Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

mind the hippopotamus." And, having paid a shilling to see Behemoth, they left him in the very moment at which he was about to display himself to them, in order to see—but spare my modesty. I can wish for nothing more on earth, now that Madame Tussaud, in whose Pantheon I once hoped for a place, is dead.'

Or, to quote another form of honour paid to his memorythat perhaps which he would himself most highly have appreciated-amongst the national relics in the British Museum a few lines traced by his hand have been deemed worthy to find a place, as one of the choicest of our treasures.

"A manuscript page of his History, thickly scored with dashes and erasures-it is the passage in the twenty-fifth chapter where Sir Hans Sloane is mentioned as "the founder of the magnificent museum which " is one of the glories of our country,"—is preserved at that museum in a cabinet, which may truly be called the place of honour ; within whose narrow limits are gathered together a rare collection of objects such as Englishmen of all classes and parties regard with a common reverence and pride. There may be seen Nelson's hasty sketch of the line of battle at the Nile; and the sheet of paper on which Wellington computed the strength of the cavalry regiments that were to fight at Waterloo ; and the note-book of Locke; and the autographs of Samuel Johnson's Irene, and Ben Jonson's Masque of Queens; and the rough copy of the translation of the Iliad, written, as Pope loved to write, on the margin of frayed letters and the backs of tattered envelopes. It is pleasant to think what Macaulay's feelings would have been, if, when he was rhyming and castle-building among the summer-houses at Barley Wood, or the laurel-walks at Aspenden, or under the limes and horsechestnuts in the Cambridge Gardens, he could have been assured that the day would come when he should be invited to take his place in such a noble company.'

But indeed no form of human honour and reward was wanting to his success. The Institute of France conferred on him the rank of an Associate. Oxford made him a Doctor of Laws. The Town Council of Cambridge elected him in 1857 to the High Stewardship of the Borough—an honorary office which had been held by the Protector Somerset, by Bacon, by Oliver Cromwell, and by Clarendon. The members of the Prussian Order of Merit elected him a Knight. And soon after his health compelled him to retire from the representation of Edinburgh, the Queen raised him to the rank of a Peer of England—the first example of a peerage bestowed on literary genius, for at the time it was granted Macaulay had ceased to be a politician. It was, however, not unwelcome to him that this mark of the Queen's favour was conferred by the hand of Lord Palmerston. Though Lord Palmerston was certainly not a representative of Whig opinions, but rather of the liberal

Lomolandtht the times, however, was c

side of Toryism, his high-spirit, his pluck, and vigour in action had always exercised a powerful attraction over the mind of Macaulay. In 1852, when he was dismissed from the Foreign Office, Macaulay wrote in his Journal:

* December 24.–Palmerston is out. It was high time; but I cannot help being sorry. A daring, indefatigable, high-spirited man; but too fond of conflict, and too ready to sacrifice everything to victory when once he was in the ring.'

In fact Macaulay liked Lord Palmerston, not only in spite of his defects, but in some degree for his defects, which warmed his imagination. It was therefore with peculiar pleasure that he received his peerage from so friendly a hand. He took his seat with modest pride beside the representatives of the historic families of England, whose forefathers were to him better known than his own contemporaries. But his elevation to the peerage produced no other results. He never spoke in the House of Lords, for though he had once prepared an answer to Lord Ellenborough on some Indian question, the opportunity passed and the speech was not delivered.

Scarcely any portion of these volumes will be read with greater interest than the record of the years (chiefly under Macaulay's own hand), which were spent in the steady prosecution of his historical labours. Yet there are no events to record-nothing but the play of his own mind and fancy, the pursuit of a noble object, and numberless touches of humour, tenderness, and generosity, which endear him more and more to us. These we must rapidly pass by: but the success of the second instalment of his great work must be commemorated, for it was the most extraordinary occurrence of the kind not only in his own life, but in all literary history.

On the 21st of November 1855, he writes: “I looked over and “sent off the last twenty pages. My work is done, thank God; and now 6 for the result. On the whole, I think that it cannot be very unfavour“ able. At dinner I finished Melpomene." The first effect upon Macaulay of having completed an instalment of his own History was now, as in 1848, to set him reading Herodotus.

November 23.-Longman came. All the twenty-five thousand copies are ordered. Monday, the 27th of December, is to be the day; but on the evening of the preceding Saturday those booksellers who take more than a thousand are to have their books. The stock lying at the bookbinders' is insured for ten thousand pounds. The whole weight is fifty-six tons. It seems that no such edition was ever published of any work of the same bulk. I earnestly hope that neither age nor riches will narrow my heart.'

November 29.-I was again confined to my room all day, and again dawdled over my book. I wish that the next month were over. I am

more anxious than I was about the first part, for then I had no highly raised expectations to satisfy, and now people expect so much that the Seventh Book of Thucydides would hardly content them. On the other hand, the general sterility, the miserably enervated state of literature, is all in my favour. We shall see. It is odd that I should care so very little about the money, though it is full as much as I made by banishing myself for four and a half of the best years of my life to India.'

On the last day of February 1856, Macaulay writes in his Journal : “ Longman called. It is necessary to re-print. This is wonderful. “ Twenty-six thousand five hundred copies sold in ten weeks! I “ should not wonder if I made twenty thousand pounds clear this year “ by literature. Pretty well, considering that, twenty years ago, I had “ just nothing when my debts were paid; and all that I have, with the “ exception of a small part left me by my uncle the General, has been “ made by myself, and made easily and honestly, by pursuits which “ were a pleasure to me, and without one insinuation from any slanderer " that I was not even liberal in all my pecuniary dealings.""

""March 7.-Longman came, with a very pleasant announcement. He and his partners find that they are overflowing with money, and think that they cannot invest it better than by advancing to me, on the usual terms of course, part of what will be due to me in December. We agreed that they shall pay twenty thousand pounds into Williams's Bank next week. What a sum to be gained by one edition of a book ! I may say, gained in one day. But that was harvest-day. The work had been near seven years in hand. I went to Westbourne Terrace by a Paddington omnibus, and passed an hour there, laughing and laughed at. They are all much pleased. They have, indeed, as much reason to be pleased as I, who am pleased on their account rather than on my own, though I am glad that my last years will be comfortable. Comfortable, however, I could have been on a sixth part of the income which I shall now have."

“The cheque is still preserved as a curiosity among the archives of Messrs. Longman's firm.'

To this statement Mr. Trevelyan adds the following details, which are an appropriate answer to the predictions of the • Quarterly Review :'

Messrs. Longman's books show that, in an ordinary year, when nothing is done to stimulate the public appetite by novelty of form or reduction of price, their stock of the History goes out of their hands at the rate of seventy complete copies a week. But a computation founded on this basis would give a very inadequate notion of the extent to which Macaulay's most important work is bought and read; for no account would have been taken of the years in which large masses of new and cheap editions were sold off in the course of a few months. 12,024 copies of a single volume of the History were put into circulation in 1858, and 22,925 copies of a single volume in 1864. During the nine years ending with the 25th of June 1857, Messrs. Longman disposed of 30,478 copies of the first volume of the History; 50,783 copies during the nine years ending with June 1866; and 52,392 copies during the nine years ending with June 1875. Within a generation of its first appearance, upwards of a hundred and forty thousand copies of the History will have been printed and sold in the United Kingdom alone.'

Caring little for money, except in so far as he was able to make a liberal and generous use of it, Macaulay enjoyed the power his new opulence had conferred on him. Until he was fifty-two years of age, he had never had a carriage of his own, except when in office; indeed he had never even had a house. He now removed from the Albany to an agreeable villa on Campden Hill, with a gallery to the south and a garden—an abode perfectly suited to him: and he continued, with increasing liberality, to assist those who had any claims on him, and a great many of those who had not. The appeals to him from distressed literary men were numberless, but he never turned a deaf ear to them. One morning a gentleman calls on him and relates his embarrassments; he was a Cambridge man and his name was known in philology; Macaulay is moved, and without even ascertaining his identity, gives him a cheque for a hundred pounds. His generosity, when his heart was touched, and his heart was easily touched, was really unbounded.

Macaulay lived exactly four years after the publication of the second portion of his History, and had his health and energy not been greatly impaired, that time would have sufficed to carry him to the close of the reign of Anne. But the truth is that although he had only then completed his fifty-fifth year he was prematurely old—as old, physically, as most men are at seventy. In intellectual power and in the gift of memory he suffered no decline. It is a subject of eternal regret that he should not so far have husbanded or applied his time and strength as to include the reign of Anne in his History—that reign which has been so often attempted, and as yet so inadequately described.

• Gradually and unwillingly Macaulay acquiesced in the conviction that he must submit to leave untold that very portion of English history which he was competent to treat as no man again will treat it. Others may study the reign of Anne with a more minute and exclusive diligence,--the discovery of materials hitherto concealed cannot fail from time to time to throw fresh light upon transactions so extensive and complicated as those which took place between the rupture of the Peace of Ryswick and the accession of the House of Brunswick ; but it may safely be affirmed that few or none of Macaulay's successors will be imbued like him with the enthusiasm of the period. There are phases of literary taste which pass away, never to recur; and the early associations of future men of letters will seldom be connected with the Rape of the Lock, and the Essay on Criticism,—with the Spectator, the Guardian, the Freeholder, the Memoirs of Martinus Scriblerus, and the History of John Bull. But Macaulay's youth was nourished upon Pope, and Bolingbroke, and Atterbury, and Defoe. Everything which has been written by them, or about them, was as familiar to him as the Lady of the Lake, and the Bride of Abydos, were to the generation which was growing up when Lockhart's Life of Scott and Moore's Life of Byron were making their first appearance in the circulating libraries. He had Prior's burlesque verses, and Arbuthnot's pasquinades, as completely at his fingers'-ends as a clever public-school boy of fifty years ago had the Rejected Addresses, or the poetry of the Anti-Jacobin. He knew every pamphlet which had been put forth by Swift, or Steele, or Addison as well as Tories of 1790 knew their Burke, or Radicals of 1820 knew their Cobbett. There were times when he amused himself with the hope that he might even yet be permitted to utilise these vast stores of information, on each separate fragment of which he could so easily lay his hand. His diary shows him to have spent more than one summer afternoon “ walking in the portico, and reading pamphlets of Queen " Anne's time.” But he had no real expectation that the knowledge which he thus acquired would ever be turned to account.

In truth he was conscious that, with no acute disease, and with little actual suffering, the sand of life was well nigh spent in the hour-glass. He turned with deeper affection to those he loved. His tears flowed more readily at any passage of his favourite authors that touched his sensibility, or at any kind and generous action which kindled his admiration. To use Mr. Trevelyan's touching language:

• Of the feelings which he entertained towards the great minds of bygone ages it is not for anyone except himself to speak. He has told us how his debt to them was incalculable; how they guided him to truth; how they filled his mind with noble and graceful images; how they stood by him in all vicissitudes,-comforters in sorrow, nurses in sickness, companions in solitude, “ the old friends who are “ never seen with new faces; who are the same in wealth and in “ poverty, in glory and in obscurity." Great as were the honours and possessions which Macaulay acquired by his pen, all who knew him were well aware that the titles and rewards, which he gained by his own works, were as nothing in the balance as compared with the pleasure which he derived from the works of others. That knowledge has largely contributed to the tenderness with which he has been treated by writers whose views on books, and events, and politics past and present differ widely from his own. It has been well said that even the most hostile of his critics cannot help being "awed and touched by his wonder“ ful devotion to literature." And, while his ardent and sincere passion for letters has tbus served as a protection io his memory, it was likewise the source of much which calls for admiration in his character and conduct. The confidence with which he could rely upon intellectual

« AnteriorContinuar »