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order to give the effect of nature to the whole. If an ignorant critic takes the picture to pieces, he may easily cavil at the component parts, which, placed together by the hand of a master, make up so harmonious and truthful a portrait.
These remarks apply very strongly to that delightful chapter in the first volume, descriptive of the manners and customs, and general condition, both social and political, of the English at the middle of the seventeenth century,-a chapter not more to be praised for the boldness and truthfulness of its design, than valued for the vigour of its execution. Its design shows, what indeed is characteristic of the whole work, an enlarged appreciation of the objects of history, and a manly determination to pass at once beyond the line of the established topics to which it has been the fashion for historians to confine themselves. A few great battles, a few much debated political events, and one or two notorious crimes, have generally formed the staple of most of our historical works; while events far more operative and influential on the people, and far more important in their social and political progress, are wholly overlooked. Thus, if any one were to write the history of this country since 1815, and describe merely those political struggles which have led alternately to the ascendency of one or other of our great parties, he would, after all, give a most imperfect representation of the social changes which have, within that period, taken place among us. The spread of education, the penny postage, railroad travelling, and the electric telegraph, are four mighty instruments, which have done and will do far more, in permanently affecting the habits, wants, and wishes of the people, than even the Reform Bill, Catholic Emancipation, or the Abolition of the Corn Laws. In the chapter we speak of, Mr. Macaulay has made a courageous and very successful endeavour to lead history into a deeper and wider channel; and has brought all his great descriptive powers to bear on the attempt to convey to his reader an impression of the domestic and every-day life of those times, in comparison with that of our own. We do not mean to say, nor is it at all necessary to justify our praise that we should, that in all instances the comparison is scrupulously exact. It was impossible it should be so. It was almost unavoidable, to a certain extent, that extremes should sometimes be adopted as typical of a class; and it is quite possible that sometimes our author may have followed the exaggerations of satirical or comic writers of the day, as affording the materials of the contrast. We never thought of taking the thing so literally. To describe the manners and domestic habits of people who lived two hundred years ago, so that in every minute detail the description shall defy cavil, is, we believe, impossible; nor, if it were possible, would it be worth the labour. What is requisite is a vivid and graphic idea of the well established and most salient peculiarities, ---of the prominent and distinctive characteristics that actually belonged to the time; nor do we know how this can be done, but by seizing the more palpable, even though they be in some measure extreme, examples. The Roman matrons were not all like Messalina; nor all French priests like Tartuffe, nor all English squires like Squire Western; yet the fact that the satirists of each nation chose such characters to describe, points infallibly to the prevalent vices, or failings, or habits of their time and class. It is interesting for us to know, and our author professes to represent, rather the relative than the positive condition of England; and we have no misgivings whatever that the representation is not as substantially true as it is conspicuously graphic and lively.
Our author would be much misunderstood, we think, were it supposed that his object in this chapter was merely a blind exaltation of the times we live in, compared with those he writes of. But the mistake would be still greater, if he should be thought to represent our present state as a state of perfection, —or as any thing but a more advanced stage of the developments which were then in progress. Mr. Macaulay probably does not indeed think, with the philosopher in the Vicar of
Wakefield,' that the world is in its dotage- he has not come to be convinced that the vast strides of our generation in mechanics or in science - the wonderful discoveries which have chained the elements to man's triumphal car--are all only symptoms of decrepitude; and it is very likely that he may be of opinion that whatever the merits of the English gentleman of the olden time, his modern successors are in most respects much more civilised, agreeable, and intelligent companions. These are matters, however, in which many sensible men have their own peculiar prejudices. We are all but children of a larger growth; and as the schoolboy thinks it must have been delightful to have lived in the days of genii or of dragons, and the romantic girl thinks
Claude du Val' the perfection of a hero; so we have recently come to understand that there are wise, able, and intelligent men who would willingly transport themselves and us from the refinements, and intellectual polish, of the nineteenth, to the rude hospitality and half-educated rusticity of the seventeenth century! But it certainly was not our author's object to war with these harmless monomanias. He plainly wished merely to reflect light on the events of the times he had to describe,
by showing the kind of people who lived in them : and he could only do this effectually by pointing out in what particulars they chiefly differed from ourselves. He had no desire to degrade our present clergy by exhibiting their predecessors, as once being persons of lower habits and lower station, than it can have been his immediate object to prove the Lord Russell of those days a less pure patriot than the Lord John Russell of our own. He only uses the contrast to give point and precision to the description.
We must now, however, turn to the specific merits of this book as a history, in the more received sense of that term. Mr. Macaulay purposes, as he tell us in his first majestic sentences, to write the history of England during a period which has been absolutely overlaid with histories already. He enters on ground obscured by books; and has to pick his way over plains of foolsoap and oceans of ink. The design certainly shows great confidence in his own powers,--and the result has proved that the confidence was not misplaced. The peculiar characteristic of this new history accordingly is, not, we think, the disclosure of any new facts of great moment, although there are many curious and important revelations brought to light by our author's research, which were never so clearly known or understood before. But many may possess all the separate parts of a machine who cannot put them together; and we think Mr. Macaulay's great excellence as an historian, is his masterly adaptation of known facts to a connected and systematic view of the history they compose — and the bearings of that history on the future fortunes of the country. There is nothing isolated or disjointed in his narrative. Each stone seems to fit into its place, and to give and receive support. He uses his materials with the freedom and air of one who looks on them merely as means to a great end, to which he feels conscious of his
capacity for applying them.
Thus, in his introductory chapters, -- which, starting from the infancy of our island's history, bring his reader up to the point at which he intends to commence his detailed narrative, - there may not be much in the way of novelty in the mere facts stated. But few can be insensible to the ability with which these facts are wielded; or to the beauty and effect of his many profound and original views of their far reaching relations and unsuspected mutual dependencies. . He writes like one seated on an eminence, and looking down on a vast landscape; who, without noting each turn of the road or winding of the river, which bound the eye of the traveller below, acquires, by a large and rapid survey, a knowledge of the general character, capabilities, and features of the country,- sees whither
the roads lead and the rivers flow, and can give us information far more comprehensive and useful, than if we had spent days in wandering through the lanes and by-paths of the valley. The rapidity, strength, and conciseness of his review of our early history, and the powerful grasp by which it is condensed into comparatively few, but most vivid and instructive pages, has met with deserved applause from all quarters, and forms a model of historical recapitulation. But, passing by his survey of these earlier periods, — his account of the succession of the Stuarts and the reigns of the two first of their princes, and his sketch of the Protector, which is more slight than perhaps it would have been had not Carlyle so recently preoccupied the ground, --- let us draw a little nearer to the times and principles of which he proposes to write.
We certainly regard this work as the first successful attempt to tell with truth, accuracy, and effect, the story of these important times: so to tell it, we mean, as to place it permanently in its true light, and to remove it from that false glare which has so long rested on it. Much, it is true, had been done in this direction previously, by others to whom Mr. Macaulay would be the last to deny his obligations. The researches of Mr. Fox, and the later works of Mr. Hallam and Sir James Mackintosh, had furnished the student with the means of learning, with great correctness, the actual events out of which the Revolution sprang. But from causes we need not now stop to trace, after all their labours, the work which was required remained still unperformed. Hume and his followers still retained their long-established hold on the public mind. Schoolmasters and governesses still continued to teach, and many in each generation in their turn to believe, that the Stuarts, if an unfortunate, were an ill-used race, more sinned against than sinningthat the trivial faults which they may have had, were deeply overshadowed by the dignity of their royal descent, and the graces of their personal demeanour that our ancestors, in the noble struggle which it is the object of these volumes to record, offended not more against the divinity of royal prerogative, than against right, truth, and justice; and that Cromwell and the leaders of the Commonwealth were types of the most revolting compound which the union of cruelty, hypocrisy, and vulgarity could produce. It had so long been fashionable to profess a moderate Jacobitism, and so unfashionable to find any virtue in the heroes of that sacred contest, that contempt for the Puritans, reverence for the royal martyr, and dislike of William of Orange, had become topics of faith almost as essential in orthodox education as the Creed or the Church Catechism. By
many a fireside hearth, which the expulsion of that cherished royal race had alone rendered secure and smiling, the comfortable dowager, or the rustic squire, or the bright young daughters of the land, still lamented over the sins of the Roundheads, and the misfortunes of Prince Charlie, and sighed that the day had never come when the king should have his own again!'--forgetting that in the peace and purity and freedom of their happy homes, they were tasting unconsciously, day by day, the fruits of that great deliverance.
It is remarkable, however, that this weak and childish, if romantic creed, never rose to fashion or favour, until the return of the Stuarts had become actually impossible. The Tories of Walpole's time did not venture to be Jacobites. They affected, on the contrary, the character of constitutional defenders of the principles of the Revolution. Lord Bolingbroke, in his Dissertation on Parties,' gives a very fair specimen of the prevalent opinion upon the merits of the Stuarts, among the Tories of his day. Speaking of James the First, he says, . That • epidemical taint with which he infected the minds of men con• tinued upon us; and it is scarce hyperbolical to say that this • Prince hath been the original cause of a series of misfortunes
to this nation as deplorable as a lasting infection of our air, of • our water, or our earth would have been. Charles sipped a
little of the poisonous draught, but enough to infect his whole • conduct. As for James (the Second),
“ Ille impiger hausit Spumantem pateram." • He drank the chalice off to the lowest and foulest dregs.'
Such was the Toryism of the first half of the eighteenth century. It was not until the last spark of fortune which gleamed on their ill-starred house had been trodden out on Culloden Heath, that the Stuarts became a myth and a romance, — devotion to which was not unpleasing to royal or courtly ears, a vehicle complacently recognised, for exalting prerogative and discouraging popular demands, and for imbuing the country in general with an orthodox love of kings in the abstract. Scotland has much to answer for in this reaction. Her Highlanders had failed: her men of letters - Hume and Scott - succeeded.
Hume was the greatest, and by far the most successful propagator of these un-English views; and it is no mean tribute to his genius and power, that he should so long have kept his countrymen in bondage to a belief which is contradicted not more by the general truths of history, than by the events which he has himself
Hume's Jacobite tendencies, we think, are to be asVOL. XC. NO. CLXXXI.