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Critical Miscellanies, Volume I (of 3) Essay 4: Macaulay   By: (1838-1923)

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First Page:

CRITICAL MISCELLANIES

by

JOHN MORLEY

VOL. I.

ESSAY 4: MACAULAY

London MacMillan and Co., Limited New York: The MacMillan Company 1904

MACAULAY.

The Life of Macaulay 253

Macaulay's vast popularity 254

He and Mill, the two masters of the modern journalist 256

His marked quality 259

Set his stamp on style 260

His genius for narration 262

His copiousness of illustration 264

Macaulay's, the style of literary knowledge 266

His use of generous commonplace 267

Perfect accord with his audience 271

Dislike of analysis 272

Not meditative 273

Macaulay's is the prose of spoken deliverance 276

Character of his geniality 278

Metallic hardness and brightness 279

Compared with Carlyle 281

Harsh modulations and shallow cadences 283

Compared with Burke 283

Or with Southey 285

Faults of intellectual conscience 286

Vulgarity of thought 289

Conclusion 290

MACAULAY.

'After glancing my eye over the design and order of a new book,' says Gibbon, 'I suspended the perusal till I had finished the task of self examination, till I had revolved in a solitary walk all that I knew or believed or had thought on the subject of the whole work or of some particular chapter; I was then qualified to discern how much the author added to my original stock; and if I was sometimes satisfied by the agreement, I was sometimes warned by the opposition of our ideas.' It is also told of Strafford that before reading any book for the first time, he would call for a sheet of paper, and then proceed to write down upon it some sketch of the ideas that he already had upon the subject of the book, and of the questions that he expected to find answered. No one who has been at the pains to try the experiment, will doubt the usefulness of this practice: it gives to our acquisitions from books clearness and reality, a right place and an independent shape. At this moment we are all looking for the biography of an illustrious man of letters, written by a near kinsman, who is himself naturally endowed with keen literary interests, and who has invigorated his academic cultivation by practical engagement in considerable affairs of public business. Before taking up Mr. Trevelyan's two volumes, it is perhaps worth while, on Strafford's plan, to ask ourselves shortly what kind of significance or value belongs to Lord Macaulay's achievements, and to what place he has a claim among the forces of English literature. It is seventeen years since he died, and those of us who never knew him nor ever saw him, may now think about his work with that perfect detachment which is impossible in the case of actual contemporaries.[1]

[Footnote 1: Since the following piece was written, Mr. Trevelyan's biography of Lord Macaulay has appeared, and has enjoyed the great popularity to which its careful execution, its brightness of style, its good taste, its sound judgment, so richly entitle it. If Mr. Trevelyan's course in politics were not so useful as it is, one might be tempted to regret that he had not chosen literature for the main field of his career... Continue reading book >>


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