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for universal justice-out upon the grumbler! we are half disposed, reflecting upon all his difficulties, to declare at once that it is not the artist's fault.
There are great excuses for him at all events; and with his principal characters, we are bound to confess Mr Macaulay does a great deal in the way of varying his lights and shadows, acknowledging the episodes of honesty in the man whom he dislikes, and the episodes of meanness in his favourites. But with his secondary characters, his Fox, his Penn, his Dartmouth, the historian takes no such pains. If he finds them in the shadow when his lantern first gleams upon them, he takes special care to leave them there, and, we admit, seems to find a somewhat malicious pleasure in darkening the further shades of the portrait, in defiance of all critics and all proofs. There seems even a certain boyish gleam of mischief, in the persistence with which Mr Macaulay sets down William Penn, and steadily ignores the disclaimer of his champion. We have no doubt this is a very improper way of dealing with the reputation of the famous Quaker--and doubt less the accomplished historian himself would give us small thanks for our opinion-yet we cannot resist a certain consciousness of fun in this encounter-in the somewhat clamorous championship of Penn's biographer, and the sublime disdain of Mr Macaulay, who, taking no notice of the defence, only gives a punch the more, by way of self-justification, to the hatless head of the man of peace. Whether an artist, on purely artistic principles, is at liberty thus to use the names and reputations of real persons is quite a different matter; and for our own part, we are free to declare that it would be extremely poor satisfaction to ourselves had our own grandfather come in for a share of this historical painting-out, to know that just at that point Mr Macaulay needed a foil for some of his strong lights, and made it accordingly in the person of our respected ancestor. But we exonerate the historian altogether from malicious motives. It is entirely for the sake of art, most courteous reader; if it is
your grandfather, let us pray your patience. It is from no prepossession against you or yours,-no unkindly prejudice towards the worthy old gentleman slumbering with perfect composure, careless of all that can be said of him, in your family vault and picture-gallery. The skilful blot upon your scutcheon is a mere exigence of the studio. Mr Macaulay wanted a bit of shadow, and produced it-all for love and not a bit in malice
with the calmest feeling of indifference towards all your grandfathers, and the tenderest regard, as an interested reader, for you.
But with all Mr Macaulay's artistic powers, great as they are, we are by no means impressed with his power of realising and presenting individual character. It very often happens with him as with a novelist, who finds it easier to describe his heroes than to exhibit them in action. The short but elaborate personal account and description, always striking, effective, and epigrammatic, with which our historian introduces all his more remarkable characters to the reader, very often has the effect of confusing more than it enlightens us,
for the real actions of the said personages, as they make their appearance one by one, are often very little in harmony with the dramatic epitome of character with which the story begins. Human character, after all, we are afraid, is not to be rounded into periods, and it is the rarest thing in the world to find a man with just that happy poise of faculties which suffices to point the polished balance of an antithesis. These bits of writing by themselves look like admirable historic sketches; but when the man comes after this description of him-sometimes bad, sometimes good, often indifferent, in no pomp of characteristic completeness, but with most unequal human footsteps, we are no longer able to receive, as a genuine portrait, the brilliant sketch of Mr Macaulay. Epigrams, pretty, sparkling, and effective as they are, are much too perfect to be human,— and to describe men by means of these dazzling toys of rhetoric, is to lose sight of that grand human quality of incompleteness, which is, in fact, the greatest distinction of our race. We
acknowledge the peculiar temptation of historical writers, and of writers of that microcosmal history which is called biography, to improve and complete the halting actions and imperfect lives of their subjects; but the very attempt throws over the narrative an air of doubtfulness. We are sceptical by instinct of the truth of a portrait which can be drawn by an antithesis, the chance seems too fortunate to be real. And when we hear anunhappy individual described thus, our faith wavers: "He was orthodox in belief, correct in morals, insinuating in address, a hypocrite, a mischief-maker, and a coward." It may be all true-possibly the description is bona fide and unimpeachable, but it does not look like it-such an epitome of mind and manners is a great deal too complete to recommend itself to any man's experience. This is a sin against art.
There is perhaps no man in existence who can paint a crowd better, and few who can do it so well as our historian. The throng, the hum, the breaks and openings-the press in the midst, and the groups on the outskirts, are perfect and not to be amended; but supposing ourselves to be quite unacquainted with them beforehand, we should find it very hard work to make out and identify, with a few exceptions, the individuals who figure foremost in the pages of Mr Macaulay. There is for instance Marlborough, for whom this writer seems to entertain a most hearty and unequivocal dislike. He is described in the author's most telling and trenchant style, with an admirable balance of periods, and something which looks extremely like personal bitterness. He, "who in the bloom of youth loved lucre more than wine or women, and at the height of greatness loved lucre more than power or fame." He, "who was not less distinguished by avarice and baseness than by capacity and valour," and whose life "will appear a prodigy of turpitude," ought, one would suppose, to leave a very visible impression upon the story which so distinguishes him. But we confess, though we trace his name, page after page, through these volumes, we are, at the end of them,
as ignorant of Marlborough as if no such person had ever lived or fought upon this crowded scene - we hear of him, but we do not see him. Mr Macaulay is so good as to describe the great conqueror and "do for him;" but we never attain to a real glimpse of the man, nor are able to form, for ourselves, a personal estimate of his qualities. And Mary, who seems to move the heart of the historian to a positive tenderness-can any one gather any definite idea of her, from the pages of her panegyrist? Our general impression is, from all he says, that she was rather good, a little foolish, and smiled. For our own part, glancing by chance into Mr Burton's History of Scotland, where, clever though the book is, there is no such graphic power as that of Mr Macaulay, we were suddenly impressed with a clearer and more distinct identification of William's queen, than we could gain from all the praises of her professed champion. And we acknowledge ourselves entirely confused among his crowd of statesmen, and filled with perplexity to know and to remember which is which. So long as we keep in our mind's eye the oratorical preface which introduces each to the public, we do tolerably well; but when the crowd closes, and the interest grows when there are stormy debates in the House of Commons, troubles among the peers, conferences in the Jerusalem Chamber between the belligerent houses, plots and rumours of plotsdefeats, and victories we find it entirely impossible to preserve the thread of identity. If some enterprising publisher would collect these historical sketches, these summaries and graphic descriptions of character, which occur throughout the book, whenever a new name appears upon the roll, and print them as a key and handbook for the readers of Mr Macaulay, we should acknowledge ourselves greatly indebted. We commend our suggestion to the consideration of Messrs Longman-besides all other advantages, there could not possibly be compiled a more brilliant or attractive little book.
These objections to the most famous work of the day, we take
entirely on the ground of art-which, we respectfully submit, is the real and primary standing-point from which to regard the performance of Mr Macaulay. From beginning to end it is a grand moving picture, a dramatic representation glowing and gorgeous. Mr Charles Kean's most perfect mise en scène is not so dazzling nor so lifelike as the combinations of our historian; and we crave liberty to judge him first on the ground which he most evidently and distinctly occupies. We repeat our conviction that he is unrivalled as a painter of crowds-that his grouping is admirable, his composition superb. When he fails it is because this same crowd, picturesque and brilliant, hurries him away into its thronged and bewildering splendour; because he does not take time to distinguish the prominent individuals who give character and inspiration to it-and because he sometimes forgets that those terse and sparkling sayings which may be true of an assemblage of men the throng which, in its conjoint character, surrenders for the moment all individual identity—are not applicable to the one person who may lead and control the same. These are faults of execution; there is one grand error besides which lies deeper and is more universally pervasive-it is that Mr Macaulay is no poet; he never comes at the heart. It is to "society" present that he expounds and presents the record of society" past. These splendid groups these dramatic combinations this brilliant surface and front of things, is his true element. He knows his ground when it is parliaments and counsels, statesmen and princes, with whom he has to deal; but when he comes into a primitive condition of life, our artist, though he carries it bravely, cannot choose but show a little bewilderment. Between the highest polish of his time, and the extreme savagery which forms so effective a contrast with it, Mr Macaulay scarcely touches upon any middle ground; and the human heart and common nature, which connect all classes, that touch which makes the whole world kin, is not within the power of this accomplished master of words
and colours. The Mendip miners on the borders of the marsh, fighting with their steady, voiceless English bravery for poor wavering Monmouth, appear for an instant, and only for an instant, brightening through the miserable phantasmagoria of that poor attempt of weak ambition; and one feels instinctively that the remorseless statesmanship of the Master of Stair, though he may not feel it quite proper to approve of it, gains more of the historian's sympathy than the outraged homes and murdered cottagers of that poor clachan of Glencoe. The sufferers are poor creatures enough, claiming but a small amount of intellectual interest; but the policy
the passionless cruel wisdom which Mr Macaulay has once well described in his sketch of Machiavel, interests, in his own despite, a writer who is more learned in the crafts of state than in the pangs of nature. Primitive emotions, strong and undemonstrative - the broad basis of national life far down out of the reach of courts and council chambers, are things beyond the handling of this historian. He escapes with an evident relief to the parliamentary commotions with which he is familiar, and is well pleased to forget in those admirable summaries of the debates of Lords and Commons, which fill so large a place in his last volumes, the less manageable movements of the nation. His pen is a polished stylus, which loves the records of senate and tribunal of state; but those dazzling pictures want the perfecting touch of genius, they have nothing to do with the heart. They are high art, but not the highest; they want those human vignettes, those snatches of simple illustration which give truth and intensity to the broader picture, without diminishing by a hair's-breadth the interest of the drama. This subliming touch of poetic power is wanting to Mr Macaulay; wherefore his pictures, so perfect in execution, so fine in conception, do not, though possibly unequalled in their combination of powers, reach to the highest rank of art.
We propose now, having given so much space to the artistic perfec
tion of Mr Macaulay's very fascinating books, a brief glance at the scene, the period, and the personages whom he has chosen to deal with. Afterwards, we will take a little pains to look into the temper and justice of the historian in his treatment of these same personages -into the charges he has brought against them, and the defences set up in their behalf-defences which our historian himself, so far as we are aware, has not taken any notice of.
To have false names and dates of the time of Queen Anne poured into his ears, and to be struck dumb, and unable to refute them, was the purgatorial torment invented by the lively wit of Sydney Smith for his friend and fellow-reviewer ;-from whence we may infer that Mr Macaulay's period, par excellence, has not yet begun to reveal to us its record of wit and statesmanship. The time he has chosen, the beginning of our modern era of history, is one of unsurpassed importance in our national annals. 1688, to be a revolution, was not at all a splendid affair. It altogether lacked the fire and the storm, the glory and the terror, of that former most radical of revolutions, which preceded it only by two generations; yet, against all likelihood, its results have been far more beneficial, and its rule more lasting, than any_heroical overturn of an empire. Perhaps it is but another proof of the wisdom of those children of this world who are wiser in their generation than the children of light. Yet it is striking enough to contrast the old-world virtue and rugged nobleness of the days of Cromwell-the fervour of religious feeling which for once seemed to have seized upon a whole peopleand the high and visionary ideal in pursuit of which the leaders of the Great Rebellion pursued their unwavering way, at all risks to themselves and to others with the ignoble public mind, the meanness, the treachery, and the endless compromises, which distinguish the days of William. Nothing came of that grand national tragedy: a judge arose and judged Israel: Oliver reigned and Oliver died;-and when this one glorious Optimist was gone,
the tide dashed over his kingdom, and swept it into the direst degradation which ever has befallen England. Then came the Constitutional Revolution-bloodless, parliamentary, and unheroical, without a single man connected with it who held the sway of genius over the minds or imaginations of the people. Its distinguishing features were plots and squabbles, treachery upon treachery-with little which could be called absolute right in the whole matter, and only the one prop of practicability to maintain the changing and uncertain counsels of the time. But the small age which clung to the practical has carried the day over the great age which aimed at the ideal. It is not very pleasant to think upon yet it is true.
The interval between these two revolutions seems a period of transition inevitable to every history, whether of a family or an empire; the time when the old things are passing away, when the new which is to succeed them is not developed, and when, desperately clinging to the ancient rule, we make insane efforts to preserve it, propping up the falling fabric with a hundred halfconscious fallacies. Whatever may be the fluctuations of superficial politics, the bulk of a nation, if it be not raised to some great outburst of national fury, is always conservative; and it takes. more than one generation to modify old ideas, and loose old prejudices enough to admit of any great change. What Mr Macaulay calls the limited monarchy of the middle ages, had worn itself out by the time of Charles I.; but the monarchy, however limited, was nevertheless the sway of an individual over a nation-a direct personal relationship between the people and the king. The great event of that unfortunate prince's history-the event which startled the whole empire into horror and consternation, and which converted the common loyalty of his followers into a passion and a sentiment-had, after the boldest and fiercest fashion, identified the monarch as a person bearing all the responsibility, and risking all the penalties of a chief magistrate. Then came Cromwell's most personal and
individual reign; and then, in a frenzy of popular delight and rejoicing, the king returned to enjoy "his own again." The struggle commenced with the Restoration. These high contracting parties, England and Charles Stuart, stood fronting each other. Never was nation more willing to be ruled. Would he reign over her? The question was a most momentous one.
But the second Charles had no mind to trouble himself so far; he was content that any one, even the French Louis, hereditary rival and enemy as he was, should reign instead of him, and the country gradually, sorrowfully, wonderingly, found it out. Then succeeded James, who wanted to reign; and he managed the great empire as a London vestryman might manage a parish, with an odious and meddling tyranny, which, but for the vast power which made a tragedy of the farce, would have been ridiculous and contemptible. They were lamentable failures for kings, these two legitimate and hereditary princes; their father had been a failure, and the cure in his case was fatal and sharp when iron-handed Oliver took his crown. But that grand usurpation was after all only an expedient, and one not to be desired nor repeated a temporary expedient, which left the nation in a rather worse position than before. Now what was to be done?
What was done was not decided by any formal theory-people are seldom very logical in their proceedings when they are about a very great event; but it seems then to have dawned upon the mind of the country that what she wanted was no longer a person, but a thing-a steadfast and firm institution, standing strong in the midst of all popular convulsions, and not a man to be worshipped or beheaded as his fortune was. It is in this character that William of Orange appears, a calm, abstract, self-engaged figure, among the uncertain crowds which press about the throne, and we are aware at once of the different atmosphere, the changed world which centres in this taciturn Dutchman, who establishes no personal relations with the country which he comes to save. There is little love on either side, and not much profession of it. The era
of personal and passionate loyalty, the time of that fervid sentiment of devotion which makes many a page of history glow like a tale of romance, is over for ever. We do not deny a certain heroism and kingliness to the character of William, but it was not as a hero that he came to England. In the whole history of his progress here, we recognise not an individual but an impersonation-never a great man applying himself hurriedly, at the call of time and Providence, to his natural vocation. He comes before us with a certain quiet solemnity, an office, and not a person. It is the Constitutional Sovereign, the king of parliaments and ministers, the institution of monarchy. The old time of romance, with all its splendid chances, merges into the steadfast and sober day which now surrounds us. The magnificent lottery of court favour, the prizes of power and dominion almost regal, which once lay open to the grasp of Strafford's gloomy genius, or the gay gifts of Buckingham, no longer glittered on the tree of state to tempt the daring foot of ambition. The time of personal sovereignty went out and came to a conclusion, and into its place marched a grave official figure, the emblem of all authority, the absolute possessor of
And how to make reasonable law and rule, parliamentary decisions and public opinion, take the place of the individual ruler, who was no longer a practicable instrument of sovereignty, was the problem of the age. When he comes to record the processes by which this was accomplished, the beginnings of our present system of government, Mr Macaulay plants his foot upon his native heath, and rejoices in the congenial occupation. It is not often that we meet with such a narrative of debate, so perfect an abridgment and epitome of discussions, which doubtless contained plenty of irrelevant matter, and an abundant ballast of dulness, as is the nature of debates; and there are elements of the picturesque in the perpetual controversy, and more stir and motion in the scene than is usual to a mere battle of words. Uncertainty, if it be one of the least comfortable of all conditions of mind,