T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: December 24, 1832.
My dear Sister,—I am much obliged to you for your letter, and am gratified by all its contents, except what you say about your own cough. As soon as you come back, you shall see Dr. Chambers, if you are not quite well. Do not oppose me in this; for I have set my heart on it. I dined on Saturday at Lord Essex's in Belgrave Square. But never was there such a take-in. I had been given to understand that his Lordship's cuisine was superintended by the first French artists, and that I should find there all the luxuries of the Almanach des Gourmands. What a mistake! His lordship is luxurious, indeed, but in quite a different way. He is a true Englishman. Not a dish on his table but what Sir Roger de Coverley, or Sir Hugh Tyrold, [The uncle of Miss Burney's Camilla.] might have set before his guests. A huge haunch of venison on the sideboard; a magnificent piece of beef at the bottom of the table; and before my Lord himself smoked, not a dindon aux truffes, but a fat roasted goose stuffed with sage and onions. I was disappointed, but very agreeably; for my tastes are, I fear, incurably vulgar, as you may perceive by my fondness for Mrs. Meeke's novels.
Our party consisted of Sharp; Lubbock; Watson, M.P. for Canterbury; and Rich, the author of "What will the Lords do?" who wishes to be M. P. for Knaresborough. Rogers was to have been of the party; but his brother chose that very day to die upon, so that poor Sam had to absent himself. The Chancellor was also invited, but he had scampered off to pass his Christmas with his old mother in Westmoreland. We had some good talk, particularly about Junius's Letters. I learned some new facts which I will tell you when we meet. I am more and more inclined to believe that Francis was one of the people principally concerned.
On the 29th of January, 1833, commenced the first Session of the Reformed Parliament. The main incidents of that Session, so fruitful in great measures of public utility, belong to general history; if indeed Clio herself is not fated to succumb beneath the stupendous undertaking of turning Hansard into a narrative imbued with human interest. O'Connell,—criticising the King's speech at vast length, and passing in turns through every mood from the most exquisite pathos to downright and undisguised ferocity,—at once plunged the House into a discussion on Ireland, which alternately blazed and smouldered through four livelong nights. Shed and Grattan spoke finely; Peel and Stanley admirably; Bulwer made the first of his successes, and Cobbett the second of his failures; but the longest and the loudest cheers were those which greeted each of the glowing periods in which Macaulay, as the champion of the Whig party, met the great agitator face to face with high, but not intemperate, defiance.["We are called base, and brutal, and bloody. Such are the epithets which the honourable and learned member for Dublin thinks it becoming to pour forth against the party to which he owes every political privilege that he enjoys. The time will come when history will do justice to the Whigs of England, and will faithfully relate how much they did and suffered for Ireland. I see on the benches near me men who might, by uttering one word against Catholic Emancipation.—nay, by merely abstaining from uttering a word in favour of Catholic Emancipation,—have been returned to this House without difficulty or expense, and who, rather than wrong their Irish fellow-subjects, were content to relinquish all the objects of their honourable ambition, and to retire into private life with conscience and fame untarnished. As to one eminent person, who seems to be regarded with especial malevolence by those who ought never to mention his name without respect and gratitude, I will only say this, that the loudest clamour which the honourable and learned gentleman can excite against Lord Grey will be trifling when compared with the clamour which Lord Grey withstood in order to place the honourable and learned gentleman where he now sits. Though a young member of the Whig party I will venture to speak in the name of the whole body. I tell the honourable and learned gentleman, that the same spirit which sustained us in a just contest for him will sustain us in an equally just contest against him. Calumny, abuse, royal displeasure, popular fury, exclusion from office, exclusion from Parliament, we were ready to endure them all, rather than that he should be less than a British subject. We never will suffer him to be more."] In spite of this flattering reception, he seldom addressed the House. A subordinate member of a Government, with plenty to do in his own department, finds little temptation, and less encouragement, to play the debater. The difference of opinion between the two Houses concerning the Irish Church Temporalities Bill, which constituted the crisis of the year, was the one circumstance that excited in Macaulay's mind any very lively emotions; but those emotions, being denied their full and free expression in the oratory of a partisan, found vent in the doleful prognostications of a despairing patriot which fill his letters throughout the months of June and July. His abstinence from the passing topics of Parliamentary controversy obtained for him a friendly, as well as an attentive, hearing from both sides of the House whenever he spoke on his own subjects; and did much to smooth the progress of those immense and salutary reforms with which the Cabinet had resolved to accompany the renewal of the India Company's Charter.
So rapid had been the march of events under that strange imperial system established in the East by the enterprise and valour of three generations of our countrymen, that each of the periodical revisions of that system was, in effect, a revolution. The legislation of 1813 destroyed the monopoly of the Indian trade. In 1833 the time had arrived when it was impossible any longer to maintain the monopoly of the China trade; and the extinction of this remaining commercial privilege could not fail to bring upon the Company commercial ruin. Skill, and energy, and caution, however happily combined, would not enable rulers who were governing a population larger than that governed by Augustus, and making every decade conquests more extensive than the conquests of Trajan, to compete with private merchants in an open market. England, mindful of the inestimable debt which she owed to the great Company, did not intend to requite her benefactors by imposing on them a hopeless task. Justice and expediency could be reconciled by one course, and one only;—that of buying up the assets and liabilities of the Company on terms the favourable character of which should represent the sincerity of the national gratitude. Interest was to be paid from the Indian exchequer at the rate of ten guineas a year on every hundred pounds of stock; the Company was relieved of its commercial attributes, and became a corporation charged with the function of ruling Hindoostan; and its directors, as has been well observed, remained princes, but merchant princes no longer.
The machinery required for carrying into effect this gigantic metamorphosis was embodied in a bill every one of whose provisions breathed the broad, the fearless, and the tolerant spirit with which Reform had inspired our counsels. The earlier Sections placed the whole property of the Company in trust for the Crown, and enacted that "from and after the 22nd day of April 1834 the exclusive right of trading with the dominions of the Emperor of China, and of trading in tea, shall cease." Then came clauses which threw open the whole continent of India as a place of residence for all subjects of his Majesty; which pronounced the doom of Slavery; and which ordained that no native of the British territories in the East should "by reason only of his religion, place of birth, descent, or colour, be disabled from holding any place, office, or employment." The measure was introduced by Mr. Charles Grant, the President of the Board of Control, and was read a second time on Wednesday the 10th July. On that occasion Macaulay defended the bill in a thin House; a circumstance which may surprise those who are not aware that on a Wednesday, and with an Indian question on the paper, Cicero replying to Hortensius would hardly draw a quorum. Small as it was, the audience contained Lord John Russell, Peel, O'Connell, and other masters in the Parliamentary craft. Their unanimous judgment was summed up by Charles Grant, in words which every one who knows the House of Commons will recognise as being very different from the conventional verbiage of mutual senatorial flattery. "I must embrace the opportunity of expressing, not what I felt, (for language could not express it,) but of making an attempt to convey to the House my sympathy with it in its admiration of the speech of my honourable and learned friend; a speech which, I will venture to assert, has never been exceeded within these walls for the development of statesmanlike policy and practical good sense. It exhibited all that is noble in oratory; all that is sublime, I had almost said, in poetry; all that is truly great, exalted, and virtuous in human nature. If the House at large felt a deep interest in this magnificent display, it may judge of what were my emotions when I perceived in the hands of my honourable friend the great principles which he expounded glowing with fresh colours, and arrayed in all the beauty of truth."
There is no praise more gratefully treasured than that which is bestowed by a generous chief upon a subordinate with whom he is on the best of terms. Macaulay to the end entertained for Lord Glenelg that sentiment of loyalty which a man of honour and feeling will always cherish with regard to the statesman under whom he began his career as a servant of the Crown. [The affinity between this sentiment and that of the Quaestor towards his first Proconsul, so well described in the Orations against Verres, is one among the innumerable points of resemblance between the public life of ancient Rome and modern England.] The Secretary repaid the President for his unvarying kindness and confidence by helping him to get the bill through committee with that absence of friction which is the pride and delight of official men. The vexed questions of Establishment and Endowment, (raised by the clauses appointing bishops to Madras and Bombay, and balancing them with as many salaried Presbyterian chaplains,) increased the length of the debates and the number of the divisions; but the Government carried every point by large majorities, and, with slight modifications in detail, and none in principle, the measure became law with the almost universal approbation both of Parliament and the country.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
House of Commons. Monday night, half-past 12.
My dear Sister,—The papers will scarcely contain any account of what passed yesterday in the House of Commons in the middle of the day. Grant and I fought a battle with Briscoe and O'Connell in defence of the Indian people, and won it by 38 to 6. It was a rascally claim of a dishonest agent of the Company against the employers whom he had cheated, and sold to their own tributaries. [In his great Indian speech Macaulay referred to this affair, in a passage, the first sentence of which has, by frequent quotation, been elevated into an apophthegm: "A broken head in Cold Bath Fields produces a greater sensation than three pitched battles in India. A few weeks ago we had to decide on a claim brought by an individual against the revenues of India. If it had been an English question the walls would scarcely have held the members who would have flocked to the division. It was an Indian question; and we could scarcely, by dint of supplication, make a House."] The nephew of the original claimant has been pressing his case on the Board most vehemently. He is an attorney living in Russell Square, and very likely hears the word at St. John's Chapel. He hears it however to very little purpose; for he lies as much as if he went to hear a "cauld clatter of morality" at the parish church.
I remember that, when you were at Leamington two years ago, I used to fill my letters with accounts of the people with whom I dined. High life was new to me then; and now it has grown so familiar that I should not, I fear, be able, as I formerly was, to select the striking circumstances. I have dined with sundry great folks since you left London, and I have attended a very splendid rout at Lord Grey's. I stole thither, at about eleven, from the House of Commons with Stewart Mackenzie. I do not mean to describe the beauty of the ladies, nor the brilliancy of stars and uniforms. I mean only to tell you one circumstance which struck, and even affected me. I was talking to Lady Charlotte Lindsay, the daughter of Lord North, a great favourite of mine, about the apartments and the furniture, when she said with a good deal of emotion: "This is an interesting visit to me. I have never been in this house for fifty years. It was here that I was born; I left it a child when my father fell from power in 1782, and I have never crossed the threshold since." Then she told me how the rooms seemed dwindled to her; how the staircase, which appeared to her in recollection to be the most spacious and magnificent that she had ever seen, had disappointed her. She longed, she said, to go over the garrets and rummage her old nursery. She told me how, in the No-Popery riots of 1780, she was taken out of bed at two o'clock in the morning. The mob threatened Lord North's house. There were soldiers at the windows, and an immense and furious crowd in Downing Street. She saw, she said, from her nursery the fires in different parts of London; but she did not understand the danger; and only exulted in being up at midnight. Then she was conveyed through the Park to the Horse Guards as the safest place; and was laid, wrapped up in blankets, on the table in the guardroom in the midst of the officers. "And it was such fun," she said, "that I have ever after had rather a liking for insurrections."
I write in the midst of a crowd. A debate on Slavery is going on in the Commons; a debate on Portugal in the Lords. The door is slamming behind me every moment, and people are constantly going out and in. Here comes Vernon Smith. "Well, Vernon, what are they doing?" "Gladstone has just made a very good speech, and Howick is answering him." "Aye, but in the House of Lords?" "They will beat us by twenty, they say." "Well, I do not think it matters much." "No; nobody out of the House of Lords cares either for Don Pedro, or for Don Miguel."
There is a conversation between two official men in the Library of the House of Commons on the night of the 3rd June 1833, reported word for word. To the historian three centuries hence this letter will be invaluable. To you, ungrateful as you are, it will seem worthless.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
Smoking-Room of the House of Commons June 6, 1833.
My Darling,—Why am I such a fool as to write to a gypsey at Liverpool, who fancies that none is so good as she if she sends one letter for my three? A lazy chit whose fingers tire with penning a page in reply to a quire! There, Miss, you read all the first sentence of my epistle, and never knew that you were reading verse. I have some gossip for you about the Edinburgh Review. Napier is in London, and has called on me several times. He has been with the publishers, who tell him that the sale is falling off; and in many private parties, where he hears sad complaints. The universal cry is that the long dull articles are the ruin of the Review. As to myself, he assures me that my articles are the only things which keep the work up at all. Longman and his partners correspond with about five hundred booksellers in different parts of the kingdom. All these booksellers, I find, tell them that the Review sells, or does not sell, according as there are, or are not, articles by Mr. Macaulay. So, you see, I, like Mr. Darcy,[The central male figure in "Pride and Prejudice."] shall not care how proud I am. At all events, I cannot but be pleased to learn that, if I should be forced to depend on my pen for subsistence, I can command what price I choose.
The House is sitting; Peel is just down; Lord Palmerston is speaking; the heat is tremendous; the crowd stifling; and so here I am in the smoking-room, with three Repealers making chimneys of their mouths under my very nose.
To think that this letter will bear to my Anna The exquisite scent of O'Connor's Havannah!
You know that the Lords have been foolish enough to pass a vote implying censure on the Ministers.[On June 3rd, 1833, a vote of censure on the Portuguese policy of the Ministry was moved by the Duke of Wellington, and carried in the Lords by 79 votes to 69. On June 6th a counter-resolution was carried in the Commons by 361 votes to 98.] The Ministers do not seem inclined to take it of them. The King has snubbed their Lordships properly; and in about an hour, as I guess, (for it is near eleven), we shall have come to a Resolution in direct opposition to that agreed to by the Upper House. Nobody seems to care one straw for what the Peers say about any public matter. A Resolution of the Court of Common Council, or of a meeting at Freemasons' Hall, has often made a greater sensation than this declaration of a branch of the Legislature against the Executive Government. The institution of the Peerage is evidently dying a natural death.
I dined yesterday—where, and on what, and at what price, I am ashamed to tell you. Such scandalous extravagance and gluttony I will not commit to writing. I blush when I think of it. You, however, are not wholly guiltless in this matter. My nameless offence was partly occasioned by Napier; and I have a very strong reason for wishing to keep Napier in good humour. He has promised to be at Edinburgh when I take a certain damsel thither; to loop out for very nice lodgings for us in Queen Street; to show us everything and everybody; and to see us as far as Dunkeld on our way northward, if we do go northward. In general I abhor visiting; but at Edinburgh we must see the people as well as the walls and windows; and Napier will be a capital guide.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: June 14, 1833.
My dear Sister,—I do not know what you may have been told. I may have grumbled, for ought I know, at not having more letters from you; but, as to being angry, you ought to know by this time what sort of anger mine is when you are its object.
You have seen the papers, I dare say, and you will perceive that I did not speak yesterday night.[The night of the First Reading of the India Bill.] The House was thin. The debate was languid. Grant's speech had done our work sufficiently for one night; and both he and Lord Althorp advised me to reserve myself for the Second Reading.
What have I to tell you? I will look at my engagement book, to see where I am to dine.
Friday June 14 . Lord Grey. Saturday June 15. Mr. Boddington. Sunday June 16 . Mr. S. Rice. Saturday June 22. Sir R. Inglis. Thursday June 27. The Earl of Ripon. Saturday June 29. Lord Morpeth.
Read, and envy, and pine, and die. And yet I would give a large slice of my quarter's salary, which is now nearly due, to be at the Dingle. I am sick of Lords with no brains in their heads, and Ladies with paint on their cheeks, and politics, and politicians, and that reeking furnace of a House. As the poet says,
Oh! rather would I see this day My little Nancy well and merry Than the blue riband of Earl Grey, Or the blue stockings of Miss Berry.
Margaret tells us that you are better, and better, and better. I want to hear that you are well. At all events our Scotch tour will set you up. I hope, for the sake of the tour, that we shall keep our places; but I firmly believe that, before many days have passed, a desperate attempt will be made in the House of Lords to turn us out. If we stand the shock, we shall be firmer than ever. I am not without anxiety as to the result; yet I believe that Lord Grey understands the position in which he is placed, and, as for the King, he will not forget his last blunder, I will answer for it, even if he should live to the age of his father. [This "last blunder" was the refusal of the King to stand by his Ministers in May 1832. Macaulay proved a bad prophet; for, after an interval of only three years, William the Fourth repeated his blunder in an aggravated form.]
But why plague ourselves about politics when we have so much pleasanter things to talk of? The Parson's Daughter; don't you like the Parson's Daughter? What a wretch Harbottle was! And Lady Frances, what a sad worldly woman! But Mrs. Harbottle, dear suffering angel! and Emma Level, all excellence! Dr. Mac Gopus you doubtless like; but you probably do not admire the Duchess and Lady Catherine. There is a regular cone over a novel for you! But, if you will have my opinion, I think it Theodore Book's worst performance; far inferior to the Surgeon's Daughter; a set of fools making themselves miserable by their own nonsensical fancies and suspicions. Let me hear your opinion, for I will be sworn that,
In spite of all the serious world, Of all the thumbs that ever twirled, Of every broadbrim-shaded brow, Of every tongue that e'er said "thou," You still read books in marble covers About smart girls and dapper lovers.
But what folly I have been scrawling! I must go to work.
I cannot all day Be neglecting Madras And slighting Bombay For the sake of a lass.
Kindest love to Edward, and to the woman who owns him.
T. B. M.
London: June 17, 1833.
Dear Hannah,—All is still anxiety here. Whether the House of Lords will throw out the Irish Church Bill, whether the King will consent to create new Peers, whether the Tories will venture to form a Ministry, are matters about which we are all in complete doubt. If the Ministry should really be changed, Parliament will, I feel quite sure, be dissolved. Whether I shall have a seat in the next Parliament I neither know nor care. I shall regret nothing for myself but our Scotch tour. For the public I shall, if this Parliament is dissolved, entertain scarcely any hopes. I see nothing before us but a frantic conflict between extreme opinions; a short period of oppression; then a convulsive reaction; and then a tremendous crash of the Funds, the Church, the Peerage, and the Throne. It is enough to make the most strenuous royalist lean a little to republicanism to think that the whole question between safety and general destruction may probably, at this most fearful conjuncture, depend on a single man whom the accident of his birth has placed in a situation to which certainly his own virtues or abilities would never have raised him.
The question must come to a decision, I think, within the fortnight. In the meantime the funds are going down, the newspapers are storming, and the faces of men on both sides are growing day by day more gloomy and anxious. Even during the most violent part of the contest for the Reform Bill I do not remember to have seen so much agitation in the political circles. I have some odd anecdotes for you, which I will tell you when we meet. If the Parliament should be dissolved, the West Indian and East Indian Bills are of course dropped. What is to become of the slaves? What is to become of the tea-trade? Will the negroes, after receiving the Resolutions of the House of Commons promising them liberty, submit to the cart-whip? Will our merchants consent to have the trade with China, which has just been offered to them, snatched away? The Bank Charter, too, is suspended. But that is comparatively a trifle. After all, what is it to me who is in or out, or whether those fools of Lords are resolved to perish, and drag the King to perish with them in the ruin which they have themselves made? I begin to wonder what the fascination is which attracts men, who could sit over their tea and their books in their own cool quiet room, to breathe bad air, hear bad speeches, lounge up and down the long gallery, and doze uneasily on the green benches till three in the morning. Thank God, these luxuries are not necessary to me. My pen is sufficient for my support, and my sister's company is sufficient for my happiness. Only let me see her well and cheerful, and let offices in Government, and seats in Parliament, go to those who care for them. If I were to leave public life to-morrow, I declare that, except for the vexation which it might give you and one or two others, the event would not be in the slightest degree painful to me. As you boast of having a greater insight into character than I allow to you, let me know how you explain this philosophical disposition of mine, and how you reconcile it with my ambitious inclinations. That is a problem for a young lady who professes knowledge of human nature.
Did I tell you that I dined at the Duchess of Kent's, and sate next that loveliest of women, Mrs. Littleton? Her husband, our new Secretary for Ireland, told me this evening that Lord Wellesley, who sate near us at the Duchess's, asked Mrs. Littleton afterwards who it was that was talking to her. "Mr. Macaulay." "Oh! "said the Marquess," I am very sorry I did not know it. I have a most particular desire to be acquainted with that man." Accordingly Littleton has engaged me to dine with him, in order to introduce me to the Marquess. I am particularly curious, and always was, to know him. He has made a great and splendid figure in history, and his weaknesses, though they make his character less worthy of respect, make it more interesting as a study. Such a blooming old swain I never saw; hair combed with exquisite nicety, a waistcoat of driven snow, and a star and garter put on with rare skill.
To-day we took up our Resolutions about India to the House of Lords. The two Houses had a conference on the subject in an old Gothic room called the Painted Chamber. The painting consists in a mildewed daub of a woman in the niche of one of the windows. The Lords sate in little cocked hats along a table; and we stood uncovered on the other side, and delivered in our Resolutions. I thought that before long it may be our turn to sit, and theirs to stand.
T. B. M.
London: June 21, 1833.
Dear Hannah,—I cannot tell you how delighted I was to learn from Fanny this morning that Margaret pronounces you to be as well as she could wish you to be. Only continue so, and all the changes of public life will be as indifferent to me as to Horatio. If I am only spared the misery of seeing you suffer, I shall be found
A man that fortune's buffets and rewards Has ta'en with equal thanks.
Whether we are to have buffets or rewards is known only to Heaven and to the Peers. I think that their Lordships are rather cowed. Indeed, if they venture on the course on which they lately seemed bent, I would not give sixpence for a coronet or a penny for a mitre.
I shall not read the Repealers; and I think it very impudent in you to make such a request. Have I nothing to do but to be your novel-taster? It is rather your duty to be mine. What else have you to do? I have read only one novel within the last week, and a most precious one it was: the Invisible Gentleman. Have you ever read it? But I need not ask. No doubt it has formed part of your Sunday studies. A wretched, trumpery, imitation of Godwin's worst manner. What a number of stories I shall have to tell you when we meet!—which will be, as nearly as I can guess, about the 10th or 12th of August. I shall be as rich as a Jew by that time.
Next Wednesday will be quarter-day; And then, if I'm alive, Of sterling pounds I shall receive Three hundred seventy-five.
Already I possess in cash Two hundred twenty-four, Besides what I have lent to John Which makes up twenty more.
Also the man who editeth The Yellow and the Blue Doth owe me ninety pounds at least, All for my last review.
So, if my debtors pay their debts, You'll find, dear sister mine, That all my wealth together makes Seven hundred pounds and nine.
T. B. M.
The rhymes in which Macaulay unfolds his little budget derive a certain dignity and meaning from the events of the ensuing weeks. The unparalleled labours of the Anti-Slavery leaders were at length approaching a successful issue, and Lord Grey's Cabinet had declared itself responsible for the emancipation of the West Indian negroes. But it was already beginning to be known that the Ministerial scheme, in its original shape, was not such as would satisfy even the more moderate Abolitionists. Its most objectionable feature was shadowed forth in the third of the Resolutions with which Mr. Stanley, who had the question in charge, prefaced the introduction of his bill: "That all persons, now slaves, be entitled to be registered as apprenticed labourers, and to acquire thereby all the rights and privileges of freemen, subject to the restriction of labouring, for a time to be fixed by Parliament, for their present owners." It was understood that twelve years would be proposed as the period of apprenticeship; although no trace of this intention could be detected in the wording of the Resolution. Macaulay, who thought twelve years far too long, felt himself justified in supporting the Government during the preliminary stages; but he took occasion to make some remarks indicating that circumstances might occur which would oblige him to resign office, and adopt a line of his own.
As time went on it became evident that his firmness would be put to the test; and a severe test it was. A rising statesman, whose prospects would be irremediably injured by abruptly quitting a Government that seemed likely to be in power for the next quarter of a century; a zealous Whig, who shrank from the very appearance of disaffection to his party; a man of sense, with no ambition to be called Quixotic; a member for a large constituency, possessed of only seven hundred pounds in the world when his purse was at its fullest; above all, an affectionate son and brother, now, more than ever, the main hope and reliance of those whom he held most dear;—it may well be believed that he was not in a hurry to act the martyr. His father's affairs were worse than bad. The African firm, without having been reduced to declare itself bankrupt, had ceased to exist as a house of business; or existed only so far that for some years to come every penny that Macaulay earned, beyond what the necessities of life demanded, was scrupulously devoted to paying, and at length to paying off, his father's creditors; a dutiful enterprise in which he was assisted by his brother Henry, [Henry married in 1841 a daughter of his brother's old political ally, Lord Denman. He died at Boa Vista, in 1846, leaving two sons, Henry, and Joseph, Macaulay.] a young man of high spirit and excellent abilities, who had recently been appointed one of the Commissioners of Arbitration in the Prize Courts at Sierra Leone.
The pressure of pecuniary trouble was now beginning to make itself felt even by the younger members of the family. About this time, or perhaps a little earlier, Hannah Macaulay writes thus to one of her cousins: "You say nothing about coming to us. You must come in good health and spirits. Our trials ought not greatly to depress us; for, after all, all we want is money, the easiest want to bear; and, when we have so many mercies—friends who love us and whom we love; no bereavements; and, above all, (if it be not our own fault,) a hope full of immortality—let us not be so ungrateful as to repine because we are without what in itself cannot make our happiness."
Macaulay's colleagues, who, without knowing his whole story, knew enough to be aware that he could ill afford to give up office, were earnest in their remonstrances; but he answered shortly, and almost roughly: "I cannot go counter to my father. He has devoted his whole life to the question, and I cannot grieve him by giving way when he wishes me to stand firm." During the crisis of the West India Bill, Zachary Macaulay and his son were in constant correspondence. There is something touching in the picture which these letters present of the older man, (whose years were coming to a close in poverty which was the consequence of his having always lived too much for others,) discussing quietly and gravely how, and when, the younger was to take a step that in the opinion of them both would be fatal to his career; and this with so little consciousness that there was anything heroic in the course which they were pursuing, that it appears never to have occurred to either of their that any other line of conduct could possibly be adopted.
Having made up his mind as to what he should do, Macaulay set about it with as good a grace as is compatible with the most trying position in which a man, and especially a young man, can find himself. Carefully avoiding the attitude of one who bargains or threatens, he had given timely notice in the proper quarter of his intentions and his views. At length the conjuncture arrived when decisive action could no longer be postponed. On the 24th of July Mr. Thomas Fowell Buxton moved an amendment in Committee, limiting the apprenticeship to the shortest period necessary for establishing the system of free labour. Macaulay, whose resignation was already in Lord Althorp's hands, made a speech which produced all the more effect as being inornate, and, at times, almost awkward. Even if deeper feelings had not restrained the range of his fancy and the flow of his rhetoric, his judgment would have told him that it was not the moment for an oratorical display. He began by entreating the House to extend to him that indulgence which it had accorded on occasions when he had addressed it "with more confidence and with less harassed feelings." He then, at some length, exposed the effects of the Government proposal. "In free countries the master has a choice of labourers, and the labourer has a choice of masters; but in slavery it is always necessary to give despotic power to the master. This bill leaves it to the magistrate to keep peace between master and slave. Every time that the slave takes twenty minutes to do that which the master thinks he should do in fifteen, recourse must be had to the magistrate. Society would day and night be in a constant state of litigation, and all differences and difficulties must be solved by judicial interference."
He did not share in Mr. Buxton's apprehension of gross cruelty as a result of the apprenticeship. "The magistrate would be accountable to the Colonial Office, and the Colonial Office to the House of Commons, in which every lash which was inflicted under magisterial authority would be told and counted. My apprehension is that the result of continuing for twelve years this dead slavery,—this state of society destitute of any vital principle,—will be that the whole negro population will sink into weak and drawling inefficacy, and will be much less fit for liberty at the end of the period than at the commencement. My hope is that the system will die a natural death; that the experience of a few months will so establish its utter inefficiency as to induce the planters to abandon it, and to substitute for it a state of freedom. I have voted," he said, "for the Second Reading, and I shall vote for the Third Reading; but, while the bill is in Committee, I shall join with other honourable gentlemen in doing all that is possible to amend it."
Such a declaration, coming from the mouth of a member of the Government, gave life to the debate, and secured to Mr. Buxton an excellent division, which under the circumstances was equivalent to a victory. The next day Mr. Stanley rose; adverted shortly to the position in which the Ministers stood; and announced that the term of apprenticeship would be reduced from twelve years to seven. Mr. Buxton, who, with equal energy and wisdom, had throughout the proceedings acted as leader of the Anti-slavery party in the House of Commons, advised his friends to make the best of the concession; and his counsel was followed by all those Abolitionists who were thinking more of their cause than of themselves. It is worthy of remark that Macaulay's prophecy came true, though not at so early a date as he ventured to anticipate. Four years of the provisional system brought all parties to acquiesce in the premature termination of a state of things which denied to the negro the blessings of freedom, and to the planter the profits of slavery.
"The papers," Macaulay writes to his father, "will have told you all that has happened, as far as it is known to the public. The secret history you will have heard from Buxton. As to myself, Lord Althorp told me yesterday night that the Cabinet had determined not to accept my resignation. I have therefore the singular good luck of having saved both my honour and my place, and of having given no just ground of offence either to the Abolitionists or to my party-friends. I have more reason than ever to say that honesty is the best policy."
This letter is dated the 27th of July. On that day week, Wilberforce was carried to his grave in Westminster Abbey. "We laid him," writes Macaulay, "side by side with Canning, at the feet of Pitt, and within two steps of Fox and Grattan." He died with the promised land full in view. Before the end of August Parliament abolished slavery, and the last touch was put to the work that had consumed so many pure and noble lives. In a letter of congratulation to Zachary Macaulay, Mr. Buxton says: "Surely you have reason to rejoice. My sober and deliberate opinion is that you have done more towards this consummation than any other man. For myself, I take pleasure in acknowledging that you have been my tutor all the way through, and that I could have done nothing without you." Such was the spirit of these men, who, while the struggle lasted, were prodigal of health and ease; but who, in the day of triumph, disclaimed, each for himself, even that part of the merit which their religion allowed them to ascribe to human effort and self-sacrifice.
London: July 11, 1833.
Dear Hannah,—I have been so completely overwhelmed with business for some days that I have not been able to find time for writing a line. Yesterday night we read the India Bill a second time. It was a Wednesday, and the reporters gave hardly any account of what passed. They always resent being forced to attend on that day, which is their holiday. I made the best speech, by general agreement, and in my own opinion, that I ever made in my life. I was an hour and three-quarters up; and such compliments as I had from Lord Althorp, Lord Palmerston, Lord John Russell, Wynne, O'Connell, Grant, the Speaker, and twenty other people, you never heard. As there is no report of the speech, I have been persuaded, rather against my will, to correct it for publication. I will tell you one compliment that was paid me, and which delighted me more than any other. An old member said to me: "Sir, having heard that speech may console the young people for never having heard Mr. Burke." [A Tory member said that Macaulay resembled both the Burkes: that he was like the first from his eloquence, and like the second from his stopping other people's mouths.]
The Slavery Bill is miserably bad. I am fully resolved not to be dragged through the mire, but to oppose, by speaking and voting, the clauses which I think objectionable. I have told Lord Althorp this, and have again tendered my resignation. He hinted that he thought that the Government would leave me at liberty to take my own line, but that he must consult his colleagues. I told him that I asked for no favour; that I knew what inconvenience would result if official men were allowed to dissent from Ministerial measures, and yet to keep their places; and that I should not think myself in the smallest degree ill-used if the Cabinet accepted my resignation. This is the present posture of affairs. In the meantime the two Houses are at daggers drawn. Whether the Government will last to the end of the Session I neither know nor care. I am sick of Boards, and of the House of Commons; and pine for a few quiet days, a cool country breeze, and a little chatting with my dear sister.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay
London: July 19, 1833.
My dear Sister,—I snatch a few minutes to write a single line to you. We went into Committee on the India Bill at twelve this morning, sate till three, and are just set at liberty for two hours. At five we recommence, and shall be at work till midnight. In the interval between three and five I have to despatch the current business of the office, which, at present, is fortunately not heavy; to eat my dinner, which I shall do at Grant's; and to write a short scrawl to my little sister.
My work, though laborious, has been highly satisfactory. No Bill, I believe, of such importance,—certainly no important Bill in my time, has been received with such general approbation. The very cause of the negligence of the reporters, and of the thinness of the House, is that we have framed our measure so carefully as to give little occasion for debate. Littleton, Denison, and many other members, assure me that they never remember to have seen a Bill better drawn or better conducted.
On Monday night, I hope, my work will be over. Our Bill will have been discussed, I trust, for the last time in the House of Commons; and, in all probability, I shall within forty-eight hours after that time be out of office. I am fully determined not to give way about the West India Bill; and I can hardly expect,—I am sure I do not wish,—that the Ministers should suffer me to keep my place and oppose their measure. Whatever may befall me or my party, I am much more desirous to come to an end of this interminable Session than to stay either in office or in Parliament. The Tories are quite welcome to take everything, if they will only leave me my pen and my books, a warm fireside, and you chattering beside it. This sort of philosophy, an odd kind of cross between Stoicism and Epicureanism, I have learned, where most people unlearn all their philosophy, in crowded senates and fine drawing-rooms.
But time flies, and Grant's dinner will be waiting. He keeps open house for us during this fight.
T. B. M.
London: July 22, 1833.
My dear Father,—We are still very anxious here. The Lords, though they have passed the Irish Church Bill through its first stage, will very probably mutilate it in Committee. It will then be for the Ministers to decide whether they can with honour keep their places. I believe that they will resign if any material alteration should be made; and then everything is confusion.
These circumstances render it very difficult for me to shape my course right with respect to the West India Bill, the Second Reading of which stands for this evening. I am fully resolved to oppose several of the clauses. But to declare my intention publicly, at a moment when the Government is in danger, would have the appearance of ratting. I must be guided by circumstances; but my present intention is to say nothing on the Second Reading. By the time that we get into Committee the political crisis, will, I hope, be over; the fate of the Church Bill will be decided one way or the other; and I shall be able to take my own course on the Slavery question without exposing myself to the charge of deserting my friends in a moment of peril.
Ever yours affectionately
T. B. MACAULAY.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: July 24, 1833,
My dear Sister,—You will have seen by the papers that the West India debate on Monday night went off very quietly in little more than an hour. To-night we expect the great struggle, and I fear that, much against my inclination, I must bear a part in it. My resignation is in Lord Althorp's hands. He assures me that he will do his utmost to obtain for me liberty to act as I like on this question; but Lord Grey and Stanley are to be consulted, and I think it very improbable that they will consent to allow me so extraordinary a privilege. I know that, if I were Minister, I would not allow such latitude to any man in office; and so I told Lord Althorp. He answered in the kindest and most flattering manner; told me that in office I had surpassed their expectations, and that, much as they wished to bring me in last year, they wished much more to keep me in now. I told him in reply that the matter was one for the Ministers to settle, purely with a view to their own interest; that I asked for no indulgence; that I could make no terms; and that, what I would not do to serve them, I certainly would not do to keep my place. Thus the matter stands. It will probably be finally settled within a few hours.
This detestable Session goes on lengthening, and lengthening, like a human hair in one's mouth. (Do you know that delicious sensation?) Last month we expected to have been up before the middle of August. Now we should be glad to be quite certain of being in the country by the first of September. One comfort I shall have in being turned out: I will not stay a day in London after the West India Bill is through Committee; which I hope it will be before the end of next week.
The new Edinburgh Review is not much amiss; but I quite agree with the publishers, the editor, and the reading public generally, that the number would have been much the better for an article of thirty or forty pages from the pen of a gentleman who shall be nameless.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: July 25, 1833.
My dear Sister,—The plot is thickening. Yesterday Buxton moved an instruction to the Committee on the Slavery Bill, which the Government opposed, and which I supported. It was extremely painful to me to speak against all my political friends; so painful that at times I could hardly go on. I treated them as mildly as I could; and they all tell me that I performed my difficult task not ungracefully. We divided at two this morning, and were 151 to 158. The Ministers found that, if they persisted, they would infallibly be beaten. Accordingly they came down to the House at twelve this day, and agreed to reduce the apprenticeship to seven years for the agricultural labourers, and to five years for the skilled labourers. What other people may do I cannot tell; but I am inclined to be satisfied with this concession; particularly as I believe that, if we press the thing further, they will resign, and we shall have no Bill at all, but instead of it a Tory Ministry and a dissolution. Some people flatter me with the assurance that our large minority, and the consequent change in the Bill, have been owing to me. If this be so, I have done one useful act at least in my life.
I shall now certainly remain in office; and if, as I expect, the Irish Church Bill passes the Lords, I may consider myself as safe till the next Session; when Heaven knows what may happen. It is still quite uncertain when we may rise. I pine for rest, air, and a taste of family life, more than I can express. I see nothing but politicians, and talk about nothing but politics.
I have not read Village Belles. Tell me, as soon as you can get it, whether it is worth reading. As John Thorpe [The young Oxford man in "Northanger Abbey."] says "Novels! Oh Lord! I never read novels. I have something else to do."
T. B. M,
To Hannah M. Macaulay,
London: July 27, 1833.
My dear Sister,—Here I am, safe and well, at the end of one of the most stormy weeks that the oldest man remembers in Parliamentary affairs. I have resigned my office, and my resignation has been refused. I have spoken and voted against the Ministry under which I hold my place. The Ministry has been so hard run in the Commons as to be forced to modify its plan; and has received a defeat in the Lords, [On the 25th of July the Archbishop of Canterbury carried an amendment on the Irish Church Bill, against the Government, by 84 votes to 82.]—a slight one to be sure, and on a slight matter,—yet such that I, and many others, fully believed twenty-four hours ago that they would have resigned. In fact, some of the Cabinet,—Grant among the rest, to my certain knowledge, were for resigning. At last Saturday has arrived. The Ministry is as strong as ever. I am as good friends with the Ministers as ever. The East India Bill is carried through our House. The West India Bill is so far modified that, I believe, it will be carried. The Irish Church Bill has got through the Committee in the Lords; and we are all beginning to look forward to a Prorogation in about three weeks.
To-day I went to Hayden's to be painted into his great picture of the Reform Banquet. Ellis was with me, and declares that Hayden has touched me off to a nicety. I am sick of pictures of my own face. I have seen within the last few days one drawing of it, one engraving, and three paintings. They all make me a very handsome fellow. Hayden pronounces my profile a gem of art, perfectly antique; and, what is worth the praise of ten Haydens, I was told yesterday that Mrs. Littleton, the handsomest woman in London, had paid me exactly the same compliment. She pronounced Mr. Macaulay's profile to be a study for an artist. I have bought a new looking-glass and razor-case on the strength of these compliments, and am meditating on the expediency of having my hair cut in the Burlington Arcade, rather than in Lamb's Conduit Street. As Richard says,
"Since I am crept in favour with myself, I will maintain it with some little cost."
I begin, like Sir Walter Elliot, [The Baronet in "Persuasion."] to rate all my acquaintance according to their beauty. But what nonsense I write, and in times that make many merry men look grave!
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: July 29, 1833.
My dear Sister,—I dined last night at Holland House. There was a very pleasant party. My Lady was courteous, and my Lord extravagantly entertaining, telling some capital stories about old Bishop Horsley, which were set off with some of the drollest mimicry that I ever saw. Among many others there were Sir James Graham; and Dr. Holland, who is a good scholar as well as a good physician; and Wilkie, who is a modest, pleasing companion as well as an excellent artist. For ladies, we had her Grace of—; and her daughter Lady—, a fine, buxom, sonsy lass, with more colour than, I am sorry to say, is often seen among fine ladies. So our dinner and our soiree were very agreeable.
We narrowly escaped a scene at one time. Lord is in the navy, and is now on duty in the fleet at the Tagus. We got into a conversation about Portuguese politics. His name was mentioned, and Graham, who is First Lord of the Admiralty, complimented the Duchess on her son's merit, to which, he said, every despatch bore witness. The Duchess forthwith began to entreat that he might be recalled. He was very ill, she said. If he stayed longer on that station she was sure that he would die; and then she began to cry. I cannot bear to see women cry, and the matter became serious, for her pretty daughter began to bear her company. That hardhearted Lord —— seemed to be diverted by the scene. He, by all accounts, has been doing little else than making women cry during the last five-and-twenty years. However, we all were as still as death while the wiping of eyes and the blowing of noses proceeded. At last Lord Holland contrived to restore our spirits; but, before the Duchess went away, she managed to have a tete-a-tete with Graham, and, I have no doubt, begged and blubbered to some purpose. I could not help thinking how many honest stout-hearted fellows are left to die on the most unhealthy stations for want of being related to some Duchess who has been handsome, or to some Duchess's daughter who still is so.
The Duchess said one thing that amused us. We were talking about Lady Morgan. "When she first came to London," said Lord Holland, "I remember that she carried a little Irish harp about with her wherever she went." Others denied this. I mentioned what she says in her Book of the Boudoir. There she relates how she went one evening to Lady—'s with her little Irish harp, and how strange everybody thought it. "I see nothing very strange," said her Grace, "in her taking her harp to Lady—'s. If she brought it safe away with her, that would have been strange indeed." On this, as a friend of yours says, we la-a-a-a-a-a-a-ft.
I am glad to find that you approve of my conduct about the Niggers. I expect, and indeed wish, to be abused by the Agency Society. My father is quite satisfied, and so are the best part of my Leeds friends.
I amuse myself, as I walk back from the House at two in the morning, with translating Virgil. I am at work on one of the most beautiful episodes, and am succeeding pretty well. You shall have what I have done when I come to Liverpool, which will be, I hope, in three weeks or thereanent.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: July 31, 1833.
My dear Sister,—Political affairs look cheeringly. The Lords passed the Irish Church Bill yesterday, and mean, we understand, to give us little or no trouble about the India Bill. There is still a hitch in the Commons about the West India Bill, particularly about the twenty millions for compensation to the planters; but we expect to carry our point by a great majority. By the end of next week we shall be very near the termination of our labours. Heavy labours they have been.
So Wilberforce is gone! We talk of burying him in Westminster Abbey; and many eminent men, both Whigs and Tories, are desirous to join in paying him this honour. There is, however, a story about a promise given to old Stephen that they should both lie in the same grave. Wilberforce kept his faculties, and, except when he was actually in fits, his spirits, to the very last. He was cheerful and full of anecdote only last Saturday. He owned that he enjoyed life much, and that he had a great desire to live longer. Strange in a man who had, I should have said, so little to attach him to this world, and so firm a belief in another; in a man with an impaired fortune, a weak spine, and a worn-out stomach! What is this fascination which makes us cling to existence in spite of present sufferings and of religious hopes? Yesterday evening I called at the house in Cadogan Place, where the body is lying. I was truly fond of him; that is, "je l'aimais comme l'on aime." And how is that? How very little one human being generally cares for another! How very little the world misses anybody! How soon the chasm left by the best and wisest men closes! I thought, as I walked back from Cadogan Place, that our own selfishness when others are taken away ought to teach us how little others will suffer at losing us. I thought that, if I were to die to-morrow, not one of the fine people, whom I dine with every week, will take a cotelette aux petits pois the less on Saturday at the table to which I was invited to meet them, or will smile less gaily at the ladies over the champagne. And I am quite even with them. What are those pretty lines of Shelley?
Oh, world, farewell! Listen to the passing bell. It tells that thou and I must part With a light and heavy heart.
There are not ten people in the world whose deaths would spoil my dinner; but there are one or two whose deaths would break my heart. The more I see of the world, and the more numerous my acquaintance becomes, the narrower and more exclusive my affection grows, and the more I cling to my sisters, and to one or two old tried friends of my quiet days. But why should I go on preaching to you out of Ecclesiastes? And here comes, fortunately, to break the train of my melancholy reflections, the proof of my East India Speech from Hansard; so I must put my letter aside, and correct the press. Ever yours
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: August 2, 1833.
My dear Sister,—I agree with your judgment on Chesterfield's Letters. They are for the most part trash; though they contain some clever passages, and the style is not bad. Their celebrity must be attributed to causes quite distinct from their literary merit, and particularly to the position which the author held in society. We see in our own time that the books written by public men of note are generally rated at more than their real value: Lord Granville's little compositions, for example; Canning's verses; Fox's history; Brougham's treatises. The writings of people of high fashion, also, have a value set on them far higher than that which intrinsically belongs to them. The verses of the late Duchess of Devonshire, or an occasional prologue by Lord Alvanley, attract a most undue share of attention. If the present Duke of Devonshire, who is the very "glass of fashion and mould of form," were to publish a book with two good pages, it would be extolled as a masterpiece in half the drawing-rooms of London. Now Chesterfield was, what no person in our time has been or can be, a great political leader, and at the same time the acknowledged chief of the fashionable world; at the head of the House of Lords, and at the head of laze; Mr. Canning and the Duke of Devonshire in one. In our time the division of labour is carried so far that such a man could not exist. Politics require the whole of energy, bodily and mental, during half the year; and leave very little time for the bow window at White's in the day, or for the crush-room of the Opera at night. A century ago the case was different. Chesterfield was at once the most distinguished orator in the Upper House, and the undisputed sovereign of wit and fashion. He held this eminence for about forty years. At last it became the regular custom of the higher circles to laugh whenever he opened his mouth, without waiting for his bon mot. He used to sit at White's with a circle of young men of rank round him, applauding every syllable that he uttered. If you wish for a proof of the kind of position which Chesterfield held among his contemporaries, look at the prospectus of Johnson's Dictionary. Look even at Johnson's angry letter. It contains the strongest admission of the boundless influence which Chesterfield exercised over society. When the letters of such a man were published, of course they were received more favourably by far than they deserved.
So much for criticism. As to politics, everything seems tending to repose; and I should think that by this day fortnight we shall probably be prorogued. The Jew Bill was thrown out yesterday night by the Lords. No matter. Our turn will come one of these days.
If you want to see me puffed and abused by somebody who evidently knows nothing about me, look at the New Monthly for this month. Bulwer, I see, has given up editing it. I suppose he is making money in some other way; for his dress must cost as much as that of any five other members of Parliament.
To-morrow Wilberforce is to be buried. His sons acceded, with great eagerness, to the application made to them by a considerable number of the members of both Houses that the funeral should be public. We meet to-morrow at twelve at the House of Commons, and we shall attend the coffin into the Abbey. The Duke of Wellington, Lord Eldon, and Sir R. Peel have put down their names, as well as the Ministers and the Abolitionists.
My father urges me to pay some tribute to Wilberforce in the House of Commons. If any debate should take place on the third reading of the West India Bill in which I might take part, I should certainly embrace the opportunity of doing honour to his memory. But I do not expect that such an occasion will arise. The House seems inclined to pass the Bill without more contest; and my father must be aware that anything like theatrical display,—anything like a set funeral oration not springing naturally out of the discussion of a question,—is extremely distasteful to the House of Commons.
I have been clearing off a great mass of business, which had accumulated at our office while we were conducting our Bill through Parliament. Today I had the satisfaction of seeing the green boxes, which a week ago were piled up with papers three or four feet high, perfectly empty. Admire my superhuman industry. This I will say for myself, that, when I do sit down to work, I work harder and faster than any person that I ever knew.
T. B. M.
The next letter, in terms too clear to require comment, introduces the mention of what proved to be the most important circumstance in Macaulay's life.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: August 17, 1833.
My dear Sister,—I am about to write to you on a subject which to you and Margaret will be one of the most agitating interest; and which, on that account chiefly, is so to me.
By the new India bill it is provided that one of the members of the Supreme Council, which is to govern our Eastern Empire, is to be chosen from among persons who are not servants of the Company. It is probable, indeed nearly certain, that the situation will be offered to me.
The advantages are very great. It is a post of the highest dignity and consideration. The salary is ten thousand pounds a year. I am assured by persons who know Calcutta intimately, and who have themselves mixed in the highest circles and held the highest offices at that Presidency, that I may live in splendour there for five thousand a year, and may save the rest of the salary with the accruing interest. I may therefore hope to return to England at only thirty-nine, in the full vigour of life, with a fortune of thirty thousand pounds. A larger fortune I never desired.
I am not fond of money, or anxious about it. But, though every day makes me less and less eager for wealth, every day shows me more and more strongly how necessary a competence is to a man who desires to be either great or useful. At present the plain fact is that I can continue to be a public man only while I can continue in office. If I left my place in the Government, I must leave my seat in Parliament too. For I must live; I can live only by my pen; and it is absolutely impossible for any man to write enough to procure him a decent subsistence, and at the same time to take an active part in politics. I have not during this Session been able to send a single line to the Edinburgh Review; and, if I had been out of office, I should have been able to do very little. Edward Bulwer has just given up the New Monthly Magazine on the ground that he cannot conduct it, and attend to his Parliamentary duties. Cobbett has been compelled to neglect his Register so much that its sale has fallen almost to nothing. Now, in order to live like a gentleman, it would be necessary for me to write, not as I have done hitherto, but regularly, and even daily. I have never made more than two hundred a year by my pen. I could not support myself in comfort on less than five hundred; and I shall in all probability have many others to support. The prospects of our family are, if possible, darker than ever.
In the meantime my political outlook is very gloomy. A schism in the Ministry is approaching. It requires only that common knowledge of public affairs, which any reader of the newspapers may possess, to see this; and I have more, much more, than common knowledge on the subject. They cannot hold together. I tell you in perfect seriousness that my chance of keeping my present situation for six months is so small, that I would willingly sell it for fifty pounds down. If I remain in office, I shall, I fear, lose my political character. If I go out, and engage in opposition, I shall break most of the private ties which I have formed during the last three years. In England I see nothing before me, for some time to come, but poverty, unpopularity, and the breaking up of old connections.
If there were no way out of these difficulties, I would encounter them with courage. A man can always act honourably and uprightly; and, if I were in the Fleet Prison or the rules of the King's Bench, I believe that I could find in my own mind resources which would preserve me from being positively unhappy. But, if I could escape from these impending disasters, I should wish to do so. By accepting the post which is likely to be offered to me, I withdraw myself for a short time from the contests of faction here. When I return, I shall find things settled, parties formed into new combinations, and new questions under discussion. I shall then be able, without the scandal of a violent separation, and without exposing myself to the charge of inconsistency, to take my own line. In the meantime I shall save my family from distress; and shall return with a competence honestly earned, as rich as if I were Duke of Northumberland or Marquess of Westminster, and able to act on all public questions without even a temptation to deviate from the strict line of duty. While in India, I shall have to discharge duties not painfully laborious, and of the highest and most honourable kind. I shall have whatever that country affords of comfort or splendour; nor will my absence be so long that my friends, or the public here, will be likely to lose sight of me.
The only persons who know what I have written to you are Lord Grey, the Grants, Stewart Mackenzie, and George Babington. Charles Grant and Stewart Mackenzie, who know better than most men the state of the political world, think that I should act unwisely in refusing this post; and this though they assure me,—and, I really believe, sincerely,—that they shall feel the loss of my society very acutely. But what shall I feel? And with what emotions, loving as I do my country and my family, can I look forward to such a separation, enjoined, as I think it is, by prudence and by duty? Whether the period of my exile shall be one of comfort,—and, after the first shock, even of happiness,—depends on you. If, as I expect, this offer shall be made to me, will you go with me? I know what a sacrifice I ask of you. I know how many dear and precious ties you must, for a time, sunder. I know that the splendour of the Indian Court, and the gaieties of that brilliant society of which you would be one of the leading personages, have no temptation for you. I can bribe you only by telling you that, if you will go with me, I will love you better than I love you now, if I can.
I have asked George Babington about your health and mine. He says that he has very little apprehension for me, and none at all for you. Indeed, he seemed to think that the climate would be quite as likely to do you good as harm.
All this is most strictly secret. You may, of course, show the letter to Margaret; and Margaret may tell Edward; for I never cabal against the lawful authority of husbands. But further the thing must not go. It would hurt my father, and very justly, to hear of it from anybody before he hears of it from myself; and, if the least hint of it were to get abroad, I should be placed in a very awkward position with regard to the people at Leeds. It is possible, though not probable, that difficulties may arise at the India House; and I do not mean to say anything to any person, who is not already in the secret, till the Directors have made their choice, and till the King's pleasure has been taken.
And now think calmly over what I have written. I would not have written on the subject even to you, till the matter was quite settled, if I had not thought that you ought to have full time to make up your mind. If you feel an insurmountable aversion to India, I will do all in my power to make your residence in England comfortable during my absence, and to enable you to confer instead of receiving benefits. But if my dear sister would consent to give me, at this great crisis of my life, that proof, that painful and arduous proof, of her affection, which I beg of her, I think that she will not repent of it. She shall not, if the unbounded confidence and attachment of one to whom she is dearer than life can compensate her for a few years' absence from much that she loves.
Dear Margaret! She will feel this. Consult her, my love, and let us both have the advantage of such advice as her excellent understanding, and her warm affection for us, may furnish. On Monday next, at the latest, I expect to be with you. Our Scotch tour, under these circumstances, must be short. By Christmas it will be fit that the new Councillor should leave England. His functions in India commence next April. We shall leave our dear Margaret, I hope, a happy mother.
Farewell, my dear sister. You cannot tell how impatiently I shall wait for your answer.
T. B. M.
This letter, written under the influence of deep and varied emotions, was read with feelings of painful agitation and surprise. India was not then the familiar name that it has become to a generation which regards a visit to Cashmere as a trip to be undertaken between two London seasons, and which discusses over its breakfast table at home the decisions arrived at on the previous afternoon in the Council-room of Simla or Calcutta. In those rural parsonages and middle-class households where service in our Eastern territories now presents itself in the light of a probable and desirable destiny for a promising son, those same territories were forty years ago regarded as an obscure and distant region of disease and death. A girl who had seen no country more foreign than Wales, and crossed no water broader and more tempestuous than the Mersey, looked forward to a voyage which (as she subsequently learned by melancholy experience), might extend over six weary months, with an anxiety that can hardly be imagined by us who spend only half as many weeks on the journey between Dover and Bombay. A separation from beloved relations under such conditions was a separation indeed; and, if Macaulay and his sister could have foreseen how much of what they left at their departure they would fail to find on their return, it is a question whether any earthly consideration could have induced them to quit their native shore. But Hannah's sense of duty was too strong for these doubts and tremors; and, happily, (for on the whole her resolution was a fortunate one,) she resolved to accompany her brother in an expatriation which he never would have faced without her. With a mind set at ease by a knowledge of her intention, he came down to Liverpool as soon as the Session was at an end; and carried her off on a jaunt to Edinburgh, in a post-chaise furnished with Horace Walpole's letters for their common reading, and Smollett's collected works for his own. Before October he was back at the Board of Control; and his letters recommenced, as frequent and rather more serious and business-like than of old.
London: October 5, 1833
Dear Hannah,—Life goes on so quietly here, or rather stands so still, that I have nothing, or next to nothing, to say. At the Athenaeum I now and then fall in with some person passing through town on his way to the Continent or to Brighton. The other day I met Sharp, and had a long talk with him about everything and everybody,—metaphysics, poetry, politics, scenery, and painting. One thing I have observed in Sharp, which is quite peculiar to him among town-wits and diners-out. He never talks scandal. If he can say nothing good of a man, he holds his tongue. I do not, of course, mean that in confidential communication about politics he does not speak freely of public men; but about the foibles of private individuals I do not believe that, much as I have talked with him, I ever heard him utter one word. I passed three or four hours very agreeably in his company at the club.
I have also seen Kenny for an hour or two. I do not know that I ever mentioned Kenny to you. When London is overflowing, I meet such numbers of people that I cannot remember half their names. This is the time at which every acquaintance, however slight, attracts some degree of attention. In the desert island, even poor Poll was something of a companion to Robinson Crusoe. Kenny is a writer of a class which, in our time, is at the very bottom of the literary scale. He is a dramatist. Most of the farces, and three-act plays, which have succeeded during the last eight or ten years, are, I am told, from his pen. Heaven knows that, if they are the farces and plays which I have seen, they do him but little honour. However, this man is one of our great comic writers. He has the merit, such as it is, of hitting the very bad taste of our modern audiences better than any other person who has stooped to that degrading work. We had a good deal of literary chat; and I thought him a clever shrewd fellow.
My father is poorly; not that anything very serious is the matter with him; but he has a cold, and is in low spirits.
T. B. M.
London: October 14, 1833
Dear Hannah,—I have just finished my article on Horace Walpole. This is one of the happy moments of my life; a stupid task performed; a weight taken off my mind. I should be quite joyous if I had only you to read it to. But to Napier it must go forthwith; and, as soon as I have finished this letter, I shall put it into the general post with my own fair hands. I was up at four this morning to put the last touch to it. I often differ with the majority about other people's writings, and still oftener about my own; and therefore I may very likely be mistaken; but I think that this article will be a hit. We shall see. Nothing ever cost me more pains than the first half; I never wrote anything so flowingly as the latter half; and I like the latter half the best. I have laid it on Walpole so unsparingly that I shall not be surprised if Miss Berry should cut me. You know she was Walpole's favourite in her youth. Neither am I sure that Lord and Lady Holland will be well pleased. But they ought to be obliged to me; for I refrained for their sake from laying a hand, which has been thought to be not a light one, on that old rogue the first Lord Holland. [Lord Holland, once upon a time, speaking to Macaulay of his grandfather, said: "He had that temper which kind folks have been pleased to say belongs to my family; but he shared the fault that belonged to that school of statesmen, an utter disbelief in public virtue."]
Charles Grant is still at Paris; ill, he says. I never knew a man who wanted setting to rights so often. He goes as badly as your watch.
My father is at me again to provide for P—. What on earth have I to do with P—? The relationship is one which none but Scotchmen would recognise. The lad is such a fool that he would utterly disgrace my recommendation. And, as if to make the thing more provoking, his sisters say that he must be provided for in England, for that they cannot think of parting with him. This, to be sure, matters little; for there is at present just as little chance of getting anything in India as in England.
But what strange folly this is which meets me in every quarter; people wanting posts in the army, the navy, the public offices, and saying that, if they cannot find such posts, they must starve! How do all the rest of mankind live? If I had not happened to be engaged in politics, and if my father had not been connected, by very extraordinary circumstances, with public men, I should never have dreamed of having places. Why cannot P— be apprenticed to some hatter or tailor? He may do well in such a business; he will do detestably ill as a clerk in my office. He may come to make good coats; he will never, I am sure, write good despatches. There is nothing truer than Poor Richard's say: "We are taxed twice as heavily by our pride as by the state." The curse of England is the obstinate determination of the middle classes to make their sons what they call gentlemen. So we are overrun by clergymen without livings; lawyers without briefs; physicians without patients; authors without readers; clerks soliciting employment, who might have thriven, and been above the world, as bakers, watchmakers, or innkeepers. The next time my father speaks to me about P—, I will offer to subscribe twenty guineas towards making a pastry-cook of him. He had a sweet tooth when he was a child.
So you are reading Burnet! Did you begin from the beginning? What do you think of the old fellow? He was always a great favourite of mine; honest, though careless; a strong party man on the right side, yet with much kind feeling towards his opponents, and even towards his personal enemies. He is to me a most entertaining writer; far superior to Clarendon in the art of amusing, though of course far Clarendon's inferior in discernment, and in dignity and correctness of style. Do you know, by the bye, Clarendon's life of himself? I like it, the part after the Restoration at least, better than his great History.
I am very quiet; rise at seven or half-past; read Spanish till ten; breakfast; walk to my office; stay there till four; take a long walk, dine towards seven; and am in bed before eleven. I am going through Don Quixote again, and admire it more than ever. It is certainly the best novel in the world, beyond all comparison.
T. B. M.
To Hannah M. Macaulay.
London: October 21, 1833.
My dear Sister,—Grant is here at last, and we have had a very long talk about matters both public and private. The Government would support my appointment; but he expects violent opposition from the Company. He mentioned my name to the Chairs, and they were furious. They know that I have been against them through the whole course of the negotiations which resulted in the India Bill. They put their opposition on the ground of my youth,—a very flattering objection to a man who this week completes his thirty-third year. They spoke very highly of me in other respects; but they seemed quite obstinate.
The question now is whether their opposition will be supported by the other Directors. If it should be so, I have advised Grant most strongly to withdraw my name, to put up some other man, and then to fight the battle to the utmost. We shall be suspected of jobbing if we proceed to extremities on behalf of one of ourselves; but we can do what we like, if it is in favour of some person whom we cannot be suspected of supporting from interested motives. From the extreme unreasonableness and pertinacity which are discernible in every communication that we receive from the India House at present, I am inclined to think that I have no chance of being chosen by them, without a dispute in which I should not wish the Government to engage for such a purpose. Lord Grey says that I have a right to their support if I ask for it; but that, for the sake of his administration generally, he is very adverse to my going. I do not think that I shall go. However, a few days will decide the matter.
I have heard from Napier. He praises my article on Walpole in terms absolutely extravagant. He says that it is the best that I ever wrote; and, entre nous, I am not very far from agreeing with him. I am impatient to have your opinion. No flattery pleases me so much as domestic flattery. You will have the Number within the week.
T. B. M
To Macvey Napier, Esq.
London: October 21, 1833.
Dear Napier,—I am glad to learn that you like my article. I like it myself; which is not much my habit. Very likely the public, which has often been kinder to my performances than I was, may on this, as on other occasions, differ from me in opinion. If the paper has any merit, it owes it to the delay of which you must, I am sure, have complained very bitterly in your heart. I was so thoroughly dissatisfied with the article, as it stood at first, that I completely re-wrote it; altered the whole arrangement; left out ten or twelve pages in one part; and added twice as many in another. I never wrote anything so slowly as the first half, or so rapidly as the last half.
You are in an error about Akenside, which I must clear up for his credit, and for mine. You are confounding the Ode to Curio and the Epistle to Curio. The latter is generally printed at the end of Akenside's works, and is, I think, the best thing that he ever wrote. The Ode is worthless. It is merely an abridgment of the Epistle executed in the most unskilful way. Johnson says, in his Life of Akenside, that no poet ever so much mistook his powers as Akenside when he took to lyric composition. "Having," I think the words are, "written with great force and poignancy his Epistle to Curio, he afterwards transformed it into an Ode only disgraceful to its author." ["Akenside was one of the fiercest and the most uncompromising of the young patriots out of Parliament. When he found that the change of administration had produced no change of system, he gave vent to his indignation in the 'Epistle to Curio,' the best poem that he ever wrote; a poem, indeed, which seems to indicate that, if he had left lyrical composition to Cray and Collins, and had employed his powers in grave and elevated satire, he might have disputed the pre-eminence of Dryden." This passage occurs in Macaulay's Essay on Horace Walpole. In the course of the same Essay, Macaulay remarks that "Lord Chesterfield stands much lower in the estimation of posterity than he would have done if his letters had never been published."]
When I said that Chesterfield had lost by the publication of his letters, I of course considered that he had much to lose; that he has left an immense reputation, founded on the testimony of all his contemporaries of all parties, for wit, taste, and eloquence; that what remains of his Parliamentary oratory is superior to anything of that time that has come down to us, except a little of Pitt's. The utmost that can be said of the letters is that they are the letters of a cleverish man; and there are not many which are entitled even to that praise. I think he would have stood higher if we had been left to judge of his powers,—as we judge of those of Chatham, Mansfield, Charles Townshend, and many others,—only by tradition, and by fragments of speeches preserved in Parliamentary reports.
I said nothing about Lord Byron's criticism on Walpole, because I thought it, like most of his Lordship's criticism, below refutation. On the drama Lord Byron wrote more nonsense than on any subject. He wanted to have restored the unities. His practice proved as unsuccessful as his theory was absurd. His admiration of the "Mysterious Mother" was of a piece with his thinking Gifford, and Rogers, greater poets than Wordsworth, and Coleridge.
Ever yours truly
T. B. MACAULAY.
London: October 28, 1833.
Dear Hannah,—I wish to have Malkin as head of the Commission at Canton, and Grant seems now to be strongly bent on the same plan. [Sir Benjamin Malkin, a college friend of Macaulay, was afterwards a judge in the Supreme Court at Calcutta.] Malkin is a man of singular temper, judgment, and firmness of nerve. Danger and responsibility, instead of agitating and confusing him, always bring out whatever there is in him. This was the reason of his great success at Cambridge. He made a figure there far beyond his learning or his talents, though both his learning and his talents are highly respectable. But the moment that he sate down to be examined, which is just the situation in which all other people, from natural flurry, do worse than at other times, he began to do his very best. His intellect became clearer, and his manner more quiet, than usual. He is the very man to make up his mind in three minutes if the Viceroy of Canton were in a rage, the mob bellowing round the doors of the factory, and an English ship of war making preparations to bombard the town.