« ZurückWeiter »
Hastings, of Sir William Temple and Joseph Addison, of Lord Chatham and John Hampden and an innumerable host of others, are all masterly. Even where they seem to be not entirely just or where they are opposed to the common tradition they are very nearly unanswerable. The two that have given rise to the strongest dissent and have occasioned the most controversy are those concerning Boswell and Johnson. And yet there is not a statement concerning Boswell that cannot be substantiated from his own book, nor a stricture on Johnson that cannot be abundantly proved. This is not saying that Macaulay's estimate of these men is final, but that whoever would overthrow it must come very thoroughly prepared for the encounter. Macaulay has given to literature a gallery of portraits unequaled anywhere, and it is this that makes his essays so fascinating. He causes to pass before us the heroic men of the past; he portrays their virtues and their vices ; he describes their actions, and stops to consider whether they are just or not, commenting upon them both as legist and moralist, and yet not forgetting the environment of the individual. He illustrates his arguments by figures and similes, by wise saws
and satiric thrusts drawn from every source in history, poetry and fiction. He pours over all a wealth of information drawn from all ages and countries. His knowledge seems to be at instantaneous command and illumines all that he says. His essays are a library in themselves. Though he played no mean part as orator, politician and statesman, Macaulay was essentially a man of letters. The affection that most men lavish upon the mistress of their hearts he lavished on books, and as men in love idealize all women so he thought no book mean. It is astounding to read of the immense amount of trash he had stored in his memory. He did not love mathematics or science, and he had no sympathy with the philosophic speculations of the German and French schools. He consequently was no admirer of Carlyle, nor of John Stuart Mill, nor of Lewis. But everything that was literature, ancient or modern, he enjoyed to the full. He could cry over Homer, and repeat passages without stop from every great book that was ever written. In his capacious brain was stored all manner of strange and curious lore, the spoil of all the ages, and this he would produce at call. He never went anywhere unaccompanied by a book. He lived for literature, and of all men that the world has yet made
been the happiest. He did not write as a professional author, but yet no author has ever had so great a remuneration. The check for twentythousand pounds that he received from the Longmans on account of sales of his history is one of the wonders of the nineteenth century.
He lies buried in Westminster Abbey, that “great temple of reconciliation ” he loved so well to describe, and of all the eminent Englishmen with whose dust his own now mingles there are few greater than he.
« MOCK PEARLS OF
APOCRYP HAL STORY OF LORD MACAULAY.
ABRAHAM HAYwARD, in his essay on “The Pearls and Mock Pearls of History,” speaks of the persistence of anecdotes and stories about great men that continue to be repeated over and over again, though their improbability or falsity has often been exposed. These he calls “mock pearls.” A “mock pearl” of this sort came under my notice a few years ago for the first time concerning Lord Macaulay, that seemed so improbable that I took some pains to inquire into it. This story has again appeared in an article written by Rev. T. H. S. Escott, a well-known London writer, published in a recent number of Chambers's journal. The article describes some of the old inns in
and around London and among others the “Star and Garter” at Richmond, celebrated for its whitebait, and goes on to say:
In that same apartment some six-and-forty years earlier had dined, without any companion, another gentleman of unimpressive and plebeian appearance, also on the eve of his departure for the East. Sitting over his solitary glass of claret, this gentleman amused himself by piling the wine glasses and decanters within his reach one upon another till he had reared a crystal pyramid of some height, and he was crowning the structure with some other article when suddenly the crash came and the guest found himself surrounded by a litter of glass splinters. The customer sighed; the waiter, evidently familiar with the proceeding, brought the bill without the slightest sign of surprise, quietly as if the crash of glass were not a bit more out of the common than the ringing of the bell. Nor, indeed, was it. It was the little custom of a great man after dinner—the common-looking gentleman who took his pleasure thus oddly. He happened to be Thomas Babington, Lord Macaulay. In 1834 he had just been appointed legal adviser to the Supreme Council of India, and he was then preparing to bid a long adieu to whitebait.
This story is sometimes given under one date and sometimes under another. Here is another form of it :
The pleasant coffee-room of the old “Star and Garter” at
Richmond—which was burned down in 1869–was patronized
by statesmen, politicians, and writers, On Saturday evenings
it was regularly visited by a middle-aged gentleman of rather
broad stature, with gray hair and a large shirt collar, which
formed a conspicuous feature in his attire. He would dine