« AnteriorContinuar »
truth without being opaque. (6) He is tolerant of everything except tyranny and injustice; he is the champion of all that is sane in democratic institutions, and through all his works there is a strong, wholesome, and invigorating spirit of moral earnestness.
Either these qualities or some others found approval with the people, for it was soon apparent that the “Edinburgh Review” had a much larger circulation when it contained an article by him than when it did not. For twenty years he was the chief pillar of its popularity. During that time he contributed to it in all thirty-six papers, varying in length from twenty-two to one hundred and twenty-nine quarto pages, and ranging in subject from Mr. Robert Montgomery's poems to Lord Bacon's philosophy. It is impossible here to give an adequate idea of their contents or style. Every student may judge of them for himself if he will read, as he should, the essays on John Milton, Warren Hastings, and Croker's Boswell. Those who appreciate these justly will be sure to read the rest of his writings.
It must not be understood, however, that Macaulay, during this period, devoted himself wholly to literature. His vocation from 1830 to 1847 was really politics and politics of the most absorbing interest. He obtained a seat in Parliament in the former year as representative for the pocket borough of Calne and immediately gave the entire support of his eloquence to a reform which swept his constituency out of existence. In six great speeches between March, 1831, and February, 1832, he won recognition as a master in debate by the battle that he fought for the right of the English voter to be fairly represented. There were those then who pronounced him the best speaker in England, and there are those now who go so far as to say that his speeches are better than his essays. Two things are sure: There are no more entertaining speeches in print than those he made on copyright; and no oratory, ancient or modern, ever converted defeat into victory by sheer force of logic more completely than these. So large, in fact, was Macaulay's success as an orator that, in 1834, he was rewarded by a job in India which was worth 10,000 pounds a year. Upon his great and permanent services to that unhappy country we have, unfortunately, no time to dwell. Suffice it to say that he accomplished much for justice and for education. In India he remained five years. Upon his return to England he re-entered Parliament as a member for Edinburgh, but in 1847 he lost his seat owing to the fact that the barkeepers were angry because he had voted for a higher tax on beer while the clergy were displeased because he had supported a grant to a Catholic college in Ireland. Half a dozen other seats were instantly offered him, but he embraced the opportunity to quit politics in order to devote himself to a greater literary task than any he had yet undertaken. Five years later his Edinburgh constituents, thoroughly ashamed of themselves, made what reparation they could by sending him back to Parliament.
In the meantime he was busy with his “ History of England.” It was his purpose to give an account of all the important transactions between 1688, when the Crown was brought into harmony with the Parliament, and 1832, when the Parliament was brought into harmony with the people. Two volumes were published in 1848 and two more in 1855. Their success was instantaneous and permanent. Honors were showered on the author from the four quarters of the globe. In one week he received letters of congratulation from people at Charleston, people at Heidelberg, and people at Paris. In one check, Mr. Longmans paid him 20,000 pounds, which still remains the largest lump sum ever paid for literary remuneration in any country.
The causes of this immense success were in the main the same as the causes of the success of his essays. There was the same vigorous, lucid, and at times caustic style, which made reading easy and stimulating to even the weariest minds. There was the same rich store of allusions, which flattered those who understood them and aroused the curiosity of those who did not. There were vast knowledge, cheerful optimism, and a power of narration which is so vivid thať the work has all the interest of a novel.
These qualities, however, found less favor in the following generation. A new school of historians arose, who sought to reduce history to a science. The result was more or less of an attempt to discredit Macaulay. While everybody admitted that his narrative was admirably picturesque, his historical method was pronounced out of date by those who preferred Buckle, who explained everything by environment, and Taine, who explained everything by climate. At the same
time Freeman, Stubbs, Creighton, and Gardiner by their writings made it fashionable to consider human interest as of less consequence than documentary evidence.
As a matter of fact, these writers, in comparison with Macaulay, are quarrymen rather than architects. They give us the material for history instead of history itself. Their histories are for the most part as shapeless and as useless as piles of brick and stone, while his is a stately mansion.
This stately mansion, however, was never completed. The first four volumes covered only twelve years. Somebody has calculated that, at the rate he was progressing, it would have taken Macaulay one hundred and thirty years to complete his task. To render the situation still more hopeless, his health broke down. A stroke of heart failure, in 1852, made him, to quote his own words, twenty years older in one week. Thereafter he was never well. Yet, even amidst the ruins of his hopes and ambitions, he allowed no word of complaint to escape him. In his private diary, under the date of December 31, 1853, he wrote: “I enjoy this invalid life extremely."
One great mark of distinction came to him during these closing years. In 1857, Queen Victoria made him Baron Macaulay of Rothley. He died December 28, 1859, falling peacefully asleep among his books at Holly Lodge, Hampden Hill. Upon his desk, not yet sealed, were found a letter to a poor clergyman and a check for twenty pounds, both prepared evidently in reply to an appeal for assistance.
Lack of space renders it impossible here to discuss a score of interesting topics. The student would find abundant pleasure in reading at length of his Scotch ancestry, his father's distinguished services to humanity, the lifelong battle which he waged with Carlyle, his fondness for bad novels, his hatred of bad poets, his slovenly clothes, his strange predilection for embroidered waistcoats, his enormous consumption of razor strops, the fine audacity with which he abused his constituents, his munificent and unostentatious charity, the terrors of his invective, his hatred of those Americans who carry red notebooks, his voluminous reading, the lessons in statecraft which he gave Gladstone, the delight with which even Christopher North hailed the “ Lays of Ancient Rome,” his anxiety that his books should be
accurately punctuated, his complete familiarity with Herodotus and Thucydides, and his complete ignorance of Carlyle and Ruskin. All these things and more are told in what is, on the whole, the most entertaining biography in the English language, the “Life of Macaulay,” by his nephew, Sir George Otto Trevelyan.
Macaulay rests with his peers in Westminster Abbey. “There,” I am quoting the last words of this remarkable book,tombs of Handel and Goldsmith and Burke and Garrick and Johnson, stands conspicuous the monument of Addison, and at the feet of Addison lies the stone which bears the inscription:
“ Thomas Babington, Baron Macaulay
Born Oct. 25, 1800
Died Dec. 28, 1859
QUESTIONS AND EXERCISES 1. What is meant by “precocity”? Describe the young Macaulay's intel
lectual pursuits. 2. What college did he attend and what were his activities as a student? 3. What sort of man was Macaulay ? 4. What was his first literary success? 5. Tell the secrets of Macaulay's charm. 6. Name three of Macaulay's greatest essays. 7. Outline his political career. 8. What is the difference between Macaulay's historical method and that
of modern historians ? 9. Compare and contrast Macaulay with Addison, Johnson, Burke, or
Carlyle. 10. Name two of the greatest English biographies.
Suggested Readings.—“Fragments of a Roman Tale”; Essays on Addison, Goldsmith, Johnson, Clive, Hastings, Frederic the Great; "Lays of Ancient Rome"; and the first chapter of the “History of England.” Trevelyan's “Life of Macaulay " is one of the most readable books in the world, fully worthy to be the biography of the most readable of all authors.
LORD TENNYSON (1809-1892)
“ It is in Tennyson that we find the quintessence of the aims and aspirations of the second half of the nineteenth century.”—Arthur Waugh.
“ A true human soul, or some authentic approximation thereto, to whom your own soul can say, “ Brother!'”—Carlyle. · Who shall have the third place, if it be not Tennyson?”
-Henry Van Dyke. “ The most faultless of modern poets in technical execution.”
-E. C. Stedman. ALFRED TENNYSON was born August 6, 1809, at Somersby in Lincolnshire. The year 1809 has been called the annus mirabilis of the nineteenth century because it witnessed the birth of so many great people, among them being Mrs. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Darwin, W. E. Gladstone, Felix Mendelssohn, and Abraham Lincoln. Tennyson's father was a stern doctor. His mother was so kind hearted that the inhabitants of the neighboring village used to bring their dogs to her windows and beat them in order to be bribed by the gentle lady to leave off. She is described in his poem of “ Isabel.” When she was almost eighty, a daughter, under cover of her deafness, ventured to mention the number of proposals of marriage which the old lady had received, naming twenty-four. Suddenly, to the amusement of all present, she said emphatically and simply, as for truth's sake: “No, my dear, twenty-five.” The Tennyson family was completed by a cook, who afterwards said of them, “If you raäked out Hell with a small tooth coämb you weänt find their likes ”; and an Aunt, who wept for hours at a time because God was so infinitely good. “ Has he not damned most of my friends? ” said she. “But me he has picked out for eternal salvation, me who am no better than my neighbors." One day she said to her nephew: " Alfred, when I look at you I think of the words of Holy Scripture—depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire.” In this environment, Tennyson passed his earliest years,