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no conversational force or brilliancy, hates arguing; is as
“ fond of smoking as an American or a Mussulman;" passes most of his time in the country; his favorite spot being a small farmhouse near Maidstone. He is occasionally visible to his friends in London for a month or so, but to see him in his best mood you must catch him with his cigar, or under a tree lounging on
a warm, lazy day.” Born in Lincolnshire, it is curious to observe how the suggestions of that fenny scenery have pervaded his writings and influenced his choice of images.
He is reserved in his habits, has a fine intellectual face, and is very calm and self-possessed : there is an admirable picture of him by Lawrence. He is approaching his fortieth year. Lately he has been rewarded by the queen with a pension of £200 a year. We are told that she was much charmed with his ballad of Lord Burleigh; the poem being pointed out to her during her late visit to the Marquis of Exeter, at Burleigh. The pension came very opportune, he having lost most of his small patrimony in a speculation. For the especial information of our female readers, he is unmarried.
THOMAS BABINGTON MACAULAY.
T. B. Macaulay is the son of Zachary Macaulay, the friend of Wilberforce, and, like him, a great abolitionist.
In 1818 this distinguished writer entered himself of Trinity College, Cambridge, where he took his degree in 1822. Here he gave evidence of his great intellectual powers, obtaining a scholarship, twice gaining the Chancellor's medal for English verse; and to crown his triumphs, secured the second Craven Scholarship, the highest distinction in classics which the University confers.
Having no taste for mathematics, he did not compete for honors at graduation, but nevertheless he obtained a fellowship at the October competition open to graduates of Trinity, which he resigned on his sailing for India. He devoted much of his time to the Union Club, a debating society, where he was considered an eloquent speaker.
He then studied at Lincoln's Inn, and was called to the bar in 1826. It was in this year that his celebrated Essay on Milton appeared in the Edinburgh Review, and from this time dates the friendship of Mr. Jeffrey and Macaulay. Soon after they went the circuit together, and took the opportunity of visiting Scotland.
When the whigs came into power Mr. Macaulay was appointed Commissioner of Bankrupts, and shortly after was elected for Colne in the first Reformed Parliament. He was then made Secretary to the India Board, and in 1834 was returned as member for Leeds.
He relinquished his seat the same year on his appointment to
the Supreme Council in Calcutta under the East India Company's new charter.
On his arrival in Calcutta, in September of the same year, he assumed, at the request of Lord William Bentinck, in addition to his seat at the Council, the Presidency of the Commission of Five. Here his impartiality between the Europeans and Natives was so striking as to expose him to the most malignant attacks of the selfish, the unprincipled and the proud. After supporting Lord William Bentinck in all those great reforms which he made, Mr. Macaulay returned to England in 1838.
The following year he was elected member for Edinburgh, and was shortly made Secretary at War. We shall not allude to his parliamentary life with the single exception of his conduct on the copy-right bill. Mr. Sergeant Talfourd had labored zealously on this point, and had good reason to depend upon Mr. Macaulay's support: he had appeared to coincide with him during the framing of the measure, and dining with the sergeant, a few nights before the debate in the house, had led him to count upon his support. He, however, made a strong speech against it, and forgot so far the courtesy of a gentleman as to unsparingly satirize the author of the measure.
He has lately been elected Lord Rector of the Glasgow University, and his address on the installation was greatly admired.
As a critic, essayist and historian, Mr. Macaulay may be considered as the first of our time; his style is correct and yet popular ; full of glowing imagery, chastened by the truest taste.
We have often thought the Essay on Milton has been absurdly over praised, and have occasionally said so, both in print and in conversation. We were, however, not prepared for the sweeping, and if not sincere, most affected deprecation from the author's own pen.
When his contributions to the Review were collected in three volumes Mr. Macaulay wrote a preface, in which the following paragraph appears.
“ No attempt has been made to remodel any of the pieces which are contained in these volumes. Even the criticism on Milton, which was written when the author was fresh from college, and which contains scarcely a paragraph such as his matured judgment approves, still remains overloaded with gaudy and ungraceful ornament.”
Surely half an hour's honest labor would have removed most of these eyesores, or counselled the rejection of the whole article.
The chiefest triumphs of Macaulay's critical art are his essays on Warren Hastings, Bacon, and Boswell's Johnson; the former is a model of biography; the man stands out from the canvas with all the necessary associations hanging to him of the great events in which he was so conspicuous an actor, and yet no prolixity or · tedious enumeration of public events. It is, however, in the masterly essay on Bacon that for the first time we have an idea presented to the mind of that wonderful man, the Shakspere of science and learning—all is harmonious; it is too well known to need any extracts to justify our praise.
The next publication of Mr. Macaulay's, his “ Lays of Ancient Rome;" was a singular attempt to vivify decayed life, and though unsuccessful, yet it was an interesting failure; a modern may get a better idea of old Roman manners and habits of thought from this book than from all the histories in the world. It is certainly a half resuscitation of a mummy. We shall pass over this work to come to his last and greatest labor, his History of England—as this is the most matured of his productions, we shall endeavor to illustrate his style and peculiarities of mind from this valuable treasury of fact and thought.
There are many writers who display as much understanding; more who show greater research ; others have more humor, but we venture to say there is no writer of modern times who combines the necessary quantity of these various faculties in so harmonious a manner: added to this, he has considerable logical acuteness, a fine taste, and over all, his prose is the very finest of modern times we
have read. No writer of the day has the same power of divesting subjects of their difficulties and obscurities, and placing the naked question before you stripped of its adventitious garments. How frequently, on the other hand, has he thrown a robe of beauty and interest round an unpromising and prosaic matter of either history, finance, or legislation.
But the very qualities which render him an admirable critic where the judgment is brought into superior play, such as on subjects of history, philosophy, finance and politics, altogether incapacitate him for the highest office of the critic ; we mean the setting forth the beauty and the mystery of poetry. All must be tangible, logical, or matter of fact, and he will then cement these uninviting masses into a fine eloquent system ; but trust him with a Keat’s, a Coleridge, or a Shelley, and his deficiency of imagination, or want of power to appreciate it, is most striking. The ancient ballads just referred to are damning facts against his having either the spirit of the poet, or the power of feeling its presence.
Yet there are passages in his writings so fine, so rhetorical, so like the prose part of a Childe Harold, that we feel half to doubt the truth that stares us in the face whenever we read a critique of Mr. Macaulay's on the loftier kind of poetry. We use the word loftier advisedly, because no man is better able to appreciate Dryden or Pope, Crabbe, Scott and Rogers, or those poets where artifice logic and close reasoning abound : where eloquent special pleading, and glowing declamation reign, instead of the truth and the faculty divine ;
these writers we feel cannot desire a more liberal or sagacious exponent: but when he approaches the tender exuberance of Keats, the daring subtilty and metaphysical brilliancy of Shelley, and the supernatural chaunts of Coleridge, then he endeavors to show to the world that they address a faculty not in the sparkling essayest and eloquent historian.
It may seem ungracious to dwell upon a deficiency of mind,