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POETRY: -- A Home in Staten Island, 450. About Livingstone, 499.
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A HOME IN STATEN ISLAND.
[For the proper understanding of the following verses, written by a home-sick Englishman while resident in Staten Island, near New York, it may be necessary to state that in North America there are neither daisies, nor primroses, nor skylarks, nor nightingales, nor any bird with a musical note except the mocking bird, which is not often heard north of Maryland. The " dogwood" and the catalpa," of which mention is made, are flowering trees of great beauty in the vernal landscape.]
My true love clasped me by the hand,
"Behind us lies the teeming town
"See how the dogwood sheds its bloom
That hides in shady places.
"See stretching o'er the green hill side, The haunt of cooing turtle,
The clambering vine, the branching elm,
From The Quarterly Review.
1. The Works of Lord Macaulay complete. Edited by his sister, Lady Trevelyan.
8 vols. 8vo. London. 1866. 2. The New Examen; or an Inquiry into the Evidence relating to certain Passages in Lord Macaulay's History. By John Paget, Barrister-at-Law. Edinburgh and London. 1861.
THE time has come when we feel bound to enter a firm protest against a species of hero-worship which cannot fail to demoralise and discredit the republic of letters, if it spreads. The worshippers at the Macaulay shrine will not rest satisfied with the ready, nay eager, recognition of their idol as the most brilliant and popular essayist and historian of the age. They peremptorily insist on his infallibility. There is to be no appeal from his judgments. As who should say, I am Sir Oracle.' In apparent imitation of a familiar practice on board ship when the hour is reported, no sooner has he pronounced an opinion or inference, than his votaries exclaim in chorus, make it so.' Woe to the critics who presume to claim the right of private judgment, or dare to unsettle what he has pronounced to be settled. They will be ignored, hustled on one side, or misrepresented; whilst the original false creed or theory will be confidently set forth anew as if nothing ever had, or ever could be, urged against it. What makes the school or clique to which we allude especially formidable and mischievous, is its respectability; comprising, as it does, several distinguished men of letters, and having for its organ a Review of long-established influence and reputation. Nor does it much mend the matter that they are acting conscientiously, and do not even seem aware that they risk any loss of literary reputation, although ready to go any lengths rather than admit that they have erred with their mas
of his rich imagination, his descriptive powers, his gorgeous rhetoric, his glow, grasp, and comprehensiveness, but very few care to inquire about the evidence upon which his splendid declamations rest. Examination of evidence in a critical spirit is to most persons repulsive, and it is always difficult to undertake the support of reasoned truth against eloquent sentiment. We have, moreover, to contend, in the present case, not only against the vulgi indiligentia veri' -the dislike which the majority always feel to the investigation of truth - but against an established admiration, which in many minds rises to something like a religious sentiment. It is no pleasure to us, we can assure our readers, to dwell upon the failings of an eminent writer whose loss we all deplore, and who has left behind him a large circle of attached and ardent admirers; but we cannot stand by and allow arrogant assumptions and transparent sophistries to be produced as decisive of a controversy because Lord Macaulay has set his seal upon them. The time can hardly come when his picturesque and luminous pages will cease to be devoured with avidity by the most intellectual and impressible class of readers; and these, above all others, should be forewarned that a most attractive and instructive companion may prove a very unsafe counsellor or guide.
We may as well say at starting that we do not accuse Lord Macaulay of conscious misrepresentation or premeditated wrong. He was a man of an ardent, generous nature, with high aspirations for human progress, a deep sense of justice, and a vehement hatred of oppression. Indeed, it was the very depth and strength of his moral and political convictions that so frequently warped his judgment: he could see no good in any one who he thought upheld tyranny or bigotry, no harm in any one who seemed to him to promote civil and religious freedom. By some peculiarity of his mental constitution he was also singularly impatient of uncertainty: like sundry recent converts or perverts that shall be nameless, he hurried into dogmatism to escape doubt. He could never be made to understand that there are whole classes of subjects on which certainty is unattainable: questions to which, instead of saying yes or no, we are compelled to give a qualified reply. It was in reference to this peculiarity, as displayed in the Cabinet,
When a lady asked Dr. Johnson how he came to commit a palpable blunder in his 'Dictionary,' he replied: Ignorance, Ma'am, pure ignorance.' Lord Macaulay was never seduced into such a display of frankness, although he could have afforded it equally well. It was a point of honour with him never to admit an error; and his disciples manfully maintain to this hour that he never was guilty of one. There has been enough of this. We have a duty to perform, though we are well aware that it is an invidious and a difficult one. Almost all readers feel the charm of Lord Macaulay's eloquence,
that Lord Melbourne remarked: Macaulay eminently characteristic exaggeration of the is always so cock-sure of everything.' We personal defects of Luxembourg and King were instantly reminded of him by the pas- William:sage in which a great contemporary warns both readers, and writers against the tendency to break loose from the unseen spell by which a conscientious criticism binds them down-to screw up the possible and probable into certainty, to suppress counterbalancing considerations, and to substitute pleasing romance in place of half-known and perplexing realities.'*
Then, there was his notorious fondness for the dramatic or melodramatic in composition, for telling contrasts and picturesque details that meretricious taste, that vanity of style, by which an author may be as dangerously misled as a woman by vanity of dress. Effect was to him what Action' was to Demosthenes, or l'audace, toujours l'audace to Danton his aim, his end, his principle, his condition and criterion of success. The artistic delineations and descriptions on which he prided himself have been compared to Rembrandt pictures, made up of dazzling lights and deep shades: a comparison which suggests that, whilst the painter may select subjects adapted to his peculiar talent, the historian must take scenes and characters as they present themselves, and paint them with the fidelity of truth. Lord Macaulay does not seem to know what an unvarnished narrative, a graduated tone, or a neutral tint means: he has only black and white, with two or three of the most showy colours, on his palette; and as he dashes them on his canvas with the impetuosity of creative genius, the results are too often mere fancy pieces, not drawings from nature or portraits from the life. But nature abhors a violent contrast almost as much as she is said to abhor a vacuum; whilst spotless patriots and black-and-allblack villains are as rare as giants and dwarfs in life
'Virtuous and vicious ev'ry man must be, Few in the extreme, but all in the degree.'
He was so apt to let his imagination run away with him, that we constantly find him employing it to expand and gild truisms or amplify commonplaces. Take, for example, the eloquent description of the battle of Landen, in the course of which he expatiates, through the best part of a page, on the diminished importance of bodily strength in a commander in consequence of the in vention of gunpowder; winding up with an
* Grote's History of Greece, vol. i., Preface, p.x.
'It is probable that, among the hundred and twenty thousand soldiers who were marshalled round Neerwinden under all the standards of Western Europe, the two feeblest in body were the hunchbacked dwarf who urged forward the fiery onset of France, and the asthmatic skeleton who covered the slow retreat of England.' - ('Works,' vol. iv. p. 24.*)
Or, take the passage in which the.evils of evils of misgovernment: a debased currency are contrasted with the
'The misgovernment of Charles and James, gross as it had been, had not prevented the common business of life from going steadily and prosperously on. While the honour and Power, while chartered rights were invaded, independence of the State were sold to a foreign while fundamental laws were violated, hundreds of thousands of quiet, honest, and industrious families laboured and traded, ate their meals and lay down to rest, in comfort and security. Whether Whig or Tories, Protestants or Jesuits market; the grocer weighed out his currants; were uppermost, the grazier drove his beasts to the draper measured out his broadcloth; the hum of buyers and sellers was as loud as ever in the towns; the harvest-home was celebrated as joyously as ever in the hamlets; the cream overflowed the pails of Cheshire; the apple juice foamed in the presses of Herefordshire; the piles of crockery glowed in the furnaces of the Trent; and the barrows of coal rolled⚫ fast along the timber railways of the Tyne.' (Vol. iv. p. 189.)
There is no reason why this rhetorical diarrhoea should ever stop so long as there was a trade, calling, or occupation to be particularized: the pith of the proposition (which required no proof) being contained in the first sentence. Why not continue thus:
'The apothecary vended his drugs as usual; the poulterer crammed his turkeys; the fishmon ger skinned his cels; the wine-merchant adulterwere eaten on Good Friday, as many pancakes ated his port; as many hot-cross buns as ever on Shrove Tuesday, as many Christmas-pies on Christmas-day; on area steps the domestic drudge took in her daily pennyworth of the chalky mixture which Londoners call milk; through area bars the feline tribe, vigilant as ever, watched the arrival of the cats'-meat man; the painted courtesan flaunted in the Haymarket;
* All the references are made to the last edition this article. of Lord Macaulay's Works placed at the head of
the cabs rattled through the Strand; and from | trious writer's gifts that we attribute a graduthe suburban regions of Fulham and Putney ally accelerated decline in his authority, the cart of the market gardener wended its slow which may lead to a grave deduction from and midnight way along Piccadilly to deposit its his fame. The judgment of foreign nations load of cabbages and turnips in Covent Garmay be accepted as a tolerably fair sample den.' of the judgment of posterity. Already, both on the Continent and in the United
Practice makes perfect: this style of writing is easy enough when one has caught the trick of it; and there are other minor beauties of Lord Macaulay which his successors need not despair of rivalling if they take pains: e.g., his mode of stating that wild animals were more numerous in Eng land when rights of forest were strictly maintained and half of what is now arable and pasture was uninclosed :
The wild bull with his white mane was still to be found wandering in a few of the and tortuous hole on the side of every hill where the copsewood grew thick. The wild cats were frequently heard by night wailing round the lodges of the rangers of Whittlebury and Needwood. The yellow-breasted marten was still pursued in Cranbourne Chase for his fur, reputed inferior only to that of the sable. Fen eagles, measuring more than nine feet between the extremities of the wings, preyed on fish along the coast of Norfolk.'-(Vol. i. p. 245.)
southern forests. The badger made his dark
This mode of describing the animal creation had been already employed in the 'Antijacobin: '
That, caught by fishers, is on Sundays
States, Lord Macaulay is almost always quoted with qualification or reserve; and we have been anticipated in the line of writers of learning and ability, to whose argument we propose to pursue by several scattered discoveries and comments
hope to give fresh point and strength by concentrating them.
these stands Mr. Paget, the author of The Foremost amongst New Examen,' who has brought to the task and in numerous instances has (in our huma rare amount of sagacity and research, ble judgment) convicted the Whig oracle of inexcusable misstatement or suppression of facts. Nor are these ordinary, accidental, or insulated mistakes
'quas aut incuria fudit Aut humana parum cavit natura.'
The aberrations of which we especially complain are the fruit of the manner of writing which he systematically pursued: they may be traced to his most marked qualities; wide views, sweeping conclusons, rules of conduct, dogmas of faith, principles of policy, are based upon them they are among the chief materials and instruments with which he constructs or destroys reputation. The proposed inquiry, therefore, involves much more than the accuracy of a great author. The characters of nations, classes, kings, statesmen and heroes are involved; and it is in the full sense of no common responsibility that we proceed.
We begin with the celebrated account of the Highlands, which, as we are opportunely The most gorgeous of Lord Macaulay's reminded, is all the more startling as comdescriptive pieces is undoubtedly the Hasting from one who is by direct descent a ings Trial in Westminster Hall, with the Highlander. After referring to Lord procession and the catalogue raisonné of the Macaulay's pedigree as set forth in the company. The varied knowledge and Peerage, which gives him a Highland minrichness of imagination expended in the ister and a Bristol Quaker for paternal composition are undeniable; yet when it and maternal grandfathers respectively, was highly praised before the late Sir G. Mr. Paget proceeds: Cornewall Lewis, whose worship was confined to ancient altars, he dryly remarked that it smacked strongly of the showman
and the auctioneer.
With Highland and Quaker blood flowing in equal currents through his veins, it is diffi cult to say whether a Highlander or a Quaker is the more favourite object of his satire and Redundancy of ornament and glittering butt for the shafts of his ridicule; whether superfluity of illustration, however, afford George Fox or Coll of the Cows comes in for no ground for regret or complaint. It is to the larger share of his contempt; whether the the much more serious abuse of this illus-enthusiast who felt himself divinely moved to