"I was amused with a parody of Tom's on the nursery song 'Twenty pounds shall marry me,' as applied to the creation of Peers.
What though now opposed I be? Twenty Peers shall carry me. If twenty won't, thirty will, For I'm his Majesty's bouncing Bill.
Sir Robert Peel has been extremely complimentary to him. One sentence he repeated to us: 'My only feeling towards that gentleman is a not ungenerous envy, as I listened to that wonderful flow of natural and beautiful language, and to that utterance which, rapid as it is, seems scarcely able to convey its rich freight of thought and fancy!' People say that these words were evidently carefully prepared.
"I have just been looking round our little drawing-room, as if trying to impress every inch of it on my memory, and thinking how in future years it will rise before my mind as the scene of many hours of light-hearted mirth; how I shall again see him, lolling indolently on the old blue sofa, or strolling round the narrow confines of our room. With such a scene will come the remembrance of his beaming countenance, happy affectionate smile, and joyous laugh; while, with everyone at ease around him, he poured out the stores of his full mind in his own peculiarly beautiful and expressive language, more delightful here than anywhere else, because more perfectly unconstrained. The name which passes through this little room in the quiet, gentle tones of sisterly affection is a name which will be repeated through distant generations, and go down to posterity linked with eventful times and great deeds."
The last words here quoted will be very generally regarded as the tribute of a sister's fondness. Many, who readily admit that Macaulay's name will go down to posterity linked with eventful times and great deeds, make that admission with reference to times not his own, and deeds in which he had no part except to commemorate them with his pen. To him, as to others, a great reputation of a special order brought with it the consequence that the credit, which he deserved for what he had done well, was overshadowed by the renown of what he did best. The world, which has forgotten that Newton excelled as an administrator, and Voltaire as a man of business, remembers somewhat faintly that Macaulay was an eminent orator and, for a time at least, a strenuous politician. The universal voice of his contemporaries, during the first three years of his parliamentary career, testifies to the leading part which he played in the House of Commons, so long as with all his heart he cared, and with all his might he tried, to play it. Jeffrey, (for it is well to adduce none but first-rate evidence,) says in his account of an evening's discussion on the second reading of the Reform Bill: "Not a very striking debate. There was but one exception, and it was a brilliant one. I mean Macaulay, who surpassed his former appearance in closeness, fire, and vigour, and very much improved the effect of it by a more steady and graceful delivery. It was prodigiously cheered, as it deserved, and I think puts him clearly at the head of the great speakers, if not the debaters, of the House." And again, on the 17th of December: "Macaulay made, I think, the best speech he has yet delivered; the most condensed, at least, and with the greatest weight of matter. It contained, indeed, the only argument to which any of the speakers who followed him applied themselves." Lord Cockburn, who sat under the gallery for twenty-seven hours during the last three nights of the Bill, pronounced Macaulay's speech to have been "by far the best;" though, like a good Scotchman, he asserts that he heard nothing at Westminster which could compare with Dr. Chalmers in the General Assembly. Sir James Mackintosh writes from the Library of the House of Commons: "Macaulay and Stanley have made two of the finest speeches ever spoken in Parliament;" and a little further on he classes together the two young orators as "the chiefs of the next, or rather of this, generation."
To gain and keep the position that Mackintosh assigned him Macaulay possessed the power, and in early days did not lack the will. He was prominent on the Parliamentary stage, and active behind the scenes;—the soul of every honourable project which might promote the triumph of his principles, and the ascendency of his party. One among many passages in his correspondence may be quoted without a very serious breach of ancient and time-worn confidences. On the 17th of September, 1831, he writes to his sister Hannah: "I have been very busy since I wrote last, moving heaven and earth to render it certain that, if our ministers are so foolish as to resign in the event of a defeat in the Lords, the Commons may be firm and united; and I think that I have arranged a plan which will secure a bold and instant declaration on our part, if necessary. Lord Ebrington is the man whom I have in my eye as our leader. I have had much conversation with him, and with several of our leading county members. They are all staunch; and I will answer for this,—that, if the ministers should throw us over, we will be ready to defend ourselves."
The combination of public spirit, political instinct, and legitimate self-assertion, which was conspicuous in Macaulay's character, pointed him out to some whose judgment had been trained by long experience of affairs as a more than possible leader in no remote future; and it is not for his biographer to deny that they had grounds for their conclusion. The prudence, the energy, the self-reliance, which he displayed in another field, might have been successfully directed to the conduct of an executive policy, and the management of a popular assembly. Macaulay never showed himself deficient in the qualities which enable a man to trust his own sense; to feel responsibility, but not to fear it; to venture where others shrink; to decide while others waver; with all else that belongs to the vocation of a ruler in a free country. But it was not his fate; it was not his work; and the rank which he might have claimed among the statesmen of Britain was not ill exchanged for the place which he occupies in the literature of the world.
To Macvey Napier, Esq.
York: March 22, 1830.
My dear Sir,—I was in some doubt as to what I should be able to do for Number 101, and I deferred writing till I could make up my mind. If my friend Ellis's article on Greek History, of which I have formed high expectations, could have been ready, I should have taken a holiday. But, as there is no chance of that for the next number, I ought, I think, to consider myself as his bail, and to surrender myself to your disposal in his stead.
I have been thinking of a subject, light and trifling enough, but perhaps not the worse for our purpose on that account. We seldom want a sufficient quantity of heavy matter. There is a wretched poetaster of the name of Robert Montgomery who has written some volumes of detestable verses on religious subjects, which by mere puffing in magazines and newspapers have had an immense sale, and some of which are now in their tenth or twelfth editions. I have for some time past thought that the trick of puffing, as it is now practised both by authors and publishers, is likely to degrade the literary character, and to deprave the public taste, in a frightful degree. I really think that we ought to try what effect satire will have upon this nuisance, and I doubt whether we can ever find a better opportunity.
Yours very faithfully
T. B. MACAULAY.
To Macvey Napier, Esq.
London: August 19, 1830.
My dear Sir,—The new number appeared this morning in the shop windows. The article on Niebuhr contains much that is very sensible; but it is not such an article as so noble a subject required. I am not like Ellis, Niebuhr-mad; and I agree with many of the remarks which the reviewer has made both on this work, and on the school of German critics and historians. But surely the reviewer ought to have given an account of the system of exposition which Niebuhr has adopted, and of the theory which he advances respecting the Institutions of Rome. The appearance of the book is really an era in the intellectual history of Europe, and I think that the Edinburgh Review ought at least to have given a luminous abstract of it. The very circumstance that Niebuhr's own arrangement and style are obscure, and that his translators have need of translators to make them intelligible to the multitude, rendered it more desirable that a clear and neat statement of the points in controversy should be laid before the public. But it is useless to talk of what cannot be mended. The best editors cannot always have good writers, and the best writers cannot always write their best.
I have no notion on what ground Brougham imagines that I am going to review his speech. He never said a word to me on the subject. Nor did I ever say either to him, or to anyone else, a single syllable to that effect. At all events I shall not make Brougham's speech my text. We have had quite enough of puffing and flattering each other in the Review. It is a vile taste for men united in one literary undertaking to exchange their favours.
I have a plan of which I wish to know your opinion. In ten days, or thereabouts, I set off for France, where I hope to pass six weeks. I shall be in the best society, that of the Duc de Broglie, Guizot, and so on. I think of writing an article on the Politics of France since the Restoration, with characters of the principal public men, and a parallel between the present state of France and that of England. I think that this might be made an article of extraordinary interest. I do not say that I could make it so. It must, you will perceive, be a long paper, however concise I may try to be; but as the subject is important, and I am not generally diffuse, you must not stint me. If you like this scheme, let me know as soon as possible.
Ever yours truly
T. B. MACAULAY.
It cannot be denied that there was some ground for the imputation of systematic puffing which Macaulay urges with a freedom that a modern editor would hardly permit to the most valued contributor. Brougham had made a speech on Slavery in the House of Commons; but time was wanting to get the Corrected Report published soon enough for him to obtain his tribute of praise in the body of the Review. The unhappy Mr. Napier was actually reduced to append a notice to the July number regretting that "this powerful speech, which, as we are well informed, produced an impression on those who heard it not likely to be forgotten, or to remain barren of effects, should have reached us at a moment when it was no longer possible for us to notice its contents at any length.... On the eve of a general election to the first Parliament of a new reign, we could have wished to be able to contribute our aid towards the diffusion of the facts and arguments here so strikingly and commandingly stated and enforced, among those who are about to exercise the elective franchise.... We trust that means will be taken to give the widest possible circulation to the Corrected Report. Unfortunately, we can, at present, do nothing more than lay before our readers its glowing peroration—so worthy of this great orator, this unwearied friend of liberty and humanity."
To Macvey Napier, Esq.
Paris: September 16, 1830.
My dear Sir,—I have just received your letter, and I cannot deny that I am much vexed at what has happened. It is not very agreeable to find that I have thrown away the labour, the not unsuccessful labour as I thought, of a month; particularly as I have not many months of perfect leisure. This would not have happened if Brougham had notified his intentions to you earlier, as he ought in courtesy to you, and to everybody connected with the Review, to have done. He must have known that this French question was one on which many people would be desirous to write.
I ought to tell you that I had scarcely reached Paris when I received a letter containing a very urgent application from a very respectable quarter. I was desired to write a sketch, in one volume, of the late Revolution here. Now, I really hesitated whether I should not make my excuses to you, and accept this proposal,—not on account of the pecuniary terms, for about these I have never much troubled myself—but because I should have had ampler space for this noble subject than the Review would have afforded. I thought, however, that this would not be a fair or friendly course towards you. I accordingly told the applicants that I had promised you an article, and that I could not well write twice in one month on the same subject without repeating myself. I therefore declined; and recommended a person whom I thought quite capable of producing an attractive book on these events. To that person my correspondent has probably applied. At all events I cannot revive the negotiation. I cannot hawk my rejected articles up and down Paternoster Row.
I am, therefore, a good deal vexed at this affair; but I am not at all surprised at it. I see all the difficulties of your situation. Indeed, I have long foreseen them. I always knew that in every association, literary or political, Brougham would wish to domineer. I knew also that no Editor of the Edinburgh Review could, without risking the ruin of the publication, resolutely oppose the demands of a man so able and powerful. It was because I was certain that he would exact submissions which I am not disposed to make that I wished last year to give up writing for the Review. I had long been meditating a retreat. I thought Jeffrey's abdication a favourable time for effecting it; not, as I hope you are well assured, from any unkind feeling towards you; but because I knew that, under any Editor, mishaps such as that which has now occurred would be constantly taking place. I remember that I predicted to Jeffrey what has now come to pass almost to the letter.
My expectations have been exactly realised. The present constitution of the Edinburgh Review is this, that, at whatever time Brougham may be pleased to notify his intention of writing on any subject, all previous engagements are to be considered as annulled by that notification. His language translated into plain English is this: "I must write about this French Revolution, and I will write about it. If you have told Macaulay to do it, you may tell him to let it alone. If he has written an article, he may throw it behind the grate. He would not himself have the assurance to compare his own claims with mine. I am a man who act a prominent part in the world; he is nobody. If he must be reviewing, there is my speech about the West Indies. Set him to write a puff on that. What have people like him to do, except to eulogise people like me?" No man likes to be reminded of his inferiority in such a way, and there are some particular circumstances in this case which render the admonition more unpleasant than it would otherwise be. I know that Brougham dislikes me; and I have not the slightest doubt that he feels great pleasure in taking this subject out of my hands, and at having made me understand, as I do most clearly understand, how far my services are rated below his. I do not blame you in the least. I do not see how you could have acted otherwise. But, on the other hand, I do not see why I should make any efforts or sacrifices for a Review which lies under an intolerable dictation. Whatever my writings may be worth, it is not for want of strong solicitations, and tempting offers, from other quarters that I have continued to send them to the Edinburgh Review. I adhered to the connection solely because I took pride and pleasure in it. It has now become a source of humiliation and mortification.
I again repeat, my dear Sir, that I do not blame you in the least. This, however, only makes matters worse. If you had used me ill, I might complain, and might hope to be better treated another time. Unhappily you are in a situation in which it is proper for you to do what it would be improper in me to endure. What has happened now may happen next quarter, and must happen before long, unless I altogether refrain from writing for the Review. I hope you will forgive me if I say that I feel what has passed too strongly to be inclined to expose myself to a recurrence of the same vexations.
Yours most truly
T. B. MACAULAY.
A few soft words induced Macaulay to reconsider his threat of withdrawing from the Review; but, even before Mr. Napier's answer reached him, the feeling of personal annoyance had already been effaced by a greater sorrow. A letter arrived, announcing that his sister Jane had died suddenly and most unexpectedly. She was found in the morning lying as though still asleep, having passed away so peacefully as not to disturb a sister who had spent the night in the next room, with a door open between them. Mrs. Macaulay never recovered from this shock. Her health gave way, and she lived into the coming year only so long as to enable her to rejoice in the first of her son's Parliamentary successes.
Paris: September 26.
My dear Father,—This news has broken my heart. I am fit neither to go nor to stay. I can do nothing but sit down in my room, and think of poor dear Jane's kindness and affection. When I am calmer, I will let you know my intentions. There will be neither use nor pleasure in remaining here. My present purpose, as far as I can form one, is to set off in two or three days for England; and in the meantime to see nobody, if I can help it, but Dumont, who has been very kind to me. Love to all,—to all who are left me to love. We must love each other better.
T. B. M.
London: March 30, 1831
Dear Ellis,—I have little news for you, except what you will learn from the papers as well as from me. It is clear that the Reform Bill must pass, either in this or in another Parliament. The majority of one does not appear to me, as it does to you, by any means inauspicious. We should perhaps have had a better plea for a dissolution if the majority had been the other way. But surely a dissolution under such circumstances would have been a most alarming thing. If there should be a dissolution now, there will not be that ferocity in the public mind which there would have been if the House of Commons had refused to entertain the Bill at all. I confess that, till we had a majority, I was half inclined to tremble at the storm which we had raised. At present I think that we are absolutely certain of victory, and of victory without commotion.
Such a scene as the division of last Tuesday I never saw, and never expect to see again. If I should live fifty years, the impression of it will be as fresh and sharp in my mind as if it had just taken place. It was like seeing Caesar stabbed in the Senate House, or seeing Oliver taking the mace from the table; a sight to be seen only once, and never to be forgotten. The crowd overflowed the House in every part. When the strangers were cleared out, and the doors locked, we had six hundred and eight members present,—more by fifty-five than ever were in a division before. The Ayes and Noes were like two volleys of cannon from opposite sides of a field of battle. When the opposition went out into the lobby, an operation which took up twenty minutes or more, we spread ourselves over the benches on both sides of the House; for there were many of us who had not been able to find a seat during the evening. ["The practice in the Commons, until 1836, was to send one party forth into the lobby, the other remaining in the House."—Sir T. Erskine May's "Parliamentary Practice."] When the doors were shut we began to speculate on our numbers. Everybody was desponding. "We have lost it. We are only two hundred and eighty at most. I do not think we are two hundred and fifty. They are three hundred. Alderman Thompson has counted them. He says they are two hundred and ninety-nine." This was the talk on our benches. I wonder that men who have been long in Parliament do not acquire a better coup d'oeil for numbers. The House, when only the Ayes were in it, looked to me a very fair House,—much fuller than it generally is even on debates of considerable interest. I had no hope, however, of three hundred. As the tellers passed along our lowest row on the left hand side the interest was insupportable,—two hundred and ninety-one,—two hundred and ninety-two,—we were all standing up and stretching forward, telling with the tellers. At three hundred there was a short cry of joy,—at three hundred and two another,—suppressed however in a moment; for we did not yet know what the hostile force might be. We knew, however, that we could not be severely beaten. The doors were thrown open, and in they came. Each of them, as he entered, brought some different report of their numbers. It must have been impossible, as you may conceive, in the lobby, crowded as they were, to form any exact estimate. First we heard that they were three hundred and three; then that number rose to three hundred and ten; then went down to three hundred and seven. Alexander Barry told me that he had counted, and that they were three hundred and four. We were all breathless with anxiety, when Charles Wood, who stood near the door, jumped up on a bench and cried out, "They are only three hundred and one." We set up a shout that you might have heard to Charing Cross, waving our hats, stamping against the floor, and clapping our hands. The tellers scarcely got through the crowd; for the House was thronged up to the table, and all the floor was fluctuating with heads like the pit of a theatre. But you might have heard a pin drop as Duncannon read the numbers. Then again the shouts broke out, and many of us shed tears. I could scarcely refrain. And the jaw of Peel fell; and the face of Twiss was as the face of a damned soul; and Herries looked like Judas taking his necktie off for the last operation. We shook hands, and clapped each other on the back, and went out laughing, crying, and huzzaing into the lobby. And no sooner were the outer doors opened than another shout answered that within the House. All the passages, and the stairs into the waiting-rooms, were thronged by people who had waited till four in the morning to know the issue. We passed through a narrow lane between two thick masses of them; and all the way down they were shouting and waving their hats, till we got into the open air. I called a cabriolet, and the first thing the driver asked was, "Is the Bill carried?" "Yes, by one." "Thank God for it, Sir." And away I rode to Gray's Inn,—and so ended a scene which will probably never be equalled till the reformed Parliament wants reforming; and that I hope will not be till the days of our grandchildren, till that truly orthodox and apostolical person Dr. Francis Ellis is an archbishop of eighty.
As for me, I am for the present a sort of lion. My speech has set me in the front rank, if I can keep there; and it has not been my luck hitherto to lose ground when I have once got it. Sheil and I are on very civil terms. He talks largely concerning Demosthenes and Burke. He made, I must say, an excellent speech; too florid and queer, but decidedly successful.
Why did not Price speak? If he was afraid, it was not without reason; for a more terrible audience there is not in the world. I wish that Praed had known to whom he was speaking. But, with all his talent, he has no tact, and he has fared accordingly. Tierney used to say that he never rose in the House without feeling his knees tremble under him; and I am sure that no man who has not some of that feeling will ever succeed there.
T. B. MACAULAY.
London: May 27, 1835.
My dear Hannah,—Let me see if I can write a letter a la Richardson:—a little less prolix it must be, or it will exceed my ounce. By the bye, I wonder that Uncle Selby never grudged the postage of Miss Byron's letters. According to the nearest calculation that I can make, her correspondence must have enriched the post office of Ashby Canons by something more than the whole annual interest of her fifteen thousand pounds.
I reached Lansdowne House by a quarter to eleven, and passed through the large suite of rooms to the great Sculpture Gallery. There were seated and standing perhaps three hundred people, listening to the performers, or talking to each other. The room is the handsomest and largest, I am told, in any private house in London. I enclose our musical bill of fare. Fanny, I suppose, will be able to expound it better than I. The singers were more showily dressed than the auditors, and seemed quite at home. As to the company, there was just everybody in London (except that little million and a half that you wot of,)—the Chancellor, and the First Lord of the Admiralty, and Sydney Smith, and Lord Mansfield, and all the Barings and the Fitzclarences, and a hideous Russian spy, whose face I see everywhere, with a star on his coat. During the interval between the delights of "I tuoi frequenti," and the ecstasies of "Se tu m'ami," I contrived to squeeze up to Lord Lansdowne. I was shaking hands with Sir James Macdonald, when I heard a command behind us: "Sir James, introduce me to Mr. Macaulay;" and we turned, and there sate a large bold-looking woman, with the remains of a fine person, and the air of Queen Elizabeth. "Macaulay," said Sir James, "let me present you to Lady Holland." Then was her ladyship gracious beyond description, and asked me to dine and take a bed at Holland House next Tuesday. I accepted the dinner, but declined the bed, and I have since repented that I so declined it. But I probably shall have an opportunity of retracting on Tuesday.
To-night I go to another musical party at Marshall's, the late M.P. for Yorkshire. Everybody is talking of Paganini and his violin. The man seems to be a miracle. The newspapers say that long streamy flakes of music fall from his string, interspersed with luminous points of sound which ascend the air and appear like stars. This eloquence is quite beyond me.
T. B. M.
London: May 28, 1831.
My dear Hannah,—More gaieties and music-parties; not so fertile of adventures as that memorable masquerade whence Harriet Byron was carried away; but still I hope that the narrative of what passed there will gratify "the venerable circle." Yesterday I dressed, called a cab, and was whisked away to Hill Street. I found old Marshall's house a very fine one. He ought indeed to have a fine one; for he has, I believe, at least thirty thousand a year. The carpet was taken up, and chairs were set out in rows, as if we had been at a religious meeting. Then we had flute-playing by the first flute-player in England, and pianoforte-strumming by the first pianoforte-strummer in England, and singing by all the first singers in England, and Signor Rubini's incomparable tenor, and Signor Curioni's incomparable counter-tenor, and Pasta's incomparable expression. You who know how airs much inferior to these take my soul, and lap it in Elysium, will form some faint conception of my transport. Sharp beckoned me to sit by him in the back row. These old fellows are so selfish. "Always," said he, "establish yourself in the middle of the row against the wall; for, if you sit in the front or next the edges, you will be forced to give up your seat to the ladies who are standing." I had the gallantry to surrender mine to a damsel who had stood for a quarter of an hour; and I lounged into the ante-rooms, where I found Samuel Rogers. Rogers and I sate together on a bench in one of the passages, and had a good deal of very pleasant conversation. He was,—as indeed he has always been to me,—extremely kind, and told me that, if it were in his power, he would contrive to be at Holland House with me, to give me an insight into its ways. He is the great oracle of that circle.
He has seen the King's letter to Lord Grey, respecting the Garter; or at least has authentic information about it. It is a happy stroke of policy, and will, they say, decide many wavering votes in the House of Lords. The King, it seems, requests Lord Grey to take the order, as a mark of royal confidence in him "at so critical a time;"—significant words, I think.
T. B. MACAULAY.
To Hannah More Macaulay.
London: May 30, 1831.
Well, my dear, I have been to Holland House. I took a glass coach, and arrived, through a fine avenue of elms, at the great entrance towards seven o'clock. The house is delightful;—the very perfection of the old Elizabethan style;—a considerable number of very large and very comfortable rooms, rich with antique carving and gilding, but carpeted and furnished with all the skill of the best modern upholsterers. The library is a very long room,—as long, I should think, as the gallery at Rothley Temple,—with little cabinets for study branching out of it. warmly and snugly fitted up, and looking out on very beautiful grounds. The collection of books is not, like Lord Spencer's, curious; but it contains almost everything that one ever wished to read. I found nobody there when I arrived but Lord Russell, the son of the Marquess of Tavistock. We are old House of Commons friends; so we had some very pleasant talk, and in a little while in came Allen, who is warden of Dulwich College, and who lives almost entirely at Holland House. He is certainly a man of vast information and great conversational powers. Some other gentlemen dropped in, and we chatted till Lady Holland made her appearance. Lord Holland dined by himself on account of his gout. We sat down to dinner in a fine long room, the wainscot of which is rich with gilded coronets, roses, and portcullises. There were Lord Albemarle, Lord Alvanley, Lord Russell, Lord Mahon,—a violent Tory, but a very agreeable companion, and a very good scholar. There was Cradock, a fine fellow who was the Duke of Wellington's aide-de-camp in 1815, and some other people whose names I did not catch. What however is more to the purpose, there was a most excellent dinner. I have always heard that Holland House is famous for its good cheer, and certainly the reputation is not unmerited. After dinner Lord Holland was wheeled in, and placed very near me. He was extremely amusing and good-natured.
In the drawing-room I had a long talk with Lady Holland about the antiquities of the house, and about the purity of the English language, wherein she thinks herself a critic. I happened, in speaking about the Reform Bill, to say that I wished that it had been possible to form a few commercial constituencies, if the word constituency were admissible. "I am glad you put that in," said her ladyship. "I was just going to give it you. It is an odious word. Then there is talented and influential, and gentlemanly. I never could break Sheridan of gentlemanly, though he allowed it to be wrong." We talked about the word talents and its history. I said that it had first appeared in theological writing, that it was a metaphor taken from the parable in the New Testament, and that it had gradually passed from the vocabulary of divinity into common use. I challenged her to find it in any classical writer on general subjects before the Restoration, or even before the year 1700. I believe that I might safely have gone down later. She seemed surprised by this theory, never having, so far as I could judge, heard of the parable of the talents. I did not tell her, though I might have done so, that a person who professes to be a critic in the delicacies of the English language ought to have the Bible at his fingers' ends.
She is certainly a woman of considerable talents and great literary acquirements. To me she was excessively gracious; yet there is a haughtiness in her courtesy which, even after all that I had heard of her, surprised me. The centurion did not keep his soldiers in better order than she keeps her guests. It is to one "Go," and he goeth; and to another "Do this," and it is done. "Ring the bell, Mr. Macaulay." "Lay down that screen, Lord Russell; you will spoil it." "Mr. Allen, take a candle and show Mr. Cradock the picture of Buonaparte." Lord Holland is, on the other hand, all kindness, simplicity, and vivacity. He talked very well both on politics and on literature. He asked me in a very friendly manner about my father's health, and begged to be remembered to him.
When my coach came, Lady Holland made me promise that I would on the first fine morning walk out to breakfast with them, and see the grounds;—and, after drinking a glass of very good iced lemonade, I took my leave, much amused and pleased. The house certainly deserves its reputation for pleasantness, and her ladyship used me, I believe, as well as it is her way to use anybody.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
Court of Commissioners, Basinghall Street: May 31, 1831.
My dear Sister,—How delighted I am that you like my letters, and how obliged by yours! But I have little more than my thanks to give for your last. I have nothing to tell about great people to-day. I heard no fine music yesterday, saw nobody above the rank of a baronet, and was shut up in my own room reading and writing all the morning. This day seems likely to pass in much the same way, except that I have some bankruptcy business to do, and a couple of sovereigns to receive. So here I am, with three of the ugliest attorneys that ever deserved to be transported sitting opposite to me; a disconsolate-looking bankrupt, his hands in his empty pockets, standing behind; a lady scolding for her money, and refusing to be comforted because it is not; and a surly butcher-like looking creditor, growling like a house-dog, and saying, as plain as looks can say "If I sign your certificate, blow me, that's all." Among these fair and interesting forms, on a piece of official paper, with a pen and with ink found at the expense of the public, am I writing to Nancy.
These dirty courts, filled with Jew money-lenders, sheriffs' officers, attorneys' runners, and a crowd of people who live by giving sham bail and taking false oaths, are not by any means such good subjects for a lady's correspondent as the Sculpture Gallery at Lansdowne House, or the conservatory at Holland House, or the notes of Pasta, or the talk of Rogers. But we cannot be always fine. When my Richardsonian epistles are published, there must be dull as well as amusing letters among them; and this letter is, I think, as good as those sermons of Sir Charles to Geronymo which Miss Byron hypocritically asked for, or as the greater part of that stupid last volume.
We shall soon have more attractive matter. I shall walk out to breakfast at Holland House; and I am to dine with Sir George Philips, and with his son the member for Steyning, who have the best of company; and I am going to the fancy ball of the Jew. He met me in the street, and implored me to come. "You need not dress more than for an evening party. You had better come. You will be delighted. It will be so very pretty." I thought of Dr. Johnson and the herdsman with his "See, such pretty goats." [See Boswell's Tour to the Hebrides, Sept. 1 1773. "The Doctor was prevailed with to mount one of Vass's grays. As he rode upon it downhill, it did not go well, and he grumbled. I walked on a little before, but was excessively entertained with the method taken to keep him in good humour. Hay led the horse's head, talking to Dr. Johnson as much as he could and, (having heard him, in the forenoon, express a pastoral pleasure on seeing the goats browsing,) just when the Doctor was uttering his displeasure, the fellow cried, with a very Highland accent, 'See, such pretty goats!' Then he whistled whu! and made them jump."] However, I told my honest Hebrew that I would come. I may perhaps, like the Benjamites, steal away some Israelite damsel in the middle of her dancing.
But the noise all round me is becoming louder, and a baker in a white coat is bellowing for the book to prove a debt of nine pounds fourteen shillings and fourpence. So I must finish my letter and fall to business.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London June 1, 1831.
My dear Sister,—My last letter was a dull one. I mean this to be very amusing. My last was about Basinghall Street, attorneys, and bankrupts. But for this,—take it dramatically in the German style.
Fine morning. Scene, the great entrance of Holland House.
Enter MACAULAY and Two FOOTMEN in livery.
First Footman.—Sir, may I venture to demand your name?
Macaulay.—Macaulay, and thereto I add M.P. And that addition, even in these proud halls, May well ensure the bearer some respect.
Second Footman.—And art thou come to breakfast with our Lord?
Macaulay.—I am for so his hospitable will, And hers—the peerless dame ye serve—hath bade.
First Footman.—Ascend the stair, and thou above shalt find, On snow-white linen spread, the luscious meal.
(Exit MACAULAY up stairs.)
In plain English prose, I went this morning to breakfast at Holland House. The day was fine, and I arrived at twenty minutes after ten. After I had lounged a short time in the dining-room, I heard a gruff good-natured voice asking, "Where is Mr. Macaulay? Where have you put him?" and in his arm-chair Lord Holland was wheeled in. He took me round the apartments, he riding and I walking. He gave me the history of the most remarkable portraits in the library, where there is, by the bye, one of the few bad pieces of Lawrence that I have seen—a head of Charles James Fox, an ignominious failure. Lord Holland said that it was the worst ever painted of so eminent a man by so eminent an artist. There is a very fine head of Machiavelli, and another of Earl Grey, a very different sort of man. I observed a portrait of Lady Holland painted some thirty years ago. I could have cried to see the change. She must have been a most beautiful woman. She still looks, however, as if she had been handsome, and shows in one respect great taste and sense. She does not rouge at all; and her costume is not youthful, so that she looks as well in the morning as in the evening. We came back to the dining-room. Our breakfast party consisted of my Lord and Lady, myself, Lord Russell, and Luttrell. You must have heard of Luttrell. I met him once at Rogers's; and I have seen him, I think, in other places. He is a famous wit,—the most popular, I think, of all the professed wits,—a man who has lived in the highest circles, a scholar, and no contemptible poet. He wrote a little volume of verse entitled "Advice to Julia,"—not first rate, but neat, lively, piquant, and showing the most consummate knowledge of fashionable life.
We breakfasted on very good coffee, and very good tea, and very good eggs, butter kept in the midst of ice, and hot rolls. Lady Holland told us her dreams; how she had dreamed that a mad dog bit her foot, and how she set off to Brodie, and lost her way in St. Martin's Lane, and could not find him. She hoped, she said, the dream would not come true. I said that I had had a dream which admitted of no such hope; for I had dreamed that I heard Pollock speak in the House of Commons, that the speech was very long, and that he was coughed down. This dream of mine diverted them much.
After breakfast Lady Holland offered to conduct me to her own drawing-room, or, rather, commanded my attendance. A very beautiful room it is, opening on a terrace, and wainscoted with miniature paintings interesting from their merit, and interesting from their history. Among them I remarked a great many,—thirty, I should think,—which even I, who am no great connoisseur, saw at once could come from no hand but Stothard's. They were all on subjects from Lord Byron's poems. "Yes," said she; "poor Lord Byron sent them to me a short time before the separation. I sent them back, and told him that, if he gave them away, he ought to give them to Lady Byron. But he said that he would not, and that if I did not take them, the bailiffs would, and that they would be lost in the wreck." Her ladyship then honoured me so far as to conduct me through her dressing-room into the great family bedchamber to show me a very fine picture by Reynolds of Fox, when a boy, birds-nesting. She then consigned me to Luttrell, asking him to show me the grounds.
Through the grounds we went, and very pretty I thought them. In the Dutch garden is a fine bronze bust of Napoleon, which Lord Holland put up in 1817, while Napoleon was a prisoner at St. Helena. The inscription was selected by his lordship, and is remarkably happy. It is from Homer's Odyssey. I will translate it, as well as I can extempore, into a measure which gives a better idea of Homer's manner than Pope's singsong couplet.
For not, be sure, within the grave Is hid that prince, the wise, the brave; But in an islet's narrow bound, With the great Ocean roaring round, The captive of a foeman base He pines to view his native place.
There is a seat near the spot which is called Rogers's seat. The poet loves, it seems, to sit there. A very elegant inscription by Lord Holland is placed over it.
"Here Rogers sate; and here for ever dwell With me those pleasures which he sang so well."
Very neat and condensed, I think. Another inscription by Luttrell hangs there. Luttrell adjured me with mock pathos to spare his blushes; but I am author enough to know what the blushes of authors mean. So I read the lines, and very pretty and polished they were, but too many to be remembered from one reading.
Having gone round the grounds I took my leave, very much pleased with the place. Lord Holland is extremely kind. But that is of course; for he is kindness itself. Her ladyship too, which is by no means of course, is all graciousness and civility. But, for all this, I would much rather be quietly walking with you; and the great use of going to these fine places is to learn how happy it is possible to be without them. Indeed, I care so little for them that I certainly should not have gone to-day, but that I thought that I should be able to find materials for a letter which you might like.
T. B. MACAULAY.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: June 3, 1831.
My dear Sister,—I cannot tell you how delighted I am to find that my letters amuse you. But sometimes I must be dull like my neighbours. I paid no visits yesterday, and have no news to relate to-day. I am sitting again in Basinghall Street and Basil Montagu is haranguing about Lord Verulam, and the way of inoculating one's mind with truth; and all this a propos of a lying bankrupt's balance-sheet. ["Those who are acquainted with the Courts in which Mr. Montagu practises with so much ability and success, will know how often he enlivens the discussion of a point of law by citing some weighty aphorism, or some brilliant illustration, from the De Augmentis or the Novum Organum."—Macaulay's Review of Basil Montagu's Edition of Bacon.]
Send me some gossip, my love. Tell me how you go on with German. What novel have you commenced? Or, rather, how many dozen have you finished? Recommend me one. What say you to "Destiny"? Is the "Young Duke" worth reading? and what do you think of "Laurie Todd"?
I am writing about Lord Byron so pathetically that I make Margaret cry, but so slowly that I am afraid I shall make Napier wait. Rogers, like a civil gentleman, told me last week to write no more reviews, and to publish separate works; adding, what for him is a very rare thing, a compliment: "You may do anything, Mr. Macaulay." See how vain and insincere human nature is! I have been put into so good a temper with Rogers that I have paid him, what is as rare with me as with him, a very handsome compliment in my review. ["Well do we remember to have heard a most correct judge of poetry revile Mr. Rogers for the incorrectness of that most sweet and graceful passage:—
'Such grief was ours,—it seems but yesterday,— When in thy prime, wishing so much to stay, Twas thine, Maria, thine without a sigh At midnight in a sister's arms to die, Oh! thou wast lovely; lovely was thy frame, And pure thy spirit as from heaven it came; And, when recalled to join the blest above, Thou diedst a victim to exceeding love Nursing the young to health. In happier hours, When idle Fancy wove luxuriant flowers, Once in thy mirth thou badst me write on thee; And now I write what thou shalt never see.'
Macaulay's Essay on Byron.] It is not undeserved; but I confess that I cannot understand the popularity of his poetry. It is pleasant and flowing enough; less monotonous than most of the imitations of Pope and Goldsmith; and calls up many agreeable images and recollections. But that such men as Lord Granville, Lord Holland, Hobhouse, Lord Byron, and others of high rank in intellect, should place Rogers, as they do, above Southey, Moore, and even Scott himself, is what I cannot conceive. But this comes of being in the highest society of London. What Lady Jane Granville called the Patronage of Fashion can do as much for a middling poet as for a plain girl like Miss Arabella Falconer. [Lady Jane, and Miss Arabella, appear in Miss Edgeworth's "Patronage."]
But I must stop. This rambling talk has been scrawled in the middle of haranguing, squabbling, swearing, and crying. Since I began it I have taxed four bills, taken forty depositions, and rated several perjured witnesses.
T. B. M.
To Hannah and Margaret Macaulay.
London: June 7, 1831.
Yesterday I dined at Marshall's, and was almost consoled for not meeting Ramohun Roy by a very pleasant party. The great sight was the two wits, Rogers and Sydney Smith. Singly I have often seen them; but to see them both together was a novelty, and a novelty not the less curious because their mutual hostility is well known, and the hard hits which they have given to each other are in everybody's mouth. They were very civil, however. But I was struck by the truth of what Matthew Bramble, a person of whom you probably never heard, says in Smollett's Humphrey Clinker: that one wit in a company, like a knuckle of ham in soup, gives a flavour; but two are too many. Rogers and Sydney Smith would not come into conflict. If one had possession of the company, the other was silent; and, as you may conceive, the one who had possession of the company was always Sydney Smith, and the one who was silent was always Rogers. Sometimes, however, the company divided, and each of them had a small congregation. I had a good deal of talk with both of them; for, in whatever they may disagree, they agree in always treating me with very marked kindness.
I had a good deal of pleasant conversation with Rogers. He was telling me of the curiosity and interest which attached to the persons of Sir Walter Scott and Lord Byron. When Sir Walter Scott dined at a gentleman's in London some time ago, all the servant-maids in the house asked leave to stand in the passage and see him pass. He was, as you may conceive, greatly flattered. About Lord Byron, whom he knew well, he told me some curious anecdotes. When Lord Byron passed through Florence, Rogers was there. They had a good deal of conversation, and Rogers accompanied him to his carriage. The inn had fifty windows in front. All the windows were crowded with women, mostly English women, to catch a glance at their favourite poet. Among them were some at whose houses he had often been in England, and with whom he had lived on friendly terms. He would not notice them, or return their salutations. Rogers was the only person that he spoke to.
The worst thing that I know about Lord Byron is the very unfavourable impression which he made on men, who certainly were not inclined to judge him harshly, and who, as far as I know, were never personally ill-used by him. Sharp and Rogers both speak of him as an unpleasant, affected, splenetic person. I have heard hundreds and thousands of people who never saw him rant about him; but I never heard a single expression of fondness for him fall from the lips of any of those who knew him well. Yet, even now, after the lapse of five-and-twenty years, there are those who cannot talk for a quarter of an hour about Charles Fox without tears.
Sydney Smith leaves London on the 20th, the day before Parliament meets for business. I advised him to stay, and see something of his friends who would be crowding to London. "My flock!" said this good shepherd. "My dear Sir, remember my flock! The hungry sheep look up and are not fed."
I could say nothing to such an argument; but I could not help thinking that, if Mr. Daniel Wilson had said such a thing, it would infallibly have appeared in his funeral sermon, and in his Life by Baptist Noel. But in poor Sydney's mouth it sounded like a joke. He begged me to come and see him at Combe Florey. "There I am, Sir, the priest of the Flowery Valley, in a delightful parsonage, about which I care a good deal, and a delightful country, about which I do not care a straw." I told him that my meeting him was some compensation for missing Ramohun Roy. Sydney broke forth:
"Compensation! Do you mean to insult me? A beneficed clergyman, an orthodox clergyman, a nobleman's chaplain, to be no more than compensation for a Brahmin; and a heretic Brahmin too, a fellow who has lost his own religion and can't find another; a vile heterodox dog, who, as I am credibly informed eats beef-steaks in private! A man who has lost his caste! who ought to have melted lead poured down his nostrils, if the good old Vedas were in force as they ought to be."
These are some Boswelliana of Sydney; not very clerical, you will say, but indescribably amusing to the hearers, whatever the readers may think of them. Nothing can present a more striking contrast to his rapid, loud, laughing utterance, and his rector-like amplitude and rubicundity, than the low, slow, emphatic tone, and the corpse-like face of Rogers. There is as great a difference in what they say as in the voice and look with which they say it. The conversation of Rogers is remarkably polished and artificial. What he says seems to have been long meditated, and might be published with little correction. Sydney talks from the impulse of the moment, and his fun is quite inexhaustible.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M Macaulay.
London: June 8, 1831.
My dear Sister,—Yesterday night I went to the Jew's. I had indeed no excuse for forgetting the invitation; for, about a week after I had received the green varnished billet, and answered it, came another in the self-same words, and addressed to Mr. Macaulay, Junior. I thought that my answer had miscarried; so down I sate, and composed a second epistle to the Hebrews. I afterwards found that the second invitation was meant for Charles.
I set off a little after ten, having attired myself simply as for a dinner-party. The house is a very fine one. The door was guarded by peace-officers, and besieged by starers. My host met me in a superb court-dress, with his sword at his side. There was a most sumptuous-looking Persian, covered with gold lace. Then there was an Italian bravo with a long beard. Two old gentlemen, who ought to have been wiser, were fools enough to come in splendid Turkish costumes at which everybody laughed. The fancy-dresses were worn almost exclusively by the young people. The ladies for the most part contented themselves with a few flowers and ribands oddly disposed. There was, however, a beautiful Mary Queen of Scots, who looked as well as dressed the character perfectly; an angel of a Jewess in a Highland plaid; and an old woman, or rather a woman,—for through her disguise it was impossible to ascertain her age,—in the absurdest costume of the last century. These good people soon began their quadrilles and galopades, and were enlivened by all the noise that twelve fiddlers could make for their lives.
You must not suppose the company was made up of these mummers. There was Dr. Lardner, and Long, the Greek Professor in the London University, and Sheil, and Strutt, and Romilly, and Owen the philanthropist. Owen laid bold on Sheil, and gave him a lecture on Co-operation which lasted for half an hour. At last Sheil made his escape. Then Owen seized Mrs. Sheil,—a good Catholic, and a very agreeable woman,—and began to prove to her that there could be no such thing as moral responsibility. I had fled at the first sound of his discourse, and was talking with Strutt and Romilly, when behold! I saw Owen leave Mrs. Sheil and come towards us. So I cried out "Sauve qui peut!" and we ran off. But before we had got five feet from where we were standing, who should meet us face to face but Old Basil Montagu? "Nay, then," said I, "the game is up. The Prussians are on our rear. If we are to be bored to death there is no help for it." Basil seized Romilly; Owen took possession of Strutt; and I was blessing myself on my escape, when the only human being worthy to make a third with such a pair, J—, caught me by the arm, and begged to have a quarter of an hour's conversation with me. While I was suffering under J—, a smart impudent-looking young dog, dressed like a sailor in a blue jacket and check shirt, marched up, and asked a Jewish-looking damsel near me to dance with him. I thought that I had seen the fellow before; and, after a little looking, I perceived that it was Charles; and most knowingly, I assure you, did he perform a quadrille with Miss Hilpah Manasses.
If I were to tell you all that I saw I should exceed my ounce. There was Martin the painter, and Proctor, alias Barry Cornwall, the poet or poetaster. I did not see one Peer, or one star, except a foreign order or two, which I generally consider as an intimation to look to my pockets. A German knight is a dangerous neighbour in a crowd. [Macaulay ended by being a German knight himself.] After seeing a galopade very prettily danced by the Israelitish women, I went downstairs, reclaimed my hat, and walked into the dining-room. There, with some difficulty, I squeezed myself between a Turk and a Bernese peasant, and obtained an ice, a macaroon, and a glass of wine. Charles was there, very active in his attendance on his fair Hilpah. I bade him good night. "What!" said young Hopeful, "are you going yet?" It was near one o'clock; but this joyous tar seemed to think it impossible that anybody could dream of leaving such delightful enjoyments till daybreak. I left him staying Hilpah with flagons, and walked quietly home. But it was some time before I could get to sleep. The sound of fiddles was in mine ears; and gaudy dresses, and black hair, and Jewish noses, were fluctuating up and down before mine eyes.
There is a fancy ball for you. If Charles writes a history of it, tell me which of us does it best.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M Macaulay.
London: June 10. 1835.
My dear Sister,—I am at Basinghall Street, and I snatch this quarter of an hour, the only quarter of an hour which I am likely to secure during the day, to write to you. I will not omit writing two days running, because, if my letters give you half the pleasure which your letters give me, you will, I am sure, miss them. I have not, however, much to tell. I have been very busy with my article on Moore's Life of Byron. I never wrote anything with less heart. I do not like the book; I do not like the hero; I have said the most I could for him, and yet I shall be abused for speaking as coldly of him as I have done.
I dined the day before yesterday at Sir George Philips's with Sotheby, Morier the author of "Hadji Baba," and Sir James Mackintosh. Morier began to quote Latin before the ladies had left the room, and quoted it by no means to the purpose. After their departure he fell to repeating Virgil, choosing passages which everybody else knows and does not repeat. He, though he tried to repeat them, did not know them, and could not get on without my prompting. Sotheby was full of his translation of Homer's Iliad, some specimens of which he has already published. It is a complete failure; more literal than that of Pope, but still tainted with the deep radical vice of Pope's version, a thoroughly modern and artificial manner. It bears the same kind of relation to the Iliad that Robertson's narrative bears to the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis.
There is a pretty allegory in Homer—I think in the last book, but I forget precisely where—about two vessels, the one filled with blessings and the other with sorrow, which stand, says the poet, on the right and left hand of Jupiter's throne, and from which he dispenses good and evil at his pleasure among men. What word to use for these vessels has long posed the translators of Homer. Pope, who loves to be fine, calls them urns. Cowper, who loves to be coarse, calls them casks;—a translation more improper than Pope's; for a cask is, in our general understanding, a wooden vessel; and the Greek word means an earthen vessel. There is a curious letter of Cowper's to one of his female correspondents about this unfortunate word. She begged that Jupiter might be allowed a more elegant piece of furniture for his throne than a cask. But Cowper was peremptory. I mentioned this incidentally when we were talking about translations. This set Sotheby off. "I," said he, "have translated it vase. I hope that meets your ideas. Don't you think vase will do? Does it satisfy you?" I told him, sincerely enough, that it satisfied me; for I must be most unreasonable to be dissatisfied at anything that he chooses to put in a book which I never shall read. Mackintosh was very agreeable; and, as usually happens when I meet him, I learned something from him. [Macaulay wrote to one of his nieces in September 1859: "I am glad that Mackintosh's Life interests you. I knew him well; and a kind friend he was to me when I was a young fellow, fighting my way uphill."]
The great topic now in London is not, as you perhaps fancy, Reform, but Cholera. There is a great panic; as great a panic as I remember, particularly in the City. Rice shakes his head, and says that this is the most serious thing that has happened in his time; and assuredly, if the disease were to rage in London as it has lately raged in Riga, it would be difficult to imagine anything more horrible. I, however, feel no uneasiness. In the first place I have a strong leaning towards the doctrines of the anti-contagionists. In the next place I repose a great confidence in the excellent food and the cleanliness of the English.
I have this instant received your letter of yesterday with the enclosed proof-sheets. Your criticism is to a certain extent just; but you have not considered the whole sentence together. Depressed is in itself better than weighed down; but "the oppressive privileges which had depressed industry" would be a horrible cacophony. I hope that word convinces you. I have often observed that a fine Greek compound is an excellent substitute for a reason.
I met Rogers at the Athenaeum. He begged me to breakfast with him, and name my day, and promised that he would procure me as agreeable a party as he could find in London. Very kind of the old man, is it not? and, if you knew how Rogers is thought of, you would think it as great a compliment as could be paid to a Duke. Have you seen what the author of the "Young Duke" says about me: how rabid I am, and how certain I am to rat?
T. B. M.
Macaulay's account of the allusion to himself in the "Young Duke" is perfectly accurate; and yet, when read as a whole, the passage in question does not appear to have been ill-naturedly meant. ["I hear that Mr. Babington Macaulay is to be returned. If he speaks half as well as he writes, the House will be in fashion again. I fear that he is one of those who, like the individual whom he has most studied, will give up to a party what was meant for mankind. At any rate, he must get rid of his rabidity. He writes now on all subjects as if he certainly intended to be a renegade, and was determined to make the contrast complete."—The Young Duke, book v chap. vi.] It is much what any young literary man outside the House of Commons might write of another who had only been inside that House for a few weeks; and it was probably forgotten by the author within twenty-four hours after the ink was dry. It is to be hoped that the commentators of the future will not treat it as an authoritative record of Mr. Disraeli's estimate of Lord Macaulay's political character.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: June 25, 1831.
My dear Sister,—There was, as you will see, no debate on Lord John Russell's motion. The Reform Bill is to be brought in, read once, and printed, without discussion. The contest will be on the second reading, and will be protracted, I should think, through the whole of the week after next;—next week it will be, when you read this letter.
I breakfasted with Rogers yesterday. There was nobody there but Moore. We were all on the most friendly and familiar terms possible; and Moore, who is, Rogers tells me, excessively pleased with my review of his book, showed me very marked attention. I was forced to go away early on account of bankrupt business; but Rogers said that we must have the talk out so we are to meet at his house again to breakfast. What a delightful house it is! It looks out on the Green Park just at the most pleasant point. The furniture has been selected with a delicacy of taste quite unique. Its value does not depend on fashion, but must be the same while the fine arts are held in any esteem. In the drawing-room, for example, the chimney-pieces are carved by Flaxman into the most beautiful Grecian forms. The book-case is painted by Stothard, in his very best manner, with groups from Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Boccacio. The pictures are not numerous; but every one is excellent. In the dining-room there are also some beautiful paintings. But the three most remarkable objects in that room are, I think, a cast of Pope taken after death by Roubiliac; a noble model in terra-cotta by Michael Angelo, from which he afterwards made one of his finest statues, that of Lorenzo de Medici; and, lastly, a mahogany table on which stands an antique vase.
When Chantrey dined with Rogers some time ago he took particular notice of the vase, and the table on which it stands, and asked Rogers who made the table. "A common carpenter," said Rogers. "Do you remember the making of it?" said Chantrey. "Certainly," said Rogers, in some surprise. "I was in the room while it was finished with the chisel, and gave the workman directions about placing it." "Yes," said Chantrey, "I was the carpenter. I remember the room well, and all the circumstances." A curious story, I think, and honourable both to the talent which raised Chantrey, and to the magnanimity which kept him from being ashamed of what he had been.
Ever yours affectionately
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: June 29, 1831.
My dear Sister,—We are not yet in the full tide of Parliamentary business. Next week the debates will be warm and long. I should not wonder if we had a discussion of five nights. I shall probably take a part in it.
I have breakfasted again with Rogers. The party was a remarkable one,—Lord John Russell, Tom Moore, Tom Campbell, and Luttrell. We were all very lively. An odd incident took place after breakfast, while we were standing at the window and looking into the Green Park. Somebody was talking about diners-out. "Ay," said Campbell—
"Ye diners-out from whom we guard our spoons."
Tom Moore asked where the line was. "Don't you know?" said Campbell. "Not I," said Moore. "Surely," said Campbell, "it is your own." "I never saw it in my life," said Moore. "It is in one of your best things in the Times," said Campbell. Moore denied it. Hereupon I put in my claim, and told them that it was mine. Do you remember it? It is in some lines called the Political Georgics, which I sent to the Times about three years ago. They made me repeat the lines, and were vociferous in praise of them. Tom Moore then said, oddly enough:
"There is another poem in the Times that I should like to know the author of;—A Parson's Account of his Journey to the Cambridge Election." I laid claim to that also. "That is curious," said Moore. "I begged Barnes to tell me who wrote it. He said that he had received it from Cambridge, and touched it up himself, and pretended that all the best strokes were his. I believed that he was lying, because I never knew him to make a good joke in his life. And now the murder is out." They asked me whether I had put anything else in the Times. Nothing, I said, except the Sortes Virgilianae, which Lord John remembered well. I never mentioned the Cambridge Journey, or the Georgics, to any but my own family; and I was therefore, as you may conceive, not a little flattered to hear in one day Moore praising one of them, and Campbell praising the other.
I find that my article on Byron is very popular; one among a thousand proofs of the bad taste of the public. I am to review Croker's edition of Bozzy. It is wretchedly ill done. The notes are poorly written, and shamefully inaccurate. There is, however, much curious information in it. The whole of the Tour to the Hebrides is incorporated with the Life. So are most of Mrs. Thrale's anecdotes, and much of Sir John Hawkins's lumbering book. The whole makes five large volumes. There is a most laughable sketch of Bozzy, taken by Sir T. Lawrence when young. I never saw a character so thoroughly hit off. I intend the book for you, when I have finished my criticism on it. You are, next to myself, the best read Boswellite that I know. The lady whom Johnson abused for flattering him [See Boswell's Life of Johnson, April 15, 1778.] was certainly, according to Croker, Hannah More. Another ill-natured sentence about a Bath lady ["He would not allow me to praise a lady then at Bath; observing, 'She does not gain upon me, sir; I think her empty-headed.'"] whom Johnson called "empty-headed" is also applied to your godmother.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: July 6, 1835.
My dear Sister,—I have been so busy during the last two or three days that I have found no time to write to you. I have now good news for you. I spoke yesterday night with a success beyond my utmost expectations. I am half ashamed to tell you the compliments which I have received; but you well know that it is not from vanity, but to give you pleasure, that I tell you what is said about me. Lord Althorp told me twice that it was the best speech he had ever heard; Graham, and Stanley, and Lord John Russell spoke of it in the same way; and O'Connell followed me out of the house to pay me the most enthusiastic compliments. I delivered my speech much more slowly than any that I have before made, and it is in consequence better reported than its predecessors, though not well. I send you several papers. You will see some civil things in the leading articles of some of them. My greatest pleasure, in the midst of all this praise, is to think of the pleasure which my success will give to my father and my sisters. It is happy for me that ambition has in my mind been softened into a kind of domestic feeling, and that affection has at least as much to do as vanity with my wish to distinguish myself. This I owe to my dear mother, and to the interest which she always took in my childish successes. From my earliest years, the gratification of those whom I love has been associated with the gratification of my own thirst for fame, until the two have become inseparably joined in my mind.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M Macaulay
London: July 8, 1831.
My dear Sister,—Do you want to hear all the compliments that are paid to me? I shall never end, if I stuff my letters with them; for I meet nobody who does not give me joy. Baring tells me that I ought never to speak again. Howick sent a note to me yesterday to say that his father wished very much to be introduced to me, and asked me to dine with them yesterday, as, by great good luck, there was nothing to do in the House of Commons. At seven I went to Downing Street, where Earl Grey's official residence stands. It is a noble house. There are two splendid drawing-rooms, which overlook St. James's Park. Into these I was shown. The servant told me that Lord Grey was still at the House of Lords, and that her Ladyship had just gone to dress. Howick had not mentioned the hour in his note. I sate down, and turned over two large portfolios of political caricatures. Earl Grey's own face was in every print. I was very much diverted. I had seen some of them before; but many were new to me, and their merit is extraordinary. They were the caricatures of that remarkably able artist who calls himself H. B. In about half an hour Lady Georgiana Grey, and the Countess, made their appearance. We had some pleasant talk, and they made many apologies. The Earl, they said, was unexpectedly delayed by a question which had arisen in the Lords. Lady Holland arrived soon after, and gave me a most gracious reception; shook my hand very warmly, and told me, in her imperial decisive manner, that she had talked with all the principal men on our side about my speech, that they all agreed that it was the best that had been made since the death of Fox, and that it was more like Fox's speaking than anybody's else. Then she told me that I was too much worked, that I must go out of town, and absolutely insisted on my going to Holland House to dine, and take a bed, on the next day on which there is no Parliamentary business. At eight we went to dinner. Lord Howick took his father's place, and we feasted very luxuriously. At nine Lord Grey came from the House with Lord Durham, Lord Holland, and the Duke of Richmond. They dined on the remains of our dinner with great expedition, as they had to go to a Cabinet Council at ten. Of course I had scarcely any talk with Lord Grey. He was, however, extremely polite to me, and so were his colleagues. I liked the ways of the family.
I picked up some news from these Cabinet Ministers. There is to be a Coronation on quite a new plan; no banquet in Westminster Hall, no feudal services, no champion, no procession from the Abbey to the Hall, and back again. But there is to be a service in the Abbey. All the Peers are to come in state and in their robes, and the King is to take the oaths, and be crowned and anointed in their presence. The spectacle will be finer than usual to the multitude out of doors. The few hundreds who could obtain admittance to the Hall will be the only losers.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: July 8, 1831.
My dear Sister,—Since I wrote to you I have been out to dine and sleep at Holland House. We had a very agreeable and splendid party; among others the Duke and Duchess of Richmond, and the Marchioness of Clanricarde, who, you know, is the daughter of Canning. She is very beautiful, and very like her father, with eyes full of fire, and great expression in all her features. She and I had a great deal of talk. She showed much cleverness and information, but, I thought, a little more of political animosity than is quite becoming in a pretty woman. However, she has been placed in peculiar circumstances. The daughter of a statesman who was a martyr to the rage of faction may be pardoned for speaking sharply of the enemies of her parent; and she did speak sharply. With knitted brows, and flashing eyes, and a look of feminine vengeance about her beautiful mouth, she gave me such a character of Peel as he would certainly have had no pleasure in hearing.
In the evening Lord John Russell came; and, soon after, old Talleyrand. I had seen Talleyrand in very large parties, but had never been near enough to hear a word that he said. I now had the pleasure of listening for an hour and a half to his conversation. He is certainly the greatest curiosity that I ever fell in with. His head is sunk down between two high shoulders. One of his feet is hideously distorted. His face is as pale as that of a corpse, and wrinkled to a frightful degree. His eyes have an odd glassy stare quite peculiar to them. His hair, thickly powdered and pomatumed, hangs down his shoulders on each side as straight as a pound of tallow candles. His conversation, however, soon makes you forget his ugliness and infirmities. There is a poignancy without effort in all that he says, which reminded me a little of the character which the wits of Johnson's circle give of Beauclerk. For example, we talked about Metternich and Cardinal Mazarin. "J'y trouve beaucoup a redire. Le Cardinal trompait; mais il ne mentait pas. Or, M. de Metternich ment toujours, et ne trompe jamais." He mentioned M. de St. Aulaire,—now one of the most distinguished public men of France. I said: "M. de Saint-Aulaire est beau-pere de M. le duc de Cazes, n'est-ce pas?" "Non, monsieur," said Talleyrand; "l'on disait, il y a douze ans, que M. de Saint-Aulaire etoit beau-pere de M. de Cazes; l'on dit maintenant que M. de Cazes est gendre de M. de Saint-Aulaire." [This saying remained in Macaulay's mind. He quoted it on the margin of his Aulus Gellius, as an illustration of the passage in the nineteenth book in which Julius Caesar is described, absurdly enough as "perpetuus ille dictator, Cneii Pompeii socer".] It was not easy to describe the change in the relative positions of two men more tersely and more sharply; and these remarks were made in the lowest tone, and without the slightest change of muscle, just as if he had been remarking that the day was fine. He added: "M. de Saint-Aulaire a beaucoup d'esprit. Mais il est devot, et, ce qui pis est, devot honteux. Il va se cacher dans quelque hameau pour faire ses Paques." This was a curious remark from a Bishop. He told several stories about the political men of France; not of any great value in themselves; but his way of telling them was beyond all praise,—concise, pointed, and delicately satirical. When he had departed, I could not help breaking out into admiration of his talent for relating anecdotes. Lady Holland said that he had been considered for nearly forty years as the best teller of a story in Europe, and that there was certainly nobody like him in that respect.
When the Prince was gone, we went to bed. In the morning Lord John Russell drove me back to London in his cabriolet, much amused with what I had seen and heard. But I must stop.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
Basinghall Street: July 15 1831.
My dear Sister,—The rage of faction at the present moment exceeds anything that has been known in our day. Indeed I doubt whether, at the time of Mr. Pitt's first becoming Premier, at the time of Sir Robert Walpole's fall, or even during the desperate struggles between the Whigs and Tories at the close of Anne's reign, the fury of party was so fearfully violent. Lord Mahon said to me yesterday that friendships of long standing were everywhere giving way, and that the schism between the reformers and the anti-reformers was spreading from the House of Commons into every private circle. Lord Mahon himself is an exception. He and I are on excellent terms. But Praed and I become colder every day.
The scene of Tuesday night beggars description. I left the House at about three, in consequence of some expressions of Lord Althorp's which indicated that the Ministry was inclined to yield on the question of going into Committee on the Bill. I afterwards much regretted that I had gone away; not that my presence was necessary; but because I should have liked to have sate through so tremendous a storm. Towards eight in the morning the Speaker was almost fainting. The Ministerial members, however, were as true as steel. They furnished the Ministry with the resolution which it wanted. "If the noble Lord yields," said one of our men, "all is lost." Old Sir Thomas Baring sent for his razor, and Benett, the member for Wiltshire, for his night-cap; and they were both resolved to spend the whole day in the House rather than give way. If the Opposition had not yielded, in two hours half London would have been in Old Palace Yard.
Since Tuesday the Tories have been rather cowed. But their demeanour, though less outrageous than at the beginning of the week, indicates what would in any other time be called extreme violence. I have not been once in bed till three in the morning since last Sunday. To-morrow we have a holiday. I dine at Lansdowne House. Next week I dine with Littleton, the member for Staffordshire, and his handsome wife. He told me that I should meet two men whom I am curious to see, Lord Plunket and the Marquess Wellesley; let alone the Chancellor, who is not a novelty to me.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: July 25, 1831.
My dear Sister,—On Saturday evening I went to Holland House. There I found the Dutch Ambassador, M. de Weissembourg, Mr. and Mrs. Vernon Smith, and Admiral Adam, a son of old Adam, who fought the duel with Fox. We dined like Emperors, and jabbered in several languages. Her Ladyship, for an esprit fort, is the greatest coward that I ever saw. The last time that I was there she was frightened out of her wits by the thunder. She closed all the shutters, drew all the curtains, and ordered candles in broad day to keep out the lightning, or rather the appearance of the lightning. On Saturday she was in a terrible taking about the cholera; talked of nothing else; refused to eat any ice because somebody said that ice was bad for the cholera; was sure that the cholera was at Glasgow; and asked me why a cordon of troops was not instantly placed around that town to prevent all intercourse between the infected and the healthy spots. Lord Holland made light of her fears. He is a thoroughly good-natured, open, sensible man; very lively; very intellectual; well read in politics, and in the lighter literature both of ancient and modern times. He sets me more at ease than almost any person that I know, by a certain good-humoured way of contradicting that he has. He always begins by drawing down his shaggy eyebrows, making a face extremely like his uncle, wagging his head and saying: "Now do you know, Mr. Macaulay, I do not quite see that. How do you make it out?" He tells a story delightfully; and bears the pain of his gout, and the confinement and privations to which it subjects him, with admirable fortitude and cheerfulness. Her Ladyship is all courtesy and kindness to me; but her demeanour to some others, particularly to poor Allen, is such as it quite pains me to witness. He really is treated like a negro slave. "Mr. Allen, go into my drawing-room and bring my reticule." "Mr. Allen, go and see what can be the matter that they do not bring up dinner." "Mr. Allen, there is not enough turtle-soup for you. You must take gravy-soup or none." Yet I can scarcely pity the man. He has an independent income; and, if he can stoop to be ordered about like a footman, I cannot so much blame her for the contempt with which she treats him.
Perhaps I may write again to-morrow.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
Library of the House of Commons
July 26, 1831.
My dear Sister,—Here I am seated, waiting for the debate on the borough of St. Germains with a very quiet party,—Lord Milton, Lord Tavistock, and George Lamb. But, instead of telling you in dramatic form my conversations with Cabinet Ministers, I shall, I think, go back two or three days, and complete the narrative which I left imperfect in my epistle of yesterday.
[This refers to a passage in a former letter, likewise written from the Library of the House.
"'Macaulay!' Who calls Macaulay? Sir James Graham. What can he have to say to me? Take it dramatically:
Sir J. G. Macaulay!
Sir J. G. Whom are you writing to, that you laugh so much over your letter?
Macaulay. To my constituents at Caine, to be sure. They expect news of the Reform Bill every day.
Sir J. G. Well, writing to constituents is less of a plague to you than to most people, to judge by your face.
Macaulay. How do you know that I am not writing a billet doux to a lady?
Sir J. G. You look more like it, by Jove!
Cutlar Ferguson, M.P. for Kirkcudbright. Let ladies and constituents alone, and come into the House. We are going on to the case of the borough of Great Bedwin immediately."]
At half after seven on Sunday I was set down at Littleton's palace, for such it is, in Grosvenor Place. It really is a noble house; four superb drawing-rooms on the first floor, hung round with some excellent pictures—a Hobbema, (the finest by that artist in the world, it is said,) and Lawrence's charming portrait of Mrs. Littleton. The beautiful original, by the bye, did not make her appearance. We were a party of gentlemen. But such gentlemen! Listen, and be proud of your connection with one who is admitted to eat and drink in the same room with beings so exalted. There were two Chancellors, Lord Brougham and Lord Plunket. There was Earl Gower; Lord St. Vincent; Lord Seaford; Lord Duncannon; Lord Ebrington; Sir James Graham; Sir John Newport; the two Secretaries of the Treasury, Rice and Ellice; George Lamb; Denison; and half a dozen more Lords and distinguished Commoners, not to mention Littleton himself. Till last year he lived in Portman Square. When he changed his residence his servants gave him warning. They could not, they said, consent to go into such an unheard-of part of the world as Grosvenor Place. I can only say that I have never been in a finer house than Littleton's, Lansdowne House excepted,—and perhaps Lord Milton's, which is also in Grosvenor Place. He gave me a dinner of dinners. I talked with Denison, and with nobody else. I have found out that the real use of conversational powers is to put them forth in tete-a-tete. A man is flattered by your talking your best to him alone. Ten to one he is piqued by your overpowering him before a company. Denison was agreeable enough. I heard only one word from Lord Plunket, who was remarkably silent. He spoke of Doctor Thorpe, and said that, having heard the Doctor in Dublin, he should like to hear him again in London. "Nothing easier," quoth Littleton; "his chapel is only two doors off; and he will be just mounting the pulpit." "No," said Lord Plunket; "I can't lose my dinner." An excellent saying, though one which a less able man than Lord Plunket might have uttered.