Chapter 4 -- 1830-1832
State of public affairs when Macaulay entered Parliament --
His maiden speech -- The French Revolution of July 1830 -- Macaulay's letters
from Paris -- The Palais Royal -- Lafayette -- Lardner's Cabinet Cyclopaedia
-- The new Parliament meets -- Fall of the Duke of Wellington -- Scene
with Croker -- The Reform Bill -- Political success -- House of Commons
life -- Macaulay's party spirit -- Loudon Society -- Mr. Thomas Flower
Ellis -- Visit to Cambridge -- Rothley Temple -- Margaret Macaulay's Journal
-- Lord Brougham -- Hopes of Office -- Macaulay as a politician -- Letters
to Hannah Macaulay, Mr. Napier, and Mr. Ellis.
Throughout the last two centuries of our history there never was
a period when a man conscious of power, impatient of public wrongs, and
still young enough to love a fight for its own sake, could have entered
Parliament with a fairer prospect of leading a life worth living, and doing
work that would requite the pains, than at the commencement of the year
In this volume, which only touches politics in order to show to what
extent Macaulay was a politician, and for how long, controversies cannot
appropriately be started or revived. This is not the place to enter into
a discussion on the vexed question as to whether Mr. Pitt and his successors,
in pursuing their system of repression, were justified by the necessities
of the long French war. It is enough to assert, what few or none will deny,
that, for the space of more than a generation from 1790 onwards, our country
had, with a short interval, been governed on declared reactionary principles.
We, in whose days Whigs and Tories have often exchanged office, and still
more often interchanged policies, find it difficult to imagine what must
have been the condition of the kingdom, when one and the same party almost
continuously held not only place, but power, throughout a period when,
to an unexampled degree, "public life was exasperated by hatred, and the
charities of private life soured by political aversion." (These expressions
occur in Lord Cockburn's Memorials of his Time.) Fear, religion, ambition,
and self-interest, --everything that could tempt and everything that could
deter, --were enlisted on the side of the dominant opinions. To profess
Liberal views was to be excluded from all posts of emolument, from all
functions of dignity, and from all opportunities of public usefulness.
The Whig leaders, while enjoying that security for life and liberty which
even in the worst days of our recent history has been the reward of eminence,
were powerless in the Commons and isolated in the Lords. No motive but
disinterested conviction kept a handful of veterans steadfast round a banner
which was never raised except to be swept contemptuously down by the disciplined
and overwhelming strength of the ministerial phalanx. Argument and oratory
were alike unavailing under a constitution which was indeed a despotism
of privilege. The county representation of England was an anomaly, and
the borough representation little better than a scandal. The constituencies
of Scotland, with so much else that of right belonged to the public, had
got into Dundas's pocket. In the year 1820 all the towns north of Tweed
together contained fewer voters than are now on the rolls of the single
burgh of Hawick, and all the counties together contained fewer voters than
are now on the register of Roxburghshire. So small a band of electors was
easily manipulated by a party leader who had the patronage of India at
his command. The three Presidencies were flooded with the sons and nephews
of men who were lucky enough to have a seat in a Town Council, or a superiority
in a rural district; and fortunate it was for our empire that the responsibilities
of that noblest of all careers soon educated young Indian Civil Servants
into something higher than mere adherents of a political party.
While the will of the nation was paralysed within the senate, effectual
care was taken that its voice should not be heard without. The press was
gagged in England, and throttled in Scotland. Every speech, or sermon,
or pamphlet, the substance of which a Crown lawyer could torture into a
semblance of sedition, sent its author to the jail, the hulks, or the pillory.
In any place of resort where an informer could penetrate, men spoke their
minds at imminent hazard of ruinous fines, and protracted imprisonment.
It was vain to appeal to Parliament for redress against the tyranny of
packed juries, and panic-driven magistrates. Sheridan endeavoured to retain
for his countrymen the protection of Habeas Corpus; but he could only muster
forty-one supporters. Exactly as many members followed Fox into the lobby
when he opposed a bill, which, interpreted in the spirit that then actuated
our tribunals, made attendance at an open meeting summoned for the consideration
of Parliamentary Reform a service as dangerous as night-poaching, and far
more dangerous than smuggling. Only ten more than that number ventured
to protest against the introduction of a measure, still more inquisitorial
in its provisions and ruthless in its penalties, which rendered every citizen
who gave his attention to the removal of public grievances liable at any
moment to find himself in the position of a criminal; --that very measure
in behalf of which Bishop Horsley had stated in the House of Peers that
he did not know what the mass of the people of any country had to do with
the laws, except to obey them.
Amidst a population which had once known freedom, and was still fit
to be entrusted with it, such a state of matters could not last for ever.
Justly proud of the immense success that they had bought by their resolution,
their energy, and their perseverance, the Ministers regarded the fall of
Napoleon as a party triumph which could only serve to confirm their power.
But the last cannon-shot that was fired on the 18th of June, was in truth
the death-knell of the golden age of Toryism. When the passion and ardour
of the war gave place to the discontent engendered by a protracted period
of commercial distress, the opponents of progress began to perceive that
they had to reckon, not with a small and disheartened faction, but with
a clear majority of the nation led by the most enlightened, and the most
eminent, of its sons. Agitators and incendiaries retired into the background,
as will always be the case when the country is in earnest; and statesmen
who had much to lose, but were not afraid to risk it, stepped quietly and
firmly to the front. The men, and the sons of the men, who had so long
endured exclusion from office, embittered by unpopularity, at length reaped
their reward. Earl Grey, who forty years before had been hooted through
the streets of North Shields with cries of "No Popery," lived to bear the
most respected name in England; and Brougham, whose opinions differed little
from those for expressing which Dr. Priestley in 1791 had his house burned
about his ears by the Birmingham mob, was now the popular idol beyond all
comparison or competition.
In the face of such unanimity of purpose, guided by so much worth and
talent, the Ministers lost their nerve, and, like all rulers who do not
possess the confidence of the governed, began first to make mistakes, and
then to quarrel among themselves. Throughout the years of Macaulay's early
manhood the ice was breaking fast. He was still quite young when the concession
of Catholic Emancipation gave a moral shock to the Tory party from which
it never recovered until the old order of things had finally passed away.
(Macaulay was fond of repeating an answer made to him by Lord Clarendon
in the year 1829. The young men were talking over the situation, and Macaulay
expressed curiosity as to the terms in which the Duke of Wellington would
recommend the Catholic Relief Bill to the Peers. "Oh," said the other,
"it will be easy enough. He'll say 'My lords! Attention! Right about face!
March!'") It was his fortune to enter into other men's labours after the
burden and heat of the day had already been borne, and to be summoned into
the field just as the season was at hand for gathering in a ripe and long-expected
harvest of beneficent legislation.
On the 5th of April, 1830, he addressed the House of Commons on the
second reading of Mr. Robert Grant's bill for the Removal of Jewish Disabilities.
Sir James Mackintosh rose with him, but Macaulay got the advantage of the
preference that has always been conceded to one who speaks for the first
time after gaining his seat during the continuance of a Parliament; --a
privilege which, by a stretch of generosity, is now extended to new members
who have been returned at a general election. Sir James subsequently took
part in the debate; not, as he carefully assured his audience, "to supply
any defects in the speech of his honourable friend, for there were none
that he could find, but principally to absolve his own conscience." Indeed,
Macaulay, addressing himself to his task with an absence of pretension
such as never fails to conciliate the goodwill of the House towards a maiden
speech, put clearly and concisely enough the arguments in favour of the
bill; --arguments which, obvious, and almost common-place, as they appear
under his straightforward treatment, had yet to be repeated during a space
of six and thirty years before they commended themselves to the judgment
of our Upper Chamber.
"The power of which you deprive the Jew consists in maces,
and gold chains, and skins of parchment with pieces of wax dangling from
their edges. The power which you leave the Jew is the power of principal
over clerk, of master over servant, of landlord over tenant. As things
now stand, a Jew may be the richest man in England. He may possess the
means of raising this party and depressing that; of making East Indian
directors; of making members of Parliament. The influence of a Jew may
be of the first consequence in a war which shakes Europe to the centre.
His power may come into play in assisting or thwarting the greatest plans
of the greatest princes; and yet, with all this confessed, acknowledged,
undenied, you would have him deprived of power! Does not wealth confer
power? How are we to permit all the consequences of that wealth but one?
I cannot conceive the nature of an argument that is to bear out such a
position. If we were to be called on to revert to the day when the warehouses
of Jews were torn down and pillaged, the theory would be comprehensible.
But we have to do with a persecution so delicate that there is no abstract
rule for its guidance. You tell us that the Jews have no legal right to
power, and I am bound to admit it; but in the same way, three hundred years
ago they had no legal right to be in England, and six hundred years ago
they had no legal right to the teeth in their heads. But, if it is the
moral right we are to look at, I hold that on every principle of moral
obligation the Jew has a right to political power."
He was on his legs once again, and once only, during his first Session;
doing more for future success in Parliament by his silence than he could
have effected by half a dozen brilliant perorations. A crisis was rapidly
approaching when a man gifted with eloquence, who by previous self-restraint
had convinced the House that he did not speak for speaking's sake, might
rise almost in a day to the very summit of influence and reputation. The
country was under the personal rule of the Duke of Wellington, who had
gradually squeezed out of his Cabinet every vestige of Liberalism, and
even of independence, and who at last stood so completely alone that he
was generally supposed to be in more intimate communication with Prince
Polignac than with any of his own colleagues. The Duke had his own way
in the Lords; and on the benches of the Commons the Opposition members
were unable to carry, or even visibly to improve their prospect of carrying,
the measures on which their hearts were set. The Reformers were not doing
better in the division lobby than in 1821; and their question showed no
signs of having advanced since the day when it had been thrown over by
Pitt on the eve of the French Revolution.
But the outward aspect of the situation was very far from answering
to the reality. While the leaders of the popular party had been spending
themselves in efforts that seemed each more abortive than the last, --dividing
only to be enormously outvoted, and vindicating with calmness and moderation
the first principles of constitutional government only to be stigmatised
as the apostles of anarchy,- -a mighty change was surely but imperceptibly
effecting itself in the collective mind of their fellow-countrymen.
"For, while the tired waves, vainly breaking,
Events were at hand, which unmistakably showed how different was the England
of 1830 from the England of 1790. The King died; Parliament was dissolved
on the 24th of July; and in the first excitement and bustle of the elections,
while the candidates were still on the roads and the writs in the mailbags,
came the news that Paris was in arms. The troops fought as well as Frenchmen
ever can be got to fight against the tricolour; but by the evening of the
29th it was all over with the Bourbons. The Minister, whose friendship
had reflected such unpopularity on our own Premier, succumbed to the detestation
of the victorious people, and his sacrifice did not save the dynasty. What
was passing among our neighbours for once created sympathy, and not repulsion,
on this side the Channel. One French Revolution had condemned English Liberalism
to forty years of subjection, and another was to be the signal which launched
it on as long a career of supremacy. Most men said, and all felt, that
Wellington must follow Polignac; and the public temper was such as made
it well for the stability of our throne that it was filled by a monarch
who had attracted to himself the hopes and affection of the nation, and
who shared its preferences and antipathies with regard to the leading statesmen
of the day.
Seem here no painful inch to gain,
Far back, through creeks and inlets making,
Comes silent, flooding in, the main."
One result of political disturbance in any quarter of the globe is to
fill the scene of action with young members of Parliament, who follow Revolutions
about Europe as assiduously as Jew brokers attend upon the movements of
an invading army. Macaulay, whose re-election for Calne had been a thing
of course, posted off to Paris at the end of August, journeying by Dieppe
and Rouen, and eagerly enjoying a first taste of continental travel. His
letters during the tour were such as, previously to the age of railroads,
brothers who had not been abroad before used to write for the edification
of sisters who expected never to go abroad at all. He describes in minute
detail manners and institutions that to us are no longer novelties, and
monuments which an educated Englishman of our time knows as well as Westminster
Abbey, and a great deal better than the Tower. Everything that he saw,
heard, ate, drank, paid, and suffered, was noted down in his exuberant
diction to be read aloud and commented on over the breakfast table in Great
"At Rouen," he says, "I was struck by the union of venerable antiquity
with extreme liveliness and gaiety. We have nothing of the sort in England.
Till the time of James the First, I imagine, our houses were almost all
of wood, and have in consequence disappeared. In York there are some very
old streets; but they are abandoned to the lowest people, and the gay shops
are in the newly-built quarter of the town. In London, what with the fire
of 1666, and what with the natural progress of demolition and rebuilding,
I doubt whether there are fifty houses that date from the Reformation.
But in Rouen you have street after street of lofty stern-looking masses
of stone, with Gothic carvings. The buildings are so high, and the ways
so narrow, that the sun can scarcely reach the pavements. Yet in these
streets, monastic in their aspect, you have all the glitter of Regent Street
or the Burlington Arcade. Rugged and dark, above, below they are a blaze
of ribands, gowns, watches, trinkets, artificial flowers; grapes, melons,
and peaches such as Covent Garden does not furnish, filling the windows
of the fruiterers; showy women swimming smoothly over the uneasy stones,
and stared at by national guards swaggering by in full uniform. It is the
Soho Bazaar transplanted into the gloomy cloisters of Oxford."
He writes to a friend just before he started on his tour: "There is
much that I am impatient to see, but two things specially, --the Palais
Royal, and the man who called me the Aristarchus of Edinburgh." Who this
person might be, and whether Macaulay succeeded in meeting him, are questions
which his letters leave unsolved; but he must have been a constant visitor
at the Palais Royal if the hours that he spent in it bore any relation
to the number of pages which it occupies in his correspondence. The place
was indeed well worth a careful study; for in 1830 it was not the orderly
and decent bazaar of the Second Empire, but was still that compound of
Parnassus and Bohemia which is painted in vivid colours in the "Grand Homme
de Province" of Balzac, --still the paradise of such ineffable rascals
as Diderot has drawn with terrible fidelity in his "Neveu de Rameau."
"If I were to select the spot in all the earth in which the
good and evil of civilisation are most strikingly exhibited, in which the
arts of life are carried to the highest perfection, and in which all pleasures,
high and low, intellectual and sensual, are collected in the smallest space,
I should certainly choose the Palais Royal. It is the Covent Garden Piazza,
the Paternoster Row, the Vauxhall, the Albion Tavern, the Burlington Arcade,
the Crockford's the Finish, the Athenaeum of Paris all in one. Even now,
when the first dazzling effect has passed off, I never traverse it without
feeling bewildered by its magnificent variety. As a great capital is a
country in miniature, so the Palais Royal is a capital in miniature,--an
abstract and epitome of a vast community, exhibiting at a glance the politeness
which adorns its higher ranks, the coarseness of its populace, and the
vices and the misery which lie underneath its brilliant exterior. Everything
is there, and everybody. Statesmen, wits, philosophers, beauties, dandies,
blacklegs, adventurers, artists, idlers, the king and his court, beggars
with matches crying for charity, wretched creatures dying of disease and
want in garrets. There is no condition of life which is not to be found
in this gorgeous and fantastic Fairyland."
Macaulay had excellent opportunities for seeing behind the scenes during
the closing acts of the great drama that was being played out through those
summer months. The Duc de Broglie, then Prime Minister, treated him with
marked attention, both as an Englishman of distinction, and as his father's
son. He was much in the Chamber of Deputies, and witnessed that strange
and pathetic historical revival when, after an interval of forty such years
as mankind had never known before, the aged La Fayette again stood forth,
in the character of a disinterested dictator, between the hostile classes
of his fellow-countrymen.
"De La Fayette is so overwhelmed with work that I scarcely
knew how to deliver even Brougham's letter, which was a letter of business,
and should have thought it absurd to send him Mackintosh's, which was a
mere letter of introduction, I fell in with an English acquaintance who
told me that he had an appointment with La Fayette, and who undertook to
deliver them both. I accepted his offer, for, if I had left them with the
porter, ten to one they would never have been opened. I hear that hundreds
of letters are lying in the lodge of the hotel. Every Wednesday morning,
from nine to eleven, La Fayette gives audience to anybody who wishes to
speak with him; but about ten thousand people attend on these occasions,
and fill, not only the house, but all the courtyard and half the street.
La Fayette is Commander in Chief of the National Guard of France. The number
of these troops in Paris alone is upwards of forty thousand. The Government
find a musket and bayonet; but the uniform, which costs about ten napoleons,
the soldiers provide themselves. All the shopkeepers are enrolled, and
I cannot sufficiently admire their patriotism. My landlord, Meurice, a
man who, I suppose, has realised a million francs or more, is up one night
in four with his firelock doing the duty of a common watchman.
Besides what is quoted above, there is very little of general interest
in these journal letters; and their publication would serve no purpose
except that of informing the present leader of the Monarchists what his
father had for breakfast and dinner during a week of 1830, and of enabling
him to trace changes in the disposition of the furniture of the De Broglie
hotel. "I believe," writes Macaulay, "that I have given the inventory of
every article in the Duke's salon. You will think that I have some intention
of turning upholsterer."
"There is, however, something to be said as an explanation of the zeal
with which the bourgeoisie give their time and money to the public. The
army received so painful a humiliation in the battles of July that it is
by no means inclined to serve the new system faithfully. The rabble behaved
nobly during the conflict, and have since shown rare humanity and moderation.
Yet those who remember the former Revolution feel an extreme dread of the
ascendency of mere multitude and there have been signs, trifling in themselves,
but such as may naturally alarm people of property. Workmen have struck.
Machinery has been attacked. Inflammatory handbills have appeared upon
the walls. At present all is quiet; but the thing may happen, particularly
if Polignac and Peyronnet should not be put to death. The Peers wish to
save them. The lower orders, who have had five or six thousand of their
friends and kinsmen butchered by the frantic wickedness of these men, will
hardly submit. 'Eh! eh!' said a fierce old soldier of Napoleon to me the
other day. 'L'on dit qu'ils seront deportes: mais ne m'en parle pas. Non!
non! Coupez-leur le cou. Sacre! Ca ne passera pas comme ca.'"
"This long political digression will explain to you why Monsieur De
La Fayette is so busy. He has more to do than all the Ministers together.
However, my letters were presented, and he said to my friend that he had
a soiree every Tuesday, and should be most happy to see me there. I drove
to his house yesterday night. Of the interest which the common Parisians
take in politics you may judge by this. I told my driver to wait for me,
and asked his number. 'Ah! monsieur, c'est un beau numero. C'est un brave
numero. C'est 221.' You may remember that the number of deputies who voted
the intrepid address to Charles the Tenth, which irritated him into his
absurd coup d'etat, was 221. I walked into the hotel through a crowd of
uniforms, and found the reception-rooms as full as they could hold. I was
not able to make my way to La Fayette; but I was glad to see him. He looks
like the brave, honest, simple, good-natured man that he is."
His thoughts and observations on weightier matters he kept for an article
on the State of Parties in France which he intended to provide for the
October number of the Edinburgh Review. While he was still at Paris, this
arrangement was rescinded by Mr. Napier in compliance with the wish, or
the whim, of Brougham; and Macaulay's surprise and annoyance vented itself
in a burst of indignant rhetoric strong enough to have upset a Government.
[See on page 142 the letter to Mr. Napier of September 16, 1831.] His wrath,
--or that part of it, at least, which was directed against the editor,
--did not survive an interchange of letters; and he at once set to work
upon turning his material into the shape of a volume for the series of
Lardner's Cabinet Cyclopaedia, under the title of "The History of France,
from the Restoration of the Bourbons to the Accession of Louis Philippe."
Ten years ago proofs of the first eighty-eight pages were found in Messrs.
Spottiswoode's printing office, with a note on the margin to the effect
that most of the type was broken up before the sheets had been pulled.
The task, as far as it went, was faithfully performed; but the author soon
arrived at the conclusion that he might find a more profitable investment
for his labour. With his head full of Reform, Macaulay was loth to spend
in epitomising history the time and energy that would be better employed
in helping to make it.
When the new Parliament met on the 26th of October it was already evident
that the Government was doomed. Where the elections were open, Reform had
carried the day. Brougham was returned for Yorkshire, a constituency of
tried independence, which before 1832 seldom failed to secure the triumph
of a cause into whose scale it had thrown its enormous weight. The counties
had declared for the Whigs by a majority of eight to five, and the great
cities by a majority of eight to one. Of the close boroughs in Tory hands
many were held by men who had not forgotten Catholic Emancipation, and
who did not mean to pardon their leaders until they had ceased to be Ministers.
In the debate on the Address the Duke of Wellington uttered his famous
declaration that the Legislature possessed, and deserved to possess, the
full and entire confidence of the country; that its existing constitution
was not only practically efficient but theoretically admirable; and that,
if he himself had to frame a system of representation, he should do his
best to imitate so excellent a model, though he admitted that the nature
of man was incapable at a single effort of attaining to such mature perfection.
His bewildered colleagues could only assert in excuse that their chief
was deaf, and wish that everybody else had been deaf too. The second ministerial
feat was of a piece with the first. Their Majesties had accepted an invitation
to dine at Guildhall on the 9th of November. The Lord Mayor elect informed
the Home Office that there was danger of riot, and the Premier, (who could
not be got to see that London was not Paris because his own political creed
happened to be much the same as Prince Polignac's,) advised the King to
postpone his visit to the City, and actually talked of putting Lombard
Street and Cheapside in military occupation. Such a step taken at such
a time by such a man had its inevitable result. Consols, which the Duke's
speech on the Address had brought from 84 to 80, fell to 77 in an hour
and a half; jewellers and silversmiths sent their goods to the banks; merchants
armed their clerks and barricaded their warehouses; and, when the panic
subsided, fear only gave place to the shame and annoyance which a loyal
people, whose loyalty was at that moment more active than ever, experienced
from the reflection that all Europe was discussing the reasons why our
King could not venture to dine in public with the Chief Magistrate of his
own capital. A strong Minister, who sends the funds down seven per cent.
in as many days, is an anomaly that no nation will consent to tolerate;
the members of the Cabinet looked forward with consternation to a scheme
of Reform which, with the approbation of his party, Brougham had undertaken
to introduce on the 15th of November; and when, within twenty-four hours
of the dreaded debate, they were defeated on a motion for a committee on
the Civil List, their relief at having obtained an excuse for retiring
at least equalled that which the country felt at getting rid of them.
Earl Grey came in, saying, (and meaning what he said,) that the principles
on which he stood were "amelioration of abuses, promotion of economy, and
the endeavour to preserve peace consistently with the honour of the country."
Brougham, who was very sore at having been forced to postpone his notice
on Reform on account of the ministerial crisis, had gratuitously informed
the House of Commons on two successive days that he had no intention of
taking office. A week later on he accepted the Chancellorship with an inconsistency
which his friends readily forgave, for they knew that, when he resolved
to join the Cabinet, he was thinking more of his party than of himself;
a consideration that naturally enough only sharpened the relish with which
his adversaries pounced upon this first of his innumerable scrapes. When
the new writ for Yorkshire was moved, Croker commented sharply on the position
in which the Chancellor was placed, and remarked that he had often heard
Brougham declare that "the characters of public men formed part of the
wealth of England;" --a reminiscence which was delivered with as much gravity
and unction as if it had been Mackintosh discoursing on Romilly. Unfortunately
for himself, Croker ruined his case by referring to a private conversation,
an error which the House of Commons always takes at least an evening to
forgive; and Macaulay had his audience with him as he vindicated the absent
orator with a generous warmth, which at length carried him so far that
he was interrupted by a call to order from the Chair. "The noble Lord had
but a few days for deliberation, and that at a time when great agitation
prevailed, and when the country required a strong and efficient Ministry
to conduct the government of the State. At such a period a few days are
as momentous as months would be at another period. It is not by the clock
that we should measure the importance of the changes that might take place
during such an interval. I owe no allegiance to the noble Lord who has
been transferred to another place; but as a member of this House I cannot
banish from my memory the extraordinary eloquence of that noble person
within these walls, --an eloquence which has left nothing equal to it behind;
and when I behold the departure of the great man from amongst us, and when
I see the place in which he sat, and from which he has so often astonished
us by the mighty powers of his mind, occupied this evening by the honourable
member who has commenced this debate, I cannot express the feelings and
emotions to which such circumstances give rise."
Parliament adjourned over Christmas; and on the 1st of March 1831 Lord
John Russell introduced the Reform Bill amidst breathless silence, which
was at length broken by peals of contemptuous laughter from the Opposition
benches, as he read the list of the hundred and ten boroughs which were
condemned to partial or entire disfranchisement. Sir Robert Inglis led
the attack upon a measure that he characterised as Revolution in the guise
of a statute. Next morning as Sir Robert was walking into town over Westminster
Bridge, he told his companion that up to the previous night he had been
very anxious, but that his fears were now at an end, inasmuch as the shock
caused by the extravagance of the ministerial proposals would infallibly
bring the country to its senses. On the evening of that day Macaulay made
the first of his Reform speeches. When he sat down the Speaker sent for
him, and told him that in all his prolonged experience he had never seen
the House in such a state of excitement. Even at this distance of time
it is impossible to read aloud the last thirty sentences without an emotion
which suggests to the mind what must have been their effect when declaimed
by one who felt every word that he spoke, in the midst of an assembly agitated
by hopes and apprehensions such as living men have never known, or have
("The question of Parliamentary Reform is still behind. But
signs, of which it is impossible to misconceive the import, do most clearly
indicate that, unless that question also be speedily settled, property,
and order, and all the institutions of this great monarchy, will he exposed
to fearful peril. Is it possible that gentlemen long versed in high political
affairs cannot read these signs? Is it possible that they can really believe
that the Representative system of England, such as it now is, will last
to the year 1860? If not, for what would they have us wait? Would they
have us wait, merely that we may show to all the world how little we have
profited by our own recent experience? Would they have us wait, that we
may once again hit the exact point where we can neither refuse with authority,
nor concede with grace? Would they have us wait, that the numbers of the
discontented party may become larger, its demands higher, its feelings
more acrimonious, its organisation more complete? Would they have us wait
till the whole tragicomedy of 1827 has been acted over again? till they
have been brought into office by a cry of 'No Reform,' to be reformers,
as they were once before brought into office by a cry of 'No Popery', to
be emancipators? Have they obliterated from their minds--gladly, perhaps,
would some among them obliterate from their minds--the transactions of
that year? And have they forgotten all the transactions of the succeeding
year? Have they forgotten how the spirit of liberty in Ireland, debarred
from its natural outlet, found a vent by forbidden passages? Have they
forgotten how we were forced to indulge the Catholics in all the license
of rebels, merely because we chose to withhold from them the liberties
of subjects? Do they wait for associations more formidable than that of
the Corn Exchange, for contributions larger than the Rent, for agitators
more violent than those who, three years ago, divided with the King and
the Parliament the sovereignty of Ireland? Do they wait for that last and
most dreadful paroxysm of popular rage, for that last and most cruel test
of military fidelity? Let them wait, if their past experience shall induce
them to think that any high honour or any exquisite pleasure is to be obtained
by a policy like this. Let them wait, if this strange and fearful infatuation
be indeed upon them, that they should not see with their eyes, or hear
with their ears, or understand with their heart. But let us know our interest
and our duty better. Turn where we may, within, around, the voice of great
events is proclaiming to us, Reform, that you may preserve. Now, therefore,
while everything at home and abroad forebodes ruin to those who persist
in a hopeless struggle against the spirit of the age, now, while the crash
of the proudest throne of the Continent is still resounding in our ears,
now, while the roof of a British palace affords an ignominious shelter
to the exiled heir of forty kings, now, while we see on every side ancient
institutions subverted, and great societies dissolved, now, while the heart
of England is still sound, now, while old feelings and old associations
retain a power and a charm which may too soon pass away, now, in this your
accepted time, now, in this your day of salvation, take counsel, not of
prejudice, not of party spirit, not of the ignominious pride of a fatal
consistency, but of history, of reason, of the ages which are past, of
the signs of this most portentous time. Pronounce in a manner worthy of
the expectation with which this great debate has been anticipated, and
of the long remembrance which it will leave behind. Renew the youth of
the State. Save property, divided against itself. Save the multitude, endangered
by its own ungovernable passions. Save the aristocracy, endangered by its
own unpopular power. Save the greatest, the fairest, and most highly civilised
community that ever existed, from calamities which may in a few days sweep
away all the rich heritage of so many ages of wisdom and glory. The danger
is terrible. The time is short. If this bill should he rejected, I pray
to God that none of those who concur in rejecting it may ever remember
their votes with unavailing remorse, amidst the wreck of laws, the confusion
of ranks, the spoliation of property, and the dissolution of social order.")
Sir Thomas Denman, who rose later on in the discussion, said, with universal
acceptance, that the orator's words remained tingling in the ears of all
who heard them, and would last in their memories as long as they had memories
to employ. That sense of proprietorship in an effort of genius, which the
House of Commons is ever ready to entertain, effaced for a while all distinctions
of party. "Portions of the speech," said Sir Robert Peel, "were as beautiful
as anything I have ever heard or read. It reminded one of the old times."
The names of Fox, Burke, and Canning were during that evening in everybody's
mouth; and Macaulay overheard with delight a knot of old members illustrating
their criticisms by recollections of Lord Plunket. He had reason to be
pleased; for he had been thought worthy of the compliment which the judgment
of Parliament reserves for a supreme occasion. In 1866, on the second reading
of the Franchise Bill, when the crowning oration of that memorable debate
had come to its close amidst a tempest of applause, one or two veterans
of the lobby, forgetting Macaulay on Reform, --forgetting, it may be, Mr.
Gladstone himself on the Conservative Budget of 1852, --pronounced, amidst
the willing assent of a younger generation, that there had been nothing
like it since Plunket.
The unequivocal success of the first speech into which he had thrown
his full power decided for some time to come the tenor of Macaulay's career.
During the next three years he devoted himself to Parliament, rivalling
Stanley in debate, and Hume in the regularity of his attendance. He entered
with zest into the animated and manysided life of the House of Commons,
of which so few traces can ordinarily be detected in what goes by the name
of political literature. The biographers of a distinguished statesman too
often seem to have forgotten that the subject of their labours passed the
best part of his waking hours, during the half of every year, in a society
of a special and deeply marked character, the leading traits of which are
at least as well worth recording as the fashionable or diplomatic gossip
that fills so many volumes of memoirs and correspondence. Macaulay's letters
sufficiently indicate how thoroughly he enjoyed the ease, the freedom,
the hearty good-fellowship, that reign within the precincts of our national
senate; and how entirely he recognised that spirit of noble equality, so
prevalent among its members, which takes little or no account of wealth,
or title, or indeed of reputation won in other fields, but which ranks
a man according as the value of his words, and the weight of his influence,
bear the test of a standard which is essentially its own.
In February 1831 he writes to Whewell: "I am impatient for Praed's debut.
The House of Commons is a place in which I would not promise success to
any man. I have great doubts even about Jeffrey. It is the most peculiar
audience in the world. I should say that a man's being a good writer, a
good orator at the bar, a good mob-orator, or a good orator in debating
clubs, was rather a reason for expecting him to fail than for expecting
him to succeed in the House of Commons. A place where Walpole succeeded
and Addison failed; where Dundas succeeded and Burke failed; where Peel
now succeeds and where Mackintosh fails; where Erskine and Scarlett were
dinner-bells; where Lawrence and Jekyll, the two wittiest men, or nearly
so, of their time, were thought bores, is surely a very strange place.
And yet I feel the whole character of the place growing upon me. I begin
to like what others about me like, and to disapprove what they disapprove.
Canning used to say that the House, as a body, had better taste than the
man of best taste in it, and I am very much inclined to think that Canning
The readers of Macaulay's letters will, from time to time, find reason
to wish that the young Whig of 1830 had more frequently practised that
studied respect for political opponents, which now does so much to correct
the intolerance of party among men who can be adversaries without ceasing
to regard each other as colleagues. But this honourable sentiment was the
growth of later days; and, at an epoch when the system of the past and
the system of the future were night after night in deadly wrestle on the
floor of St. Stephen's, the combatants were apt to keep their kindliness,
and even their courtesies, for those with whom they stood shoulder to shoulder
in the fray. Politicians, Conservative and Liberal alike, who were themselves
young during the Sessions of 1866 and 1867, and who can recall the sensations
evoked by a contest of which the issues were far less grave and the passions
less strong than of yore, will make allowances for one who, with the imagination
of a poet and the temperament of an orator, at thirty years old was sent
straight into the thickest of the tumult which then raged round the standard
of Reform, and will excuse him for having borne himself in that battle
of giants as a determined and a fiery partisan.
If to live intensely be to live happily, Macaulay had an enviable lot
during those stirring years; and, if the old songwriters had reason on
their side when they celebrated the charms of a light purse, he certainly
possessed that element of felicity. Among the earliest economical reforms
undertaken by the new Government was a searching revision of our Bankruptcy
jurisdiction, in the course of which his Commissionership was swept away,
without leaving him a penny of compensation. "I voted for the Bankruptcy
Court Bill," he said in answer to an inquisitive constituent. "There were
points in that Bill of which I did not approve, and I only refrained from
stating those points because an office of my own was at stake." When this
source fell dry he was for a while a poor man; for a member of Parliament,
who has others to think of besides himself, is anything but rich on sixty
or seventy pounds a quarter as the produce of his pen, and a college income
which has only a few more months to run. At a time when his Parliamentary
fame stood at its highest he was reduced to sell the gold medals which
he had gained at Cambridge; but he was never for a moment in debt; nor
did he publish a line prompted by any lower motive than the inspiration
of his political faith, or the instinct of his literary genius. He had
none but pleasant recollections connected with the period when his fortunes
were at their lowest. From the secure prosperity of after life he delighted
in recalling the time when, after cheering on the fierce debate for twelve
or fifteen hours together, he would walk home by daylight to his chambers,
and make his supper on a cheese which was a present from one of his Wiltshire
constituents, and a glass of the audit ale which reminded him that he was
still a fellow of Trinity.
With political distinction came social success, more rapid and more
substantial, perhaps, than has ever been achieved by one who took so little
trouble to win or to retain it. The circumstances of the time were all
in his favour. Never did our higher circles present so much that would
attract a new-comer, and never was there more readiness to admit within
them all who brought the honourable credentials of talent and celebrity.
In 1831 the exclusiveness of birth was passing away, and the exclusiveness
of fashion had not set in. The Whig party, during its long period of depression,
had been drawn together by the bonds of common hopes, and endeavours, and
disappointments; and personal reputation, whether literary, political,
or forensic, held its own as against the advantages of rank and money to
an extent that was never known before, and never since. Macaulay had been
well received in the character of an Edinburgh Reviewer, and his first
great speech in the House of Commons at once opened to him all the doors
in London that were best worth entering. Brought up, as he had been, in
a household which was perhaps the strictest and the homeliest among a set
of families whose creed it was to live outside the world, it put his strength
of mind to the test when he found himself courted and observed by the most
distinguished and the most formidable personages of the day. Lady Holland
listened to him with unwonted deference, and scolded him with a circumspection
that was in itself a compliment. Rogers spoke of him with friendliness,
and to him with positive affection, and gave him the last proof of his
esteem and admiration by asking him to name the morning for a breakfast-party.
He was treated with almost fatherly kindness by the able and worthy man
who is still remembered by the name of Conversation Sharp. Indeed, his
deference for the feelings of all whom he liked and respected, which an
experienced observer could detect beneath the eagerness of his manner and
the volubility of his talk, made him a favourite among those of a generation
above his own. He bore his honours quietly, and enjoyed them with the natural
and hearty pleasure of a man who has a taste for society, but whose ambitions
lie elsewhere. For the space of three seasons he dined out almost nightly,
and spent many of his Sundays in those suburban residences which, as regards
the company and the way of living, are little else than sections of London
removed into a purer air.
Before very long his habits and tastes began to incline in the direction
of domesticity, and even of seclusion; and, indeed, at every period of
his life he would gladly desert the haunts of those whom Pope and his contemporaries
used to term "the great," to seek the cheerful and cultured simplicity
of his home, or the conversation of that one friend who had a share in
the familiar confidence which Macaulay otherwise reserved for his nearest
relatives. This was Mr. Thomas Flower Ellis, whose reports of the proceedings
in King's Bench, extending over a whole generation, have established and
perpetuated his name as that of an acute and industrious lawyer. He was
older than Macaulay by four years. Though both Fellows of the same college,
they missed each other at the university, and it was not until 1827, on
the Northern circuit, that their acquaintance began. "Macaulay has joined,"
writes Mr. Ellis; "an amusing person; somewhat boyish in his manner, but
very original." The young barristers had in common an insatiable love of
the classics; and similarity of character, not very perceptible on the
surface, soon brought about an intimacy which ripened into an attachment
as important to the happiness of both concerned as ever united two men
through every stage of life and vicissitude of fortune. Mr. Ellis had married
early; but in 1839 he lost his wife, and Macaulay's helpful and heartfelt
participation in his great sorrow riveted the links of a chain that was
The letters contained in this volume will tell, better than the words
of any third person, what were the points of sympathy between the two companions,
and in what manner they lived together till the end came. Mr. Ellis survived
his friend little more than a year; not complaining or lamenting but going
about his work like a man from whose day the light has departed.
Brief and rare were the vacations of the most hard-worked Parliament
that had sat since the times of Pym and Hampden. In the late autumn of
1831, the defeat of the Reform Bill in the House of Lords delivered over
the country to agitation, resentment, and alarm; and gave a short holiday
to public men who were not Ministers, magistrates, or officers in the yeomanry.
Hannah and Margaret Macaulay accompanied their brother on a visit to Cambridge,
where they met with the welcome which young Masters of Arts delight in
providing for the sisters of a comrade of whom they are fond and proud.
"On the evening that we arrived," says Lady Trevelyan, "we met at dinner
Whewell, Sedgwick, Airy, and Thirlwail and how pleasant they were, and
how much they made of us two happy girls, who were never tired of seeing,
and hearing and admiring! We breakfasted, lunched, and dined with one or
the other of the set during our stay, and walked about the colleges all
day with the whole train. (A reminiscence from that week of refined and
genial hospitality survives in the Essay on Madame d'Arblay. The reception
which Miss Burney would have enjoyed at Oxford, if she had visited it otherwise
than as an attendant on Royalty, is sketched off with all the writer's
wonted spirit, and more than his wonted grace.) Whewell was then tutor;
rougher, but less pompous, and much more agreeable, than in after years;
though I do not think that he ever cordially liked your uncle. We then
went on to Oxford, which from knowing no one there seemed terribly dull
to us by comparison with Cambridge, and we rejoiced our brother's heart
by sighing after Trinity."
During the first half of his life Macaulay spent some months of every
year at the seat of his uncle, Mr. Babington, who kept open house for his
nephews and nieces throughout the summer and autumn. Rothley Temple, which
lies in a valley beyond the first ridge that separates the flat unattractive
country immediately round Leicester from the wild and beautiful scenery
of Charnwood Forest, is well worth visiting as a singularly unaltered specimen
of an old English home. The stately trees; the grounds, half park and half
meadow; the cattle grazing up to the very windows; the hall, with its stone
pavement rather below than above the level of the soil, hung with armour
rude and rusty enough to dispel the suspicion of its having passed through
a collector's hands; the low ceilings; the dark oak wainscot, carved after
primitive designs, that covered every inch of wall in bedroom and corridor;
the general air which the whole interior presented of having been put to
rights at the date of the Armada and left alone ever since; --all this
antiquity contrasted quaintly, but prettily enough, with the youth and
gaiety that lit up every corner of the ever-crowded though comfortable
mansion. In wet weather there was always a merry group sitting on the staircase,
or marching up and down the gallery; and, wherever the noise and fun were
most abundant, wherever there was to be heard the loudest laughter and
the most vehement expostulation, Macaulay was the centre of a circle
which was exclaiming at the levity of his remarks about the Blessed Martyr;
disputing with him on the comparative merits of Pascal, Racine, Corneille,
Moliere, and Boileau, or checking him as he attempted to justify his godparents
by running off a list of all the famous Thomases in history. The place
is full of his memories. His favourite walk was a mile of field-road and
lane which leads from the house to a lodge on the highway; and his favourite
point of view in that walk was a slight acclivity, whence the traveller
from Leicester catches his first sight of Rothley Temple, with its background
of hill and greenwood. He is remembered as sitting at the window in the
hall, reading Dante to himself, or translating it aloud as long as any
listener cared to remain within ear-shot. He occupied, by choice, a very
small chamber on the ground floor, through the window of which he could
escape unobserved while afternoon callers were on their way between the
front door and the drawing-room. On such occasions he would take refuge
in a boat moored under the shade of some fine oaks which still exist, though
the ornamental water on whose bank they stood has since been converted
into dry land.
A journal kept at intervals by Margaret Macaulay, some extracts from
which have here been arranged in the form of a continuous narrative, affords
a pleasant and faithful picture of her brother's home-life during the years
1831 and 1832. With an artless candour, from which his reputation will
not suffer, she relates the alternations of hope and disappointment through
which the young people passed when it began to be a question whether or
not he would be asked to join the Administration.
"I think I was about twelve when I first became very fond of
my brother, and from that time my affection for him has gone on increasing
during a period of seven years. I shall never forget my delight and enchantment
when I first found that he seemed to like talking to me. His manner was
very flattering to such a child, for he always took as much pains to amuse
me, and to inform me on anything I wished to know, as ho could have done
to the greatest person in the land. I have heard him express great disgust
towards those people who, lively and agreeable abroad, are a dead weight
in the family circle. I think the remarkable clearness of his style proceeds
in some measure from the habit of conversing with very young people, to
whom he has a great deal to explain and impart.
This conversation, to those who have heard Macaulay talk, bears unmistakable
signs of having been committed to paper while the words, --or, at any rate,
the outlines ,--of some of the most important sentences were fresh in his
sister's mind. Nature had predestined the two men to mutual antipathy.
Macaulay, who knew his own range and kept within it, and who gave the world
nothing except his best and most finished work, was fretted by the slovenly
omniscience of Brougham, who affected to be a walking encyclopaedia, "a
kind of semi-Solomon, half knowing everything from the cedar to the hyssop."
(These words are extracted from a letter written by Macaulay.) The student,
who, in his later years, never left his library for the House of Commons
without regret, had little in common with one who, like Napoleon, held
that a great reputation was a great noise; who could not change horses
without making a speech, see the Tories come in without offering to take
a judgeship, or allow the French to make a Revolution without proposing
to naturalise himself as a citizen of the new Republic. The statesman who
never deserted an ally, or distrusted a friend, could have no fellowship
with a free-lance, ignorant of the very meaning of loyalty; who, if the
surfeited pen of the reporter had not declined its task, would have enriched
our collections of British oratory by at least one Philippic against every
colleague with whom he had ever acted. The many who read this conversation
by the light of the public history of Lord Melbourne's Administration,
and still more the few who have access to the secret history of Lord Grey's
Cabinet, will acknowledge that seldom was a prediction so entirely fulfilled,
or a character so accurately read. And that it was not a prophecy composed
after the event is proved by the circumstance that it stands recorded in
the handwriting of one who died before it was accomplished.
"He reads his works to us in the manuscript, and, when we find fault,
as I very often do with his being too severe upon people, he takes it with
the greatest kindness, and often alters what we do not like. I hardly ever,
indeed, met with a sweeter temper than his. He is rather hasty, and when
he has not time for an instant's thought, he will sometimes return a quick
answer, for which he will be sorry the moment he has said it. But in a
conversation of any length, though it may be on subjects that touch him
very nearly, and though the person with whom he converses may be very provoking
and extremely out of temper, I never saw him lose his. He never uses this
superiority, as some do, for the purpose of irritating another still more
by coolness; but speaks in a kind, good-natured manner, as if he wished
to bring the other back to temper without appearing to notice that he had
"He at one time took a very punning turn, and we laid a wager in books,
my Mysteries of Udolpho against his German Theatre, that he could not make
two hundred puns in one evening. He did it, however, in two hours, and,
although they were of course most of them miserably bad, yet it was a proof
of great quickness.
"Saturday, February 26, 1831-- At dinner we talked of the Grants. Tom
said he had found Mr. Robert Grant walking about in the lobbies of the
House of Commons, and saying that he wanted somebody to defend his place
in the Government, which he heard was going to be attacked. 'What did you
say to him?' we asked. 'Oh, I said nothing; but, if they'll give me the
place, I'll defend it. When I am Judge Advocate, I promise you that I will
not go about asking anyone to defend me.'
"After dinner we played at capping verses, and after that at a game
in which one of the party thinks of something for the others to guess at.
Tom gave the slug that killed Perceval, the lemon that Wilkes squeezed
for Doctor Johnson, the pork-chop which Thurtell ate after he had murdered
Weare, and Sir Charles Macarthy's jaw which was sent by the Ashantees as
a present to George the Fourth.
"Someone mentioned an acquaintance who had gone to the West Indies,
hoping to make money, but had only ruined the complexions of his daughters.
Mr. Walker was sent to Berbice
"I never saw anything like the fun and humour that kindles in his eye when
a repartee or verse is working in his brain.
By the greatest of statesmen and earls.
He went to bring back yellow boys,
But he only brought back yellow girls.
"March 3, 1831-- Yesterday morning Hannah and I walked part of the way
to his chambers with Tom, and, as we separated, I remember wishing him
good luck and success that night. He went through it most triumphantly,
and called down upon himself admiration enough to satisfy even his sister.
I like so much the manner in which he receives compliments. He does not
pretend to be indifferent, but smiles in his kind and animated way, with
'I am sure it is very kind of you to say so,' or something of that nature.
His voice from cold and over-excitement got quite into a scream towards
the last part. A person told him that he had not heard such speaking since
Fox. 'You have not heard such screaming since Fox,' he said.
"March 24, 1831-- By Tom's account, there never was such a scene of
agitation as the House of Commons presented at the passing of the second
reading of the Reform Bill the day before yesterday, or rather yesterday,
for they did not divide till three or four in the morning. When dear Tom
came the next day he was still very much excited, which I found to my cost,
for when I went out to walk with him he walked so very fast that I could
scarcely keep up with him at all. With sparkling eyes he described the
whole scene of the preceding evening in the most graphic manner.
"'I suppose the Ministers are all in high spirits,' said Mamma. 'In
spirits, Ma'am? I'm sure I don't know. In bed, I'll answer for it.' Mamma
asked him for franks, that she might send his speech to a lady [This lady
was Mrs. Hannah More.] who, though of high Tory principles, is very fond
of Tom, and has left him in her will her valuable library. 'Oh, no,' he
said, 'don't send it. If you do, she'll cut me off with a prayer-book.'
"Tom is very much improved in his appearance during the last two or
three years. His figure is not so bad for a man of thirty as for a man
of twenty-two. He dresses better, and his manners, from seeing a great
deal of society, are very much improved. When silent and occupied in thought,
walking up and down the room as he always does, his hands clenched and
muscles working with the intense exertion of his mind, strangers would
think his countenance stern; but I remember a writing-master of ours, when
Tom had come into the room and left it again, saying, 'Ladies, your brother
looks like a lump of good-humour!'
"March 30, 1831-- Tom has just left me, after a very interesting conversation.
He spoke of his extreme idleness. He said: 'I never knew such an idle man
as I am. When I go in to Empson or Ellis their tables are always covered
with books and papers. I cannot stick at anything for above a day or two.
I mustered industry enough to teach myself Italian. I wish to speak Spanish.
I know I could master the difficulties in a week, and read any book in
the language at the end of a month, but I have not the courage to attempt
it. If there had not been really something in me, idleness would have ruined
"I said that I was surprised at the great accuracy of his information,
considering how desultory his reading had been. 'My accuracy as to facts,'
he said, 'I owe to a cause which many men would not confess. It is due
to my love of castle-building. The past is in my mind soon constructed
into a romance.' He then went on to describe the way in which from his
childhood his imagination had been filled by the study of history. 'With
a person of my turn,' he said, 'the minute touches are of as great interest,
and perhaps greater, than the most important events. Spending so much time
as I do in solitude, my mind would have rusted by gazing vacantly at the
shop windows. As it is, I am no sooner in the streets than I am in Greece,
in Rome, in the midst of the French Revolution. Precision in dates, the
day or hour in which a man was born or died, becomes absolutely necessary.
A slight fact, a sentence, a word, are of importance in my romance. Pepys's
Diary formed almost inexhaustible food for my fancy. I seem to know every
inch of Whitehall. I go in at Hans Holbein's gate, and come out through
the matted gallery. The conversations which I compose between great people
of the time are long, and sufficiently animated; in the style, if not with
the merits, of Sir Walter Scott's. The old parts of London, which you are
sometimes surprised at my knowing so well, those old gates and houses down
by the river, have all played their part in my stories.' He spoke, too,
of the manner in which he used to wander about Paris, weaving tales of
the Revolution, and he thought that he owed his command of language greatly
to this habit.
"I am very sorry that the want both of ability and memory should prevent
my preserving with greater truth a conversation which interested me very
"May 21, 1831-- Tom was from London at the time my mother's death occurred,
and things fell out in such a manner that the first information he received
of it was from the newspapers. He came home directly. He was in an agony
of distress, and gave way at first to violent bursts of feeling. During
the whole of the week he was with us all day, and was the greatest comfort
to us imaginable. He talked a great deal of our sorrow, and led the conversation
by degrees to other subjects, bearing the whole burden of it himself and
interesting us without jarring with the predominant feeling of the time.
I never saw him appear to greater advantage-- never loved him more dearly.
"September 1831-- Of late we have walked a good deal. I remember pacing
up and down Brunswick Square and Lansdowne Place for two hours one day,
deep in the mazes of the most subtle metaphysics; --up and down Cork Street,
engaged over Dryden's poetry and the great men of that time; --making jokes
all the way along Bond Street, and talking politics everywhere.
"Walking in the streets with Tom and Hannah, and talking about the hard
work the heads of his party had got now, I said:
"'How idle they must think you, when they meet you here in the busy
part of the day!' 'Yes, here I am,' said he, 'walking with two unidea'd
girls. [Boswell relates in his tenth chapter how Johnson scolded Langton
for leaving "his social friends, to go and sit with a set of wretched unidea'd
girls."] However, if one of the Ministry says to me, "Why walk you here
all the day idle?" I shall say, "Because no man has hired me."'
"We talked of eloquence, which he has often compared to fresco-painting:
the result of long study and meditation, but at the moment of execution
thrown off with the greatest rapidity; what has apparently been the work
of a few hours being destined to last for ages.
"Mr. Tierney said he was sure Sir Philip Francis had written Junius,
for he was the proudest man he ever knew, and no one ever heard of anything
he had done to be proud of.
"November 14, 1831, half-past-ten-- On Friday last Lord Grey sent for
Tom. His note was received too late to be acted on that day. On Saturday
came another, asking him to East Sheen on that day, or Sunday. Yesterday,
accordingly, he went, and stayed the night, promising to be here as early
as possible to-day. So much depends upon the result of this visit! That
he will be offered a place I have not the least doubt. He will refuse a
Lordship of the Treasury, a Lordship of the Admiralty, or the Mastership
of the Ordnance. He will accept the Secretaryship of the Board of Control,
but will not thank them for it; and would not accept that, but that he
thinks it will be a place of importance during the approaching discussions
on the East Indian monopoly.
"If he gets a sufficient salary, Hannah and I shall most likely live
with him. Can I possibly look forward to anything happier? I cannot imagine
a course of life that would suit him better than thus to enjoy the pleasures
of domestic life without its restraints; with sufficient business, but
not, I hope, too much.
"At one o'clock he came. I went out to meet him. 'I have nothing to
tell you. Nothing. Lord Grey sent for me to speak about a matter of importance,
which must be strictly private.'
"November 27-- I am just returned from a long walk, during which the
conversation turned entirely on one subject. After a little previous talk
about a certain great personage, [The personage was Lord Brougham, who
at this time was too formidable for the poor girl to venture to write his
name at length even in a private journal.] I asked Tom when the present
coolness between them began. He said: 'Nothing could exceed my respect
and admiration for him in early days. I saw at that time private letters
in which he spoke highly of my articles, and of me as the most rising man
of the time. After a while, however, I began to remark that he became extremely
cold to me, hardly ever spoke to me on circuit, and treated me with marked
slight. If I were talking to a man, if he wished to speak to him on politics
or anything else that was not in any sense a private matter, he always
drew him away from me instead of addressing us both. When my article on
Hallam came out, he complained to Jeffrey that I took up too much of the
Review; and, when my first article on Mill appeared, he foamed with rage,
and was very angry with Jeffrey for having printed it.'
"'But,' said I,' the Mills are friends of his, and he naturally did
not like them to be attacked.'
"'On the contrary,' said Tom, 'he had attacked them fiercely himself;
but he thought I had made a hit, and was angry accordingly. When a friend
of mine defended my articles to him, he said: "I know nothing of the articles.
I have not read Macaulay's articles." What can be imagined more absurd
than his keeping up an angry correspondence with Jeffrey about articles
he has never read? Well, the next thing was that Jeffrey, who was about
to give up the editorship, asked me if I would take it. I said that I would
gladly do so, if they would remove the headquarters of the Review to London.
Jeffrey wrote to him about it. He disapproved of it so strongly that the
plan was given up. The truth was that he felt that his power over the Review
diminished as mine increased, and he saw that he would have little indeed
if I were editor.
"'I then came into Parliament. I do not complain that he should have
preferred Denman's claims to mine, and that he should have blamed Lord
Lansdowne for not considering him. I went to take my seat. As I turned
from the table at which I had been taking the oaths, he stood as near to
me as you do now, and he cut me dead. We never spoke in the House, excepting
once, that I can remember, when a few words passed between us in the lobby.
I have sat close to him when many men of whom I knew nothing have introduced
themselves to me to shake hands, and congratulate me after making a speech,
and he has never said a single word. I know that it is jealousy, because
I am not the first man whom he has used in this way. During the debate
on the Catholic claims he was so enraged because Lord Plunket had made
a very splendid display, and because the Catholics had chosen Sir Francis
Burdett instead of him to bring the Bill forward, that he threw every difficulty
in its way. Sir Francis once said to him: "Really, Mr .-- , you are so
jealous that it is impossible to act with you." I never will serve in an
Administration of which he is the head. On that I have most firmly made
up my mind. I do not believe that it is in his nature to be a month in
office without caballing against his colleagues. ["There never was a direct
personal rival, or one who was in a position which, however reluctantly,
implied rivalry, to whom he has been just; and on the fact of this ungenerous
jealousy I do not understand that there is any difference of opinion."--Lord
"'He is, next to the King, the most popular man in England. There is
no other man whose entrance into any town in the kingdom would be so certain
to be with huzzaing and taking off of horses. At the same time he is in
a very ticklish situation, for he has no real friends. Jeffrey, Sydney
Smith, Mackintosh, all speak of him as I now speak to you. I was talking
to Sydney Smith of him the other day, and said that, great as I felt his
faults to be, I must allow him a real desire to raise the lower orders,
and do good by education, and those methods upon which his heart has been
always set. Sydney would not allow this, or any other, merit. Now, if those
who are called his friends feel towards him, as they all do, angry and
sore at his overbearing, arrogant, and neglectful conduct, when those reactions
in public feeling, which must come, arrive, he will have nothing to return
upon, no place of refuge, no hand of such tried friends as Fox and Canning
had to support him. You will see that he will soon place himself in a false
position before the public. His popularity will go down, and he will find
himself alone. Mr. Pitt, it is true, did not study to strengthen himself
by friendships but this was not from jealousy. I do not love the man, but
I believe he was quite superior to that. It was from a solitary pride he
had. I heard at Holland House the other day that Sir Philip Francis said
that, though he hated Pitt, he must confess there was something fine in
seeing how he maintained his post by himself. "The lion walks alone," he
said. "The jackals herd together."'"
"January 3, 1832-- Yesterday Tom dined at Holland House, and
heard Lord Holland tell this story. Some paper was to be published by Mr.
Fox, in which mention was made of Mr. Pitt having been employed at a club
in a manner that would have created scandal. Mr. Wilberforce went to Mr.
Fox, and asked him to omit the passage. 'Oh, to be sure,' said Mr. Fox;
'if there are any good people who would be scandalised, I will certainly
put it out!' Mr. Wilberforce then preparing to take his leave, he said:
'Now, Mr. Wilberforce, if, instead of being about Mr. Pitt, this had been
an account of my being seen gaming at White's on a Sunday, would you have
taken so much pains to prevent it being known?' 'I asked this,' said Mr.
Fox, 'because I wanted to see what he would say, for I knew he would not
tell a lie about it. He threw himself back, as his way was, and only answered:
"Oh, Mr. Fox, you are always so pleasant!"'
The last words here quoted will be very generally regarded as the tribute
of a sister's fondness. Many, who readily admit that Macaulay's name will
go down to posterity linked with eventful times and great deeds, make that
admission with reference to times not his own, and deeds in which he had
no part except to commemorate them with his pen. To him, as to others,
a great reputation of a special order brought with it the consequence that
the credit, which he deserved for what he had done well, was overshadowed
by the renown of what he did best. The world, which has forgotten that
Newton excelled as an administrator, and Voltaire as a man of business,
remembers somewhat faintly that Macaulay was an eminent orator and, for
a time at least, a strenuous politician. The universal voice of his contemporaries,
during the first three years of his parliamentary career, testifies to
the leading part which he played in the House of Commons, so long as with
all his heart he cared, and with all his might he tried, to play it. Jeffrey,
(for it is well to adduce none but first-rate evidence,) says in his account
of an evening's discussion on the second reading of the Reform Bill: "Not
a very striking debate. There was but one exception, and it was a brilliant
one. I mean Macaulay, who surpassed his former appearance in closeness,
fire, and vigour, and very much improved the effect of it by a more steady
and graceful delivery. It was prodigiously cheered, as it deserved, and
I think puts him clearly at the head of the great speakers, if not the
debaters, of the House." And again, on the 17th of December: "Macaulay
made, I think, the best speech he has yet delivered; the most condensed,
at least, and with the greatest weight of matter. It contained, indeed,
the only argument to which any of the speakers who followed him applied
themselves." Lord Cockburn, who sat under the gallery for twenty-seven
hours during the last three nights of the Bill, pronounced Macaulay's speech
to have been "by far the best;" though, like a good Scotchman, he asserts
that he heard nothing at Westminster which could compare with Dr. Chalmers
in the General Assembly. Sir James Mackintosh writes from the Library of
the House of Commons: "Macaulay and Stanley have made two of the finest
speeches ever spoken in Parliament;" and a little further on he classes
together the two young orators as "the chiefs of the next, or rather of
"January 8, 1832-- Yesterday Tom dined with us, and stayed late. He
talked almost uninterruptedly for six hours. In the evening he made a great
many impromptu charades in verse. I remember he mentioned a piece of impertinence
of Sir Philip Francis. Sir Philip was writing a history of his own time,
with characters of its eminent men, and one day asked Mr. Tierney if he
should like to hear his own character. Of course he said 'Yes,' and it
was read to him. It was very flattering, and he expressed his gratification
for so favourable a description of himself. 'Subject to revision, you must
remember, Mr. Tierney,' said Sir Philip, as he laid the manuscript by;
'subject to revision according to what may happen in the future.'
"I am glad Tom has reviewed old John Bunyan. Many are reading it who
never read it before. Yesterday, as he was sitting in the Athenaeum, a
gentleman called out: 'Waiter, is there a copy of the Pilgrim's Progress
in the library?' As might be expected, there was not.
"February 12, 1832-- This evening Tom came in, Hannah and I being alone.
He was in high boyish spirits. He had seen Lord Lansdowne in the morning,
who had requested to speak with him. His Lordship said that he wished to
have a talk about his taking office, not with any particular thing in view,
as there was no vacancy at present, and none expected, but that he should
be glad to know his wishes in order that he might be more able to serve
him in them.
"Tom, in answer, took rather a high tone. He said he was a poor man,
but that he had as much as he wanted, and, as far as he was personally
concerned, had no desire for office. At the same time he thought that,
after the Reform Bill had passed, it would be absolutely necessary that
the Government should be strengthened; that he was of opinion that he could
do it good service; that he approved of its general principles, and should
not be unwilling to join it. Lord Lansdowne said that they all, --and he
particularly mentioned Lord Grey, --felt of what importance to them his
help was, and that he now perfectly understood his views.
"February 13, 1832-- It has been much reported, and has even appeared
in the newspapers, that the Ministers were doing what they could to get
Mr. Robert Grant out of the way to make room for Tom. Last Sunday week
it was stated in the John Bull that Madras had been offered to the Judge
Advocate for this purpose, but that he had refused it. Two or three nights
since, Tom, in endeavouring to get to a high bench in the House, stumbled
over Mr. Robert Grant's legs, as he was stretched out half asleep. Being
roused he apologised in the usual manner, and then added, oddly enough:
'I am very sorry, indeed, to stand in the way of your mounting.'
"March 15, 1832-- Yesterday Hannah and I spent a very agreeable afternoon
"He began to talk of his idleness. He really came and dawdled with us
all day long; he had not written a line of his review of Burleigh's Life,
and he shrank from beginning on such a great work. I asked him to put it
by for the present, and write a light article on novels. This he seemed
to think he should like, and said he could get up an article on Richardson
in a very short time, but he knew of no book that he could hang it on.
Hannah advised that he should place at the head of this article a fictitious
title in Italian of a critique on Clarissa Harlowe, published at Venice.
He seemed taken with this idea, but said that, if he did such a thing,
he must never let his dearest friend know.
"I was amused with a parody of Tom's on the nursery song 'Twenty pounds
shall marry me,' as applied to the creation of Peers.
What though now opposed I be?
Sir Robert Peel has been extremely complimentary to him. One sentence he
repeated to us: 'My only feeling towards that gentleman is a not ungenerous
envy, as I listened to that wonderful flow of natural and beautiful language,
and to that utterance which, rapid as it is, seems scarcely able to convey
its rich freight of thought and fancy!' People say that these words were
evidently carefully prepared.
Twenty Peers shall carry me.
If twenty won't, thirty will,
For I'm his Majesty's bouncing Bill.
"I have just been looking round our little drawing-room, as if trying
to impress every inch of it on my memory, and thinking how in future years
it will rise before my mind as the scene of many hours of light-hearted
mirth; how I shall again see him, lolling indolently on the old blue sofa,
or strolling round the narrow confines of our room. With such a scene will
come the remembrance of his beaming countenance, happy affectionate smile,
and joyous laugh; while, with everyone at ease around him, he poured out
the stores of his full mind in his own peculiarly beautiful and expressive
language, more delightful here than anywhere else, because more perfectly
unconstrained. The name which passes through this little room in the quiet,
gentle tones of sisterly affection is a name which will be repeated through
distant generations, and go down to posterity linked with eventful times
and great deeds."
To gain and keep the position that Mackintosh assigned him Macaulay
possessed the power, and in early days did not lack the will. He was prominent
on the Parliamentary stage, and active behind the scenes; --the soul of
every honourable project which might promote the triumph of his principles,
and the ascendency of his party. One among many passages in his correspondence
may be quoted without a very serious breach of ancient and time-worn confidences.
On the 17th of September, 1831, he writes to his sister Hannah: "I have
been very busy since I wrote last, moving heaven and earth to render it
certain that, if our ministers are so foolish as to resign in the event
of a defeat in the Lords, the Commons may be firm and united; and I think
that I have arranged a plan which will secure a bold and instant declaration
on our part, if necessary. Lord Ebrington is the man whom I have in my
eye as our leader. I have had much conversation with him, and with several
of our leading county members. They are all staunch; and I will answer
for this, --that, if the ministers should throw us over, we will be ready
to defend ourselves."
The combination of public spirit, political instinct, and legitimate
self-assertion, which was conspicuous in Macaulay's character, pointed
him out to some whose judgment had been trained by long experience of affairs
as a more than possible leader in no remote future; and it is not for his
biographer to deny that they had grounds for their conclusion. The prudence,
the energy, the self-reliance, which he displayed in another field, might
have been successfully directed to the conduct of an executive policy,
and the management of a popular assembly. Macaulay never showed himself
deficient in the qualities which enable a man to trust his own sense; to
feel responsibility, but not to fear it; to venture where others shrink;
to decide while others waver; with all else that belongs to the vocation
of a ruler in a free country. But it was not his fate; it was not his work;
and the rank which he might have claimed among the statesmen of Britain
was not ill exchanged for the place which he occupies in the literature
of the world.
To Macvey Napier, Esq.
York: March 22, 1830.
My dear Sir, --I was in some doubt as to what I should be able to do
for Number 101, and I deferred writing till I could make up my mind. If
my friend Ellis's article on Greek History, of which I have formed high
expectations, could have been ready, I should have taken a holiday. But,
as there is no chance of that for the next number, I ought, I think, to
consider myself as his bail, and to surrender myself to your disposal in
I have been thinking of a subject, light and trifling enough, but perhaps
not the worse for our purpose on that account. We seldom want a sufficient
quantity of heavy matter. There is a wretched poetaster of the name of
Robert Montgomery who has written some volumes of detestable verses on
religious subjects, which by mere puffing in magazines and newspapers have
had an immense sale, and some of which are now in their tenth or twelfth
editions. I have for some time past thought that the trick of puffing,
as it is now practised both by authors and publishers, is likely to degrade
the literary character, and to deprave the public taste, in a frightful
degree. I really think that we ought to try what effect satire will have
upon this nuisance, and I doubt whether we can ever find a better opportunity.
Yours very faithfully
T. B. MACAULAY.
To Macvey Napier, Esq.
It cannot be denied that there was some ground for the imputation of systematic
puffing which Macaulay urges with a freedom that a modern editor would
hardly permit to the most valued contributor. Brougham had made a speech
on Slavery in the House of Commons; but time was wanting to get the Corrected
Report published soon enough for him to obtain his tribute of praise in
the body of the Review. The unhappy Mr. Napier was actually reduced to
append a notice to the July number regretting that "this powerful speech,
which, as we are well informed, produced an impression on those who heard
it not likely to be forgotten, or to remain barren of effects, should have
reached us at a moment when it was no longer possible for us to notice
its contents at any length. . . . On the eve of a general election to the
first Parliament of a new reign, we could have wished to be able to contribute
our aid towards the diffusion of the facts and arguments here so strikingly
and commandingly stated and enforced, among those who are about to exercise
the elective franchise. . . . We trust that means will be taken to give
the widest possible circulation to the Corrected Report. Unfortunately,
we can, at present, do nothing more than lay before our readers its glowing
peroration-- so worthy of this great orator, this unwearied friend of liberty
London: August 19, 1830.
My dear Sir, --The new number appeared this morning in the shop windows.
The article on Niebuhr contains much that is very sensible; but it is not
such an article as so noble a subject required. I am not like Ellis, Niebuhr-mad;
and I agree with many of the remarks which the reviewer has made both on
this work, and on the school of German critics and historians. But surely
the reviewer ought to have given an account of the system of exposition
which Niebuhr has adopted, and of the theory which he advances respecting
the Institutions of Rome. The appearance of the book is really an era in
the intellectual history of Europe, and I think that the Edinburgh Review
ought at least to have given a luminous abstract of it. The very circumstance
that Niebuhr's own arrangement and style are obscure, and that his translators
have need of translators to make them intelligible to the multitude, rendered
it more desirable that a clear and neat statement of the points in controversy
should be laid before the public. But it is useless to talk of what cannot
be mended. The best editors cannot always have good writers, and the best
writers cannot always write their best.
I have no notion on what ground Brougham imagines that I am going to
review his speech. He never said a word to me on the subject. Nor did I
ever say either to him, or to anyone else, a single syllable to that effect.
At all events I shall not make Brougham's speech my text. We have had quite
enough of puffing and flattering each other in the Review. It is a vile
taste for men united in one literary undertaking to exchange their favours.
I have a plan of which I wish to know your opinion. In ten days, or
thereabouts, I set off for France, where I hope to pass six weeks. I shall
be in the best society, that of the Duc de Broglie, Guizot, and so on.
I think of writing an article on the Politics of France since the Restoration,
with characters of the principal public men, and a parallel between the
present state of France and that of England. I think that this might be
made an article of extraordinary interest. I do not say that I could make
it so. It must, you will perceive, be a long paper, however concise I may
try to be; but as the subject is important, and I am not generally diffuse,
you must not stint me. If you like this scheme, let me know as soon as
Ever yours truly
T. B. MACAULAY.
To Macvey Napier, Esq.
A few soft words induced Macaulay to reconsider his threat of withdrawing
from the Review; but, even before Mr. Napier's answer reached him, the
feeling of personal annoyance had already been effaced by a greater sorrow.
A letter arrived, announcing that his sister Jane had died suddenly and
most unexpectedly. She was found in the morning lying as though still asleep,
having passed away so peacefully as not to disturb a sister who had spent
the night in the next room, with a door open between them. Mrs. Macaulay
never recovered from this shock. Her health gave way, and she lived into
the coming year only so long as to enable her to rejoice in the first of
her son's Parliamentary successes.
Paris: September 16, 1830.
My dear Sir, --I have just received your letter, and I cannot deny that
I am much vexed at what has happened. It is not very agreeable to find
that I have thrown away the labour, the not unsuccessful labour as I thought,
of a month; particularly as I have not many months of perfect leisure.
This would not have happened if Brougham had notified his intentions to
you earlier, as he ought in courtesy to you, and to everybody connected
with the Review, to have done. He must have known that this French question
was one on which many people would be desirous to write.
I ought to tell you that I had scarcely reached Paris when I received
a letter containing a very urgent application from a very respectable quarter.
I was desired to write a sketch, in one volume, of the late Revolution
here. Now, I really hesitated whether I should not make my excuses to you,
and accept this proposal, --not on account of the pecuniary terms, for
about these I have never much troubled myself-- but because I should have
had ampler space for this noble subject than the Review would have afforded.
I thought, however, that this would not be a fair or friendly course towards
you. I accordingly told the applicants that I had promised you an article,
and that I could not well write twice in one month on the same subject
without repeating myself. I therefore declined; and recommended a person
whom I thought quite capable of producing an attractive book on these events.
To that person my correspondent has probably applied. At all events I cannot
revive the negotiation. I cannot hawk my rejected articles up and down
I am, therefore, a good deal vexed at this affair; but I am not at all
surprised at it. I see all the difficulties of your situation. Indeed,
I have long foreseen them. I always knew that in every association, literary
or political, Brougham would wish to domineer. I knew also that no Editor
of the Edinburgh Review could, without risking the ruin of the publication,
resolutely oppose the demands of a man so able and powerful. It was because
I was certain that he would exact submissions which I am not disposed to
make that I wished last year to give up writing for the Review. I had long
been meditating a retreat. I thought Jeffrey's abdication a favourable
time for effecting it; not, as I hope you are well assured, from any unkind
feeling towards you; but because I knew that, under any Editor, mishaps
such as that which has now occurred would be constantly taking place. I
remember that I predicted to Jeffrey what has now come to pass almost to
My expectations have been exactly realised. The present constitution
of the Edinburgh Review is this, that, at whatever time Brougham may be
pleased to notify his intention of writing on any subject, all previous
engagements are to be considered as annulled by that notification. His
language translated into plain English is this: "I must write about this
French Revolution, and I will write about it. If you have told Macaulay
to do it, you may tell him to let it alone. If he has written an article,
he may throw it behind the grate. He would not himself have the assurance
to compare his own claims with mine. I am a man who act a prominent part
in the world; he is nobody. If he must be reviewing, there is my speech
about the West Indies. Set him to write a puff on that. What have people
like him to do, except to eulogise people like me?" No man likes to be
reminded of his inferiority in such a way, and there are some particular
circumstances in this case which render the admonition more unpleasant
than it would otherwise be. I know that Brougham dislikes me; and I have
not the slightest doubt that he feels great pleasure in taking this subject
out of my hands, and at having made me understand, as I do most clearly
understand, how far my services are rated below his. I do not blame you
in the least. I do not see how you could have acted otherwise. But, on
the other hand, I do not see why I should make any efforts or sacrifices
for a Review which lies under an intolerable dictation. Whatever my writings
may be worth, it is not for want of strong solicitations, and tempting
offers, from other quarters that I have continued to send them to the Edinburgh
Review. I adhered to the connection solely because I took pride and pleasure
in it. It has now become a source of humiliation and mortification.
I again repeat, my dear Sir, that I do not blame you in the least. This,
however, only makes matters worse. If you had used me ill, I might complain,
and might hope to be better treated another time. Unhappily you are in
a situation in which it is proper for you to do what it would be improper
in me to endure. What has happened now may happen next quarter, and must
happen before long, unless I altogether refrain from writing for the Review.
I hope you will forgive me if I say that I feel what has passed too strongly
to be inclined to expose myself to a recurrence of the same vexations.
Yours most truly
T. B. MACAULAY.
Paris: September 26.
My dear Father, --This news has broken my heart. I am fit neither to
go nor to stay. I can do nothing but sit down in my room, and think of
poor dear Jane's kindness and affection. When I am calmer, I will let you
know my intentions. There will be neither use nor pleasure in remaining
here. My present purpose, as far as I can form one, is to set off in two
or three days for England; and in the meantime to see nobody, if I can
help it, but Dumont, who has been very kind to me. Love to all, --to all
who are left me to love. We must love each other better.
T. B. M.
London: March 30, 1831
Dear Ellis, --I have little news for you, except what you will learn
from the papers as well as from me. It is clear that the Reform Bill must
pass, either in this or in another Parliament. The majority of one does
not appear to me, as it does to you, by any means inauspicious. We should
perhaps have had a better plea for a dissolution if the majority had been
the other way. But surely a dissolution under such circumstances would
have been a most alarming thing. If there should be a dissolution now,
there will not be that ferocity in the public mind which there would have
been if the House of Commons had refused to entertain the Bill at all.
I confess that, till we had a majority, I was half inclined to tremble
at the storm which we had raised. At present I think that we are absolutely
certain of victory, and of victory without commotion.
Such a scene as the division of last Tuesday I never saw, and never
expect to see again. If I should live fifty years, the impression of it
will be as fresh and sharp in my mind as if it had just taken place. It
was like seeing Caesar stabbed in the Senate House, or seeing Oliver taking
the mace from the table; a sight to be seen only once, and never to be
forgotten. The crowd overflowed the House in every part. When the strangers
were cleared out, and the doors locked, we had six hundred and eight members
present, --more by fifty-five than ever were in a division before. The
Ayes and Noes were like two volleys of cannon from opposite sides of a
field of battle. When the opposition went out into the lobby, an operation
which took up twenty minutes or more, we spread ourselves over the benches
on both sides of the House; for there were many of us who had not been
able to find a seat during the evening. ["The practice in the Commons,
until 1836, was to send one party forth into the lobby, the other remaining
in the House." --Sir T. Erskine May's "Parliamentary Practice."] When the
doors were shut we began to speculate on our numbers. Everybody was desponding.
"We have lost it. We are only two hundred and eighty at most. I do not
think we are two hundred and fifty. They are three hundred. Alderman Thompson
has counted them. He says they are two hundred and ninety-nine." This was
the talk on our benches. I wonder that men who have been long in Parliament
do not acquire a better coup d'oeil for numbers. The House, when only the
Ayes were in it, looked to me a very fair House, --much fuller than it
generally is even on debates of considerable interest. I had no hope, however,
of three hundred. As the tellers passed along our lowest row on the left
hand side the interest was insupportable, --two hundred and ninety-one,
--two hundred and ninety-two, --we were all standing up and stretching
forward, telling with the tellers. At three hundred there was a short cry
of joy, --at three hundred and two another, --suppressed however in a moment;
for we did not yet know what the hostile force might be. We knew, however,
that we could not be severely beaten. The doors were thrown open, and in
they came. Each of them, as he entered, brought some different report of
their numbers. It must have been impossible, as you may conceive, in the
lobby, crowded as they were, to form any exact estimate. First we heard
that they were three hundred and three; then that number rose to three
hundred and ten; then went down to three hundred and seven. Alexander Barry
told me that he had counted, and that they were three hundred and four.
We were all breathless with anxiety, when Charles Wood, who stood near
the door, jumped up on a bench and cried out, "They are only three hundred
and one." We set up a shout that you might have heard to Charing Cross,
waving our hats, stamping against the floor, and clapping our hands. The
tellers scarcely got through the crowd; for the House was thronged up to
the table, and all the floor was fluctuating with heads like the pit of
a theatre. But you might have heard a pin drop as Duncannon read the numbers.
Then again the shouts broke out, and many of us shed tears. I could scarcely
refrain. And the jaw of Peel fell; and the face of Twiss was as the face
of a damned soul; and Herries looked like Judas taking his necktie off
for the last operation. We shook hands, and clapped each other on the back,
and went out laughing, crying, and huzzaing into the lobby. And no sooner
were the outer doors opened than another shout answered that within the
House. All the passages, and the stairs into the waiting-rooms, were thronged
by people who had waited till four in the morning to know the issue. We
passed through a narrow lane between two thick masses of them; and all
the way down they were shouting and waving their hats, till we got into
the open air. I called a cabriolet, and the first thing the driver asked
was, "Is the Bill carried?" "Yes, by one." "Thank God for it, Sir." And
away I rode to Gray's Inn, --and so ended a scene which will probably never
be equalled till the reformed Parliament wants reforming; and that I hope
will not be till the days of our grandchildren, till that truly orthodox
and apostolical person Dr. Francis Ellis is an archbishop of eighty.
As for me, I am for the present a sort of lion. My speech has set me
in the front rank, if I can keep there; and it has not been my luck hitherto
to lose ground when I have once got it. Sheil and I are on very civil terms.
He talks largely concerning Demosthenes and Burke. He made, I must say,
an excellent speech; too florid and queer, but decidedly successful.
Why did not Price speak? If he was afraid, it was not without reason;
for a more terrible audience there is not in the world. I wish that Praed
had known to whom he was speaking. But, with all his talent, he has no
tact, and he has fared accordingly. Tierney used to say that he never rose
in the House without feeling his knees tremble under him; and I am sure
that no man who has not some of that feeling will ever succeed there.
T. B. MACAULAY.
London: May 27, 1835.
My dear Hannah, --Let me see if I can write a letter a la Richardson:
--a little less prolix it must be, or it will exceed my ounce. By the bye,
I wonder that Uncle Selby never grudged the postage of Miss Byron's letters.
According to the nearest calculation that I can make, her correspondence
must have enriched the post office of Ashby Canons by something more than
the whole annual interest of her fifteen thousand pounds.
I reached Lansdowne House by a quarter to eleven, and passed through
the large suite of rooms to the great Sculpture Gallery. There were seated
and standing perhaps three hundred people, listening to the performers,
or talking to each other. The room is the handsomest and largest, I am
told, in any private house in London. I enclose our musical bill of fare.
Fanny, I suppose, will be able to expound it better than I. The singers
were more showily dressed than the auditors, and seemed quite at home.
As to the company, there was just everybody in London (except that little
million and a half that you wot of,)-- the Chancellor, and the First Lord
of the Admiralty, and Sydney Smith, and Lord Mansfield, and all the Barings
and the Fitzclarences, and a hideous Russian spy, whose face I see everywhere,
with a star on his coat. During the interval between the delights of "I
tuoi frequenti," and the ecstasies of "Se tu m'ami," I contrived to squeeze
up to Lord Lansdowne. I was shaking hands with Sir James Macdonald, when
I heard a command behind us: "Sir James, introduce me to Mr. Macaulay;"
and we turned, and there sate a large bold-looking woman, with the remains
of a fine person, and the air of Queen Elizabeth. "Macaulay," said Sir
James, "let me present you to Lady Holland." Then was her ladyship gracious
beyond description, and asked me to dine and take a bed at Holland House
next Tuesday. I accepted the dinner, but declined the bed, and I have since
repented that I so declined it. But I probably shall have an opportunity
of retracting on Tuesday.
To-night I go to another musical party at Marshall's, the late M.P.
for Yorkshire. Everybody is talking of Paganini and his violin. The man
seems to be a miracle. The newspapers say that long streamy flakes of music
fall from his string, interspersed with luminous points of sound which
ascend the air and appear like stars. This eloquence is quite beyond me.
T. B. M.
London: May 28, 1831.
My dear Hannah, --More gaieties and music-parties; not so fertile of
adventures as that memorable masquerade whence Harriet Byron was carried
away; but still I hope that the narrative of what passed there will gratify
"the venerable circle." Yesterday I dressed, called a cab, and was whisked
away to Hill Street. I found old Marshall's house a very fine one. He ought
indeed to have a fine one; for he has, I believe, at least thirty thousand
a year. The carpet was taken up, and chairs were set out in rows, as if
we had been at a religious meeting. Then we had flute-playing by the first
flute-player in England, and pianoforte-strumming by the first pianoforte-strummer
in England, and singing by all the first singers in England, and Signor
Rubini's incomparable tenor, and Signor Curioni's incomparable counter-
tenor, and Pasta's incomparable expression. You who know how airs much
inferior to these take my soul, and lap it in Elysium, will form some faint
conception of my transport. Sharp beckoned me to sit by him in the back
row. These old fellows are so selfish. "Always," said he, "establish yourself
in the middle of the row against the wall; for, if you sit in the front
or next the edges, you will be forced to give up your seat to the ladies
who are standing." I had the gallantry to surrender mine to a damsel who
had stood for a quarter of an hour; and I lounged into the ante-rooms,
where I found Samuel Rogers. Rogers and I sate together on a bench in one
of the passages, and had a good deal of very pleasant conversation. He
was, --as indeed he has always been to me, --extremely kind, and told me
that, if it were in his power, he would contrive to be at Holland House
with me, to give me an insight into its ways. He is the great oracle of
He has seen the King's letter to Lord Grey, respecting the Garter; or
at least has authentic information about it. It is a happy stroke of policy,
and will, they say, decide many wavering votes in the House of Lords. The
King, it seems, requests Lord Grey to take the order, as a mark of royal
confidence in him "at so critical a time;" --significant words, I think.
T. B. MACAULAY.
To Hannah More Macaulay.
London: May 30, 1831.
Well, my dear, I have been to Holland House. I took a glass coach, and
arrived, through a fine avenue of elms, at the great entrance towards seven
o'clock. The house is delightful; --the very perfection of the old Elizabethan
style;- -a considerable number of very large and very comfortable rooms,
rich with antique carving and gilding, but carpeted and furnished with
all the skill of the best modern upholsterers. The library is a very long
room, --as long, I should think, as the gallery at Rothley Temple, --with
little cabinets for study branching out of it. warmly and snugly fitted
up, and looking out on very beautiful grounds. The collection of books
is not, like Lord Spencer's, curious; but it contains almost everything
that one ever wished to read. I found nobody there when I arrived but Lord
Russell, the son of the Marquess of Tavistock. We are old House of Commons
friends; so we had some very pleasant talk, and in a little while in came
Allen, who is warden of Dulwich College, and who lives almost entirely
at Holland House. He is certainly a man of vast information and great conversational
powers. Some other gentlemen dropped in, and we chatted till Lady Holland
made her appearance. Lord Holland dined by himself on account of his gout.
We sat down to dinner in a fine long room, the wainscot of which is rich
with gilded coronets, roses, and portcullises. There were Lord Albemarle,
Lord Alvanley, Lord Russell, Lord Mahon, --a violent Tory, but a very agreeable
companion, and a very good scholar. There was Cradock, a fine fellow who
was the Duke of Wellington's aide-de-camp in 1815, and some other people
whose names I did not catch. What however is more to the purpose, there
was a most excellent dinner. I have always heard that Holland House is
famous for its good cheer, and certainly the reputation is not unmerited.
After dinner Lord Holland was wheeled in, and placed very near me. He was
extremely amusing and good-natured.
In the drawing-room I had a long talk with Lady Holland about the antiquities
of the house, and about the purity of the English language, wherein she
thinks herself a critic. I happened, in speaking about the Reform Bill,
to say that I wished that it had been possible to form a few commercial
constituencies, if the word constituency were admissible. "I am glad you
put that in," said her ladyship. "I was just going to give it you. It is
an odious word. Then there is talented and influential, and
I never could break Sheridan of gentlemanly, though he allowed it
to be wrong." We talked about the word talents and its history.
I said that it had first appeared in theological writing, that it was a
metaphor taken from the parable in the New Testament, and that it had gradually
passed from the vocabulary of divinity into common use. I challenged her
to find it in any classical writer on general subjects before the Restoration,
or even before the year 1700. I believe that I might safely have gone down
later. She seemed surprised by this theory, never having, so far as I could
judge, heard of the parable of the talents. I did not tell her, though
I might have done so, that a person who professes to be a critic in the
delicacies of the English language ought to have the Bible at his fingers'
She is certainly a woman of considerable talents and great literary
acquirements. To me she was excessively gracious; yet there is a haughtiness
in her courtesy which, even after all that I had heard of her, surprised
me. The centurion did not keep his soldiers in better order than she keeps
her guests. It is to one "Go," and he goeth; and to another "Do this,"
and it is done. "Ring the bell, Mr. Macaulay." "Lay down that screen, Lord
Russell; you will spoil it." "Mr. Allen, take a candle and show Mr. Cradock
the picture of Buonaparte." Lord Holland is, on the other hand, all kindness,
simplicity, and vivacity. He talked very well both on politics and on literature.
He asked me in a very friendly manner about my father's health, and begged
to be remembered to him.
When my coach came, Lady Holland made me promise that I would on the
first fine morning walk out to breakfast with them, and see the grounds;
--and, after drinking a glass of very good iced lemonade, I took my leave,
much amused and pleased. The house certainly deserves its reputation for
pleasantness, and her ladyship used me, I believe, as well as it is her
way to use anybody.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
Court of Commissioners, Basinghall Street: May 31, 1831.
My dear Sister, --How delighted I am that you like my letters, and how
obliged by yours! But I have little more than my thanks to give for your
last. I have nothing to tell about great people to-day. I heard no fine
music yesterday, saw nobody above the rank of a baronet, and was shut up
in my own room reading and writing all the morning. This day seems likely
to pass in much the same way, except that I have some bankruptcy business
to do, and a couple of sovereigns to receive. So here I am, with three
of the ugliest attorneys that ever deserved to be transported sitting opposite
to me; a disconsolate-looking bankrupt, his hands in his empty pockets,
standing behind; a lady scolding for her money, and refusing to be comforted
because it is not; and a surly butcher-like looking creditor, growling
like a house-dog, and saying, as plain as looks can say "If I sign your
certificate, blow me, that's all." Among these fair and interesting forms,
on a piece of official paper, with a pen and with ink found at the expense
of the public, am I writing to Nancy.
These dirty courts, filled with Jew money-lenders, sheriffs' officers,
attorneys' runners, and a crowd of people who live by giving sham bail
and taking false oaths, are not by any means such good subjects for a lady's
correspondent as the Sculpture Gallery at Lansdowne House, or the conservatory
at Holland House, or the notes of Pasta, or the talk of Rogers. But we
cannot be always fine. When my Richardsonian epistles are published, there
must be dull as well as amusing letters among them; and this letter is,
I think, as good as those sermons of Sir Charles to Geronymo which Miss
Byron hypocritically asked for, or as the greater part of that stupid last
We shall soon have more attractive matter. I shall walk out to breakfast
at Holland House; and I am to dine with Sir George Philips, and with his
son the member for Steyning, who have the best of company; and I am going
to the fancy ball of the Jew. He met me in the street, and implored me
to come. "You need not dress more than for an evening party. You had better
come. You will be delighted. It will be so very pretty." I thought of Dr.
Johnson and the herdsman with his "See, such pretty goats." [See Boswell's
Tour to the Hebrides, Sept. 1 1773. "The Doctor was prevailed with to mount
one of Vass's grays. As he rode upon it downhill, it did not go well, and
he grumbled. I walked on a little before, but was excessively entertained
with the method taken to keep him in good humour. Hay led the horse's head,
talking to Dr. Johnson as much as he could and, (having heard him, in the
forenoon, express a pastoral pleasure on seeing the goats browsing,) just
when the Doctor was uttering his displeasure, the fellow cried, with a
very Highland accent, 'See, such pretty goats!' Then he whistled whu! and
made them jump."] However, I told my honest Hebrew that I would come. I
may perhaps, like the Benjamites, steal away some Israelite damsel in the
middle of her dancing.
But the noise all round me is becoming louder, and a baker in a white
coat is bellowing for the book to prove a debt of nine pounds fourteen
shillings and fourpence. So I must finish my letter and fall to business.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London June 1, 1831.
My dear Sister, --My last letter was a dull one. I mean this to be very
amusing. My last was about Basinghall Street, attorneys, and bankrupts.
But for this, --take it dramatically in the German style.
Fine morning. Scene, the great entrance of Holland House.
Enter MACAULAY and Two FOOTMEN in livery.
First Footman.-- Sir, may I venture to demand your name?
Macaulay.-- Macaulay, and thereto I add M.P.
And that addition, even in these proud halls,
May well ensure the bearer some respect.
Second Footman.-- And art thou come to breakfast with our Lord?
Macaulay.-- I am for so his hospitable will,
And hers-- the peerless dame ye serve-- hath bade.
First Footman.-- Ascend the stair, and thou above shalt find,
On snow-white linen spread, the luscious meal.
(Exit MACAULAY up stairs.)
In plain English prose, I went this morning to breakfast at Holland
House. The day was fine, and I arrived at twenty minutes after ten. After
I had lounged a short time in the dining-room, I heard a gruff good-natured
voice asking, "Where is Mr. Macaulay? Where have you put him?" and in his
arm-chair Lord Holland was wheeled in. He took me round the apartments,
he riding and I walking. He gave me the history of the most remarkable
portraits in the library, where there is, by the bye, one of the few bad
pieces of Lawrence that I have seen-- a head of Charles James Fox, an ignominious
failure. Lord Holland said that it was the worst ever painted of so eminent
a man by so eminent an artist. There is a very fine head of Machiavelli,
and another of Earl Grey, a very different sort of man. I observed a portrait
of Lady Holland painted some thirty years ago. I could have cried to see
the change. She must have been a most beautiful woman. She still looks,
however, as if she had been handsome, and shows in one respect great taste
and sense. She does not rouge at all; and her costume is not youthful,
so that she looks as well in the morning as in the evening. We came back
to the dining-room. Our breakfast party consisted of my Lord and Lady,
myself, Lord Russell, and Luttrell. You must have heard of Luttrell. I
met him once at Rogers's; and I have seen him, I think, in other places.
He is a famous wit, --the most popular, I think, of all the professed wits,
--a man who has lived in the highest circles, a scholar, and no contemptible
poet. He wrote a little volume of verse entitled "Advice to Julia," --not
first rate, but neat, lively, piquant, and showing the most consummate
knowledge of fashionable life.
We breakfasted on very good coffee, and very good tea, and very good
eggs, butter kept in the midst of ice, and hot rolls. Lady Holland told
us her dreams; how she had dreamed that a mad dog bit her foot, and how
she set off to Brodie, and lost her way in St. Martin's Lane, and could
not find him. She hoped, she said, the dream would not come true. I said
that I had had a dream which admitted of no such hope; for I had dreamed
that I heard Pollock speak in the House of Commons, that the speech was
very long, and that he was coughed down. This dream of mine diverted them
After breakfast Lady Holland offered to conduct me to her own drawing-room,
or, rather, commanded my attendance. A very beautiful room it is, opening
on a terrace, and wainscoted with miniature paintings interesting from
their merit, and interesting from their history. Among them I remarked
a great many, --thirty, I should think, --which even I, who am no great
connoisseur, saw at once could come from no hand but Stothard's. They were
all on subjects from Lord Byron's poems. "Yes," said she; "poor Lord Byron
sent them to me a short time before the separation. I sent them back, and
told him that, if he gave them away, he ought to give them to Lady Byron.
But he said that he would not, and that if I did not take them, the bailiffs
would, and that they would be lost in the wreck." Her ladyship then honoured
me so far as to conduct me through her dressing-room into the great family
bedchamber to show me a very fine picture by Reynolds of Fox, when a boy,
birds-nesting. She then consigned me to Luttrell, asking him to show me
Through the grounds we went, and very pretty I thought them. In the
Dutch garden is a fine bronze bust of Napoleon, which Lord Holland put
up in 1817, while Napoleon was a prisoner at St. Helena. The inscription
was selected by his lordship, and is remarkably happy. It is from Homer's
Odyssey. I will translate it, as well as I can extempore, into a measure
which gives a better idea of Homer's manner than Pope's singsong couplet.
For not, be sure, within the grave
There is a seat near the spot which is called Rogers's seat. The poet loves,
it seems, to sit there. A very elegant inscription by Lord Holland is placed
Is hid that prince, the wise, the brave;
But in an islet's narrow bound,
With the great Ocean roaring round,
The captive of a foeman base
He pines to view his native place.
"Here Rogers sate; and here for ever dwell
Very neat and condensed, I think. Another inscription by Luttrell hangs
there. Luttrell adjured me with mock pathos to spare his blushes; but I
am author enough to know what the blushes of authors mean. So I read the
lines, and very pretty and polished they were, but too many to be remembered
from one reading.
With me those pleasures which he sang so well."
Having gone round the grounds I took my leave, very much pleased with
the place. Lord Holland is extremely kind. But that is of course; for he
is kindness itself. Her ladyship too, which is by no means of course, is
all graciousness and civility. But, for all this, I would much rather be
quietly walking with you; and the great use of going to these fine places
is to learn how happy it is possible to be without them. Indeed, I care
so little for them that I certainly should not have gone to-day, but that
I thought that I should be able to find materials for a letter which you
T. B. MACAULAY.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: June 3, 1831.
My dear Sister, --I cannot tell you how delighted I am to find that
my letters amuse you. But sometimes I must be dull like my neighbours.
I paid no visits yesterday, and have no news to relate to-day. I am sitting
again in Basinghall Street and Basil Montagu is haranguing about Lord Verulam,
and the way of inoculating one's mind with truth; and all this a propos
of a lying bankrupt's balance-sheet. ["Those who are acquainted with the
Courts in which Mr. Montagu practises with so much ability and success,
will know how often he enlivens the discussion of a point of law by citing
some weighty aphorism, or some brilliant illustration, from the De Augmentis
or the Novum Organum."-- Macaulay's Review of Basil Montagu's Edition of
Send me some gossip, my love. Tell me how you go on with German. What
novel have you commenced? Or, rather, how many dozen have you finished?
Recommend me one. What say you to "Destiny"? Is the "Young Duke" worth
reading? and what do you think of "Laurie Todd"?
I am writing about Lord Byron so pathetically that I make Margaret cry,
but so slowly that I am afraid I shall make Napier wait. Rogers, like a
civil gentleman, told me last week to write no more reviews, and to publish
separate works; adding, what for him is a very rare thing, a compliment:
"You may do anything, Mr. Macaulay." See how vain and insincere human nature
is! I have been put into so good a temper with Rogers that I have paid
him, what is as rare with me as with him, a very handsome compliment in
my review. ["Well do we remember to have heard a most correct judge of
poetry revile Mr. Rogers for the incorrectness of that most sweet and graceful
'Such grief was ours, --it seems but yesterday,--
Macaulay's Essay on Byron.] It is not undeserved; but I confess that I
cannot understand the popularity of his poetry. It is pleasant and flowing
enough; less monotonous than most of the imitations of Pope and Goldsmith;
and calls up many agreeable images and recollections. But that such men
as Lord Granville, Lord Holland, Hobhouse, Lord Byron, and others of high
rank in intellect, should place Rogers, as they do, above Southey, Moore,
and even Scott himself, is what I cannot conceive. But this comes of being
in the highest society of London. What Lady Jane Granville called the Patronage
of Fashion can do as much for a middling poet as for a plain girl like
Miss Arabella Falconer. [Lady Jane, and Miss Arabella, appear in Miss Edgeworth's
When in thy prime, wishing so much to stay,
Twas thine, Maria, thine without a sigh
At midnight in a sister's arms to die,
Oh! thou wast lovely; lovely was thy frame,
And pure thy spirit as from heaven it came;
And, when recalled to join the blest above,
Thou diedst a victim to exceeding love
Nursing the young to health. In happier hours,
When idle Fancy wove luxuriant flowers,
Once in thy mirth thou badst me write on thee;
And now I write what thou shalt never see.'
But I must stop. This rambling talk has been scrawled in the middle
of haranguing, squabbling, swearing, and crying. Since I began it I have
taxed four bills, taken forty depositions, and rated several perjured witnesses.
T. B. M.
To Hannah and Margaret Macaulay.
London: June 7, 1831.
Yesterday I dined at Marshall's, and was almost consoled for not meeting
Ramohun Roy by a very pleasant party. The great sight was the two wits,
Rogers and Sydney Smith. Singly I have often seen them; but to see them
both together was a novelty, and a novelty not the less curious because
their mutual hostility is well known, and the hard hits which they have
given to each other are in everybody's mouth. They were very civil, however.
But I was struck by the truth of what Matthew Bramble, a person of whom
you probably never heard, says in Smollett's Humphrey Clinker: that one
wit in a company, like a knuckle of ham in soup, gives a flavour; but two
are too many. Rogers and Sydney Smith would not come into conflict. If
one had possession of the company, the other was silent; and, as you may
conceive, the one who had possession of the company was always Sydney Smith,
and the one who was silent was always Rogers. Sometimes, however, the company
divided, and each of them had a small congregation. I had a good deal of
talk with both of them; for, in whatever they may disagree, they agree
in always treating me with very marked kindness.
I had a good deal of pleasant conversation with Rogers. He was telling
me of the curiosity and interest which attached to the persons of Sir Walter
Scott and Lord Byron. When Sir Walter Scott dined at a gentleman's in London
some time ago, all the servant-maids in the house asked leave to stand
in the passage and see him pass. He was, as you may conceive, greatly flattered.
About Lord Byron, whom he knew well, he told me some curious anecdotes.
When Lord Byron passed through Florence, Rogers was there. They had a good
deal of conversation, and Rogers accompanied him to his carriage. The inn
had fifty windows in front. All the windows were crowded with women, mostly
English women, to catch a glance at their favourite poet. Among them were
some at whose houses he had often been in England, and with whom he had
lived on friendly terms. He would not notice them, or return their salutations.
Rogers was the only person that he spoke to.
The worst thing that I know about Lord Byron is the very unfavourable
impression which he made on men who certainly were not inclined to judge
him harshly, and who, as far as I know, were never personally ill-used
by him. Sharp and Rogers both speak of him as an unpleasant, affected,
splenetic person. I have heard hundreds and thousands of people who never
saw him rant about him; but I never heard a single expression of fondness
for him fall from the lips of any of those who knew him well. Yet, even
now, after the lapse of five-and-twenty years, there are those who cannot
talk for a quarter of an hour about Charles Fox without tears.
Sydney Smith leaves London on the 20th, the day before Parliament meets
for business. I advised him to stay, and see something of his friends who
would be crowding to London. "My flock!" said this good shepherd. "My dear
Sir, remember my flock! The hungry sheep look up and are not fed."
I could say nothing to such an argument; but I could not help thinking
that, if Mr. Daniel Wilson had said such a thing, it would infallibly have
appeared in his funeral sermon, and in his Life by Baptist Noel. But in
poor Sydney's mouth it sounded like a joke. He begged me to come and see
him at Combe Florey. "There I am, Sir, the priest of the Flowery Valley,
in a delightful parsonage, about which I care a good deal, and a delightful
country, about which I do not care a straw." I told him that my meeting
him was some compensation for missing Ramohun Roy. Sydney broke forth:
"Compensation! Do you mean to insult me? A beneficed clergyman,
an orthodox clergyman, a nobleman's chaplain, to be no more than compensation
for a Brahmin; and a heretic Brahmin too, a fellow who has lost his own
religion and can't find another; a vile heterodox dog, who, as I am credibly
informed eats beef-steaks in private! A man who has lost his caste! who
ought to have melted lead poured down his nostrils, if the good old Vedas
were in force as they ought to be."
These are some Boswelliana of Sydney; not very clerical, you will say,
but indescribably amusing to the hearers, whatever the readers may think
of them. Nothing can present a more striking contrast to his rapid, loud,
laughing utterance, and his rector-like amplitude and rubicundity, than
the low, slow, emphatic tone, and the corpse-like face of Rogers. There
is as great a difference in what they say as in the voice and look with
which they say it. The conversation of Rogers is remarkably polished and
artificial. What he says seems to have been long meditated, and might be
published with little correction. Sydney talks from the impulse of the
moment, and his fun is quite inexhaustible.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M Macaulay.
London: June 8, 1831.
My dear Sister, --Yesterday night I went to the Jew's. I had indeed
no excuse for forgetting the invitation; for, about a week after I had
received the green varnished billet, and answered it, came another in the
self-same words, and addressed to Mr. Macaulay, Junior. I thought that
my answer had miscarried; so down I sate, and composed a second epistle
to the Hebrews. I afterwards found that the second invitation was meant
I set off a little after ten, having attired myself simply as for a
dinner-party. The house is a very fine one. The door was guarded by peace-officers,
and besieged by starers. My host met me in a superb court-dress, with his
sword at his side. There was a most sumptuous-looking Persian, covered
with gold lace. Then there was an Italian bravo with a long beard. Two
old gentlemen, who ought to have been wiser, were fools enough to come
in splendid Turkish costumes at which everybody laughed. The fancy-dresses
were worn almost exclusively by the young people. The ladies for the most
part contented themselves with a few flowers and ribands oddly disposed.
There was, however, a beautiful Mary Queen of Scots, who looked as well
as dressed the character perfectly; an angel of a Jewess in a Highland
plaid; and an old woman, or rather a woman, --for through her disguise
it was impossible to ascertain her age, --in the absurdest costume of the
last century. These good people soon began their quadrilles and galopades,
and were enlivened by all the noise that twelve fiddlers could make for
You must not suppose the company was made up of these mummers. There
was Dr. Lardner, and Long, the Greek Professor in the London University,
and Sheil, and Strutt, and Romilly, and Owen the philanthropist. Owen laid
bold on Sheil, and gave him a lecture on Co-operation which lasted for
half an hour. At last Sheil made his escape. Then Owen seized Mrs. Sheil,
--a good Catholic, and a very agreeable woman, --and began to prove to
her that there could be no such thing as moral responsibility. I had fled
at the first sound of his discourse, and was talking with Strutt and Romilly,
when behold! I saw Owen leave Mrs. Sheil and come towards us. So I cried
out "Sauve qui peut!" and we ran off. But before we had got five feet from
where we were standing, who should meet us face to face but Old Basil Montagu?
"Nay, then," said I, "the game is up. The Prussians are on our rear. If
we are to be bored to death there is no help for it." Basil seized Romilly;
Owen took possession of Strutt; and I was blessing myself on my escape,
when the only human being worthy to make a third with such a pair, J--,
caught me by the arm, and begged to have a quarter of an hour's conversation
with me. While I was suffering under J--, a smart impudent-looking young
dog, dressed like a sailor in a blue jacket and check shirt, marched up,
and asked a Jewish-looking damsel near me to dance with him. I thought
that I had seen the fellow before; and, after a little looking, I perceived
that it was Charles; and most knowingly, I assure you, did he perform a
quadrille with Miss Hilpah Manasses.
If I were to tell you all that I saw I should exceed my ounce. There
was Martin the painter, and Proctor, alias Barry Cornwall, the poet or
poetaster. I did not see one Peer, or one star, except a foreign order
or two, which I generally consider as an intimation to look to my pockets.
A German knight is a dangerous neighbour in a crowd. [Macaulay ended by
being a German knight himself.] After seeing a galopade very prettily danced
by the Israelitish women, I went downstairs, reclaimed my hat, and walked
into the dining-room. There, with some difficulty, I squeezed myself between
a Turk and a Bernese peasant, and obtained an ice, a macaroon, and a glass
of wine. Charles was there, very active in his attendance on his fair Hilpah.
I bade him good night. "What!" said young Hopeful, "are you going yet?"
It was near one o'clock; but this joyous tar seemed to think it impossible
that anybody could dream of leaving such delightful enjoyments till daybreak.
I left him staying Hilpah with flagons, and walked quietly home. But it
was some time before I could get to sleep. The sound of fiddles was in
mine ears; and gaudy dresses, and black hair, and Jewish noses, were fluctuating
up and down before mine eyes.
There is a fancy ball for you. If Charles writes a history of it, tell
me which of us does it best.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
Macaulay's account of the allusion to himself in the "Young Duke" is perfectly
accurate; and yet, when read as a whole, the passage in question does not
appear to have been ill-naturedly meant. ("I hear that Mr. Babington Macaulay
is to be returned. If he speaks half as well as he writes, the House will
be in fashion again. I fear that he is one of those who, like the individual
whom he has most studied, will give up to a party what was meant for mankind.
At any rate, he must get rid of his rabidity. He writes now on all subjects
as if he certainly intended to be a renegade, and was determined to make
the contrast complete."--The Young Duke, book v chap. vi.) It is much what
any young literary man outside the House of Commons might write of another
who had only been inside that House for a few weeks; and it was probably
forgotten by the author within twenty-four hours after the ink was dry.
It is to be hoped that the commentators of the future will not treat it
as an authoritative record of Mr. Disraeli's estimate of Lord Macaulay's
London: June 10. 1835.
My dear Sister, --I am at Basinghall Street, and I snatch this quarter
of an hour, the only quarter of an hour which I am likely to secure during
the day, to write to you. I will not omit writing two days running, because,
if my letters give you half the pleasure which your letters give me, you
will, I am sure, miss them. I have not, however, much to tell. I have been
very busy with my article on Moore's Life of Byron. I never wrote anything
with less heart. I do not like the book; I do not like the hero; I have
said the most I could for him, and yet I shall be abused for speaking as
coldly of him as I have done.
I dined the day before yesterday at Sir George Philips's with Sotheby,
Morier the author of "Hadji Baba," and Sir James Mackintosh. Morier began
to quote Latin before the ladies had left the room, and quoted it by no
means to the purpose. After their departure he fell to repeating Virgil,
choosing passages which everybody else knows and does not repeat. He, though
he tried to repeat them, did not know them, and could not get on without
my prompting. Sotheby was full of his translation of Homer's Iliad, some
specimens of which he has already published. It is a complete failure;
more literal than that of Pope, but still tainted with the deep radical
vice of Pope's version, a thoroughly modern and artificial manner. It bears
the same kind of relation to the Iliad that Robertson's narrative bears
to the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis.
There is a pretty allegory in Homer-- I think in the last book, but
I forget precisely where-- about two vessels, the one filled with blessings
and the other with sorrow, which stand, says the poet, on the right and
left hand of Jupiter's throne, and from which he dispenses good and evil
at his pleasure among men. What word to use for these vessels has long
posed the translators of Homer. Pope, who loves to be fine, calls them
Cowper, who loves to be coarse, calls them casks; --a translation
more improper than Pope's; for a cask is, in our general understanding,
a wooden vessel; and the Greek word means an earthen vessel. There is a
curious letter of Cowper's to one of his female correspondents about this
unfortunate word. She begged that Jupiter might be allowed a more elegant
piece of furniture for his throne than a cask. But Cowper was peremptory.
I mentioned this incidentally when we were talking about translations.
This set Sotheby off. "I," said he, "have translated it vase. I
hope that meets your ideas. Don't you think vase will do? Does it satisfy
you?" I told him, sincerely enough, that it satisfied me; for I must be
most unreasonable to be dissatisfied at anything that he chooses to put
in a book which I never shall read. Mackintosh was very agreeable; and,
as usually happens when I meet him, I learned something from him. [Macaulay
wrote to one of his nieces in September 1859: "I am glad that Mackintosh's
Life interests you. I knew him well; and a kind friend he was to me when
I was a young fellow, fighting my way uphill."]
The great topic now in London is not, as you perhaps fancy, Reform,
but Cholera. There is a great panic; as great a panic as I remember, particularly
in the City. Rice shakes his head, and says that this is the most serious
thing that has happened in his time; and assuredly, if the disease were
to rage in London as it has lately raged in Riga, it would be difficult
to imagine anything more horrible. I, however, feel no uneasiness. In the
first place I have a strong leaning towards the doctrines of the anti-contagionists.
In the next place I repose a great confidence in the excellent food and
the cleanliness of the English.
I have this instant received your letter of yesterday with the enclosed
proof-sheets. Your criticism is to a certain extent just; but you have
not considered the whole sentence together. Depressed is in itself better
than weighed down; but "the oppressive privileges which had depressed industry"
would be a horrible cacophony. I hope that word convinces you. I have often
observed that a fine Greek compound is an excellent substitute for a reason.
I met Rogers at the Athenaeum. He begged me to breakfast with him, and
name my day, and promised that he would procure me as agreeable a party
as he could find in London. Very kind of the old man, is it not? and, if
you knew how Rogers is thought of, you would think it as great a compliment
as could be paid to a Duke. Have you seen what the author of the "Young
Duke" says about me: how rabid I am, and how certain I am to rat?
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: June 25, 1831.
My dear Sister, --There was, as you will see, no debate on Lord John
Russell's motion. The Reform Bill is to be brought in, read once, and printed,
without discussion. The contest will be on the second reading, and will
be protracted, I should think, through the whole of the week after next;
--next week it will be, when you read this letter.
I breakfasted with Rogers yesterday. There was nobody there but Moore.
We were all on the most friendly and familiar terms possible; and Moore,
who is, Rogers tells me, excessively pleased with my review of his book,
showed me very marked attention. I was forced to go away early on account
of bankrupt business; but Rogers said that we must have the talk out so
we are to meet at his house again to breakfast. What a delightful house
it is! It looks out on the Green Park just at the most pleasant point.
The furniture has been selected with a delicacy of taste quite unique.
Its value does not depend on fashion, but must be the same while the fine
arts are held in any esteem. In the drawing-room, for example, the chimney-pieces
are carved by Flaxman into the most beautiful Grecian forms. The book-case
is painted by Stothard, in his very best manner, with groups from Chaucer,
Shakespeare, and Boccacio. The pictures are not numerous; but every one
is excellent. In the dining-room there are also some beautiful paintings.
But the three most remarkable objects in that room are, I think, a cast
of Pope taken after death by Roubiliac; a noble model in terra-cotta by
Michael Angelo, from which he afterwards made one of his finest statues,
that of Lorenzo de Medici; and, lastly, a mahogany table on which stands
an antique vase.
When Chantrey dined with Rogers some time ago he took particular notice
of the vase, and the table on which it stands, and asked Rogers who made
the table. "A common carpenter," said Rogers. "Do you remember the making
of it?" said Chantrey. "Certainly," said Rogers, in some surprise. "I was
in the room while it was finished with the chisel, and gave the workman
directions about placing it." "Yes," said Chantrey, "I was the carpenter.
I remember the room well, and all the circumstances." A curious story,
I think, and honourable both to the talent which raised Chantrey, and to
the magnanimity which kept him from being ashamed of what he had been.
Ever yours affectionately
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: June 29, 1831.
My dear Sister, --We are not yet in the full tide of Parliamentary business.
Next week the debates will be warm and long. I should not wonder if we
had a discussion of five nights. I shall probably take a part in it.
I have breakfasted again with Rogers. The party was a remarkable one,
--Lord John Russell, Tom Moore, Tom Campbell, and Luttrell. We were all
very lively. An odd incident took place after breakfast, while we were
standing at the window and looking into the Green Park. Somebody was talking
about diners-out. "Ay," said Campbell--
"Ye diners-out from whom we guard our spoons."
Tom Moore asked where the line was. "Don't you know?" said Campbell. "Not
I," said Moore. "Surely," said Campbell, "it is your own." "I never saw
it in my life," said Moore. "It is in one of your best things in the Times,"
said Campbell. Moore denied it. Hereupon I put in my claim, and told them
that it was mine. Do you remember it? It is in some lines called the Political
Georgics, which I sent to the Times about three years ago. They made me
repeat the lines, and were vociferous in praise of them. Tom Moore then
said, oddly enough:
"There is another poem in the Times that I should like to know the author
of; --A Parson's Account of his Journey to the Cambridge Election." I laid
claim to that also. "That is curious," said Moore. "I begged Barnes to
tell me who wrote it. He said that he had received it from Cambridge, and
touched it up himself, and pretended that all the best strokes were his.
I believed that he was lying, because I never knew him to make a good joke
in his life. And now the murder is out." They asked me whether I had put
anything else in the Times. Nothing, I said, except the Sortes Virgilianae,
which Lord John remembered well. I never mentioned the Cambridge Journey,
or the Georgics, to any but my own family; and I was therefore, as you
may conceive, not a little flattered to hear in one day Moore praising
one of them, and Campbell praising the other.
I find that my article on Byron is very popular; one among a thousand
proofs of the bad taste of the public. I am to review Croker's edition
of Bozzy. It is wretchedly ill done. The notes are poorly written, and
shamefully inaccurate. There is, however, much curious information in it.
The whole of the Tour to the Hebrides is incorporated with the Life. So
are most of Mrs. Thrale's anecdotes, and much of Sir John Hawkins's lumbering
book. The whole makes five large volumes. There is a most laughable sketch
of Bozzy, taken by Sir T. Lawrence when young. I never saw a character
so thoroughly hit off. I intend the book for you, when I have finished
my criticism on it. You are, next to myself, the best-read Boswellite that
I know. The lady whom Johnson abused for flattering him [See Boswell's
Life of Johnson, April 15, 1778.] was certainly, according to Croker, Hannah
More. Another ill-natured sentence about a Bath lady ["He would not allow
me to praise a lady then at Bath; observing, 'She does not gain upon me,
sir; I think her empty-headed.'"] whom Johnson called "empty-headed" is
also applied to your godmother.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: July 6, 1835.
My dear Sister, --I have been so busy during the last two or three days
that I have found no time to write to you. I have now good news for you.
I spoke yesterday night with a success beyond my utmost expectations. I
am half ashamed to tell you the compliments which I have received; but
you well know that it is not from vanity, but to give you pleasure, that
I tell you what is said about me. Lord Althorp told me twice that it was
the best speech he had ever heard; Graham, and Stanley, and Lord John Russell
spoke of it in the same way; and O'Connell followed me out of the house
to pay me the most enthusiastic compliments. I delivered my speech much
more slowly than any that I have before made, and it is in consequence
better reported than its predecessors, though not well. I send you several
papers. You will see some civil things in the leading articles of some
of them. My greatest pleasure, in the midst of all this praise, is to think
of the pleasure which my success will give to my father and my sisters.
It is happy for me that ambition has in my mind been softened into a kind
of domestic feeling, and that affection has at least as much to do as vanity
with my wish to distinguish myself. This I owe to my dear mother, and to
the interest which she always took in my childish successes. From my earliest
years, the gratification of those whom I love has been associated with
the gratification of my own thirst for fame, until the two have become
inseparably joined in my mind.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay
London: July 8, 1831.
My dear Sister, --Do you want to hear all the compliments that are paid
to me? I shall never end, if I stuff my letters with them; for I meet nobody
who does not give me joy. Baring tells me that I ought never to speak again.
Howick sent a note to me yesterday to say that his father wished very much
to be introduced to me, and asked me to dine with them yesterday, as, by
great good luck, there was nothing to do in the House of Commons. At seven
I went to Downing Street, where Earl Grey's official residence stands.
It is a noble house. There are two splendid drawing-rooms, which overlook
St. James's Park. Into these I was shown. The servant told me that Lord
Grey was still at the House of Lords, and that her Ladyship had just gone
to dress. Howick had not mentioned the hour in his note. I sate down, and
turned over two large portfolios of political caricatures. Earl Grey's
own face was in every print. I was very much diverted. I had seen some
of them before; but many were new to me, and their merit is extraordinary.
They were the caricatures of that remarkably able artist who calls himself
H. B. In about half an hour Lady Georgiana Grey, and the Countess, made
their appearance. We had some pleasant talk, and they made many apologies.
The Earl, they said, was unexpectedly delayed by a question which had arisen
in the Lords. Lady Holland arrived soon after, and gave me a most gracious
reception; shook my hand very warmly, and told me, in her imperial decisive
manner, that she had talked with all the principal men on our side about
my speech, that they all agreed that it was the best that had been made
since the death of Fox, and that it was more like Fox's speaking than anybody's
else. Then she told me that I was too much worked, that I must go out of
town, and absolutely insisted on my going to Holland House to dine, and
take a bed, on the next day on which there is no Parliamentary business.
At eight we went to dinner. Lord Howick took his father's place, and we
feasted very luxuriously. At nine Lord Grey came from the House with Lord
Durham, Lord Holland, and the Duke of Richmond. They dined on the remains
of our dinner with great expedition, as they had to go to a Cabinet Council
at ten. Of course I had scarcely any talk with Lord Grey. He was, however,
extremely polite to me, and so were his colleagues. I liked the ways of
I picked up some news from these Cabinet Ministers. There is to be a
Coronation on quite a new plan; no banquet in Westminster Hall, no feudal
services, no champion, no procession from the Abbey to the Hall, and back
again. But there is to be a service in the Abbey. All the Peers are to
come in state and in their robes, and the King is to take the oaths, and
be crowned and anointed in their presence. The spectacle will be finer
than usual to the multitude out of doors. The few hundreds who could obtain
admittance to the Hall will be the only losers.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: July 8, 1831.
My dear Sister, --Since I wrote to you I have been out to dine and sleep
at Holland House. We had a very agreeable and splendid party; among others
the Duke and Duchess of Richmond, and the Marchioness of Clanricarde, who,
you know, is the daughter of Canning. She is very beautiful, and very like
her father, with eyes full of fire, and great expression in all her features.
She and I had a great deal of talk. She showed much cleverness and information,
but, I thought, a little more of political animosity than is quite becoming
in a pretty woman. However, she has been placed in peculiar circumstances.
The daughter of a statesman who was a martyr to the rage of faction may
be pardoned for speaking sharply of the enemies of her parent; and she
did speak sharply. With knitted brows, and flashing eyes, and a look of
feminine vengeance about her beautiful mouth, she gave me such a character
of Peel as he would certainly have had no pleasure in hearing.
In the evening Lord John Russell came; and, soon after, old Talleyrand.
I had seen Talleyrand in very large parties, hut had never been near enough
to hear a word that he said. I now had the pleasure of listening for an
hour and a half to his conversation. He is certainly the greatest curiosity
that I ever fell in with. His head is sunk down between two high shoulders.
One of his feet is hideously distorted. His face is as pale as that of
a corpse, and wrinkled to a frightful degree. His eyes have an odd glassy
stare quite peculiar to them. His hair, thickly powdered and pomatumed,
hangs down his shoulders on each side as straight as a pound of tallow
candles. His conversation, however, soon makes you forget his ugliness
and infirmities. There is a poignancy without effort in all that he says,
which reminded me a little of the character which the wits of Johnson's
circle give of Beauclerk. For example, we talked about Metternich and Cardinal
Mazarin. "J'y trouve beaucoup a redire. Le Cardinal trompait; mais il ne
mentait pas. Or, M. de Metternich ment toujours, et ne trompe jamais."
He mentioned M. de St. Aulaire, --now one of the most distinguished public
men of France. I said: "M. de Saint- Aulaire est beau-pere de M. le duc
de Cazes, n'est-ce pas?" "Non, monsieur," said Talleyrand; "l'on disait,
il y a douze ans, que M. de Saint-Aulaire etoit beau-pere de M. de Cazes;
l'on dit maintenant que M. de Cazes est gendre de M. de Saint-Aulaire."
[This saying remained in Macaulay's mind. He quoted it on the margin of
his Aulus Gellius, as an illustration of the passage in the nineteenth
book in which Julius Caesar is described, absurdly enough as "perpetuus
ille dictator, Cneii Pompeii socer".] It was not easy to describe the change
in the relative positions of two men more tersely and more sharply; and
these remarks were made in the lowest tone, and without the slightest change
of muscle, just as if he had been remarking that the day was fine. He added:
"M. de Saint-Aulaire a beaucoup d'esprit. Mais il est devot, et, ce qui
pis est, devot honteux. Il va se cacher dans quelque hameau pour faire
ses Paques." This was a curious remark from a Bishop. He told several stories
about the political men of France; not of any great value in themselves;
but his way of telling them was beyond all praise, --concise, pointed,
and delicately satirical. When he had departed, I could not help breaking
out into admiration of his talent for relating anecdotes. Lady Holland
said that he had been considered for nearly forty years as the best teller
of a story in Europe, and that there was certainly nobody like him in that
When the Prince was gone, we went to bed. In the morning Lord John Russell
drove me back to London in his cabriolet, much amused with what I had seen
and heard. But I must stop.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
Basinghall Street: July 15 1831.
My dear Sister, --The rage of faction at the present moment exceeds
anything that has been known in our day. Indeed I doubt whether, at the
time of Mr. Pitt's first becoming Premier, at the time of Sir Robert Walpole's
fall, or even during the desperate struggles between the Whigs and Tories
at the close of Anne's reign, the fury of party was so fearfully violent.
Lord Mahon said to me yesterday that friendships of long standing were
everywhere giving way, and that the schism between the reformers and the
anti-reformers was spreading from the House of Commons into every private
circle. Lord Mahon himself is an exception. He and I are on excellent terms.
But Praed and I become colder every day.
The scene of Tuesday night beggars description. I left the House at
about three, in consequence of some expressions of Lord Althorp's which
indicated that the Ministry was inclined to yield on the question of going
into Committee on the Bill. I afterwards much regretted that I had gone
away; not that my presence was necessary; but because I should have liked
to have sate through so tremendous a storm. Towards eight in the morning
the Speaker was almost fainting. The Ministerial members, however, were
as true as steel. They furnished the Ministry with the resolution which
it wanted. "If the noble Lord yields," said one of our men, "all is lost."
Old Sir Thomas Baring sent for his razor, and Benett, the member for Wiltshire,
for his night-cap; and they were both resolved to spend the whole day in
the House rather than give way. If the Opposition had not yielded, in two
hours half London would have been in Old Palace Yard.
Since Tuesday the Tories have been rather cowed. But their demeanour,
though less outrageous than at the beginning of the week, indicates what
would in any other time be called extreme violence. I have not been once
in bed till three in the morning since last Sunday. To-morrow we have a
holiday. I dine at Lansdowne House. Next week I dine with Littleton, the
member for Staffordshire, and his handsome wife. He told me that I should
meet two men whom I am curious to see, Lord Plunket and the Marquess Wellesley;
let alone the Chancellor, who is not a novelty to me.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: July 25, 1831.
My dear Sister, --On Saturday evening I went to Holland House. There
I found the Dutch Ambassador, M. de Weissembourg, Mr. and Mrs. Vernon Smith,
and Admiral Adam, a son of old Adam, who fought the duel with Fox. We dined
like Emperors, and jabbered in several languages. Her Ladyship, for an
esprit fort, is the greatest coward that I ever saw. The last time that
I was there she was frightened out of her wits by the thunder. She closed
all the shutters, drew all the curtains, and ordered candles in broad day
to keep out the lightning, or rather the appearance of the lightning. On
Saturday she was in a terrible taking about the cholera; talked of nothing
else; refused to eat any ice because somebody said that ice was bad for
the cholera; was sure that the cholera was at Glasgow; and asked me why
a cordon of troops was not instantly placed around that town to prevent
all intercourse between the infected and the healthy spots. Lord Holland
made light of her fears. He is a thoroughly good-natured, open, sensible
man; very lively; very intellectual; well read in politics, and in the
lighter literature both of ancient and modern times. He sets me more at
ease than almost any person that I know, by a certain good-humoured way
of contradicting that he has. He always begins by drawing down his shaggy
eyebrows, making a face extremely like his uncle, wagging his head and
saying: "Now do you know, Mr. Macaulay, I do not quite see that. How do
you make it out?" He tells a story delightfully; and bears the pain of
his gout, and the confinement and privations to which it subjects him,
with admirable fortitude and cheerfulness. Her Ladyship is all courtesy
and kindness to me; but her demeanour to some others, particularly to poor
Allen, is such as it quite pains me to witness. He really is treated like
a negro slave. "Mr. Allen, go into my drawing-room and bring my reticule."
"Mr. Allen, go and see what can be the matter that they do not bring up
dinner." "Mr. Allen, there is not enough turtle-soup for you. You must
take gravy-soup or none." Yet I can scarcely pity the man. He has an independent
income; and, if he can stoop to be ordered about like a footman, I cannot
so much blame her for the contempt with which she treats him.
Perhaps I may write again to-morrow.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
Library of the House of Commons
July 26, 1831.
My dear Sister, --Here I am seated, waiting for the debate on the borough
of St. Germains with a very quiet party, --Lord Milton, Lord Tavistock,
and George Lamb. But, instead of telling you in dramatic form my conversations
with Cabinet Ministers, I shall, I think, go back two or three days, and
complete the narrative which I left imperfect in my epistle of yesterday.
[This refers to a passage in a former letter, likewise written from
the Library of the House.
"'Macaulay!' Who calls Macaulay? Sir James Graham. What can he have
to say to me? Take it dramatically:
Sir J. G. Macaulay!
Sir J. G. Whom are you writing to, that you laugh so much over your
Macaulay. To my constituents at Caine, to be sure. They expect news
of the Reform Bill every day.
Sir J. G. Well, writing to constituents is less of a plague to you than
to most people, to judge by your face.
Macaulay. How do you know that I am not writing a billet doux to a lady?
Sir J. G. You look more like it, by Jove!
Cutlar Ferguson, M.P. for Kirkcudbright. Let ladies and constituents
alone, and come into the House. We are going on to the case of the borough
of Great Bedwin immediately."]
At half after seven on Sunday I was set down at Littleton's palace,
for such it is, in Grosvenor Place. It really is a noble house; four superb
drawing-rooms on the first floor, hung round with some excellent pictures--
a Hobbema, (the finest by that artist in the world, it is said,) and Lawrence's
charming portrait of Mrs. Littleton. The beautiful original, by the bye,
did not make her appearance. We were a party of gentlemen. But such gentlemen!
Listen, and be proud of your connection with one who is admitted to eat
and drink in the same room with beings so exalted. There were two Chancellors,
Lord Brougham and Lord Plunket. There was Earl Gower; Lord St. Vincent;
Lord Seaford; Lord Duncannon; Lord Ebrington; Sir James Graham; Sir John
Newport; the two Secretaries of the Treasury, Rice and Ellice; George Lamb;
Denison; and half a dozen more Lords and distinguished Commoners, not to
mention Littleton himself. Till last year he lived in Portman Square. When
he changed his residence his servants gave him warning. They could not,
they said, consent to go into such an unheard-of part of the world as Grosvenor
Place. I can only say that I have never been in a finer house than Littleton's,
Lansdowne House excepted, --and perhaps Lord Milton's, which is also in
Grosvenor Place. He gave me a dinner of dinners. I talked with Denison,
and with nobody else. I have found out that the real use of conversational
powers is to put them forth in tete-a-tete. A man is flattered by your
talking your best to him alone. Ten to one he is piqued by your overpowering
him before a company. Denison was agreeable enough. I heard only one word
from Lord Plunket, who was remarkably silent. He spoke of Doctor Thorpe,
and said that, having heard the Doctor in Dublin, he should like to hear
him again in London. "Nothing easier," quoth Littleton; "his chapel is
only two doors off; and he will be just mounting the pulpit." "No," said
Lord Plunket; "I can't lose my dinner." An excellent saying, though one
which a less able man than Lord Plunket might have uttered.
At midnight I walked away with George Lamb, and went-- where for a ducat?
"To bed," says Miss Hannah. Nay, my sister, not so; but to Brooks's. There
I found Sir James Macdonald; Lord Duncannon, who had left Littleton's just
before us; and many other Whigs and ornaments of human nature. As Macdonald
and I were rising to depart we saw Rogers, and I went to shake hands with
him. You cannot think how kind the old man was to me. He shook my hand
over and over, and told me that Lord Plunket longed to see me in a quiet
way, and that he would arrange a breakfast party in a day or two for that
Away I went from Brooks's-- but whither? "To bed now, I am sure," says
little Anne. No, but on a walk with Sir James Macdonald to the end of Sloane
Street, talking about the Ministry, the Reform Bill, and the East India
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
House of Commons Smoking Room: Saturday.
My dear Sister ,--The newspapers will have, explained the reason of
our sitting to-day. At three this morning I left the House. At two this
afternoon I have returned to it, with the thermometer at boiling heat,
and four hundred and fifty people stowed together like negroes in the John
Newton's slaveship. I have accordingly left Sir Francis Burdett on his
legs, and repaired to the smoking-room; a large, wainscoted, uncarpeted
place, with tables covered with green baize and writing materials. On a
full night it is generally thronged towards twelve o'clock with smokers.
It is then a perfect cloud of fume. There have I seen, (tell it not to
the West Indians,) Buxton blowing fire out of his mouth. My father will
not believe it. At present, however, all the doors and windows are open,
and the room is pure enough from tobacco to suit my father himself.
Get Blackwood's new number. There is a description of me in it. What
do you think he says that I am? "A little, splay-footed, ugly, dumpling
of a fellow, with a mouth from ear to ear." Conceive how such a charge
must affect a man so enamoured of his own beauty as I am.
I said a few words the other night. They were merely in reply, and quite
unpremeditated, and were not ill received. I feel that much practice will
be necessary to make me a good debater on points of detail; but my friends
tell me that I have raised my reputation by showing that I was quite equal
to the work of extemporaneous reply. My manner, they say, is cold and wants
care. I feel this myself. Nothing but strong excitement, and a great occasion,
overcomes a certain reserve and mauvaise honte which I have in public
speaking; not a mauvaise honte which in the least confuses me, or
makes me hesitate for a word, but which keeps me from putting any fervour
into my tone or my action. This is perhaps in some respects an advantage;
for, when I do warm, I am the most vehement speaker in the House, and nothing
strikes an audience so much as the animation of an orator who is generally
I ought to tell you that Peel was very civil, and cheered me loudly;
and that impudent leering Croker congratulated the House on the proof which
I had given of my readiness. He was afraid, he said, that I had been silent
so long on account of the many allusions which had been made to Calne.
Now that I had risen again he hoped that they should hear me often. See
whether I do not dust that varlet's jacket for him in the next number of
the Blue and Yellow. I detest him more than cold boiled veal. ["By the
bye," Macaulay writes elsewhere, "you never saw such a scene as Croker's
oration on Friday night. He abused Lord John Russell; he abused Lord Althorp;
he abused the Lord Advocate, and we took no notice; --never once groaned
or cried 'No!' But he began to praise Lord Fitzwilliam; --'a venerable
nobleman, an excellent and amiable nobleman' and so forth; and we all broke
out together with 'Question!' 'No, no!' 'This is too bad!' 'Don't, don't!'
He then called Canning his right honourable friend. 'Your friend! damn
your impudent face!' said the member who sate next me."]
After the debate I walked about the streets with Bulwer till near three
o'clock. I spoke to him about his novels with perfect sincerity, praising
warmly, and criticising freely. He took the praise as a greedy boy takes
apple-pie, and the criticism as a good dutiful boy takes senna-tea. He
has one eminent merit, that of being a most enthusiastic admirer of mine;
so that I may be the hero of a novel yet, under the name of Delamere or
Mortimer. Only think what an honour!
Bulwer is to be editor of the New Monthly Magazine. He begged me very
earnestly to give him something for it. I would make no promises; for I
am already over head and ears in literary engagements. But I may possibly
now and then send him some trifle or other. At all events I shall expect
him to puff me well. I do not see why I should not have my puffers as well
as my neighbours.
I am glad that you have read Madame de Stael's Allemagne. The book is
a foolish one in some respects; but it abounds with information, and shows
great mental power. She was certainly the first woman of her age; Miss
Edgeworth, I think, the second; and Miss Austen the third.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: August 29, 1831.
My dear Sister, --Here I am again settled, sitting up in the House of
Commons till three o'clock five days in the week, and getting an indigestion
at great dinners the remaining two. I dined on Saturday with Lord Althorp,
and yesterday with Sir James Graham. Both of them gave me exactly the same
dinner; and, though I am not generally copious on the repasts which my
hosts provide for me, I must tell you, for the honour of official hospitality,
how our Ministers regale their supporters. Turtle, turbot, venison, and
grouse, formed part of both entertainments.
Lord Althorp was extremely pleasant at the head of his own table. We
were a small party; Lord Ebrington, Hawkins, Captain Spencer, Stanley,
and two or three more. We all of us congratulated Lord Althorp on his good
health and spirits. He told us that he never took exercise now; that from
his getting up, till four o'clock, he was engaged in the business of his
office; that at four he dined, went down to the House at five, and never
stirred till the House rose, which is always after midnight; that he then
went home, took a basin of arrow-root with a glass of sherry in it, and
went to bed, where he always dropped asleep in three minutes. "During the
week," said he, "which followed my taking office, I did not close my eyes
for anxiety. Since that time I have never been awake a quarter of an hour
after taking off my clothes." Stanley laughed at Lord Althorp's arrow-root,
and recommended his own supper, cold meat and warm negus; a supper which
I will certainly begin to take when I feel a desire to pass the night with
a sensation as if I was swallowing a nutmeg-grater every third minute.
We talked about timidity in speaking. Lord Althorp said that he had
only just got over his apprehensions. "I was as much afraid," he said,
"last year as when first I came into Parliament. But now I am forced to
speak so often that I am quite hardened. Last Thursday I was up forty times."
I was not much surprised at this in Lord Althorp, as he is certainly one
of the most modest men in existence. But I was surprised to hear Stanley
say that he never rose without great uneasiness. "My throat and lips,"
he said, "when I am going to speak, are as dry as those of a man who is
going to be hanged." Nothing can be more composed and cool than Stanley's
manner. His fault is on that side. A little hesitation at the beginning
of a speech is graceful; and many eminent speakers have practised it, merely
in order to give the appearance of unpremeditated reply to prepared speeches;
but Stanley speaks like a man who never knew what fear, or even modesty,
was. Tierney, it is remarkable, who was the most ready and fluent debater
almost ever known, made a confession similar to Stanley's. He never spoke,
he said, without feeling his knees knock together when he rose.
My opinion of Lord Althorp is extremely high. In fact, his character
is the only stay of the Ministry. I doubt whether any person has ever lived
in England who, with no eloquence, no brilliant talents, no profound information,
with nothing in short but plain good sense and an excellent heart, possessed
so much influence both in and out of Parliament. His temper is an absolute
miracle. He has been worse used than any Minister ever was in debate; and
he has never said one thing inconsistent, I do not say with gentlemanlike
courtesy, but with real benevolence. Lord North, perhaps, was his equal
in suavity and good-nature; but Lord North was not a man of strict principles.
His administration was not only an administration hostile to liberty, but
it was supported by vile and corrupt means, --by direct bribery, I fear,
in many cases. Lord Althorp has the temper of Lord North with the principles
of Romilly. If he had the oratorical powers of either of those men, he
might do anything. But his understanding, though just, is slow, and his
elocution painfully defective. It is, however, only justice to him to say
that he has done more service to the Reform Bill even as a debater than
all the other Ministers together, Stanley excepted.
We are going, --by we I mean the Members of Parliament who are for reform,
--as soon as the Bill is through the Commons, to give a grand dinner to
Lord Althorp and Lord John Russell, as a mark of our respect. Some people
wished to have the other Cabinet Ministers included; but Grant and Palmerston
are not in sufficiently high esteem among the Whigs to be honoured with
such a compliment.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: September 9, 1835.
My dear Sister, --I scarcely know where to begin, or where to end, my
story of the magnificence of yesterday. No pageant can be conceived more
splendid. The newspapers will happily save me the trouble of relating minute
particulars. I will therefore give you an account of my own proceedings,
and mention what struck me most. I rose at six. The cannon awaked me; and,
as soon as I got up, I heard the bells pealing on every side from all the
steeples in London. I put on my court-dress, and looked a perfect Lovelace
in it. At seven the glass coach, which I had ordered for myself and some
of my friends, came to the door. I called in Hill Street for William Marshall,
M.P. for Beverley, and in Cork Street for Strutt the Member for Derby,
and Hawkins the Member for Tavistock. Our party being complete, we drove
through crowds of people, and ranks of horseguards in cuirasses and helmets,
to Westminster Hall, which we reached as the clock struck eight.
The House of Commons was crowded, and the whole assembly was in uniform.
After prayers we went out in order by lot, the Speaker going last. My county,
Wiltshire, was among the first drawn; so I got an excellent place in the
Abbey, next to Lord Mahon, who is a very great favourite of mine, and a
very amusing companion, though a bitter Tory.
Our gallery was immediately over the great altar. The whole vast avenue
of lofty pillars was directly in front of us. At eleven the guns fired,
the organ struck up, and the procession entered. I never saw so magnificent
a scene. All down that immense vista of gloomy arches there was one blaze
of scarlet and gold. First came heralds in coats stiff with embroidered
lions, unicorns, and harps; then nobles bearing the regalia, with pages
in rich dresses carrying their coronets on cushions; then the Dean and
Prebendaries of Westminster in copes of cloth of gold; then a crowd of
beautiful girls and women, or at least of girls and women who at a distance
looked altogether beautiful, attending on the Queen. Her train of purple
velvet and ermine was borne by six of these fair creatures. All the great
officers of state in full robes, the Duke of Wellington with his Marshal's
staff, the Duke of Devonshire with his white rod, Lord Grey with the Sword
of State, and the Chancellor with his seals, came in procession. Then all
the Royal Dukes with their trains borne behind them, and last the King
leaning on two Bishops. I do not, I dare say, give you the precise order.
In fact, it was impossible to discern any order. The whole abbey was one
blaze of gorgeous dresses, mingled with lovely faces.
The Queen behaved admirably, with wonderful grace and dignity. The King
very awkwardly. The Duke of Devonshire looked as if he came to be crowned
instead of his master. I never saw so princely a manner and air. The Chancellor
looked like Mephistopheles behind Margaret in the church. The ceremony
was much too long, and some parts of it were carelessly performed. The
Archbishop mumbled. The Bishop of London preached, well enough indeed,
but not so effectively as the occasion required; and, above all, the bearing
of the King made the foolish parts of the ritual appear monstrously ridiculous,
and deprived many of the better parts of their proper effect. Persons who
were at a distance perhaps did not feel this; but I was near enough to
see every turn of his finger, and every glance of his eye. The moment of
the crowning was extremely fine. When the Archbishop placed the crown on
the head of the King, the trumpets sounded, and the whole audience cried
out "God save the King." All the Peers and Peeresses put on their coronets,
and the blaze of splendour through the Abbey seemed to be doubled. The
King was then conducted to the raised throne, where the Peers successively
did him homage, each of them kissing his cheek, and touching the crown.
Some of them were cheered, which I thought indecorous in such a place,
and on such an occasion. The Tories cheered the Duke of Wellington; and
our people, in revenge, cheered Lord Grey and Brougham.
You will think this a very dull letter for so great a subject; but I
have only had time to scrawl these lines in order to catch the post. I
have not a minute to read them over. I lost yesterday, and have been forced
to work to-day. Half my article on Boswell went to Edinburgh the day before
yesterday. I have, though I say it who should not say it, beaten Croker
black and blue. Impudent as he is, I think he must be ashamed of the pickle
in which I leave him. [Mr. Carlyle reviewed Croker's book in "Fraser's
Magazine" a few months after the appearance of Macaulay's article in the
"Edinburgh." The two Critics seem to have arrived at much the same conclusion
as to the merits of the work. "In fine," writes Mr. Carlyle, "what ideas
Mr. Croker entertains of a literary whole, and the thing called Book, and
how the very Printer's Devils did not rise in mutiny against such a conglomeration
as this, and refuse to print it, may remain a problem . . . . It is our
painful duty to declare, aloud, if that be necessary, that his gift, as
weighed against the hard money which the booksellers demand for giving
it you, is (in our judgment) very much the lighter. No portion, accordingly,
of our small floating capital has been embarked in the business, or ever
shall be. Indeed, were we in the market for such a thing, there is simply
no edition of Boswell to which this last would seem preferable,"]
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: September 13, 1831.
My dear Sister, --I am in high spirits at the thought of soon seeing
you all in London, and being again one of a family, and of a family which
I love so much. It is well that one has something to love in private life;
for the aspect of public affairs is very menacing; --fearful, I think,
beyond what people in general imagine. Three weeks, however, will probably
settle the whole, and bring to an issue the question, Reform or Revolution.
One or the other I am certain that we must and shall have. I assure you
that the violence of the people, the bigotry of the Lords, and the stupidity
and weakness of the Ministers, alarm me so much that even my rest is disturbed
by vexation and uneasy forebodings; not for myself; for I may gain, and
cannot lose; but for this noble country, which seems likely to be ruined
without the miserable consolation of being ruined by great men. All seems
fair as yet, and will seem fair for a fortnight longer. But I know the
danger from information more accurate and certain than, I believe, anybody
not in power possesses; and I perceive, what our men in power do not perceive,
how terrible the danger is.
I called on Lord Lansdowne on Sunday. He told me distinctly that he
expected the Bill to be lost in the Lords, and that, if it were lost, the
Ministers must go out. I told him, with as much strength of expression
as was suited to the nature of our connection, and to his age and rank,
that, if the Ministers receded before the Lords, and hesitated to make
Peers, they and the Whig party were lost; that nothing remained but an
insolent oligarchy on the one side, and an infuriated people on the other;
and that Lord Grey and his colleagues would become as odious and more contemptible
than Peel and the Duke of Wellington. Why did they not think of all this
earlier? Why put their hand to the plough, and look back? Why begin to
build without counting the cost of finishing? Why raise the public appetite,
and then baulk it? I told him that the House of Commons would address the
King against a Tory Ministry. I feel assured that it would do so. I feel
assured that, if those who are bidden will not come, the highways and hedges
will be ransacked to get together a reforming Cabinet. To one thing my
mind is made up. If nobody else will move an address to the Crown against
a Tory Ministry, I will.
T. B. M.
London: October 17, 1831.
My dear Ellis ,--I should have written to you before, but that I mislaid
your letter and forgot your direction. When shall you be in London? Of
course you do not mean to sacrifice your professional business to the work
of numbering the gates, and telling the towers, of boroughs in Wales. [Mr.
Ellis was one of the Commissioners appointed to arrange the boundaries
of Parliamentary boroughs in connection with the Reform Bill.] You will
come back, I suppose, with your head full of ten pound householders instead
of eroes and of Caermarthen and Denbigh instead of Carians and Pelasgians.
Is it true, by the bye, that the Commissioners are whipped on the boundaries
of the boroughs by the beadles, in order that they may not forget the precise
line which they have drawn? I deny it wherever I go, and assure people
that some of my friends who are in the Commission would not submit to such
You must have been hard-worked indeed, and soundly whipped too, if you
have suffered as much for the Reform Bill as we who debated it. I believe
that there are fifty members of the House of Commons who have done irreparable
injury to their health by attendance on the discussions of this session.
I have got through pretty well, but I look forward, I confess, with great
dismay to the thought of recommencing; particularly as Wetherell's cursed
lungs seem to be in as good condition as ever.
I have every reason to be gratified by the manner in which my speeches
have been received. To say the truth, the station which I now hold in the
House is such that I should not be inclined to quit it for any place which
was not of considerable importance. What you saw about my having a place
was a blunder of a stupid reporter's. Croker was taunting the Government
with leaving me to fight their battle, and to rally their followers; and
said that the honourable and learned member for Calne, though only a practising
barrister in title, seemed to be in reality the most efficient member of
the Government. By the bye, my article on Croker has not only smashed his
book, but has hit the Westminster Review incidentally. The Utilitarians
took on themselves to praise the accuracy of the most inaccurate writer
that ever lived, and gave as an instance of it a note in which, as I have
shown, he makes a mistake of twenty years and more. John Mill is in a rage,
and says that they are in a worse scrape than Croker; John Murray says
that it is a damned nuisance; and Croker looks across the House of Commons
at me with a leer of hatred, which I repay with a gracious smile of pity.
I am ashamed to have said so much about myself. But you asked for news
about me. No request is so certain to be granted, or so certain to be a
curse to him who makes it as that which you have made to me.
T. B. MACAULAY.
London: January 9, 1832.
Dear Napier, --I have been so much engaged by bankrupt business, as
we are winding up the affairs of many estates, that I shall not be able
to send off my article about Hampden till Thursday the 12th. It will be,
I fear, more than forty pages long. As Pascal said of his eighteenth letter,
I would have made it shorter if I could have kept it longer. You must indulge
me, however; for I seldom offend in that way.
It is in part a narrative. This is a sort of composition which I have
never yet attempted. You will tell me, I am sure with sincerity, how you
think that I succeed in it. I have said as little about Lord Nugent's book
as I decently could.
T. B. M.
London: January 19, 1832.
Dear Napier, --I will try the Life of Lord Burleigh, if you will tell
Longman to send me the book. However bad the work may be, it will serve
as a heading for an article on the times of Elizabeth. On the whole, I
thought it best not to answer Croker. Almost all the little pamphlet which
he published, (or rather printed, for I believe it is not for sale,) is
made up of extracts from Blackwood; and I thought that a contest with your
grog-drinking, cock-fighting, cudgel-playing Professor of Moral Philosophy
would be too degrading. I could have demolished every paragraph of the
defence. Croker defended his thuetoi philoi by quoting a passage
of Euripides which, as every scholar knows, is corrupt; which is nonsense
and false metre if read as he reads it; and which Markland and Matthiae
have set right by a most obvious correction. But, as nobody seems to have
read his vindication, we can gain nothing by refuting it. ["Mr. Croker
has favoured us with some Greek of his own. 'At the altar,' says Dr. Johnson.
'I recommended my th ph.' 'These letters,' says the editor. (which
Dr. Strahan seems not to have understood,) probably mean departed friends.'
Johnson was not a first-rate Greek scholar; but he knew more Greek than
most boys when they leave school; and no schoolboy could venture to use
the word thuetoi in the sense which Mr. Croker ascribes to it without
imminent danger of a flogging."--Macaulay's Review of Croker's Boswell.]
T. B. MACAULAY.