Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay

by Sir George Otto Trevelyan 

VOLUME I (1876)


WHEN publishing the Second Edition of Lord MACAULAY'S Life and Letters, I may be permitted to say that no pains were spared in order that the First Edition should be as complete as possible. But, in the course of the last nine months, I have come into possession of a certain quantity of supplementary matter, which the appearance of the book has elicited from various quarters. Stray letters have been hunted up. Half-forgotten anecdotes have been recalled. Floating reminiscences have been reduced to shape;--in one case, as will be seen from the extracts from Sir William Stirling Maxwell's letter, by no unskilful hand. I should have been tempted to draw more largely upon these new resources, if it had not been for the examples, which literary history only too copiously affords, of the risk that attends any attempt to alter the form, or considerably increase the bulk, of a work which, in its original shape, has had the good fortune not to displease the public. I have, however, ventured, by a very sparing selection from sufficiently abundant material, slightly to enlarge, and, I trust, somewhat to enrich the book.

If this Second Edition is not rigidly correct in word and substance, I have no valid excuse to offer. Nothing more pleasantly indicates the wide-spread interest with which Lord MACAULAY has inspired his readers, both at home and in foreign countries, than the almost microscopic care with which these volumes have been studied. It is not too much to say that, in several instances, a misprint, or a verbal error, has been brought to my notice by at least five-and-twenty different persons; and there is hardly a page in the book which has not afforded occasion for comment or suggestion from some friendly correspondent. There is no statement of any importance throughout the two volumes the accuracy of which has been circumstantially impugned; but some expressions, which have given personal pain or annoyance, have been softened or removed.

There is another class of criticism to which I have found myself altogether unable to defer. I have frequently been told by reviewers that I should "have better consulted MACAULAY'S reputation," or "done more honour to MACAULAY'S memory," if I had omitted passages in the letters or diaries which may be said to bear the trace of intellectual narrowness, or political and religious intolerance. I cannot but think that strictures, of this nature imply a serious misconception of the biographer's duty. It was my business to show my Uncle as he was, and not as I, or any one else, would have had him. If a faithful picture of MACAULAY could not have been produced without injury to his memory, I should have left the task of drawing that picture to others; but, having once undertaken the work, I had no choice but to ask myself, with regard to each feature of the portrait, not whether it was attractive, but whether it was characteristic. We who had the best opportunity of knowing him have always been convinced that his character would stand the test of an exact, and even a minute, delineation; and we humbly believe that our confidence was not misplaced, and that the reading world has now extended to the man the approbation which it has long conceded to his hooks.

G. O. T.
December 1876.


THIS work has been undertaken principally from a conviction that it is the performance of a duty which, to the best of my ability, it is incumbent on me to fulfil. Though even on this ground I cannot appeal to the forbearance of my readers, I may venture to refer to a peculiar difficulty which I have experienced in dealing with Lord MACAULAY'S private papers.

To give to the world compositions not intended for publication may be no injury to the fame of writers who, by habit, were careless and hasty workmen; but it is far otherwise in the case of one who made it a rule for himself to publish nothing which was not carefully planned, strenuously laboured, and minutely finished. Now, it is impossible to examine Lord MACAULAY'S journals and correspondence without being persuaded that the idea of their being printed, even in part, never was present to his mind; and I should not feel myself justified in laying them before the public if it were not that their unlaboured and spontaneous character adds to their biographical value all, and perhaps more than all, that it detracts from their literary merit.

To the heirs and relations of Mr. Thomas Flower Ellis and Mr. Adam Black, to the Marquis of Lansdowne, to Mr. Macvey Napier, and to the executors of Dr. Whewell, my thanks are due for the courtesy with which thhey have placed the different portions of my Uncle's correspondence at my disposal. Lady Caroline Lascelles has most kindly permitted me to use as much of Lord Carlisle's journal as relates to the subject of this work; and Mr. Charles Cowan, my Uncle's old opponent at Edinburgh, has sent me a considerable mass of printed matter bearing upon the elections of 1847 and 1852. The late Sir Edward Ryan, and Mr. Fitzjames Stephen, spared no pains to inform me with regard to Lord MACAULAY'S work at Calcutta. His early letters, with much that relates to the whole course of his life, have been preserved, studied, and arranged, by the affectionate industry of his sister, Miss Macaulay; and material of high interest has been entrusted to my hands by Mr. and the Hon. Mrs. Edward Cropper. I have been assisted throughout the book by the sympathy, and the recollections, of my sister Lady Holland, the niece to whose custody Lord MACAULAY'S papers by inheritance descend.

March 1876. 

 ~~ Macaulay index page ~~ fwp's main page ~~