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LIFE AND LETTERS
Extracts from Macaulay's diary-Herodotus“Mr. Roebuck-Anticipations
of failure and success-Appearance of the History-Progress of the
"November 18, 1848. Albany.--After the lapse of more than nine years I begin my journal again.*
* It must be remembered that whatever was in Macaulay's mind may be found in his diary. That diary was written, throughout, with the unconscious candour of a man who freely and frankly notes down remarks which he expects to be read by himself alone; and with the copiousness natural to one who, except where it was demanded for the purpose of literary effect, Lord Macaulay. IV.
What a change! I have been, since the last lines were written, a member of two Parliaments, and of two Cabinets. I have published several volumes with success. I have escaped from Parliament, and am living in the way best suited to my temper. I lead a college life in London, with the comforts of domestic life near me; for Hannah and her children are very dear to me. I have an easy fortune. I have finished the first two volumes of my History. Yesterday the last sheets went to America, and within a fortnight, I hope, the publication will take place in London. I am pretty well satisfied. As compared with excellence, the work is a failure: but as compared with other similar books I cannot think it so. We shall soon know what the world says. To-day I enjoyed my new liberty, after having been most severely worked during three months in finishing my History and correcting proofs. I rose at half after nine, read at breakfast Fearon's Sketches of America, and then finished Lucian's critique on the bad historians of his time, and felt my own withers unwrung.
Ellis came to dinner at seven. I
gave him a lobster curry, woodcock, and macaroni. I think that I will note dinners as honest Pepys did.”
"Monday, November 20.-Read Pepys at breakfast, and then sate down to Herodotus, and finished
did not willingly compress anything which he had to say. It may, therefore, be hoped that the extracts presented in these volumes possess those qualities in which, as he has himself pronounced, the special merit of a private journal lies. In a letter dated August 4, 1853, he says: “The article on the Life of Moore is spiteful. Moore, however, afforded but too good an opportunity to a malevolent assailant. His diary, it is evident to me, was written to be published, and this destroys the charm proper to diaries.”
Melpomene at a sitting. I went out, looked into
“November 23.-I received to-day a translation of Kant from Ellis's friend at Liverpool. I tried to read it, but found it utterly unintelligible, just as if it had been written in Sanscrit. Not one word of it gave me anything like an idea except a Latin quotation from Persius. It seems to me that it ought to be possible to explain a true theory of metaphysics in words which I can understand. I can understand Locke, and Berkeley, and Hume, and Reid, and Stewart. I can understand Cicero's Academics, and most of Plato: and it seems odd that in a book on the elements of metaphysics by a Liverpool merchant I should not be able to comprehend a word. I wrote my acknowledgments with a little touch of the Socratic irony.
“Roebuck called, and talked to me about the West Riding. He asked me to stand. I told him that it was quite out of the question; that I had made up my mind never again to make the smallest concession to fanatical clamour on the subject of Papal endowment. I would not certainly advise the Government to propose such endowment, but I would say nothing tending to flatter the absurd prejudices which exist on that subject. I thanked
him for his goodwill, and asked him to breakfast on Monday. I find that Macculloch and Hastie have a wager on the sale of my History. Macculloch has betted that it will sell better than Lord Campbell's book. Hastie bets on Lord Campbell. Green of Longman's house is to be arbiter."
“November 25.-Read my book while dressing, and thought it better than Campbell's, with all deference to Mr. Hastie. But these things are strange lottery. After breakfast I went to the British Museum. I was in the chair. It is a stupid, useless way of doing business. An hour was lost in reading trashy minutes. All boards are bad, and this is the worst of boards. If I live, I will see whether I cannot work a reform here. Home, and read Thucydides. I admire him more than ever. He is the great historian. The others one may hope to match: him never."
“ November 29, 1848, Wednesday. I was shocked to learn the death of poor Charles Buller. It took me quite by surprise. I could almost cry for him. * I found copies of my History on my table. The suspense must now soon be over. I read my book, and Thucydides's, which, I am sorry to say, I found much better than mine."
* "In Parliament I shall look in vain for virtues which I loved, and for abilities which I admired. Often in debate, and never more than when we discuss those questions of colonial policy which are every day acquiring a new importance, I shall remember with regret how much eloquence and wit, how much acuteness and knowledge, how many engaging qualities, how many fair hopes, are buried in the grave of poor Charles Buller.” — Macaulay's Speech at Edinburgh in 1852.