LIFE AND LETTERS OF LORD MACAULAY
By Sir George Otto Trevelyan
PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.
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.
PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION
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 they 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.
LIFE AND LETTERS OF LORD MACAULAY
Sir George Otto Trevelyan
CHAPTER I. 1800-1818.
Plan and scope of the work—History of the Macaulay family— Aulay—Kenneth—Johnson and Boswell—John Macaulay and his children—Zachary Macaulay—His career in the West Indies and in Africa—His character—Visit of the French squadron to Sierra Leone—Zachary Macaulay's marriage—Birth of his eldest son—Lord Macaulay's early years—His childish productions—Mrs. Hannah More—General Macaulay—Choice of a school—Shelford—Dean Milner—Macaulay's early letters— Aspenden hall—The boy's habits and mental endowments—His home—The Clapham set—The boy's relations with his father— The political ideas amongst which he was brought up, and their influence on the work of his life.
HE who undertakes to publish the memoirs of a distinguished man may find a ready apology in the custom of the age. If we measure the effective demand for biography by the supply, the person commemorated need possess but a very moderate reputation, and have played no exceptional part, in order to carry the reader through many hundred pages of anecdote, dissertation, and correspondence. To judge from the advertisements of our circulating libraries, the public curiosity is keen with regard to some who did nothing worthy of special note, and others who acted so continuously in the face of the world that, when their course was run, there was little left for the world to learn about them. It may, therefore, be taken for granted that a desire exists to hear something authentic about the life of a man who has produced works which are universally known, but which bear little or no indication of the private history and the personal qualities of the author.
This was in a marked degree the case with Lord Macaulay. His two famous contemporaries in English literature have, consciously or unconsciously, told their own story in their books. Those who could see between the lines in "David Copperfield" were aware that they had before them a delightful autobiography; and all who knew how to read Thackeray could trace him in his novels through every stage in his course, on from the day when as a little boy, consigned to the care of English relatives and schoolmasters, he left his mother on the steps of the landing-place at Calcutta. The dates and names were wanting, but the man was there; while the most ardent admirers of Macaulay will admit that a minute study of his literary productions left them, as far as any but an intellectual knowledge of the writer himself was concerned, very much as it found them. A consummate master of his craft, he turned out works which bore the unmistakable marks of the artificer's hand, but which did not reflect his features. It would be almost as hard to compose a picture of the author from the History, the Essays, and the Lays, as to evolve an idea of Shakespeare from Henry the Fifth and Measure for Measure.
But, besides being a man of letters, Lord Macaulay was a statesman, a jurist, and a brilliant ornament of society, at a time when to shine in society was a distinction which a man of eminence and ability might justly value. In these several capacities, it will be said, he was known well, and known widely. But in the first place, as these pages will show, there was one side of his life (to him, at any rate, the most important,) of which even the persons with whom he mixed most freely and confidentially in London drawing-rooms, in the Indian Council chamber, and in the lobbies and on the benches of the House of Commons, were only in part aware. And in the next place, those who have seen his features and heard his voice are few already and become yearly fewer; while, by a rare fate in literary annals, the number of those who read his books is still rapidly increasing. For everyone who sat with him in private company or at the transaction of public business,—for every ten who have listened to his oratory in Parliament or from the hustings,—there must be tens of thousands whose interest in history and literature he has awakened and informed by his pen, and who would gladly know what manner of man it was that has done them so great a service.
To gratify that most legitimate wish is the duty of those who have the means at their command. His lifelike image is indelibly impressed upon their minds, (for how could it be otherwise with any who had enjoyed so close relations with such a man?) although the skill which can reproduce that image before the general eye may well be wanting. But his own letters will supply the deficiencies of the biographer. Never did any one leave behind him more copious materials for enabling others to put together a narrative which might be the history, not indeed of his times, but of the man himself. For in the first place he so soon showed promise of being one who would give those among whom his early years were passed reason to be proud, and still more certain assurance that he would never afford them cause for shame, that what he wrote was preserved with a care very seldom bestowed on childish compositions; and the value set upon his letters by those with whom he corresponded naturally enough increased as years went on. And in the next place he was by nature so incapable of affectation or concealment that he could not write otherwise than as he felt, and, to one person at least, could never refrain from writing all that he felt; so that we may read in his letters, as in a clear mirror, his opinions and inclinations, his hopes and affections, at every succeeding period of his existence. Such letters could never have been submitted to an editor not connected with both correspondents by the strongest ties; and even one who stands in that position must often be sorely puzzled as to what he has the heart to publish and the right to withhold.
I am conscious that a near relative has peculiar temptations towards that partiality of the biographer which Lord Macaulay himself so often and so cordially denounced; and the danger is greater in the case of one whose knowledge of him coincided with his later years; for it would not be easy to find a nature which gained more by time than his, and lost less. But believing, as I do, (to use his own words,) that "if he were now living he would have sufficient judgment and sufficient greatness of mind" to wish to be shown as himself, I will suppress no trait in his disposition, or incident in his career, which might provoke blame or question. Such in all points as he was, the world, which has been so indulgent to him, has a right to know him; and those who best love him do not fear the consequences of freely submitting his character and his actions to the public verdict.
The most devout believers in the doctrine of the transmission of family qualities will be content with tracing back descent through four generations; and all favourable hereditary influences, both intellectual and moral, are assured by a genealogy which derives from a Scotch Manse. In the first decade of the eighteenth century Aulay Macaulay, the great-grandfather of the historian, was minister of Tiree and Coll; where he was "grievously annoyed by a decreet obtained after instance of the Laird of Ardchattan, taking away his stipend." The Duchess of Argyll of the day appears to have done her best to see him righted; "but his health being much impaired, and there being no church or meeting-house, he was exposed to the violence of the weather at all seasons; and having no manse or plebe, and no fund for communion elements, and no mortification for schools or any pious purpose in either of the islands, and the air being unwholesome, he was dissatisfied;" and so, to the great regret of the parishioners whom he was leaving behind, he migrated to Harris, where he discharged the clerical duties for nearly half a century.
Aulay was the father of fourteen children, of whom one, Kenneth, the minister of Ardnamurchan, still occupies a very humble niche in the temple of literature. He wrote a History of St. Kilda which happened to fall into the hands of Dr. Johnson, who spoke of it more than once with favour. His reason for liking the book is characteristic enough. Mr. Macaulay had recorded the belief prevalent in St. Kilda that, as soon as the factor landed on the island, all the inhabitants had an attack which from the account appears to have partaken of the nature both of influenza and bronchitis. This touched the superstitious vein in Johnson, who praised him for his "magnanimity" in venturing to chronicle so questionable a phenomenon; the more so because,—said the Doctor,—"Macaulay set out with a prejudice against prejudice, and wanted to be a smart modern thinker." To a reader of our day the History of St. Kilda appears to be innocent of any trace of such pretension; unless it be that the author speaks slightingly of second-sight, a subject for which Johnson always had a strong hankering. In 1773 Johnson paid a visit to Mr. Macaulay, who by that time had removed to Calder, and began the interview by congratulating him on having produced "a very pretty piece of topography,"—a compliment which did not seem to the taste of the author. The conversation turned upon rather delicate subjects, and, before many hours had passed, the guest had said to the host one of the very rudest things recorded by Boswell! Later on in the same evening he atoned for his incivility by giving one of the boys of the house a pocket Sallust, and promising to procure him a servitorship at Oxford. Subsequently Johnson pronounced that Mr. Macaulay was not competent to have written the book that went by his name; a decision which, to those who happen to have read the work, will give a very poor notion of my ancestor's abilities.
The eldest son of old Aulay, and the grandfather of Lord Macaulay, was John, born in the year 1720. He was minister successively of Barra, South Uist, Lismore, and Inverary; the last appointment being a proof of the interest which the family of Argyll continued to take in the fortunes of the Macaulays. He, likewise, during the famous tour in the Hebrides, came across the path of Boswell, who mentions him in an exquisitely absurd paragraph, the first of those in which is described the visit to Inverary Castle. ["Monday, Oct. 25.—My acquaintance, the Rev. Mr. John M'Aulay, one of the ministers of Inverary, and brother to our good friend at Calder, came to us this morning, and accompanied us to the castle, where I presented Dr. Johnson to the Duke of Argyll. We were shown through the house; and I never shall forget the impression made upon my fancy by some of the ladies' maids tripping about in neat morning dresses. After seeing for a long time little but rusticity, their lively manner, and gay inciting appearance, pleased me so much, that I thought for a moment I could have been a knight-errant for them."] Mr. Macaulay afterwards passed the evening with the travellers at their inn, and provoked Johnson into what Boswell calls warmth, and anyone else would call brutality, by the very proper remark that he had no notion of people being in earnest in good professions if their practice belied them. When we think what well-known ground this was to Lord Macaulay, it is impossible to suppress a wish that the great talker had been at hand to avenge his grandfather and grand-uncle. Next morning "Mr. Macaulay breakfasted with us, nothing hurt or dismayed by his last night's correction. Being a man of good sense he had a just admiration of Dr. Johnson." He was rewarded by seeing Johnson at his very best, and hearing him declaim some of the finest lines that ever were written in a manner worthy of his subject.
There is a tradition that, in his younger days, the minister of Inverary proved his Whiggism by giving information to the authorities which almost led to the capture of the young Pretender. It is perhaps a matter of congratulation that this item was not added to the heavy account that the Stuarts have against the Macaulay family. John Macaulay enjoyed a high reputation as a preacher, and was especially renowned for his fluency. In 1774 he removed to Cardross in Dumbartonshire, where, on the bank of the noble estuary of the Clyde, he spent the last fifteen years of a useful and honoured life. He was twice married. His first wife died at the birth of his first child. Eight years afterwards, in 1757, he espoused Margaret, daughter of Colin Campbell of Inveresragan, who survived him by a single year. By her he had the patriarchal number of twelve children, whom he brought up on the old Scotch system,—common to the households of minister, man of business, farmer, and peasant alike,—on fine air, simple diet, and a solid training in knowledge human and divine. Two generations after, Mr. Carlyle, during a visit to the late Lord Ashburton at the Grange, caught sight of Macaulay's face in unwonted repose, as he was turning over the pages of a book. "I noticed," said he, "the homely Norse features that you find everywhere in the Western Isles, and I thought to myself 'Well! Anyone can see that you are an honest good sort of fellow, made out of oatmeal.'"
Several of John Macaulay's children obtained position in the world. Aulay, the eldest by his second wife, became a clergyman of the Church of England. His reputation as a scholar and antiquary stood high, and in the capacity of a private tutor he became known even in royal circles. He published pamphlets and treatises, the list of which it is not worth while to record, and meditated several large works that perhaps never got much beyond a title. Of all his undertakings the one best deserving commemoration in these pages was a tour that he made into Scotland in company with Mr. Thomas Babington, the owner of Rothley Temple in Leicestershire, in the course of which the travellers paid a visit to the manse at Cardross. Mr. Babington fell in love with one of the daughters of the house, Miss Jean Macaulay, and married her in 1787. Nine years afterwards he had an opportunity of presenting his brother-in-law Aulay Macaulay with the very pleasant living of Rothley.
Alexander, another son of John Macaulay, succeeded his father as minister of Cardross. Colin went into the Indian army, and died a general. He followed the example of the more ambitious among his brother officers, and exchanged military for civil duties. In 1799 he acted as secretary to a political and diplomatic Commission which accompanied the force that marched under General Harris against Seringapatam. The leading Commissioner was Colonel Wellesley, and to the end of General Macaulay's life the great Duke corresponded with him on terms of intimacy, and (so the family flattered themselves) even of friendship. Soon after the commencement of the century Colin Macaulay was appointed Resident at the important native state of Travancore. While on this employment he happened to light upon a valuable collection of books, and rapidly made himself master of the principal European languages, which he spoke and wrote with a facility surprising in one who had acquired them within a few leagues of Cape Comorin.
There was another son of John Macaulay, who in force and elevation of character stood out among his brothers, and who was destined to make for himself no ordinary career. The path which Zachary Macaulay chose to tread did not lead to wealth, or worldly success, or indeed to much worldly happiness. Born in 1768, he was sent out at the age of sixteen by a Scotch house of business as bookkeeper to an estate in Jamaica, of which he soon rose to be sole manager. His position brought him into the closest possible contact with negro slavery. His mind was not prepossessed against the system of society which he found in the West Indies. His personal interests spoke strongly in its favour, while his father, whom he justly respected, could see nothing to condemn in an institution recognised by Scripture. Indeed, the religious world still allowed the maintenance of slavery to continue an open question. John Newton, the real founder of that school in the Church of England of which in after years Zachary Macaulay was a devoted member, contrived to reconcile the business of a slave trader with the duties of a Christian, and to the end of his days gave scandal to some of his disciples, (who by that time were one and all sworn abolitionists,) by his supposed reluctance to see that there could be no fellowship between light and such darkness.
But Zachary Macaulay had eyes of his own to look about him, a clear head for forming a judgment on what he saw, and a conscience which would not permit him to live otherwise than in obedience to its mandates. The young Scotchman's innate respect for his fellows, and his appreciation of all that instruction and religion can do for men, was shocked at the sight of a population deliberately kept ignorant and heathen. His kind heart was wounded by cruelties practised at the will and pleasure of a thousand petty despots. He had read his Bible too literally to acquiesce easily in a state of matters under which human beings were bred and raised like a stock of cattle, while outraged morality was revenged on the governing race by the shameless licentiousness which is the inevitable accompaniment of slavery. He was well aware that these evils, so far from being superficial or remediable, were essential to the very existence of a social fabric constituted like that within which he lived. It was not for nothing that he had been behind the scenes in that tragedy of crime and misery. His philanthropy was not learned by the royal road of tracts, and platform speeches, and monthly magazines. What he knew he had spelt out for himself with no teacher except the aspect of human suffering, and degradation, and sin.
He was not one of those to whom conviction comes in a day; and, when convinced, he did nothing sudden. Little more than a boy in age, singularly modest, and constitutionally averse to any course that appeared pretentious or theatrical, he began by a sincere attempt to make the best of his calling. For some years he contented himself with doing what he could, (so he writes to a friend,) "to alleviate the hardships of a considerable number of my fellow-creatures, and to render the bitter cup of servitude as palatable as possible." But by the time he was four-and-twenty he became tired of trying to find a compromise between right and wrong, and, refusing really great offers from the people with whom he was connected, he threw up his position, and returned to his native country. This step was taken against the wishes of his father, who was not prepared for the construction which his son put upon the paternal precept that a man should make his practice square with his professions.
But Zachary Macaulay soon had more congenial work to do. The young West Indian overseer was not alone in his scruples. Already for some time past a conviction had been abroad that individual citizens could not divest themselves of their share in the responsibility in which the nation was involved by the existence of slavery in our colonies. Already there had been formed the nucleus of the most disinterested, and perhaps the most successful, popular movement which history records. The question of the slave trade was well before Parliament and the country. Ten years had passed since the freedom of all whose feet touched the soil of our island had been vindicated before the courts at Westminster, and not a few negroes had become their own masters as a consequence of that memorable decision. The patrons of the race were somewhat embarrassed by having these expatriated freedmen on their hands; an opinion prevailed that the traffic in human lives could never be efficiently checked until Africa had obtained the rudiments of civilisation; and, after long discussion, a scheme was matured for the colonisation of Sierra Leone by liberated slaves. A company was organised, with a charter from the Crown, and a board which included the names of Granville Sharpe and Wilberforce. A large capital was speedily subscribed, and the Chair was accepted by Mr. Henry Thornton, a leading City banker and a member of Parliament, whose determined opposition to cruelty and oppression in every form was such as might be expected in one who had inherited from his father the friendship of the poet Cowper. Mr. Thornton heard Macaulay's story from Thomas Babington, with whom he lived on terms of close intimacy and political alliance. The Board, by the advice of its Chairman, passed a resolution appointing the young man Second Member in the Sierra Leone Council, and early in the year 1793 he sailed for Africa, where soon after his arrival he succeeded to the position and duties of Governor.
The Directors had done well to secure a tried man. The colony was at once exposed to the implacable enmity of merchants whose market the agents of the new company spoiled in their capacity of traders, and slave-dealers with whom they interfered in their character of philanthropists. The native tribes in the vicinity, instigated by European hatred and jealousy, began to inflict upon the defenceless authorities of the settlement a series of those monkey-like impertinences which, absurdly as they may read in a narrative, are formidable and ominous when they indicate that savages feel their power. These barbarians, who had hitherto commanded as much rum and gunpowder as they cared to have by selling their neighbours at the nearest barracoon, showed no appreciation for the comforts and advantages of civilisation. Indeed, those advantages were displayed in anything but an attractive shape even within the pale of the company's territory. An aggregation of negroes from Jamaica, London, and Nova Scotia, who possessed no language except an acquired jargon, and shared no associations beyond the recollections of a common servitude, were not very promising apostles for the spread of Western culture and the Christian faith. Things went smoothly enough as long as the business of the colony was mainly confined to eating the provisions that had been brought in the ships; but as soon as the work became real, and the commons short, the whole community smouldered down into chronic mutiny.
Zachary Macaulay was the very man for such a crisis. To a rare fund of patience, and self-command, and perseverance, he united a calm courage that was equal to any trial. These qualities were, no doubt, inherent in his disposition; but no one except those who have turned over his voluminous private journals can understand what constant effort, and what incessant watchfulness, went to maintain throughout a long life a course of conduct, and a temper of mind, which gave every appearance of being the spontaneous fruit of nature. He was not one who dealt in personal experiences; and few among even the friends who loved him like father or brother, and who would have trusted him with all their fortune on his bare word, knew how entirely his outward behaviour was the express image of his religious belief. The secret of his character and of his actions lay in perfect humility and an absolute faith. Events did not discompose him, because they were sent by One who best knew his own purposes. He was not fretted by the folly of others, or irritated by their hostility, because he regarded the humblest or the worst of mankind as objects, equally with himself, of the divine love and care. On all other points he examined himself so closely that the meditations of a single evening would fill many pages of diary; but so completely in his case had the fear of God cast out all other fear that amidst the gravest perils, and the most bewildering responsibilities, it never occurred to him to question whether he was brave or not. He worked strenuously and unceasingly, never amusing himself from year's end to year's end, and shrinking from any public praise or recognition as from an unlawful gratification, because he was firmly persuaded that, when all had been accomplished and endured, he was yet but an unprofitable servant, who had done that which was his duty to do. Some, perhaps, will consider such motives as oldfashioned, and such convictions as out of date; but self-abnegation, self-control, and self-knowledge that does not give to self the benefit of any doubt, are virtues which are not oldfashioned, and for which, as time goes on, the world is likely to have as much need as ever. [Sir James Stephen writes thus of his friend Macaulay: "That his understanding was proof against sophistry, and his nerves against fear, were, indeed, conclusions to which a stranger arrived at the first interview with him. But what might be suggesting that expression of countenance, at once so earnest and so monotonous—by what manner of feeling those gestures, so uniformly firm and deliberate were prompted—whence the constant traces of fatigue on those overhanging brows and on that athletic though ungraceful figure—what might be the charm which excited amongst his chosen circle a faith approaching to superstition, and a love rising to enthusiasm, towards a man whose demeanour was so inanimate, if not austere:—it was a riddle of which neither Gall nor Lavater could have found the key."
That Sir James himself could read the riddle is proved by the concluding words of a passage marked by a force and tenderness of feeling unusual even in him: "His earthward affections,—active and all—enduring as they were, could yet thrive without the support of human sympathy, because they were sustained by so abiding a sense of the divine presence, and so absolute a submission to the divine will, as raised him habitually to that higher region where the reproach of man could not reach, and the praise of man might not presume to follow him."]
Mr. Macaulay was admirably adapted for the arduous and uninviting task of planting a negro colony. His very deficiencies stood him in good stead; for, in presence of the elements with which he had to deal, it was well for him that nature had denied him any sense of the ridiculous. Unconscious of what was absurd around him, and incapable of being flurried, frightened, or fatigued, he stood as a centre of order and authority amidst the seething chaos of inexperience and insubordination. The staff was miserably insufficient, and every officer of the Company had to do duty for three in a climate such that a man is fortunate if he can find health for the work of one during a continuous twelvemonth. The Governor had to be in the counting-house, the law-court, the school, and even the chapel. He was his own secretary, his own paymaster, his own envoy. He posted ledgers, he decided causes, he conducted correspondence with the Directors at home, and visited neighbouring potentates on diplomatic missions which made up in danger what they lacked in dignity. In the absence of properly qualified clergymen, with whom he would have been the last to put himself in competition, he preached sermons and performed marriages;—a function which must have given honest satisfaction to one who had been so close a witness of the enforced and systematised immorality of a slave-nursery. Before long, something fairly resembling order was established, and the settlement began to enjoy a reasonable measure of prosperity. The town was built, the fields were planted, and the schools filled. The Governor made a point of allotting the lightest work to the negroes who could read and write; and such was the stimulating effect of this system upon education that he confidently looked forward "to the time when there would be few in the colony unable to read the Bible." A printing-press was in constant operation, and in the use of a copying-machine the little community was three-quarters of a century ahead of the London public offices.
But a severe ordeal was in store for the nascent civilisation of Sierra Leone. On a Sunday morning in September 1794, eight French sail appeared off the coast. The town was about as defensible as Brighton; and it is not difficult to imagine the feelings which the sansculottes inspired among Evangelical colonists whose last advices from Europe dated from the very height of the Reign of Terror. There was a party in favour of escaping into the forest with as much property as could be removed at so short a notice; but the Governor insisted that there would be no chance of saving the Company's buildings unless the Company's servants could make up their minds to remain at their posts, and face it out. The squadron moored within musket-shot of the quay, and swept the streets for two hours with grape and bullets; a most gratuitous piece of cruelty that killed a negress and a child, and gave one unlucky English gentleman a fright which ultimately brought him to his grave. The invaders then proceeded to land, and Mr. Macaulay had an opportunity of learning something about the condition of the French marine during the heroic period of the Republic.
A personal enemy of his own, the captain of a Yankee slaver, brought a party of sailors straight to the Governor's house. What followed had best be told in Mr. Macaulay's own words. "Newell, who was attended by half-a-dozen sans-culottes, almost foaming with rage, presented a pistol to me, and with many oaths demanded instant satisfaction for the slaves who had run away from him to my protection. I made very little reply, but told him he must now take such satisfaction as he judged equivalent to his claims, as I was no longer master of my actions. He became so very outrageous that, after bearing with him a little while, I thought it most prudent to repair myself to the French officer, and request his safe-conduct on board the Commodore's ship. As I passed along the wharf the scene was curious enough. The Frenchmen, who had come ashore in filth and rags, were now many of them dressed out with women's shifts, gowns, and petticoats. Others had quantities of cloth wrapped about their bodies, or perhaps six or seven suits of clothes upon them at a time. The scene which presented itself on my getting on board the flag-ship was still more singular. The quarter-deck was crowded by a set of ragamuffins whose appearance beggared every previous description, and among whom I sought in vain for some one who looked like a gentleman. The stench and filth exceeded anything I had ever witnessed in any ship, and the noise and confusion gave me some idea of their famous Mountain. I was ushered into the Commodore's cabin, who at least received me civilly. His name was Citizen Allemand. He did not appear to have the right of excluding any of his fellow-citizens even from this place. Whatever might be their rank, they crowded into it, and conversed familiarly with him." Such was the discipline of the fleet that had been beaten by Lord Hove on the first of June; and such the raw material of the armies which, under firm hands, and on an element more suited to the military genius of their nation, were destined to triumph at Rivoli and Hohenlinden.
Mr. Macaulay, who spoke French with ease and precision, in his anxiety to save the town used every argument which might prevail on the Commodore, whose Christian name, (if one may use such a phrase with reference to a patriot of the year two of the Republic,) happened oddly enough to be the same as his own. He appealed first to the traditional generosity of Frenchmen towards a fallen enemy, but soon discerned that the quality in question had gone out with the old order of things, if indeed it ever existed. He then represented that a people, who professed to be waging war with the express object of striking off the fetters of mankind, would be guilty of flagrant inconsistency if they destroyed an asylum for liberated slaves; but the Commodore gave him to understand that sentiments, which sounded very well in the Hall of the Jacobins, were out of place on the West Coast of Africa. The Governor returned on shore to find the town already completely gutted. It was evident at every turn that, although the Republican battalions might carry liberty and fraternity through Europe on the points of their bayonets, the Republican sailors had found a very different use for the edge of their cutlasses. "The sight of my own and of the Accountant's offices almost sickened me. Every desk, and every drawer, and every shelf, together with the printing and copying presses, had been completely demolished in the search for money. The floors were strewed with types, and papers, and leaves of books; and I had the mortification to see a great part of my own labour, and of the labour of others, for several years totally destroyed. At the other end of the house I found telescopes, hygrometers, barometers, thermometers, and electrical machines, lying about in fragments. The view of the town library filled me with lively concern. The volumes were tossed about and defaced with the utmost wantonness; and, if they happened to bear any resemblance to Bibles, they were torn in pieces and trampled on. The collection of natural curiosities next caught my eye. Plants, seeds, dried birds, insects, and drawings were scattered about in great confusion, and some of the sailors were in the act of killing a beautiful musk-cat, which they afterwards ate. Every house was full of Frenchmen, who were hacking, and destroying, and tearing up everything which they could not convert to their own use. The destruction of live stock on this and the following day was immense. In my yard alone they killed fourteen dozen of fowls, and there were not less than twelve hundred hogs shot in the town." It was unsafe to walk in the streets of Freetown during the forty-eight hours that followed its capture, because the French crews, with too much of the Company's port wine in their heads to aim straight, were firing at the pigs of the poor freedmen over whom they had achieved such a questionable victory.
To readers of Erckmann-Chatrian it is unpleasant to be taken thus behind the curtain on which those skilful artists have painted the wars of the early Revolution. It is one thing to be told how the crusaders of '93 and '94 were received with blessings and banquets by the populations to whom they brought freedom and enlightenment, and quite another to read the journal in which a quiet accurate-minded Scotchman tells us how a pack of tipsy ruffians sat abusing Pitt and George to him, over a fricassee of his own fowls, and among the wreck of his lamps and mirrors which they had smashed as a protest against aristocratic luxury.
"There is not a boy among them who has not learnt to accompany the name of Pitt with an execration. When I went to bed, there was no sleep to be had on account of the sentinels thinking fit to amuse me the whole night through with the revenge they meant to take on him when they got him to Paris. Next morning I went on board the 'Experiment.' The Commodore and all his officers messed together, and I was admitted among them. They are truly the poorest-looking people I ever saw. Even the Commodore has only one suit which can at all distinguish him, not to say from the officers, but from the men. The filth and confusion of their meals was terrible. A chorus of boys usher in the dinner with the Marseilles hymn, and it finishes in the same way. The enthusiasm of all ranks among them is astonishing, but not more so than their blindness. They talk with ecstasy of their revolutionary government, of their bloody executions, of their revolutionary tribunal, of the rapid movement of their revolutionary army with the Corps of justice and the flying guillotine before it; forgetting that not one of them is not liable to its stroke on the accusation of the greatest vagabond on board. They asked me with triumph if yesterday had not been Sunday. 'Oh,' said they, 'the National Convention have decreed that there is no Sunday, and that the Bible is all a lie.'" After such an experience it is not difficult to account for the keen and almost personal interest with which, to the very day of Waterloo, Mr. Macaulay watched through its varying phases the rise and the downfall of the French power. He followed the progress of the British arms with a minute and intelligent attention which from a very early date communicated itself to his son; and the hearty patriotism of Lord Macaulay is perhaps in no small degree the consequence of what his father suffered from the profane and rapacious sansculottes of the revolutionary squadron.
Towards the middle of October the Republicans took their departure. Even at this distance of time it is provoking to learn that they got back to Brest without meeting an enemy that had teeth to bite. The African climate, however, reduced the squadron to such a plight, that it was well for our frigates that they had not the chance of getting its fever-stricken crews under their hatches. The French never revisited Freetown. Indeed, they had left the place in such a condition that it was not worth their while to return. The houses had been carefully burned to the ground, and the live stock killed. Except the clothes on their backs, and a little brandy and flour, the Europeans had lost everything they had in the world. Till assistance came from the mother country they lived upon such provisions as could be recovered from the reluctant hands of the negro settlers, who providentially had not been able to resist the temptation of helping the Republicans to plunder the Company's stores. Judicious liberality at home, and a year's hard work on the spot, did much to repair the damage; and, when his colony was again upon its feet, Mr. Macaulay sailed to England with the object of recruiting his health, which had broken down under an attack of low fever.
On his arrival he was admitted at once and for ever within the innermost circle of friends and fellow-labourers who were united round Wilberforce and Henry Thornton by indissoluble bonds of mutual personal regard and common public ends. As an indispensable part of his initiation into that very pleasant confederacy, he was sent down to be introduced to Hannah More, who was living at Cowslip Green, near Bristol, in the enjoyment of general respect, mixed with a good deal of what even those who admire her as she deserved must in conscience call flattery. He there met Selina Mills, a former pupil of the school which the Miss Mores kept in the neighbouring city, and a lifelong friend of all the sisters. The young lady is said to have been extremely pretty and attractive, as may well be believed by those who saw her in later years. She was the daughter of a member of the Society of Friends, who at one time was a bookseller in Bristol, and who built there a small street called "Mills Place," in which he himself resided. His grandchildren remembered him as an old man of imposing appearance, with long white hair, talking incessantly of Jacob Boehmen. Mr. Mills had sons, one of whom edited a Bristol journal exceedingly well, and is said to have made some figure in light literature. This uncle of Lord Macaulay was a very lively, clever man, full of good stories, of which only one has survived. Young Mills, while resident in London, had looked in at Rowland Hill's chapel, and had there lost a new hat. When he reported the misfortune to his father, the old Quaker replied: "John, if thee'd gone to the right place of worship, thee'd have kept thy hat upon thy head." Lord Macaulay was accustomed to say that he got his "joviality" from his mother's family. If his power of humour was indeed of Quaker origin, he was rather ungrateful in the use to which he sometimes put it.
Mr. Macaulay fell in love with Miss Mills, and obtained her affection in return. He had to encounter the opposition of her relations, who were set upon her making another and a better match, and of Mrs. Patty More, (so well known to all who have studied the somewhat diffuse annals of the More family,) who, in the true spirit of romantic friendship, wished her to promise never to marry at all, but to domesticate herself as a youngest sister in the household at Cowslip Green. Miss Hannah, however, took a more unselfish view of the situation, and advocated Mr. Macaulay's cause with firmness and good feeling. Indeed, he must have been, according to her particular notions, the most irreproachable of lovers, until her own Coelebs was given to the world. By her help he carried his point in so far that the engagement was made and recognised; but the friends of the young lady would not allow her to accompany him to Africa; and, during his absence from England, which began in the early months of 1796, by an arrangement that under the circumstances was very judicious, she spent much of her time in Leicestershire with his sister Mrs. Babington.
His first business after arriving at Sierra Leone was to sit in judgment on the ringleaders of a formidable outbreak which had taken place in the colony; and he had an opportunity of proving by example that negro disaffection, from the nature of the race, is peculiarly susceptible to treatment by mild remedies, if only the man in the post of responsibility has got a heart and can contrive to keep his head. He had much more trouble with a batch of missionaries, whom he took with him in the ship, and who were no sooner on board than they began to fall out, ostensibly on controversial topics, but more probably from the same motives that so often set the laity quarrelling during the incessant and involuntary companionship of a sea-voyage. Mr. Macaulay, finding that the warmth of these debates furnished sport to the captain and other irreligious characters, was forced seriously to exert his authority in order to separate and silence the disputants. His report of these occurrences went in due time to the Chairman of the Company, who excused himself for an arrangement which had turned out so ill by telling a story of a servant who, having to carry a number of gamecocks from one place to another, tied them up in the same bag, and found on arriving at his journey's end that they had spent their time in tearing each other to pieces. When his master called him to account for his stupidity he replied: "Sir, as they were all your cocks, I thought they would be all on one side."
Things did not go much more smoothly on shore. Mr. Macaulay's official correspondence gives a curious picture of his difficulties in the character of Minister of Public Worship in a black community. "The Baptists under David George are decent and orderly, but there is observable in them a great neglect of family worship, and sometimes an unfairness in their dealings. To Lady Huntingdon's Methodists, as a body, may with great justice be addressed the first verse of the third chapter of the Revelation. The lives of many of them are very disorderly, and rank antinomianism prevails among them." But his sense of religion and decency was most sorely tried by Moses Wilkinson, a so-called Wesleyan Methodist, whose congregation, not a very respectable one to begin with, had recently been swollen by a Revival which had been accompanied by circumstances the reverse of edifying. [Lord Macaulay had in his youth heard too much about negro preachers, and negro administrators, to permit him to entertain any very enthusiastic anticipations with regard to the future of the African race. He writes in his journal for July 8 1858: "Motley called. I like him much. We agree wonderfully well about slavery, and it is not often that I meet any person with whom I agree on that subject. For I hate slavery from the bottom of my soul; and yet I am made sick by the cant and the silly mock reasons of the Abolitionists. The nigger driver and the negrophile are two odious things to me. I must make Lady Macbeth's reservation: 'Had he not resembled—,'"] The Governor must have looked back with regret to that period in the history of the colony when he was underhanded in the clerical department.
But his interest in the negro could bear ruder shocks than an occasional outburst of eccentric fanaticism. He liked his work, because he liked those for whom he was working. "Poor people," he writes, "one cannot help loving them. With all their trying humours, they have a warmth of affection which is really irresistible." For their sake he endured all the risk and worry inseparable from a long engagement kept by the lady among disapproving friends, and by the gentleman at Sierra Leone. He stayed till the settlement had begun to thrive, and the Company had almost begun to pay; and until the Home Government had given marked tokens of favour and protection, which some years later developed into a negotiation under which the colony was transferred to the Crown. It was not till 1799 that he finally gave up his appointment, and left a region which, alone among men, he quitted with unfeigned, and, except in one particular, with unmixed regret. But for the absence of an Eve, he regarded the West Coast of Africa as a veritable Paradise, or, to use his own expression, as a more agreeable Montpelier. With a temper which in the intercourse of society was proof against being ruffled by any possible treatment of any conceivable subject, to the end of his life he showed faint signs of irritation if anyone ventured in his presence to hint that Sierra Leone was unhealthy.
On his return to England he was appointed Secretary to the Company, and was married at Bristol on the 26th of August, 1799. A most close union it was, and, (though in latter years he became fearfully absorbed in the leading object of his existence, and ceased in a measure to be the companion that he had been,) his love for his wife, and deep trust and confidence in her, never failed. They took a small house in Lambeth for the first twelve months. When Mrs. Macaulay was near her confinement, Mrs. Babington, who belonged to the school of matrons who hold that the advantage of country air outweighs that of London doctors, invited her sister-in-law to Rothley Temple; and there, in a room panelled from ceiling to floor, like every corner of the ancient mansion, with oak almost black from age,—looking eastward across the park and southward through an ivy-shaded window into a little garden,—Lord Macaulay was born. It was on the 25th of October 1800, the day of St. Crispin, the anniversary of Agincourt, (as he liked to say,) that he opened his eyes on a world which he was destined so thoroughly to learn and so intensely to enjoy. His father was as pleased as a father could be; but fate seemed determined that Zachary Macaulay should not be indulged in any great share of personal happiness. The next morning the noise of a spinning-jenny, at work in a cottage, startled his horse as he was riding past. He was thrown, and both arms were broken; and he spent in a sick-room the remainder of the only holiday worth the name which, (as far as can be traced in the family records,) he ever took during his married life. Owing to this accident the young couple were detained at Rothley into the winter; and the child was baptised in the private chapel which formed part of the house, on the 26th November 1800, by the names of Thomas Babington;—the Rev. Aulay Macaulay, and Mr. and Mrs. Babington, acting as sponsors.
The two years which followed were passed in a house in Birchin Lane, where the Sierra Leone Company had its office. The only place where the child could be taken for exercise, and what might be called air, was Drapers' Gardens, which (already under sentence to be covered with bricks and mortar at an early date) lies behind Throgmorton Street, and within a hundred yards of the Stock Exchange. To this dismal yard, containing as much gravel as grass, and frowned upon by a board of Rules and Regulations almost as large as itself, his mother used to convoy the nurse and the little boy through the crowds that towards noon swarmed along Cornhill and Threadneedle Street; and thither she would return, after a due interval, to escort them back to Birchin Lane. So strong was the power of association upon Macaulay's mind that in after years Drapers' Garden was among his favourite haunts. Indeed, his habit of roaming for hours through and through the heart of the City, (a habit that never left him as long as he could roam at all,) was due in part to the recollection which caused him to regard that region as native ground.
Baby as he was when he quitted it, he retained some impression of his earliest home. He remembered standing up at the nursery window by his father's side, looking at a cloud of black smoke pouring out of a tall chimney. He asked if that was hell; an inquiry that was received with a grave displeasure which at the time he could not understand. The kindly father must have been pained, almost against his own will, at finding what feature of his creed it was that had embodied itself in so very material a shape before his little son's imagination. When in after days Mrs. Macaulay was questioned as to how soon she began to detect in the child a promise of the future, she used to say that his sensibilities and affections were remarkably developed at an age which to her hearers appeared next to incredible. He would cry for joy on seeing her after a few hours' absence, and, (till her husband put a stop to it,) her power of exciting his feelings was often made an exhibition to her friends. She did not regard this precocity as a proof of cleverness; but, like a foolish young mother, only thought that so tender a nature was marked for early death.
The next move which the family made was into as healthy an atmosphere, in every sense, as the most careful parent could wish to select. Mr. Macaulay took a house in the High Street of Clapham, in the part now called the Pavement, on the same side as the Plough inn, but some doors nearer to the Common. It was a roomy comfortable dwelling, with a very small garden behind, and in front a very small one indeed, which has entirely disappeared beneath a large shop thrown out towards the road-way by the present occupier, who bears the name of Heywood. Here the boy passed a quiet and most happy childhood. From the time that he was three years old he read incessantly, for the most part lying on the rug before the fire, with his book on the ground, and a piece of bread and batter in his hand. A very clever woman, who then lived in the house as parlour-maid, told how he used to sit in his nankeen frock, perched on the table by her as she was cleaning the plate, and expounding to her out of a volume as big as himself. He did not care for toys, but was very fond of taking his walk, when he would hold forth to his companion, whether nurse or mother, telling interminable stories out of his own head, or repeating what he had been reading in language far above his years. His memory retained without shout effort the phraseology of the book which he had been last engaged on, and he talked, as the maid said, "quite printed words," which produced an effect that appeared formal, and often, no doubt, exceedingly droll. Mrs. Hannah More was fond of relating how she called at Mr. Macaulay's, and was met by a fair, pretty, slight child, with abundance of light hair, about four years of age, who came to the front door to receive her, and tell her that his parents were out, but that if she would be good enough to come in he would bring her a glass of old spirits; a proposition which greatly startled the good lady, who had never aspired beyond cowslip wine. When questioned as to what he knew about old spirits, he could only say that Robinson Crusoe often had some. About this period his father took him on a visit to Lady Waldegrave at Strawberry Hill, and was much pleased, to exhibit to his old friend the fair bright boy, dressed in a green coat with red cellar and cuffs, a frill at the throat, and white trousers. After some time had been spent among the wonders of the Orford Collection, of which he ever after carried a catalogue in his head, a servant who was waiting upon the company in the great gallery spilt some hot coffee over his legs. The hostess was all kindness and compassion, and when, after a while, she asked how he was feeling, the little fellow looked up in her face and replied: "Thank you, madam, the agony is abated."
But it must not be supposed that his quaint manners proceeded from affectation or conceit; for all testimony declares that a more simple and natural child never lived, or a more lively and merry one. He had at his command the resources of the Common; to this day the most unchanged spot within ten miles of St. Paul's, and which to all appearance will ere long hold that pleasant preeminence within ten leagues. That delightful wilderness of gorse bushes, and poplar groves, and gravel-pits, and ponds great and small, was to little Tom Macaulay a region of inexhaustible romance and mystery. He explored its recesses; he composed, and almost believed, its legends; he invented for its different features a nomenclature which has been faithfully preserved by two generations of children. A slight ridge, intersected by deep ditches, towards the west of the Common, the very existence of which no one above eight years old would notice, was dignified with the title of the Alps; while the elevated island, covered with shrubs, that gives a name to the Mount pond, was regarded with infinite awe as being the nearest approach within the circuit of his observation to a conception of the majesty of Sinai. Indeed, at this period his infant fancy was much exercised with the threats and terrors of the Law. He had a little plot of ground at the back of the house, marked out as his own by a Tory of oyster-shells, which a maid one day threw away as rubbish. He went straight to the drawing-room, where his mother was entertaining some visitors, walked into the circle, and said very solemnly: "Cursed be Sally; for it is written, Cursed is he that removeth his neighbour's land-mark."
While still the merest child he was sent as a day-scholar to Mr. Greaves, a shrewd Yorkshireman with a turn for science, who had been originally brought to the neighbourhood in order to educate a number of African youths sent over to imbibe Western civilisation at the fountain-head. The poor fellows had found as much difficulty in keeping alive at Clapham as Englishmen experience at Sierra Leone; and, in the end, their tutor set up a school for boys of his own colour, and at one time had charge of almost the entire rising generation of the Common. Mrs. Macaulay explained to Tom that he must learn to study without the solace of bread and butter, to which he replied: "Yes, mama, industry shall be my bread and attention my butter." But, as a matter of fact, no one ever crept more unwillingly to school. Each several afternoon he made piteous entreaties to be excused returning after dinner, and was met by the unvarying formula: "No, Tom, if it rains cats and dogs, you shall go."
His reluctance to leave home had more than one side to it. Not only did his heart stay behind, but the regular lessons of the class took him away from occupations which in his eyes were infinitely more delightful and important; for these were probably the years of his greatest literary activity. As an author he never again had mere facility, or anything like so wide a range. In September 1808, his mother writes: "My dear Tom continues to show marks of uncommon genius. He gets on wonderfully in all branches of his education, and the extent of his reading, and of the knowledge he has derived from it, are truly astonishing in a boy not yet eight years old. He is at the same time as playful as a kitten. To give you some idea of the activity of his mind I will mention a few circumstances that may interest you and Colin. You will believe that to him we never appear to regard anything he does as anything more than a schoolboy's amusement. He took it into his head to write a compendium of Universal History about a year ago, and he really contrived to give a tolerably connected view of the leading events from the Creation to the present time, filling about a quire of paper. He told me one day that he had been writing a paper, which Henry Daly was to translate into Malabar, to persuade the people of Travancore to embrace the Christian religion. On reading it I found it to contain a very clear idea of the leading facts and doctrines of that religion, with some strong arguments for its adoption. He was so fired with reading Scott's Lay and Marmion, the former of which he got entirely, and the latter almost entirely, by heart, merely from his delight in reading them, that he determined on writing himself a poem in six cantos which he called the 'Battle of Cheviot.' After he had finished about three of the cantos of about 120 lines each, which he did in a couple of days, he became tired of it. I make no doubt he would have finished his design, but, as he was proceeding with it, the thought struck him of writing an heroic poem to be called 'Olaus the Great, or the Conquest of Mona,' in which, after the manner of Virgil, he might introduce in prophetic song the future fortunes of the family;—among others, those of the hero who aided in the fall of the tyrant of Mysore, after having long suffered from his tyranny; [General Macaulay had been one of Tippoo Sahib's prisoners] and of another of his race who had exerted himself for the deliverance of the wretched Africans. He has just begun it. He has composed I know not how many hymns. I send you one, as a specimen, in his own handwriting, which he wrote about six months ago on one Monday morning while we were at breakfast."
The affection of the last generation of his relatives has preserved all these pieces, but the piety of this generation will refrain from submitting them to public criticism. A marginal note, in which Macaulay has expressed his cordial approval of Uncle Toby's [Tristram Shandy, chapter clxiii.] remark about the great Lipsius, indicates his own wishes in the matter too clearly to leave any choice for those who come after him. But there still may be read in a boyish scrawl the epitome of Universal History, from "a new king who knew not Joseph,"—down through Rameses, and Dido, and Tydeus, and Tarquin, and Crassus, and Gallienus, and Edward the Martyr,—to Louis, who "set off on a crusade against the Albigenses," and Oliver Cromwell, who "was an unjust and wicked man." The hymns remain, which Mrs. Hannah More, surely a consummate judge of the article, pronounced to be "quite extraordinary for such a baby." To a somewhat later period probably belongs a vast pile of blank verse, entitled "Fingal, a poem in xii books;" two of which are in a complete and connected shape, while the rest of the story is lost amidst a labyrinth of many hundred scattered lines, so transcribed as to suggest a conjecture that the boy's demand for foolscap had outrun the paternal generosity.
Of all his performances, that which attracted most attention at the time was undertaken for the purpose of immortalising Olaus Magnus, King of Norway, from whom the clan to which the bard belonged was supposed to derive its name. Two cantos are extant, of which there are several exemplars, in every stage of calligraphy from the largest round hand downwards, a circumstance which is apparently due to the desire on the part of each of the little Macaulays to possess a copy of the great family epic. The opening stanzas, each of which contains more lines than their author counted years, go swinging along with plenty of animation and no dearth of historical and geographical allusion.
Day set on Cumbria's hills supreme, And, Menai, on thy silver stream. The star of day had reached the West. Now in the main it sank to rest. Shone great Eleindyn's castle tall: Shone every battery, every hall: Shone all fair Mona's verdant plain; But chiefly shone the foaming main.
"Long," said the Prince, "shall Olave's name Live in the high records of fame. Fair Mona now shall trembling stand That ne'er before feared mortal hand. Mona, that isle where Ceres' flower In plenteous autumn's golden hour Hides all the fields from man's survey As locusts hid old Egypt's day."
The passage containing a prophetic mention of his father and uncle after the manner of the sixth book of the Aeneid, for the sake of which, according to Mrs. Macaulay, the poem was originally designed, can nowhere be discovered. It is possible that in the interval between the conception and the execution the boy happened to light upon a copy of the Rolliad. If such was the case, he already had too fine a sense of humour to have persevered in his original plan after reading that masterpiece of drollery. It is worthy of note that the voluminous writings of his childhood, dashed off at headlong speed in the odds and ends of leisure from school-study and nursery routine, are not only perfectly correct in spelling and grammar, but display the same lucidity of meaning, and scrupulous accuracy in punctuation and the other minor details of the literary art, which characterise his mature works.
Nothing could be more judicious than the treatment that Mr. and Mrs. Macaulay adopted towards their boy. They never handed his productions about, or encouraged him to parade his powers of conversation or memory. They abstained from any word or act which might foster in him a perception of his own genius with as much care as a wise millionaire expends on keeping his son ignorant of the fact that he is destined to be richer than his comrades. "It was scarcely ever," writes one who knew him well from the very first, "that the consciousness was expressed by either of his parents of the superiority of their son over other children. Indeed, with his father I never remember any such expression. What I most observed myself was his extraordinary command of language. When he came to describe to his mother any childish play, I took care to be present, when I could, that I might listen to the way in which he expressed himself, often scarcely exceeded in his later years. Except this trifle, I remember him only as a good-tempered boy, always occupied, playing with his sisters without assumption of any kind." One effect of this early discipline showed itself in his freedom from vanity and susceptibility,—those qualities which, coupled together in our modern psychological dialect under the head of "self-consciousness," are supposed to be the besetting defects of the literary character. Another result was his habitual over-estimate of the average knowledge possessed by mankind. Judging others by himself, he credited the world at large with an amount of information which certainly few have the ability to acquire, or the capacity to retain. If his parents had not been so diligent in concealing from him the difference between his own intellectual stores and those of his neighbours, it is probable that less would have been heard of Lord Macaulay's Schoolboy.
The system pursued at home was continued at Barley Wood, the place where the Misses More resided from 1802 onwards. Mrs. Macaulay gladly sent her boy to a house where he was encouraged without being spoiled, and where he never failed to be a welcome guest. The kind old ladies made a real companion of him, and greatly relished his conversation; while at the same time, with their ideas on education, they would never have allowed him, even if he had been so inclined, to forget that he was a child. Mrs. Hannah More, who had the rare gift of knowing how to live with both young and old, was the most affectionate and the wisest of friends, and readily undertook the superintendence of his studies, his pleasures, and his health. She would keep him with her for weeks, listening to him as he read prose by the ell, declaimed poetry by the hour, and discussed and compared his favourite heroes, ancient, modern, and fictitious, under all points of view and in every possible combination; coaxing him into the garden under pretence of a lecture on botany; sending him from his books to run round the grounds, or play at cooking in the kitchen; giving him Bible lessons which invariably ended in a theological argument, and following him with her advice and sympathy through his multifarious literary enterprises. ["The next time," (my uncle once said to us,) "that I saw Hannah More was in 1807. The old ladies begged my parents to leave me with them for a week, and this visit was a great event in my life. In parlour and kitchen they could not make enough of me. They taught me to cook; and I was to preach, and they got in people from the fields and I stood on a chair, and preached sermons. I might have been indicted for holding a conventicle."] She writes to his father in 1809: "I heartily hope that the sea air has been the means of setting you up, and Mrs. Macaulay also, and that the dear little poet has caught his share of bracing.... Tell Tom I desire to know how 'Olaus' goes on. The sea, I suppose, furnished him with some new images."
The broader and more genial aspect under which life showed itself to the boy at Barley Wood has left its trace in a series of childish squibs and parodies, which may still be read with an interest that his Cambrian and Scandinavian rhapsodies fail to inspire. The most ambitious of these lighter efforts is a pasquinade occasioned by some local scandal, entitled "Childe Hugh and the labourer, a pathetic ballad." The "Childe" of the story was a neighbouring baronet, and the "Abbot" a neighbouring rector, and the whole performance, intended, as it was, to mimic the spirit of Percy's Reliques, irresistibly suggests a reminiscence of John Gilpin. It is pleasant to know that to Mrs. Hannah More was due the commencement of what eventually became the most readable of libraries, as is shown in a series of letters extending over the entire period of Macaulay's education. When he was six years old she writes; "Though you are a little boy now, you will one day, if it please God, be a man; but long before you are a man I hope you will be a scholar. I therefore wish you to purchase such books as will be useful and agreeable to you then, and that you employ this very small sum in laying a little tiny corner-stone for your future library." A year or two afterwards she thanks him for his "two letters, so neat and free from blots. By this obvious improvement you have entitled yourself to another book. You must go to Hatchard's and choose. I think we have nearly exhausted the Epics. What say you to a little good prose? Johnson's Hebrides, or Walton's Lives, unless you would like a neat edition of Cowper's poems or Paradise Lost for your own eating? In any case choose something which you do not possess. I want you to become a complete Frenchman, that I may give you Racine, the only dramatic poet I know in any modern language that is perfectly pure and good. I think you have hit off the Ode very well, and I am much obliged to you for the Dedication." The poor little author was already an adept in the traditional modes of requiting a patron.
He had another Maecenas in the person of General Macaulay, who came back from India in 1810. The boy greeted him with a copy of verses, beginning
"Now safe returned from Asia's parching strand, Welcome, thrice welcome to thy native land."
To tell the unvarnished truth, the General's return was not altogether of a triumphant character. After very narrowly escaping with his life from an outbreak at Travancore, incited by a native minister who owed him a grudge, he had given proof of courage and spirit during some military operations which ended in his being brought back to the Residency with flying colours. But, when the fighting was over, he countenanced, and perhaps prompted, measures of retaliation which were ill taken by his superiors at Calcutta. In his congratulatory effusion the nephew presumes to remind the uncle that on European soil there still might be found employment for so redoubtable a sword.
"For many a battle shall be lost and won Ere yet thy glorious labours shall be done."
The General did not take the hint, and spent the remainder of his life peacefully enough between London, Bath, and the Continental capitals. He was accustomed to say that his travelling carriage was his only freehold; and, wherever he fixed his temporary residence, he had the talent of making himself popular. At Geneva he was a universal favourite; he always was welcome at Coppet; and he gave the strongest conceivable proof of a cosmopolitan disposition by finding himself equally at home at Rome and at Clapham. When in England he lived much with his relations, to whom he was sincerely attached. He was generous in a high degree, and the young people owed to him books which they otherwise could never have obtained, and treats and excursions which formed the only recreations that broke the uniform current of their lives. They regarded their uncle Colin as the man of the world of the Macaulay family.
Zachary Macaulay's circumstances during these years were good, and constantly improving. For some time he held the post of Secretary to the Sierra Leone Company, with a salary of L500 per annum. He subsequently entered into partnership with a nephew, and the firm did a large business as African merchants under the names of Macaulay and Babington. The position of the father was favourable to the highest interests of his children. A boy has the best chance of being well brought up in a household where there is solid comfort, combined with thrift and simplicity; and the family was increasing too fast to leave any margin for luxurious expenditure. Before the eldest son had completed his thirteenth year he had three brothers and five sisters.
[It was in the course of his thirteenth year that the boy wrote his "Epitaph on Henry Martyn."
Here Martyn lies. In manhood's early bloom The Christian hero finds a Pagan tomb. Religion, sorrowing o'er her favourite son, Points to the glorious trophies that he won. Eternal trophies! not with carnage red, Not stained with tears by hapless captives shed, But trophies of the Cross. For that dear name, Through every form of danger, death, and shame, Onward he journeyed to a happier shore, Where danger, death and shame assault no more."]
In the course of 1812 it began to be evident that Tom had got beyond the educational capabilities of Clapham; and his father seriously contemplated the notion of removing to London in order to place him as a day-scholar at Westminster. Thorough as was the consideration which the parents gave to the matter, their decision was of more importance than they could at the time foresee. If their son had gone to a public school, it is more than probable that he would have turned out a different man, and have done different work. So sensitive and homeloving a boy might for a while have been too depressed to enter fully unto the ways of the place; but, as he gained confidence, he could not have withstood the irresistible attractions which the life of a great school exercises over a vivid eager nature, and he would have sacrificed to passing pleasures and emulations a part, at any rate, of those years which, in order to be what he was, it was necessary that he should spend wholly among his books. Westminster or Harrow might have sharpened his faculties for dealing with affairs and with men; but the world at large would have lost more than he could by any possibility have gained. If Macaulay had received the usual education of a young Englishman, he might in all probability have kept his seat for Edinburgh; but he could hardly have written the Essay on Von Ranke, or the description of England in the third chapter of the History.
Mr. Macaulay ultimately fixed upon a private school, kept by the Rev. Mr. Preston, at Little Shelford, a village in the immediate vicinity of Cambridge. The motives which guided this selection were mainly of a religious nature. Mr. Preston held extreme Low Church opinions, and stood in the good books of Mr. Simeon, whose word had long been law in the Cambridge section of the Evangelical circle. But whatever had been the inducement to make it, the choice proved singularly fortunate. The tutor, it is true, was narrow in his views, and lacked the taste and judgment to set those views before his pupils in an attractive form. Theological topics dragged into the conversation at unexpected moments, inquiries about their spiritual state, and long sermons which had to be listened to under the dire obligation of reproducing them in an epitome, fostered in the minds of some of the boys a reaction against the outward manifestations of religion;—a reaction which had already begun under the strict system pursued in their respective homes. But, on the other hand, Mr. Preston knew both how to teach his scholars, and when to leave them to teach themselves. The eminent judge, who divided grown men into two sharply defined and most uncomplimentary categories, was accustomed to say that private schools made poor creatures, and public schools sad dogs; but Mr. Preston succeeded in giving a practical contradiction to Sir William Maine's proposition. His pupils, who were limited to an average of a dozen at a time, got far beyond their share of honours at the university and of distinction in after life. George Stainforth, a grandson of Sir Francis Baring, by his success at Cambridge was the first to win the school an honourable name, which was more than sustained by Henry Malden, now Greek Professor at University College, London, and by Macaulay himself. Shelford was strongly under the influence of the neighbouring university; an influence which Mr. Preston, himself a fellow of Trinity, wisely encouraged. The boys were penetrated with Cambridge ambitions and ways of thought; and frequent visitors brought to the table, where master and pupils dined in common, the freshest Cambridge gossip of the graver sort.
Little Macaulay received much kindness from Dean Milner, the President of Queen's College, then at the very summit of a celebrity which is already of the past. Those who care to search among the embers of that once brilliant reputation can form a fair notion of what Samuel Johnson would have been if he had lived a generation later, and had been absolved from the necessity of earning his bread by the enjoyment of ecclesiastical sinecures, and from any uneasiness as to his worldly standing by the possession of academical dignities and functions. The Dean who had boundless goodwill for all his fellow-creatures at every period of life, provided that they were not Jacobins or sceptics, recognised the promise of the boy, and entertained him at his college residence on terms of friendliness, and almost of equality. After one of these visits he writes to Mr. Macaulay; "Your lad is a fine fellow. He shall stand before kings, he shall not stand before mean men."
Shelford: February 22, 1813.
My dear Papa,—As this is a whole holiday, I cannot find a better time for answering your letter. With respect to my health, I am very well, and tolerably cheerful, as Blundell, the best and most clever of all the scholars, is very kind, and talks to me, and takes my part. He is quite a friend of Mr. Preston's. The other boys, especially Lyon, a Scotch boy, and Wilberforce, are very good-natured, and we might have gone on very well had not one, a Bristol fellow, come here. He is unanimously alloyed to be a queer fellow, and is generally characterised as a foolish boy, and by most of us as an ill-natured one. In my learning I do Xenophon every day, and twice a week the Odyssey, in which I am classed with Wilberforce, whom all the boys allow to be very clever, very droll, and very impudent. We do Latin verses trice a week, and I have not yet been laughed at, as Wilberforce is the only one who hears them, being in my class. We are exercised also once a week in English composition, and once in Latin composition, and letters of persons renowned in history to each other. We get by heart Greek grammar or Virgil every evening. As for sermon-writing, I have hitherto got off with credit, and I hope I shall keep up my reputation. We have had the first meeting of our debating society the other day, when a vote of censure was moved for upon Wilberforce, but he getting up said, "Mr. President, I beg to second the motion." By this means he escaped. The kindness which Mr. Preston shows me is very great. He always assists me in what I cannot do, and takes me to walk out with him every now and then. My room is a delightful snug little chamber, which nobody can enter, as there is a trick about opening the door. I sit like a king, with my writing-desk before me; for, (would you believe it?) there is a writing-desk in my chest of drawers; my books on one side, my box of papers on the other, with my arm-chair and my candle; for every boy has a candlestick, snuffers, and extinguisher of his own. Being pressed for room, I will conclude what I have to say to-morrow, and ever remain,
Your affectionate son,
THOMAS B. MACAULAY.
The youth who on this occasion gave proof of his parentage by his readiness and humour was Wilberforce's eldest son. A fortnight later on, the subject chosen for discussion was "whether Lord Wellington or Marlborough was the greatest general. A very warm debate is expected."
Shelford: April 20, 1813.
My dear Mama,—Pursuant to my promise I resume my pen to write to you with the greatest pleasure. Since I wrote to you yesterday, I have enjoyed myself more than I have ever done since I came to Shelford. Mr. Hodson called about twelve o'clock yesterday morning with a pony for me, and took me with him to Cambridge. How surprised and delighted was I to learn that I was to take a bed at Queen's College in Dean Milner's apartments! Wilberforce arrived soon after, and I spent the day very agreeably, the Dean amusing me with the greatest kindness. I slept there, and came home on horseback to-day just in time for dinner. The Dean has invited me to come again, and Mr. Preston has given his consent. The books which I am at present employed in reading to myself are, in English, Plutarch's Lives, and Milner's Ecclesiastical History; in French, Fenelon's Dialogues of the Dead. I shall send you back the volumes of Madame de Genlis's petits romans as soon as possible, and I should be very much obliged for one or two more of them. Everything now seems to feel the influence of spring. The trees are all out. The lilacs are in bloom. The days are long, and I feel that I should be happy were it not that I want home. Even yesterday, when I felt more real satisfaction than I have done for almost three months, I could not help feeling a sort of uneasiness, which indeed I have always felt more or less since I have been here, and which is the only thing that hinders me from being perfectly happy. This day two months will put a period to my uneasiness.
"Fly fast the hours, and dawn th' expected morn."
Every night when I lie down I reflect that another day is cut off from the tiresome time of absence.
Your affectionate son,
THOMAS B. MACAULAY.
Shelford: April 26 1813.
My dear Papa,—Since I have given you a detail of weekly duties, I hope you will be pleased to be informed of my Sunday's occupations. It is quite a day of rest here, and I really look to it with pleasure through the whole of the week. After breakfast we learn a chapter in the Greek Testament that is with the aid of our Bibles, and without doing it with a dictionary like other lessons. We then go to church. We dine almost as soon as we come back, and we are left to ourselves till afternoon church. During this time I employ myself in reading, and Mr. Preston lends me any books for which I ask him, so that I am nearly as well off in this respect as at home, except for one thing, which, though I believe it is useful, is not very pleasant. I can only ask for one book at a time, and cannot touch another till I have read it through. We then go to church, and after we come hack I read as before till tea-time. After tea we write out the sermon. I cannot help thinking that Mr. Preston uses all imaginable means to make us forget it, for he gives us a glass of wine each on Sunday, and on Sunday only, the very day when we want to have all our faculties awake; and some do literally go to sleep during the sermon, and look rather silly when they wake. I, however, have not fallen into this disaster.
Your affectionate son,
THOMAS B. MACAULAY.
The constant allusions to home politics and to the progress of the Continental struggle, which occur throughout Zachary Macaulay's correspondence with his son, prove how freely, and on what an equal footing, the parent and child already conversed on questions of public interest. The following letter is curious as a specimen of the eagerness with which the boy habitually flung himself into the subjects which occupied his father's thoughts. The renewal of the East India Company's charter was just then under the consideration of Parliament, and the whole energies of the Evangelical party were exerted in order to signalise the occasion by securing our Eastern dominions as a field for the spread of Christianity. Petitions against the continued exclusion of missionaries were in course of circulation throughout the island, the drafts of which had been prepared by Mr. Macaulay.
Shelford: May 8, 1813.
My dear Papa,—As on Monday it will be out of my power to write, since the examination subjects are to be given out I write to-day instead to answer your kind and long letter.
I am very much pleased that the nation seems to take such interest in the introduction of Christianity into India. My Scotch blood begins to boil at the mention of the 1,750 names that went up from a single country parish. Ask Mama and Selina if they do not now admit my argument with regard to the superior advantages of the Scotch over the English peasantry.
As to my examination preparations, I will if you please give you a sketch of my plan. On Monday, the day on which the examination subjects are given out, I shall begin. My first performance will be my verses and my declamation. I shall then translate the Greek and Latin. The first time of going over I shall mark the passages which puzzle me, and then return to them again. But I shall have also to rub up my Mathematics, (by the bye, I begin the second book of Euclid to-day,) and to study whatever History may be appointed for the examination. I shall not be able to avoid trembling, whether I know my subjects or not. I am however intimidated at nothing but Greek. Mathematics suit my taste, although, before I came, I declaimed against them, and asserted that, when I went to College, it should not be to Cambridge. I am occupied with the hope of lecturing Mama and Selina upon Mathematics, as I used to do upon Heraldry, and to change Or, and Argent, and Azure, and Gules, for squares, and points, and circles, and angles, and triangles, and rectangles, and rhomboids, and in a word "all the pomp and circumstance" of Euclid. When I come home I shall, if my purse is sufficient, bring a couple of rabbits for Selina and Jane.
Your affectionate son,
THOMAS B. MACAULAY.
It will be seen that this passing fondness for mathematics soon changed into bitter disgust.
Clapham May 28, 1813.
My dear Tom,—I am very happy to hear that you have so far advanced in your different prize exercises, and with such little fatigue. I know you write with great ease to yourself, and would rather write ten poems than prune one; but remember that excellence is not attained at first. All your pieces are much mended after a little reflection, and therefore take some solitary walks, and think over each separate thing. Spare no time or trouble to render each piece as perfect as you can, and then leave the event without one anxious thought. I have always admired a saying of one of the old heathen philosophers. When a friend was condoling with him that he so well deserved of the gods, and yet that they did not shower their favours on him, as on some others less worthy, he answered, "I will, however, continue to deserve well of them." So do you, my dearest. Do your best because it is the will of God you should improve every faculty to the utmost now, and strengthen the powers of your mind by exercise, and then in future you will be better enabled to glorify God with all your powers and talents, be they of a more humble, or higher order, and you shall not fail to be received into everlasting habitations, with the applauding voice of your Saviour, "Well done, good and faithful servant." You see how ambitious your mother is. She must have the wisdom of her son acknowledged before Angels, and an assembled world. My wishes can soar no higher, and they can be content with nothing less for any of my children. The first time I saw your face, I repeated those beautiful lines of Watts' cradle hymn,
Mayst thou live to know and fear Him, Trust and love Him all thy days Then go dwell for ever near Him, See His face, and sing His praise.
and this is the substance of all my prayers for you. In less than a month you and I shall, I trust, be rambling over the Common, which now looks quite beautiful.
I am ever, my dear Tom,
Your affectionate mother,
The commencement of the second half-year at school, perhaps the darkest season of a boy's existence, was marked by an unusually severe and prolonged attack of home-sickness. It would be cruel to insert the first letter written after the return to Shelford from the summer holidays. That which follows it is melancholy enough.
Shelford: August 14. 1813.
My dear Mama,—I must confess that I have been a little disappointed at not receiving a letter from home to-day. I hope, however, for one to-morrow. My spirits are far more depressed by leaving home than they were last half-year. Everything brings home to my recollection. Everything I read, or see, or hear, brings it to my mind. You told me I should be happy when I once came here, but not an hour passes in which I do not shed tears at thinking of home. Every hope, however unlikely to be realised, affords me some small consolation. The morning on which I went, you told me that possibly I might come home before the holidays. If you can confirm this hope, believe me when I assure you that there is nothing which I would not give for one instant's sight of home. Tell me in your next, expressly, if you can, whether or no there is any likelihood of my coming home before the holidays. If I could gain Papa's leave, I should select my birthday on October 25 as the time which I should wish to spend at that home which absence renders still dearer to me. I think I see you sitting by Papa just after his dinner, reading my letter, and turning to him, with an inquisitive glance, at the end of the paragraph. I think too that I see his expressive shake of the head at it. O, may I be mistaken! You cannot conceive what an alteration a favourable answer would produce in me. If your approbation of my request depends upon my advancing in study, I will work like a cart-horse. If you should refuse it, you will deprive me of the most pleasing illusion which I ever experienced in my life. Pray do not fail to write speedily.
Your dutiful and affectionate son,
T. B. MACAULAY.
His father answered him in a letter of strong religious complexion, full of feeling, and even of beauty, but too long for reproduction in a biography that is not his own.
Mr. Macaulay's deep anxiety for his son's welfare sometimes induced him to lend too ready an ear to busybodies, who informed him of failings in the boy which would have been treated more lightly, and perhaps more wisely, by a less devoted father. In the early months of 1814 he writes as follows, after hearing the tale of some guest of Mr. Preston whom Tom had no doubt contradicted at table in presence of the assembled household.
London: March 4, 1814.
My dear Tom,—In taking up my pen this morning a passage in Cowper almost involuntarily occurred to me. You will find it at length in his "Conversation."
"Ye powers who rule the Tongue, if such there are, And make colloquial happiness your care, Preserve me from the thing I dread and hate, A duel in the form of a debate. Vociferated logic kills me quite. A noisy man is always in the right."
You know how much such a quotation as this would fall in with my notions, averse as I am to loud and noisy tones, and self-confident, overwhelming, and yet perhaps very unsound arguments. And you will remember how anxiously I dwelt upon this point while you were at home. I have been in hopes that this half-year would witness a great change in you in this respect. My hopes, however, have been a little damped by something which I heard last week through a friend, who seemed to have received an impression that you had gained a high distinction among the young gentlemen at Shelford by the loudness and vehemence of your tones. Now, my dear Tom, you cannot doubt that this gives me pain; and it does so not so much on account of the thing itself, as because I consider it a pretty infallible test of the mind within. I do long and pray most earnestly that the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit may be substituted for vehemence and self-confidence, and that you may be as much distinguished for the former as ever you have been for the latter. It is a school in which I am not ambitious that any child of mine should take a high degree.
If the people of Shelford be as bad as you represent them in your letters, what are they but an epitome of the world at large? Are they ungrateful to you for your kindnesses? Are they foolish, and wicked, and wayward in the use of their faculties? What is all this but what we ourselves are guilty of every day? Consider how much in our case the guilt of such conduct is aggravated by our superior knowledge. We shall not have ignorance to plead in its extenuation, as many of the people of Shelford may have. Now, instead of railing at the people of Shelford, I think the best thing which you and your schoolfellows could do would be to try to reform them. You can buy and distribute useful and striking tracts, as well as Testaments, among such as can read. The cheap Repository and Religious Tract Society will furnish tracts suited to all descriptions of persons; and for those who cannot read—why should you not institute a Sunday school to be taught by yourselves, and in which appropriate rewards being given for good behaviour, not only at school but through the week, great effects of a moral kind might soon be produced? I have exhausted my paper, and must answer the rest of your letter in a few days. In the meantime,
I am ever your most affectionate father,
A father's prayers are seldom fulfilled to the letter. Many years were to elapse before the son ceased to talk loudly and with confidence; and the literature that he was destined to distribute through the world was of another order from that which Mr. Macaulay here suggests. The answer, which is addressed to the mother, affords a proof that the boy could already hold his own. The allusions to the Christian Observer, of which his father was editor, and to Dr. Herbert Marsh, with whom the ablest pens of Clapham were at that moment engaged in hot and embittered controversy, are thrown in with an artist's hand.