who hospitably entertained them; but your uncle said that Jeffrey was not at all at his ease, and was apparently so terrified at my father's religious reputation that he seemed afraid to utter a joke. Your uncle complained grievously that they travelled from manse to manse, and always came in for very long prayers and expositions. [Macaulay writes in his journal of August 8, 1859: "We passed my old acquaintance, Dumbarton castle, I remembered my first visit to Dumbarton, and the old minister, who insisted on our eating a bit of cake with him, and said a grace over it which might have been prologue to a dinner of the Fishmongers' Company, or the Grocers' Company."] I think, with all the love and reverence with which your uncle regarded his father's memory, there mingled a shade of bitterness that he had not met quite the encouragement and appreciation from him which he received from others. But such a son as he was! Never a disrespectful word or look; always anxious to please and amuse; and at last he was the entire stay and support of his father's declining years.
"Your uncle was of opinion that the course pursued by his father towards him during his youth was not judicious. But here I am inclined to disagree with him. There was no want of proof of the estimation in which his father held him, corresponding with him from a very early age as with a man, conversing with him freely, and writing of him most fondly. But, in the desire to keep down any conceit, there was certainly in my father a great outward show of repression and depreciation. Then the faults of your uncle were peculiarly those that my father had no patience with. Himself precise in his arrangements, writing a beautiful hand, particular about neatness, very accurate and calm, detesting strong expressions, and remarkably self-controlled; while his eager impetuous boy, careless of his dress, always forgetting to wash his hands and brush his hair, writing an execrable hand, and folding his letters with a great blotch for a seal, was a constant care and irritation. Many letters to your uncle have I read on these subjects. Sometimes a specimen of the proper way of folding a letter is sent him, (those were the sad days before envelopes were known,) and he is desired to repeat the experiment till he succeeds. General Macaulay's fastidious nature led him to take my father's line regarding your uncle, and my youthful soul was often vexed by the constant reprimands for venial transgressions. But the great sin was the idle reading, which was a thorn in my father's side that never was extracted. In truth, he really acknowledged to the full your uncle's abilities, and felt that if he could only add his own morale, his unwearied industry, his power of concentrating his energies on the work in hand, his patient painstaking calmness, to the genius and fervour which his son possessed, then a being might be formed who could regenerate the world. Often in later years I have heard my father, after expressing an earnest desire for some object, exclaim, 'If I had only Tom's power of speech!' But he should have remembered that all gifts are not given to one, and that perhaps such a union as he coveted is even impossible. Parents must be content to see their children walk in their own path, too happy if through any road they attain the same end, the living for the glory of God and the good of man."
From a marvellously early date in Macaulay's life public affairs divided his thoughts with literature, and, as he grew to manhood, began more and more to divide his aspirations. His father's house was much used as a centre of consultation by members of Parliament who lived in the suburbs on the Surrey side of London; and the boy could hardly have heard more incessant, and assuredly not more edifying, political talk if he had been brought up in Downing Street. The future advocate and interpreter of Whig principles was not reared in the Whig faith. Attached friends of Pitt, who in personal conduct, and habits of life, certainly came nearer to their standard than his great rival, --and warmly in favour of a war which, to their imagination, never entirely lost its early character of an internecine contest with atheism-- the Evangelicals in the House of Commons for the most part acted with the Tories. But it may be doubted whether, in the long run, their party would not have been better without them. By the zeal, the munificence, the laborious activity, with which they pursued their religious and semi-religious enterprises, they did more to teach the world how to get rid of existing institutions than by their votes and speeches at Westminster they contributed to preserve them. (Macaulay, writing to one of his sisters in 1844, says: "I think Stephen's article on the Clapham Sect the best thing he ever did, I do not think with you that the Claphamites were men too obscure for such delineation. The truth is that from that little knot of men emanated all the Bible Societies, and almost all the Missionary Societies, in the world. The whole organisation of the Evangelical party was their work. The share which they had in providing means for the education of the people was great. They were really the destroyers of the slave-trade, and of slavery. Many of those whom Stephen describes were public men of the greatest weight, Lord Teignmouth governed India in Calcutta, Grant governed India in Leadenhall Street, Stephen's father was Perceval's right-hand man in the House of Commons. It is needless to speak of Wilberforce. As to Simeon, if you knew what his authority and influence were, and how they extended from Cambridge to the most remote corners of England, you would allow that his real sway in the Church was far greater than that of any primate. Thornton, to my surprise, thinks the passage about my father unfriendly. I defended Stephen. The truth is that he asked my permission to draw a portrait of my father for the Edinburgh Review. I told him that I had only to beg that he would not give it the air of a puff; a thing which, for myself and for my friends, I dread far more than any attack. My influence over the Review is so well known that a mere eulogy of my father appearing in that work would only call forth derision. I therefore am really glad that Stephen has introduced into his sketch some little characteristic traits which, in themselves, were not beauties.") With their May meetings, and African Institutions, and Anti-slavery Reporters, and their subscriptions of tens of thousands of pounds, and their petitions bristling with hundreds of thousands of signatures, and all the machinery for informing opinion and bringing it to bear on ministers and legislators which they did so much to perfect and even to invent, they can be regarded as nothing short of the pioneers and fuglemen of that system of popular agitation which forms a leading feature in our internal history during the past half-century. At an epoch when the Cabinet which they supported was so averse to manifestations of political sentiment that a Reformer who spoke his mind in England was seldom long out of prison, and in Scotland ran a very serious risk of transportation, Toryism sat oddly enough on men who spent their days in the committee-room and their evenings on the platform, and each of whom belonged to more Associations combined for the purpose of influencing Parliament than he could count on the fingers of both his hands.
There was something incongruous in their position; and as time went on they began to perceive the incongruity. They gradually learned that measures dear to philanthropy might be expected to result from the advent to power of their opponents; while their own chief too often failed them at a pinch out of what appeared to them an excessive, and humiliating, deference to interests powerfully represented on the benches behind him. Their eyes were first opened by Pitt's change of attitude with regard to the object that was next all their hearts. There is something almost pathetic in the contrast between two entries in Wilberforce's diary, of which the first has become classical, but the second is not so generally known. In 1787, referring to the movement against the slave-trade, he says: "Pitt recommended me to undertake its conduct, as a subject suited to my character and talents. At length, I well remember, after a conversation in the open air at the root of an old tree at Holwood, just above the vale of Keston, I resolved to give notice on a fit occasion in the House of Commons of my intention to bring the subject forward." Twelve years later Mr. Henry Thornton had brought in a bill for confining the trade within certain limits upon the coast of Africa. "Upon the second reading of this bill," writes Wilberforce, "Pitt coolly put off the debate when I had manifested a design of answering P.'s speech, and so left misrepresentations without a word. William Smith's anger; --Henry Thornton's coolness; --deep impression on me, but conquered, I hope, in a Christian way."
Besides instructing their successors in the art of carrying on a popular movement, Wilberforce and his followers had a lesson to teach, the value of which not so many perhaps will be disposed to question. In public life, as in private, they habitually had the fear of God before their eyes. A mere handful as to number, and in average talent very much on a level with the mass of their colleagues; --counting in their ranks no orator, or minister, or boroughmonger; --they commanded the ear of the House, and exerted on its proceedings an influence, the secret of which those who have studied the Parliamentary history of the period find it only too easy to understand. To refrain from gambling and ball-giving, to go much to church and never to the theatre, was not more at variance with the social customs of the day than it was the exception in the political world to meet with men who looked to the facts of the case and not to the wishes of the minister, and who before going into the lobby required to be obliged with a reason instead of with a job. Confidence and respect, and (what in the House of Commons is their unvarying accompaniment) power, were gradually, and to a great extent involuntarily, accorded to this group of members. They were not addicted to crotchets, nor to the obtrusive and unseasonable assertion of conscientious scruples. The occasions on which they made proof of independence and impartiality were such as justified, and dignified, their temporary renunciation of party ties. They interfered with decisive effect in the debates on the great scandals of Lord Melville and the Duke of York, and in more than one financial or commercial controversy that deeply concerned the national interests, of which the question of the retaining the Orders in Council was a conspicuous instance. A boy who, like young Macaulay, was admitted to the intimacy of politicians such as these, and was accustomed to hear matters of state discussed exclusively from a public point of view without any afterthought of ambition, or jealousy, or self-seeking, could hardly fail to grow up a patriotic and disinterested man. "What is far better and more important than all is this, that I believe Macaulay to be incorruptible. You might lay ribbons, stars, garters, wealth, titles before him in vain. He has an honest genuine love of his country, and the world would not bribe him to neglect her interests." Thus said Sydney Smith, who of all his real friends was the least inclined to over-praise him.
The memory of Thornton and Babington, and the other worthies of their day and set, is growing dim, and their names already mean little in our ears. Part of their work was so thoroughly done that the world, as its wont is, has long ago taken the credit of that work to itself. Others of their undertakings, in weaker hands than theirs, seem out of date among the ideas and beliefs which now are prevalent. At Clapham, as elsewhere, the old order is changing, and not always in a direction which to them would be acceptable or even tolerable. What was once the home of Zachary Macaulay stands almost within the swing of the bell of a stately and elegant Roman Catholic chapel; and the pleasant mansion of Lord Teignmouth, the cradle of the Bible Society, is now a religious house of the Redemptorist Order. But in one shape or another honest performance always lives, and the gains that accrued from the labours of these men are still on the right side of the national ledger. Among the most permanent of those gains is their undoubted share in the improvement of our political integrity by direct, and still more by indirect, example. It would be ungrateful to forget in how large a measure it is due to them that one, whose judgments upon the statesmen of many ages and countries have been delivered to an audience vast beyond all precedent, should have framed his decisions in accordance with the dictates of honour and humanity, of ardent public spirit and lofty public virtue.
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