troopers. The past, he says, became in his mind ‘a romance,’ though to the best of his abilities a true romance. His masculine intellect made him a thorough man of business as well as a bookworm. His memory provided a vast supply of cases in point for every possible contingency, and led him perhaps too often to substitute a string of precedents for a logical exposition. He not only distrusted the symmetry of abstract reason, but seemed to prefer anomaly or compromise for its own sake. Yet his sturdy understanding enabled him always to take firm ground, and to hit hard and straight. As an orator he spoke without grace of voice or manner, but with an impetuosity and fulness of mind, and clearness of language, which always dominated his hearers. Members of parliament were carried away by the rare spectacle of a man of the highest literary fame who yet never soared out of their intellectual ken. His rhetorical power is as manifest in the ‘Lays of Ancient Rome’ as in his speeches, and if they are hardly poetry, they are most effective declamation. His essays are equally unapproached in their kind. He ascribes the invention of the genus to Southey, but claims, rightly, to have improved the design (ib. p. 415). In striking contrast to most periodical literature, they represent the greatest condensation instead of the greatest expansion of knowledge, and the sense of proportion, and consequent power of effective narrative, are as remarkable in his best essays—especially the essays on Clive and Warren Hastings—as the clearness of style and range of knowledge. The first part of the ‘History’ shows the same qualities, though the later volumes begin to suffer from the impracticable scale.
Macaulay's marvellous popularity was in part due to qualities which have alienated many critics. He spoke to the middle classes in terms appropriate to the hustings. The tenets of the whig party were for him the last word of political wisdom. The essay on Bacon is a deliberate declaration of the worthlessness of all speculation not adapted to immediate utility. His attack upon the utilitarians expresses a more thorough-going empiricism than that of their own official advocates. Though he liked theological, and even some metaphysical controversy, he never revealed his own views except so far as they are implied in sharing the true whig antipathy to high church principles. The philosophical and imaginative tendencies represented by such men as Wordsworth, Coleridge, or Carlyle, struck him as mere mystical moonshine. In such matters he was on the side of the vulgar, and certainly sacrificed to their tastes. He delights in proving the obvious, prefers the commonplace to the subtle, and his purple patches are too often glaring and discordant, and produce a bathos due to the absence of the finer literary sense.
Macaulay has been accused of gross partiality. It is obvious that he does not rise above the party view of politics, and explains all opposition to which principles by the folly and knavery of their opponents. It does not seem that he was ever consciously unfair, and an historian without prejudices has hitherto always meant a writer without imagination. His misrepresentations are a result of his ‘castle building.’ In spite of his wide reading, he had often constructed pictures from trifling hints, and a picture, once constructed, became a settled fact. Closer examination often shows a singular audacity in outrunning tangible evidence, when he has to deal with a hateful person, a James II, a Marlborough, or an Impey; and he is too much in love with the picturesque to lower his colouring to the reality. The same desire for effect at any cost makes some of his characters, such as Bacon, mere heaps of contradictory qualities. Among the critics who have criticised Macaulay upon special topics may be mentioned James Spedding, whose ‘Evenings with a Reviewer,’ discussing the Bacon essay, was first published in 1881 (privately printed many years before); W. Hepworth Dixon, who replied in his ‘Life of Penn,’ 1851, to Macaulay's view of Penn in the ‘History;’ W. E. Forster, who in 1849 published ‘Observations’ on the same passages; Churchill Babington, who in 1849 published ‘Macaulay's Character of the Clergy in the Seventeenth Century considered;’ E. B. Impey, who in ‘A Life of Sir Elijah Impey,’ 1846, answered part of the essay upon Warren Hastings; Sir J. F. Stephen, who has discussed the same question in ‘The Story of Nuncomar,’ 1885; and John Paget, who in his ‘New Examen,’ 1861, and in ‘Puzzles and Paradoxes,’ 1874, has discussed the evidence from various passages in the ‘History.’ With all his faults, Macaulay's great qualities may well make rivals despair. The pictures which he has drawn have rightly or wrongly stamped themselves ineffaceably upon the popular mind. If his long hesitation between two careers prevented the completion of his ‘History’ while limiting his political success, it also gave to his writings the rare value of wide literary accomplishment combined with keen insight of practical experience.
In his private life, Macaulay was admirable. He was perhaps rather too good a hater, as