Chapter 5 -- 1832-1834
Macaulay is invited to stand for Leeds -- The Reform bill passes
-- Macaulay appointed Commissioner of the Board of Control -- His life
in office -- Letters to his sisters -- Contested election at Leeds -- Macaulay's
bearing as a candidate -- Canvassing -- Pledges -- Intrusion of religion
into politics -- Placemen in Parliament -- Liverpool -- Margaret Macaulay's
marriage -- How it affected her brother -- He is returned for Leeds --
Becomes Secretary of the Board of Control -- Letters to Hannah Macaulay
-- Session of 1832 -- Macaulay's Speech on the India Bill -- His regard
for Lord Glenelg -- Letters to Hannah Macaulay -- The West Indian question
-- Macaulay resigns Office -- He gains his point, and resumes his place
-- Emancipation of the Slaves -- Death of Wilberforce -- Macaulay is appointed
Member of the Supreme Council of India -- Letters to Hannah Macaulay, Lord
Lansdowne, and Mr. Napier -- [[*Macaulay considers his
Indian prospects* -- *Plans for travel to India*]]
-- Altercation between Lord Althorp and Mr. Shiel -- Macaulay's appearance
before the Committee of Investigation -- He sails for India.
During the earlier half of the year 1832 the vessel of Reform was
still labouring heavily; but, long before she was through the breakers,
men had begun to discount the treasures which she was bringing into port.
The time was fast approaching when the country would be called upon to
choose its first Reformed Parliament. As if the spectacle of what was doing
at Westminster did not satisfy their appetite for political excitement,
the Constituencies of the future could not refrain from anticipating the
fancied pleasures of an electoral struggle. Impatient to exercise their
privileges, and to show that they had as good an eye for a man as those
patrons of nomination seats whose discernment was being vaunted nightly
in a dozen speeches from the Opposition benches of the House of Commons,
the great cities were vying with each other to seek representatives worthy
of the occasion and of themselves. The Whigs of Leeds, already provided
with one candidate in a member of the great local firm of the Marshalls,
resolved to seek for another among the distinguished politicians of their
party. As early as October 1831 Macaulay had received a requisition from
that town, and had pledged himself to stand as soon as it had been elevated
into a Parliamentary borough. The Tories, on their side, brought forward
Mr. Michael Sadler, the very man on whose behalf the Duke of Newcastle
had done "what he liked with his own" in Newark, --and, at the last general
election, had done it in vain. Sadler, smarting from the lash of the Edinburgh
Review, infused into the contest an amount of personal bitterness that
for his own sake might better have been spared; and, during more than a
twelvemonth to come, Macaulay lived the life of a candidate whose own hands
are full of public work at a time when his opponent has nothing to do except
to make himself disagreeable. But, having once undertaken to fight the
battle of the Leeds Liberals, he fought it stoutly and cheerily; and he
would have been the last to claim it as a merit, that, with numerous opportunities
of a safe and easy election at his disposal, he remained faithful to the
supporters who had been so forward to honour him with their choice.
The old system died hard; but in May 1832 came its final agony. The
Reform Bill had passed the Commons, and had been read a second time in
the Upper House; but the facilities which Committee affords for maiming
and delaying a measure of great magnitude and intricacy proved too much
for the self-control of the Lords. The King could not bring himself to
adopt that wonderful expedient by which the unanimity of the three branches
of our legislature may, in the last resort, be secured. Deceived by an
utterly fallacious analogy, his Majesty began to be persuaded that the
path of concession would lead him whither it had led Louis the Sixteenth;
and he resolved to halt on that path at the point where his Ministers advised
him to force the hands of their lordships by creating peers. The supposed
warnings of the French Revolution, which had been dinned into the ears
of the country by every Tory orator from Peel to Sibthorpe, at last had
produced their effect on the royal imagination. Earl Grey resigned, and
the Duke of Wellington, with a loyalty which certainly did not stand in
need of such an unlucky proof, came forward to meet the storm. But its
violence was too much even for his courage and constancy. He could not
get colleagues to assist him in the Cabinet, or supporters to vote with
him in Parliament, or soldiers to fight for him in the streets; and it
was evident that in a few days his position would be such as could only
be kept by fighting.
The revolution had in truth commenced. At a meeting of the political
unions on the slope of Newhall Hill at Birmingham a hundred thousand voices
had sung the words:
God is our guide. No swords we draw.
But those very men were now binding themselves by a declaration that, unless
the Bill passed, they would pay no taxes, nor purchase property distrained
by the tax-gatherer. In thus renouncing the first obligation of a citizen
they did in effect draw the sword, and they would have been cravens if
they had left it in the scabbard. Lord Milton did something to enhance
the claim of his historic house upon the national gratitude by giving practical
effect to this audacious resolve; and, after the lapse of two centuries,
another Great Rebellion, more effectual than its predecessor, but so brief
and bloodless that history does not recognise it as a rebellion at all,
was inaugurated by the essentially English proceeding of a quiet country
gentleman telling the Collector to call again. The crisis lasted just a
week. The Duke had no mind for a succession of Peterloos, on a vaster scale,
and with a different issue. He advised the King to recall his Ministers;
and his Majesty, in his turn, honoured the refractory lords with a most
significant circular letter, respectful in form, but unmistakable in tenor.
A hundred peers of the Opposition took the hint, and contrived to be absent
whenever Reform was before the House. The Bill was read for a third time
by a majority of five to one on the 4th of June; a strange, and not very
complimentary, method of celebrating old George the Third's birthday. On
the 5th it received the last touches in the Commons; and on the 7th it
became an Act, in very much the same shape, after such and so many vicissitudes,
as it wore when Lord John Russell first presented it to Parliament.
We kindle not war's battle fires.
By union, justice, reason, law,
We claim the birthright of our sires.
Macaulay, whose eloquence had signalised every stage of the conflict,
and whose printed speeches are, of all its authentic records, the most
familiar to readers of our own day, was not left without his reward. He
was appointed one of the Commissioners of the Board of Control, which,
for three quarters of a century from 1784 onwards, represented the Crown
in its relations to the East Indian directors. His duties, like those of
every individual member of a Commission, were light or heavy as he chose
to make them; but his own feeling with regard to those duties must not
be deduced from the playful allusions contained in letters dashed off,
during the momentary leisure of an over-busy day, for the amusement of
two girls who barely numbered forty years between them. His speeches and
essays teem with expressions of a far deeper than official interest in
India and her people; and his minutes remain on record, to prove that he
did not affect the sentiment for a literary or oratorical purpose. The
attitude of his own mind with regard to our Eastern empire is depicted
in the passage on Burke, in the essay on Warren Hastings, which commences
with the words, "His knowledge of India--," and concludes with the sentence,
"Oppression in Bengal was to him the same thing as oppression in the streets
of London." That passage, unsurpassed as it is in force of language, and
splendid fidelity of detail, by anything that Macaulay ever wrote or uttered,
was inspired, as all who knew him could testify, by sincere and entire
sympathy with that great statesman of whose humanity and breadth of view
it is the merited, and not inadequate, panegyric.
In Margaret Macaulay's journal there occurs more than one mention of
her brother's occasional fits of contrition on the subject of his own idleness;
but these regrets and confessions must be taken for what they are worth,
and for no more. He worked much harder than he gave himself credit for.
His nature was such that whatever he did was done with all his heart, and
all his power; and he was constitutionally incapable of doing it otherwise.
He always under-estimated the tension and concentration of mind which he
brought to bear upon his labours, as compared with that which men in general
bestow on whatever business they may have in hand; and, towards the close
of life, this honourable self-deception no doubt led him to draw far too
largely upon his failing strength, under the impression that there was
nothing unduly severe in the efforts to which he continued to brace himself
with ever increasing difficulty.
During the eighteen months that he passed at the Board of Control he
had no time for relaxation, and very little for the industry which he loved
the best. Giving his days to India, and his nights to the inexorable demands
of the Treasury Whip, he could devote a few hours to the Edinburgh Review
only by rising at five when the rules of the House of Commons had allowed
him to get to bed betimes on the previous evening. Yet, under these conditions,
he contrived to provide Mr. Napier with the highly finished articles on
Horace Walpole and Lord Chatham, and to gratify a political opponent, who
was destined to be a life-long friend, by his kindly criticism and spirited
summary of Lord Mahon's "History of the War of the Succession in Spain."
And, in the "Friendship's Offering" of 1833, one of those mawkish annual
publications of the album species which were then in fashion, appeared
his poem of the Armada; whose swinging couplets read as if somewhat out
of place in the company of such productions as "The Mysterious Stranger,
or the Bravo of Banff;" "Away to the Greenwood, a song;" and "Lines on
a Window that had been frozen," beginning with,
"Pellucid pane, this morn on thee
My fancy shaped both tower and tree."
To Hannah and Margaret Macaulay
Bath: June 10, 1832.
My dear Sisters, --Everything has gone wrong with me. The people at
Calne fixed Wednesday for my re-election on taking office; the very day
on which I was to have been at a public dinner at Leeds. I shall therefore
remain here till Wednesday morning, and read Indian politics in quiet.
I am already deep in Zemindars, Ryots, Polygars, Courts of Phoujdary, and
Courts of Nizamut Adawlut. I can tell you which of the native Powers are
subsidiary, and which independent, and read you lectures of an hour on
our diplomatic transactions at the courts of Lucknow, Nagpore, Hydrabad,
and Poonah. At Poonah, indeed, I need not tell you that there is no court;
for the Paishwa, as you are doubtless aware, was deposed by Lord Hastings
in the Pindarree War. Am I not in fair training to be as great a bore as
if I had myself been in India? --that is to say, as great a bore as the
I am leading my watering-place life here; reading, writing, and walking
all day; speaking to nobody but the waiter and the chambermaid; solitary
in a great crowd, and content with solitude. I shall be in London again
on Thursday, and shall also be an M. P. From that day you may send your
letters as freely as ever; and pray do not be sparing of them. Do you read
any novels at Liverpool? I should fear that the good Quakers would twitch
them out of your hands, and appoint their portion in the fire. Yet probably
you have some safe place, some box, some drawer with a key, wherein a marble-covered
book may lie for Nancy's Sunday reading. And, if you do not read novels,
what do you read? How does Schiller go on? I have sadly neglected Calderon;
but, whenever I have a month to spare, I shall carry my conquests far and
deep into Spanish literature.
T. B. M.
To Hannah and Margaret Macaulay.
London: July 2, 1832.
My dear Sisters, --I am, I think, a better correspondent than you two
put together. I will venture to say that I have written more letters, by
a good many, than I have received, and this with India and the Edinburgh
Review on my hands; the Life of Mirabeau to be criticised; the Rajah of
Travancore to be kept in order; and the bad money, which the Emperor of
the Burmese has had the impudence to send us by way of tribute, to be exchanged
for better. You have nothing to do but to be good, and write. Make no excuses,
for your excuses are contradictory. If you see sights, describe them; for
then you have subjects. If you stay at home, write; for then you have time.
Remember that I never saw the cemetery or the railroad. Be particular,
above all, in your accounts of the Quakers. I enjoin this especially on
Nancy; for from Meg I have no hope of extracting a word of truth.
I dined yesterday at Holland House; all Lords except myself. Lord Radnor,
Lord Poltimore, Lord King, Lord Russell, and his uncle Lord John. Lady
Holland was very gracious, praised my article on Burleigh to the skies,
and told me, among other things, that she had talked on the preceding day
for two hours with Charles Grant upon religion, and had found him very
liberal and tolerant. It was, I suppose, the cholera which sent her Ladyship
to the only saint in the Ministry for ghostly counsel. Poor Macdonald's
case was most undoubtedly cholera. It is said that Lord Amesbury also died
of cholera, though no very strange explanation seems necessary to account
for the death of a man of eighty-four. Yesterday it was rumoured that the
three Miss Molyneuxes, of whom by the way there are only two, were all
dead in the same way; that the Bishop of Worcester and Lord Barham were
no more; and many other foolish stories. I do not believe there is the
slightest ground for uneasiness; though Lady Holland apparently considers
the case so serious that she has taken her conscience out of Allen's keeping,
and put it into the hands of Charles Grant.
Here I end my letter; a great deal too long already for so busy a man
to write, and for such careless correspondents to receive.
T. B. M.
To Hannah and Margaret Macaulay.
London: July 6, 1832.
Be you Foxes, be you Pitts,
So sings the judicious poet; and here I sit in my parlour, looking out
on the Thames, and divided, like Garrick in Sir Joshua's picture, between
Tragedy and Comedy; a letter to you, and a bundle of papers about Hydrabad,
and the firm of Palmer and Co., late bankers to the Nizam.
You must write to silly chits.
Be you Tories, be you Whigs,
You must write to sad young gigs.
On whatever board you are--
Treasury, Admiralty, War,
Customs, Stamps, Excise, Control;--
Write you must, upon my soul.
Poor Sir Walter Scott is going back to Scotland by sea tomorrow. All
hope is over; and he has a restless wish to die at home. He is many thousand
pounds worse than nothing. Last week he was thought to be so near his end
that some people went, I understand, to sound Lord Althorp about a public
funeral. Lord Althorp said, very like himself, that if public money was
to be laid out, it would be better to give it to the family than to spend
it in one day's show. The family, however, are said to be not ill off.
I am delighted to hear of your proposed tour, but not so well pleased
to be told that you expect to be bad correspondents during your stay at
Welsh inns. Take pens and ink with you, if you think that you shall find
none at the Bard's Head, or the Glendower Arms. But it will be too bad
if you send me no letters during a tour which will furnish so many subjects.
Why not keep a journal, and minute down in it all that you see and hear?
and remember that I charge you, as the venerable circle charged Miss Byron,
to tell me of every person who "regards you with an eye of partiality."
What can I say more? as the Indians end their letters. Did not Lady
Holland tell me of some good novels? I remember: --Henry Masterton, three
volumes, an amusing story and a happy termination. Smuggle it in, next
time that you go to Liverpool, from some circulating library; and deposit
it in a lock-up place out of the reach of them that are clothed in drab;
and read it together at the curling hour.
My article on Mirabeau will be out in the forthcoming number. I am not
a good judge of my own compositions, I fear; but I think that it will be
popular. A Yankee has written to me to say that an edition of my works
is about to be published in America with my life prefixed, and that he
shall be obliged to me to tell him when I was born, whom I married, and
so forth. I guess I must answer him slick right away. For, as the judicious
Though a New England man lolls back in his chair,
How I run on in quotation! But, when I begin to cite the verses of our
great writers, I never can stop. Stop I must, however.
With a pipe in his mouth, and his legs in the air,
Yet surely an Old England man such as I
To a kinsman by blood should be civil and spry.
T. B. M.
To Hannah and Margaret Macaulay.
London: July 18, 1832.
My dear Sisters, --I have heard from Napier. He speaks rapturously of
my article on Dumont, [Dumont's "Life of Mirabeau." See the Miscellaneous
Writings of Lord Macaulay.] but sends me no money. Allah blacken his face!
as the Persians say. He has not yet paid me for Burleigh.
We are worked to death in the House of Commons, and we are henceforth
to sit on Saturdays. This, indeed, is the only way to get through our business.
On Saturday next we shall, I hope, rise before seven, as I am engaged to
dine on that day with pretty, witty Mrs.--. I fell in with her at Lady
Grey's great crush, and found her very agreeable. Her husband is nothing
in society. Ropers has some very good stories about their domestic happiness,
--stories confirming a theory of mine which, as I remember, made you very
angry. When they first married, Mrs.-- treated her husband with great respect.
But, when his novel came out and failed completely, she changed her conduct,
and has, ever since that unfortunate publication, henpecked the poor author
unmercifully. And the case, says Ropers, is the harder, because it is suspected
that she wrote part of the book herself. It is like the scene in Milton
where Eve, after tempting Adam, abuses him for yielding to temptation.
But do you not remember how I told you that much of the love of women depended
on the eminence of men? And do you not remember how, on behalf of your
sex, you resented the imputation?
As to the present state of affairs, abroad and at home, I cannot sum
it up better than in these beautiful lines of the poet:
Peel is preaching, and Croker is lying.
The cholera's raging, the people are dying.
When the House is the coolest, as I am alive,
The thermometer stands at a hundred and five.
We debate in a heat that seems likely to burn us,
Much like the three children who sang in the furnace.
The disorders at Paris have not ceased to plague us;
Don Pedro, I hope, is ere this on the Tagus;
In Ireland no tithe can be raised by a parson;
Mr. Smithers is just hanged for murder and arson;
Dr. Thorpe has retired from the Lock, and 'tis said
That poor little Wilks will succeed in his stead.
T. B. M.
To Hannah and Margaret Macaulay.
London: July 21 1832.
My dear Sisters, --I am glad to find that there is no chance of Nancy's
turning Quaker. She would, indeed, make a queer kind of female Friend.
What the Yankees will say about me I neither know nor care. I told them
the dates of my birth, and of my coming into Parliament. I told them also
that I was educated at Cambridge. As to my early bon-mots, my crying for
holidays, my walks to school through showers of cats and dogs, I have left
all those for the "Life of the late Right Honourable Thomas Babington Macaulay,
with large extracts from his correspondence, in two volumes, by the Very
Rev. J. Macaulay, Dean of Durham, and Rector of Bishopsgate, with a superb
portrait from the picture by Pickersgill in the possession of the Marquis
As you like my verses, I will some day or other write you a whole rhyming
letter. I wonder whether any man ever wrote doggrel so easily. I run it
off just as fast as my pen can move, and that is faster by about three
words in a minute than any other pen that I know. This comes of a schoolboy
habit of writing verses all day long. Shall I tell you the news in rhyme?
I think I will send you a regular sing- song gazette.
We gained a victory last night as great as e'er was known.
We beat the Opposition upon the Russian loan.
They hoped for a majority, and also for our places.
We won the day by seventy-nine. You should have seen their faces.
Old Croker, when the shout went down our rank, looked blue with rage.
You'd have said he had the cholera in the spasmodic stage.
Dawson was red with ire as if his face was smeared with berries;
But of all human visages the worst was that of Herries.
Though not his friend, my tender heart I own could not but feel
A little for the misery of poor Sir Robert Peel.
But hang the dirty Tories! and let them starve and pine!
Huzza for the majority of glorious seventy-nine!
T. B. M.
To Hannah and Margaret Macaulay.
House of Commons Smoking-Room
July 23, 1832.
My dear Sisters, --I am writing here, at eleven at night, in this filthiest
of all filthy atmospheres, and in the vilest of all vile company; with
the smell of tobacco in my nostrils, and the ugly, hypocritical face of
Lieutenant -- before my eyes. There he sits writing opposite to me. To
whom, for a ducat? To some secretary of an Hibernian Bible Society; or
to some old woman who gives cheap tracts, instead of blankets, to the starving
peasantry of Connemara; or to some good Protestant Lord who bullies his
Popish tenants. Reject not my letter, though it is redolent of cigars and
genuine pigtail; for this is the room--
The room, --but I think I'll describe it in rhyme,
But I must return to prose, and tell you all that has fallen out since
I wrote last. I have been dining with the Listers at Knightsbridge. They
are in a very nice house, next, or almost next, to that which the Wilberforces
had. We had quite a family party. There were George Villiers, and Hyde
Villiers, and Edward Villiers. Charles was not there. George and Hyde rank
very high in my opinion. I liked their behaviour to their sister much.
She seems to be the pet of the whole family; and it is natural that she
should be so. Their manners are softened by her presence; and any roughness
and sharpness which they have in intercourse with men vanishes at once.
They seem to love the very ground that she treads on; and she is undoubtedly
a charming woman, pretty, clever, lively, and polite.
That smells of tobacco and chloride of lime.
The smell of tobacco was always the same;
But the chloride was brought since the cholera came.
I was asked yesterday evening to go to Sir John Burke's, to meet another
heroine who was very curious to see me. Whom do you think? Lady Morgan.
I thought, however, that, if I went, I might not improbably figure in her
next novel; and, as I am not ambitious of such an honour, I kept away.
If I could fall in with her at a great party, where I could see unseen
and hear unheard, I should very much like to make observations on her;
but I certainly will not, if I can help it, meet her face to face, lion
That confounded chattering --, has just got into an argument about the
Church with an Irish papist who has seated himself at my elbow; and they
keep such a din that I cannot tell what I am writing. There they go. The
Lord Lieutenant-- the Bishop of Derry-Magee-- O'Connell-- your Bible meetings--y
our Agitation meetings-- the propagation of the Gospel-- Maynooth College--
the Seed of the Woman shall bruise the Serpent's head. My dear Lieutenant,
you will not only bruise, but break, my head with your clatter. Mercy!
mercy! However, here I am at the end of my letter, and I shall leave the
two demoniacs to tear each other to pieces.
T. B. M.
To Hannah and Margaret Macaulay.
Library of the H. of C. July 30, 1832, 11 o'clock at night.
My dear Sisters, --Here I am. Daniel Whittle Harvey is speaking; the
House is thin; the subject is dull; and I have stolen away to write to
you. Lushington is scribbling at my side. No sound is heard but the scratching
of our pens, and the ticking of the clock. We are in a far better atmosphere
than in the smoking-room, whence I wrote to you last week; and the company
is more decent, inasmuch as that naval officer, whom Nancy blames me for
describing in just terms, is not present.
By the bye, you know doubtless the lines which are in the mouth of every
member of Parliament, depicting the comparative merits of the two rooms.
They are, I think, very happy.
If thou goest into the Smoking-room
Oh, how I am worked! I never see Fanny from Sunday to Sunday. All my civilities
wait for that blessed day; and I have so many scores of visits to pay that
I can scarcely find time for any of that Sunday reading in which, like
Nancy, I am in the habit of indulging. Yesterday, as soon as I was fixed
in my best and had breakfasted, I paid a round of calls to all my friends
who had the cholera. Then I walked to all the clubs of which I am a member,
to see the newspapers. The first of these two works you will admit to be
a work of mercy; the second, in a political man, one of necessity. Then,
like a good brother, I walked under a burning sun to Kensington to ask
Fanny how she did, and stayed there two hours. Then I went to Knightsbridge
to call on Mrs. Listen and chatted with her till it was time to go and
dine at the Athenaeum. Then I dined, and after dinner, like a good young
man, I sate and read Bishop Heber's journal till bedtime. There is a Sunday
for you! I think that I excel in the diary line. I will keep a journal
like the Bishop, that my memory may
Three plagues will thee befall,--
The chloride of lime, the tobacco smoke,
And the Captain who's worst of all,
The canting Sea-captain,
The prating Sea-captain,
The Captain who's worst of all.
If thou goest into the Library
Three good things will thee befall,--
Very good books, and very good air,
And M*c**l*y, who's best of all,
The virtuous M*c**l*y,
The prudent M*c**l*y,
M*c**l*y who's best of all.
"Smell sweet, and blossom in the dust."
Next Sunday I am to go to Lord Lansdowne's at Richmond, so that I hope
to have something to tell you. But on second thoughts I will tell you nothing,
nor ever will write to you again, nor ever speak to you again. I have no
pleasure in writing to undutiful sisters. Why do you not send me longer
letters? But I am at the end of my paper, so that I have no more room to
T. B. M.
To Hannah and Margaret Macaulay.
London: August 14, 1832.
My dear Sisters, --Our work is over at last; not, however, till it has
half killed us all. [On the 8th August, 1832, Macaulay writes to Lord Mahon:
"We are now strictly on duty. No furloughs even for a dinner engagement,
or a sight of Taglioni's legs, can be obtained. It is very hard to keep
forty members in the House. Sibthorpe and Leader are on the watch to count
us out; and from six till two we never venture further than the smoking-room
without apprehension. In spite of all our exertions the end of the Session
seems further and further off every day. If you would do me the favour
of inviting Sibthorpe to Chevening Park you might be the means of saving
my life, and that of thirty or forty more of us who are forced to swallow
the last dregs of the oratory of this Parliament; and nauseous dregs they
are."] On Saturday we met, --for the last time, I hope, on business. When
the House rose, I set off for Holland House. We had a small party, but
a very distinguished one. Lord Grey, the Chancellor, Lord Palmerston, Luttrell,
and myself were the only guests. Allen was of course at the end of the
table, carving the dinner and sparring with my Lady. The dinner was not
so good as usual; for the French cook was ill; and her Ladyship kept up
a continued lamentation during the whole repast. I should never have found
out that everything was not as it should be but for her criticisms. The
soup was too salt; the cutlets were not exactly comme il faut; and
the pudding was hardly enough boiled. I was amused to hear from the splendid
mistress of such a house the same sort of apologies which -- made when
her cook forgot the joint, and sent up too small a dinner to table. I told
Luttrell that it was a comfort to me to find that no rank was exempted
from these afflictions.
They talked about --'s marriage. Lady Holland vehemently defended the
match; and, when Allen said that -- had caught a Tartar, she quite went
off into one of her tantrums: "She a Tartar! Such a charming girl a Tartar!
He is a very happy man, and your language is insufferable: insufferable,
Mr. Allen." Lord Grey had all the trouble in the world to appease her.
His influence, however, is very great. He prevailed on her to receive Allen
again into favour, and to let Lord Holland have a slice of melon, for which
he had been petitioning most piteously, but which she had steadily refused
on account of his gout. Lord Holland thanked Lord Grey for his intercession.
"Ah, Lord Grey, I wish you were always here. It is a fine thing to be Prime
Minister." This tattle is worth nothing, except to show how much the people
whose names will fill the history of our times resemble, in all essential
matters, the quiet folks who live in Mecklenburg Square and Brunswick Square.
I slept in the room which was poor Mackintosh's. The next day, Sunday,
-- came to dinner. He scarcely ever speaks in the society of Holland House.
Rogers, who is the bitterest and most cynical observer of little traits
of character that ever I knew, once said to me of him: "Observe that man.
He never talks to men; he never talks to girls; but, when he can get into
a circle of old tabbies, he is just in his element. He will sit clacking
with an old woman for hours together. That always settles my opinion of
a young fellow."
I am delighted to find that you like my review on Mirabeau, though I
am angry with Margaret for grumbling at my Scriptural allusions, and still
more angry with Nancy for denying my insight into character. It is one
of my strong points. If she knew how far I see into hers, she would he
ready to hang herself.
T. B. M.
To Hannah and Margaret Macaulay.
London: August 16, 1832,
My dear Sisters, --We begin to see a hope of liberation. To-morrow,
or on Saturday at furthest, the hope to finish our business. I did not
reach home till four this morning, after a most fatiguing and yet rather
amusing night. What passed will not find its way into the papers, as the
gallery was locked during most of the time. So I will tell you the story.
There is a bill before the House prohibiting those processions of Orangemen
which have excited a good deal of irritation in Ireland. This bill was
committed yesterday night. Shaw, the Recorder of Dublin, an honest man
enough, but a bitter Protestant fanatic, complained that it should be brought
forward so late in the Session. Several of his friends, he said, had left
London believing that the measure had been abandoned. It appeared, however,
that Stanley and Lord Althorp had given fair notice of their intention;
so that, if the absent members had been mistaken, the fault was their own;
and the House was for going on. Shaw said warmly that he would resort to
all the means of delay in his power, and moved that the chairman should
leave the chair. The motion was negatived by forty votes to two. Then the
first clause was read. Shaw divided the House again on that clause. He
was beaten by the same majority. He moved again that the chairman should
leave the chair. He was beaten again. He divided on the second clause.
He was beaten again. He then said that he was sensible that he was doing
very wrong; that his conduct was unhandsome and vexatious; that he heartily
begged our pardons; but that he had said that he would delay the bill as
far as the forms of the House would permit; and that he must keep his word.
Now came a discussion by which Nancy, if she had been in the ventilator,
[A circular ventilator, in the roof of the House of Commons, was the only
Ladies' Gallery that existed in the year 1832.] might have been greatly
edified, touching the nature of vows; whether a man's promise given to
himself, --a promise from which nobody could reap any advantage, and which
everybody wished him to violate, --constituted an obligation. Jephtha's
daughter was a case in point, and was cited by somebody sitting near me.
Peregrine Courtenay on one side of the House, and Lord Palmerston on the
other, attempted to enlighten the poor Orangeman on the question of casuistry.
They might as well have preached to any madman out of St. Luke's. "I feel,"
said the silly creature, "that I am doing wrong, and acting very unjustifiably.
If gentlemen will forgive me, I will never do so again. But I must keep
my word." We roared with laughter every time he repeated his apologies.
The orders of the House do not enable any person absolutely to stop the
progress of a bill in Committee, but they enable him to delay it grievously.
We divided seventeen times, and between every division this vexatious Irishman
made us a speech of apologies and self-condemnation. Of the two who had
supported him at the beginning of his freak one soon sneaked away. The
other, Sibthorpe, stayed to the last, not expressing remorse like Shaw,
but glorying in the unaccommodating temper he showed and in the delay which
he produced. At last the bill went through. Then Shaw rose; congratulated
himself that his vow was accomplished; said that the only atonement he
could make for conduct so unjustifiable was to vow that he would never
make such a vow again; promised to let the bill go through its future stages
without any more divisions; and contented himself with suggesting one or
two alterations in the details. "I hint at these amendments," he said.
"If the Secretary for Ireland approves of them, I hope he will not refrain
from introducing them because they are brought forward by me. I am sensible
that I have forfeited all claim to the favour of the House. I will not
divide on any future stage of the bill." We were all heartily pleased with
these events; for the truth was that the seventeen divisions occupied less
time than a real hard debate would have done, and were infinitely more
amusing. The oddest part of the business is that Shaw's frank good-natured
way of proceeding, absurd as it was, has made him popular. He was never
so great a favourite with the House as after harassing it for two or three
hours with the most frivolous opposition. This is a curious trait of the
House of Commons. Perhaps you will find this long story, which I have not
time to read over again, very stupid and unintelligible. But I have thought
it my duty to set before you the evil consequences of making vows rashly,
and adhering to them superstitiously; for in truth, my Christian brethren,
or rather my Christian sisters, let us consider &c. &c. &c.
But I reserve the sermon on promises, which I had to preach, for another
T. B. M.
To Hannah and Margaret Macaulay
London: August 17, 1832.
My dear Sisters, --I brought down my story of Holland House to dinnertime
on Saturday evening. To resume my narrative, I slept there on Sunday night.
On Monday morning, after breakfast, I walked to town with Luttrell, whom
I found a delightful companion. Before we went, we sate and chatted with
Lord Holland in the library for a quarter of an hour. He was very entertaining.
He gave us an account of a visit which he paid long ago to the Court of
Denmark; and of King Christian, the madman, who was at last deprived of
all real share in the government on account of his infirmity. "Such a Tom
of Bedlam I never saw," said Lord Holland. "One day the Neapolitan Ambassador
came to the levee, and made a profound bow to his Majesty. His Majesty
bowed still lower. The Neapolitan bowed down his head almost to the ground;
when, behold! the King clapped his hands on his Excellency's shoulders,
and jumped over him like a boy playing at leap-frog. Another day the English
Ambassador was sitting opposite the King at dinner. His Majesty asked him
to take wine. The glasses were filled. The Ambassador bowed, and put the
wine to his lips. The King grinned hideously and threw his wine into the
face of one of the footmen. The other guests kept the most profound gravity;
but the Englishman, who had but lately come to Copenhagen, though a practised
diplomatist, could not help giving some signs of astonishment. The King
immediately addressed him in French: 'Eh, mais, Monsieur l'Envoye d'Angleterre,
qu'avez-vous done? Pourquoi riez-vous? Est-ce qu'il y'ait quelque chose
qui vous ait diverti? Faites-moi le plaisir de me l'indiquer. J'aime beaucoup
Parliament is up at last. We official men are now left alone at the
West End of London, and are making up for our long confinement in the mornings
by feasting together at night. On Wednesday I dined with Labouchere at
his official residence in Somerset House. It is well that he is a bachelor;
for he tells me that the ladies his neighbours make bitter complaints of
the unfashionable situation in which they are cruelly obliged to reside
gratis. Yesterday I dined with Will Brougham, and an official party, in
Mount Street. We are going to establish a Club, to be confined to members
of the House of Commons in place under the present Government, who are
to dine together weekly at Grillon's Hotel, and to settle the affairs of
the State better, I hope, than our masters at their Cabinet dinners.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: September 20, 1832
My dear Sister, --I am at home again from Leeds, where everything is
going on as well as possible. I, and most of my friends, feel sanguine
as to the result. About half my day was spent in speaking, and hearing
other people speak; in squeezing and being squeezed; in shaking hands with
people whom I never saw before, and whose faces and names I forget within
a minute after being introduced to them. The rest was passed in conversation
with my leading friends, who are very honest substantial manufacturers.
They feed me on roast beef and Yorkshire pudding; at night they put me
into capital bedrooms; and the only plague which they give me is that they
are always begging me to mention some food or wine for which I have a fancy,
or some article of comfort and convenience which I may wish them to procure.
I travelled to town with a family of children who ate without intermission
from Market Harborough, where they got into the coach, to the Peacock at
Islington, where they got out of it. They breakfasted as if they had fasted
all the preceding day. They dined as if they had never breakfasted. They
ate on the road one large basket of sandwiches, another of fruit, and a
boiled fowl; besides which there was not an orange-girl, an old man with
cakes, or a boy with filberts, who came to the coach-side when we stopped
to change horses, of whom they did not buy something.
I am living here by myself with no society, or scarcely any, except
my books. I read a play of Calderon before I breakfast; then look over
the newspaper; frank letters; scrawl a line or two to a foolish girl in
Leicestershire; and walk to my Office. There I stay till near five, examining
claims of money-lenders on the native sovereigns of India, and reading
Parliamentary papers. I am beginning to understand something about the
Bank, and hope, when next I go to Rothley Temple, to be a match for the
whole firm of Mansfield and Babington on questions relating to their own
business. When I leave the Board, I walk for two hours; then I dine; and
I end the day quietly over a basin of tea and a novel.
On Saturday I go to Holland House, and stay there till Monday. Her Ladyship
wants me to take up my quarters almost entirely there; but I love my own
chambers and independence, and am neither qualified nor inclined to succeed
Allen in his post. On Friday week, that is to- morrow week, I shall go
for three days to Sir George Philips's, at Weston, in Warwickshire. He
has written again in terms half complaining; and, though I can ill spare
time for the visit, yet, as he was very kind to me when his kindness was
of some consequence to me, I cannot, and will not, refuse.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay
London: September 25, 1832.
My dear Sister, --I went on Saturday to Holland House, and stayed there
Sunday. It was legitimate Sabbath employment, --visiting the sick, -- which,
as you well know, always stands first among the works of mercy enumerated
in good books. My Lord was ill, and my Lady thought herself so. He was,
during the greater part of the day, in bed. For a few hours he lay on his
sofa, wrapped in flannels. I sate by him about twenty minutes, and was
then ordered away. He was very weak and languid; and, though the torture
of the gout was over, was still in pain; but he retained all his courage,
and all his sweetness of temper. I told his sister that I did not think
that he was suffering much. "I hope not," said she; "but it is impossible
to judge by what he says; for through the sharpest pain of the attack he
never complained." I admire him more, I think, than any man whom I know.
He is only fifty-seven, or fifty-eight. He is precisely the man to whom
health would be particularly valuable; for he has the keenest zest for
those pleasures which health would enable him to enjoy. He is, however,
an invalid, and a cripple. He passes some weeks of every year in extreme
torment. When he is in his best health he can only limp a hundred yards
in a day. Yet he never says a cross word. The sight of him spreads good
humour over the face of every one who comes near him. His sister, an excellent
old maid as ever lived, and the favourite of all the young people of her
acquaintance, says that it is quite a pleasure to nurse him. She was reading
the "Inheritance" to him as he lay in bed, and he enjoyed it amazingly.
She is a famous reader; more quiet and less theatrical than most famous
readers, and therefore the fitter for the bed-side of a sick man. Her Ladyship
had fretted herself into being ill, could eat nothing but the breast
of a partridge, and was frightened out of her wits by hearing a dog howl.
She was sure that this noise portended her death, or my Lord's. Towards
the evening, however, she brightened up, and was in very good spirits.
My visit was not very lively. They dined at four, and the company was,
as you may suppose at this season, but scanty. Charles Greville, commonly
called, heaven knows why, Punch Greville, came on the Saturday. Byng, named
from his hair Poodle Byng, came on the Sunday. Allen, like the poor, we
had with us always. I was grateful, however, for many pleasant evenings
passed there when London was full, and Lord Holland out of bed. I therefore
did my best to keep the house alive. I had the library and the delightful
gardens to myself during most of the day, and I got through my visit very
News you have in the papers. Poor Scott is gone, and I cannot be sorry
for it. A powerful mind in ruins is the most heart-breaking thing which
it is possible to conceive. Ferdinand of Spain is gone too; and, I fear,
old Mr. Stephen is going fast. I am safe at Leeds. Poor Hyde Villiers is
very ill. I am seriously alarmed about him. Kindest love to all.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
During all the period covered by this correspondence the town of Leeds
was alive with the agitation of a turbulent, but not very dubious, contest.
Macaulay's relations with the electors whose votes he was courting are
too characteristic to be omitted altogether from the story of his life;
though the style of his speeches and manifestoes is more likely to excite
the admiring envy of modern members of Parliament, than to be taken as
a model for their communications to their own constituents. This young
politician, who depended on office for his bread, and on a seat in the
House of Commons for office, adopted from the first an attitude of high
and almost peremptory independence which would have sat well on a Prime
Minister in his grand climacteric. The following letter, (some passages
of which have been here omitted, and others slightly condensed,) is strongly
marked in every line with the personal qualities of the writer.
Weston House: September 29, 1832.
My dear Sister, --I came hither yesterday, and found a handsome house,
pretty grounds, and a very kind host and hostess. The house is really very
well planned. I do not know that I have ever seen so happy an imitation
of the domestic architecture of Elizabeth's reign. The oriels, towers,
terraces, and battlements are in the most perfect keeping; and the building
is as convenient within as it is picturesque without. A few weather-stains,
or a few American creepers, and a little ivy, would make it perfect; and
all that will come, I suppose, with time. The terrace is my favourite spot.
I always liked "the trim gardens" of which Milton speaks, and thought that
Brown and his imitators went too far in bringing forests and sheep-walks
up to the very windows of drawing-rooms.
I came through Oxford. It was as beautiful a day as the second day of
our visit, and the High Street was in all its glory. But it made me quite
sad to find myself there without you and Margaret. All my old Oxford associations
are gone. Oxford, instead of being, as it used to be, the magnificent old
city of the seventeenth century, --still preserving its antique character
among the improvements of modern times, and exhibiting in the midst of
upstart Birminghams and Manchesters the same aspect which it wore when
Charles held his court at Christchurch, and Rupert led his cavalry over
Magdalene Bridge, is now to me only the place where I was so happy with
my little sisters. But I was restored to mirth, and even to indecorous
mirth, by what happened after we had left the fine old place behind us.
There was a young fellow of about five-and-twenty, mustachioed and smartly
dressed, in the coach with me. He was not absolutely uneducated; for he
was reading a novel, the Hungarian brothers, the whole way. We rode, as
I told you, through the High Street. The coach stopped to dine; and this
youth passed half an hour in the midst of that city of palaces. He looked
about him with his mouth open, as he re-entered the coach, and all the
while that we were driving away past the Ratcliffe Library, the Great Court
of All Souls, Exeter, Lincoln, Trinity, Balliol, and St. John's. When we
were about a mile on the road he spoke the first words that I had heard
him utter. "That was a pretty town enough. Pray, sir, what is it called?"
I could not answer him for laughing; but he seemed quite unconscious of
his own absurdity.
T. B. M.
London: August 3, 1832.
This frank announcement, taken by many as a slight, and by some as a downright
challenge, produced remonstrances which, after the interval of a week,
were answered by Macaulay in a second letter; worth reprinting if it were
only for the sake of his fine parody upon the popular cry which for two
years past had been the watchword of Reformers.
"My dear Sir, --I am truly happy to find that the opinion of my friends
at Leeds on the subject of canvassing agrees with that which I have long
entertained. The practice of begging for votes is, as it seems to me, absurd,
pernicious, and altogether at variance with the true principles of representative
government. The suffrage of an elector ought not to be asked, or to be
given as a personal favour. It is as much for the interest of constituents
to choose well, as it can be for the interest of a candidate to be chosen.
To request an honest man to vote according to his conscience is superfluous.
To request him to vote against his conscience is an insult. The practice
of canvassing is quite reasonable under a system in which men are sent
to Parliament to serve themselves. It is the height of absurdity under
a system under which men are sent to Parliament to serve the public. While
we had only a mock representation, it was natural enough that this practice
should be carried to a great extent. I trust it will soon perish with the
abuses from which it sprung. I trust that the great and intelligent body
of people who have obtained the elective franchise will see that seats
in the House of Commons ought not to be given, like rooms in an almshouse,
to urgency of solicitation; and that a man who surrenders his vote to caresses
and supplications forgets his duty as much as if he sold it for a bank-note.
I hope to see the day when an Englishman will think it as great an affront
to be courted and fawned upon in his capacity of elector as in his capacity
of juryman. He would be shocked at the thought of finding an unjust verdict
because the plaintiff or the defendant had been very civil and pressing;
and, if he would reflect, he would, I think, be equally shocked at the
thought of voting for a candidate for whose public character he felt no
esteem, merely because that candidate had called upon him, and begged very
hard, and had shaken his hand very warmly. My conduct is before the electors
of Leeds. My opinions shall on all occasions be stated to them with perfect
frankness. If they approve that conduct, if they concur in those opinions,
they ought, not for my sake, but for their own, to choose me as their member.
To be so chosen, I should indeed consider as a high and enviable honour;
but I should think it no honour to be returned to Parliament by persons
who, thinking me destitute of the requisite qualifications, had yet been
wrought upon by cajolery and importunity to poll for me in despite of their
"I wish to add a few words touching a question which has lately been
much canvassed; I mean the question of pledges. In this letter, and in
every letter which I have written to my friends at Leeds, I have plainly
declared my opinions. But I think it, at this conjuncture, my duty to declare
that I will give no pledges. I will not bind myself to make or to support
any particular motion. I will state as shortly as I can some of the reasons
which have induced me to form this determination. The great beauty of the
representative system is, that it unites the advantages of popular control
with the advantages arising from a division of labour. Just as a physician
understands medicine better than an ordinary man, just as a shoemaker makes
shoes better than an ordinary man, so a person whose life is passed in
transacting affairs of State becomes a better statesman than an ordinary
man. In politics, as well as every other department of life, the public
ought to have the means of checking those who serve it. If a man finds
that he derives no benefit from the prescription of his physician, he calls
in another. If his shoes do not fit him, he changes his shoemaker. But
when he has called in a physician of whom he hears a good report, and whose
general practice he believes to be judicious, it would be absurd in him
to tie down that physician to order particular pills and particular draughts.
While he continues to be the customer of a shoemaker, it would be absurd
in him to sit by and mete every motion of that shoemaker's hand. And in
the same manner, it would, I think, be absurd in him to require positive
pledges, and to exact daily and hourly obedience, from his representative.
My opinion is, that electors ought at first to choose cautiously; then
to confide liberally; and, when the term for which they have selected their
member has expired, to review his conduct equitably, and to pronounce on
the whole taken together.
"If the people of Leeds think proper to repose in me that confidence
which is necessary to the proper discharge of the duties of a representative,
I hope that I shall not abuse it. If it be their pleasure to fetter their
members by positive promises, it is in their power to do so. I can only
say that on such terms I cannot conscientiously serve them.
"I hope, and feel assured, that the sincerity with which I make this
explicit declaration, will, if it deprive me of the votes of my friends
at Leeds, secure to me what I value far more highly, their esteem.
"Believe me ever, my dear Sir,
"Your most faithful Servant,
"T. B. MACAULAY."
"I was perfectly aware that the avowal of my feelings on the
subject of pledges was not likely to advance my interest at Leeds. I was
perfectly aware that many of my most respectable friends were likely to
differ from me; and therefore I thought it the more necessary to make,
uninvited, an explicit declaration of my feelings. If ever there was a
time when public men were in an especial measure bound to speak the
truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, to the people, this
is that time. Nothing is easier than for a candidate to avoid unpopular
topics as long as possible, and, when they are forced on him, to take refuge
in evasive and unmeaning phrases. Nothing is easier than for him to give
extravagant promises while an election is depending, and to forget them
as soon as the return is made. I will take no such course. I do not wish
to obtain a single vote on false pretences. Under the old system I have
never been the flatterer of the great. Under the new system I will not
be the flatterer of the people. The truth, or what appears to me to be
such, may sometimes be distasteful to those whose good opinion I most value.
I shall nevertheless always abide by it, and trust to their good sense,
to their second thoughts, to the force of reason, and the progress of time.
If, after all, their decision should be unfavourable to me, I shall submit
to that decision with fortitude and good humour. It is not necessary to
my happiness that I should sit in Parliament; but it is necessary to my
happiness that I should possess, in Parliament or out of Parliament, the
consciousness of having done what is right."
Macaulay had his own ideas as to the limits within which constituents are
justified in exerting their privilege of questioning a candidate; and on
the first occasion when those limits were exceeded, he made a notable example
of the transgressor. During one of his public meetings, a voice was heard
to exclaim from the crowd in the body of the hall: "An elector wishes to
know the religious creed of Mr. Marshall and Mr. Macaulay." The last-named
gentleman was on his legs in a moment. "Let that man stand up!" he cried.
"Let him stand on a form, where I can see him!" The offender, who proved
to be a Methodist preacher, was heisted on to a bench by his indignant
neighbours; nerving himself even in that terrible moment by a lingering
hope that he might yet be able to hold his own. But the unhappy man had
not a chance against Macaulay, who harangued him as if he were the living
embodiment of religious intolerance and illegitimate curiosity. "I have
heard with the greatest shame and sorrow the question which has been proposed
to me; and with peculiar pain do I learn that this question was proposed
by a minister of religion. I do most deeply regret that any person should
think it necessary to make a meeting like this an arena for theological
discussion. I will not be a party to turning this assembly to such a purpose.
My answer is short, and in one word. Gentlemen, I am a Christian." At this
declaration the delighted audience began to cheer; but Macaulay would have
none of their applause. "This is no subject," he said, "for acclamation.
I will say no more. No man shall speak of me as the person who, when this
disgraceful inquisition was entered upon in an assembly of Englishmen,
brought forward the most sacred subjects to be canvassed here, and be turned
into a matter for hissing or for cheering. If on any future occasion it
should happen that Mr. Carlile should favour any large meeting with his
infidel attacks upon the Gospel, he shall not have it to say that I set
the example. Gentlemen, I have done; I tell you, I will say no more; and
if the person who has thought fit to ask this question has the feelings
worthy of a teacher of religion, he will not, I think, rejoice that he
has called me forth."
This ill-fated question had been prompted by a report, diligently spread
through the town, that the Whig candidates were Unitarians; a report which,
even if correct, would probably have done little to damage their electioneering
prospects. There are few general remarks which so uniformly hold good as
the observation that men are not willing to attend the religious worship
of people who believe less than themselves, or to vote at elections for
people who believe more than themselves. While the congregations at a high
Anglican service are in part composed of Low churchmen and Broad churchmen;
while Presbyterians and Wesleyans have no objection to a sound discourse
from a divine of the Establishment; it is seldom the case that any but
Unitarians are seen inside a Unitarian chapel. On the other hand, at the
general election of 1874, when not a solitary Roman Catholic was returned
throughout the length and breadth of the island of Great Britain, the Unitarians
retained their long acknowledged pre-eminence as the most over-represented
sect in the kingdom.
While Macaulay was stern in his refusal to gratify his electors with
the customary blandishments, he gave them plenty of excellent political
instruction; which he conveyed to them in rhetoric, not premeditated with
the care that alone makes speeches readable after a lapse of years, but
for this very reason all the more effective when the passion of the moment
was pouring itself from his lips in a stream of faultless, but unstudied,
sentences. A course of mobs, which turned Cobden into an orator, made of
Macaulay a Parliamentary debater; and the ear and eye of the House of Commons
soon detected, in his replies from the Treasury bench, welcome signs of
the invaluable training that can be got nowhere except on the hustings
and the platform. There is no better sample of Macaulay's extempore speaking
than the first words which he addressed to his committee at Leeds after
the Reform Bill had received the Royal assent. "I find it difficult to
express my gratification at seeing such an assembly convened at such a
time. All the history of our own country, all the history of other countries,
furnishes nothing parallel to it. Look at the great events in our own former
history, and in every one of them which, for importance, we can venture
to compare with the Reform Bill, we shall find something to disgrace and
tarnish the achievement. It was by the assistance of French arms and of
Roman bulls that King John was harassed into giving the Great Charter.
In the times of Charles I., how much injustice, how much crime, how much
bloodshed and misery, did it cost to assert the liberties of England! But
in this event, great and important as it is in substance, I confess I think
it still more important from the manner in which it has been achieved.
Other countries have obtained deliverances equally signal and complete,
but in no country has that deliverance been obtained with such perfect
peace; so entirely within the bounds of the Constitution; with all the
forms of law observed; the government of the country proceeding in its
regular course; every man going forth unto his labour until the evening.
France boasts of her three days of July, when her people rose, when barricades
fenced the streets, and the entire population of the capital in grins [[?]]
successfully vindicated their liberties. They boast, and justly, of those
three days of July; but I will boast of our ten days of May. We, too, fought
a battle, but it was with moral arms. We, too, placed an impassable barrier
between ourselves and military tyranny; but we fenced ourselves only with
moral barricades. Not one crime committed, not one acre confiscated, not
one life lost, not one instance of outrage or attack on the authorities
or the laws. Our victory has not left a single family in mourning. Not
a tear, not a drop of blood, has sullied the pacific and blameless triumph
of a great people."
The Tories of Leeds, as a last resource, fell to denouncing Macaulay
as a placeman; a stroke of superlative audacity in a party which, during
eight-and-forty years, had been out of office for only fourteen months.
It may well be imagined that he found plenty to say in his own defence.
"The only charge which malice can prefer against me is that I am a placeman.
Gentlemen, is it your wish that those persons who are thought worthy of
the public confidence should never possess the confidence of the King?
Is it your wish that no men should be Ministers but those whom no populous
places will take as their representatives? By whom, I ask, has the Reform
Bill been carried? By Ministers. Who have raised Leeds into the situation
to return members to Parliament? It is by the strenuous efforts of a patriotic
Ministry that that great result has been produced. I should think that
the Reform Bill had done little for the people, if under it the service
of the people was not consistent with the service of the Crown."
Just before the general election Hyde Villiers died, and the Secretaryship
to the Board of Control became vacant. Macaulay succeeded his old college
friend in an office that gave him weighty responsibility, defined duties,
and, as it chanced, exceptional opportunities for distinction. About the
same time, an event occurred which touched him more nearly than could any
possible turn of fortune in the world of politics. His sisters Hannah and
Margaret had for some months been almost domesticated among a pleasant
nest of villas which lie in the southern suburb of Liverpool, on Dingle
Bank; a spot whose natural beauty nothing can spoil, until in the fulness
of time its inevitable destiny shall convert it into docks. The young ladies
were the guests of Mr. John Cropper, who belonged to the Society of Friends,
a circumstance which readers who have got thus far into the Macaulay correspondence
will doubtless have discovered for themselves. Before the visit was over,
Margaret became engaged to the brother of her host, Mr. Edward Cropper,
a man in every respect worthy of the personal esteem and the commercial
prosperity which have fallen to his lot.
There are many who will be surprised at finding in Macaulay's letters,
both now and hereafter, indications of certain traits in his disposition
with which the world, knowing him only through his political actions and
his published works, may perhaps be slow to credit him; but which, taking
his life as a whole, were predominant in their power to affect his happiness
and give matter for his thoughts. Those who are least partial to him will
allow that his was essentially a virile intellect. He wrote, he thought,
he spoke, he acted, like a man. The public regarded him as an impersonation
of vigour, vivacity, and self-reliance; but his own family, together with
one, and probably only one, of his friends, knew that his affections were
only too tender, and his sensibilities only too acute. Others may well
be loth to parade what he concealed; but a portrait of Macaulay, from which
these features were omitted, would be imperfect to the extent of misrepresentation;
and it must be acknowledged that, where he loved, he loved more entirely,
and more exclusively, than was well for himself. It was improvident in
him to concentrate such intensity of feeling upon relations who, however
deeply they were attached to him, could not always be in a position to
requite him with the whole of their time, and the whole of their heart.
He suffered much for that improvidence; but he was too just and too kind
to permit that others should suffer with him; and it is not for one who
obtained by inheritance a share of his inestimable affection to regret
a weakness to which he considers himself by duty bound to refer.
How keenly Macaulay felt the separation from his sister it is impossible
to do more than indicate. He never again recovered that tone of thorough
boyishness, which had been produced by a long unbroken habit of gay and
affectionate intimacy with those younger than himself; indulged in without
a suspicion on the part of any concerned that it was in its very nature
transitory and precarious. For the first time he was led to doubt whether
his scheme of life was indeed a wise one; or, rather, he began to be aware
that he had never laid out any scheme of life at all. But with that unselfishness
which was the key to his character and to much of his career, (resembling
in its quality what we sometimes admire in a woman, rather than what we
ever detect in a man,) he took successful pains to conceal his distress
from those over whose happiness it otherwise could not have failed to cast
"The attachment between brothers and sisters," he writes in November
1832, "blameless, amiable, and delightful as it is, is so liable to be
superseded by other attachments that no wise man ought to suffer it to
become indispensable to him. That women shall leave the home of their birth,
and contract ties dearer than those of consanguinity, is a law as ancient
as the first records of the history of our race, and as unchangeable as
the constitution of the human body and mind. To repine against the nature
of things, and against the great fundamental law of all society, because,
in consequence of my own want of foresight, it happens to bear heavily
on me, would be the basest and most absurd selfishness.
"I have still one more stake to lose. There remains one event for which,
when it arrives, I shall, I hope, be prepared. From that moment, with a
heart formed, if ever any man's heart was formed, for domestic happiness,
I shall have nothing left in this world but ambition. There is no wound,
however, which time and necessity will not render endurable; and, after
all, what am I more than my fathers, --than the millions and tens of millions
who have been weak enough to pay double price for some favourite number
in the lottery of life, and who have suffered double disappointment when
their ticket came up a blank?"
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
Leeds: December 12, 1832
My dear Sister, --The election here is going on as well as possible.
Today the poll stands thus:
Marshall -- 1,804
The probability is that Sadler will give up the contest. If he persists,
he will be completely beaten. The voters are under 4,000 in number; those
who have already polled are 3,100; and about five hundred will not poll
at all. Even if we were not to bring up another man, the probability is
that we should win. On Sunday morning early I hope to be in London; and
I shall see you in the course of the day.
Macaulay -- 1,792
Sadler -- 1,353
I had written thus far when your letter was delivered to me. I am sitting
in the midst of two hundred friends, all mad with exultation and party
spirit, all glorying over the Tories, and thinking me the happiest man
in the world. And it is all that I can do to hide my tears, and to command
my voice, when it is necessary for me to reply to their congratulations.
Dearest, dearest sister, you alone are now left to me. Whom have I on earth
but thee? But for you, in the midst of all these successes, I should wish
that I were lying by poor Hyde Villiers. But I cannot go on. I am wanted
to waste an address to the electors; and I shall lay it on Sadler pretty
heavily. By what strange fascination is it that ambition and resentment
exercise such power over minds which ought to be superior to them? I despise
myself for feeling so bitterly towards this fellow as I do. But the separation
from dear Margaret has jarred my whole temper. I am cried up here to the
skies as the most affable and kind-hearted of then, while I feel a fierceness
and restlessness within me, quite new, and almost inexplicable.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
On the 29th of January, 1833, commenced the first Session of the Reformed
Parliament. The main incidents of that Session, so fruitful in great measures
of public utility, belong to general history; if indeed Clio herself is
not fated to succumb beneath the stupendous undertaking of turning Hansard
into a narrative imbued with human interest. O'Connell, --criticising the
King's speech at vast length, and passing in turns through every mood from
the most exquisite pathos to downright and undisguised ferocity, --at once
plunged the House into a discussion on Ireland, which alternately blazed
and smouldered through four livelong nights. Shed and Grattan spoke finely;
Peel and Stanley admirably; Bulwer made the first of his successes, and
Cobbett the second of his failures; but the longest and the loudest cheers
were those which greeted each of the glowing periods in which Macaulay,
as the champion of the Whig party, met the great agitator face to face
with high, but not intemperate, defiance.["We are called base, and brutal,
and bloody. Such are the epithets which the honourable and learned member
for Dublin thinks it becoming to pour forth against the party to which
he owes every political privilege that he enjoys. The time will come when
history will do justice to the Whigs of England, and will faithfully relate
how much they did and suffered for Ireland. I see on the benches near me
men who might, by uttering one word against Catholic Emancipation-- nay,
by merely abstaining from uttering a word in favour of Catholic Emancipation,
--have been returned to this House without difficulty or expense, and who,
rather than wrong their Irish fellow-subjects, were content to relinquish
all the objects of their honourable ambition, and to retire into private
life with conscience and fame untarnished. As to one eminent person, who
seems to be regarded with especial malevolence by those who ought never
to mention his name without respect and gratitude, I will only say this,
that the loudest clamour which the honourable and learned gentleman can
excite against Lord Grey will be trifling when compared with the clamour
which Lord Grey withstood in order to place the honourable and learned
gentleman where he now sits. Though a young member of the Whig party I
will venture to speak in the name of the whole body. I tell the honourable
and learned gentleman, that the same spirit which sustained us in a just
contest for him will sustain us in an equally just contest against him.
Calumny, abuse, royal displeasure, popular fury, exclusion from office,
exclusion from Parliament, we were ready to endure them all, rather than
that he should be less than a British subject. We never will suffer him
to be more."] In spite of this flattering reception, he seldom addressed
the House. A subordinate member of a Government, with plenty to do in his
own department, finds little temptation, and less encouragement, to play
the debater. The difference of opinion between the two Houses concerning
the Irish Church Temporalities Bill, which constituted the crisis of the
year, was the one circumstance that excited in Macaulay's mind any very
lively emotions; but those emotions, being denied their full and free expression
in the oratory of a partisan, found vent in the doleful prognostications
of a despairing patriot which fill his letters throughout the months of
June and July. His abstinence from the passing topics of Parliamentary
controversy obtained for him a friendly, as well as an attentive, hearing
from both sides of the House whenever he spoke on his own subjects; and
did much to smooth the progress of those immense and salutary reforms with
which the Cabinet had resolved to accompany the renewal of the India Company's
London: December 24, 1832.
My dear Sister, --I am much obliged to you for your letter, and am gratified
by all its contents, except what you say about your own cough. As soon
as you come back, you shall see Dr. Chambers, if you are not quite well.
Do not oppose me in this; for I have set my heart on it. I dined on Saturday
at Lord Essex's in Belgrave Square. But never was there such a take-in.
I had been given to understand that his Lordship's cuisine was superintended
by the first French artists, and that I should find there all the luxuries
of the Almanach des Gourmands. What a mistake! His lordship is luxurious,
indeed, but in quite a different way. He is a true Englishman. Not a dish
on his table but what Sir Roger de Coverley, or Sir Hugh Tyrold, [The uncle
of Miss Burney's Camilla.] might have set before his guests. A huge haunch
of venison on the sideboard; a magnificent piece of beef at the bottom
of the table; and before my Lord himself smoked, not a dindon aux truffes,
but a fat roasted goose stuffed with sage and onions. I was disappointed,
but very agreeably; for my tastes are, I fear, incurably vulgar, as you
may perceive by my fondness for Mrs. Meeke's novels.
Our party consisted of Sharp; Lubbock; Watson, M.P. for Canterbury;
and Rich, the author of "What will the Lords do?" who wishes to be M. P.
for Knaresborough. Rogers was to have been of the party; but his brother
chose that very day to die upon, so that poor Sam had to absent himself.
The Chancellor was also invited, but he had scampered off to pass his Christmas
with his old mother in Westmoreland. We had some good talk, particularly
about Junius's Letters. I learned some new facts which I will tell you
when we meet. I am more and more inclined to believe that Francis was one
of the people principally concerned.
T. B. M.
So rapid had been the march of events under that strange imperial system
established in the East by the enterprise and valour of three generations
of our countrymen, that each of the periodical revisions of that system
was, in effect, a revolution. The legislation of 1813 destroyed the monopoly
of the Indian trade. In 1833 the time had arrived when it was impossible
any longer to maintain the monopoly of the China trade; and the extinction
of this remaining commercial privilege could not fail to bring upon the
Company commercial ruin. Skill, and energy, and caution, however happily
combined, would not enable rulers who were governing a population larger
than that governed by Augustus, and making every decade conquests more
extensive than the conquests of Trajan, to compete with private merchants
in an open market. England, mindful of the inestimable debt which she owed
to the great Company, did not intend to requite her benefactors by imposing
on them a hopeless task. Justice and expediency could be reconciled by
one course, and one only; --that of buying up the assets and liabilities
of the Company on terms the favourable character of which should represent
the sincerity of the national gratitude. Interest was to be paid from the
Indian exchequer at the rate of ten guineas a year on every hundred pounds
of stock; the Company was relieved of its commercial attributes, and became
a corporation charged with the function of ruling Hindoostan; and its directors,
as has been well observed, remained princes, but merchant princes no longer.
The machinery required for carrying into effect this gigantic metamorphosis
was embodied in a bill every one of whose provisions breathed the broad,
the fearless, and the tolerant spirit with which Reform had inspired our
counsels. The earlier Sections placed the whole property of the Company
in trust for the Crown, and enacted that "from and after the 22nd day of
April 1834 the exclusive right of trading with the dominions of the Emperor
of China, and of trading in tea, shall cease." Then came clauses which
threw open the whole continent of India as a place of residence for all
subjects of his Majesty; which pronounced the doom of Slavery; and which
ordained that no native of the British territories in the East should "by
reason only of his religion, place of birth, descent, or colour, be disabled
from holding any place, office, or employment." The measure was introduced
by Mr. Charles Grant, the President of the Board of Control, and was read
a second time on Wednesday the 10th July. On that occasion Macaulay defended
the bill in a thin House; a circumstance which may surprise those who are
not aware that on a Wednesday, and with an Indian question on the paper,
Cicero replying to Hortensius would hardly draw a quorum. Small as it was,
the audience contained Lord John Russell, Peel, O'Connell, and other masters
in the Parliamentary craft. Their unanimous judgment was summed up by Charles
Grant, in words which every one who knows the House of Commons will recognise
as being very different from the conventional verbiage of mutual senatorial
flattery. "I must embrace the opportunity of expressing, not what I felt,
(for language could not express it,) but of making an attempt to convey
to the House my sympathy with it in its admiration of the speech of my
honourable and learned friend; a speech which, I will venture to assert,
has never been exceeded within these walls for the development of statesmanlike
policy and practical good sense. It exhibited all that is noble in oratory;
all that is sublime, I had almost said, in poetry; all that is truly great,
exalted, and virtuous in human nature. If the House at large felt a deep
interest in this magnificent display, it may judge of what were my emotions
when I perceived in the hands of my honourable friend the great principles
which he expounded glowing with fresh colours, and arrayed in all the beauty
There is no praise more gratefully treasured than that which is bestowed
by a generous chief upon a subordinate with whom he is on the best of terms.
Macaulay to the end entertained for Lord Glenelg that sentiment of loyalty
which a man of honour and feeling will always cherish with regard to the
statesman under whom he began his career as a servant of the Crown. (The
affinity between this sentiment and that of the Quaestor towards his first
Proconsul, so well described in the Orations against Verres, is one among
the innumerable points of resemblance between the public life of ancient
Rome and modern England.) The Secretary repaid the President for his unvarying
kindness and confidence by helping him to get the bill through committee
with that absence of friction which is the pride and delight of official
men. The vexed questions of Establishment and Endowment, (raised by the
clauses appointing bishops to Madras and Bombay, and balancing them with
as many salaried Presbyterian chaplains,) increased the length of the debates
and the number of the divisions; but the Government carried every point
by large majorities, and, with slight modifications in detail, and none
in principle, the measure became law with the almost universal approbation
both of Parliament and the country.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
House of Commons. Monday night, half-past 12.
My dear Sister, --The papers will scarcely contain any account of what
passed yesterday in the House of Commons in the middle of the day. Grant
and I fought a battle with Briscoe and O'Connell in defence of the Indian
people, and won it by 38 to 6. It was a rascally claim of a dishonest agent
of the Company against the employers whom he had cheated, and sold to their
own tributaries. [In his great Indian speech Macaulay referred to this
affair, in a passage the first sentence of which has, by frequent quotation,
been elevated into an apophthegm: "A broken head in Cold Bath Fields produces
a greater sensation than three pitched battles in India. A few weeks ago
we had to decide on a claim brought by an individual against the revenues
of India. If it had been an English question the walls would scarcely have
held the members who would have flocked to the division. It was an Indian
question; and we could scarcely, by dint of supplication, make a House."]
The nephew of the original claimant has been pressing his case on the Board
most vehemently. He is an attorney living in Russell Square, and very likely
hears the word at St. John's Chapel. He hears it however to very little
purpose; for he lies as much as if he went to hear a "cauld clatter of
morality" at the parish church.
I remember that, when you were at Leamington two years ago, I used to
fill my letters with accounts of the people with whom I dined. High life
was new to me then; and now it has grown so familiar that I should not,
I fear, be able, as I formerly was, to select the striking circumstances.
I have dined with sundry great folks since you left London, and I have
attended a very splendid rout at Lord Grey's. I stole thither, at about
eleven, from the House of Commons with Stewart Mackenzie. I do not mean
to describe the beauty of the ladies, nor the brilliancy of stars and uniforms.
I mean only to tell you one circumstance which struck, and even affected
me. I was talking to Lady Charlotte Lindsay, the daughter of Lord North,
a great favourite of mine, about the apartments and the furniture, when
she said with a good deal of emotion: "This is an interesting visit to
me. I have never been in this house for fifty years. It was here that I
was born; I left it a child when my father fell from power in 1782, and
I have never crossed the threshold since." Then she told me how the rooms
seemed dwindled to her; how the staircase, which appeared to her in recollection
to be the most spacious and magnificent that she had ever seen, had disappointed
her. She longed, she said, to go over the garrets and rummage her old nursery.
She told me how, in the No-Popery riots of 1780, she was taken out of bed
at two o'clock in the morning. The mob threatened Lord North's house. There
were soldiers at the windows, and an immense and furious crowd in Downing
Street. She saw, she said, from her nursery the fires in different parts
of London; but she did not understand the danger; and only exulted in being
up at midnight. Then she was conveyed through the Park to the Horse Guards
as the safest place; and was laid, wrapped up in blankets, on the table
in the guardroom in the midst of the officers. "And it was such fun," she
said, "that I have ever after had rather a liking for insurrections."
I write in the midst of a crowd. A debate on Slavery is going on in
the Commons; a debate on Portugal in the Lords. The door is slamming behind
me every moment, and people are constantly going out and in. Here comes
Vernon Smith. "Well, Vernon, what are they doing?" "Gladstone has just
made a very good speech, and Howick is answering him." "Aye, but in the
House of Lords?" "They will beat us by twenty, they say." "Well, I do not
think it matters much." "No; nobody out of the House of Lords cares either
for Don Pedro, or for Don Miguel."
There is a conversation between two official men in the Library of the
House of Commons on the night of the 3rd June 1833, reported word for word.
To the historian three centuries hence this letter will be invaluable.
To you, ungrateful as you are, it will seem worthless.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
Smoking-Room of the House of Commons June 6, 1833.
My Darling, --Why am I such a fool as to write to a gypsey at Liverpool,
who fancies that none is so good as she if she sends one letter for my
three? A lazy chit whose fingers tire with penning a page in reply to a
quire! There, Miss, you read all the first sentence of my epistle, and
never knew that you were reading verse. I have some gossip for you about
the Edinburgh Review. Napier is in London, and has called on me several
times. He has been with the publishers, who tell him that the sale is falling
off; and in many private parties, where he hears sad complaints. The universal
cry is that the long dull articles are the ruin of the Review. As to myself,
he assures me that my articles are the only things which keep the work
up at all. Longman and his partners correspond with about five hundred
booksellers in different parts of the kingdom. All these booksellers, I
find, tell them that the Review sells, or does not sell, according as there
are, or are not, articles by Mr. Macaulay. So, you see, I, like Mr. Darcy,
[The central male figure in "Pride and Prejudice."] shall not care how
proud I am. At all events, I cannot but be pleased to learn that, if I
should be forced to depend on my pen for subsistence, I can command what
price I choose.
The House is sitting; Peel is just down; Lord Palmerston is speaking;
the heat is tremendous; the crowd stifling; and so here I am in the smoking-room,
with three Repealers making chimneys of their mouths under my very nose.
To think that this letter will bear to my Anna
You know that the Lords have been foolish enough to pass a vote implying
censure on the Ministers.[On June 3rd, 1833, a vote of censure on the Portuguese
policy of the Ministry was moved by the Duke of Wellington, and carried
in the Lords by 79 votes to 69. On June 6th a counter-resolution was carried
in the Commons by 361 votes to 98.] The Ministers do not seem inclined
to take it of them. The King has snubbed their Lordships properly; and
in about an hour, as I guess, (for it is near eleven), we shall have come
to a Resolution in direct opposition to that agreed to by the Upper House.
Nobody seems to care one straw for what the Peers say about any public
matter. A Resolution of the Court of Common Council, or of a meeting at
Freemasons' Hall, has often made a greater sensation than this declaration
of a branch of the Legislature against the Executive Government. The institution
of the Peerage is evidently dying a natural death.
The exquisite scent of O'Connor's Havannah!
I dined yesterday-- where, and on what, and at what price, I am ashamed
to tell you. Such scandalous extravagance and gluttony I will not commit
to writing. I blush when I think of it. You, however, are not wholly guiltless
in this matter. My nameless offence was partly occasioned by Napier; and
I have a very strong reason for wishing to keep Napier in good humour.
He has promised to be at Edinburgh when I take a certain damsel thither;
to loop out for very nice lodgings for us in Queen Street; to show us everything
and everybody; and to see us as far as Dunkeld on our way northward, if
we do go northward. In general I abhor visiting; but at Edinburgh we must
see the people as well as the walls and windows; and Napier will be a capital
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: June 14, 1833.
My dear Sister, --I do not know what you may have been told. I may have
grumbled, for ought I know, at not having more letters from you; but, as
to being angry, you ought to know by this time what sort of anger mine
is when you are its object.
You have seen the papers, I dare say, and you will perceive that I did
not speak yesterday night. [The night of the First Reading of the India
Bill.] The House was thin. The debate was languid. Grant's speech had done
our work sufficiently for one night; and both he and Lord Althorp advised
me to reserve myself for the Second Reading.
What have I to tell you? I will look at my engagement book, to see where
I am to dine.
Friday June 14 . Lord Grey.
Read, and envy, and pine, and die. And yet I would give a large slice of
my quarter's salary, which is now nearly due, to be at the Dingle. I am
sick of Lords with no brains in their heads, and Ladies with paint on their
cheeks, and politics, and politicians, and that reeking furnace of a House.
As the poet says,
Saturday June 15 . Mr. Boddington.
Sunday June 16 . Mr. S. Rice.
Saturday June 22 . Sir R. Inglis.
Thursday June 27 . The Earl of Ripon.
Saturday June 29 . Lord Morpeth.
Oh! rather would I see this day
Margaret tells us that you are better, and better, and better. I want to
hear that you are well. At all events our Scotch tour will set you up.
I hope, for the sake of the tour, that we shall keep our places; but I
firmly believe that, before many days have passed, a desperate attempt
will be made in the House of Lords to turn us out. If we stand the shock,
we shall be firmer than ever. I am not without anxiety as to the result;
yet I believe that Lord Grey understands the position in which he is placed,
and, as for the King, he will not forget his last blunder, I will answer
for it, even if he should live to the age of his father. [This "last blunder"
was the refusal of the King to stand by his Ministers in May 1832. Macaulay
proved a bad prophet; for, after an interval of only three years, William
the Fourth repeated his blunder in an aggravated form.]
My little Nancy well and merry
Than the blue riband of Earl Grey,
Or the blue stockings of Miss Berry.
But why plague ourselves about politics when we have so much pleasanter
things to talk of? The Parson's Daughter; don't you like the Parson's Daughter?
What a wretch Harbottle was! And Lady Frances, what a sad worldly woman!
But Mrs. Harbottle, dear suffering angel! and Emma Level, all excellence!
Dr. Mac Gopus you doubtless like; but you probably do not admire the Duchess
and Lady Catherine. There is a regular cone over a novel for you! But,
if you will have my opinion, I think it Theodore Book's worst performance;
far inferior to the Surgeon's Daughter; a set of fools making themselves
miserable by their own nonsensical fancies and suspicions. Let me hear
your opinion, for I will be sworn that,
In spite of all the serious world,
But what folly I have been scrawling! I must go to work.
Of all the thumbs that ever twirled,
Of every broadbrim-shaded brow,
Of every tongue that e'er said "thou,"
You still read books in marble covers
About smart girls and dapper lovers.
I cannot all day
Kindest love to Edward, and to the woman who owns him.
Be neglecting Madras
And slighting Bombay
For the sake of a lass.
T. B. M.
London: June 17, 1833.
Dear Hannah, --All is still anxiety here. Whether the House of Lords
will throw out the Irish Church Bill, whether the King will consent to
create new Peers, whether the Tories will venture to form a Ministry, are
matters about which we are all in complete doubt. If the Ministry should
really be changed, Parliament will, I feel quite sure, be dissolved. Whether
I shall have a seat in the next Parliament I neither know nor care. I shall
regret nothing for myself but our Scotch tour. For the public I shall,
if this Parliament is dissolved, entertain scarcely any hopes. I see nothing
before us but a frantic conflict between extreme opinions; a short period
of oppression; then a convulsive reaction; and then a tremendous crash
of the Funds, the Church, the Peerage, and the Throne. It is enough to
make the most strenuous royalist lean a little to republicanism to think
that the whole question between safety and general destruction may probably,
at this most fearful conjuncture, depend on a single man whom the accident
of his birth has placed in a situation to which certainly his own virtues
or abilities would never have raised him.
The question must come to a decision, I think, within the fortnight.
In the meantime the funds are going down, the newspapers are storming,
and the faces of men on both sides are growing day by day more gloomy and
anxious. Even during the most violent part of the contest for the Reform
Bill I do not remember to have seen so much agitation in the political
circles. I have some odd anecdotes for you, which I will tell you when
we meet. If the Parliament should be dissolved, the West Indian and East
Indian Bills are of course dropped. What is to become of the slaves? What
is to become of the tea-trade? Will the negroes, after receiving the Resolutions
of the House of Commons promising them liberty, submit to the cart-whip?
Will our merchants consent to have the trade with China, which has just
been offered to them, snatched away? The Bank Charter, too, is suspended.
But that is comparatively a trifle. After all, what is it to me who is
in or out, or whether those fools of Lords are resolved to perish, and
drag the King to perish with them in the ruin which they have themselves
made? I begin to wonder what the fascination is which attracts men, who
could sit over their tea and their books in their own cool quiet room,
to breathe bad air, hear bad speeches, lounge up and down the long gallery,
and doze uneasily on the green benches till three in the morning. Thank
God, these luxuries are not necessary to me. My pen is sufficient for my
support, and my sister's company is sufficient for my happiness. Only let
me see her well and cheerful, and let offices in Government, and seats
in Parliament, go to those who care for them. If I were to leave public
life to-morrow, I declare that, except for the vexation which it might
give you and one or two others, the event would not be in the slightest
degree painful to me. As you boast of having a greater insight into character
than I allow to you, let me know how you explain this philosophical disposition
of mine, and how you reconcile it with my ambitious inclinations. That
is a problem for a young lady who professes knowledge of human nature.
Did I tell you that I dined at the Duchess of Kent's, and sate next
that loveliest of women, Mrs. Littleton? Her husband, our new Secretary
for Ireland, told me this evening that Lord Wellesley, who sate near us
at the Duchess's, asked Mrs. Littleton afterwards who it was that was talking
to her. "Mr. Macaulay." "Oh! "said the Marquess," I am very sorry I did
not know it. I have a most particular desire to be acquainted with that
man." Accordingly Littleton has engaged me to dine with him, in order to
introduce me to the Marquess. I am particularly curious, and always was,
to know him. He has made a great and splendid figure in history, and his
weaknesses, though they make his character less worthy of respect, make
it more interesting as a study. Such a blooming old swain I never saw;
hair combed with exquisite nicety, a waistcoat of driven snow, and a star
and garter put on with rare skill.
To-day we took up our Resolutions about India to the House of Lords.
The two Houses had a conference on the subject in an old Gothic room called
the Painted Chamber. The painting consists in a mildewed daub of a woman
in the niche of one of the windows. The Lords sate in little cocked hats
along a table; and we stood [[ with heads]] uncovered on the other side,
and delivered in our Resolutions. I thought that before long it may be
our turn to sit, and theirs to stand.
T. B. M.
London: June 21, 1833.
The rhymes in which Macaulay unfolds his little budget derive a certain
dignity and meaning from the events of the ensuing weeks. The unparalleled
labours of the Anti-Slavery leaders were at length approaching a successful
issue, and Lord Grey's Cabinet had declared itself responsible for the
emancipation of the West Indian negroes. But it was already beginning to
be known that the Ministerial scheme, in its original shape, was not such
as would satisfy even the more moderate Abolitionists. Its most objectionable
feature was shadowed forth in the third of the Resolutions with which Mr.
Stanley, who had the question in charge, prefaced the introduction of his
bill: "That all persons, now slaves, be entitled to be registered as apprenticed
labourers, and to acquire thereby all the rights and privileges of freemen,
subject to the restriction of labouring, for a time to be fixed by Parliament,
for their present owners." It was understood that twelve years would be
proposed as the period of apprenticeship; although no trace of this intention
could be detected in the wording of the Resolution. Macaulay, who thought
twelve years far too long, felt himself justified in supporting the Government
during the preliminary stages; but he took occasion to make some remarks
indicating that circumstances might occur which would oblige him to resign
office, and adopt a line of his own.
Dear Hannah, --I cannot tell you how delighted I was to learn from Fanny
this morning that Margaret pronounces you to be as well as she could wish
you to be. Only continue so, and all the changes of public life will be
as indifferent to me as to Horatio. If I am only spared the misery of seeing
you suffer, I shall be found
A man that fortune's buffets and rewards
Whether we are to have buffets or rewards is known only to Heaven and to
the Peers. I think that their Lordships are rather cowed. Indeed, if they
venture on the course on which they lately seemed bent, I would not give
sixpence for a coronet or a penny for a mitre.
Has ta'en with equal thanks.
I shall not read the Repealers; and I think it very impudent in you
to make such a request. Have I nothing to do but to be your novel-taster?
It is rather your duty to be mine. What else have you to do? I have read
only one novel within the last week, and a most precious one it was: the
Invisible Gentleman. Have you ever read it? But I need not ask. No doubt
it has formed part of your Sunday studies. A wretched, trumpery, imitation
of Godwin's worst manner. What a number of stories I shall have to tell
you when we meet! --which will be, as nearly as I can guess, about the
10th or 12th of August. I shall be as rich as a Jew by that time.
Next Wednesday will be quarter-day;
And then, if I'm alive,
Of sterling pounds I shall receive
Three hundred seventy-five.
Already I possess in cash
Two hundred twenty-four,
Besides what I have lent to John
Which makes up twenty more.
Also the man who editeth
The Yellow and the Blue
Doth owe me ninety pounds at least,
All for my last review.
So, if my debtors pay their debts,
You'll find, dear sister mine,
That all my wealth together makes
Seven hundred pounds and nine.
T. B. M.
As time went on it became evident that his firmness would be put to
the test; and a severe test it was. A rising statesman, whose prospects
would be irremediably injured by abruptly quitting a Government that seemed
likely to be in power for the next quarter of a century; a zealous Whig,
who shrank from the very appearance of disaffection to his party; a man
of sense, with no ambition to be called Quixotic; a member for a large
constituency, possessed of only seven hundred pounds in the world when
his purse was at its fullest; above all, an affectionate son and brother,
now, more than ever, the main hope and reliance of those whom he held most
dear; --it may well be believed that he was not in a hurry to act the martyr.
His father's affairs were worse than bad. The African firm, without having
been reduced to declare itself bankrupt, had ceased to exist as a house
of business; or existed only so far that for some years to come every penny
that Macaulay earned, beyond what the necessities of life demanded, was
scrupulously devoted to paying, and at length to paying off, his father's
creditors; a dutiful enterprise in which he was assisted by his brother
Henry, [Henry married in 1841 a daughter of his brother's old political
ally, Lord Denman. He died at Boa Vista, in 1846, leaving two sons, Henry,
and Joseph, Macaulay.] a young man of high spirit and excellent abilities,
who had recently been appointed one of the Commissioners of Arbitration
in the Prize Courts at Sierra Leone.
The pressure of pecuniary trouble was now beginning to make itself felt
even by the younger members of the family. About this time, or perhaps
a little earlier, Hannah Macaulay writes thus to one of her cousins: "You
say nothing about coming to us. You must come in good health and spirits.
Our trials ought not greatly to depress us; for, after all, all we want
is money, the easiest want to bear; and, when we have so many mercies--
friends who love us and whom we love; no bereavements; and, above all,
(if it be not our own fault,) a hope full of immortality-- let us not be
so ungrateful as to repine because we are without what in itself cannot
make our happiness."
Macaulay's colleagues, who, without knowing his whole story, knew enough
to be aware that he could ill afford to give up office, were earnest in
their remonstrances; but he answered shortly, and almost roughly: "I cannot
go counter to my father. He has devoted his whole life to the question,
and I cannot grieve him by giving way when he wishes me to stand firm."
During the crisis of the West India Bill, Zachary Macaulay and his son
were in constant correspondence. There is something touching in the picture
which these letters present of the older man, (whose years were coming
to a close in poverty which was the consequence of his having always lived
too much for others,) discussing quietly and gravely how, and when, the
younger was to take a step that in the opinion of them both would be fatal
to his career; and this with so little consciousness that there was anything
heroic in the course which they were pursuing, that it appears never to
have occurred to either of their that any other line of conduct could possibly
Having made up his mind as to what he should do, Macaulay set about
it with as good a grace as is compatible with the most trying position
in which a man, and especially a young man, can find himself. Carefully
avoiding the attitude of one who bargains or threatens, he had given timely
notice in the proper quarter of his intentions and his views. At length
the conjuncture arrived when decisive action could no longer be postponed.
On the 24th of July Mr. Thomas Fowell Buxton moved an amendment in Committee,
limiting the apprenticeship to the shortest period necessary for establishing
the system of free labour. Macaulay, whose resignation was already in Lord
Althorp's hands, made a speech which produced all the more effect as being
inornate, and, at times, almost awkward. Even if deeper feelings had not
restrained the range of his fancy and the flow of his rhetoric, his judgment
would have told him that it was not the moment for an oratorical display.
He began by entreating the House to extend to him that indulgence which
it had accorded on occasions when he had addressed it "with more confidence
and with less harassed feelings." He then, at some length, exposed the
effects of the Government proposal. "In free countries the master has a
choice of labourers, and the labourer has a choice of masters; but in slavery
it is always necessary to give despotic power to the master. This bill
leaves it to the magistrate to keep peace between master and slave. Every
time that the slave takes twenty minutes to do that which the master thinks
he should do in fifteen, recourse must be had to the magistrate. Society
would day and night be in a constant state of litigation, and all differences
and difficulties must be solved by judicial interference."
He did not share in Mr. Buxton's apprehension of gross cruelty as a
result of the apprenticeship. "The magistrate would be accountable to the
Colonial Office, and the Colonial Office to the House of Commons, in which
every lash which was inflicted under magisterial authority would be told
and counted. My apprehension is that the result of continuing for twelve
years this dead slavery, --this state of society destitute of any vital
principle, --will be that the whole negro population will sink into weak
and drawling inefficacy, and will be much less fit for liberty at the end
of the period than at the commencement. My hope is that the system will
die a natural death; that the experience of a few months will so establish
its utter inefficiency as to induce the planters to abandon it, and to
substitute for it a state of freedom. I have voted," he said, "for the
Second Reading, and I shall vote for the Third Reading; but, while the
bill is in Committee, I shall join with other honourable gentlemen in doing
all that is possible to amend it."
Such a declaration, coming from the mouth of a member of the Government,
gave life to the debate, and secured to Mr. Buxton an excellent division,
which under the circumstances was equivalent to a victory. The next day
Mr. Stanley rose; adverted shortly to the position in which the Ministers
stood; and announced that the term of apprenticeship would be reduced from
twelve years to seven. Mr. Buxton, who, with equal energy and wisdom, had
throughout the proceedings acted as leader of the Anti-slavery party in
the House of Commons, advised his friends to make the best of the concession;
and his counsel was followed by all those Abolitionists who were thinking
more of their cause than of themselves. It is worthy of remark that Macaulay's
prophecy came true, though not at so early a date as he ventured to anticipate.
Four years of the provisional system brought all parties to acquiesce in
the premature termination of a state of things which denied to the negro
the blessings of freedom, and to the planter the profits of slavery.
"The papers," Macaulay writes to his father, "will have told you all
that has happened, as far as it is known to the public. The secret history
you will have heard from Buxton. As to myself, Lord Althorp told me yesterday
night that the Cabinet had determined not to accept my resignation. I have
therefore the singular good luck of having saved both my honour and my
place, and of having given no just ground of offence either to the Abolitionists
or to my party-friends. I have more reason than ever to say that honesty
is the best policy."
This letter is dated the 27th of July. On that day week, Wilberforce
was carried to his grave in Westminster Abbey. "We laid him," writes Macaulay,
"side by side with Canning, at the feet of Pitt, and within two steps of
Fox and Grattan." He died with the promised land full in view. Before the
end of August Parliament abolished slavery, and the last touch was put
to the work that had consumed so many pure and noble lives. In a letter
of congratulation to Zachary Macaulay, Mr. Buxton says: "Surely you have
reason to rejoice. My sober and deliberate opinion is that you have done
more towards this consummation than any other man. For myself, I take pleasure
in acknowledging that you have been my tutor all the way through, and that
I could have done nothing without you." Such was the spirit of these men,
who, while the struggle lasted, were prodigal of health and ease; but who,
in the day of triumph, disclaimed, each for himself, even that part of
the merit which their religion allowed them to ascribe to human effort
London: July 11, 1833.
Dear Hannah, --I have been so completely overwhelmed with business for
some days that I have not been able to find time for writing a line. Yesterday
night we read the India Bill a second time. It was a Wednesday, and the
reporters gave hardly any account of what passed. They always resent being
forced to attend on that day, which is their holiday. I made the best speech,
by general agreement, and in my own opinion, that I ever made in my life.
I was an hour and three-quarters up; and such compliments as I had from
Lord Althorp, Lord Palmerston, Lord John Russell, Wynne, O'Connell, Grant,
the Speaker, and twenty other people, you never heard. As there is no report
of the speech, I have been persuaded, rather against my will, to correct
it for publication. I will tell you one compliment that was paid me, and
which delighted me more than any other. An old member said to me: "Sir,
having heard that speech may console the young people for never having
heard Mr. Burke." [A Tory member said that Macaulay resembled both the
Burkes: that he was like the first from his eloquence, and like the second
from his stopping other people's mouths.]
The Slavery Bill is miserably bad. I am fully resolved not to be dragged
through the mire, but to oppose, by speaking and voting, the clauses which
I think objectionable. I have told Lord Althorp this, and have again tendered
my resignation. He hinted that he thought that the Government would leave
me at liberty to take my own line, but that he must consult his colleagues.
I told him that I asked for no favour; that I knew what inconvenience would
result if official men were allowed to dissent from Ministerial measures,
and yet to keep their places; and that I should not think myself in the
smallest degree ill-used if the Cabinet accepted my resignation. This is
the present posture of affairs. In the meantime the two Houses are at daggers
drawn. Whether the Government will last to the end of the Session I neither
know nor care. I am sick of Boards, and of the House of Commons; and pine
for a few quiet days, a cool country breeze, and a little chatting with
my dear sister.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay
London: July 19, 1833.
My dear Sister, --I snatch a few minutes to write a single line to you.
We went into Committee on the India Bill at twelve this morning, sate till
three, and are just set at liberty for two hours. At five we recommence,
and shall be at work till midnight. In the interval between three and five
I have to despatch the current business of the office, which, at present,
is fortunately not heavy; to eat my dinner, which I shall do at Grant's;
and to write a short scrawl to my little sister.
My work, though laborious, has been highly satisfactory. No Bill, I
believe, of such importance, --certainly no important Bill in my time,
has been received with such general approbation. The very cause of the
negligence of the reporters, and of the thinness of the House, is that
we have framed our measure so carefully as to give little occasion for
debate. Littleton, Denison, and many other members, assure me that they
never remember to have seen a Bill better drawn or better conducted.
On Monday night, I hope, my work will be over. Our Bill will have been
discussed, I trust, for the last time in the House of Commons; and, in
all probability, I shall within forty-eight hours after that time be out
of office. I am fully determined not to give way about the West India Bill;
and I can hardly expect, -- I am sure I do not wish, --that the Ministers
should suffer me to keep my place and oppose their measure. Whatever may
befall me or my party, I am much more desirous to come to an end of this
interminable Session than to stay either in office or in Parliament. The
Tories are quite welcome to take everything, if they will only leave me
my pen and my books, a warm fireside, and you chattering beside it. This
sort of philosophy, an odd kind of cross between Stoicism and Epicureanism,
I have learned, where most people unlearn all their philosophy, in crowded
senates and fine drawing-rooms.
But time flies, and Grant's dinner will be waiting. He keeps open house
for us during this fight.
T. B. M.
London: July 22, 1833.
My dear Father, --We are still very anxious here. The Lords, though
they have passed the Irish Church Bill through its first stage, will very
probably mutilate it in Committee. It will then be for the Ministers to
decide whether they can with honour keep their places. I believe that they
will resign if any material alteration should be made; and then everything
These circumstances render it very difficult for me to shape my course
right with respect to the West India Bill, the Second Reading of which
stands for this evening. I am fully resolved to oppose several of the clauses.
But to declare my intention publicly, at a moment when the Government is
in danger, would have the appearance of ratting. I must be guided by circumstances;
but my present intention is to say nothing on the Second Reading. By the
time that we get into Committee the political crisis, will, I hope, be
over; the fate of the Church Bill will be decided one way or the other;
and I shall be able to take my own course on the Slavery question without
exposing myself to the charge of deserting my friends in a moment of peril.
Ever yours affectionately
T. B. MACAULAY.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: July 24, 1833,
My dear Sister, --You will have seen by the papers that the West India
debate on Monday night went off very quietly in little more than an hour.
To-night we expect the great struggle, and I fear that, much against my
inclination, I must bear a part in it. My resignation is in Lord Althorp's
hands. He assures me that he will do his utmost to obtain for me liberty
to act as I like on this question; but Lord Grey and Stanley are to be
consulted, and I think it very improbable that they will consent to allow
me so extraordinary a privilege. I know that, if I were Minister, I would
not allow such latitude to any man in office; and so I told Lord Althorp.
He answered in the kindest and most flattering manner; told me that in
office I had surpassed their expectations, and that, much as they wished
to bring me in last year, they wished much more to keep me in now. I told
him in reply that the matter was one for the Ministers to settle, purely
with a view to their own interest; that I asked for no indulgence; that
I could make no terms; and that, what I would not do to serve them, I certainly
would not do to keep my place. Thus the matter stands. It will probably
be finally settled within a few hours.
This detestable Session goes on lengthening, and lengthening, like a
human hair in one's mouth. (Do you know that delicious sensation?) Last
month we expected to have been up before the middle of August. Now we should
be glad to be quite certain of being in the country by the first of September.
One comfort I shall have in being turned out: I will not stay a day in
London after the West India Bill is through Committee; which I hope it
will be before the end of next week.
The new Edinburgh Review is not much amiss; but I quite agree with the
publishers, the editor, and the reading public generally, that the number
would have been much the better for an article of thirty or forty pages
from the pen of a gentleman who shall be nameless.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: July 25, 1833.
My dear Sister, --The plot is thickening. Yesterday Buxton moved an
instruction to the Committee on the Slavery Bill, which the Government
opposed, and which I supported. It was extremely painful to me to speak
against all my political friends; so painful that at times I could hardly
go on. I treated them as mildly as I could; and they all tell me that I
performed my difficult task not ungracefully. We divided at two this morning,
and were 151 to 158. The Ministers found that, if they persisted, they
would infallibly be beaten. Accordingly they came down to the House at
twelve this day, and agreed to reduce the apprenticeship to seven years
for the agricultural labourers, and to five years for the skilled labourers.
What other people may do I cannot tell; but I am inclined to be satisfied
with this concession; particularly as I believe that, if we press the thing
further, they will resign, and we shall have no Bill at all, but instead
of it a Tory Ministry and a dissolution. Some people flatter me with the
assurance that our large minority, and the consequent change in the Bill,
have been owing to me. If this be so, I have done one useful act at least
in my life.
I shall now certainly remain in office; and if, as I expect, the Irish
Church Bill passes the Lords, I may consider myself as safe till the next
Session; when Heaven knows what may happen. It is still quite uncertain
when we may rise. I pine for rest, air, and a taste of family life, more
than I can express. I see nothing but politicians, and talk about nothing
I have not read Village Belles. Tell me, as soon as you can get it,
whether it is worth reading. As John Thorpe [The young Oxford man in "Northanger
Abbey."] says "Novels! Oh Lord! I never read novels. I have something else
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay,
London: July 27, 1833.
My dear Sister, --Here I am, safe and well, at the end of one of the
most stormy weeks that the oldest man remembers in Parliamentary affairs.
I have resigned my office, and my resignation has been refused. I have
spoken and voted against the Ministry under which I hold my place. The
Ministry has been so hard run in the Commons as to be forced to modify
its plan; and has received a defeat in the Lords, [On the 25th of July
the Archbishop of Canterbury carried an amendment on the Irish Church Bill,
against the Government, by 84 votes to 82.]-- a slight one to be sure,
and on a slight matter, --yet such that I, and many others, fully believed
twenty-four hours ago that they would have resigned. In fact, some of the
Cabinet, --Grant among the rest, to my certain knowledge, were for resigning.
At last Saturday has arrived. The Ministry is as strong as ever. I am as
good friends with the Ministers as ever. The East India Bill is carried
through our House. The West India Bill is so far modified that, I believe,
it will be carried. The Irish Church Bill has got through the Committee
in the Lords; and we are all beginning to look forward to a Prorogation
in about three weeks.
To-day I went to Hayden's to be painted into his great picture of the
Reform Banquet. Ellis was with me, and declares that Hayden has touched
me off to a nicety. I am sick of pictures of my own face. I have seen within
the last few days one drawing of it, one engraving, and three paintings.
They all make me a very handsome fellow. Hayden pronounces my profile a
gem of art, perfectly antique; and, what is worth the praise of ten Haydens,
I was told yesterday that Mrs. Littleton, the handsomest woman in London,
had paid me exactly the same compliment. She pronounced Mr. Macaulay's
profile to be a study for an artist. I have bought a new looking-glass
and razor-case on the strength of these compliments, and am meditating
on the expediency of having my hair cut in the Burlington Arcade, rather
than in Lamb's Conduit Street. As Richard says,
"Since I am crept in favour with myself,
I begin, like Sir Walter Elliot, [The Baronet in "Persuasion."] to rate
all my acquaintance according to their beauty. But what nonsense I write,
and in times that make many merry men look grave!
I will maintain it with some little cost."
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: July 29, 1833.
My dear Sister, --I dined last night at Holland House. There was a very
pleasant party. My Lady was courteous, and my Lord extravagantly entertaining,
telling some capital stories about old Bishop Horsley, which were set off
with some of the drollest mimicry that I ever saw. Among many others there
were Sir James Graham; and Dr. Holland, who is a good scholar as well as
a good physician; and Wilkie, who is a modest, pleasing companion as well
as an excellent artist. For ladies, we had her Grace of -- ; and her daughter
Lady -- , a fine, buxom, sonsy lass, with more colour than, I am sorry
to say, is often seen among fine ladies. So our dinner and our soiree were
We narrowly escaped a scene at one time. Lord is in the navy, and is
now on duty in the fleet at the Tagus. We got into a conversation about
Portuguese politics. His name was mentioned, and Graham, who is First Lord
of the Admiralty, complimented the Duchess on her son's merit, to which,
he said, every despatch bore witness. The Duchess forthwith began to entreat
that he might be recalled. He was very ill, she said. If he stayed longer
on that station she was sure that he would die; and then she began to cry.
I cannot bear to see women cry, and the matter became serious, for her
pretty daughter began to bear her company. That hardhearted Lord -- seemed
to be diverted by the scene. He, by all accounts, has been doing little
else than making women cry during the last five-and-twenty years. However,
we all were as still as death while the wiping of eyes and the blowing
of noses proceeded. At last Lord Holland contrived to restore our spirits;
but, before the Duchess went away, she managed to have a tete-a-tete with
Graham, and, I have no doubt, begged and blubbered to some purpose. I could
not help thinking how many honest stout-hearted fellows are left to die
on the most unhealthy stations for want of being related to some Duchess
who has been handsome, or to some Duchess's daughter who still is so.
The Duchess said one thing that amused us. We were talking about Lady
Morgan. "When she first came to London," said Lord Holland, "I remember
that she carried a little Irish harp about with her wherever she went."
Others denied this. I mentioned what she says in her Book of the Boudoir.
There she relates how she went one evening to Lady --'s with her little
Irish harp, and how strange everybody thought it. "I see nothing very strange,"
said her Grace, "in her taking her harp to Lady --'s. If she brought it
safe away with her, that would have been strange indeed." On this, as a
friend of yours says, we la-a-a-a-a-a-a-ft.
I am glad to find that you approve of my conduct about the Niggers.
I expect, and indeed wish, to be abused by the Agency Society. My father
is quite satisfied, and so are the best part of my Leeds friends.
I amuse myself, as I walk back from the House at two in the morning,
with translating Virgil. I am at work on one of the most beautiful episodes,
and am succeeding pretty well. You shall have what I have done when I come
to Liverpool, which will be, I hope, in three weeks or thereanent.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: July 31, 1833.
My dear Sister, --Political affairs look cheeringly. The Lords passed
the Irish Church Bill yesterday, and mean, we understand, to give us little
or no trouble about the India Bill. There is still a hitch in the Commons
about the West India Bill, particularly about the twenty millions for compensation
to the planters; but we expect to carry our point by a great majority.
By the end of next week we shall be very near the termination of our labours.
Heavy labours they have been.
So Wilberforce is gone! We talk of burying him in Westminster Abbey;
and many eminent men, both Whigs and Tories, are desirous to join in paying
him this honour. There is, however, a story about a promise given to old
Stephen that they should both lie in the same grave. Wilberforce kept his
faculties, and, except when he was actually in fits, his spirits, to the
very last. He was cheerful and full of anecdote only last Saturday. He
owned that he enjoyed life much, and that he had a great desire to live
longer. Strange in a man who had, I should have said, so little to attach
him to this world, and so firm a belief in another; in a man with an impaired
fortune, a weak spine, and a worn-out stomach! What is this fascination
which makes us cling to existence in spite of present sufferings and of
religious hopes? Yesterday evening I called at the house in Cadogan Place,
where the body is lying. I was truly fond of him; that is, "je l'aimais
comme l'on aime." And how is that? How very little one human being generally
cares for another! How very little the world misses anybody! How soon the
chasm left by the best and wisest men closes! I thought, as I walked back
from Cadogan Place, that our own selfishness when others are taken away
ought to teach us how little others will suffer at losing us. I thought
that, if I were to die to-morrow, not one of the fine people whom I dine
with every week, will take a cotelette aux petits pois the less on Saturday
at the table to which I was invited to meet them, or will smile less gaily
at the ladies over the champagne. And I am quite even with them. What are
those pretty lines of Shelley?
Oh, world, farewell!
There are not ten people in the world whose deaths would spoil my dinner;
but there are one or two whose deaths would break my heart. The more I
see of the world, and the more numerous my acquaintance becomes, the narrower
and more exclusive my affection grows, and the more I cling to my sisters,
and to one or two old tried friends of my quiet days. But why should I
go on preaching to you out of Ecclesiastes? And here comes, fortunately,
to break the train of my melancholy reflections, the proof of my East India
Speech from Hansard; so I must put my letter aside, and correct the press.
Listen to the passing bell.
It tells that thou and I must part
With a light and heavy heart.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
The next letter, in terms too clear to require comment, introduces the
mention of what proved to be the most important circumstance in Macaulay's
London: August 2, 1833.
My dear Sister, --I agree with your judgment on Chesterfield's Letters.
They are for the most part trash; though they contain some clever passages,
and the style is not bad. Their celebrity must be attributed to causes
quite distinct from their literary merit, and particularly to the position
which the author held in society. We see in our own time that the books
written by public men of note are generally rated at more than their real
value: Lord Granville's little compositions, for example; Canning's verses;
Fox's history; Brougham's treatises. The writings of people of high fashion,
also, have a value set on them far higher than that which intrinsically
belongs to them. The verses of the late Duchess of Devonshire, or an occasional
prologue by Lord Alvanley, attract a most undue share of attention. If
the present Duke of Devonshire, who is the very "glass of fashion and mould
of form," were to publish a book with two good pages, it would be extolled
as a masterpiece in half the drawing-rooms of London. Now Chesterfield
was, what no person in our time has been or can be, a great political leader,
and at the same time the acknowledged chief of the fashionable world; at
the head of the House of Lords, and at the head of laze; Mr. Canning and
the Duke of Devonshire in one. In our time the division of labour is carried
so far that such a man could not exist. Politics require the whole of energy,
bodily and mental, during half the year; and leave very little time for
the bow window at White's in the day, or for the crush-room of the Opera
at night. A century ago the case was different. Chesterfield was at once
the most distinguished orator in the Upper House, and the undisputed sovereign
of wit and fashion. He held this eminence for about forty years. At last
it became the regular custom of the higher circles to laugh whenever he
opened his mouth, without waiting for his bon mot. He used to sit at White's
with a circle of young men of rank round him, applauding every syllable
that he uttered. If you wish for a proof of the kind of position which
Chesterfield held among his contemporaries, look at the prospectus of Johnson's
Dictionary. Look even at Johnson's angry letter. It contains the strongest
admission of the boundless influence which Chesterfield exercised over
society. When the letters of such a man were published, of course they
were received more favourably by far than they deserved.
So much for criticism. As to politics, everything seems tending to repose;
and I should think that by this day fortnight we shall probably be prorogued.
The Jew Bill was thrown out yesterday night by the Lords. No matter. Our
turn will come one of these days.
If you want to see me puffed and abused by somebody who evidently knows
nothing about me, look at the New Monthly for this month. Bulwer, I see,
has given up editing it. I suppose he is making money in some other way;
for his dress must cost as much as that of any five other members of Parliament.
To-morrow Wilberforce is to be buried. His sons acceded, with great
eagerness, to the application made to them by a considerable number of
the members of both Houses that the funeral should be public. We meet to-morrow
at twelve at the House of Commons, and we shall attend the coffin into
the Abbey. The Duke of Wellington, Lord Eldon, and Sir R. Peel have put
down their names, as well as the Ministers and the Abolitionists.
My father urges me to pay some tribute to Wilberforce in the House of
Commons. If any debate should take place on the third reading of the West
India Bill in which I might take part, I should certainly embrace the opportunity
of doing honour to his memory. But I do not expect that such an occasion
will arise. The House seems inclined to pass the Bill without more contest;
and my father must be aware that anything like theatrical display, -- anything
like a set funeral oration not springing naturally out of the discussion
of a question, --is extremely distasteful to the House of Commons.
I have been clearing off a great mass of business, which had accumulated
at our office while we were conducting our Bill through Parliament. Today
I had the satisfaction of seeing the green boxes, which a week ago were
piled up with papers three or four feet high, perfectly empty. Admire my
superhuman industry. This I will say for myself, that, when I do sit down
to work, I work harder and faster than any person that I ever knew.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
This letter, written under the influence of deep and varied emotions, was
read with feelings of painful agitation and surprise. India was not then
the familiar name that it has become to a generation which regards a visit
to Cashmere as a trip to be undertaken between two London seasons, and
which discusses over its breakfast table at home the decisions arrived
at on the previous afternoon in the Council-room of Simla or Calcutta.
In those rural parsonages and middle-class households where service in
our Eastern territories now presents itself in the light of a probable
and desirable destiny for a promising son, those same territories were
forty years ago regarded as an obscure and distant region of disease and
death. A girl who had seen no country more foreign than Wales, and crossed
no water broader and more tempestuous than the Mersey, looked forward to
a voyage which (as she subsequently learned by melancholy experience),
might extend over six weary months, with an anxiety that can hardly be
imagined by us who spend only half as many weeks on the journey between
Dover and Bombay. A separation from beloved relations under such conditions
was a separation indeed; and, if Macaulay and his sister could have foreseen
how much of what they left at their departure they would fail to find on
their return, it is a question whether any earthly consideration could
have induced them to quit their native shore. But Hannah's sense of duty
was too strong for these doubts and tremors; and, happily, (for on the
whole her resolution was a fortunate one,) she resolved to accompany her
brother in an expatriation which he never would have faced without her.
With a mind set at ease by a knowledge of her intention, he came down to
Liverpool as soon as the Session was at an end; and carried her off on
a jaunt to Edinburgh, in a post-chaise furnished with Horace Walpole's
letters for their common reading, and Smollett's collected works for his
own. Before October he was back at the Board of Control; and his letters
recommenced, as frequent and rather more serious and business-like than
London: August 17, 1833.
My dear Sister,- -I am about to write to you on a subject which to you
and Margaret will be one of the most agitating interest; and which, on
that account chiefly, is so to me.
By the new India bill it is provided that one of the members of the
Supreme Council, which is to govern our Eastern Empire, is to be chosen
from among persons who are not servants of the Company. It is probable,
indeed nearly certain, that the situation will be offered to me.
The advantages are very great. It is a post of the highest dignity and
consideration. The salary is ten thousand pounds a year. I am assured by
persons who know Calcutta intimately, and who have themselves mixed in
the highest circles and held the highest offices at that Presidency, that
I may live in splendour there for five thousand a year, and may save the
rest of the salary with the accruing interest. I may therefore hope to
return to England at only thirty-nine, in the full vigour of life, with
a fortune of thirty thousand pounds. A larger fortune I never desired.
I am not fond of money, or anxious about it. But, though every day makes
me less and less eager for wealth, every day shows me more and more strongly
how necessary a competence is to a man who desires to be either great or
useful. At present the plain fact is that I can continue to be a public
man only while I can continue in office. If I left my place in the Government,
I must leave my seat in Parliament too. For I must live; I can live only
by my pen; and it is absolutely impossible for any man to write enough
to procure him a decent subsistence, and at the same time to take an active
part in politics. I have not during this Session been able to send a single
line to the Edinburgh Review; and, if I had been out of office, I should
have been able to do very little. Edward Bulwer has just given up the New
Monthly Magazine on the ground that he cannot conduct it, and attend to
his Parliamentary duties. Cobbett has been compelled to neglect his Register
so much that its sale has fallen almost to nothing. Now, in order to live
like a gentleman, it would be necessary for me to write, not as I have
done hitherto, but regularly, and even daily. I have never made more than
two hundred a year by my pen. I could not support myself in comfort on
less than five hundred; and I shall in all probability have many others
to support. The prospects of our family are, if possible, darker than ever.
In the meantime my political outlook is very gloomy. A schism in the
Ministry is approaching. It requires only that common knowledge of public
affairs, which any reader of the newspapers may possess, to see this; and
I have more, much more, than common knowledge on the subject. They cannot
hold together. I tell you in perfect seriousness that my chance of keeping
my present situation for six months is so small, that I would willingly
sell it for fifty pounds down. If I remain in office, I shall, I fear,
lose my political character. If I go out, and engage in opposition, I shall
break most of the private ties which I have formed during the last three
years. In England I see nothing before me, for some time to come, but poverty,
unpopularity, and the breaking up of old connections.
If there were no way out of these difficulties, I would encounter them
with courage. A man can always act honourably and uprightly; and, if I
were in the Fleet Prison or the rules of the King's Bench, I believe that
I could find in my own mind resources which would preserve me from being
positively unhappy. But, if I could escape from these impending disasters,
I should wish to do so. By accepting the post which is likely to be offered
to me, I withdraw myself for a short time from the contests of faction
here. When I return, I shall find things settled, parties formed into new
combinations, and new questions under discussion. I shall then be able,
without the scandal of a violent separation, and without exposing myself
to the charge of inconsistency, to take my own line. In the meantime I
shall save my family from distress; and shall return with a competence
honestly earned, as rich as if I were Duke of Northumberland or Marquess
of Westminster, and able to act on all public questions without even a
temptation to deviate from the strict line of duty. While in India, I shall
have to discharge duties not painfully laborious, and of the highest and
most honourable kind. I shall have whatever that country affords of comfort
or splendour; nor will my absence be so long that my friends, or the public
here, will be likely to lose sight of me.
The only persons who know what I have written to you are Lord Grey,
the Grants, Stewart Mackenzie, and George Babington. Charles Grant and
Stewart Mackenzie, who know better than most men the state of the political
world, think that I should act unwisely in refusing this post; and this
though they assure me, --and, I really believe, sincerely, --that they
shall feel the loss of my society very acutely. But what shall I feel?
And with what emotions, loving as I do my country and my family, can I
look forward to such a separation, enjoined, as I think it is, by prudence
and by duty? Whether the period of my exile shall be one of comfort, --and,
after the first shock, even of happiness, -- depends on you. If, as I expect,
this offer shall be made to me, will you go with me? I know what a sacrifice
I ask of you. I know how many dear and precious ties you must, for a time,
sunder. I know that the splendour of the Indian Court, and the gaieties
of that brilliant society of which you would be one of the leading personages,
have no temptation for you. I can bribe you only by telling you that, if
you will go with me, I will love you better than I love you now, if I can.
I have asked George Babington about your health and mine. He says that
he has very little apprehension for me, and none at all for you. Indeed,
he seemed to think that the climate would be quite as likely to do you
good as harm.
All this is most strictly secret. You may, of course, show the letter
to Margaret; and Margaret may tell Edward; for I never cabal against the
lawful authority of husbands. But further the thing must not go. It would
hurt my father, and very justly, to hear of it from anybody before he hears
of it from myself; and, if the least hint of it were to get abroad, I should
be placed in a very awkward position with regard to the people at Leeds.
It is possible, though not probable, that difficulties may arise at the
India House; and I do not mean to say anything to any person, who is not
already in the secret, till the Directors have made their choice, and till
the King's pleasure has been taken.
And now think calmly over what I have written. I would not have written
on the subject even to you, till the matter was quite settled, if I had
not thought that you ought to have full time to make up your mind. If you
feel an insurmountable aversion to India, I will do all in my power to
make your residence in England comfortable during my absence, and to enable
you to confer instead of receiving benefits. But if my dear sister would
consent to give me, at this great crisis of my life, that proof, that painful
and arduous proof, of her affection, which I beg of her, I think that she
will not repent of it. She shall not, if the unbounded confidence and attachment
of one to whom she is dearer than life can compensate her for a few years'
absence from much that she loves.
Dear Margaret! She will feel this. Consult her, my love, and let us
both have the advantage of such advice as her excellent understanding,
and her warm affection for us, may furnish. On Monday next, at the latest,
I expect to be with you. Our Scotch tour, under these circumstances, must
be short. By Christmas it will be fit that the new Councillor should leave
England. His functions in India commence next April. We shall leave our
dear Margaret, I hope, a happy mother.
Farewell, my dear sister. You cannot tell how impatiently I shall wait
for your answer.
T. B. M.
London: October 5, 1833
Dear Hannah, --Life goes on so quietly here, or rather stands so still,
that I have nothing, or next to nothing, to say. At the Athenaeum I now
and then fall in with some person passing through town on his way to the
Continent or to Brighton. The other day I met Sharp, and had a long talk
with him about everything and everybody, --metaphysics, poetry, politics,
scenery, and painting. One thing I have observed in Sharp, which is quite
peculiar to him among town-wits and diners-out. He never talks scandal.
If he can say nothing good of a man, he holds his tongue. I do not, of
course, mean that in confidential communication about politics he does
not speak freely of public men; but about the foibles of private individuals
I do not believe that, much as I have talked with him, I ever heard him
utter one word. I passed three or four hours very agreeably in his company
at the club.
I have also seen Kenny for an hour or two. I do not know that I ever
mentioned Kenny to you. When London is overflowing, I meet such numbers
of people that I cannot remember half their names. This is the time at
which every acquaintance, however slight, attracts some degree of attention.
In the desert island, even poor Poll was something of a companion to Robinson
Crusoe. Kenny is a writer of a class which, in our time, is at the very
bottom of the literary scale. He is a dramatist. Most of the farces, and
three-act plays, which have succeeded during the last eight or ten years,
are, I am told, from his pen. Heaven knows that, if they are the farces
and plays which I have seen, they do him but little honour. However, this
man is one of our great comic writers. He has the merit, such as it is,
of hitting the very bad taste of our modern audiences better than any other
person who has stooped to that degrading work. We had a good deal of literary
chat; and I thought him a clever shrewd fellow.
My father is poorly; not that anything very serious is the matter with
him; but he has a cold, and is in low spirits.
T. B. M.
London: October 14, 1833
Dear Hannah, --I have just finished my article on Horace Walpole. This
is one of the happy moments of my life; a stupid task performed; a weight
taken off my mind. I should be quite joyous if I had only you to read it
to. But to Napier it must go forthwith; and, as soon as I have finished
this letter, I shall put it into the general post with my own fair hands.
I was up at four this morning to put the last touch to it. I often differ
with the majority about other people's writings, and still oftener about
my own; and therefore I may very likely be mistaken; but I think that this
article will be a hit. We shall see. Nothing ever cost me more pains than
the first half; I never wrote anything so flowingly as the latter half;
and I like the latter half the best. I have laid it on Walpole so unsparingly
that I shall not be surprised if Miss Berry should cut me. You know she
was Walpole's favourite in her youth. Neither am I sure that Lord and Lady
Holland will be well pleased. But they ought to be obliged to me; for I
refrained for their sake from laying a hand, which has been thought to
be not a light one, on that old rogue the first Lord Holland. [Lord Holland,
once upon a time, speaking to Macaulay of his grandfather, said: "He had
that temper which kind folks have been pleased to say belongs to my family;
but he shared the fault that belonged to that school of statesmen, an utter
disbelief in public virtue."]
Charles Grant is still at Paris; ill, he says. I never knew a man who
wanted setting to rights so often. He goes as badly as your watch.
My father is at me again to provide for P--. What on earth have I to
do with P--? The relationship is one which none but Scotchmen would recognise.
The lad is such a fool that he would utterly disgrace my recommendation.
And, as if to make the thing more provoking, his sisters say that he must
be provided for in England, for that they cannot think of parting with
him. This, to be sure, matters little; for there is at present just as
little chance of getting anything in India as in England.
But what strange folly this is which meets me in every quarter; people
wanting posts in the army, the navy, the public offices, and saying that,
if they cannot find such posts, they must starve! How do all the rest of
mankind live? If I had not happened to be engaged in politics, and if my
father had not been connected, by very extraordinary circumstances, with
public men, I should never have dreamed of having places. Why cannot P--
be apprenticed to some hatter or tailor? He may do well in such a business;
he will do detestably ill as a clerk in my office. He may come to make
good coats; he will never, I am sure, write good despatches. There is nothing
truer than Poor Richard's say: "We are taxed twice as heavily by our pride
as by the state." The curse of England is the obstinate determination of
the middle classes to make their sons what they call gentlemen. So we are
overrun by clergymen without livings; lawyers without briefs; physicians
without patients; authors without readers; clerks soliciting employment,
who might have thriven, and been above the world, as bakers, watchmakers,
or innkeepers. The next time my father speaks to me about P--, I will offer
to subscribe twenty guineas towards making a pastry-cook of him. He had
a sweet tooth when he was a child.
So you are reading Burnet! Did you begin from the beginning? What do
you think of the old fellow? He was always a great favourite of mine; honest,
though careless; a strong party man on the right side, yet with much kind
feeling towards his opponents, and even towards his personal enemies. He
is to me a most entertaining writer; far superior to Clarendon in the art
of amusing, though of course far Clarendon's inferior in discernment, and
in dignity and correctness of style. Do you know, by the bye, Clarendon's
life of himself? I like it, the part after the Restoration at least, better
than his great History.
I am very quiet; rise at seven or half-past; read Spanish till ten;
breakfast; walk to my office; stay there till four; take a long walk, dine
towards seven; and am in bed before eleven. I am going through Don Quixote
again, and admire it more than ever. It is certainly the best novel in
the world, beyond all comparison.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: October 21, 1833.
My dear Sister, --Grant is here at last, and we have had a very long
talk about matters both public and private. The Government would support
my appointment; but he expects violent opposition from the Company. He
mentioned my name to the Chairs, and they were furious. They know that
I have been against them through the whole course of the negotiations which
resulted in the India Bill. They put their opposition on the ground of
my youth, --a very flattering objection to a man who this week completes
his thirty-third year. They spoke very highly of me in other respects;
but they seemed quite obstinate.
The question now is whether their opposition will be supported by the
other Directors. If it should be so, I have advised Grant most strongly
to withdraw my name, to put up some other man, and then to fight the battle
to the utmost. We shall be suspected of jobbing if we proceed to extremities
on behalf of one of ourselves; but we can do what we like, if it is in
favour of some person whom we cannot be suspected of supporting from interested
motives. From the extreme unreasonableness and pertinacity which are discernible
in every communication that we receive from the India House at present,
I am inclined to think that I have no chance of being chosen by them, without
a dispute in which I should not wish the Government to engage for such
a purpose. Lord Grey says that I have a right to their support if I ask
for it; but that, for the sake of his administration generally, he is very
adverse to my going. I do not think that I shall go. However, a few days
will decide the matter.
I have heard from Napier. He praises my article on Walpole in terms
absolutely extravagant. He says that it is the best that I ever wrote;
and, entre nous, I am not very far from agreeing with him. I am impatient
to have your opinion. No flattery pleases me so much as domestic flattery.
You will have the Number within the week.
T. B. M
To Macvey Napier, Esq.
London: October 21, 1833.
Dear Napier, --I am glad to learn that you like my article. I like it
myself; which is not much my habit. Very likely the public, which has often
been kinder to my performances than I was, may on this, as on other occasions,
differ from me in opinion. If the paper has any merit, it owes it to the
delay of which you must, I am sure, have complained very bitterly in your
heart. I was so thoroughly dissatisfied with the article, as it stood at
first, that I completely re-wrote it; altered the whole arrangement; left
out ten or twelve pages in one part; and added twice as many in another.
I never wrote anything so slowly as the first half, or so rapidly as the
You are in an error about Akenside, which I must clear up for his credit,
and for mine. You are confounding the Ode to Curio and the Epistle to Curio.
The latter is generally printed at the end of Akenside's works, and is,
I think, the best thing that he ever wrote. The Ode is worthless. It is
merely an abridgment of the Epistle executed in the most unskilful way.
Johnson says, in his Life of Akenside, that no poet ever so much mistook
his powers as Akenside when he took to lyric composition. "Having," I think
the words are, "written with great force and poignancy his Epistle to Curio,
he afterwards transformed it into an Ode only disgraceful to its author."
["Akenside was one of the fiercest and the most uncompromising of the young
patriots out of Parliament. When he found that the change of administration
had produced no change of system, he gave vent to his indignation in the
'Epistle to Curio,' the best poem that he ever wrote; a poem, indeed, which
seems to indicate that, if he had left lyrical composition to Cray and
Collins, and had employed his powers in grave and elevated satire, he might
have disputed the pre-eminence of Dryden." This passage occurs in Macaulay's
Essay on Horace Walpole. In the course of the same Essay, Macaulay remarks
that "Lord Chesterfield stands much lower in the estimation of posterity
than he would have done if his letters had never been published."]
When I said that Chesterfield had lost by the publication of his letters,
I of course considered that he had much to lose; that he has left an immense
reputation, founded on the testimony of all his contemporaries of all parties,
for wit, taste, and eloquence; that what remains of his Parliamentary oratory
is superior to anything of that time that has come down to us, except a
little of Pitt's. The utmost that can be said of the letters is that they
are the letters of a cleverish man; and there are not many which are entitled
even to that praise. I think he would have stood higher if we had been
left to judge of his powers, --as we judge of those of Chatham, Mansfield,
Charles Townshend, and many others, --only by tradition, and by fragments
of speeches preserved in Parliamentary reports.
I said nothing about Lord Byron's criticism on Walpole, because I thought
it, like most of his Lordship's criticism, below refutation. On the drama
Lord Byron wrote more nonsense than on any subject. He wanted to have restored
the unities. His practice proved as unsuccessful as his theory was absurd.
His admiration of the "Mysterious Mother" was of a piece with his thinking
Gifford, and Rogers, greater poets than Wordsworth, and Coleridge.
Ever yours truly
T. B. MACAULAY.
London: October 28, 1833.
Dear Hannah, --I wish to have Malkin as head of the Commission at Canton,
and Grant seems now to be strongly bent on the same plan. [Sir Benjamin
Malkin, a college friend of Macaulay, was afterwards a judge in the Supreme
Court at Calcutta.] Malkin is a man of singular temper, judgment, and firmness
of nerve. Danger and responsibility, instead of agitating and confusing
him, always bring out whatever there is in him. This was the reason of
his great success at Cambridge. He made a figure there far beyond his learning
or his talents, though both his learning and his talents are highly respectable.
But the moment that he sate down to be examined, which is just the situation
in which all other people, from natural flurry, do worse than at other
times, be began to do his very best. His intellect became clearer, and
his manner more quiet, than usual. He is the very man to make up his mind
in three minutes if the Viceroy of Canton were in a rage, the mob bellowing
round the doors of the factory, and an English ship of war making preparations
to bombard the town.
A propos of places, my father has been at me again about P--. Would
you think it? This lad has a hundred and twenty pounds a year for life!
I could not believe my ears; but so it is; and I, who have not a penny,
with half a dozen brothers and sisters as poor as myself, am to move heaven
and earth to push this boy who, as he is the silliest, is also, I think,
the richest relation that I have in the world.
I am to dine on Thursday with the Fishmongers' Company, the first company
for gourmandise in the world. Their magnificent Hall near London Bridge
is not yet built, but, as respects eating and drinking, I shall be no loser;
for we are to be entertained at the Albion Tavern. This is the first dinner-party
that I shall have been to for a long time. There is nobody in town that
I know except official men, and they have left their wives and households
in the country. I met Poodle Byng, it is true, the day before yesterday
in the street; and he begged me to make haste to Brooks's; for Lord Essex
was there, he said, whipping up for a dinner-party; cursing and swearing
at all his friends for being out of town; and wishing-- what an honour!
--that Macaulay was in London. I preserved all the dignity of a young lady
in an affaire du coeur. "I shall not run after my Lord, I assure you. If
he wants me, he knows where he may hear of me." This nibble is the nearest
approach to a dinner-party that I have had.
T. B. M.
London: November 1, 1833.
Dear Hannah, --I have not much to add to what I told you yesterday;
but everything that I have to add looks one way. We have a new Chairman
and Deputy Chairman, both very strongly in my favour. Sharp, by whom I
sate yesterday at the Fishmongers' dinner, told me that my old enemy James
Mill had spoken to him on the subject. Mill is, as you have heard, at the
head of one of the principal departments of the India House. The late Chairman
consulted him about me; hoping, I suppose, to have his support against
me. Mill said, very handsomely, that he would advise the Company to take
me; for, as public men went, I was much above the average, and, if they
rejected me, he thought it very unlikely that they would get anybody so
fit. This is all the news that I have to give you. It is not much. But
I wish to keep you as fully informed of what is going on as I am myself.
Old Sharp told me that I was acting quite wisely, but that he should
never see me again; and he cried as he said it. [Mr. Sharp died in 1837,
before Macaulay's return from India.] I encouraged him; and told him that
I hoped to be in England again before the end of 1839, and that there was
nothing impossible in our meeting again. He cheered up after a time; told
me that he should correspond with me, and give me all the secret history
both of politics and of society; and promised to select the best books,
and send them regularly to me.
The Fishmongers' dinner was very good, but not so profusely splendid
as I had expected. There has been a change, I find, and not before it was
wanted. They had got at one time to dining at ten guineas a head. They
drank my health, and I harangued them with immense applause. I talked all
the evening to Sharp. I told him what a dear sister I had, and how readily
she had agreed to go with me. I had told Grant the same in the morning.
Both of them extolled my good fortune in having such a companion.
T. B. M.
London: November --, 1833.
Dear Hannah, --Things stand as they stood; except that the report of
my appointment is every day spreading more widely; and that I am beset
by advertising dealers begging leave to make up a hundred cotton shirts
for me, and fifty muslin gowns for you, and by clerks out of place begging
to be my secretaries. I am not in very high spirits to-day, as I have just
received a letter from poor Ellis, to whom I had not communicated my intentions
till yesterday. He writes so affectionately and so plaintively that he
quite cuts me to the heart. There are few indeed from whom I shall part
with so much pain; and he, poor fellow, says that, next to his wife, I
am the person for whom he feels the most thorough attachment, and in whom
he places the most unlimited confidence.
On the 11th of this month there is to be a dinner given to Lushington
by the electors of the Tower Hamlets. He has persecuted me with importunities
to attend, and make a speech for him; and my father has joined in the request.
It is enough, in these times, Heaven knows, for a man who represents, as
I do, a town of a hundred and twenty thousand people to keep his own constituents
in good humour; and the Spitalfields weavers, and Whitechapel butchers,
are nothing to me. But, ever since I succeeded in what everybody allows
to have been the most hazardous attempt of the kind ever made, --I mean
in persuading an audience of manufacturers, all Whigs or Radicals, that
the immediate alteration of the corn-laws was impossible, --I have been
considered as a capital physician for desperate cases in politics. However,
--to return from that delightful theme, my own praises, --Lushington, who
is not very popular with the rabble of the Tower Hamlets, thinks that an
oration from me would give him a lift. I could not refuse him directly,
backed as he was by my father. I only said that I would attend if I were
in London on the 11th; but I added that, situated as I was, I thought it
very probable that I should be out of town.
I shall go to-night to Miss Berry's soiree. I do not know whether I
told you that she resented my article on Horace Walpole so much that Sir
Stratford Canning advised me not to go near her. She was Walpole's greatest
favourite. His Reminiscences are addressed to her in terms of the most
gallant eulogy. When he was dying at past eighty, he asked her to marry
him, merely that he might make her a Countess and leave her his fortune.
You know that in Vivian Grey she is called Miss Otranto. I always expected
that my article would put her into a passion, and I was not mistaken; but
she has come round again, and sent me a most pressing and kind invitation
the other day.
I have been racketing lately, having dined twice with Rogers, and once
with Grant. Lady Holland is in a most extraordinary state. She came to
Rogers's, with Allen, in so bad a humour that we were all forced to rally,
and make common cause against her. There was not a person at table to whom
she was not rude; and none of us were inclined to submit. Rogers sneered;
Sydney made merciless sport of her. Tom Moore looked excessively impertinent;
Bobus put her down with simple straightforward rudeness; and I treated
her with what I meant to be the coldest civility. Allen flew into a rage
with us all, and especially with Sydney, whose guffaws, as the Scotch say,
were indeed tremendous. When she and all the rest were gone, Rogers made
Tom Moore and me sit down with him for half an hour, and we coshered over
the events of the evening. Rogers said that he thought Allen's firing up
in defence of his patroness the best thing that he had seen in him. No
sooner had Tom and I got into the street than he broke forth: "That such
an old stager as Rogers should talk such nonsense, and give Allen credit
for attachment to anything but his dinner! Allen was bursting with envy
to see us so free, while he was conscious of his own slavery."
Her Ladyship has been the better for this discipline. She has overwhelmed
me ever since with attentions and invitations. I have at last found out
the cause of her ill-humour, or at least of that portion of it of which
I was the object. She is in a rage at my article on Walpole, but at what
part of it I cannot tell. I know that she is very intimate with the Waldegraves,
to whom the manuscripts belong, and for whose benefit the letters were
published. But my review was surely not calculated to injure the sale of
the book. Lord Holland told me, in an aside, that he quite agreed with
me, but that we had better not discuss the subject.
A note; and, by my life, from my Lady Holland: "Dear Mr. Macaulay, pray
wrap yourself very warm, and come to us on Wednesday." No, my good Lady.
I am engaged on Wednesday to dine at the Albion Tavern with the Directors
of the East India Company; now my servants; next week, I hope, to be my
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: November 22, 1833.
My dear Sister, --The decision is postponed for a week; but there is
no chance of an unfavourable result. The Chairs have collected the opinions
of their brethren; and the result is, that, of the twenty-four Directors,
only six or seven at the most will vote against me.
I dined with the Directors on Wednesday at the Albion Tavern. We had
a company of about sixty persons, and many eminent military men amongst
them. The very courteous manner in which several of the Directors begged
to be introduced to me, and drank my health at dinner, led me to think
that the Chairs have not overstated the feeling of the Court. One of them,
an old Indian and a great friend of our uncle the General, told me in plain
words that he was glad to hear that I was to be in their service. Another,
whom I do not even know by sight, pressed the Chairman to propose my health.
The Chairman with great judgment refused. It would have been very awkward
to have had to make a speech to them in the present circumstances.
Of course, my love, all your expenses, from the day of my appointment,
are my affair. My present plan, formed after conversation with experienced
East Indians, is not to burden myself with an extravagant outfit. I shall
take only what will be necessary for the voyage. Plate, wine, coaches,
furniture, glass, china, can be bought in Calcutta as well as in London.
I shall not have money enough to fit myself out handsomely with such things
here; and to fit myself out shabbily would be folly. I reckon that we can
bring our whole expense for the passage within the twelve hundred pounds
allowed by the Company. My calculation is that our cabins and board will
cost L250 apiece. The passage of our servants L50 apiece. That makes up
L600. My clothes and etceteras, as Mrs. Meeke observes, I will, I am quite
sure, come within L200. [Mrs. Meeke was his favourite among bad novel-
writers, see page 96.] Yours will, of course, be more. I will send you
L300 to lay out as you like; not meaning to confine you to it, by any means;
but you would probably prefer having a sum down to sending in your milliner's
bills to me. I reckon my servant's outfit at L50; your maid's at as much
more. The whole will be L1200.
One word about your maid. You really must choose with great caution.
Hitherto the Company has required that all ladies, who take maidservants
with them from this country to India, should give security to send them
back within two years. The reason was, that no class of people misconducted
themselves so much in the East as female servants from this country. They
generally treat the natives with gross insolence; an insolence natural
enough to people accustomed to stand in a subordinate relation to others
when, for the first time, they find a great population placed in a servile
relation towards them. Then, too, the state of society is such that they
are very likely to become mistresses of the wealthy Europeans, and to flaunt
about in magnificent palanquins, bringing discredit on their country by
the immorality of their lives and the vulgarity of their manners. On these
grounds the Company has hitherto insisted upon their being sent back at
the expense of those who take them out. The late Act will enable your servant
to stay in India, if she chooses to stay. I hope, therefore, that you will
be careful in your selection. You see how much depends upon it. The happiness
and concord of our native household, which will probably consist of sixty
or seventy people, may be destroyed by her, if she should be ill-tempered
and arrogant. If she should be weak and vain, she will probably form connections
that will ruin her morals and her reputation. I am no preacher, as you
very well know; but I have a strong sense of the responsibility under which
we shall both lie with respect to a poor girl, brought by us into the midst
of temptations of which she cannot be aware, and which have turned many
heads that might have been steady enough in a quiet nursery or kitchen
To find a man and wife, both of whom would suit us, would be very difficult;
and I think it right, also, to offer to my clerk to keep him in my service.
He is honest, intelligent, and respectful; and, as he is rather inclined
to consumption, the change of climate would probably be useful to him.
I cannot bear the thought of throwing any person who has been about me
for five years, and with whom I have no fault to find, out of bread, while
it is in my power to retain his services.
T. B. M.
London: December 5, 1833
Dear Lord Lansdowne, --I delayed returning an answer to your kind letter
till this day, in order that I might be able to send you definite intelligence.
Yesterday evening the Directors appointed me to a seat in the Council of
India. The votes were nineteen for me, and three against me.
I feel that the sacrifice which I am about to make is great. But the
motives which urge me to make it are quite irresistible. Every day that
I live I become less and less desirous of great wealth. But every day makes
me more sensible of the importance of a competence. Without a competence
it is not very easy for a public man to be honest; it is almost impossible
for him to be thought so. I am so situated that I can subsist only in two
ways: by being in office, and by my pen. Hitherto, literature has been
merely my relaxation, --the amusement of perhaps a month in the year. I
have never considered it as the means of support. I have chosen my own
topics, taken my own time, and dictated my own terms. The thought of becoming
a bookseller's hack; of writing to relieve, not the fulness of the mind,
but the emptiness of the pocket; of spurring a jaded fancy to reluctant
exertion; of filling sheets with trash merely that the sheets may be filled;
of bearing from publishers and editors what Dryden bore from Tonson, and
what, to my own knowledge, Mackintosh bore from Lardner, is horrible to
me. Yet thus it must be, if I should quit office. Yet to hold office merely
for the sake of emolument would be more horrible still. The situation,
in which I have been placed for some time back, would have broken the spirit
of many men. It has rather tended to make me the most mutinous and unmanageable
of the followers of the Government. I tendered my resignation twice during
the course of the last Session. I certainly should not have done so if
I had been a man of fortune. You, whom malevolence itself could never accuse
of coveting office for the sake of pecuniary gain, and whom your salary
very poorly compensates for the sacrifice of ease, and of your tastes,
to the public service, cannot estimate rightly the feelings of a man who
knows that his circumstances lay him open to the suspicion of being actuated
in his public conduct by the lowest motives. Once or twice, when I have
been defending unpopular measures in the House of Commons, that thought
has disordered my ideas, and deprived me of my presence of mind.
If this were all, I should feel that, for the sake of my own happiness
and of my public utility, a few years would be well spent in obtaining
an independence. But this is not all. I am not alone in the world. A family
which I love most fondly is dependent on me. Unless I would see my father
left in his old age to the charity of less near relations; my youngest
brother unable to obtain a good professional education; my sisters, who
are more to me than any sisters ever were to a brother, forced to turn
governesses or humble companions, --I must do something, I must make some
effort. An opportunity has offered itself. It is in my power to make the
last days of my father comfortable, to educate my brother, to provide for
my sisters, to procure a competence for myself. I may hope, by the time
I am thirty-nine or forty, to return to England with a fortune of thirty
thousand pounds. To me that would be affluence. I never wished for more.
As far as English politics are concerned, I lose, it is true, a few
years. But, if your kindness had not introduced me very early to Parliament,
--if I had been left to climb up the regular path of my profession, and
to rise by my own efforts, --I should have had very little chance of being
in the House of Commons at forty. If I have gained any distinction in the
eyes of my countrymen, -- if I have acquired any knowledge of Parliamentary
and official business, and any habitude for the management of great affairs,
-- I ought to consider these things as clear gain.
Then, too, the years of my absence, though lost, as far as English politics
are concerned, will not, I hope, be wholly lost, as respects either my
own mind or the happiness of my fellow-creatures. I can scarcely conceive
a nobler field than that which our Indian Empire now presents to a statesman.
While some of my partial friends are blaming me for stooping to accept
a share in the government of that Empire, I am afraid that I am aspiring
too high for my qualifications. I sometimes feel, I most unaffectedly declare,
depressed and appalled by the immense responsibility which I have undertaken.
You are one of the very few public men of our time who have bestowed on
Indian affairs the attention which they deserve; and you will therefore,
I am sure, fully enter into my feelings.
And now, dear Lord Lansdowne, let me thank you most warmly for the kind
feeling which has dictated your letter. That letter is, indeed, but a very
small part of what I ought to thank you for. That at an early age I have
gained some credit in public life; that I have done some little service
to more than one good cause; that I now have it in my power to repair the
ruined fortunes of my family, and to save those who are dearest to me from
the misery and humiliation of dependence; that I am almost certain, if
I live, of obtaining a competence by honourable means before I am past
the full vigour of manhood, --this I owe to your kindness. I will say no
more. I will only entreat you to believe that neither now, nor on any former
occasion, have I ever said one thousandth part of what I feel.
If it will not be inconvenient to you, I propose to go to Bowood on
Wednesday next. Labouchere will be my fellow-traveller. On Saturday we
must both return to town. Short as my visit must be, I look forward to
it with great pleasure.
Believe me, ever,
Yours most faithfully and affectionately
T. B. MACAULAY.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: December 5, 1833
My dear Sister, --I am overwhelmed with business, clearing off my work
here, and preparing for my new functions. Plans of ships, and letters from
captains, pour in without intermission. I really am mobbed with gentlemen
begging to have the honour of taking me to India at my own time. The fact
is that a Member of Council is a great catch, not merely on account of
the high price which he directly pays for accommodation, but because other
people are attracted by him. Every father of a young writer, or a young
cadet, likes to have his son on board the same vessel with the great man,
to dine at the same table, and to have a chance of attracting his notice.
Everything in India is given by the Governor in Council; and, though I
have no direct voice in the disposal of patronage, my indirect influence
may be great.
Grant's kindness through all these negotiations has been such as I really
cannot describe. He told me yesterday, with tears in his eyes, that he
did not know what the Board would do without me. I attribute his feeling
partly to Robert Grant's absence; not that Robert ever did me ill offices
with him; far from it; but Grant's is a mind that cannot stand alone. It
is, begging your pardon for my want of gallantry, a feminine mind. It turns,
like ivy, to some support. When Robert is near him, he clings to Robert.
Robert being away, he clings to me. This may be a weakness in a public
man; but I love him the better for it.
I have lately met Sir James Graham at dinner. He took me aside, and
talked to me on my appointment with a warmth of kindness which, though
we have been always on good terms, surprised me. But the approach of a
long separation, like the approach of death, brings out all friendly feelings
with unusual strength. The Cabinet, he said, felt the loss strongly. It
was great at the India Board, but in the House of Commons, (he used the
word over and over,) "irreparable." They all, however, he said, agreed
that a man of honour could not make politics a profession unless he had
a competence of his own, without exposing himself to privation of the severest
kind. They felt that they had never had it in their power to do all they
wished to do for me. They had no means of giving me a provision in England;
and they could not refuse me what I asked in India. He said very strongly
that they all thought that I judged quite wisely; and added that, if God
heard his prayers, and spared my health, I should make a far greater figure
in public life than if I had remained during the next five or six years
I picked up in a print-shop the other day some superb views of the suburbs
of Chowringhee, and the villas of the Garden Reach. Selina professes that
she is ready to die with envy of the fine houses and verandahs. I heartily
wish we were back again in a nice plain brick house, three windows in front,
in Cadogan Place or Russell Square, with twelve or fifteen hundred a year,
and a spare bedroom, --(we, like Mrs. Norris, [A leading personage in Miss
Austen's "Mansfield Park."] must always have a spare bedroom,)-- for Edward
and Margaret, Love to them both.
T. B. M.
To Macvey Napier, Esq.
London: December 5, 1833
Dear Napier, --You are probably not unprepared for what I am about to
tell you. Yesterday evening the Directors of the East India Company elected
me one of the members of the Supreme Council. It will, therefore, be necessary
that in a few weeks, --ten weeks, at furthest, --I should leave this country
for a few years.
It would be mere affectation in me to pretend not to know that my support
is of some importance to the Edinburgh Review. In the situation in which
I shall now be placed, a connection with the Review will be of some importance
to me. I know well how dangerous it is for a public man wholly to withdraw
himself from the public eye. During an absence of six years, I run some
risk of losing most of the distinction, literary and political, which I
have acquired. As a means of keeping myself in the recollection of my countrymen
during my sojourn abroad the Review will be invaluable to me; nor do I
foresee that there will be the slightest difficulty in my continuing to
write for you at least as much as ever. I have thought over my late articles,
and I really can scarcely call to mind a single sentence in any one of
them which might not have been written at Calcutta as easily as in London.
Perhaps in India I might not have the means of detecting two or three of
the false dates in Croker's Boswell. But that would have been all. Very
little, if any, of the effect of my most popular articles is produced either
by minute research into rare books, or by allusions to mere topics of the
I think therefore that we might easily establish a commerce mutually
beneficial. I shall wish to be supplied with all the good books which come
out in this part of the world. Indeed, many books which in themselves are
of little value, and which, if I were in England, I should not think it
worth while to read, will be interesting to me in India; just as the commonest
daubs, and the rudest vessels, at Pompeii attract the minute attention
of people who would not move their eyes to see a modern signpost, or a
modern kettle. Distance of place, like distance of time, makes trifles
What I propose, then, is that you should pay me for the articles which
I may send you from India, not in money, but in books. As to the amount
I make no stipulations. You know that I have never haggled about such matters.
As to the choice of books, the mode of transmission, and other matters,
we shall have ample time to discuss them before my departure. Let me know
whether you are willing to make an arrangement on this basis.
I have not forgotten Chatham in the midst of my avocations. I hope to
send you an article on him early next week.
Ever yours sincerely
T. B. MACAULAY.
From the Right Hon. Francis Jeffrey to Macvey Napier, Esq.
24, Moray Place Saturday evening, December
My dear Napier, --I am very much obliged to you for the permission to
read this. It is to me, I will confess, a solemn and melancholy announcement.
I ought not, perhaps, so to consider it. But I cannot help it. I was not
prepared for six years, and I must still hope that it will not be so much.
At my age, and with that climate for him, the chances of our ever meeting
again are terribly endangered by such a term. He does not know the extent
of the damage which his secession may be to the great cause of Liberal
government. His anticipations and offers about the Review are generous
and pleasing, and must be peculiarly gratifying to you. I think, if you
can, you should try to see him before he goes, and I envy you the meeting.
Ever very faithfully yours
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: December 21, 1833.
My dear Sister, --Yesterday I dined at Boddington's. We had a very agreeable
party: Duncannon, Charles Grant, Sharp, Chantrey the sculptor, Bobus Smith,
and James Mill. Mill and I were extremely friendly, and I found him a very
pleasant companion, and a man of more general information than I had imagined.
Bobus was very amusing. He is a great authority on Indian matters. He
was during several years Advocate-General in Bengal, and made all his large
fortune there. I asked him about the climate. Nothing, he said, could be
pleasanter, except in August and September. He never ate or drank so much
in his life. Indeed, his looks do credit to Bengal; for a healthier man
of his age I never saw. We talked about expenses. "I cannot conceive,"
he said, "how anybody at Calcutta can live on less than L3,000 a year,
or can contrive to spend more than L4,000." We talked of the insects and
snakes, and he said a thing which reminded me of his brother Sydney: "Always,
Sir, manage to have at your table some fleshy, blooming, young writer or
cadet, just come out; that the musquitoes may stick to him, and leave the
rest of the company alone."
I have been with George Babington to the Asia. We saw her to every disadvantage,
all litter and confusion; but she is a fine ship, and our cabins will be
very good. The captain I like much. He is an agreeable, intelligent, polished
man of forty; and very good-looking, considering what storms and changes
of climate he has gone through. He advised me strongly to put little furniture
into our cabins. I told him to have yours made as neat as possible, without
regard to expense. He has promised to have it furnished simply, but prettily;
and when you see it, if any addition occurs to you, it shall be made. I
shall spare nothing to make a pretty little boudoir for you. You cannot
think how my friends here praise you. You are quite Sir James Graham's
To-day I breakfasted with Sharp, whose kindness is as warm as possible.
Indeed, all my friends seen to be in the most amiable mood. I have twice
as many invitations as I can accept; and I have been frequently begged
to name my own party. Empty as London is, I never was so much beset with
invitations. Sharp asked me about you. I told him how much I regretted
my never having had any opportunity of showing you the best part of London
society. He said that he would take care that you should see what was best
worth seeing before your departure. He promises to give us a few breakfast-parties
and dinner-parties, where you will meet as many as he can muster of the
best set in town, --Rogers, Luttrell, Rice, Tom Moore, Sydney Smith, Grant,
and other great wits and politicians. I am quite delighted at this; both
because you will, I am sure, be amused, and pleased, at a time when you
ought to have your mind occupied, and because even to have mixed a little
in a circle so brilliant will be of advantage to you in India. You have
neglected, and very rightly and sensibly, frivolous accomplishments; you
have not been at places of fashionable diversion; and it is, therefore,
the more desirable that you should appear among the dancing, pianoforte-playing,
opera-going, damsels at Calcutta as one who has seen society better than
any that they ever approached. I hope that you will not disapprove of what
I have done. I accepted Sharp's offer for you eagerly.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: January 2, 1834.
My dear Sister, --I am busy with an article for Napier. [The first article
on Lord Chatham.] I cannot in the least tell at present whether I shall
like it or not. I proceed with great ease; and in general I have found
that the success of my writings has been in proportion to the ease with
which they have been written.
I had a most extraordinary scene with Lady Holland. If she had been
as young and handsome as she was thirty years ago, she would have turned
my head. She was quite hysterical about my going; paid me such compliments
as I cannot repeat; cried; raved; called me dear, dear Macaulay. "You are
sacrificed to your family. I see it all. You are too good to them. They
are always making a tool of you; last Session about the slaves; and now
sending you to India!" I always do my best to keep my temper with Lady
Holland for three reasons; because she is a woman; because she is very
unhappy in her health, and in the circumstances of her position; and because
she has a real kindness for me. But at last she said something about you.
This was too much, and I was beginning to answer her in a voice trembling
with anger, when she broke out again: "I beg your pardon. Pray forgive
me, dear Macaulay. I was very impertinent. I know you will forgive me.
Nobody has such a temper as you. I have said so a hundred times. I said
so to Allen only this morning. I am sure you will bear with my weakness.
I shall never see you again;" and she cried, and I cooled; for it would
have been to very little purpose to be angry with her. I hear that it is
not to me alone that she runs on in this way. She storms at the Ministers
for letting me go. I was told that at one dinner she became so violent
that even Lord Holland, whose temper, whatever his wife may say, is much
cooler than mine, could not command himself, and broke out: "Don't talk
such nonsense, my Lady. What, the devil! Can we tell a gentleman who has
a claim upon us that he must lose his only chance of getting an independence
in order that he may come and talk to you in an evening?"
Good-bye, and take care not to become so fond of your own will as my
Lady. It is now my duty to omit no opportunity of giving you wholesome
advice. I am henceforward your sole guardian. I have bought Gisborne's
Duties of Women, Moore's Fables for the Female Sex, Mrs. King's Female
Scripture Characters, and Fordyce's Sermons. With the help of these books
I hope to keep my responsibility in order on our voyage, and in India.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: January 4, 1834.
My dear Sister, --I am now buying books; not trashy books which will
only bear one reading; but good books for a library. I have my eye on all
the bookstalls; and I shall no longer suffer you, when we walk together
in London, to drag me past them as you used to do. Pray make out a list
of any which you would like to have. The provision which I design for the
voyage is Richardson, Voltaire's works, Gibbon, Sismondi's History of the
French, Davila, the Orlando in Italian, Don Quixote in Spanish, Homer in
Greek, Horace in Latin. I must also have some books of jurisprudence, and
some to initiate me in Persian and Hindostanee. Shall I buy "Dunallan"
for you? I believe that in your eyes it would stand in the place of all
the rest together. But, seriously, let me know what you would like me to
Ellis is making a little collection of Greek classics for me. Sharp
has given me one or two very rare and pretty books, which I much wanted.
All the Edinburgh Reviews are being bound, so that we shall have a complete
set, up to the forth coming number, which will contain an article of mine
on Chatham. And this reminds me that I must give over writing to you, and
fall to my article. I rather think that it will be a good one.
T. B. M.
London: February 13, 1834.
On the 4th of February Macaulay bade farewell to his electors, in an address
which the Leeds Tories probably thought too high-flown for the occasion.
["If, now that I have ceased to be your servant, and am only your sincere
and grateful friend, I may presume to offer you advice which must, at least,
be allowed to be disinterested, I would say to you: Act towards your future
representatives as you have acted towards me. Choose them, as you chose
me, without canvassing and without expense. Encourage them, as you encouraged
me, always to speak to you fearlessly and plainly. Reject, as you have
hitherto rejected, the wages of dishonour. Defy, as you have hitherto defied,
the threats of petty tyrants. Never forget that the worst and most degrading
species of corruption is the corruption which operates, not by hopes, but
by fears. Cherish those noble and virtuous principles for which we have
struggled and triumphed together-- the principles of liberty and toleration,
of justice and order. Support, as you have steadily supported, the cause
of good government; and may all the blessings which are the natural fruits
of good government descend upon you and be multiplied to you an hundredfold!
May your manufactures flourish; may your trade be extended; may your riches
increase! May the works of your skill, and the signs of your prosperity,
meet me in the furthest regions of the East, and give me fresh cause to
be proud of the intelligence, the industry, and the spirit of my constituents!"]
But he had not yet done with the House of Commons. Parliament met on the
first Tuesday in the month; and, on the Wednesday, O'Connell, who had already
contrived to make two speeches since the Session began, rose for a third
time to call attention to words uttered during the recess by Mr. Hill,
the Member for Hull. That gentleman, for want of something better to say
to his constituents, had told them that he happened to know "that an Irish
Member, who spoke with great violence against every part of the Coercion
Bill, and voted against every clause of it, went to Ministers and said:
'Don't bate a single atom of that Bill, or it will be impossible for any
man to live in Ireland."' O'Connell called upon Lord Althorp, as the representative
of the Government, to say what truth there was in this statement. Lord
Althorp, taken by surprise, acted upon the impulse of the moment, which
in his case was a feeling of reluctance to throw over poor Mr. Hill to
be bullied by O'Connell and his redoubtable tail. After explaining that
no set and deliberate communication of the nature mentioned had been made
to the Ministers, his Lordship went on to say that he "should not act properly
if he did not declare that he had good reason to believe that some Irish
Members did, in private conversation, use very different language" from
what they had employed in public.
Dear Napier, --It is true that I have been severely tried by ill- health
during the last few weeks; but I am now rapidly recovering, and am assured
by all my medical advisers that a week of the sea will make me better than
ever I was in my life.
I have several subjects in my head. One is Mackintosh's History; I mean
the fragment of the large work. Another plan which I have is a very fine
one, if it could be well executed. I think that the time is come when a
fair estimate may be formed of the intellectual and moral character of
Voltaire. The extreme veneration, with which he was regarded during his
lifetime, has passed away; the violent reaction, which followed, has spent
itself; and the world can now, I think, bear to hear the truth, and to
see the man exhibited as he was, --a strange mixture of greatness and littleness,
virtues and vices. I have all his works, and shall take them in my cabin
on the voyage. But my library is not particularly rich in those books which
illustrate the literary history of his times. I have Rousseau, and Marmontel's
Memoirs, and Madame du Deffand's Letters, and perhaps a few other works
which would be of use. But Grimm's Correspondence, and several other volumes
of memoirs and letters, would be necessary. If you would make a small collection
of the works which would be most useful in this point of view, and send
it after me as soon as possible, I will do my best to draw a good Voltaire.
I fear that the article must be enormously long, --seventy pages perhaps;
--but you know that I do not run into unnecessary lengths.
I may perhaps try my hand on Miss Austen's novels. That is a subject
on which I shall require no assistance from books.
Whatever volumes you may send me ought to be half bound; or the white
ants will devour them before they have been three days on shore. Besides
the books which may be necessary for the Review, I should like to have
any work of very striking merit which may appear during my absence. The
particular department of literature which interests me most is history;
above all, English history. Any valuable book on that subject I should
wish to possess. Sharp, Miss Berry, and some of my other friends, will
perhaps, now and then, suggest a book to you. But it is principally on
your own judgment that I must rely to keep me well supplied.
Yours most truly
T. B. MACAULAY.
It was chivalrously, but most unwisely, spoken. O'Connell at once gave
the cue by inquiring whether he himself was among the Members referred
to, and Lord Althorp assured him that such was not the case. The Speaker
tried to interfere; but the matter had gone too far. One Irish representative
after another jumped up to repeat the same question with regard to his
own case, and received the same answer. At length Sheil rose, and asked
whether he was one of the Members to whole the Noble Lord had alluded.
Lord Althorp replied: "Yes. The honourable and learned gentleman is one."
Sheil, "in the face of his country, and the presence of his God," asserted
that the individual who had given any such information to the Noble Lord
was guilty of a "gross and scandalous calumny," and added that he understood
the Noble Lord to have made himself responsible for the imputation. Then
ensued one of those scenes in which the House of Commons appears at its
very worst. All the busybodies, as their manner is, rushed to the front;
and hour after hour slipped away in an unseemly, intricate, and apparently
interminable wrangle. Sheil was duly called upon to give an assurance that
the affair should not be carried beyond the walls of the House. He refused
to comply, and was committed to the charge of the Sergeant at Arms. The
Speaker then turned to Lord Althorp, who promised in Parliamentary language
not to send a challenge. Upon this, as is graphically enough described
in the conventional terms of Hansard, "Mr O'Connell made some observation
to the honourable Member sitting next him which was not heard in the body
of the House. Lord Althorp immediately rose, and amid loud cheers, and
with considerable warmth, demanded to know what the honourable and learned
gentleman meant by his gesticulation;" and then, after an explanation from
O'Connell, his Lordship went on to use phrases which very clearly signified
that, though he had no cause for sending a challenge, he had just as little
intention of declining one; upon which he likewise was made over to the
Sergeant. Before, however, honourable Members went to their dinners, they
had the relief of learning that their refractory colleagues had submitted
to the Speaker's authority, and had been discharged from custody.
There was only one way out of the difficulty. On the 10th of February
a Committee of Investigation was appointed, composed of Members who enjoyed
a special reputation for discretion. Mr. Hill called his witnesses. The
first had nothing relevant to tell. Macaulay was the second; and he forthwith
cut the matter short by declaring that, on principle, he refused to disclose
what had passed in private conversation; a sentiment which was actually
cheered by the Committee. One sentence of common sense brought the absurd
embroilment to a rational conclusion. Mr. Hill saw his mistake; begged
that no further evidence might be taken; and, at the next sitting of the
House, withdrew his charge in unqualified terms of self-abasement and remorse.
Lord Althorp readily admitted that he had acted "imprudently as a man,
and still more imprudently as a Minister," and stated that he considered
himself bound to accept Sheil's denial; but he could not manage so to frame
his remarks as to convey to his hearers the idea that his opinion of that
honourable gentleman had been raised by the transaction. Sheil acknowledged
the two apologies with effusion proportioned to their respective value;
and so ended an affair which, at the worst, had evoked a fresh proof of
that ingrained sincerity of character for the sake of which his party would
have followed Lord Althorp to the death. [In Macaulay's journal for June
4, 1851, we read: "I went to breakfast with the Bishop of Oxford, and there
learned that Sheil was dead. Poor fellow! We talked about Sheil, and I
related my adventure of February 1834. Odd that it should have been so
little known or so completely forgotten!"]
Gravesend: February 15, 1834.
Dear Lord Lansdowne, --I had hoped that it would have been in my power
to shake hands with you once more before my departure; but this deplorably
absurd affair in the House of Commons has prevented me from calling on
you. I lost a whole day while the Committee were deciding whether I should,
or should not, be forced to repeat all the foolish, shabby, things that
I had heard Sheil say at Brooks's. Everybody thought me right, as I certainly
I cannot leave England without sending a few lines to you, --and yet
they are needless. It is unnecessary for me to say with what feelings I
shall always remember our connection, and with what interest I shall always
learn tidings of you and of your family.
Yours most sincerely
T. B. MACAULAY.