Chapter 6 -- 1834-1838
The outward voyage -- Arrival at Madras -- Macaulay is summoned
to join Lord William Bentinck in the Neilgherries -- His journey up-country
-- His native servant -- Arcot -- Bangalore -- Seringapatam -- Ascent of
the Neilgherries -- First sight of the Governor-General -- Letters to Mr.
Ellis, and the Miss Macaulays -- A summer on the Neilgherries -- Native
Christians -- Clarissa -- A tragi-comedy -- Macaulay leaves the Neilgherries,
travels to Calcutta, and there sets up house -- Letters to Mr. Napier,
and Mrs. Cropper -- Mr. Trevelyan -- Marriage of Hannah Macaulay -- Death
of Mrs. Cropper -- Macaulay's work in India -- His Minutes for Council
-- Freedom of the Press -- Literary gratitude -- Second Minute on the Freedom
of the Press -- The Black Act -- A Calcutta public meeting -- Macaulay's
defence of the policy of the Indian Government -- His Minute on Education
-- He becomes President of the Committee of Public Instruction -- His industry
in discharging the functions of that post -- Specimens of his official
writing -- Results of his labours -- He is appointed President of the Law
Commission, and recommends the framing of a Criminal Code -- Appearance
of the Code -- Comments of Mr. Fitzjames Stephen -- Macaulay's private
life in India -- Oriental delicacies -- Breakfast-parties -- Macaulay's
longing for England -- Calcutta and Dublin -- Departure from India -- Letters
to Mr. Ellis, Mr. Sharp, Mr. Napier, and Mr. Z. Macaulay.
From the moment that a deputation of Falmouth Whigs, headed by their
Mayor, came on board to wish Macaulay his health in India and a happy return
to England, nothing occurred that broke the monotony of an easy and rapid
voyage. "The catching of a shark; the shooting of an albatross; a sailor
tumbling down the hatchway and breaking his head; a cadet getting drunk
and swearing at the captain," are incidents to which not even the highest
literary power can impart the charm of novelty in the eyes of the readers
of a seafaring nation. The company on the quarterdeck was much on a level
with the average society of an East Indiaman. "Hannah will give you the
histories of all these good people at length, I dare say, for she was extremely
social; danced with the gentlemen in the evenings, and read novels and
sermons with the ladies in the mornings. I contented myself with being
very civil whenever I was with the other passengers, and took care to be
with them as little as I could. Except at meals, I hardly exchanged a word
with any human being. I never was left for so long a time so completely
to my own resources; and I am glad to say that I found them quite sufficient
to keep me cheerful and employed. During the whole voyage I read with keen
and increasing enjoyment. I devoured Greek, Latin, Spanish, Italian, French,
and English; folios, quartos, octavos, and duodecimos."
On the 10th of June the vessel lay to off Madras; and Macaulay had his
first introduction to the people for whom he was appointed to legislate
in the person of a boatman who pulled through the surf on his raft. "He
came on board with nothing on him but a pointed yellow cap, and walked
among us with a self-possession and civility which, coupled with his colour
and his nakedness, nearly made me die of laughing." This gentleman was
soon followed by more responsible messengers, who brought tidings the reverse
of welcome. Lord William Bentinck, who was then Governor-General, was detained
by ill-health at Ootacamund in the Neilgherry Hills; a place which, by
name at least, is now as familiar to Englishmen as Malvern; but which in
1834 was known to Macaulay, by vague report, as situated somewhere "in
the mountains of Malabar, beyond Mysore." The state of public business
rendered it necessary that the Council should meet; and, as the Governor-General
had left one member of that body in Bengal as his deputy, he was not able
to make a quorum until his new colleague arrived from England. A pressing
summons to attend his Lordship in the Hills placed Macaulay in some embarrassment
on account of his sister, who could not with safety commence her Eastern
experiences by a journey of four hundred miles up the country in the middle
of June. Happily the second letter which he opened proved to be from Bishop
Wilson, who insisted that the son and daughter of so eminent an Evangelical
as the Editor of the Christian Observer, themselves part of his old congregation
in Bedford Row, should begin their Indian life nowhere except under his
roof. Hannah, accordingly, continued her voyage, and made her appearance
in Calcutta circles with the Bishop's Palace as a home, and Lady William
Bentinck as a kind, and soon an affectionate, chaperone; while her brother
remained on shore at Madras, somewhat consoled for the separation by finding
himself in a country where so much was to be seen, and where, as far as
the English residents were concerned, he was regarded with a curiosity
at least equal to his own.
During the first few weeks nothing came amiss to him. "To be on land
after three months at sea is of itself a great change. But to be in such
a land! The dark faces, with white turbans, and flowing robes; the trees
not our trees; the very smell of the atmosphere that of a hothouse, and
the architecture as strange as the vegetation." Every feature in that marvellous
scene delighted him both in itself, and for the sake of the innumerable
associations and images which it conjured up in his active and well-stored
mind. The salute of fifteen guns that greeted him, as he set his foot on
the beach, reminded him that he was in a region where his countrymen could
exist only on the condition of their being warriors and rulers. When on
a visit of ceremony to a dispossessed Rajah or Nabob, he pleased himself
with the reflection that he was face to face with a prince who in old days
governed a province as large as a first-class European kingdom, conceding
to his Suzerain, the Mogul, no tribute beyond "a little outward respect
such as the great Dukes of Burgundy used to pay to the Kings of France;
and who now enjoyed the splendid and luxurious insignificance of an abdicated
prince which fell to the lot of Charles the Fifth or Queen Christina of
Sweden," with a court that preserved the forms of royalty, the right of
keeping as many badly armed and worse paid ragamuffins as he could retain
under his tawdry standard, and the privilege of "occasionally sending letters
of condolence and congratulation to the King of England, in which he calls
himself his Majesty's good brother and ally."
Macaulay set forth on his journey within a week from his landing, travelling
by night, and resting while the sun was at its hottest. He has recorded
his first impressions of Hindostan in a series of journal letters addressed
to his sister Margaret. The fresh and vivid character of those impressions--
the genuine and multiform interest excited in him by all that met his ear
or eye-- explain the secret of the charm which enabled him in after days
to overcome the distaste for Indian literature entertained by that personage
who, for want of a better, goes by the name of the general reader. Macaulay
reversed in his own case, the experience of those countless writers on
Indian themes who have successively blunted their pens against the passive
indifference of the British public; for his faithful but brilliant studies
of the history of our Eastern Empire are to this day incomparably the most
popular of his works. [When published in a separate form the articles on
Lord Clive and Warren Hastings have sold nearly twice as well as the articles
on Lord Chatham, nearly thrice as well as the article on Addison, and nearly
five times as well as the article on Byron. The great Sepoy mutiny, while
it something more than doubled the sale of the essay on Warren Hastings,
all but trebled the sale of the essay on Lord Clive; but, taking the last
twenty years together, there has been little to choose between the pair.
The steadiness and permanence of the favour with which they are regarded
may be estimated by the fact that, during the five years between 1870 and
1874, as compared with the five years between 1865 and 1869, the demand
for them has been in the proportion of seven to three; and, as compared
with the five years between 1860 and 1864, in the proportion of three to
one.] It may be possible, without injury to the fame of the author, to
present a few extracts from a correspondence, which is in some sort the
raw material of productions that have already secured their place among
our national classics:
"In the afternoon of the 17th June I left Madras. My train
consisted of thirty-eight persons. I was in one palanquin, and my servant
followed in another. He is a half-caste. On the day on which we set out
he told me he was a Catholic; and added, crossing himself and turning up
the whites of his eyes, that he had recommended himself to the protection
of his patron saint, and that he was quite confident that we should perform
our journey in safety. I thought of Ambrose Llamela, Gil Blas's devout
valet, who arranges a scheme for robbing his master of his portmanteau,
and, when he comes back from meeting his accomplices, pretends that he
has been to the cathedral to implore a blessing on their voyage. I did
him, however, a great injustice; for I have found him a very honest man,
who knows the native languages, and who can dispute a charge, bully a negligent
bearer, arrange a bed, and make a curry. But he is so fond of giving advice
that I fear he will some day or other, as the Scotch say, raise my corruption,
and provoke me to send him about his business. His name, which I never
hear without laughing, is Peter Prim.
After traversing this landscape for fifteen hours he reached the town of
Arcot, which, under his handling, was to be celebrated far and wide as
the cradle of our greatness in the East.
"Half my journey was by daylight, and all that I saw during that time
disappointed me grievously. It is amazing how small a part of the country
is under cultivation. Two-thirds at least, as it seemed to me, was in the
state of Wandsworth Common, or, to use an illustration which you will understand
better, of Chatmoss. The people whom we met were as few as in the Highlands
of Scotland. But I have been told that in India the villages generally
lie at a distance from the roads, and that much of the land, which when
I passed through it looked like parched moor that had never been cultivated,
would after the rains be covered with rice."
"I was most hospitably received by Captain Smith, who commanded
the garrison. After dinner the palanquins went forward with my servant,
and the Captain and I took a ride to see the lions of the neighbourhood.
He mounted me on a very quiet Arab, and I had a pleasant excursion. We
passed through a garden which was attached to the residence of the Nabob
of the Carnatic, who anciently held his court at Arcot. The garden has
been suffered to run to waste, and is only the more beautiful for having
been neglected. Garden, indeed, is hardly a proper word. In England it
would rank as one of our noblest parks, from which it differs principally
in this, that most of the fine trees are fruit trees. From this we came
to a mountain pass which reminded me strongly of Borradaile, near Derwentwater,
and through this defile we struck into the road, and rejoined the bearers."
And so he went forward on his way, recalling at every step the reminiscence
of some place, or event, or person; and, thereby, doubling for himself,
and perhaps for his correspondent, the pleasure which the reality was capable
of affording. If he put up at a collector's bungalow, he liked to think
that his host ruled more absolutely and over a larger population than "a
Duke of Saxe-Weimar or a Duke of Lucca;" and, when he came across a military
man with a turn for reading, he pronounced him "as Dominic Sampson said
of another Indian Colonel, 'a man of great erudition, considering his imperfect
On the 19th of June he crossed the frontier of Mysore; reached Bangalore
on the morning of the 20th and rested there for three days in the house
of the Commandant.
"On Monday, the 23rd, I took leave of Colonel Cubbon, who told
me, with a warmth which I was vain enough to think sincere, that he had
not passed three such pleasant days for thirty years. I went on all night,
sleeping soundly in my palanquin. At five I was waked, and found that a
carriage was waiting for me. I had told Colonel Cubbon that I very much
wished to see Seringapatam. He had written to the British authorities at
the town of Mysore, and an officer had come from the Residency to show
me all that was to be seen. I must now digress into Indian politics; and
let me tell you that, if you read the little that I shall say about them,
you will know more on the subject than half the members of the Cabinet."
After a few pages occupied by a sketch of the history of Mysore during
the preceding century, Macaulay proceeds:
"Seringapatam has always been a place of peculiar interest
to me. It was the scene of the greatest events of Indian history. It was
the residence of the greatest of Indian princes. From a child, I used to
hear it talked of every day. Our uncle Colin was imprisoned there for four
years, and he was afterwards distinguished at the siege. I remember that
there was, in a shop-window at Clapham, a daub of the taking of Seringapatam,
which, as a boy, I often used to stare at with the greatest interest. I
was delighted to have an opportunity of seeing the place; and, though my
expectations were high, they were not disappointed.
During his stay at Mysore, Macaulay had an interview with the deposed Rajah;
whose appearance, conversation, palace, furniture, jewels, soldiers, elephants,
courtiers, and idols, he depicts in a letter, intended for family perusal,
with a minuteness that would qualify him for an Anglo-Indian Richardson.
By the evening of the 24th June he was once more on the road; and, about
noon on the following day, he began to ascend the Neilgherries, through
scenery which, for the benefit of readers who had never seen the Pyrenees
or the Italian slopes of an Alpine pass, he likened to "the vegetation
of Windsor Forest, or Blenheim, spread over the mountains of Cumberland."
After reaching the summit of the table- land, he passed through a wilderness
where for eighteen miles together he met nothing more human than a monkey,
until a turn of the road disclosed the pleasant surprise of an amphitheatre
of green hills encircling a small lake, whose banks were dotted with red-tiled
cottages surrounding a pretty Gothic church. The whole station presented
"very much the look of a rising English watering-place. The largest house
is occupied by the Governor-General. It is a spacious and handsome building
of stone. To this I was carried, and immediately ushered into his Lordship's
presence. I found him sitting by a fire in a carpeted library. He received
me with the greatest kindness, frankness, and hospitality. He is, as far
as I can yet judge, all that I have heard; that is to say, rectitude, openness,
and good-nature, personified." Many months of close friendship and common
labours did but confirm Macaulay in this first view of Lord William Bentinck.
His estimate of that singularly noble character survives in the closing
sentence of the essay on Lord Clive; and is inscribed on the base of the
statue which, standing in front of the Town Hall may be seen far and wide
over the great expanse of grass that serves as the park, the parade-ground,
and the race-course of Calcutta.
"The town is depopulated; but the fortress, which was one of the strongest
in India, remains entire. A river almost as broad as the Thames at Chelsea
breaks into two branches, and surrounds the walls, above which are seen
the white minarets of a mosque. We entered, and found everything silent
and desolate. The mosque, indeed, is still kept up, and deserves to be
so; but the palace of Tippoo has fallen into utter ruin. I saw, however,
with no small interest, the airholes of the dungeon in which the English
prisoners were confined, and the water-gate leading down to the river where
the body of Tippoo was found still warm by the Duke of Wellington, then
Colonel Wellesley. The exact spot through which the English soldiers fought
their way against desperate disadvantages into the fort is still perfectly
discernible. But, though only thirty-five years have elapsed since the
fall of the city, the palace is in the condition of Tintern Abbey and Melrose
Abbey. The courts, which bear a great resemblance to those of the Oxford
Colleges, are completely overrun with weeds and flowers. The Hall of Audience,
once considered the finest in India, still retains some very faint traces
of its old magnificence. It is supported on a great number of light and
lofty wooden pillars, resting on pedestals of black granite. These pillars
were formerly covered with gilding, and here and there the glitter may
still be perceived. In a few more years not the smallest trace of this
superb chamber will remain. I am surprised that more care was not taken
by the English to preserve so splendid a memorial of the greatness of him
whom they had conquered. It was not like Lord Wellesley's general mode
of proceeding; and I soon saw a proof of his taste and liberality. Tippoo
raised a most sumptuous mausoleum to his father, and attached to it a mosque
which he endowed. The buildings are carefully maintained at the expense
of our Government. You walk up from the fort through a narrow path, bordered
by flower beds and cypresses, to the front of the mausoleum, which is very
beautiful, and in general character closely resembles the most richly carved
of our small Gothic chapels. Within are three tombs, all covered with magnificent
palls embroidered in gold with verses from the Koran. In the centre lies
Hyder; on his right the mother of Tippoo; and Tippoo himself on the left."
To Thomas Flower Ellis.
Ootacamund: July 1, 1834.
Dear Ellis, --You need not get your map to see where Ootacamund is;
for it has not found its way into the maps. It is a new discovery; a place
to which Europeans resort for their health, or, as it is called by the
Company's servants-- blessings on their learning, --a sanaterion.
It lies at the height of 7,000 feet above the sea.
While London is a perfect gridiron, here am I, at 13 degrees North from
the equator, by a blazing wood fire, with my windows closed. My bed is
heaped with blankets, and my black servants are coughing round me in all
directions. One poor fellow in particular looks so miserably cold that,
unless the sun comes out, I am likely soon to see under my own roof the
spectacle which, according to Shakespeare, is so interesting to the English,
--a dead Indian. [The Tempest, act ii. scene 2.]
I travelled the whole four hundred miles between this and Madras on
men's shoulders. I had an agreeable journey on the whole. I was honoured
by an interview with the Rajah of Mysore, who insisted on showing me all
his wardrobe, and his picture gallery. He has six or seven coloured English
prints, not much inferior to those which I have seen in the sanded parlour
of a country inn; "Going to Cover," "The Death of the Fox," and so forth.
But the bijou of his gallery, of which he is as vain as the Grand Duke
can be of the Venus, or Lord Carlisle of the Three Maries, is a head of
the Duke of Wellington, which has, most certainly, been on a sign-post
Yet, after all, the Rajah was by no means the greatest fool whom I found
at Mysore. I alighted at a bungalow appertaining to the British Residency.
There I found an Englishman who, without any preface, accosted me thus:
"Pray, Mr. Macaulay, do not you think that Buonaparte was the Beast?" "No,
Sir, I cannot say that I do." "Sir, he was the Beast. I can prove it. I
have found the number 666 in his name. Why, Sir, if he was not the Beast,
who was?" This was a puzzling question, and I am not a little vain of my
answer. "Sir," said I, "the House of Commons is the Beast. There are 658
members of the House; and these, with their chief officers, --the three
clerks, the Sergeant and his deputy, the Chaplain, the doorkeeper, and
the librarian, --make 666." "Well, Sir, that is strange. But I can assure
you that, if you write Napoleon Buonaparte in Arabic, leaving out only
two letters, it will give 666." "And pray, Sir, what right have you to
leave out two letters? And, as St. John was writing Greek, and to Greeks,
is it not likely that he would use the Greek rather than the Arabic notation?"
"But, Sir," said this learned divine, "everybody knows that the Greek letters
were never used to mark numbers." I answered with the meekest look and
voice possible: "I do not think that everybody knows that. Indeed I have
reason to believe that a different opinion, --erroneous no doubt, --is
universally embraced by all the small minority who happen to know any Greek."
So ended the controversy. The man looked at me as if he thought me a very
wicked fellow; and, I dare say, has by this time discovered that, if you
write my name in Tamul, leaving out T in Thomas, B in Babington, and M
in Macaulay, it will give the number of this unfortunate Beast.
I am very comfortable here. The Governor-General is the frankest and
best-natured of men. The chief functionaries, who have attended him hither,
are clever people, but not exactly on a par as to general attainments with
the society to which I belonged in London. I thought, however, even at
Madras, that I could have formed a very agreeable circle of acquaintance;
and I am assured that at Calcutta I shall find things far better. After
all, the best rule in all parts of the world, as in London itself, is to
be independent of other men's minds. My power of finding amusement without
companions was pretty well tried on my voyage. I read insatiably; the Iliad
and Odyssey, Virgil, Horace, Caesar's Commentaries, Bacon de Augmentis,
Dante, Petrarch, Ariosto, Tasso, Don Quixote, Gibbon's Rome, Mill's India,
all the seventy volumes of Voltaire, Sismondi's History of France, and
the seven thick folios of the Biographia Britannica. I found my Greek and
Latin in good condition enough. I liked the Iliad a little less, and the
Odyssey a great deal more than formerly. Horace charmed me more than ever;
Virgil not quite so much as he used to do. The want of human character,
the poverty of his supernatural machinery, struck me very strongly. Can
anything be so bad as the living bush which bleeds and talks, or the Harpies
who befoul Aeneas's dinner? It is as extravagant as Ariosto, and as dull
as Wilkie's Epigoniad. The last six books, which Virgil had not fully corrected,
pleased me better than the first six. I like him best on Italian ground.
I like his localities; his national enthusiasm; his frequent allusions
to his country, its history, its antiquities, and its greatness. In this
respect he often reminded me of Sir Walter Scott, with whom, in the general
character of his mind, he had very little affinity. The Georgics pleased
me better; the Eclogues best, --the second and tenth above all. But I think
the finest lines in the Latin language are those five which begin,
"Sepibus in nostris parvam te roscida mala--"
[Eclogue viii. 37.] I cannot tell you how they struck me. I was amused
to find that Voltaire pronounces that passage to be the finest in Virgil.
I liked the Jerusalem better than I used to do. I was enraptured with
Ariosto; and I still think of Dante, as I thought when I first read him,
that he is a superior poet to Milton, that he runs neck and neck with Homer,
and that none but Shakespeare has gone decidedly beyond him.
As soon as I reach Calcutta I intend to read Herodotus again. By the
bye, why do not you translate him? You would do it excellently; and a translation
of Herodotus, well executed, would rank with original compositions. A quarter
of an hour a day would finish the work in five years. The notes might be
made the most amusing in the world. I wish you would think of it. At all
events, I hope you will do something which may interest more than seven
or eight people. Your talents are too great, and your leisure time too
small, to be wasted in inquiries so frivolous, (I must call them,) as those
in which you have of late been too much engaged; whether the Cherokees
are of the same race with the Chickasaws; whether Van Diemen's Land was
peopled from New Holland, or New Holland from Van Diemen's land; what is
the precise anode of appointing a headman in a village in Timbuctoo. I
would not give the worst page in Clarendon or Fra Paolo for all that ever
was, or ever will be, written about the migrations of the Leleges and the
laws of the Oscans.
I have already entered on my public functions, and I hope to do some
good. The very wigs of the judges in the Court of King's Bench would stand
on end if they knew how short a chapter my Law of Evidence will form. I
am not without many advisers. A native of some fortune in Madras has sent
me a paper on legislation. "Your honour must know," says this judicious
person, "that the great evil is that men swear falsely in this country.
No judge knows what to believe. Surely if your honour can make men to swear
truly, your honour's fame will be great, and the Company will flourish.
Now, I know how men may be made to swear truly; and I will tell your honour
for your fame, and for the profit of the Company. Let your honour cut off
the great toe of the right foot of every man who swears falsely, whereby
your honour's fame will be extended." Is not this an exquisite specimen
of legislative wisdom?
I must stop. When I begin to write to England, my pen runs as if it
would run on for ever.
Ever yours affectionately
T. B. M.
To Miss Fanny and Miss Selina Macaulay.
The months of July and August Macaulay spent on the Neilgherries, in a
climate equable as Madeira and invigorating as Braemar; where thickets
of rhododendron fill the glades and clothe the ridges; and where the air
is heavy with the scent of rose-trees of a size more fitted for an orchard
than a flower-bed, and bushes of heliotrope thirty paces round. The glories
of the forests and of the gardens touched him in spite of his profound
botanical ignorance, and he dilates more than once upon his "cottage buried
in laburnums, or something very like them, and geraniums which grow in
the open air." He had the more leisure for the natural beauties of the
place, as there was not much else to interest even a traveller fresh from
Ootacamund: August 10, 1834.
My dear Sisters, --I sent last month a full account of my journey hither,
and of the place, to Margaret, as the most stationary of our family; desiring
her to let you all see what I had written to her. I think that I shall
continue to take the same course. It is better to write one full and connected
narrative than a good many imperfect fragments.
Money matters seem likely to go on capitally. My expenses, I find, will
be smaller than I anticipated. The Rate of Exchange, if you know what that
means, is very favourable indeed; and, if I live, I shall get rich fast.
I quite enjoy the thought of appearing in the light of an old hunks who
knows on which side his bread is buttered; a warm man; a fellow who will
cut up well. This is not a character which the Macaulays have been much
in the habit of sustaining; but I can assure you that, after next Christmas,
I expect to lay up, on an average, about seven thousand pounds a year,
while I remain in India.
At Christmas I shall send home a thousand, or twelve hundred, pounds
for my father, and you all. I cannot tell you what a comfort it is to me
to find that I shall be able to do this. It reconciles me to all the pains--
acute enough, sometimes, God knows, --of banishment. In a few years, if
I live-- probably in less than five years from the time at which you will
be reading this letter-- we shall be again together in a comfortable, though
a modest, home; certain of a good fire, a good joint of meat, and a good
glass of wine; without owing obligations to anybody; and perfectly indifferent,
at least as far as our pecuniary interest is concerned, to the changes
of the political world. Rely on it, my dear girls, that there is no chance
of my going back with my heart cooled towards you. I came hither principally
to save my family, and I am not likely while here to forget them.
T. B. M.
"I have as yet seen little of the idolatry of India; and that
little, though excessively absurd, is not characterised by atrocity or
indecency. There is nothing of the sort at Ootacamund. I have not, during
the last six weeks, witnessed a single circumstance from which you would
have inferred that this was a heathen country. The bulk of the natives
here are a colony from the plains below, who have come up hither to wait
on the European visitors, and who seem to trouble themselves very little
about caste or religion. The Todas, the aboriginal population of these
hills, are a very curious race. They had a grand funeral a little while
ago. I should have gone if it had not been a Council day; but I found afterwards
that I had lost nothing. The whole ceremony consisted in sacrificing bullocks
to the manes of the defunct. The roaring of the poor victims was horrible.
The people stood talking and laughing till a particular signal was made,
and immediately all the ladies lifted up their voices and wept. I have
not lived three and thirty years in this world without learning that a
bullock roars when he is knocked down, and that a woman can cry whenever
Unfortunately Macaulay's stay on the Neilgherries coincided with the monsoon.
"The rain streamed down in floods. It was very seldom that I could see
a hundred yards in front of me. During a month together I did not get two
hours' walking." He began to be bored, for the first and last time in his
life; while his companions, who had not his resources, were ready to hang
themselves for very dulness. The ordinary amusements with which, in the
more settled parts of India, our countrymen beguile the rainy season, were
wanting in a settlement that had only lately been reclaimed from the desert;
in the immediate vicinity of which you still ran the chance of being "trod
into the shape of half a crown by a wild elephant, or eaten by the tigers,
which prefer this situation to the plains below for the same reason that
takes so many Europeans to India; they encounter an uncongenial climate
for the sake of what they can get." There were no books in the place except
those that Macaulay had brought with him, among which, most luckily, was
Clarissa Harlowe. Aided by the rain outside, he soon talked his favourite
romance into general favour. The reader will consent to put up with one
or two slight inaccuracies in order to have the story told by Thackeray.
"By all that I can learn, the Catholics are the most respectable portion
of the native Christians. As to Swartz's people in the Tanjore, they are
a perfect scandal to the religion which they profess. It would have been
thought something little short of blasphemy to say this a year ago; but
now it is considered impious to say otherwise, for they have got into a
violent quarrel with the missionaries and the Bishop. The missionaries
refused to recognise the distinctions of caste in the administration of
the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, and the Bishop supported them in the
refusal. I do not pretend to judge whether this was right or wrong. Swartz
and Bishop Heber conceived that the distinction of caste, however objectionable
politically, was still only a distinction of rank; and that, as in English
churches the gentlefolks generally take the Sacrament apart from the poor
of the parish, so the high-caste natives might be allowed to communicate
apart from the Pariahs.
"But, whoever was first in the wrong, the Christians of Tanjore took
care to be most so. They called in the interposition of Government, and
sent up such petitions and memorials as I never saw before or since; made
up of lies, invectives, bragging, cant, bad grammar of the most ludicrous
kind, and texts of Scripture quoted without the smallest application. I
remember one passage by heart, which is really only a fair specimen of
the whole: 'These missionaries, my Lord, loving only filthy lucre, bid
us to eat Lord-supper with Pariahs as lives ugly, handling dead men, drinking
rack and toddy, sweeping the streets, mean fellows altogether, base persons,
contrary to that which Saint Paul saith: I determined to know nothing among
you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.'
"Was there ever a more appropriate quotation? I believe that nobody
on either side of the controversy found out a text so much to the purpose
as one which I cited to the Council of India, when we were discussing this
business: 'If this be a question of words, and names, and of your law,
look ye to it; for I will be no judge of such matters.' But though, like
Gallio, I drove them and their petitions from my judgment seat, I could
not help saying to one of the missionaries, who is here on the Hills, that
I thought it a pity to break up the Church of Tanjore on account of a matter
which such men as Swartz and Heber had not been inclined to regard as essential.
'Sir,' said the reverend gentleman, 'the sooner the Church of Tanjore is
broken up the better. You can form no notion of the worthlessness of the
native Christians there.' I could not dispute this point with him; but
neither could I help thinking, though I was too polite to say so, that
it was hardly worth the while of so many good men to come fifteen thousand
miles over sea and land in order to make proselytes, who, their very instructors
being judges, were more children of hell than before."
"I spoke to him once about Clarissa. 'Not read Clarissa!' he
cried out. 'If you have once read Clarissa, and are infected by it, you
can't leave it. When I was in India I passed one hot season in the Hills;
and there were the Governor-General, and the Secretary of Government, and
the Commander-in-Chief, and their wives. I had Clarissa with me; and, as
soon as they began to read, the whole station was in a passion of excitement
about Miss Harlowe, and her misfortunes, and her scoundrelly Lovelace.
The Governor's wife seized the book; the Secretary waited for it; the Chief
justice could not read it for tears.' He acted the whole scene; he paced
up and down the Athenaeum library. I dare say he could have spoken pages
of the book; of that book, and of what countless piles of others!"
An old Scotch doctor, a Jacobin and a free-thinker, who could only be got
to attend church by the positive orders of the Governor-General, cried
over the last volume until he was too ill to appear at dinner. [Degenerate
readers of our own day have actually been provided with an abridgment of
Clarissa, itself as long as an ordinary novel. A wiser course than buying
the abridgment would be to commence the original at the Third volume. In
the same way, if anyone, after obtaining the outline of Lady Clementina's
story from a more adventurous friend, will read Sir Charles Grandison,
skipping all letters from Italians, to Italians, and about Italians, he
will find that he has got hold of a delightful, and not unmanageable, book.]
The Chief Secretary, --afterwards, as Sir William Macnaghten, the hero
and the victim of the darkest episode in our Indian history, -- declared
that reading this copy of Clarissa, under the inspiration of its owner's
enthusiasm, was nothing less than an epoch in his life. After the lapse
of thirty years, when Ootacamund had long enjoyed the advantage of a book-club
and a circulating library, the tradition of Macaulay and his novel still
lingered on with a tenacity most unusual in the ever- shifting society
of an Indian station.
"At length Lord William gave me leave of absence. My bearers
were posted along the road; my palanquins were packed; and I was to start
next day; when an event took place which may give you some insight into
the state of the laws, morals, and manners among the natives.
Early next morning Macaulay began to descend the pass.
"My new servant, a Christian, but such a Christian as the missionaries
make in this part of the world, had been persecuted most unmercifully for
his religion by the servants of some other gentlemen on the Hills. At last
they contrived to excite against him (whether justly or unjustly I am quite
unable to say) the jealousy of one of Lord William's under-cooks. We had
accordingly a most glorious tragi-comedy; the part of Othello by the cook
aforesaid; Desdemona by an ugly, impudent Pariah girl, his wife; Iago by
Colonel Casement's servant; and Michael Cassio by my rascal. The place
of the handkerchief was supplied by a small piece of sugar-candy which
Desdemona was detected in the act of sucking, and which had found its way
from my canisters to her fingers. If I had any part in the piece, it was,
I am afraid, that of Roderigo, whom Shakespeare describes as a 'foolish
gentleman,' and who also appears to have had 'money in his purse.'
"On the evening before my departure my bungalow was besieged by a mob
of blackguards. The Native judge came with them. After a most prodigious
quantity of jabbering, of which I could not understand one word, I called
the judge, who spoke tolerable English, into my room, and learned from
him the nature of the case. I was, and still am, in doubt as to the truth
of the charge. I have a very poor opinion of my man's morals, and a very
poor opinion also of the veracity of his accusers. It was, however, so
very inconvenient for me to be just then deprived of my servant that I
offered to settle the business at my own expense. Under ordinary circumstances
this would have been easy enough, for the Hindoos of the lower castes have
no delicacy on these subjects. The husband would gladly have taken a few
rupees, and walked away; but the persecutors of my servant interfered,
and insisted that he should be brought to trial in order that they might
have the pleasure of smearing him with filth, giving him a flogging, beating
kettles before him, and carrying him round on an ass with his face to the
"As the matter could not be accommodated, I begged the Judge to try
the case instantly; but the rabble insisted that the trial should not take
place for some days. I argued the matter with them very mildly, and told
them that I must go next day, and that, if my servant were detained, guilty
or innocent, he must lose his situation. The gentle and reasoning tone
of my expostulations only made them impudent. They are, in truth, a race
so accustomed to be trampled on by the strong that they always consider
humanity as a sign of weakness. The Judge told me that he never heard a
gentleman speak such sweet words to the people. But I was now at an end
of my sweet words. My blood was beginning to boil at the undisguised display
of rancorous hatred and shameless injustice. I sate down, and wrote a line
to the Commandant of the station, begging him to give orders that the case
might be tried that very evening. The Court assembled, and continued all
night in violent contention. At last the judge pronounced my servant not
guilty. I did not then know, what I learned some days after, that this
respectable magistrate had received twenty rupees on the occasion.
"The husband would now gladly have taken the money which he refused
the day before; but I would not give him a farthing. The rascals who had
raised the disturbance were furious. My servant was to set out at eleven
in the morning, and I was to follow at two. He had scarcely left the door
when I heard a noise. I looked forth, and saw that the gang had pulled
him out of his palanquin, torn off his turban, stripped him almost naked,
and were, as it seemed, about to pull him to pieces. I snatched up a sword-stick,
and ran into the middle of them. It was all I could do to force my way
to him, and, for a moment, I thought my own person was in danger as well
as his. I supported the poor wretch in my arms; for, like most of his countrymen,
he is a chickenhearted fellow, and was almost fainting away. My honest
barber, a fine old soldier in the Company's service, ran off for assistance,
and soon returned with some police officers. I ordered the bearers to turn
round, and proceeded instantly to the house of the Commandant. I was not
long detained here. Nothing can be well imagined more expeditious than
the administration of justice in this country, when the judge is a Colonel,
and the plaintiff a Councillor. I told my story in three words. In three
minutes the rioters were marched off to prison, and my servant, with a
sepoy to guard him, was fairly on his road and out of danger."
"After going down for about an hour we emerged from the clouds
and moisture, and the plain of Mysore lay before us-- a vast ocean of foliage
on which the sun was shining gloriously. I am very little given to cant
about the beauties of nature, but I was moved almost to tears. I jumped
off the palanquin, and walked in front of it down the immense declivity.
In two hours we descended about three thousand feet. Every turning in the
road showed the boundless forest below in some new point of view. I was
greatly struck with the resemblance which this prodigious jungle, as old
as the world and planted by nature, bears to the fine works of the great
English landscape gardeners. It was exactly a Wentworth Park, as large
as Devonshire. After reaching the foot of the hills, we travelled through
a succession of scenes which might have been part of the garden of Eden.
Such gigantic trees I never saw. In a quarter of an hour I passed hundreds
the smallest of which would bear a comparison with any of those oaks which
are shown as prodigious in England. The grass, the weeds, and the wild
flowers grew as high as my head. The sun, almost a stranger to me, was
now shining brightly; and, when late in the afternoon I again got out of
my palanquin and looked back, I saw the large mountain ridge from which
I had descended twenty miles behind me, still buried in the same mass of
fog and rain in which I had been living for weeks.
He had not much time for his Portuguese studies. The run was unusually
fast, and the ship only spent a week in the Bay of Bengal, and forty-eight
hours in the Hooghly. He found his sister comfortably installed in Government
House, where he himself took up his quarters during the next six weeks;
Lady William Bentinck having been prepared to welcome him as her guest
by her husband's letters, more than one of which ended with the words "e
un miracolo." Towards the middle of November, Macaulay began housekeeping
for himself; living, as he always loved to live, rather more generously
than the strict necessities of his position demanded. His residence, then
the best in Calcutta, has long since been converted into the Bengal Club.
"On Tuesday, the 16th" (of September), "I went on board at Madras. I
amused myself on the voyage to Calcutta with learning Portuguese, and made
myself almost as well acquainted with it as I care to be. I read the Lusiad,
and am now reading it a second time. I own that I am disappointed in Camoens;
but I have so often found my first impressions wrong on such subjects that
I still hope to be able to join my voice to that of the great body of critics.
I never read any famous foreign book, which did not, in the first perusal,
fall short of my expectations; except Dante's poem, and Don Quixote, which
were prodigiously superior to what I had imagined. Yet in these cases I
had not pitched my expectations low."
To Macvey Napier, Esq.
Calcutta: December 10, 1834.
Dear Napier, --First to business. At length I send you the article on
Mackintosh; an article which has the merit of length, whatever it may be
deficient in. As I wished to transmit it to England in duplicate, if not
in triplicate, I thought it best to have two or three copies coarsely printed
here under the seal of strict secresy. The printers at Edinburgh will,
therefore, have no trouble in deciphering my manuscript, and the corrector
of the press will find his work done to his hands.
The disgraceful imbecility, and the still more disgraceful malevolence,
of the editor have, as you will see, moved my indignation not a little.
I hope that Longman's connection with the Review will not prevent you from
inserting what I have said on this subject. Murray's copy writers are unsparingly
abused by Southey and Lockhart in the Quarterly; and it would be hard indeed
if we might not in the Edinburgh strike hard at an assailant of Mackintosh.
I shall now begin another article. The subject I have not yet fixed
upon; perhaps the romantic poetry of Italy, for which there is an excellent
opportunity; Panizzi's reprint of Boiardo; perhaps the little volume of
Burnet's Characters edited by Bishop Jebb. This reminds me that I have
to acknowledge the receipt of a box from Longman, containing this little
book; and other books of much greater value, Grimm's Correspondence, Jacquemont's
Letters, and several foreign works on jurisprudence. All that you have
yet sent have been excellently chosen. I will mention, while I am on this
subject, a few books which I want, and which I am not likely to pick up
here-Daru's Histoire de Venise; St. Real's Conjuration de Venise; Fra Paolo's
works; Monstrelet's Chronicle; and Coxe's book on the Pelhams. I should
also like to have a really good edition of Lucian.
My sister desires me to send you her kind regards. She remembers her
visit to Edinburgh, and your hospitality, with the greatest pleasure. Calcutta
is called, and not without some reason, the city of palaces; but I have
seen nothing in the East like the view from the Castle Rock, nor expect
to see anything like it till we stand there together again.
Kindest regards to Lord Jeffrey.
Yours most truly
T. B. MACAULAY.
To Mrs. Cropper.
A passage from a second letter to the same person deserves to be quoted,
as an instance of how a good man may be unable to read aright his own nature,
and a wise man to forecast his own future. "I feel a growing tendency to
cynicism and suspicion. My intellect remains; and is likely, I sometimes
think, to absorb the whole man. I still retain, (not only undiminished,
but strengthened by the very events which have deprived me of everything
else,) my thirst for knowledge; my passion for holding converse with the
greatest minds of all ages and nations; any power of forgetting what surrounds
me, and of living with the past, the future, the distant, and the unreal.
Books are becoming everything to me. If I had at this moment my choice
of life, I would bury myself in one of those immense libraries that we
saw together at the universities, and never pass a waking hour without
a book before me." So little was Macaulay aware that, during the years
which were to come, his thoughts and cares would be less than ever for
himself, and more for others, and that his existence would be passed amidst
a bright atmosphere of affectionate domestic happiness, which, until his
own death came, no accident was thenceforward destined to overcloud.
Calcutta: December 7, 1834.
Dearest Margaret, --I rather suppose that some late letters from Nancy
may have prepared you to learn what I am now about to communicate. She
is going to be married, and with my fullest and warmest approbation. I
can truly say that, if I had to search India for a husband for her, I could
have found no man to whom I could with equal confidence have entrusted
her happiness. Trevelyan is about eight and twenty. He was educated at
the Charter-house, and then went to Haileybury, and came out hither. In
this country he has distinguished himself beyond any man of his standing
by his great talent for business; by his liberal and enlarged views of
policy; and by literary merit, which, for his opportunities, is considerable.
He was at first placed at Delhi under ---, a very powerful and a very popular
man, but extremely corrupt. This man tried to initiate Trevelyan in his
own infamous practices. But the young fellow's spirit was too noble for
such things. When only twenty-one years of age he publicly accused ---,
then almost at the head of the service, of receiving bribes from the natives.
A perfect storm was raised against the accuser. He was almost everywhere
abused, and very generally cut. But with a firmness and ability scarcely
ever seen in any man so young, he brought his proofs forward, and, after
an inquiry of some weeks, fully made out his case. --- was dismissed in
disgrace, and is now living obscurely in England. The Government here and
the Directors at home applauded Trevelyan in the highest terms; and from
that tithe he has been considered as a man likely to rise to the very top
of the service. Lord William told him to ask for anything that he wished
for. Trevelyan begged that something might be done for his elder brother,
who is in the Company's army. Lord William told him that he had richly
earned that or anything else, and gave Lieutenant Trevelyan a very good
diplomatic employment. Indeed Lord William, a man who makes no favourites,
has always given to Trevelyan the strongest marks, not of a blind partiality,
but of a thoroughly well-grounded and discriminating esteem.
Not long ago Trevelyan was appointed by him to the Under Secretaryship
for foreign affairs, an office of a very important and confidential nature.
While holding the place he was commissioned to report to Government on
the operation of the Internal Transit duties of India. About a year ago
his Report was completed. I shall send to England a copy or two of it by
the first safe conveyance; for nothing that I can say of his abilities,
or of his public spirit, will be half so satisfactory. I have no hesitation
in affirming that it is a perfect masterpiece in its kind. Accustomed as
I have been to public affairs, I never read an abler State paper; and I
do not believe that there is, I will not say in India, but in England,
another man of twenty-seven who could have written it. Trevelyan is a most
stormy reformer. Lord William said to me, before anyone had observed Trevelyan's
attentions to Nancy: "That man is almost always on the right side in every
question; and it is well that he is so, for he gives a most confounded
deal of trouble when he happens to take the wrong one." [Macaulay used
to apply to his future brother-in-law the remark which Julius Caesar made
with regard to his young friend Brutus: "Magni refert hic quid velit; sed
quidquid volet, valde volet."] He is quite at the head of that active party
among the younger servants of the Company who take the side of improvement.
In particular, he is the soul of every scheme for diffusing education among
the natives of this country. His reading has been very confined; but to
the little that he has read he has brought a mind as active and restless
as Lord Brougham's, and much more judicious and honest.
As to his person, he always looks like a gentleman, particularly on
horseback. He is very active and athletic, and is renowned as a great master
in the most exciting and perilous of field sports, the spearing of wild
boars. His face has a most characteristic expression of ardour and impetuosity,
which makes his countenance very interesting to me. Birth is a thing that
I care nothing about; but his family is one of the oldest and best in England.
During the important years of his life, from twenty to twenty- five,
or thereabouts, Trevelyan was in a remote province of India, where his
whole time was divided between public business and field sports, and where
he seldom saw a European gentleman and never a European lady. He has no
small talk. His mind is full of schemes of moral and political improvement,
and his zeal boils over in his talk. His topics, even in courtship, are
steam navigation, the education of the natives, the equalisation of the
sugar duties, the substitution of the Roman for the Arabic alphabet in
the Oriental languages.
I saw the feeling growing from the first; for, though I generally pay
not the smallest attention to those matters, I had far too deep an interest
in Nancy's happiness not to watch her behaviour to everybody who saw much
of her. I knew it, I believe, before she knew it herself; and I could most
easily have prevented it by merely treating Trevelyan with a little coldness,
for he is a man whom the smallest rebuff would completely discourage. But
you will believe, my dearest Margaret, that no thought of such base selfishness
ever passed through my mind. I would as soon have locked my dear Nancy
up in a nunnery as have put the smallest obstacle in the way of her having
a good husband. I therefore gave every facility and encouragement to both
of them. What I have myself felt it is unnecessary to say. My parting from
you almost broke my heart. But when I parted from you I had Nancy; I had
all my other relations; I had my friends; I had my country. Now I have
nothing except the resources of my own mind, and the consciousness of having
acted not ungenerously. But I do not repine. Whatever I suffer I have brought
on myself. I have neglected the plainest lessons of reason and experience.
I have staked my happiness without calculating the chances of the dice.
I have hewn out broken cisterns; I have leant on a reed; I have built on
the sand; and I have fared accordingly. I must bear my punishment as I
can; and, above all, I must take care that the punishment does not extend
Nothing can be kinder than Nancy's conduct has been. She proposes that
we should form one family; and Trevelyan, (though, like most lovers, he
would, I imagine, prefer having his goddess to himself,) consented with
strong expressions of pleasure. The arrangement is not so strange as it
might seem at home. The thing is often done here; and those quarrels between
servants, which would inevitably mar any such plan in England, are not
to be apprehended in an Indian establishment. One advantage there will
be in our living together of a most incontestable sort; we shall both be
able to save more money. Trevelyan will soon be entitled to his furlough;
but he proposes not to take it till I go home.
I shall write in a very different style from this to my father. To him
I shall represent the marriage as what it is, in every respect except its
effect on my own dreams of happiness-- a most honourable and happy event;
prudent in a worldly point of view; and promising all the felicity which
strong mutual affection, excellent principles on both sides, good temper,
youth, health, and the general approbation of friends can afford. As for
myself, it is a tragical denouement of an absurd plot. I remember quoting
some nursery rhymes, years ago, when you left me in London to join Nancy
at Rothley Temple or Leamington, I forget which. Those foolish lines contain
the history of my life.
"There were two birds that sat on a stone;
Ever, my dearest Margaret, yours
One flew away, and there was but one.
The other flew away, and then there was none;
And the poor stone was left all alone."
T. B. MACAULAY.
But, before his life assumed the equable and prosperous tenor in which
it continued to the end, one more trouble was in store for him. Long before
the last letters to his sister Margaret had been written, the eyes which
were to have read them had been closed for ever. The fate of so young a
wife and mother touched deeply all who had known her, and some who knew
her only by name. [Moultrie made Mrs. Cropper's death the subject of some
verses on which her relatives set a high value. He acknowledges his little
poem to be the tribute of one who had been a stranger to her whom it was
written to commemorate:
"And yet methinks we are not strange: so many claims there
When the melancholy news arrived in India, the young couple were spending
their honeymoon in a lodge in the Governor-General's park at Barrackpore.
They immediately returned to Calcutta, and, under the shadow of a great
sorrow, began their sojourn in their brother's house, who, for his part,
did what he might to drown his grief in floods of official work. ["April
8. Lichfield. Easter Sunday. After the service was ended we went over the
Cathedral. When I stood before the famous children by Chantrey, I could
think only of one thing; that, when last I was there, in 1832, my dear
sister Margaret was with me and that she was greatly affected. I could
not command my tears and was forced to leave our party, and walk about
by myself." --Macaulay's Journal for the year 1849.]
Which seem to weave a viewless band between my soul and thee.
Sweet sister of my early friend, the kind, the singlehearted,
Than whose remembrance none more bright still gilds the days departed!
Beloved, with more than sister's love, by some whose love to me
Is now almost my brightest gem in this world's treasury."]
The narrative of that work may well be the despair of Macaulay's biographer.
It would be inexcusable to slur over what in many important respects was
the most honourable chapter of his life; while, on the other hand, the
task of interesting Englishmen in the details of Indian administration
is an undertaking which has baffled every pen except his own. In such a
dilemma the safest course is to allow that pen to tell the story for itself;
or rather so much of the story as, by concentrating the attention of the
reader upon matters akin to those which are in frequent debate at home,
may enable him to judge whether Macaulay at the council-board and the bureau,
was the equal of Macaulay in the senate and the library.
Examples of his Minute-writing may with some confidence be submitted
to the criticism of those whose experience of public business has taught
them in what a Minute should differ from a Despatch, a Memorial, a Report,
and a Decision. His method of applying general principles to the circumstances
of a special case, and of illustrating those principles with just as much
literary ornament as would place his views in a pictorial form before the
minds of those whom it was his business to convince, is strikingly exhibited
in the series of papers by means of which he reconciled his colleagues
in the Council, and his masters in Leadenhall Street, to the removal of
the modified Censorship which existed in India previously to the year 1835.
"It is difficult," he writes, "to conceive that any measures
can be more indefensible than those which I propose to repeal. It has always
been the practice of politic rulers to disguise their arbitrary measures
under popular forms and names. The conduct of the Indian Government with
respect to the Press has been altogether at variance with this trite and
obvious maxim. The newspapers have for years been allowed as ample a measure
of practical liberty as that which they enjoy in England. If any inconveniences
arise from the liberty of political discussion, to those inconveniences
we are already subject. Yet while our policy is thus liberal and indulgent,
we are daily reproached and taunted with the bondage in which we keep the
Press. A strong feeling on this subject appears to exist throughout the
European community here; and the loud complaints which have lately been
uttered are likely to produce a considerable effect on the English people,
who will see at a glance that the law is oppressive, and who will not know
how completely it is inoperative.
Eighteen months elapsed; during which the Calcutta Press found occasion
to attack Macaulay with a breadth and ferocity of calumny such as few public
men, in any age or country, have ever endured, and none, perhaps, have
ever forgiven. There were many mornings when it was impossible for him
to allow the newspapers to lie about his sister's drawing-room.
"To impose strong restraints on political discussion is an intelligible
policy, and may possibly-- though I greatly doubt it-- be in some countries
a wise policy. But this is not the point at issue. The question before
us is not whether the Press shall be free, but whether, being free, it
shall be called free. It is surely mere madness in a Government to make
itself unpopular for nothing; to be indulgent, and yet to disguise its
indulgence under such outward forms as bring on it the reproach of tyranny.
Yet this is now our policy. We are exposed to all the dangers-- dangers,
I conceive, greatly over-rated-- of a free Press; and at the same time
we contrive to incur all the opprobrium of a censorship. It is universally
allowed that the licensing system, as at present administered, does not
keep any man who can buy a press from publishing the bitterest and most
sarcastic reflections on any public measure, or any public functionary.
Yet the very words 'license to print' have a sound hateful to the ears
of Englishmen in every part of the globe. It is unnecessary to inquire
whether this feeling be reasonable; whether the petitioners who have so
strongly pressed this matter on our consideration would not have shown
a better judgment if they had been content with their practical liberty,
and had reserved their murmurs for practical grievances. The question for
us is not what they ought to do, but what we ought to do; not whether it
be wise in them to complain when they suffer no injury, but whether it
be wise in us to incur odium unaccompanied by the smallest accession of
security or of power.
"One argument only has been urged in defence of the present system.
It is admitted that the Press of Bengal has long been suffered to enjoy
practical liberty, and that nothing but an extreme emergency could justify
the Government in curtailing that liberty. But, it is said, such an emergency
may arise, and the Government ought to retain in its hands the power of
adopting, in that event, the sharp, prompt, and decisive measures which
may be necessary for the preservation of the Empire. But when we consider
with what vast powers, extending over all classes of people, Parliament
has armed the Governor-General in Council, and, in extreme cases, the Governor-General
alone, we shall probably be inclined to allow little weight to this argument.
No Government in the world is better provided with the means of meeting
extraordinary dangers by extraordinary precautions. Five persons, who may
be brought together in half an hour, whose deliberations are secret, who
are not shackled by any of those forms which elsewhere delay legislative
measures, can, in a single sitting, make a law for stopping every press
in India. Possessing as we do the unquestionable power to interfere, whenever
the safety of the State array require it, with overwhelming rapidity and
energy, we surely ought not, in quiet times, to be constantly keeping the
offensive form and ceremonial of despotism before the eyes of those whom,
nevertheless, we permit to enjoy the substance of freedom."
The Editor of the Periodical which called itself, and had a right to
call itself, the "Friend of India," undertook to shame his brethren by
publishing a collection of their invectives; but it was very soon evident
that no decent journal could venture to foul its pages by reprinting the
epithets, and the anecdotes, which constituted the daily greeting of the
literary men of Calcutta to their fellow-craftsman of the Edinburgh Review.
But Macaulay's cheery and robust common sense carried him safe and sound
through an ordeal which has broken down sterner natures than his, and embittered
as stainless lives. The allusions in his correspondence, all the more surely
because they are brief and rare, indicate that the torrent of obloquy to
which he was exposed interfered neither with his temper nor with his happiness;
and how little he allowed it to disturb his judgment or distort his public
spirit is proved by the tone of a State paper, addressed to the Court of
Directors in September 1836, in which he eagerly vindicates the freedom
of the Calcutta Press, at a time when the writers of that Press, on the
days when they were pleased to be decent, could find for him no milder
appellations than those of cheat, swindler, and charlatan.
"I regret that on this, or on any subject, my opinion should
differ from that of the Honourable Court. But I still conscientiously think
that we acted wisely when we passed the law on the subject of the Press;
and I am quite certain that we should act most unwisely if we were now
to repeal that law.
The motive for the scurrility with which Macaulay was assailed by a handful
of sorry scribblers was his advocacy of the Act familiarly known as the
Black Act, which withdrew from British subjects resident in the provinces
their so-called privilege of bringing civil appeals before the Supreme
Court at Calcutta. Such appeals were thenceforward to be tried by the Sudder
Court, which was manned by the Company's judges, "all of them English gentlemen
of liberal education; as free as even the judges of the Supreme Court from
any imputation of personal corruption, and selected by the Government from
a body which abounds in men as honourable and as intelligent as ever were
employed in the service of any state." The change embodied in the Act was
one of little practical moment; but it excited an opposition based upon
arguments and assertions of such a nature that the success or failure of
the proposed measure became a question of high and undeniable importance.
"I must, in the first place, venture to express an opinion that the
importance of that question is greatly over-rated by persons, even the
best informed and the most discerning, who are not actually on the spot.
It is most justly observed by the Honourable Court that many of the arguments
which may be urged in favour of a free Press at home do not apply to this
country. But it is, I conceive, no less true that scarcely any of those
arguments which have been employed in Europe to defend restrictions on
the Press apply to a Press such as that of India.
"In Europe, and especially in England, the Press is an engine of tremendous
power, both for good and for evil. The most enlightened men, after long
experience both of its salutary and of its pernicious operation, have come
to the conclusion that the good on the whole preponderates. But that there
is no inconsiderable amount of evil to be set off against the good has
never been disputed by the warmest friend to freedom of discussion.
"In India the Press is comparatively a very feeble engine. It does far
less good and far less harm than in Europe. It sometimes renders useful
services to the public. It sometimes brings to the notice of the Government
evils the existence of which would otherwise have been unknown. It operates,
to some extent, as a salutary check on public functionaries. It does something
towards keeping the administration pure. On the other hand, by misrepresenting
public measures, and by flattering the prejudices of those who support
it, it sometimes produces a slight degree of excitement in a very small
portion of the community.
"How slight that excitement is, even when it reaches its greatest height,
and how little the Government has to fear from it, no person whose observation
has been confined to European societies will readily believe. In this country
the number of English residents is very small, and, of that small number,
a great proportion are engaged in the service of the State, and are most
deeply interested in the maintenance of existing institutions. Even those
English settlers who are not in the service of the Government have a strong
interest in its stability. They are few; they are thinly scattered among
a vast population, with whom they have neither language, nor religion,
nor morals, nor manners, nor colour in common; they feel that any convulsion
which should overthrow the existing order of things would be ruinous to
themselves. Particular acts of the Government-- especially acts which are
mortifying to the pride of caste naturally felt by an Englishman in India--
are often angrily condemned by these persons. But every indigo-planter
in Tirhoot, and every shopkeeper in Calcutta, is perfectly aware that the
downfall of the Government would be attended with the destruction of his
fortune, and with imminent hazard to his life.
"Thus, among the English inhabitants of India, there are no fit subjects
for that species of excitement which the Press sometimes produces at home.
There is no class among them analogous to that vast body of English labourers
and artisans whose minds are rendered irritable by frequent distress and
privation, and on whom, therefore, the sophistry and rhetoric of bad men
often produce a tremendous effect. The English papers here might be infinitely
more seditious than the most seditious that were ever printed in London
without doing harm to anything but their own circulation. The fire goes
out for want of some combustible material on which to seize. How little
reason would there be to apprehend danger to order and property in England
from the most inflammatory writings, if those writings were read only by
Ministers of State, Commissioners of the Customs and Excise, Judges and
Masters in Chancery, upper clerks in Government offices, officers in the
army, bankers, landed proprietors, barristers, and master manufacturers!
The most timid politician would not anticipate the smallest evil from the
most seditious libels, if the circulation of those libels were confined
to such a class of readers; and it is to such a class of readers that the
circulation of the English newspapers in India is almost entirely confined."
"In my opinion," writes Macaulay, "the chief reason for preferring
the Sudder Court is this-- that it is the court which we have provided
to administer justice, in the last resort, to the great body of the people.
If it is not fit for that purpose, it ought to be made so. If it is fit
to administer justice to the great body of the people, why should we exempt
a mere handful of settlers from its jurisdiction? There certainly is, I
will not say the reality, but the semblance of partiality and tyranny in
the distinction made by the Charter Act of 1813. That distinction seems
to indicate a notion that the natives of India may well put up with something
less than justice, or that Englishmen in India have a title to something
more than justice. If we give our own countrymen an appeal to the King's
Courts, in cases in which all others are forced to be contented with the
Company's Courts, we do in fact cry down the Company's Courts. We proclaim
to the Indian people that there are two sorts of justice-- a coarse one,
which we think good enough for then, and another of superior quality, which
we keep for ourselves. If we take pains to show that we distrust our highest
courts, how can we expect that the natives of the country will place confidence
Macaulay had made two mistakes. He had yielded to the temptation of imputing
motives, a habit which the Spectator newspaper has pronounced to be his
one intellectual vice, finely adding that it is "the vice of rectitude;"
and he had done worse still, for he had challenged his opponents to a course
of agitation. They responded to the call. After preparing the way by a
string of communications to the public journals, in to which their objections
to the Act were set forth at enormous length, and with as much point and
dignity as can be obtained by a copious use of italics and capital letters,
they called a public meeting, the proceedings at which were almost too
ludicrous for description. "I have seen," said one of the speakers, "at
a Hindoo festival, a naked dishevelled figure, his face painted with grotesque
colours, and his long hair besmeared with dirt and ashes. His tongue was
pierced with an iron bar, and his breast was scorched by the fire from
the burning altar which rested on his stomach. This revolting figure, covered
with ashes, dirt, and bleeding voluntary wounds, may the next moment ascend
the Sudder bench, and in a suit between a Hindoo and an Englishman think
it an act of sanctity to decide against law in favour of the professor
of the true faith." Another gentleman, Mr. Longueville Clarke, reminded
"the tyrant" that
"The draft of the Act was published, and was, as I fully expected, not
unfavourably received by the British in the Mofussil. [The term "Mofussil"
is used to denote the provinces of the Bengal Presidency, as opposed to
the Capital.] Seven weeks have elapsed since the notification took place.
Time has been allowed for petitions from the furthest corners of the territories
subject to this Presidency. But I have heard of only one attempt in the
Mofussil to get up a remonstrance; and the Mofussil newspapers which I
have seen, though generally disposed to cavil at all the acts of the Government,
have spoken favourably of this measure.
"In Calcutta the case has been somewhat different; and this is a remarkable
fact. The British inhabitants of Calcutta are the only British-born subjects
in Bengal who will not be affected by the proposed Act; and they are the
only British subjects in Bengal who have expressed the smallest objection
to it. The clamour, indeed, has proceeded from a very small portion of
the society of Calcutta. The objectors have not ventured to call a public
meeting, and their memorial has obtained very few signatures. But they
have attempted to make up by noise and virulence for what has been wanting
in strength. It may at first sight appear strange that a law, which is
not unwelcome to those who are to live under it, should excite such acrimonious
feelings among people who are wholly exempted from its operation. But the
explanation is simple. Though nobody who resides at Calcutta will be sued
in the Mofussil courts, many people who reside at Calcutta have, or wish
to have, practice in the Supreme Court. Great exertions have accordingly
been made, though with little success, to excite a feeling against this
measure among the English inhabitants of Calcutta.
"The political phraseology of the English in India is the same with
the political phraseology of our countrymen at home; but it is never to
be forgotten that the same words stand for very different things at London
and at Calcutta. We hear much about public opinion, the love of liberty,
the influence of the Press. But we must remember that public opinion means
the opinion of five hundred persons who have no interest, feeling, or taste
in common with the fifty millions among whom they live; that the love of
liberty means the strong objection which the five hundred feel to every
measure which can prevent them from acting as they choose towards the fifty
millions, that the Press is altogether supported by the five hundred, and
has no motive to plead the cause of the fifty millions.
"We know that India cannot have a free Government. But she may have
the next best thing-- a firm and impartial despotism. The worst state in
which she can possibly be placed is that in which the memorialists would
place her. They call on us to recognise them as a privileged order of freemen
in the midst of slaves. it was for the purpose of averting this great evil
that Parliament, at the same time at which it suffered Englishmen to settle
in India, armed us with those large powers which, in my opinion, we ill
deserve to possess, if we have, not the spirit to use them now."
There yawns the sack, and yonder rolls the sea.
"Mr. Macaulay may treat this as an idle threat; but his knowledge of history
will supply him with many examples of what has occurred when resistance
has been provoked by milder instances of despotism than the decimation
of a people." This pretty explicit recommendation to lynch a Member of
Council was received with rapturous applause.
At length arose a Captain Biden, who spoke as follows: "Gentlemen, I
come before you in the character of a British seaman, and on that ground
claim your attention for a few moments. Gentlemen, there has been much
talk during the evening of laws, and regulations, and rights, and liberties;
but you all seem to have forgotten that this is the anniversary of the
glorious Battle of Waterloo. I beg to propose, and I call on the statue
of Lord Cornwallis and yourselves to join me in three cheers for the Duke
of Wellington and the Battle of Waterloo." The audience, who by this time
were pretty well convinced that no grievance which could possibly result
under the Black Act could equal the horrors of a crowd in the Town Hall
of Calcutta during the latter half of June, gladly caught at the diversion,
and made noise enough to satisfy even the gallant orator. The business
was brought to a hurried close, and the meeting was adjourned till the
But the luck of Macaulay's adversaries pursued them still. One of the
leading speakers at the adjourned meeting, himself a barrister, gave another
barrister the lie, and a tumult ensued which Captain Biden in vain endeavoured
to calm by his favourite remedy. "The opinion at Madras, Bombay, and Canton,"
said he, --and in so saying he uttered the only sentence of wisdom which
either evening had produced, --"is that there is no public opinion at Calcutta
but the lawyers. And now, --who has the presumption to call it a burlesque?
--let's give three cheers for the Battle of Waterloo, and then I'll propose
an amendment which shall go into the whole question." The Chairman, who
certainly had earned the vote of thanks for "his very extraordinary patience,"
which Captain Biden was appropriately selected to move, contrived to get
resolutions passed in favour of petitioning Parliament and the Home Government
against the obnoxious Act.
The next few weeks were spent by the leaders of the movement in squabbling
over the preliminaries of duels that never came off, and applying for criminal
informations for libel against each other, which their beloved Supreme
Court very judiciously refused to grant; but in the course of time the
petitions were signed, and an agent was selected, who undertook to convey
them to England. On the 22nd of March, 1838, a Committee of inquiry into
the operation of the Act was moved for in the House of Commons; but there
was nothing in the question which tempted Honourable Members to lay aside
their customary indifference with regard to Indian controversies, and the
motion fell through without a division. The House allowed the Government
to have its own way in the matter; and any possible hesitation on the part
of the Ministers was borne down by the emphasis with which Macaulay claimed
their support. "I conceive," he wrote, "that the Act is good in itself,
and that the time for passing it has been well chosen. The strongest reason,
however, for passing it is the nature of the opposition which it has experienced.
The organs of that opposition repeated every day that the English were
the conquerors, and the lords of the country, the dominant race; the electors
of the House of Commons, whose power extends both over the Company at home,
and over the Governor-General in Council here. The constituents of the
British Legislature, they told us, were not to be bound by laws made by
any inferior authority. The firmness with which the Government withstood
the idle outcry of two or three hundred people, about a matter with which
they had nothing to do, was designated as insolent defiance of public opinion.
We were enemies of freedom, because we would not suffer a small white aristocracy
to domineer over millions. How utterly at variance these principles are
with reason, with justice, with the honour of the British Government, and
with the dearest interests of the Indian people, it is unnecessary for
me to point out. For myself, I can only say that, if the Government is
to be conducted on such principles, I am utterly disqualified, by all my
feelings and opinions, from bearing any part in it, and cannot too soon
resign my place to some person better fitted to hold it."
It is fortunate for India that a man with the tastes, and the training,
of Macaulay came to her shores as one vested with authority, and that he
came at the moment when he did; for that moment was the very turning-point
of her intellectual progress. All educational action had been at a stand
for some time back, on account of an irreconcilable difference of opinion
in the Committee of Public Instruction; which was divided, five against
five, on either side of a controversy, --vital, inevitable, admitting of
neither postponement nor compromise, and conducted by both parties with
a pertinacity and a warmth that was nothing but honourable to those concerned.
Half of the members were for maintaining and extending the old scheme of
encouraging Oriental learning by stipends paid to students in Sanscrit,
Persian, and Arabic; and by liberal grants for the publication of works
in those languages. The other half were in favour of teaching the elements
of knowledge in the vernacular tongues, and the higher branches in English.
On his arrival, Macaulay was appointed President of the Committee; but
he declined to take any active part in its proceedings until the Government
had finally pronounced on the question at issue. Later in January 1835
the advocates of the two systems, than whom ten abler men could not be
found in the service, laid their opinions before the Supreme Council; and,
on the and of February, Macaulay, as a member of that Council, produced
a minute in which he adopted and defended the views of the English section
in the Committee.
"How stands the case? We have to educate a people who cannot
at present be educated by means of their mother-tongue. We must teach them
some foreign language. The claims of our own language it is hardly necessary
to recapitulate. It stands preeminent even among the languages of the West.
It abounds with works of imagination not inferior to the noblest which
Greece has bequeathed to us; with models of every species of eloquence;
with historical compositions, which, considered merely as narratives, have
seldom been surpassed, and which, considered as vehicles of ethical and
political instruction, have never been equalled; with just and lively representations
of human life and human nature; with the most profound speculations on
metaphysics, morals, government, jurisprudence, and trade; with full and
correct information respecting every experimental science which tends to
preserve the health, to increase the comfort, or to expand the intellect
of man. Whoever knows that language has ready access to all the vast intellectual
wealth which the the wisest nations of the earth have created and hoarded
in the course of ninety generations. It may safely be said that the literature
now extant in that language is of far greater value than all the literature
which three hundred years ago was extant in all the languages of the world
together. Nor is this all. In India, English is the language spoken by
the ruling class. It is spoken by the higher class of natives at the seats
of government. It is likely to become the language of commerce throughout
the seas of the East. It is the language of two great European communities
are rising, the one in the south of Africa, the other in Australasia; communities
which are every year becoming more important, and more closely connected
with our Indian Empire. Whether we look at the intrinsic value of our literature
or at the particular situation of this country, we shall see the strongest
reason to think that, of all foreign tongues, the English tongue is that
which would be the most useful to our native subjects.
This Minute, which in its original shape is long enough for an article
in a quarterly review, and as businesslike as a Report of a Royal Commission,
set the question at rest at once and for ever. On the 7th of March, 1835,
Lord William Bentinck decided that "the great object of the British Government
ought to be the promotion of European literature and science among the
natives of India;" two of the Orientalists retired from the Committee of
Public Instruction; several new members, both English and native, were
appointed; and Macaulay entered upon the functions of President with an
energy and assiduity which in his case was an infallible proof that his
work was to his mind.
"The question now before us is simply whether, when it is in our power
to teach this language, we shall teach languages in which, by universal
confession, there are no books on any subject which deserve to be compared
to our own; whether, when we can teach European science, we shall teach
systems which, by universal confession, whenever they differ from those
of Europe, differ for the worse; and whether, when we can patronise sound
philosophy and true history, we shall countenance, at the public expense,
medical doctrines, which would disgrace an English furrier-- astronomy,
which would move laughter in the girls at an English boarding-school--
history, abounding with kings thirty feet high, and reigns thirty thousand
years long-- and geography made up of seas of treacle and seas of butter.
"We are not without experience to guide us. History furnishes several
analogous cases, and they all teach the same lesson. There are in modern
times, to go no further, two memorable instances of a great impulse given
to the mind of a whole society-- of prejudice overthrown-- of knowledge
diffused-- of taste purified-- of arts and sciences planted in countries
which had recently been ignorant and barbarous.
"The first instance to which I refer is the great revival of letters
among the western nations at the close of the fifteenth and the beginning
of the sixteenth century. At that time almost everything that was worth
reading was contained in the writings of the ancient Greeks and Romans.
Had our ancestors acted as the Committee of Public Instruction has hitherto
acted; had they neglected the language of Cicero and Tacitus; had they
confined their attention to the old dialects of our own island; had they
printed nothing, and taught nothing at the universities, but chronicles
in Anglo-Saxon, and romances in Norman French, would England have been
what she now is? What the Greek and Latin were to the contemporaries of
More and Ascham, our tongue is to the people of India. The literature of
England is now more valuable than that of classical antiquity. I doubt
whether the Sanscrit literature be as valuable as that of our Saxon and
Norman progenitors. In some departments-- in history, for example-- I am
certain that it is much less so.
"Another instance may be said to be still before our eyes. Within the
last hundred and twenty years a nation which had previously been in a state
as barbarous as that in which our ancestors were before the Crusades has
gradually emerged from the ignorance in which it was sunk, and has taken
its place among civilised communities. I speak of Russia. There is now
in that country a large educated class, abounding with persons fit to serve
the state in the highest functions, and in no way inferior to the most
accomplished men who adorn the best circles of Paris and London. There
is reason to hope that this vast Empire, which in the time of our grandfathers
was probably behind the Punjab, may, in the time of our grandchildren,
be pressing close on France and Britain in the career of improvement. And
how was this change effected? Not by flattering national prejudices; not
by feeding the mind of the young Muscovite with the old woman's stories
which his rude fathers had believed; not by filling his head with lying
legends about St. Nicholas; not by encouraging him to study the great question,
whether the world was or was not created on the 13th of September; not
by calling him 'a learned native,' when he has mastered all these points
of knowledge; but by teaching him those foreign languages in which the
greatest mass of information had been laid up, and thus putting all that
information within his reach. The languages of western Europe civilised
Russia. I cannot doubt that they will do for the Hindoo what they have
done for the Tartar."
The post was no sinecure. It was an arduous task to plan, found, and
construct, in all its grades, the education of such a country as India.
The means at Macaulay's disposal were utterly inadequate for the undertaking
on which he was engaged. Nothing resembling an organised staff was as yet
in existence. There were no Inspectors of Schools. There were no training
colleges for masters. There were no boards of experienced managers. The
machinery consisted of voluntary committees acting on the spot, and corresponding
directly with the superintending body at Calcutta. Macaulay rose to the
occasion, and threw himself into the routine of administration and control
with zeal sustained by diligence and tempered by tact. "We were hardly
prepared," said a competent critic, "for the amount of conciliation which
he evinces in dealing with irritable colleagues and subordinates, and for
the strong, sterling, practical common sense with which he sweeps away
rubbish, or cuts the knots of local and departmental problems." The mastery
which a man exercises over himself, and the patience and forbearance displayed
in his dealings with others, are generally in proportion to the value which
he sets upon the objects of his pursuit. If we judge Macaulay by this standard,
it is plain that he cared a great deal more for providing our Eastern Empire
with an educational outfit that would work and wear than he ever cared
for keeping his own seat in Parliament or pushing his own fortunes in Downing
Street. Throughout his innumerable Minutes, on all subjects from the broadest
principle to the narrowest detail, he is everywhere free from crotchets
and susceptibilities; and everywhere ready to humour any person who will
make himself useful, and to adopt any appliance which can be turned to
"I think it highly probable that Mr. Nicholls may be to blame,
because I have seldom known a quarrel in which both parties were not to
blame. But I see no evidence that he is so. Nor do I see any evidence which
tends to prove that Mr. Nicholls leads the Local Committee by the nose.
The Local Committee appear to have acted with perfect propriety, and I
cannot consent to treat them in the manner recommended by Mr. Sutherland.
If we appoint the Colonel to be a member of their body, we shall in effect
pass a most severe censure on their proceedings. I dislike the suggestion
of putting military men on the Committee as a check on the civilians. Hitherto
we have never, to the best of my belief, been troubled by any such idle
jealousies. I would appoint the fittest men without caring to what branch
of the service they belonged, or whether they belonged to the service at
all." [This, and the following extracts, are taken from a volume of Macaulay's
Minutes, "now first collected from Records in the Department of Public
instruction, by H. Woodrow, Esq., M.A., Inspector of Schools at Calcutta,
and formerly Fellow of Caius College, Cambridge." The collection was published
Exception had been taken to an applicant for a mastership, on the ground
that he had been a preacher with a strong turn for proselytising.
"Mr. --- seems to be so little concerned about proselytising,
that he does not even know how to spell the word; a circumstance which,
if I did not suppose it to be a slip of the pen, I should think a more
serious objection than the 'Reverend' which formerly stood before his name.
I am quite content with his assurances."
In default of better, Macaulay was always for employing the tools which
came to hand. A warm and consistent advocate of appointment by competitive
examination, wherever a field for competition existed, he was no pedantic
slave to a theory. In the dearth of schoolmasters, which is a feature in
every infant educational system, he refused to reject a candidate who mistook
"Argos for Corinth," and backed the claims of aspirants of respectable
character who could "read, write, and work a sum."
"By all means accept the King of Oude's present; though, to
be sure, more detestable maps were never seen. One would think that the
revenues of Oude, and the treasures of Saadut Ali, might have borne the
expense of producing something better than a map in which Sicily is joined
on to the toe of Italy, and in which so important an eastern island as
Java does not appear at all."
These utterances of cultured wisdom or homely mother-wit are sometimes
expressed in phrases almost as amusing, though not so characteristic, as
those which Frederic the Great used to scrawl on the margin of reports
and despatches for the information of his secretaries.
"As to the corrupting influence of the zenana, of which Mr. Trevelyan
speaks, I may regret it; but I own that I cannot help thinking that the
dissolution of the tie between parent and child is as great a moral evil
as can be found in any zenana. In whatever degree infant schools relax
that tie they do mischief. For my own part, I would rather hear a boy of
three years old lisp all the bad words in the language than that he should
have no feelings of family affection-- that his character should be that
which must be expected in one who has had the misfortune of having a schoolmaster
in place of a mother."
"I do not see the reason for establishing any limit as to the age of
scholars. The phenomena are exactly the same which have always been found
to exist when a new mode of education has been rising into fashion. No
man of fifty now learns Greek with boys; but in the sixteenth century it
was not at all unusual to see old Doctors of Divinity attending lectures
side by side with young students."
"With respect to making our College libraries circulating libraries,
there is much to be said on both sides. If a proper subscription is demanded
from those who have access to them, and if all that is raised by this subscription
is laid out in adding to the libraries, the students will be no losers
by the plan. Our libraries, the best of them at least, would be better
than any which would be readily accessible at an up-country station; and
I do not know why we should grudge a young officer the pleasure of reading
our copy of Boswell's Life of Johnson or Marmontel's Memoirs, if he is
willing to pay a few rupees for the privilege."
"We are a little too indulgent to the whims of the people in
our employ. We pay a large sum to send a master to a distant station. He
dislikes the place. The collector is uncivil; the surgeon quarrels with
him; and he must be moved. The expenses of the journey have to be defrayed.
Another man is to be transferred from a place where he is comfortable and
useful. Our masters run from station to station at our cost, as vapourised
ladies at home run about from spa to spa. All situations have their discomforts;
and there are times when we all wish that our lot had been cast in some
other line of life, or in some other place."
With regard to a proposed coat of arms for Hooghly College, he says
"I do not see why the mummeries of European heraldry should
be introduced into any part of our Indian system. Heraldry is not a science
which has any eternal rules. It is a system of arbitrary canons, originating
in pure caprice. Nothing can be more absurd and grotesque than armorial
bearings, considered in themselves. Certain recollections, certain associations,
make them interesting in many cases to an Englishman; but in those recollections
and associations the natives of India do not participate. A lion, rampant,
with a folio in his paw, with a man standing on each side of him, with
a telescope over his head, and with a Persian motto under his feet, must
seem to them either very mysterious, or very absurd."
In a discussion on the propriety of printing some books of Oriental science,
"I should be sorry to say anything disrespectful of that liberal
and generous enthusiasm for Oriental literature which appears in Mr. Sutherland's
minute; but I own that I cannot think that we ought to be guided in the
distribution of the small sum, which the Government has allotted for the
purpose of education, by considerations which seem a little romantic. That
the Saracens a thousand years ago cultivated mathematical science is hardly,
I think, a reason for our spending any money in translating English treatises
on mathematics into Arabic. Mr. Sutherland would probably think it very
strange if we were to urge the destruction of the Alexandrian Library as
a reason against patronising Arabic literature in the nineteenth century.
The undertaking may be, as Mr. Sutherland conceives, a great national work.
So is the breakwater at Madras. But under the orders which we have received
from the Government, we have just as little to do with one as with the
Now and then a stroke, aimed at Hooghly College, hits nearer home. That
men of thirty should be bribed to continue their education into mature
life "seems very absurd. Moghal Jan has been paid to learn something during
twelve years. We are told that he is lazy and stupid; but there are hopes
that in four years more he will have completed his course of study. We
have had quite enough of these lazy, stupid schoolboys of thirty."
"I must frankly own that I do not like the list of books. Grammars
of rhetoric and grammars of logic are among the most useless furniture
of a shelf. Give a boy Robinson Crusoe. That is worth all the grammars
of rhetoric and logic in the world. We ought to procure such books as are
likely to give the children a taste for the literature of the West; not
books filled with idle distinctions and definitions, which every man who
has learned them makes haste to forget. Who ever reasoned better for having
been taught the difference between a syllogism and an enthymeme? Who ever
composed with greater spirit and elegance because he could define an oxymoron
or an aposiopesis? I am not joking, but writing quite seriously, when I
say that I would much rather order a hundred copies of Jack the Giant-killer
for our schools than a hundred copies of any grammar of rhetoric or logic
that ever was written."
At one of the colleges at Calcutta the distribution of prizes was accompanied
by some histrionic performances on the part of the pupils.
"Goldsmith's Histories of Greece and Rome are miserable performances,
and I do not at all like to lay out 50 pounds on them, even after they
have received all Mr. Pinnock's improvements. I must own too, that I think
the order for globes and other instruments unnecessarily large. To lay
out 324 pounds at once on globes alone, useful as I acknowledge those articles
to be, seems exceedingly profuse, when we have only about 3,000 pounds
a year for all purposes of English education. One 12-inch or 18-inch globe
for each school is quite enough; and we ought not, I think, to order sixteen
such globes when we are about to establish only seven schools. Useful as
the telescopes, the theodolites, and the other scientific instruments mentioned
in the indent undoubtedly are, we must consider that four or five such
instruments run away with a year's salary of a schoolmaster, and that,
if we purchase them, it will be necessary to defer the establishment of
"I have no partiality," writes Macaulay, "for such ceremonies.
I think it a very questionable thing whether, even at home, public spouting
and acting ought to form part of the system of a place of education. But
in this country such exhibitions are peculiarly out of place. I can conceive
nothing more grotesque than the scene from the Merchant of Venice, with
Portia represented by a little black boy. Then, too, the subjects of recitation
were ill chosen. We are attempting to introduce a great nation to a knowledge
of the richest and noblest literature in the world. The society of Calcutta
assemble to see what progress we are making; and we produce as a sample
a boy who repeats some blackguard doggerel of George Colman's, about a
fat gentleman who was put to bed over an oven, and about a man-midwife
who was called out of his bed by a drunken man at night. Our disciple tries
to hiccup, and tumbles and staggers about in imitation of the tipsy English
sailors whom he has seen at the punch houses. Really, if we can find nothing
better worth reciting than this trash, we had better give up English instruction
The idea had been started of paying authors to write books in the languages
of the country. On this Macaulay remarks
"As to the list of prize books, I am not much better satisfied. It is
absolutely unintelligible to me why Pope's Works and my old friend Moore's
Lalla Rookh should be selected from the whole mass of English poetry to
be prize books. I will engage to frame, currente calamo, a better list.
Bacon's Essays, Hume's England, Gibbon's Rome, Robertson's Charles V.,
Robertson's Scotland, Robertson's America, Swift's Gulliver, Robinson Crusoe,
Shakespeare's Works, Paradise Lost, Milton's smaller poems, Arabian Nights,
Park's Travels, Anson's Voyage, the Vicar of Wakefield, Johnson's Lives,
Gil Blas, Voltaire's Charles XII., Southey's Nelson, Middleton's Life of
"This may serve as a specimen. These are books which will amuse and
interest those who obtain them. To give a boy Abercrombie on the Intellectual
Powers, Dick's Moral Improvement, Young's Intellectual Philosophy, Chalmers's
Poetical Economy!!! (in passing I may be allowed to ask what that means?)
is quite absurd. I would not give orders at random for books about which
we know nothing. We are under no necessity of ordering at haphazard. We
know Robinson Crusoe, and Gulliver, and the Arabian Nights, and Anson's
Voyage, and many other delightful works which interest even the very young,
and which do not lose their interest to the end of our lives. Why should
we order blindfold such books as Markham's New Children's Friend, the juvenile
Scrap Book, the Child's Own Book, Niggens's Earth, Mudie's Sea, and somebody
else's Fire and Air? --books which, I will be bound for it, none of us
"The list ought in all its parts to be thoroughly recast. If Sir Benjamin
Malkin will furnish the names of ten or twelve works of a scientific kind,
which he thinks suited for prizes, the task will not be difficult; and,
with his help, I will gladly undertake it. There is a marked distinction
between a prize book and a school book. A prize book ought to be a book
which a boy receives with pleasure, and turns over and over, not as a task,
but spontaneously. I have not forgotten my own school-boy feelings on this
subject. My pleasure at obtaining a prize was greatly enhanced by the knowledge
that my little library would receive a very agreeable addition. I never
was better pleased than when at fourteen I was master of Boswell's Life
of Johnson, which I had long been wishing to read. If my master had given
me, instead of Boswell, a Critical Pronouncing Dictionary, or a Geographical
Class book, I should have been much less gratified by my success."
"To hire four or five people to make a literature is a course
which never answered and never will answer, in any part of the world. Languages
grow. They cannot be built. We are now following the slow but sure course
on which alone we can depend for a supply of good books in the vernacular
languages of India. We are attempting to raise up a large class of enlightened
natives. I hope that, twenty years hence, there will be hundreds, nay thousands,
of natives familiar with the best models of composition, and well acquainted
with Western science. Among them some persons will be found who will have
the inclination and the ability to exhibit European knowledge in the vernacular
dialects. This I believe to be the only way in which we can raise up a
good vernacular literature in this country."
These hopeful anticipations have been more than fulfilled. Twice twenty
years have brought into existence, not hundreds or thousands, but hundreds
of thousands, of natives who can appreciate European knowledge when laid
before them in the English language, and can reproduce it in their own.
Taking one year with another, upwards of a thousand works of literature
and science are published annually in Bengal alone, and at least four times
that number throughout the entire continent. Our colleges have more than
six thousand students on their books, and two hundred thousand boys are
receiving a liberal education in schools of the higher order. For the improvement
of the mass of the people, nearly seven thousand young men are in training
as Certificated Masters. The amount allotted in the budget to the item
of Public Instruction has increased more than seventy-fold since 1835;
and is largely supplemented by the fees which parents of all classes willingly
contribute when once they have been taught the value of a commodity the
demand for which is created by the supply. During many years past the generosity
of wealthy natives has to a great extent been diverted from the idle extravagance
of pageants and festivals, to promote the intellectual advancement of their
fellow-countrymen. On several different occasions, at a single stroke of
the pen, our Indian universities have been endowed with twice, three times,
four times the amount of the slender sum which Macaulay had at his command.
But none the less was he the master-engineer, whose skill and foresight
determined the direction of the channels, along which this stream of public
and private munificence was to flow for the regeneration of our Eastern
It may add something to the merit of Macaulay's labours in the cause
of Education that those labours were voluntary and unpaid; and voluntary
and unpaid likewise was another service which he rendered to India, not
less durable than the first, and hardly less important. A clause in the
Act of 1833 gave rise to the appointment of a Commission to inquire into
the jurisprudence and jurisdiction of our Eastern Empire. Macaulay, at
his own instigation, was appointed President of that Commission. He had
not been many months engaged in his new duties before he submitted a proposal,
by the adoption of which his own industry and the high talents of his colleagues,
Mr. Cameron and Sir John Macleod, might be turned to the best account by
being employed in framing a Criminal Code for the whole Indian Empire.
"This Code," writes Macaulay, "should not be a mere digest of existing
usages and regulations, but should comprise all the reforms which the Commission
may think desirable. It should be framed on two great principles, the principle
of suppressing crime with the smallest possible amount of suffering, and
the principle of ascertaining truth at the smallest possible cost of time
and money. The Commissioners should be particularly charged to study conciseness,
as far as it is consistent with perspicuity. In general, I believe, it
will be found that perspicuous and concise expressions are not only compatible,
The offer was eagerly accepted, and the Commission fell to work. The
results of that work did not show themselves quickly enough to satisfy
the most practical, and, (to its credit be it spoken,) the most exacting
of Governments; and Macaulay was under the necessity of explaining and
excusing a procrastination, which was celerity itself as compared with
any codifying that had been done since the days of Justinian.
"During the last rainy season, --a season, I believe, peculiarly
unhealthy, --every member of the Commission, except myself, was wholly
incapacitated for exertion. Mr. Anderson has been twice under the necessity
of leaving Calcutta, and has not, till very lately, been able to labour
with his accustomed activity. Mr. Macleod has been, till within the last
week or ten days, in so feeble a state that the smallest effort seriously
disordered him; and his health is so delicate that, admirably qualified
as he is, by very rare talents, for the discharge of his functions, it
would be imprudent, in forming any prospective calculation, to reckon on
much service from him. Mr. Cameron, of the importance of whose assistance
I need not speak, has been, during more than four months, utterly unable
to do any work, and has at length been compelled to ask leave of absence,
in order to visit the Cape for the recovery of his health. Thus, as the
Governor- General has stated, Mr. Millett and myself have, during a considerable
time, constituted the whole effective strength of the Commission. Nor has
Mr. Millett been able to devote to the business of the Commission his whole
This Minute was dated the end of January, 1837; and in the course of the
same year the Code appeared, headed by an Introductory Report in the shape
of a letter to the Governor-General, and followed by an Appendix containing
eighteen notes, each in itself an essay. The most readable of all Digests,
its pages are alive with illustrations drawn from history, from literature,
and from the habits and occurrences of everyday life. The offence of fabricating
evidence is exemplified by a case which may easily be recognised as that
of Lady Macbeth and the grooms; ["A, after wounding a person with a knife,
goes into the room where Z is sleeping, smears Z's clothes with blood,
and lays the knife under Z's pillow; intending not only that suspicion
may thereby be turned away front himself, but also that Z may be convicted
of voluntarily causing grievous hurt. A is liable to punishment as a fabricator
of false evidence."] and the offence of voluntary culpable homicide by
an imaginary incident of a pit covered with sticks and turf, which irresistibly
recalls a reminiscence of Jack the Giant-killer. The chapters on theft
and trespass establish the rights of book owners as against book stealers,
book borrowers, and book defacers, with an affectionate precision which
would have gladdened the heart of Charles Lamb or Sir Walter Scott.
"I must say that, even if no allowance be made for the untoward occurrences
which have retarded our progress, that progress cannot be called slow.
People who have never considered the importance and difficulty of the task
in which we are employed are surprised to find that a Code cannot be spoken
of extempore, or written like an article in a magazine. I am not ashamed
to acknowledge that there are several chapters in the Code on which I have
been employed for months; of which I have changed the whole plan ten or
twelve times; which contain not a single word as it originally stood; and
with which I am still very far indeed from being satisfied. I certainly
shall not hurry on my share of the work to gratify the childish impatience
of the ignorant. Their censure ought to be a matter of perfect indifference
to men engaged in a task, on the right performance of which the welfare
of millions may, during a long series of years, depend. The cost of the
Commission is as nothing when compared with the importance of such a work.
The time during which the Commission has sat is as nothing compared with
the time during which that work will produce good, or evil, to India.
"Indeed, if we compare the progress of the Indian Code with the progress
of Codes under circumstances far more favourable, we shall find little
reason to accuse the Law Commission of tardiness. Buonaparte had at his
command the services of experienced jurists to any extent to which he chose
to call for them; yet his legislation proceeded at a far slower rate than
ours. The French Criminal Code was begun, under the Consulate, in March
1801; and yet the Code of Criminal Procedure was not completed till 1808,
and the Penal Code not till 1810. The Criminal Code of Louisiana was commenced
in February 1821. After it had been in preparation during three years and
a half, an accident happened to the papers which compelled Mr. Livingstone
to request indulgence for another year. Indeed, when I remember the slow
progress of law reforms at home, and when I consider that our Code decides
hundreds of questions, every one of which, if stirred in England, would
give occasion to voluminous controversy and to many animated debates, I
must acknowledge that I am inclined to fear that we have been guilty rather
of precipitation than of delay."
["A, being on friendly terms with Z, goes into Z's library,
in Z's absence, and takes a book without Z's express consent. Here, it
is probable that A may have conceived that he had Z's implied consent to
use Z's books. If this was A's impression, A has not committed theft."
In the chapter on manslaughter, the judge is enjoined to treat with lenity
an act done in the first anger of a husband or father, provoked by the
intolerable outrage of a certain kind of criminal assault. "Such an assault
produced the Sicilian Vespers. Such an assault called forth the memorable
blow of Wat Tyler." And, on the question whether the severity of a hurt
should be considered in apportioning the punishment, we are reminded of
"examples which are universally known. Harley was laid up more than twenty
days by the wound which he received from Guiscard;" while "the scratch
which Damien gave to Louis the Fifteenth was so slight that it was followed
by no feverish symptoms." Such a sanguine estimate of the diffusion of
knowledge with regard to the details of ancient crimes could proceed from
no pen but that of the writer who endowed schoolboys with the erudition
of professors, and the talker who, when he poured forth the stores of his
memory, began each of his disquisitions with the phrase, "don't you remember?"
"A takes up a book belonging to Z, and reads it, not having any right
over the book, and not having the consent of any person entitled to authorise
A so to do. A trespasses.
"A, being exasperated at a passage in a book which is lying on the counter
of Z, snatches it up, and tears it to pieces. A has not committed theft,
as he has not acted fraudulently, though he may have committed criminal
trespass and mischief."]
If it be asked whether or not the Penal Code fulfils the ends for which
it was framed, the answer may safely be left to the gratitude of Indian
civilians, the younger of whom carry it about in their saddle-bags, and
the older in their heads. The value which it possesses in the eyes of a
trained English lawyer may be gathered from the testimony of Macaulay's
eminent successor, Mr. Fitzjames Stephen, who writes of it thus:
"In order to appreciate the importance of the Penal Code, it
must be borne in mind what crime in India is. Here, in England, order is
so thoroughly well established that the crime of the country is hardly
more than an annoyance. In India, if crime is allowed to let to a head,
it is capable of destroying the peace and prosperity of whole tracts of
country. The mass of the people in their common moods are gentle, submissive,
and disposed to be innocent; but, for that very reason, bold and successful
criminals are dangerous in the extreme. In old days, when they joined in
gangs or organised bodies, they soon acquired political importance. Now,
in many parts of India, crime is quite as uncommon as in the least criminal
parts of England; and the old high-handed systematised crime has almost
entirely disappeared. This great revolution (for it is nothing less) in
the state of society of a whole continent has been brought about by the
regular administration of a rational body of criminal law.
After describing the confusion and complication of the criminal law of
our Indian Empire before it was taken in hand by the Commission of 1834,
Mr. Stephen proceeds to say:
"The administration of criminal justice is entrusted to a very small
number of English magistrates, organised according to a carefully-devised
system of appeal and supervision which represents the experience of a century.
This system is not unattended by evils; but it is absolutely necessary
to enable a few hundred civilians to govern a continent. Persons in such
a position must be provided with the plainest instructions as to the nature
of their duties. These instructions, in so far as the administration of
criminal justice is concerned, are contained in the Indian Penal Code and
the Code of Criminal Procedure. The Code of Criminal Procedure contains
541 sections, and forms a pamphlet of 210 widely printed octavo pages.
The Penal Code consists of 510 sections. Pocket editions of these Codes
are published, which may be carried about as easily as a pocket Bible;
and I doubt whether, even in Scotland, you would find many people who know
their Bibles as Indian civilians know their Codes."
"Lord Macaulay's great work was far too daring and original
to be accepted at once. It was a draft when he left India in 1838. His
successors made remarks on it for twenty-two years. Those years were filled
with wars and rumours of wars. The Afghan disasters and triumphs, the war
in Central India, the wars with the Sikhs, Lord Dalhousie's annexations,
threw law reform into the background, and produced a state of mind not
very favourable to it. Then came the Mutiny, which in its essence was the
breakdown of an old system; the renunciation of an attempt to effect an
impossible compromise between the Asiatic and the European view of things,
legal, military, and administrative. The effect of the Mutiny on the Statute-book
was unmistakable. The Code of Civil Procedure was enacted in 1859. The
Penal Code was enacted in 1860, and came into operation on the 1st of January
1862. The credit of passing the Penal Code into law, and of giving to every
part of it the improvements which practical skill and technical knowledge
could bestow, is due to Sir Barnes Peacock, who held Lord Macaulay's place
during the most anxious years through which the Indian Empire has passed.
The Draft and the Revision are both eminently creditable to their authors;
and the result of their successive efforts has been to reproduce in a concise,
and even beautiful, form the spirit of the law of England; the most technical,
the most clumsy, and the most bewildering of all systems of criminal law;
though I think, if its principles are fully understood, it is the most
rational. If anyone doubts this assertion, let him compare the Indian Penal
Code with such a book as Mr. Greaves's edition of Russell on Crimes. The
one subject of homicide, as treated by Mr. Greaves and Russell, is, I should
think, twice as long as the whole Penal Code; and it does not contain a
tenth part of the matter."
Without troubling himself unduly about the matter, Macaulay was conscious
that the world's estimate of his public services would be injuriously affected
by the popular notion, which he has described as "so flattering to mediocrity,"
that a great writer cannot be a great administrator; and it is possible
that this consciousness had something to do with the heartiness and fervour
which he threw into his defence of the author of "Cato" against the charge
of having been an inefficient Secretary of State. There was much in common
between his own lot and that of the other famous essayist who had been
likewise a Whig statesman; and this similarity in their fortunes may account
in part for the indulgence, and almost tenderness, with which he reviewed
the career and character of Addison. Addison himself, at his villa in Chelsea,
and still more amidst the gilded slavery of Holland House, might have envied
the literary seclusion, ample for so rapid a reader, which the usages of
Indian life permitted Macaulay to enjoy. "I have a very pretty garden,"
he writes, "not unlike our little grass-plot at Clapham, but larger. It
consists of a fine sheet of turf, with a gravel walk round it, and flower-
beds scattered over it. It looks beautiful just now after the rains, and
I hear that it keeps its verdure during a great part of the year. A flight
of steps leads down from my library into the garden, and it is so well
shaded that you may walk there till ten o'clock in the morning."
"The point which always has surprised me most in connection with the
Penal Code is, that it proves that Lord Macaulay must have had a knowledge
of English criminal law which, considering how little he had practised
it, may fairly be called extraordinary. [Macaulay's practice at the bar
had been less than little, according to an account which he gave of it
at a public dinner: "My own forensic experience, gentlemen, has been extremely
small; for my only recollection of an achievement that way is that at quarter
sessions I once convicted a boy of stealing a parcel of cocks and hens."]
He must have possessed the gift of going at once to the very root of the
matter, and of sifting the corn from the chaff to a most unusual degree;
for his Draft gives the substance of the criminal law of England, down
to its minute working details, in a compass which, by comparison with the
original, may be regarded as almost absurdly small. The Indian Penal Code
is to the English criminal law what a manufactured article ready for use
is to the materials out of which it is made. It is to the French 'Code
Penal,' and, I may add, to the North German Code of 1871, what a finished
picture is to a sketch. It is far simpler, and much better expressed, than
Livingstone's Code for Louisiana; and its practical success has been complete.
The clearest proof of this is that hardly any questions have arisen upon
it which have had to be determined by the courts; and that few and slight
amendments have had to be made in it by the Legislature."
Here, book in hand, and in dressing-gown and slippers, he would spend
those two hours after sun-rise which Anglo-Indian gentlemen devote to riding,
and Anglo-Indian ladies to sleeping off the arrears of the sultry night.
Regularly, every morning, his studies were broken in upon by the arrival
of his baby niece, who came to feed the crows with the toast which accompanied
his early cup of tea; a ceremony during which he had much ado to protect
the child from the advances of a multitude of birds, each almost as big
as herself, which hopped and fluttered round her as she stood on the steps
of the verandah. When the sun drove him indoors, (which happened sooner
than he had promised himself, before he had learned by experience what
the hot season was,) he went to his bath and toilette, and then to breakfast;
"at which we support nature under the exhausting effects of the climate
by means of plenty of eggs, mango-fish, snipe-pies, and frequently a hot
beefsteak. My cook is renowned through Calcutta for his skill. He brought
me attestations of a long succession of gourmands, and among them one from
Lord Dalhousie, who pronounced him decidedly the first artist in Bengal.
[Lord Dalhousie, the father of the Governor-General, was Commander-In-Chief
in India during the years 1830 and 1831.] This great man, and his two assistants,
I am to have for thirty rupees a month. While I am on the subject of the
cuisine, I may as well say all that I have to say about it at once. The
tropical fruits are wretched. The best of them is inferior to our apricot
or gooseberry. When I was a child, I had a notion of its being the most
exquisite of treats to eat plantains and yams, and to drink palm-wine.
How I envied my father for having enjoyed these luxuries! I have now enjoyed
them all, and I have found like much greater men on much more important
occasions, that all is vanity. A plantain is very like a rotten pear, --so
like that I would lay twenty to one that a person blindfolded would not
discover the difference. A yam is better. It is like an indifferent potato.
I tried palm-wine at a pretty village near Madras, where I slept one night.
I told Captain Barron that I had been curious to taste that liquor ever
since I first saw, eight or nine and twenty years ago, the picture of the
negro climbing the tree in Sierra Leone. The next morning I was roused
by a servant, with a large bowl of juice fresh from the tree. I drank it,
and found it very like ginger-beer in which the ginger has been sparingly
Macaulay necessarily spent away from home the days on which the Supreme
Council, or the Law Commission, held their meetings; but the rest of his
work, legal, literary, and educational, he carried on in the quiet of his
library. Now and again, a morning was consumed in returning calls, an expenditure
of time which it is needless to say that he sorely grudged. "Happily, the
good people here are too busy to be at home. Except the parsons, they are
all usefully occupied somewhere or other, so that I have only to leave
cards; but the reverend gentlemen are always within doors in the heat of
the day, lying on their backs, regretting breakfast, longing for tiffin,
and crying out for lemonade." After lunch he sat with Mrs. Trevelyan, translating
Greek or reading French for her benefit; and Scribe's comedies and Saint
Simon's Memoirs beguiled the long languid leisure of the Calcutta afternoon,
while the punkah swung overhead, and the air came heavy and scented through
the moistened grass-matting which shrouded the windows. At the approach
of sunset, with its attendant breeze, he joined his sister in her drive
along the banks of the Hooghly; and they returned by starlight, --too often
to take part in a vast banquet of forty guests, dressed as fashionably
as people can dress at ninety degrees East from Paris; who, one and all,
had far rather have been eating their curry, and drinking their bitter
beer, at home, in all the comfort of muslin and nankeen. Macaulay is vehement
in his dislike of "those great formal dinners, which unite all the stiffness
of a levee to all the disorder and discomfort of a two-shilling ordinary.
Nothing can be duller. Nobody speaks except to the person next him. The
conversation is the most deplorable twaddle, and, as I always sit next
to the lady of the highest rank, or, in other words, to the oldest, ugliest,
and proudest woman in the company, I am worse off than my neighbours."
Nevertheless he was far too acute a judge of men to undervalue the special
type of mind which is produced and fostered by the influences of an Indian
career. He was always ready to admit that there is no better company in
the world than a young and rising civilian; no one who has more to say
that is worth hearing, and who can say it in a manner better adapted to
interest those who know good talk from bad. He delighted in that freedom
from pedantry, affectation, and pretension which is one of the most agreeable
characteristics of a service, to belong to which is in itself so effectual
an education, that a bore is a phenomenon notorious everywhere within a
hundred miles of the station which has the honour to possess him, and a
fool is quoted by name throughout all the three Presidencies. Macaulay
writes to his sisters at home: "The best way of seeing society here is
to have very small parties. There is a little circle of people whose friendship
I value, and in whose conversation I take pleasure: the Chief Justice,
Sir Edward Ryan; my old friend, Malkin; Cameron and Macleod, the Law Commissioners;
Macnaghten, among the older servants of the Company, and Mangles, Colvin,
and John Peter Grant among the younger. [It cannot be said that all the
made upon Macaulay's friendship were acknowledged as readily as those of
Sir Benjamin Malkin. "I am dunned unmercifully by place-hunters. The oddest
application that I have received is from that rascal --, who is somewhere
in the interior. He tells me he is sure that prosperity has not changed
me; that I am still the same John Macaulay who was his dearest friend,
his more than brother; and that he means to come up, and live with me at
Calcutta. If he fulfils his intention, I will have him taken before the
police-magistrates."] These, in my opinion, are the flower of Calcutta
society, and I often ask some of them to a quiet dinner." On the Friday
of every week, these chosen few met round Macaulay's breakfast table to
discuss the progress which the Law Commission had made in its labours;
and each successive point which was started opened the way to such a flood
of talk, --legal, historical, political, and personal, --that the company
would sit far on towards noon over the empty teacups, until an uneasy sense
of accumulating despatch-boxes drove them, one by one, to their respective
There are scattered passages in these letters which prove that Macaulay's
feelings, during his protracted absence from his native country, were at
times almost as keen as those which racked the breast of Cicero, when he
was forced to exchange the triumphs of the Forum, and the cozy suppers
with his brother augurs, for his hateful place of banishment at Thessalonica,
or his hardly less hateful seat of government at Tarsus. The complaints
of the English statesman do not, however, amount in volume to a fiftieth
part of those reiterated out pourings of lachrymose eloquence with which
the Roman philosopher bewailed an expatriation that was hardly one-third
as long. "I have no words," writes Macaulay, very much under-estimating
the wealth of his own vocabulary, "to tell you how I pine for England,
or how intensely bitter exile has been to me, though I hope that I have
borne it well. I feel as if I had no other wish than to see my country
again and die. Let me assure you that banishment is no light matter. No
person can judge of it who has not experienced it. A complete revolution
in all the habits of life; an estrangement from almost every old friend
and acquaintance; fifteen thousand miles of ocean between the exile and
everything that he cares for; all this is, to me at least, very trying.
There is no temptation of wealth, or power, which would induce me to go
through it again. But many people do not feel as I do. Indeed, the servants
of the Company rarely have such a feeling; and it is natural that they
should not have it, for they are sent out while still schoolboys, and when
they know little of the world. The moment of emigration is to them also
the moment of emancipation; and the pleasures of liberty and affluence
to a great degree compensate them for the loss of their home. In a few
years they become orientalised, and, by the time that they are of my age,
they would generally prefer India, as a residence, to England. But it is
a very different matter when a man is transplanted at thirty-three."
Making, as always, the best of everything, he was quite ready to allow
that he might have been placed in a still less agreeable situation. In
the following extract from a letter to his friend, Mrs. Drummond, there
is much which will come home to those who are old enough to remember how
vastly the Dublin of 1837 differed, for the worse, from the Dublin of 1875,
"It now seems likely that you may remain in Ireland for years. I cannot
conceive what has induced you to submit to such an exile. I declare, for
my own part, that, little as I love Calcutta, I would rather stay here
than be settled in the Phoenix Park. The last residence which I would choose
would be a place with all the plagues, and none of the attractions, of
a capital; a provincial city on fire with factions political and religious,
peopled by raving Orangemen and raving Repealers, and distracted by a contest
between Protestantism as fanatical as that of Knot and Catholicism as fanatical
as that of Bonner. We have our share of the miseries of life in this country.
We are annually baked four months, boiled four more, and allowed the remaining
four to become cool if we can. At this moment, the sun is blazing like
a furnace. The earth, soaked with oceans of rain, is steaming like a wet
blanket. Vegetation is rotting all round us. Insects and undertakers are
the only living creatures which seem to enjoy the climate. But, though
our atmosphere is hot, our factions are lukewarm. A bad epigram in a newspaper,
or a public meeting attended by a tailor, a pastry-cook, a reporter, two
or three barristers, and eight or ten attorneys, are our most formidable
annoyances. We have agitators in our own small way, Tritons of the minnows,
bearing the same sort of resemblance to O'Connell that a lizard bears to
an alligator. Therefore Calcutta for me, in preference to Dublin."
He had good reason for being grateful to Calcutta, and still better
for not showing his gratitude by prolonging his stay there over a fourth
summer and autumn. "That tremendous crash of the great commercial houses
which took place a few years ago has produced a revolution in fashions.
It ruined one half of the English society in Bengal, and seriously injured
the other half. A large proportion of the most important functionaries
here are deeply in debt, and accordingly, the mode of living is now exceedingly
quiet and modest. Those immense subscriptions, those public tables, those
costly equipages and entertainments of which Heber, and others who saw
Calcutta a few years back, say so much, are never heard of. Speaking for
myself, it was a great piece of good fortune that I came hither just at
the time when the general distress had forced everybody to adopt a moderate
way of living. Owing very much to that circumstance, (while keeping house,
I think, more handsomely than any other member of Council,) I have saved
what will enable me to do my part towards making my family comfortable;
and I shall have a competency for myself, small indeed, but quite sufficient
to render me as perfectly independent as if I were the possessor of Burleigh
or Chatsworth." [Macaulay writes to Lord Mahon on the last day of December
1836: "In another year I hope to leave this country, with a fortune which
you would think ridiculously small, but which will make me as independent
as if I had all that Lord Westminster has above the ground, and Lord Durham
below it. I have no intention of again taking part in politics; but I cannot
tell what effect the sight of the old Hall and Abbey may produce on me."]
"The rainy season of 1837 has been exceedingly unhealthy. Our house
has escaped as well as any; yet Hannah is the only one of us who has come
off untouched. The baby has been repeatedly unwell. Trevelyan has suffered
a good deal, and is kept right only by occasional trips in a steamer down
to the mouth of the Hooghly. I had a smart touch of fever, which happily
stayed but an hour or two, and I took such vigorous measures that it never
came again; but I remained unnerved and exhausted for nearly a fortnight.
This was my first, and I hope my last, taste of Indian maladies. It is
a happy thing for us all that we are not to pass another year in the reek
of this deadly marsh." Macaulay wisely declined to set the hope of making
another lac of rupees against the risk, to himself and others of such a
fate as subsequently befell Lord Canning and Mr. James Wilson. He put the
finishing stroke to his various labours; resigned his seat in the Council,
and his Presidentships of the Law Commission and the Committee of Public
Instruction; and, in company with the Trevelyans, sailed for England in
the first fortnight of the year 1838.
To Mr Thomas Flower Ellis.
Calcutta: February 8, 1835.
Calcutta: December 16, 1834.
Dear Ellis, --Many thanks for your letter. It is delightful in this
strange land to see the handwriting of such a friend. We must keep up our
spirits. We shall meet, I trust, in little more than four years, with feelings
of regard only strengthened by our separation. My spirits are not bad;
and they ought not to be bad. I have health; affluence; consideration;
great power to do good; functions which, while they are honourable and
useful, are not painfully burdensome; leisure for study; good books; an
unclouded and active mind; warm affections; and a very dear sister. There
will soon be a change in my domestic arrangements. My sister is to be married
next week. Her lover, who is lover enough to be a knight of the Round Table,
is one of the most distinguished of our young Civilians.
I have the very highest opinion of his talents both for action and for
discussion. Indeed, I should call him a man of real genius. He is also,
what is even more important, a man of the utmost purity of honour, of a
sweet temper, and of strong principle. His public virtue has gone through
very severe trials, and has come out resplendent. Lord William, in congratulating
me the other day, said that he thought my destined brother-in-law the ablest
young man in the service. His name is Trevelyan. He is a nephew of Sir
John Trevelyan, a baronet; in Cornwall I suppose, by the name; for I never
took the trouble to ask.
He and my sister will live with me during my stay here. I have a house
about as large as Lord Dudley's in Park Lane, or rather larger, so that
I shall accommodate them without the smallest difficulty. This arrangement
is acceptable to me, because it saves me from the misery of parting with
my sister in this strange land; and is, I believe, equally gratifying to
Trevelyan, whose education, like that of other Indian servants, was huddled
up hastily at home; who has an insatiable thirst for knowledge of every
sort; and who looks on me as little less than an oracle of wisdom. He came
to me the other morning to know whether I would advise him to keep up his
Greek, which he feared he had nearly lost. I gave him Homer, and asked
him to read a page; and I found that, like most boys of any talent who
had been at the Charterhouse, he was very well grounded in that language.
He read with perfect rapture, and has marched off with the book, declaring
that he shall never be content till he has finished the whole. This, you
will think, is not a bad brother-in-law for a man to pick up in 22 degrees
of North latitude, and l00 degrees of East longitude.
I read much, and particularly Greek; and I find that I am, in all essentials,
still not a bad scholar. I could, I think, with a year's hard study, qualify
myself to fight a good battle for a Craven's scholarship. I read, however,
not as I read at College, but like a man of the world. If I do not know
a word, I pass it by unless it is important to the sense. If I find, as
I have of late often found, a passage which refuses to give up its meaning
at the second reading, I let it alone. I have read during the last fortnight,
before breakfast, three books of Herodotus, and four plays of Aeschylus.
My admiration of Aeschylus has been prodigiously increased by this reperusal.
I cannot conceive how any person of the smallest pretension to taste should
doubt about his immeasurable superiority to every poet of antiquity, Homer
only excepted. Even Milton, I think, must yield to him. It is quite unintelligible
to me that the ancient critics should have placed him so low. Horace's
notice of him in the Ars Poetica is quite ridiculous. There is, to be sure,
the "magnum loqui;" but the great topic insisted on is the skill of Aeschylus
as a manager, as a property-man; the judicious way in which he boarded
the stage; the masks, the buskins, and the dresses.
["Post hunc personae pallaeque repertor honestae
Aeschylus et modicis instravit pulpita tignis,
Et docuit magnumnque loqui, nitique cothuruo."]
And, after all, the "magnum loqui," though the most obvious characteristic
of Aeschylus, is by no means his highest or his best. Nor can I explain
this by saying that Horace had too tame and unimaginative a mind to appreciate
Aeschylus. Horace knew what he could himself do, and, with admirable wisdom,
he confined himself to that; but he seems to have had a perfectly clear
comprehension of the merit of those great masters whom he never attempted
to rival. He praised Pindar most enthusiastically. It seems incomprehensible
to me that a critic, who admired Pindar, should not admire Aeschylus far
Greek reminds me of Cambridge and of Thirlwall. When you see Thirlwall,
tell him that I congratulate him from the bottom of my soul on having suffered
in so good a cause; and that I would rather have been treated as he has
been treated, on such an account, than have the Mastership of Trinity.
[The subjoined extract from the letter of a leading member of Trinity College
explains Macaulay's indignation. "Thirlwall published a pamphlet in 1834,
on the admission of Dissenters to the University. The result was that he
was either deprived of his Assistant Tutorship or had to give it up. Thirlwall
left Cambridge soon afterwards. I suppose that, if he had remained, he
would have been very possibly Wordsworth's successor in the Mastership."]
There would be some chance for the Church, if we had more Churchmen of
the same breed, worthy successors of Leighton and Tillotson.
From one Trinity Fellow I pass to another. (This letter is quite a study
to a metaphysician who wishes to illustrate the Law of Association.) We
have no official tidings yet of Malkin's appointment to the vacant seat
on the Bench at Calcutta. I cannot tell you how delighted I am at the prospect
of having him here. An honest enlightened Judge, without professional narrowness,
is the very man whom we want on public grounds. And, as to my private feelings,
nothing could be more agreeable to me than to have an old friend, and so
estimable a friend, brought so near to me in this distant country.
Ever, dear Ellis,
Yours very affectionately
T. B. MACAULAY.
Dear Ellis, --The last month has been the most painful that I ever went
through. Indeed, I never knew before what it was to be miserable. Early
in January, letters from England brought me news of the death of my youngest
sister. What she was to me no words can express. I will not say that she
was dearer to me than anything in the world; for my sister who was with
me was equally dear; but she was as dear to me as one human being can be
to another. Even now, when time has begun to do its healing office, I cannot
write about her without being altogether unmanned. That I have not utterly
sunk under this blow I owe chiefly to literature. What a blessing it is
to love books as I love them; --to be able to converse with the dead, and
to live amidst the unreal! Many times during the last few weeks I have
repeated to myself those fine lines of old Hesiod:
ei gar tis kai penthos egon neokedei thumo
Writing three days after the date of the foregoing letter, Macaulay says
to his old friend Mr. Sharp: "You see that my mind is not in great danger
of rusting. The danger is that I may become a mere pedant. I feel a habit
of quotation growing on me; but I resist that devil, for such it is, and
it flees from me. It is all that I can do to keep Greek and Latin out of
all my letters. Wise sayings of Euripides are even now at my fingers' ends.
If I did not maintain a constant struggle against this propensity, my correspondence
would resemble the notes to the 'Pursuits of Literature.' It is a dangerous
thing for a man with a very strong memory to read very much. I could give
you three or four quotations this moment in support of that proposition;
but I will bring the vicious propensity under subjection, if I can." [Many
years later Macaulay wrote to my mother: "Dr. -- came, and I found him
a very clever man; a little of a coxcomb, but, I dare say, not the worse
physician for that. He must have quoted Horace and Virgil six times at
least a propos of his medical inquiries. Horace says, in a poem in which
he jeers the Stoics, that even a wise man is out of sort when 'pituita
molesta est;' which is, being interpreted, 'when, his phlegm is troublesome.'
The Doctor thought it necessary to quote this passage in order to prove
that phlegm is troublesome; --a proposition, of the truth of which, I will
venture to say, no man on earth is better convinced than myself."]
aksetai kradien akakhemenos, autar aoidos
mousaon therapon kleia proteron anthropon
umnese, makaras te theous oi Olumpon ekhousi,
aips oge dusphroneon epilethetai oude ti kedeon
memnetai takheos de paretrape dora theaon.
["For if to one whose grief is fresh as he sits silent with sorrow-stricken
a minstrel, the henchman of the Muses, celebrates the men of old and
the gods who possess Olympus;
straightway he forgets his melancholy, and remembers not at all his
beguiled by the blessed gift of the goddesses of song."
In Macaulay's Hesiod this passage is scored with three lines in pencil.]
I have gone back to Greek literature with a passion quite astonishing
to myself. I have never felt anything like it. I was enraptured with Italian
during the six months which I gave up to it; and I was little less pleased
with Spanish. But, when I went back to the Greek, I felt as if I had never
known before what intellectual enjoyment was. Oh that wonderful people!
There is not one art, not one science, about which we may not use the same
expression which Lucretius has employed about the victory over superstition,
"Primum Graius homo--."
I think myself very fortunate in having been able to return to these
great masters while still in the full vigour of life, and when my taste
and judgment are mature. Most people read all the Greek that they ever
read before they are five and twenty. They never find time for such studies
afterwards till they are in the decline of life; and then their knowledge
of the language is in a great measure lost, and cannot easily be recovered.
Accordingly, almost all the ideas that people have of Greek literature,
are ideas formed while they were still very young. A young man, whatever
his genius may be, is no judge of such a writer as Thucydides. I had no
high opinion of him ten years ago. I have now been reading him with a mind
accustomed to historical researches, and to political affairs; and I am
astonished at my own former blindness, and at his greatness. I could not
bear Euripides at college. I now read my recantation. He has faults undoubtedly.
But what a poet! The Medea, the Alcestis, the Troades, the Bacchae, are
alone sufficient to place him in the very first rank. Instead of depreciating
him, as I have done, I may, for aught I know, end by editing him.
I have read Pindar, --with less pleasure than I feel in reading the
great Attic poets, but still with admiration. An idea occurred to me which
may very likely have been noticed by a hundred people before. I was always
puzzled to understand the reason for the extremely abrupt transitions in
those Odes of Horace which are meant to be particularly fine. The "justum
et tenacem" is an instance. All at once you find yourself in heaven, Heaven
knows how. What the firmness of just men in times of tyranny, or of tumult,
has to do with Juno's oration about Troy it is hardly possible to conceive.
Then, again, how strangely the fight between the Gods and the Giants is
tacked on to the fine hymn to the Muses in that noble ode, "Descende coelo
et die age tibia"! This always struck me as a great fault, and an inexplicable
one; for it is peculiarly alien from the calm good sense, and good taste,
which distinguish Horace.
My explanation of it is this. The Odes of Pindar were the acknowledged
models of lyric poetry. Lyric poets imitated his manner as closely as they
could; and nothing was more remarkable in his compositions than the extreme
violence and abruptness of the transitions. This in Pindar was quite natural
and defensible. He had to write an immense number of poems on subjects
extremely barren, and extremely monotonous. There could be little difference
between one boxing-match and another. Accordingly, he made all possible
haste to escape from the immediate subject, and to bring in, by hook or
by crook, some local description; some old legend; something or other,
in short, which might be more susceptible of poetical embellishment, and
less utterly threadbare, than the circumstances of a race or a wrestling-match.
This was not the practice of Pindar alone. There is an old story which
proves that Simonides did the same, and that sometimes the hero of the
day was nettled at finding how little was said about him in the Ode for
which he was to pay. This abruptness of transition was, therefore, in the
Greek lyric poets, a fault rendered inevitable by the peculiarly barren
and uniform nature of the subjects which they had to treat. But, like many
other faults of great masters, it appeared to their imitators a beauty;
and a beauty almost essential to the grander Ode. Horace was perfectly
at liberty to choose his own subjects, and to treat them after his own
fashion. But he confounded what was merely accidental in Pindar's manner
with what was essential; and because Pindar, when he had to celebrate a
foolish lad from Aegina who had tripped up another's heels at the Isthmus,
made all possible haste to get away from so paltry a topic to the ancient
heroes of the race of Aeacus, Horace took it into his head that he ought
always to begin as far from the subject as possible, and then arrive at
it by some strange and sudden bound. This is my solution. At least I can
find no better. The most obscure passage, --at least the strangest passage,
--in all Horace may be explained by supposing that he was misled by Pindar's
example: I mean that odd parenthesis in the "Qualem Ministrum:"
quibus Mos unde deductus per omne--.
This passage, taken by itself, always struck me as the harshest, queerest,
and most preposterous digression in the world. But there are several things
in Pindar very like it. [Orelli makes an observation, much to the same
effect, in his note on this passage in his edition of 1850.]
You must excuse all this, for I labour at present under a suppression
of Greek, and am likely to do so for at least three years to come. Malkin
may be some relief; but I am quite unable to guess whether he means to
come to Calcutta. I am in excellent bodily health, and I am recovering
my mental health; but I have been sorely tried. Money matters look well.
My new brother-in-law and I are brothers in more than law. I am more comfortable
than I expected to be in this country; and, as to the climate, I think
it, beyond all comparison, better than that of the House of Commons.
T. B. MACAULAY.
Calcutta, May 29, 1835.
Dear Ellis, --I am in great want of news. We know that the Tories dissolved
at the end of December, and we also know that they were beaten towards
the end of February. [In November 1834 the King called Sir Robert Peel
to power; after having of his own accord dismissed the Whig Ministry. Parliament
was dissolved, but the Tories did not succeed in obtaining a majority.
After three months of constant and angry fighting, Peel was driven from
office in April 1835.] As to what passed in the interval, we are quite
in the dark. I will not plague you with comments on events which will have
been driven out of your mind by other events before this reaches you, or
with prophecies which may be falsified before you receive them. About the
final issue I am certain. The language of the first great reformer is that
which I should use in reply to the exultation of our Tories here, if there
were any of them who could understand it
sebou, proseukhou thopte ton kratount aei
As for myself, I rejoice that I am out of the present storm. "Suave mari
magno;" or, as your new Premier, if he be still Premier, construes. "It
is a source of melancholy satisfaction." I may, indeed, feel the effects
of the changes here, but more on public than private grounds. A Tory Governor-General
is not very likely to agree with me about the very important law reforms
which I am about to bring before the Council. But he is not likely to treat
me ill personally; or, if he does,
emoi d'elasson Zeuos e meden melei
drato krateito tonde ton brakhun khronon
opes thelei daron gar ouk arksei theois
["Worship thou, adore, and flatter the monarch of the hour. To me Jove
is of less account than nothing. Let him have his will, and his sceptre,
for this brief season; for he will not long be the ruler of the Gods."
It is needless to say that poor William the Fourth was the Jove of the
all ou ti khairon, en tod orthothe Belos,
as Philoctetes says. In a few months I shall have enough to enable me to
live, after my very moderate fashion, in perfect independence at home;
and whatever debts any Governor-General may choose to lay on me at Calcutta
shall be paid off, he may rely on it, with compound interest, at Westminster.
["It shall be to his cost, so long as this bow carries true."]
My time is divided between public business and books. I mix with society
as little as I can. My spirits have not yet recovered, --I sometimes think
that they will never wholly recover, --from the shock which they received
five months ago. I find that nothing soothes them so much as the contemplation
of those miracles of art which Athens has bequeathed to us. I am really
becoming, I hope not a pedant, but certainly an enthusiast about classical
literature. I have just finished a second reading of Sophocles. I am now
deep in Plato, and intend to go right through all his works. His genius
is above praise. Even where he is most absurd, --as, for example, in the
Cratylus, --he shows an acuteness, and an expanse of intellect, which is
quite a phenomenon by itself. The character of Socrates does not rise upon
me. The more I read about him, the less I wonder that they poisoned him.
If he had treated me as he is said to have treated Protagoras, Hippias,
and Gorgias, I could never have forgiven him.
Nothing has struck me so much in Plato's dialogues as the raillery.
At college, somehow or other, I did not understand or appreciate it. I
cannot describe to you the way in which it now tickles me. I often sink
forward on my huge old Marsilius Ficinus in a fit of laughter. I should
say that there never was a vein of ridicule so rich, at the same time so
delicate. It is superior to Voltaire's; nay, to Pascal's. Perhaps there
are one or two passages in Cervantes, and one or two in Fielding, that
might give a modern reader a notion of it.
I have very nearly finished Livy. I never read him through before. I
admire him greatly, and would give a quarter's salary to recover the lost
Decades. While I was reading the earlier books I went again through Niebuhr.
And I am sorry to say that, having always been a little sceptical about
his merits, I am now a confirmed unbeliever. I do not of course mean that
he has no merit. He was a man of immense learning, and of great ingenuity.
But his mind was utterly wanting in the faculty by which a demonstrated
truth is distinguished from a plausible supposition. He is not content
with suggesting that an event may have happened. He is certain that it
happened, and calls on the reader to be certain too, (though not a trace
of it exists in any record whatever,) because it would solve the phenomena
so neatly. Just read over again, if you have forgotten it, the conjectural
restoration of the Inscription in page 126 of the second volume; and then,
on your honour as a scholar and a man of sense, tell me whether in Bentley's
edition of Milton there is anything which approaches to the audacity of
that emendation. Niebuhr requires you to believe that some of the greatest
men in Rome were burned alive in the Circus; that this event was commemorated
by an inscription on a monument, one half of which is sill in existence;
but that no Roman historian knew anything about it; and that all tradition
of the event was lost, though the memory of anterior events much less important
has reached our time. When you ask for a reason, he tells you plainly that
such a thing cannot be established by reason; that he is sure of it; and
that you must take his word. This sort of intellectual despotism always
moves me to mutiny, and generates a disposition to pull down the reputation
of the dogmatist. Niebuhr's learning was immeasurably superior to mine;
but I think myself quite as good a judge of evidence as he was. I might
easily believe him if he told me that there were proofs which I had never
seen; but, when he produces all his proofs, I conceive that I am perfectly
competent to pronounce on their value.
As I turned over his leaves just now, I lighted on another instance
of what I cannot but call ridiculous presumption. He says that Martial
committed a blunder in making the penultimate of Porsena short. Strange
that so great a scholar should not know that Horace had done so too!
Minacis aut Etrusca Porsenae manus.
There is something extremely nauseous to me in a German Professor telling
the world, on his own authority, and without giving the smallest reason,
that two of the best Latin poets were ignorant of the quantity of a word
which they must have used in their exercises at school a hundred times.
As to the general capacity of Niebuhr for political speculations, let
him be judged by the Preface to the Second Volume. He there says, referring
to the French Revolution of July 1830, that "unless God send us some miraculous
help, we have to look forward to a period of destruction similar to that
which the Roman world experienced about the middle of the third century."
Now, when I see a man scribble such abject nonsense about events which
are passing under our eyes, what confidence can I put in his judgment as
to the connection of causes and effects in times very imperfectly known
But I must bring my letter, or review, to a close. Remember me most
kindly to your wife. Tell Frank that I mean to be a better scholar than
he when I come back, and that he must work hard if he means to overtake
Ever, dear Ellis,
Your affectionate friend
T. B. MACAULAY.
Calcutta: August 25, 1835.
Dear Ellis, --Cameron arrived here about a fortnight ago, and we are
most actively engaged in preparing a complete Criminal Code for India.
He and I agree excellently. Ryan, the most liberal of Judges, lends us
his best assistance. I heartily hope, and fully believe, that we shall
put the whole Penal law, and the whole law of Criminal Procedure, into
a moderately sized volume. I begin to take a very warm interest in this
work. It is, indeed, one of the finest employments of the intellect that
it is easy to conceive. I ought, however, to tell you that, the more progress
I make as a legislator, the more intense my contempt for the mere technical
study of law becomes.
I am deep in the examination of the political theories of the old philosophers.
I have read Plato's Republic, and his laws; and I am now reading Aristotle's
Politics; after which I shall go through Plato's two treatises again. I
every now and then read one of Plutarch's Lives on an idle afternoon; and
in this way I have got through a dozen of them. I like him prodigiously.
He is inaccurate, to be sure, and a romancer; but he tells a story delightfully,
and his illustrations and sketches of character are as good as anything
in ancient eloquence. I have never, till now, rated him fairly.
As to Latin, I am just finishing Lucan, who remains pretty much where
he was in my opinion; and I am busily engaged with Cicero, whose character,
moral and intellectual, interests me prodigiously. I think that I see the
whole man through and through. But this is too vast a subject for a letter.
I have gone through all Ovid's poems. I admire him; but I was tired to
death before I got to the end. I amused myself one evening with turning
over the Metamorphoses, to see if I could find any passage of ten lines
which could, by possibility, have been written by Virgil. Whether I was
in ill luck or no I cannot tell; but I hunted for half an hour without
the smallest success. At last I chanced to light on a little passage more
Virgilian, to my thinking, than Virgil himself. Tell me what you say to
my criticism. It is part of Apollo's speech to the laurel
Semper habebunt Te coma, te citharae, te nostrae, laure,
As to other Latin writers, Sallust has gone sadly down in my opinion. Caesar
has risen wonderfully. I think him fully entitled to Cicero's praise. [In
the dialogue "De Claris Oratoribus" Cicero makes Atticus say that 'A consummate
judge of style (who is evidently intended for Cicero himself,) pronounces
Caesar's Latin to be the most elegant, with one implied exception, that
had ever been heard in the Senate or the Forum'. Atticus then goes on to
detail at full length a compliment which Caesar had paid to Cicero's powers
of expression; and Brutus declares with enthusiasm that such praise, coming
from such a quarter, is worth more than a Triumph, as Triumphs were then
given; and inferior in value only to the honours which were voted to the
statesman who had baffled Catiline. The whole passage is a model of self-
glorification, exquisite in skill and finish.] He has won the honour of
an excellent historian while attempting merely to give hints for history.
But what are they all to the great Athenian? I do assure you that there
is no prose composition in the world, not even the De Corona, which I place
so high as the seventh book of Thucydides. It is the ne plus ultra of human
art. I was delighted to find in Gray's letters the other day this query
to Wharton: "The retreat from Syracuse-- Is it or is it not the finest
thing you ever read in your life?"
Tu ducibus Latiis aderis, cum laeta triumphum
Vox canet, et longas visent Capitolia pompas.
Portibus Augustis cadem fidissima custos
Ante fores stabis, mediamque tuebere quercum.
Did you ever read Athenaeus through? I never did; but I am meditating
an attack on him. The multitude of quotations looks very tempting; and
I never open him for a minute without being paid for my trouble.
Yours very affectionately
T. B. MACAULAY.
Calcutta: December 30, 1835,
Dear Ellis, --What the end of the Municipal Reform Bill is to be I cannot
conjecture. Our latest English intelligence is of the 15th of August. The
Lords were then busy in rendering the only great service that I expect
them ever to render to the nation; that is to say, in hastening the day
of reckoning. [In the middle of August the Irish Tithe Bill went up to
the House of Lords, where it was destined to undergo a mutilation which
was fatal to its existence.] But I will not fill my paper with English
I am in excellent health. So are my sister and brother-in-law, and their
little girl, whom I am always nursing; and of whom I am becoming fonder
than a wise man, with half my experience, would choose to be of anything
except himself. I have but very lately begun to recover my spirits. The
tremendous blow which fell on me at the beginning of this year has left
marks behind it which I shall carry to my grave. Literature has saved my
life and my reason. Even now, I dare not, in the intervals of business,
remain alone for a minute without a book in my hand. What my course of
life will be, when I return to England, is very doubtful. But I am more
than half determined to abandon politics, and to give myself wholly to
letters; to undertake some great historical work, which may be at once
the business and the amusement of my life; and to leave the pleasures of
pestiferous rooms, sleepless nights, aching heads, and diseased stomachs
to Roebuck and to Praed.
In England I might probably be of a very different opinion. But, in
the quiet of my own little grass-plot, --when the moon, at its rising,
finds me with the Philoctetes or the De Finibus in my hand, --I often wonder
what strange infatuation leads men who can do something better to squander
their intellect, their health, their energy, on such subjects as those
which most statesmen are engaged in pursuing. I comprehend perfectly how
a man who can debate, but who would make a very indifferent figure as a
contributor to an annual or a magazine, --such a man as Stanley, for example,
--should take the only line by which he can attain distinction. But that
a man before whom the two paths of literature and politics lie open, and
who might hope for eminence in either, should choose politics, and quit
literature, seems to me madness. On the one side is health, leisure, peace
of mind, the search after truth, and all the enjoyments of friendship and
conversation. On the other side is almost certain ruin to the constitution,
constant labour, constant anxiety. Every friendship which a man may have,
becomes precarious as soon as he engages in politics. As to abuse, men
soon become callous to it, but the discipline which makes them callous
is very severe. And for what is it that a man who might, if he chose, rise
and lie down at his own hour, engage in any study, enjoy any amusement,
and visit any place, consents to make himself as much a prisoner as if
he were within the rules of the Fleet; to be tethered during eleven months
of the year within the circle of half a mile round Charing Cross; to sit,
or stand, night after night for ten or twelve hours, inhaling a noisome
atmosphere, and listening to harangues of which nine-tenths are far below
the level of a leading article in a newspaper? For what is it that he submits,
day after day, to see the morning break over the Thames, and then totters
home, with bursting temples, to his bed? Is it for fame? Who would compare
the fame of Charles Townshend to that of Hume, that of Lord North to that
of Gibbon, that of Lord Chatham to that of Johnson? Who can look back on
the life of Burke and not regret that the years which he passed in ruining
his health and temper by political exertions were not passed in the composition
of some great and durable work? Who can read the letters to Atticus, and
not feel that Cicero would have been an infinitely happier and better man,
and a not less celebrated man, if he had left us fewer speeches, and more
Academic Questions and Tusculan Disputations; if he had passed the time
which he spent in brawling with Vatinius and Clodius in producing a history
of Rome superior even to that of Livy? But these, as I said, are meditations
in a quiet garden, situated far beyond the contagious influence of English
action. What I might feel if I again saw Downing Street and Palace Yard
is another question. I tell you sincerely my present feelings.
I have cast up my reading account, and brought it to the end of the
year 1835. It includes December 1834; for I came into my house and unpacked
my books at the end of November 1834. During the last thirteen months I
have read Aeschylus twice; Sophocles twice; Euripides once; Pindar twice;
Callimachus; Apollonius Rhodius; Quintus Calaber; Theocritus twice; Herodotus;
Thucydides; almost all Xenophon's works; almost all Plato; Aristotle's
Politics, and a good deal of his Organon, besides dipping elsewhere in
him; the whole of Plutarch's Lives; about half of Lucian; two or three
books of Athenaeus; Plautus twice; Terence twice; Lucretius twice; Catullus;
Tibullus; Propertius; Lucan; Statius; Silius Italicus; Livy; Velleius Paterculus;
Sallust; Caesar; and, lastly, Cicero. I have, indeed, still a little of
Cicero left; but I shall finish him in a few days. I am now deep in Aristophanes
and Lucian. Of Aristophanes I think as I always thought; but Lucian has
agreeably surprised me. At school I read some of his Dialogues of the Dead
when I was thirteen; and, to my shame, I never, to the best of my belief,
read a line of him since. I am charmed with him. His style seems to me
to be superior to that of any extant writer who lived later than the age
of Demosthenes and Theophrastus. He has a most peculiar and delicious vein
of humour. It is not the humour of Aristophanes; it is not that of Plato;
and yet it is akin to both; not quite equal, I admit, to either, but still
exceedingly charming. I hardly know where to find an instance of a writer,
in the decline of a literature, who has shown an invention so rich, and
a taste so pure. But, if I get on these matters, I shall fill sheet after
sheet. They must wait till we take another long walk, or another tavern
dinner, together; that is, till the summer of 1838.
I had a long story to tell you about a classical examination here; but
I have not time. I can only say that some of the competitors tried to read
the Greek with the papers upside down; and that the great man of the examination,
the Thirlwall of Calcutta, a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, translated
the words of Theophrastus, osas leitourgias leleitroupgeke "how many times
he has performed divine service." ["How many public services he had discharged
at his own expense." Macaulay used to say that a lady who dips into Mr.
Grote's history, and learns that Alcibiades won the heart of his fellow-citizens
by the novelty of his theories and the splendour of his liturgies, may
get a very false notion of that statesman's relations with the Athenian
Ever yours affectionately
T. B. MACAULAY.
That the enormous list of classical works recorded in the foregoing
letter was not only read through, but read with care, is proved by the
pencil marks, single, double, and treble, which meander down the margin
of such passages as excited the admiration of the student; and by the remarks,
literary, historical, and grammatical, with which the critic has interspersed
every volume, and sometimes every page. In the case of a favourite writer,
Macaulay frequently corrects the errors of the press, and even the punctuation,
as minutely as if he were preparing the book for another edition. He read
Plautus, Terence, and Aristophanes four times through at Calcutta; and
Euripides thrice. [See the Appendix at the end.] In his copy of Quintus
Calaber, (a versifier who is less unknown by the title of Quintus Smyrnaeus,)
appear the entries,
"September 22, 1833."
"Turned over, July 13, 1837."
It may be doubted whether the Pandects would have attained the celebrity
which they enjoy, if, in the course of the three years during which Justinian's
Law Commission was at work, the president Tribonian had read Quintus Smyrnaeus
Calcutta; May 30, 1836.
Dear Ellis, --I have just received your letter dated December, 28; How
time flies! Another hot season has almost passed away, and we are daily
expecting the beginning of the rains. Cold season, hot season, and rainy
season are all much the same to me. I shall have been two years on Indian
ground in less than a fortnight, and I have not taken ten grains of solid,
or a pint of liquid, medicine during the whole of that time. If I judged
only from my own sensations, I should say that this climate is absurdly
maligned; but the yellow, spectral, figures which surround me serve to
correct the conclusions which I should be inclined to draw from the state
of my own health.
One execrable effect the climate produces. It destroys all the works
of man with scarcely one exception. Steel rusts; razors lose their edge;
thread decays; clothes fall to pieces; books moulder away, and drop out
of their bindings; plaster cracks; timber rots; matting is in shreds. The
sun, the steam of this vast alluvial tract, and the infinite armies of
white ants, make such havoc with buildings that a house requires a complete
repair every three years. Ours was in this situation about three months
ago; and, if we had determined to brave the rains without any precautions,
we should, in all probability, have had the roof down on our heads. Accordingly
we were forced to migrate for six weeks from our stately apartments and
our flower-beds, to a dungeon where we were stifled with the stench of
native cookery, and deafened by the noise of native music. At last we have
returned to our house. We found it all snow-white and pea-green; and we
rejoice to think that we shall not again be under the necessity of quitting
it, till we quit it for a ship bound on a voyage to London.
We have been for some months in the middle of what the people here think
a political storm. To a person accustomed to the hurricanes of English
faction this sort of tempest in a horsepond is merely ridiculous. We have
put the English settlers up the country under the exclusive jurisdiction
of the Company's Courts in civil actions in which they are concerned with
natives. The English settlers are perfectly contented; but the lawyers
of the Supreme Court have set up a yelp which they think terrible, and
which has infinitely diverted me. They have selected me as the object of
their invectives, and I am generally the theme of five or six columns of
prose and verse daily. I have not patience to read a tenth part of what
they put forth. The last ode in my praise which I perused began,
"Soon we hope they will recall ye,
The last prose which I read was a parallel between me and Lord Strafford.
Tom Macaulay, Tom Macaulay."
My mornings, from five to nine, are quite my own. I still give them
to ancient literature. I have read Aristophanes twice through since Christmas;
and have also read Herodotus, and Thucydides again. I got into a way last
year of reading a Greek play every Sunday. I began on Sunday the 18th of
October with the Prometheus, and next Sunday I shall finish with the Cyclops
of Euripides. Euripides has made a complete conquest of me. It has been
unfortunate for him that we have so many of his pieces. It has, on the
other hand, I suspect, been fortunate for Sophocles that so few of his
have come down to us. Almost every play of Sophocles, which is now extant,
was one of his masterpieces. There is hardly one of them which is not mentioned
with high praise by some ancient writer. Yet one of them, the Trachiniae,
is, to my thinking, very poor and insipid. Now, if we had nineteen plays
of Sophocles, of which twelve or thirteen should be no better than the
Trachiniae, --and if, on the other hand, only seven pieces of Euripides
had come down to us, and if those seven had been the Medea, the Bacchae,
the Iphigenia in Aulis, the Orestes, the Phoenissae, the Hippolytus, and
the Alcestis, I am not sure that the relative position which the two poets
now hold in our estimation would not be greatly altered.
I have not done much in Latin. I have been employed in turning over
several third-rate and fourth-rate writers. After finishing Cicero, I read
through the works of both the Senecas, father and son. There is a great
deal in the Controversiae both of curious information, and of judicious
criticism. As to the son, I cannot bear him. His style affects me in something
the same way with that of Gibbon. But Lucius Seneca's affectation is even
more rank than Gibbon's. His works are made up of mottoes. There is hardly
a sentence which might not be quoted; but to read him straightforward is
like dining on nothing but anchovy sauce. I have read, as one does read
such stuff, Valerius Maximus, Annaeus Florus, Lucius Ampelius, and Aurelius
Victor. I have also gone through Phaedrus. I am now better employed. I
am deep in the Annals of Tacitus, and I am at the same time reading Suetonius.
You are so rich in domestic comforts that I am inclined to envy you.
I am not, however, without my share. I am as fond of my little niece as
her father. I pass an hour or more every day in nursing her, and teaching
her to talk. She has got as far as Ba, Pa, and Ma; which, as she is not
eight months old, we consider as proofs of a genius little inferior to
that of Shakespeare or Sir Isaac Newton.
The municipal elections have put me in good spirits as to English politics.
I was rather inclined to despondency.
Ever yours affectionately
T. B. MACAULAY.
Calcutta: July 25, 1836.
My dear Ellis, --I have heard from you again, and glad I always am to
hear from you. There are few things to which I look forward with more pleasure
than to our meeting. It is really worth while to go into banishment for
a few years for the pleasure of going home again. Yet that home will in
some things be a different home-- oh how different a home! --from that
to which I expected to return. But I will not stir up the bitterness of
sorrow which has at last subsided.
You take interest, I see, in my Greek and Latin studies. I continue
to pursue them steadily and actively. I am now reading Demosthenes with
interest and admiration indescribable. I am slowly, at odd minutes, getting
through the stupid trash of Diodorus. I have read through Seneca, and an
affected empty scribbler he is. I have read Tacitus again, and, by the
bye, I will tell you a curious circumstance relating to that matter. In
my younger days I always thought the Annals a prodigiously superior work
to the History. I was surprised to find that the Annals seemed cold and
poor to me on the last reading. I began to think that I had overrated Tacitus.
But, when I began the History, I was enchanted, and thought more highly
of him than ever. I went back to the Annals, and liked them even better
than the History. All at once the explanation of this occurred to me. While
I was reading the Annals I was reading Thucydides. When I began the History,
I began the Hellenics. What made the Annals appear cold and poor to me
was the intense interest which Thucydides inspired. Indeed, what colouring
is there which would not look tame when placed side by side with the magnificent
light, and the terrible shade, of Thucydides? Tacitus was a great man,
but he was not up to the Sicilian expedition. When I finished Thucydides,
and took up Xenophon, the case was reversed. Tacitus had been a foil to
Thucydides. Xenophon was a foil to Tacitus.
I have read Pliny the Younger. Some of the Epistles are interesting.
Nothing more stupid than the Panegyric was ever preached in the University
church. I am reading the Augustan History, and Aulus Gellius. Aulus is
a favourite of mine. I think him one of the best writers of his class.
I read in the evenings a great deal of English, French, and Italian;
and a little Spanish. I have picked up Portuguese enough to read Camoens
with care; and I want no more. I have adopted an opinion about the Italian
historians quite different from that which I formerly held, and which,
I believe, is generally considered as orthodox. I place Fra Paolo decidedly
at the head of them, and next to him Davila, whom I take to be the best
modern military historian except Colonel Napier. Davila's battle of Ivry
is worthy of Thucydides himself. Next to Davila I put Guicciardini, and
last of all Machiavelli. But I do not think that you ever read much Italian.
The English poetry of the day has very few attractions for me. Van Artevelde
is far the best specimen that I have lately seen. I do not much like Talfourd's
Ion; but I mean to read it again. It contains pretty lines; but, to my
thinking, it is neither fish nor flesh. There is too much, and too little,
of the antique about it. Nothing but the most strictly classical costume
can reconcile me to a mythological plot; and Ion is a modern philanthropist,
whose politics and morals have been learned from the publications of the
Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.
I do not know whether the noise which the lawyers of the Supreme Court
have been raising against our legislative authority has reached, or will
reach, England. They held a public meeting, which ended, --or rather began,
continued, and ended, --in a riot; and ever since then the leading agitators
have been challenging each other, refusing each other's challenges, libelling
each other, swearing the peace against each other, and blackballing each
Mr. Longueville Clarke, who aspires to be the O'Connell of Calcutta, called
another lawyer a liar. The last- mentioned lawyer challenged Mr. Longueville
Clarke. Mr. Longueville Clarke refused to fight, on the ground that his
opponent had been guilty of hugging attorneys. The Bengal Club accordingly
blackballed Longueville. This, and some other similar occurrences, have
made the opposition here thoroughly ridiculous and contemptible. They will
probably send a petition home; but, unless the House of Commons has undergone
a great change since 1833, they have no chance there.
I have almost brought my letter to a close without mentioning the most
important matter about which I had to write. I dare say you have heard
that my uncle General Macaulay, who died last February, has left me L10,000
This legacy, together with what I shall have saved by the end of 1837,
will make me quite a rich man; richer than I even wish to be as a single
man; and every day renders it more unlikely that I should marry.
We have had a very unhealthy season; but sickness has not come near
our house. My sister, my brother-in-law, and their little child, are as
well as possible. As to me, I think that, as Buonaparte said of himself
after the Russian campaign, J'ai le diable au corps.
Ever yours affectionately
T. B. MACAULAY.
To Macvey Napier, Esq.
Calcutta: November 26, 1836.
Dear Napier, --At last I send you an article of interminable length
about Lord Bacon. I hardly know whether it is not too long for an article
in a Review; but the subject is of such vast extent that I could easily
have made the paper twice as long as it is.
About the historical and political part there is no great probability
that we shall differ in opinion; but what I have said about Bacon's philosophy
is widely at variance with what Dugald Stuart, and Mackintosh, have said
on the same subject. I have not your essay; nor have I read it since I
read it at Cambridge, with very great pleasure, but without any knowledge
of the subject. I have at present only a very faint and general recollection
of its contents, and have in vain tried to procure a copy of it here. I
fear, however, that, differing widely as I do from Stewart and Mackintosh,
I shall hardly agree with you. My opinion is formed, not at second hand,
like those of nine-tenths of the people who talk about Bacon; but after
several very attentive perusals of his greatest works, and after a good
deal of thought. If I am in the wrong, my errors may set the minds of others
at work, and may be the means of bringing both them, and me, to a knowledge
of the truth. I never bestowed so much care on anything that I have written.
There is not a sentence in the latter half of the article which has not
been repeatedly recast. I have no expectation that the popularity of the
article will bear any proportion to the trouble which I have expended on
it. But the trouble has been so great a pleasure to me that I have already
been greatly overpaid. Pray look carefully to the printing.
In little more than a year I shall be embarking for England, and I have
determined to employ the four months of my voyage in mastering the German
language. I should be much obliged to you to send me out, as early as you
can, so that they may be certain to arrive in time, the best grammar, and
the best dictionary, that can be procured; a German Bible; Schiller's works;
Goethe's works; and Niebuhr's History, both in the original, and in the
translation. My way of learning a language is always to begin with the
Bible, which I can read without a dictionary. After a few days passed in
this way, I am master of all the common particles, the common rules of
syntax, and a pretty large vocabulary. Then I fall on some good classical
work. It was in this way that I learned both Spanish and Portuguese, and
I shall try the same course with German.
I have little or nothing to tell you about myself. My life has flowed
away here with strange rapidity. It seems but yesterday that I left my
country; and I am writing to beg you to hasten preparations for my return.
I continue to enjoy perfect health, and the little political squalls which
I have had to weather here are mere capfuls of wind to a man who has gone
through the great hurricanes of English faction.
I shall send another copy of the article on Bacon by another ship.
Yours very truly
T. B. MACAULAY.
Calcutta: November 28, 1836.
Dear Napier, --There is an oversight in the article on Bacon which I
shall be much obliged to you to correct. I have said that Bacon did not
deal at all in idle rants "like those in which Cicero and Mr. Shandy sought
consolation for the loss of Tullia and of Bobby." Nothing can, as a general
remark, be more true, but it escaped my recollection that two or three
of Mr. Shandy's consolatory sentences are quoted from Bacon's Essays. The
illustration, therefore, is singularly unfortunate. Pray alter it thus;
"in which Cicero vainly sought consolation for the loss of Tullia." To
be sure, it is idle to correct such trifles at a distance of fifteen thousand
T. B. MACAULAY.
From Lord Jeffrey to Macvey Napier, Esq.
In the end, the article appeared entire; occupying 104 pages of the Review;
and accompanied by an apology for its length in the shape of one of those
editorial appeals to "the intelligent scholar," and "the best class of
our readers," which never fail of success.
May 2, 1837.
My dear N., --What mortal could ever dream of cutting out the least
particle of this precious work, to make it fit better into your Review?
It would be worse than paring down the Pitt Diamond to fit the old setting
of a Dowager's ring. Since Bacon himself, I do not know that there has
been anything so fine. The first five or six pages are in a lower tone,
but still magnificent, and not to be deprived of a word.
Still, I do not object to consider whether it might not be best to serve
up the rich repast in two courses; and on the whole I incline to that partition.
120 pages might cloy even epicures, and would be sure to surfeit the vulgar;
and the biography and philosophy are so entirely distinct, and of not very
unequal length, that the division would not look like a fracture.
The letters addressed to Zachary Macaulay are half filled with anecdotes
of the nursery; pretty enough, but such as only a grandfather could be
expected to read. In other respects, the correspondence is chiefly remarkable
for the affectionate ingenuity with which the son selects such topics as
would interest the father.
Calcutta: October 12 1836.
My dear Father, --We were extremely gratified by receiving, a few days
ago, a letter from you which, on the whole, gave a good account of your
health and spirits. The day after tomorrow is the first anniversary of
your little grand-daughter's birthday. The occasion is to be celebrated
with a sort of droll puppet-show, much in fashion among the natives; an
exhibition much in the style of Punch in England, but more dramatic and
more showy. All the little boys and girls from the houses of our friends
are invited, and the party will, I have no doubt, be a great deal more
amusing than the stupid dinners and routs with which the grown-up people
here kill the time.
In a few months, --I hope, indeed, in a few weeks ,--we shall send up
the Penal Code to Government. We have got rid of the punishment of death,
except in the case of aggravated treason and wilful murder. We shall also
get rid indirectly of everything that can properly be called slavery in
India. There will remain civil claims on particular people for particular
services, which claims may be enforced by civil action; but no person will
be entitled, on the plea of being the master of another, to do anything
to that other which it would be an offence to do to a free-man.
Our English schools are flourishing wonderfully. We find it difficult,--indeed,
in some places impossible,--to provide instruction for all who want it.
At the single town of Hoogly fourteen hundred boys are learning English.
The effect of this education on the Hindoos is prodigious. No Hindoo, who
has received an English education, ever remains sincerely attached to his
religion. Some continue to profess it as matter of policy; but many profess
themselves pure Deists, and some embrace Christianity. It is my firm belief
that, if our plans of education are followed up, there will not be a single
idolater among the respectable classes in Bengal thirty years hence. And
this will be effected without any efforts to proselytise; without the smallest
interference with religious liberty; merely by the natural operation of
knowledge and reflection. I heartily rejoice in the prospect.
I have been a sincere mourner for Mill. He and I were on the best terms,
and his services at the India House were never so much needed as at this
time. I had a most kind letter from him a few weeks before I heard of his
death. He has a son just come out, to whom I have shown such little attentions
as are in my power.
Within half a year after the time when you read this we shall be making
arrangements for our return. The feelings with which I look forward to
that return I cannot express. Perhaps I should be wise to continue here
longer, in order to enjoy during a greater number of months the delusion,
--for I know that it will prove a delusion, --of this delightful hope.
I feel as if I never could be unhappy in my own country; as if to exist
on English ground and among English people, seeing the old familiar sights
and hearing the sound of my mother tongue, would be enough for me. This
cannot be; yet some days of intense happiness I shall surely have; and
one of those will be the day when I again see my dear father and sisters.
Ever yours most affectionately
T. B. MACAULAY.
Calcutta: November 30, 1836.
Dear Ellis, --How the months run away! Here is another cold season;
morning fogs, cloth coats, green peas, new potatoes, and all the accompaniments
of a Bengal winter. As to my private life, it has glided on, since I wrote
to you last, in the most peaceful monotony. If it were not for the books
which I read, and for the bodily and mental growth of my dear little niece,
I should have no mark to distinguish one part of the year from another.
Greek and Latin, breakfast; business, an evening walk with a book, a drive
after sunset, dinner, coffee, my bed, --there you have the history of a
day. My classical studies go on vigorously. I have read Demosthenes twice,
--I need not say with what delight and admiration. I am now deep in Isocrates
and from him I shall pass to Lysias. I have finished Diodorus Siculus at
last, after dawdling over him at odd times ever since last March. He is
a stupid, credulous, prosing old ass; yet I heartily wish that we had a
good deal more of him. I have read Arrian's expedition of Alexander, together
with Quintus Curtius. I have at stray hours read Longus's Romance and Xenophon's
Ephesiaca; and I mean to go through Heliodorus, and Achilles Tatius, in
the same way. Longus is prodigiously absurd; but there is often an exquisite
prettiness in the style. Xenophon's Novel is the basest thing to be found
in Greek. [Xenophon the Ephesian lived in the third or fourth century of
the Christian era. At the end of his work Macaulay has written: "A most
stupid worthless performance, below the lowest trash of an English circulating
library." Achilles Tatius he disposes of with the words "Detestable trash;"
and the Aethiopics of Heliodorus, which he appears to have finished on
Easter-day, 1837, he pronounces "The best of the Greek Romances, which
is not saying much for it."] It was discovered at Florence, little more
than a hundred years ago, by an English envoy. Nothing so detestable ever
came from the Minerva Press. I have read Theocritus again, and like him
better than ever.
As to Latin, I made a heroic attempt on Pliny's Natural History; but
I stuck after getting through about a quarter of it. I have read Ammianus
Marcellinus, the worst written book in ancient Latin. The style would disgrace
a monk of the tenth century; but Marcellinus has many of the substantial
qualities of a good historian. I have gone through the Augustan history,
and much other trash relating to the lower empire; curious as illustrating
the state of society, but utterly worthless as composition. I have read
Statius again and thought him as bad as ever. I really found only two lines
worthy of a great poet in all the Thebais. They are these. What do you
think of my taste?
"Clamorem, bello qualis supremus apertis
I am now busy with Quintilian and Lucan, both excellent writers. The dream
of Pompey in the seventh book of the Pharsalia is a very noble piece of
writing. I hardly know an instance in poetry of so great an effect produced
by means so simple. There is something irresistibly pathetic in the lines
Urbibus, aut pelago jam descendente carina."
"Qualis erat populi facies, clamorque faventum
and something unspeakably solemn in the sudden turn which follows
Olim cum juvenis--"
"Crastina dira quies--"
There are two passages in Lucan which surpass in eloquence anything that
I know in the Latin language. One is the enumeration of Pompey's exploits
"Quod si tam sacro dignaris nomine saxum--"
The other is the character which Cato gives of Pompey,
"Civis obit, inquit--"
a pure gem of rhetoric, without one flaw, and, in my opinion, not very
far from historical truth. When I consider that Lucan died at twenty-six,
I cannot help ranking him among the most extraordinary men that ever lived.
[The following remarks occur at the end of Macaulay's copy of the Pharsalia:
August 30, 1835. -- "When Lucan's age is considered, it is impossible
not to allow that the poem is a very extraordinary one; more extraordinary,
perhaps, than if it had been of a higher kind; for it is more common for
the imagination to be in full vigour at an early time of life than for
a young man to obtain a complete mastery of political and philosophical
rhetoric. I know no declamation in the world, not even Cicero's best, which
equals some passages in the Pharsalia. As to what were meant for bold poetical
flights,-- the sea-fight at Marseilles, the Centurion who is covered with
wounds, the snakes in the Libyan desert, it is all as detestable as Cibber's
Birthday Odes. The furious partiality of Lucan takes away much of the pleasure
which his talents would otherwise afford. A poet who is, as has often been
said, less a poet than a historian, should to a certain degree conform
to the laws of history. The manner in which he represents the two parties
is not to be reconciled with the laws even of fiction. The senators are
demigods; Pompey, a pure lover of his country; Cato, the abstract idea
of virtue; while Caesar, the finest gentleman, the most humane conqueror,
and the most popular politician that Rome ever produced, is a bloodthirsty
ogre. If Lucan had lived, he would probably have improved greatly." "Again,
December 9, 1836,"]
I am glad that you have so much business, and sorry that you have so
little leisure. In a few years you will be a Baron of the Exchequer; and
then we shall have ample time to talk over our favourite classics. Then
I will show you a most superb emendation of Bentley's in Ampelius, and
I will give you unanswerable reasons for pronouncing that Gibbon was mistaken
in supposing that Quintus Curtius wrote under Gordian.
Remember me most kindly to Mrs. Ellis. I hope that I shall find Frank
writing as good Alcaics as his father.
Ever yours affectionately
T. B. MACAULAY.
Calcutta: March 8, 1837.
The years which Macaulay spent in India formed a transition period between
the time when he kept no journal at all, and the time when the daily portion
of his journal was completed as regularly as the daily portion of his History.
Between 1834 and 1838, he contented himself with jotting down any circumstance
that struck his fancy in the book which he happened to have in hand. The
records of his Calcutta life, written in half a dozen different languages,
are scattered throughout the whole range of classical literature from Hesiod
to Macrobius. At the end of the eighty-ninth Epistle of Seneca we read:
"April 11, 1836. Hodie praemia distribui tois en to mouseio Sanskritiko
neaniskois. [To- day I distributed the prizes to the students of the Sanscrit
Dear Ellis, --I am at present very much worked, and have been so for
a long time past. Cameron, after being laid up for some months, sailed
at Christmas for the Cape, where I hope his health will be repaired; for
this country can very ill spare him. However, we have almost brought our
great work to a conclusion. In about a month we shall lay before the Government
a complete penal Code for a hundred millions of people, with a commentary
explaining and defending the provisions of the text. Whether it is well,
or ill, done heaven knows. I only know that it seems to me to be very ill
done when I look at it by itself; and well done when I compare it with
Livingstone's Code, with the French Code, or with the English statutes
which have been passed for the purpose of consolidating and amending the
Criminal Law. In health I am as well as ever I was in my life. Time glides
fast. One day is so like another that, but for a habit which I acquired
soon after I reached India of pencilling in my books the date of my reading
them, I should have hardly any way of estimating the lapse of time. If
I want to know when an event took place, I call to mind which of Calderon's
plays, or of Plutarch's Lives, I was reading on that day. I turn to the
book; find the date; and am generally astonished to see that, what seems
removed from me by only two or three months, really happened nearly a year
I intend to learn German on my voyage home, and I have indented largely,
(to use our Indian official term), for the requisite books. People tell
me that it is a hard language; but I cannot easily believe that there is
a language which I cannot master in four months, by working ten hours a
day. I promise myself very great delight and information from German literature;
and, over and above, I feel a soft of presentiment, a kind of admonition
of the Deity, which assures me that the final cause of my existence, --the
end for which I was sent into this vale of tears,--was to make game of
certain Germans. The first thing to be done in obedience to this heavenly
call is to learn German; and then I may perhaps try, as Milton says,
"Frangere Saxonicas Britonum sub Marte phalanges."
Ever yours affectionately
T. B. MACAULAY.
On the last page of the Birds of Aristophanes: "Jan. 16, 1836. Oi presbeis
of papa ton Basileos ton Nepauliton eisegonto khthes es Kalkouttan." ["The
ambassadors from the King of Nepaul entered Calcutta yesterday." It may
be observed that Macaulay wrote Greek with or without accents, according
to the humour, or hurry, of the moment.]
On the first page of Theocrats: "March 20, 1835. Lord W. Bentinck sailed
On the last page of the "De Amicitia:" "March 5, 1836. Yesterday Lord
Auckland arrived at Government House, and was sworn in."
Beneath an idyl of Moschus, of all places in the world, Macaulay notes
the fact of Peel being First Lord of the Treasury; and he finds space,
between two quotations in Athenaeus, to commemorate a Ministerial majority
of 29 on the Second Reading of the Irish Church Bill.
A somewhat nearer approach to a formal diary may be found in his Catullus,
which contains a catalogue of the English books that he read in the cold
season of 1835-36; as for instance
|Gibbon's Answer to Davis.
||November 6 and 7
|Gibbon on Virgil's VI Aeneid
And all this was in addition to his Greek and Latin studies, to his
official work, to the French that he read with his sister, and the unrecorded
novels that he read to himself; which last would alone have afforded occupation
for two ordinary men, unless this month of November was different from
every other month of his existence since the day that he left Mr. Preston's
schoolroom. There is something refreshing, amidst the long list of graver
treatises, to light upon a periodical entry of "Pikwikina"; the immortal
work of a Classic who has had more readers in a single year than Statius
and Seneca in all their eighteen centuries together. Macaulay turned over
with indifference, and something of distaste, the earlier chapters of that
modern Odyssey. The first touch which came home to him was Jingle's "Handsome
Englishman?" In that phrase he recognised a master; and, by the time that
he landed in England, he knew his Pickwick almost as intimately as his
Calcutta: June 15, 1837
Dear Napier, --Your letter about my review of Mackintosh miscarried,
vexatiously enough. I should have been glad to know what was thought of
my performance among friends and foes; for here we have no information
on such subjects. The literary correspondents of the Calcutta newspapers
seem to be penny-a-line risen, whose whole stock of literature comes from
the conversations in the Green Room.
My long article on Bacon has, no doubt, been in your hands some time.
I never, to the best of my recollection, proposed to review Hannah More's
Life or Works. If I did, it must have been in jest. She was exactly the
very last person in the world about whom I should choose to write a critique.
She was a very kind friend to me from childhood. Her notice first called
out my literary tastes. Her presents laid the foundation of my library.
She was to me what Ninon was to Voltaire, --begging her pardon for comparing
her to a bad woman, and yours for comparing myself to a great man. She
really was a second mother to me. I have a real affection for her memory.
I therefore could not possibly write about her unless I wrote in her praise;
and all the praise which I could give to her writings, even after straining
my conscience in her favour, would be far indeed from satisfying any of
I will try my hand on Temple, and on Lord Clive. Shaftesbury I shall
let alone. Indeed, his political life is so much connected with Temple's
that, without endless repetition, it would be impossible for me to furnish
a separate article on each. Temple's Life and Works, the part which he
took in the controversy about the ancients and moderns; the Oxford confederacy
against Bentley; and the memorable victory which Bentley obtained, will
be good subjects. I am in training for this part of the subject, as I have
twice read through the Phalaris controversy since I arrived in India.
I have been almost incessantly engaged in public business since I sent
off the paper on Bacon; but I expect to have comparative leisure during
the short remainder of my stay here. The Penal Code of India is finished,
and is in the press. The illness of two of my colleagues threw the work
almost entirely on me. It is done, however; and I am not likely to be called
upon for vigorous exertion during the rest of my Indian career.
T. B. MACAULAY.
If you should have assigned Temple, or Clive, to anybody else,
pray do not be uneasy on that account. The pleasure of writing pays itself.
Calcutta: December 18, 1837.
Dear Ellis, --My last letter was on a deeply melancholy subject, the
death of our poor friend Malkin. I have felt very much for his widow. The
intensity of her affliction, and the fortitude and good feeling which she
showed as soon as the first agony was over, have interested me greatly
in her. Six or seven of Malkin's most intimate friends here have joined
with Ryan and me, in subscribing to put up a plain marble tablet in the
cathedral, for which I have written an inscription. [This inscription appears
in Lord Macaulay's Miscellaneous Works.]
My departure is now near at hand. This is the last letter which I shall
write to you from India. Our passage is taken in the Lord Hungerford; the
most celebrated of the huge floating hotels which run between London and
Calcutta. She is more renowned for the comfort and luxury of her internal
arrangements than for her speed. As we are to stop at the Cape for a short
time, I hardly expect to be with you till the end of May, or the beginning
of June. I intend to make myself a good German scholar by the time of my
arrival in England. I have already, at leisure moments broken the ice.
I have read about half of the New Testament in Luther's translation, and
am now getting rapidly, for a beginner, through Schiller's History of the
Thirty Years' War. My German library consists of all Goethe's works, all
Schiller's works, Muller's History of Switzerland, some of Tieck, some
of Lessing, and other works of less fame. I hope to despatch them all on
my way home. I like Schiller's style exceedingly. His history contains
a great deal of very just and deep thought, conveyed in language so popular
and agreeable that dunces would think him superficial.
I lately took it into my head to obtain some knowledge of the Fathers,
and I read therefore a good deal of Athanasius, which by no means raised
him in my opinion. I procured the magnificent edition of Chrysostom, by
Montfaucon, from a public library here, and turned over the eleven huge
folios, reading wherever the subject was of peculiar interest. As to reading
him through, the thing is impossible. These volumes contain matter at least
equal to the whole extant literature of the best times of Greece, from
Homer to Aristotle inclusive. There are certainly some very brilliant passages
in his homilies. It seems curious that, though the Greek literature began
to flourish so much earlier than the Latin, it continued to flourish so
much later. Indeed, if you except the century which elapsed between Cicero's
first public appearance and Livy's death, I am not sure that there was
any time at which Greece had not writers equal or superior to their Roman
contemporaries. I am sure that no Latin writer of the age of Lucian is
to be named with Lucian; that no Latin writer of the age of Longinus is
to be named with Longinus; that no Latin prose of the age of Chrysostom
can be named with Chrysostom's compositions. I have read Augustin's Confessions.
The book is not without interest; but he expresses himself in the style
of a field-preacher.
Our Penal Code is to be published next week. It has cost me very intense
labour; and, whatever its faults may be, it is certainly not a slovenly
performance. Whether the work proves useful to India or not, it has been
of great use, I feel and know, to my own mind.
[In October 1854, Macaulay writes to my mother: "I cannot but be pleased
to find that, at last, the Code on which I bestowed the labour of two of
the best years of my life has had justice done to it. Had this justice
been done sixteen years ago, I should probably have given much more attention
to legislation, and much less to literature than I have done. I do not
know that I should have been either happier or more useful than I have
Ever yours affectionately
T. B. MACAULAY.