Imatges de pÓgina

ment. The bill which had for its object to render that judicial functionary ineligible, had passed the second reading without a division. On the motion for the Speaker leaving the chair, Macaulay came down and delivered one of his most weighty and effective orations. The consequence was that the bill was lost by a large majority, and although we regret to say that since that time the privilege has never been taken advantage of, the Master of the Rolls remains eligible for a seat in Parlia


Thus while alongside even the thunders of Burke, and the vast influence of Bolingbroke, Macaulay holds his place; while he was a debater and an orator, a scholar, and a poet; while he could inspire the fancy either in its graver or lighter moods, impress the judgment and warm the heart; he had beyond them that steady-burning flame of patriotism, that ardent love of liberty, that strong, consistent, impressive sense of the rights of his fellow-countrymen, which from first to last, in the midst of great political excitement, living when great questions were canvassed by strong heads, kept him constant in his course. Liberty was his earliest, and was his latest theme. The scorn of oppression and fraud and falsehood, sympathy with all struggling humanity against injustice and wrong, and above all the honest pride of an Englishman in the former contests of his countrymen, and their triumphs and successes, were the prevailing emotions of his mind. For these he wrote and spoke; to these ends he used all those great stores of learning, all those wondrous powers of memory and reflection, with which he was endowed. He wore his harness to the end. He fell in the battle. It was his ambition to lay the foundations on which future historians should build the structure of English constitutional history. He has not, alas! lived to complete the great book which he contemplated. He has left us, after all, but a mighty fragment; yet his work is to a great extent accomplished. Time-honoured error, prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-minded intolerance have fled before the voice of the enchanter. These mists and clouds he has cleared away for ever; and although the fabric remains an unfinished monument of his genius, he has done more for British liberty, and for healthful political feeling in his time, than we need hope for from any other pen in this generation.

There is something very touching and melancholy in the fragmentary volume before us. Lady Trevelyan has done her part with great good-taste and discretion. She has rightly judged that the public would prefer to receive at her hand the last words of the great historian precisely as he left them;

and the fidelity with which this is done is so complete, the grand, sonorous utterances are so strong and powerful to the last, and break off with so sudden and abrupt a fracture, that we could almost have told, even had we not known, that the fulltoned string had snapped in an instant, and that death had found and claimed his victim in full career. To ourselves there is something inexpressibly affecting in this transition from life to silence-from vigour to the grave, which without a word of comment, or a line of epitaph, this volume suggests.

It begins, as it ends, abruptly. It embraces in its range the period from the rejoicings for the peace of Ryswick in December 1697, to the passing of the Resumption Bill in the summer of 1700; and contains a supplementary passage or chapter of little more than twenty pages, commencing with the death of James in April 1701, and ending with the death of William in March 1702.

It will thus be seen that although the conclusion has been deprived of the rounding and finishing touches of the author, the most essential portion of the work which Macaulay proposed to himself has been accomplished. He has not, indeed, written the History of England from the accession of James II. 'down to a time which is within the memory of men still living,' according to the comprehensive and ambitious design with which he started. It soon must have become obvious to himself that the scheme which he had sketched in his fertile brain, was beyond the physical powers he could command. No life could be long enough, no constitution sufficiently vigorous, to afford the leisure or to sustain the labour which such a task, to be so performed, must have put in requisition. It was, however, within reasonable hope, and formed the limit of his own expectation, that his work might have reached to the end of the reign of Queen Anne. But much as we have lost, by the want of his account of the first twelve years of the eighteenth century, so brilliant both in literature and in arms, and splendid as, beyond doubt, would have been the historical epic which he would have composed out of Blenheim and Ramillies, Swift and Atterbury, Bolingbroke and Addison, the last reign of the House of Stuart and the first adherents of the House of Hanover, the chief part of his design has been achieved. He has written the English history of William of Orange in characters deeply carved on our constitution-never to be obliterated while it remains. To clear away the rust and rubbish which time had accumulated to scatter the mists and vapours of subservience and party rancour, and time-serving philosophy which obscured our great Exodus from arbitrary

power to disclose in their massive grandeur the true foundations of our present liberty, was a task equal to, and not too great for his genius; and this he has performed. As time mellows the judgment, and distance combines more completely the proportions of this history, the vast gift which he has bestowed upon his country will be the more truly appreciated. We have not been slow, as our criticism on his last two volumes evinces, to speak our minds freely on his faults, and defects, and prejudices. But now that all is done, trying to bring back our minds, and associations, and impressions to what they were in 1847, it is impossible not to feel that the real narrative of the Revolution settlement dates from this publication. The bones, indeed, existed previously, scattered up and down in recesses more or less obscure; but the life was wanting until breathed into them by his ardent and courageous spiritand as long as the memory of English liberty survives, we believe these five volumes will be regarded as its noblest vindication.

The characteristics, indeed, of the three publications vary with the characteristics of the three periods to which they are devoted. The first, full of incident, adventure, and romancethe shaking of thrones, and the agitations of society which accompany changes of dynasty, afforded to his brilliant pencil a theme of rare attraction; and no one will ever forget the admiration and wonder with which his opening volumes were perused, and with which in all parts of the world a work was received which united the rarest accuracy of an historian to the charms and witchery of a romance. The rarest accuracy we may well claim for them; for although the world has long since forgotten most of the microscopic cavils with which he was then assailed, and although the more shallow and dull of his readers were slow to believe that truth could be made more interesting than fiction, it should not be forgotten that he came triumphant out of not only the more lofty crucible of opinion, but the meaner meshes and cobwebs of minute censors of dates, and carping critics of small facts. To some of these we adverted in our notice of the two first volumes in 1849, and further investigation has only resulted in placing his industry and fidelity as much above those of his hostile critics, as he soars above all his predecessors in lofty conception and comprehensive grasp.

His object was to lay the foundations of a History of England from the Revolution which should be firm and stable; to fix firmly in the public mind, and to illustrate and perpetuate in the remembrance of his countrymen, the real principles on which our constitution was founded, and the importance as well

as the glory of the struggle from which our political privileges arose. He had seen, as we have all seen, how easy it is, when the battle is over, to forget the principle for which the contending armies fought, in the ease and security of the victory. He had seen those who lived in liberty and in peace, because their forefathers lived in strife and action, only too ready to recall, amid the constitutional privileges which we enjoy, the obsolete doctrines of discarded prerogative, and to weep over the woes of unworthy rulers. The theme, therefore, which the two first volumes of his history profess to illustrate, was the commencement of that great struggle; and no one can forget with what a trumpet tone he sounded in the ears of the British public, and indeed of the world, the great principles of individual and constitutional liberty.

In these volumes he told, with a spirit and elegance never, we believe, surpassed, the eventful story of the Revolution, painting it in colours not more brilliant than true. That he created a hero for his theme out of his materials, in no way detracts from his merit; as it only implies that he was in earnest, and that his heart was in his work, and in the moral which he designed that it should convey. His devotion to William of Orange may, in detail, partake somewhat of exaggeration; but it is exaggeration of that sort which a skilful artist employs to produce the effect of life and reality. He was the centre of his historical picture, nor can the most impartial lover of truth complain that the light falls on him advantageously.

The third and fourth volumes were devoted to themes more varied in character, less exciting, and more difficult to handle. The Revolution was over. The new dynasty had taken possession, and inspired confidence in England and respect abroad. But the difficulties which common dangers had smothered, broke out on the return of safety and order. The scope of these volumes was to recount how the foundations of constitutional government were laid, on the ruins which the Stuarts had left behind them; how the jealousies incident to the power of a foreigner were met and surmounted; how the intrigues of the exiled family and the designs of France were counteracted and baffled-for how long treachery was on the eve of success, what difficulties it caused, and what disasters it threatened, and how in the end it was trodden out and extinguished. In the course of this narrative the historian, of course, was obliged to encounter many topics of controversy, of smaller influence, but on that account more keenly contested now, than the broader battles of Jacobite and Whig. But here, also, although the occasions for criticism were of course more nume

rous, Macaulay's power, knowledge, and brilliancy have imparted an interest and life to his narrative which no other historian has attained. No doubt his campaigns are dull, and so, we suspect, were the campaigns themselves. But the gradual growth of the existing system of government, the first cabinet, the rise of the Bank of England, the history of constitutional finance, and many subjects of a cognate nature, are treated of in a style both weighty and striking, fitted equally to attract the attention, to impress the memory, and to stimulate inquiry. We there are taught how the turbid and troubled state of the political waters, the instability of all public men, the intrigues of most of them with the Court of Saint Germains, and the strong, sturdy form of parliamentary supremacy cropping up amid the general disquietude, surround, perplex, and disturb the uncongenial mind of the Dutch monarch, whose thoughts are far away in Holland, and whose cares and dreams are all with the ambition of France and the balance of power. Ireland, too, has to be conquered, Scotland has to be appeased and settled, her Church to be satisfied, and her clans to be conciliated or overawed.

We took occasion, when in the course of our critical labours it became our duty to review these volumes, to enter into various discussions as to the different views which Mr. Macaulay had maintained in the course of them. As he was obliged to deal with subjects less exciting and less interesting in themselves, to some extent the prejudices of the writer became more apparent than they had been when his topics were more general, and we did not hesitate to express the opinion which we entertained upon several questions on which we differed from his views. But although it was impossible to deny that this great work, like all others, was fairly susceptible of criticism, we never abandoned the opinion which we formed at first, that while Macaulay had added a new charm to history, and had thrown over the detail of facts all the interest of fictitious narrative, he was not only the most eloquent, but the most accurate, of historians. It is true that he paints so vividly and writes with so much emphasis, that any errors he does commit strike more vividly than in a duller and a tamer style. And so he has been assailed by small critics upon numberless little points of very little materiality to the general scope or accuracy of his narrative, but which have been made the excuse for assaults as slender in their foundation as they are ungenerous and unworthy in themselves.

We hardly expected that it would have been necessary now, after the lapse of twelve years, to have resumed any topic of

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