Thomas Babington Macaulay

British historian and politician (1800–1859)
(Redirected from Lord Macaulay)

Thomas Babington Macaulay, 1st Baron Macaulay (25 October 180028 December 1859) was a nineteenth century British poet, historian and Whig politician.

The highest proof of virtue is to possess boundless power without abusing it.

Quotes

edit
 
Men are never so likely to settle a question rightly as when they discuss it freely.

1820s

edit
  • As free constitutions are the strongest supports of governments, social order is the best safeguard of freedom. Liberty has no enemies so pernicious as those misguided friends whose ardour in her cause leads them to outrage the moral sense of mankind, and to arm against her the interests and feelings which are her natural allies. Even the prejudices of nations should be respected.
    • 'Essay on the Life and Character of King William III' (1822), written for the Greaves Historical Prize at Cambridge, quoted in The Times Literary Supplement (1 May 1969), p. 469
  • To have been a Sovereign, yet the champion of liberty,—a revolutionary leader, yet the supporter of social order, is the peculiar glory of William. Till his accession the British Constitution was in its Chaos. It had contained, from a very remote period, the simple elements of an harmonious government. But they were in a state not of amalgamation, but of conflict,—not of equilibrium but of alternate elevation and depression. The tyranny of Charles the first produced civil war and anarchy. Tyranny had now again produced resistance and revolution. And, but for the wisdom of the new King, it seems probable that the same cycle of misery would have been again described.
    • 'Essay on the Life and Character of King William III' (1822), written for the Greaves Historical Prize at Cambridge, quoted in The Times Literary Supplement (1 May 1969), p. 469
  • It is surely delightful, Sir, to look forward to that period when a series of liberal and prudent measures shall have delivered islands, so highly favoured by the bounty of Providence, from the curse inflicted on them by the frantic rapacity of man. Then the peasant of the Antilles will no longer crawl in listless and trembling dejection round a plantation from whose fruits he must derive no advantage, and a hut whose door yields him no protection; but, when his cheerful and voluntary labour is performed, he will return with the firm step and erect brow of a British citizen from the field which is his freehold to the cottage which is his castle.
    • Speech to a meeting of the Anti-Slavery Society held in Freemasons' Tavern (25 June 1824), quoted in Report of the Committee of the Society for the Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of Slavery Throughout the British Dominions, Volume I (1824), p. 77
  • Press where ye see my white plume shine, amidst the ranks of war,
    And be your oriflamme to-day the helmet of Navarre.
  • Oh! wherefore come ye forth, in triumph from the North,
    With your hands, and your feet, and your raiment all red?
    And wherefore doth your rout send forth a joyous shout?
    And whence be the grapes of the wine-press which ye tread?
    • The Battle of Naseby (1824), quoted in The Works of Lord Macaulay Complete, Vol. VIII, ed. Lady Trevelyan (1866), p. 551
  • The object of oratory alone is not truth, but persuasion.
    • 'On the Athenian Orators', Knight's Quarterly Magazine (August 1824), quoted in The Miscellaneous Writings of Lord Macaulay, Vol. I (1860), p. 135
  • Soon fades the spell, soon comes the night:
    Say will it not be then the same,
    Whether we played the black or white,
    Whether we lost or won the game?
    • Sermon in a Churchyard, st. 8 (1825), quoted in The Miscellaneous Writings of Lord Macaulay, Vol. II (1860), p. 390
  • Out of his surname they have coined an epithet for a knave, and out of his Christian name a synonym for the Devil.
    • 'Machiavelli', The Edinburgh Review (March 1827), quoted in T. B. Macaulay, Critical and Historical Essays Contributed to The Edinburgh Review, Vol. I (1843), p. 63
  • Every man who has seen the world knows that nothing is so useless as a general maxim.
    • 'Machiavelli', The Edinburgh Review (March 1827), quoted in T. B. Macaulay, Critical and Historical Essays Contributed to The Edinburgh Review, Vol. I (1843), p. 103
  • Ye diners-out from whom we guard our spoons.
    • Political Georgics (March 1828), quoted in The Miscellaneous Writings of Lord Macaulay, Vol. II (1860), p. 419
  • We have classical associations and great names of our own which we can confidently oppose to the most splendid of ancient times. Senate has not to our ears a sound so venerable as Parliament. We respect the Great Charter more than the laws of Solon. The Capitol and the Forum impress us with less awe than our own Westminster Hall and Westminster Abbey... The list of warriors and statesmen by whom our constitution was founded or preserved, from De Montfort down to Fox, may well stand a comparison with the Fasti of Rome. The dying thanksgiving of Sydney is as noble as the libation which Thrasea poured to Liberating Jove: and we think with far less pleasure of Cato tearing out his entrails than of Russell saying, as he turned away from his wife, that the bitterness of death was past.
    • 'History', The Edinburgh Review (May 1828), quoted in The Miscellaneous Writings of Lord Macaulay, Vol. I (1860), p. 252
  • Our liberty is neither Greek nor Roman; but essentially English. It has a character of its own,—a character which has taken a tinge from the sentiments of the chivalrous ages, and which accords with the peculiarities of our manners and of our insular situation. It has a language, too, of its own, and a language singularly idiomatic, full of meaning to ourselves, scarcely intelligible to strangers.
    • 'History', The Edinburgh Review (May 1828), quoted in The Miscellaneous Writings of Lord Macaulay, Vol. I (1860), pp. 252-253
  • The gallery in which the reporters sit has become a fourth estate of the realm.
    • 'Hallam', The Edinburgh Review (September 1828), quoted in T. B. Macaulay, Critical and Historical Essays Contributed to The Edinburgh Review, Vol. I (1843), p. 210
  • We know of no great revolution which might not have been prevented by compromise early and graciously made... [I]n all movements of the human mind which tend to great revolutions there is a crisis at which moderate concession may amend, conciliate, and preserve.
    • 'Hallam', The Edinburgh Review (September 1828), quoted in T. B. Macaulay, Critical and Historical Essays Contributed to The Edinburgh Review, Vol. I (1843), p. 216

'On Mitford's History of Greece', Knight's Quarterly Magazine (November 1824)

edit
The Miscellaneous Writings of Lord Macaulay, Vol. I (1860)
  • That is the best government which desires to make the people happy, and knows how to make them happy.
    • p. 160
  • Free trade, one of the greatest blessings which a government can confer on a people, is in almost every country unpopular.
    • p. 161
  • Hence it may be concluded that the happiest state of society is that in which supreme power resides in the whole body of a well-informed people. This is an imaginary, perhaps an unattainable, state of things. Yet, in some measure, we may approximate to it; and he alone deserves the name of a great statesman, whose principle it is to extend the power of the people in proportion to the extent of their knowledge, and to give them every facility for obtaining such a degree of knowledge as may render it safe to trust them with absolute power. In the mean time, it is dangerous to praise or condemn constitutions in the abstract; since, from the despotism of St. Petersburg to the democracy of Washington, there is scarcely a form of government which might not, at least in some hypothetical case, be the best possible.
    • pp. 161-162
  • Wherever literature consoles sorrow, or assuages pain,—wherever it brings gladness to eyes which fail with wakefulness and tears, and ache for the dark house and the long sleep,—there is exhibited, in its noblest form, the immortal influence of Athens.
    • p. 179

'Milton', The Edinburgh Review (August 1825)

edit
T. B. Macaulay, Critical and Historical Essays Contributed to The Edinburgh Review, Vol. I (1843)
  • Our academical Pharisees.
    • p. 2
  • The dust and silence of the upper shelf.
    • p. 3
  • As civilization advances, poetry almost necessarily declines.
    • p. 5
  • We hold that the most wonderful and splendid proof of genius is a great poem produced in a civilized age.
    • p. 5
  • Perhaps no person can be a poet, or even enjoy poetry, without a certain unsoundness of mind.
    • p. 7
  • Many evils, no doubt, were produced by the civil war. They were the price of our liberty.
    • p. 39
  • There is only one cure for the evils which newly acquired freedom produces, and that cure is freedom.
    • p. 41
  • Many politicians of our time are in the habit of laying it down as a self-evident proposition, that no people ought to be free till they are fit to use their freedom. The maxim is worthy of the fool in the old story, who resolved not to go into the water till he had learned to swim. If men are to wait for liberty till they become wise and good in slavery, they may indeed have to wait forever.
    • p. 42
  • Nobles by the right of an earlier creation, and priests by the imposition of a mightier hand.
    • p. 51

'John Dryden', The Edinburgh Review (January 1828)

edit
The Miscellaneous Writings of Lord Macaulay, Vol. I (1860)
  • It seems that the creative faculty, and the critical faculty, cannot exist together in their highest perfection.
    • p. 186
  • The English Bible,—a book which, if everything else in our language should perish, would alone suffice to show the whole extent of its beauty and power.
    • p. 206
  • His imagination resembled the wings of an ostrich. It enabled him to run, though not to soar.
    • p. 223
  • A man possessed of splendid talents, which he often abused, and of a sound judgment, the admonitions of which he often neglected; a man who succeeded only in an inferior department of his art, but who in that department succeeded pre-eminently.
    • p. 231

1830s

edit
  • That wonderful book [The Pilgrim's Progress], while it obtains admiration from the most fastidious critics, is loved by those who are too simple to admire it.
    • 'John Bunyan', The Edinburgh Review (December 1830), quoted in T. B. Macaulay, Critical and Historical Essays Contributed to The Edinburgh Review, Vol. I (1843), p. 411
  • I have not the Chancellor's encyclopaedic mind. He is indeed a kind of semi-Solomon. He half knows everything from the cedar to the hyssop.
    • Letter to Macvey Napier (17 December 1830), quoted in Selection From the Correspondence of the Late Macvey Napier, Esq., ed. Macvey Bapier (1879), pp. 98-99
  • It is now time for us to pay a decent, a rational, a manly reverence to our ancestors, not by superstitiously adhering to what they, in other circumstances, did, but by doing what they, in our circumstances, would have done.
    • Speech in the House of Commons on the Reform Bill (2 March 1831), quoted in Speeches of the Right Honourable T. B. Macaulay, M.P. (1854), p. 8
  • Turn where we may,—within,—around,—the voice of great events is proclaiming to us, Reform, that you may preserve. Now, therefore, while every thing at home and abroad forebodes ruin to those who persist in a hopeless struggle against the spirit of the age,—now, while the crash of the proudest throne of the continent is still resounding in our ears,—now, while the roof of a British palace affords an ignominious shelter to the exiled heir of forty kings,—now, while we see on every side ancient institutions subverted, and great societies dissolved,—now, while the heart of England is still sound,—now, while the old feelings and the old associations retain a power and a charm which may too soon pass away,—now, in this your accepted time,—now in this your day of salvation,—take counsel, not of prejudice,—not of party spirit,—not of the ignominious pride of a fatal consistency,—but of history,—of reason,—of the ages which are past,—of the signs of this most portentous time. Pronounce in a manner worthy of the expectation with which this great Debate has been anticipated, and of the long remembrance which it will leave behind. Renew the youth of the State. Save property divided against itself. Save the multitude, endangered by their own ungovernable passions. Save the aristocracy, endangered by its own unpopular power. Save the greatest, and fairest, and most highly civilized community that ever existed, from calamities which may in a few days sweep away all the rich heritage of many ages of wisdom and glory. The danger is terrible. The time is short. If this Bill should be rejected, I pray to God that none of those who concur in rejecting it may ever remember their votes with unavailing regret, amidst the wreck of laws, the confusion of ranks, the spoliation of property, and the dissolution of social order.
  • Such a scene as the division of last Tuesday I never saw, and never expect to see again... It was like seeing Caesar stabbed in the Senate House, or seeing Oliver taking the mace from the table; a sight to be seen only once, and never to be forgotten... [Y]ou might have heard a pin drop as Duncannon read the numbers. Then again the shouts broke out, and many of us shed tears. I could scarcely refrain. And the jaw of Peel fell; and the face of Twiss was as the face of a damned soul; and Herries looked like Judas taking his necktie off for the last operation. We shook hands, and clapped each other on the back, and went out laughing, crying, and huzzaing into the lobby... I called a cabriolet, and the first thing the driver asked was, “Is the Bill carried?” “Yes, by one.” “Thank God for it, Sir.” And away I rode to Gray's Inn,—and so ended a scene which will probably never be equalled till the reformed Parliament wants reforming; and that I hope will not be till the days of our grandchildren, till that truly orthodox and apostolical person Dr. Francis Ellis is an archbishop of eighty.
    • On the passage of the Reform Bill; letter to Ellis (30 March 1831), quoted in George Otto Trevelyan, The Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay, Volume I (1876), pp. 201–204
  • Let us remember that the government and the society act and react on each other. Sometimes the government is in advance of the society, and hurries the society forward. So urged, the society gains on the government, comes up with the government, outstrips the government, and begins to insist that the government shall make more speed. If the government is wise, it will yield to that just and natural demand. The great cause of revolutions is this, that, while nations move onward, constitutions stand still. The peculiar happiness of England is that here, through many generations, the constitution has moved onward with the nation.
    • Speech in the House of Commons on the Reform Bill (5 July 1831), quoted in Speeches of the Right Honourable T. B. Macaulay, M.P. (1854), p. 25
  • We have seen that the true source of the power of demagogues is the obstinacy of rulers and that a liberal Government makes a conservative people.
    • Speech in the House of Commons on the Reform Bill (5 July 1831), quoted in Speeches of the Right Honourable T. B. Macaulay, M.P. (1854), pp. 28-29
  • Remember Ireland. Remember how, in that country, concessions too long delayed were at last received. That great boon which in 1801, in 1813, in 1825, would have won the hearts of millions, given too late, and given from fear, only produced new clamours and new dangers. Is not one such lesson enough for one generation? A noble Lord opposite told us not to expect that this bill will have a conciliatory effect. Recollect, he said, how the French aristocracy surrendered their privileges in 1789, and how that surrender was requited. Recollect that Day of Sacrifices which was afterwards called the Day of Dupes. Sir, that day was afterwards called the Day of Dupes, not because it was the Day of Sacrifices, but because it was the Day of Sacrifices too long deferred. It was because the French aristocracy resisted reform in 1783, that they were unable to resist revolution in 1789. It was because they clung too long to odious exemptions and distinctions, that they were at last unable to save their lands, their mansions, their heads. They would not endure Turgot: and they had to endure Robespierre.
    • Speech in the House of Commons on the Reform Bill (5 July 1831), quoted in Speeches of the Right Honourable T. B. Macaulay, M.P. (1854), p. 34
  • No doubt a tumult caused by local and temporary irritation ought to be suppressed with promptitude and vigour. Such disturbances, for example, as those which Lord George Gordon raised in 1780, should be instantly put down with the strong hand. But woe to the Government which cannot distinguish between a nation and a mob! Woe to the Government which thinks that a great, a steady, a long continued movement of the public mind is to be stopped like a street riot! This error has been twice fatal to the great House of Bourbon. God be praised, our rulers have been wiser. The golden opportunity which, if once suffered to escape, might never have been retrieved, has been seized. Nothing, I firmly believe, can now prevent the passing of this noble law, this second Bill of Rights.
    • Speech in the House of Commons on the Reform Bill (5 July 1831), quoted in Speeches of the Right Honourable T. B. Macaulay, M.P. (1854), pp. 34-35
  • And why were those haughty [French] nobles destroyed with that utter destruction? Why were they scattered over the face of the earth, their titles abolished, their escutcheons defaced, their parks wasted, their palaces dismantled, their heritage given to strangers? Because they had no sympathy with the people, no discernment of the signs of their time; because, in the pride and narrowness of their hearts, they called those whose warnings might have saved them theorists and speculators; because they refused all concession till the time had arrived when no concession would avail.
    • Speech in the House of Commons on the Reform Bill (20 September 1831), quoted in Speeches of the Right Honourable T. B. Macaulay, M.P. (1854), p. 50
  • I speak of that great party which zealously and steadily supported the first Reform Bill, and which will, I have no doubt, support the second Reform Bill with equal steadiness and equal zeal. That party is the middle class of England, with the flower of the aristocracy at its head, and the flower of the working classes bringing up its rear. That great party has taken its immovable stand between the enemies of all order and the enemies of all liberty. It will have Reform: it will not have revolution: it will destroy political abuses: it will not suffer the rights of property to be assailed: it will preserve, in spite of themselves, those who are assailing it, from the right and from the left, with contradictory accusations: it will be a daysman between them: it will lay its hand upon them both: it will not suffer them to tear each other in pieces.
    • Speech in the House of Commons on the Reform Bill (16 December 1831), quoted in Speeches of the Right Honourable T. B. Macaulay, M.P. (1854), p. 76
  • What a singular destiny has been that of this remarkable man! To be regarded in his own age as a classic, and in ours as a companion! To receive from his contemporaries that full homage which men of genius have in general received only from posterity! To be more intimately known to posterity than other men are known to their contemporaries!
    • 'Samuel Johnson', The Edinburgh Review (September 1831), quoted in T. B. Macaulay, Critical and Historical Essays Contributed to The Edinburgh Review, Vol. I (1843), p. 407
  • In all ages a chief cause of the intestine disorders of states has been that the natural distribution of power and the legal distribution of power have not corresponded with each other.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (28 February 1832), quoted in Speeches of the Right Honourable T. B. Macaulay, M.P. (1854), p. 91
  • Other countries have obtained deliverances equally signal and complete, but in no country has that deliverance been obtained with such perfect peace; so entirely within the bounds of the Constitution; with all the forms of law observed; the government of the country proceeding in its regular course; every man going forth unto his labour until the evening. France boasts of her three days of July, when her people rose, when barricades fenced the streets, and the entire population of the capital in arms successfully vindicated their liberties. They boast, and justly, of those three days of July; but I will boast of our ten days of May. We, too, fought a battle, but it was with moral arms. We, too, placed an impassable barrier between ourselves and military tyranny; but we fenced ourselves only with moral barricades. Not one crime committed, not one acre confiscated, not one life lost, not one instance of outrage or attack on the authorities or the laws. Our victory has not left a single family in mourning. Not a tear, not a drop of blood, has sullied the pacific and blameless triumph of a great people.
    • Speech to his committee at Leeds after the Reform Bill had received the Royal assent (1832), quoted in George Otto Trevelyan, The Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay, Volume I (1876), pp. 283–284
  • We believe it to be a rule without an exception, that the violence of a revolution corresponds to the degree of misgovemment which has produced that revolution.
    • 'Mirabeau', The Edinburgh Review (July 1832), quoted in The Miscellaneous Writings of Lord Macaulay, Vol. II (1860), pp. 81-82
  • All the great English revolutions have been conducted by practical statesmen. The French Revolution was conducted by mere speculators. Our constitution has never been so far behind the age as to have become an object of aversion to the people. The English revolutions have therefore been undertaken for the purpose of defending, correcting, and restoring,—never for the mere purpose of destroying. Our countrymen have always, even in times of the greatest excitement, spoken reverently of the form of government under which they lived, and attacked only what they regarded as its corruptions. In the very act of innovating they have constantly appealed to ancient prescription; they have seldom looked abroad for models; they have seldom troubled themselves with Utopian theories; they have not been anxious to prove that liberty is a natural right of men; they have been content to regard it as the lawful birthright of Englishmen. Their social contract is no fiction. It is still extant on the original parchment, sealed with wax which was affixed at Runnymede, and attested by the lordly names of the Marischals and Fitzherberts. No general arguments about the original equality of men, no fine stories out of Plutarch and Cornelius Nepos, have ever affected them so much as their own familiar words,—Magna Charta,—Habeas Corpus,—Trial by Jury,—Bill of Rights.
    • 'Mirabeau', The Edinburgh Review (July 1832), quoted in The Miscellaneous Writings of Lord Macaulay, Vol. II (1860), pp. 97-98
  • A life of action, if it is to be useful, must be a life of compromise. But speculation admits of no compromise. A public-man is often under the necessity of consenting to measures which he dislikes, lest he should endanger the success of measures which he thinks of vital importance.
    • 'War of the Succession in Spain', The Edinburgh Review (January 1833), quoted in T. B. Macaulay, Critical and Historical Essays Contributed to The Edinburgh Review, Vol. II (1843), p. 91
  • The conformation of his mind was such that whatever was little seemed to him great, and whatever was great seemed to him little. Serious business was a trifle to him, and trifles were his serious business.
    • 'Horace Walpole', The Edinburgh Review (October 1833), quoted in T. B. Macaulay, Critical and Historical Essays Contributed to The Edinburgh Review, Vol. II (1843), p. 99
  • Such night in England ne'er had been, nor ne'er again shall be.
    • The Armada, l. 34 (1833)
  • 'It is scarcely possible to calculate the benefits which we might derive from the diffusion of European civilisation among the vast population of the East. It would be, on the most selfish view of the case, far better for us that the people of India were well governed and independent of us, than ill governed and subject to us; that they were ruled by their own kings, but wearing our broadcloth, and working with our cutlery, than that they were performing their salams to English collectors and English magistrates, but were too ignorant to value, or too poor to buy, English manufactures. To trade with civilised men is infinitely more profitable than to govern savages. That would, indeed, be a doting wisdom, which, in order that India might remain a dependency, would make it an useless and costly dependency, which would keep a hundred millions of men from being our customers in order that they might continue to be our slaves.'"
    • "From his Speech in Parliament on the Government of India Bill, 10 July 1833. Quoted from Koenraad Elst, The Argumentative Hindu (2012) Chapter 3
  • It may be that the public mind of India may expand under our system till it has outgrown that system; that by good government we may educate our subjects into a capacity for better government, that, having become instructed in European knowledge, they may, in some future age, demand European institutions. Whether such a day will ever come I know not. But never will I attempt to avert or to retard it. Whenever it comes, it will be the proudest day in English history.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (10 July 1833)
  • It is our deliberate opinion that the French Revolution, in spite of all its crimes and follies, was a great blessing to mankind.
    • 'Sir James Mackintosh', The Edinburgh Review (July 1835), quoted in T. B. Macaulay, Critical and Historical Essays Contributed to The Edinburgh Review, Vol. II (1843), p. 215
  • In the course of seven centuries the wretched and degraded race have become the greatest and most highly civilised people that ever the world saw, have spread their dominion over every quarter of the globe, have scattered the seeds of mighty empires and republics over vast continents of which no dim intimation had ever reached Ptolemy or Strabo, have created a maritime power which would annihilate in a quarter of an hour the navies of Tyre, Athens, Carthage, Venice, and Genoa together, have carried the science of healing, the means of locomotion and correspondence, every mechanical art, every manufacture, every thing that promotes the convenience of life, to a perfection which our ancestors would have thought magical, have produced a literature which may boast of works not inferior to the noblest which Greece has bequeathed to us, have discovered the laws which regulate the motions of the heavenly bodies, have speculated with exquisite subtilty on the operations of the human mind, have been the acknowledged leaders of the human race in the career of political improvement. The history of England is the history of this great change in the moral, intellectual, and physical state of the inhabitants of our own island.
    • 'Sir James Mackintosh', The Edinburgh Review (July 1835), quoted in T. B. Macaulay, Critical and Historical Essays Contributed to The Edinburgh Review, Vol. II (1843), pp. 226-227
  • No Hindoo, who has received an English education, ever remains sincerely attached to his religion. Some continue to profess it as matter of policy; but many profess themselves pure Deists, and some embrace Christianity. It is my firm belief that, if our plans of education are followed up, there will not be a single idolator among the respectable classes in Bengal thirty years hence. And this will be effected without any efforts to proselytise; without the smallest interference with religious liberty; merely by the natural operation of knowledge and reflection. I heartily rejoice in the prospect.'"
    • Letter written to his father in 1836. Quoted in Indian Church History Review, December 1973, p. 187. Partially quoted in Goel, S. R. (2016). History of Hindu-Christian encounters, AD 304 to 1996. Chapter 13. ISBN 9788185990354 . Quoted from Koenraad Elst, The Argumentative Hindu (2012) Chapter 3
  • To sum up the whole, we should say that the aim of the Platonic philosophy was to exalt man into a god. The aim of the Baconian philosophy was to provide man with what he requires while he continues to be man. The aim of the Platonic philosophy was to raise us far above vulgar wants. The aim of the Baconian philosophy was to supply our vulgar wants. The former aim was noble; but the latter was attainable.
    • 'Lord Bacon', The Edinburgh Review (July 1837), quoted in T. B. Macaulay, Critical and Historical Essays Contributed to The Edinburgh Review, Vol. II (1843), p. 395
  • An acre in Middlesex is better than a principality in Utopia. The smallest actual good is better than the most magnificent promises of impossibilities.
    • 'Lord Bacon', The Edinburgh Review (July 1837), quoted in T. B. Macaulay, Critical and Historical Essays Contributed to The Edinburgh Review, Vol. II (1843), p. 396
  • He [William Temple] was merely a man of lively parts and quick observation,—a man of the world amongst men of letters,—a man of letters amongst men of the world.
    • 'Life and Writings of Sir William Temple', The Edinburgh Review (October 1838), p. 187
  • We know that India cannot have a free Government. But she may have the next best thing,—a firm and impartial despotism.
    • Minute (c. 1838), quoted in George Otto Trevelyan, The Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay, Volume I (1876), p. 396
  • I conceive that the Act is good in itself... The strongest reason...for passing it is the nature of the opposition which it has experienced. The organs of that opposition repeated every day that the English were the conquerors, and the lords of the country, the dominant race... The firmness with which the Government withstood the idle outcry of two or three hundred people...was designated as insolent defiance of public opinion. We were enemies of freedom, because we would not suffer a small white aristocracy to domineer over millions. How utterly at variance these principles are with reason, with justice, with the honour of the British Government, and with the dearest interests of the Indian people, it is unnecessary for me to point out. For myself, I can only say that, if the Government is to be conducted on such principles, I am utterly disqualified, by all my feelings and opinions, from bearing any part in it, and cannot too soon resign my place to some person better fitted to hold it.
    • Minute on the "Black Act" of 1836, which put Europeans under jurisdiction of the Sadr Diwani Adalat (c. 1838), quoted in George Otto Trevelyan, The Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay, Volume I (1876), pp. 399–400
  • To the Whigs of the seventeenth century we owe it that we have a House of Commons. To the Whigs of the nineteenth century we owe it that the House of Commons has been purified. The abolition of the slave trade, the abolition of colonial slavery, the extension of popular education, the mitigation of the rigour of the penal code, all, all were effected by that party; and of that party, I repeat, I am a member. I look with pride on all that the Whigs have done for the cause of human freedom and of human happiness. I see them now hard pressed, struggling with difficulties, but still fighting the good fight. At their head I see men who have inherited the spirit and the virtues, as well as the blood, of old champions and martyrs of freedom... While one shred of the old banner is flying, by that banner will I at least be found.
    • Speech in Edinburgh (29 May 1839), quoted in Speeches of the Right Honourable T. B. Macaulay, M.P. (1854), pp. 183-184
  • I feel this more strongly than perhaps others may, arising from peculiar circumstances in the history of my own mind; for I can say that, as far back as I can remember, books have been to me dear friends; they have been my comfort in grief, and my companions in solitude;—in poverty they have been to me more than sufficient riches;—in exile they have been my consolation for the want of my country;—in the midst of vexations and distresses of political life,—in the midst of political contention and strife,—of calumny and invective,—they have contributed to keep my mind serene and unclouded. There is, I may well say, no wealth,—there is no power,—there is no rank which I would accept, if in exchange I were to be deprived of my books,—of the privilege of conversing with the greatest minds of all past ages;—of searching after the truth;—of contemplating the beautiful;—of living with the distant, the unreal, the past, and the future. Knowing, as I do, what it is to enjoy these pleasures myself, I do not grudge them to the labouring men who, by their honourable, independent, and gallant efforts, have advanced themselves within their reach; and, owing all that I owe to the soothing influences of literature, I should be ashamed of myself if I grudged the same advantages to them.
    • Speech in Edinburgh (2 September 1839), quoted in Report of a Public Entertainment held in the Waterloo Rooms on Monday, Sept. 2, by the Edinburgh Mechanics' Library; in which T. B. Macaulay, Esq., M.P. for the city, the Rev. Mr Bennie, the Rev. Mr Alexander, and others, took part. To which is prefixed a notice of that institution (1839), p. 9

'Southey's Colloquies on Society', The Edinburgh Review (January 1830)

edit
T. B. Macaulay, Critical and Historical Essays Contributed to The Edinburgh Review, Vol. I (1843)
  • There is surely no contradiction in saying that a certain section of the community may be quite competent to protect the persons and property of the rest, yet quite unfit to direct our opinions, or to superintend our private habits.
    • p. 246
  • Men are never so likely to settle a question rightly as when they discuss it freely.
    • p. 248
  • Nothing is so galling to a people not broken in from the birth, as a paternal, or, in other words, a meddling government, a government which tells them what to read, and say, and eat, and drink, and wear.
    • p. 252
  • A single breaker may recede; but the tide is evidently coming in.
    • pp. 266-267

'Moore's Life of Lord Byron', The Edinburgh Review (June 1830)

edit
T. B. Macaulay, Critical and Historical Essays Contributed to The Edinburgh Review, Vol. I (1843)
  • He had a head which statuaries loved to copy, and a foot the deformity of which the beggars in the streets mimicked.
    • p. 313
  • We know no spectacle so ridiculous as the British public in one of its periodical fits of morality.
    • p. 315
  • From the poetry of Lord Byron they drew a system of ethics, compounded of misanthropy and voluptuousness, a system in which the two great commandments were, to hate your neighbour, and to love your neighbour's wife.
    • p. 351

Minute on Indian Education (1835)

edit
Minute on Education (1835)
Minute on Indian Education (2 February 1835) in the Great Indian Education debate, Lynn Zastoupil and Martin Moir, London: Curzon, 1999 p. 165
  • In one point I fully agree with the gentlemen to whose general views I am opposed. I feel with them, that it is impossible for us, with our limited means, to attempt to educate the body of the people. We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect. To that class we may leave it to refine the vernacular dialects of the country, to enrich those dialects with terms of science borrowed from the Western nomenclature, and to render them by degrees fit vehicles for conveying knowledge to the great mass of the population.
  • I have no knowledge of either Sanscrit or Arabic. But I have done what I could to form a correct estimate of their value. I have read translations of the most celebrated Arabic and Sanscrit works. I have conversed, both here and at home, with men distinguished by their proficiency in the Eastern tongues. I am quite ready to take the oriental learning at the valuation of the orientalists themselves. I have never found one among them who could deny that a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia. The intrinsic superiority of the Western literature is indeed fully admitted by those members of the committee who support the oriental plan of education.
  • It will hardly be disputed, I suppose, that the department of literature in which the Eastern writers stand highest is poetry. And I certainly never met with any orientalist who ventured to maintain that the Arabic and Sanscrit poetry could be compared to that of the great European nations. But when we pass from works of imagination to works in which facts are recorded and general principles investigated, the superiority of the Europeans becomes absolutely immeasurable. It is, I believe, no exaggeration to say that all the historical information which has been collected from all the books written in the Sanscrit language is less valuable than what may be found in the most paltry abridgments used at preparatory schools in England. In every branch of physical or moral philosophy, the relative position of the two nations is nearly the same.
  • All parties seem to be agreed on one point, that the dialects commonly spoken among the natives of this part of India contain neither literary nor scientific information, and are moreover so poor and rude that, until they are enriched from some other quarter, it will not be easy to translate any valuable work into them.

1840s

edit
  • Every schoolboy knows who imprisoned Montezuma, and who strangled Atahualpa.
    • 'Lord Clive', The Edinburgh Review (January 1840), quoted in T. B. Macaulay, Critical and Historical Essays Contributed to The Edinburgh Review, Vol. III (1843), p. 109
  • I hold agitation to be essential, not only to the obtaining of good and just measures, but to the existence of a free Government itself. If you choose to adopt the principle of Bishop Horsley, that the people have nothing to do with the laws but to obey them, then, indeed, you may deprecate agitation; but, while we live in a free country, and under a free Government, your deprecation is vain and untenable... I say that the slave-trade would never have been abolished without agitation. I say that slavery would never have been abolished without agitation... What is agitation when it is examined, but the mode in which the people in the great outer assembly debate?
  • She [the Roman Catholic Church] may still exist in undiminished vigour when some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Paul’s.
    • 'Von Ranke', The Edinburgh Review (October 1840), quoted in T. B. Macaulay, Critical and Historical Essays Contributed to The Edinburgh Review, Vol. III (1843), p. 209
  • She [the Catholic Church] thoroughly understands what no other Church has ever understood, how to deal with enthusiasts.
    • 'Von Ranke', The Edinburgh Review (October 1840), quoted in T. B. Macaulay, Critical and Historical Essays Contributed to The Edinburgh Review, Vol. III (1843), p. 237
  • It was natural that they should look with confidence on the victorious flag which was hoisted over them, which reminded them that they belonged to a country unaccustomed to defeat, to submission, or to shame—it reminded them that they belonged to a country which had made the farthest ends of the earth ring with the fame of her exploits in redressing the wrongs of her children; that made the Dey of Algiers humble himself to her insulted consul; that revenged the horrors of the black hole on the fields of Plessey; that had not degenerated since her great Protector vowed that he would make the name of Englishman as respected as ever had been the name of Roman citizen. They felt that although far from their native country, and then in danger in a part of the world remote from that to which they must look for protection, yet that they belonged to a state which would not suffer a hair of one of its members to be harmed with impunity.
  • The Chief Justice was rich, quiet, and infamous.
    • 'Warren Hastings', The Edinburgh Review (October 1841), quoted in T. B. Macaulay, Critical and Historical Essays Contributed to The Edinburgh Review, Vol. III (1843), p. 391
  • In that temple of silence and reconciliation where the enmities of twenty generations lie buried, in the Great Abbey which has during many ages afforded a quiet resting-place to those whose minds and bodies have been shattered by the contentions of the Great Hall, the dust of the illustrious accused should have mingled with the dust of the illustrious accusers.
    • 'Warren Hastings', The Edinburgh Review (October 1841), quoted in T. B. Macaulay, Critical and Historical Essays Contributed to The Edinburgh Review, Vol. III (1843), p. 465
  • Thus, then, stands the case. It is good, that authors should be remunerated; and the least exceptionable way of remunerating them is by a monopoly. Yet monopoly is an evil. For the sake of the good we must submit to the evil; but the evil ought not to last a day longer than is necessary for the purpose of securing the good.
    • Speech on the Copyright Bill (5 February 1841)
  • Our readers will remember that, in 1825, the Catholic Association raised the cry of emancipation with most formidable effect. The Tories acted after their kind. Instead of removing the grievance they tried to put down the agitation.
    • 'Lord Holland', The Edinburgh Review (July 1841), quoted in T. B. Macaulay, Critical and Historical Essays Contributed to The Edinburgh Review, Vol. III (1843), p. 314
  • I shall not be satisfied unless I produce something which shall for a few days supersede the last fashionable novel on the tables of young ladies.
    • Letter to Macvey Napier (5 November 1841)
  • In order that he might rob a neighbour whom he had promised to defend, black men fought on the coast of Coromandel, and red men scalped each other by the Great Lakes of North America.
    • 'Frederic the Great', The Edinburgh Review (April 1842), quoted in T. B. Macaulay, Critical and Historical Essays Contributed to The Edinburgh Review: A New Edition (1852), p. 780
  • We hardly know any instance of the strength and weakness of human nature so striking, and so grotesque, as the character of this haughty, vigilant, resolute, sagacious blue-stocking, half Mithridates and half Trissotin, bearing up against a world in arms, with an ounce of poison in one pocket and a quire of bad verses in the other.
    • 'Frederic the Great', The Edinburgh Review (April 1842), quoted in T. B. Macaulay, Critical and Historical Essays Contributed to The Edinburgh Review: A New Edition (1852), p. 802
  • I would rather be a poor man in a garret with plenty of books than a king who did not love reading.
    • Letter to his Niece (15 September 1842)
  • He [Richard Steele] was a rake among scholars, and a scholar among rakes.
    • 'The Life and Writings of Addison', The Edinburgh Review (July 1843), quoted in T. B. Macaulay, Critical and Historical Essays Contributed to The Edinburgh Review: A New Edition (1852), p. 704
  • The highest proof of virtue is to possess boundless power without abusing it.
    • 'The Life and Writings of Addison', The Edinburgh Review (July 1843), quoted in T. B. Macaulay, Critical and Historical Essays Contributed to The Edinburgh Review: A New Edition (1852), p. 706
  • I would not give up the keys to the granary, because I know that, by doing so, I should turn scarcity into a famine.
    • Sullivan, p. 266 (1843)
  • A man who has never been within the tropics does not know what a thunderstorm means; a man who has never looked on Niagara has but a faint idea of a cataract; and he who has not read Barère's Memoirs may be said not to know what it is to lie.
    • 'Barère', The Edinburgh Review (April 1844), quoted in The Miscellaneous Writings of Lord Macaulay, Vol. II (1860), p. 109
  • If...we look at the essential characteristics of the Whig and the Tory, we may consider each of them as the representative of a great principle, essential to the welfare of nations. One is, in an especial manner, the guardian of liberty, and the other, of order. One is the moving power, and the other the steadying power of the state. One is the sail, without which society would make no progress, the other the ballast, without which there would be small safety in a tempest.
    • 'The Earl of Chatham', The Edinburgh Review (October 1844), quoted in T. B. Macaulay, Critical and Historical Essays Contributed to The Edinburgh Review: A New Edition (1852), p. 725
  • There you [Sir Robert Peel] sit, doing penance for the disingenuousness of years.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (14 April 1845)
  • Forget all feuds, and shed one English tear
    O'er English dust. A broken heart lies here.
    • Epitaph on a Jacobite (1845)
  • Time, and reflection, and discussion, have produced their natural effect on minds eminently intelligent and candid. No intermediate shades of opinion are now left. There is no twilight. The light has been divided from the darkness. Two parties are ranged in battle array against each other. There is the standard of monopoly. Here is the standard of free trade; and by the standard of free trade I pledge myself to stand firmly.
    • Speech in Edinburgh (2 December 1845), quoted in Speeches of the Right Honourable T. B. Macaulay, M.P. (1854), p. 423
  • I say that where the public morality is concerned it may be the duty of the State to interfere with the contracts of individuals... It must then, I think, be admitted that, where health is concerned, and where morality is concerned, the State is justified in interfering with the contracts of individuals.
    • Speech in the House of Commons in favour of John Fielden's bill for limiting the labour of young persons in factories to ten hours a day (22 May 1846), quoted in Speeches of the Right Honourable T. B. Macaulay, M.P. (1854), p. 442
  • The sweeter sound of woman's praise.
    • Lines written in August, 1847
  • Then the Quakers, five in number. Never was there such a rout. They had absolutely nothing to say. Every charge against Penn came out as clear as any case at the Old Bailey. They had nothing to urge but what was true enough, that he looked worse in my History than he would have looked on a general survey of his whole life. But that is not my fault. I wrote the History of four years during which he was exposed to great temptations; during which he was the favourite of a bad king, and an active solicitor in a most corrupt court. His character was injured by his associations. Ten years before, or ten years later, he would have made a much better figure. But was I to begin my book ten years earlier or ten years later for William Penn's sake? The Quakers were extremely civil. So was I. They complimented me on my courtesy and candour.
    • Journal entry (5 February 1849), quoted in George Otto Trevelyan, The Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay, Volume II (1876), pp. 251–252
  • At last I have attained true glory. As I walked through Fleet Street the day before yesterday, I saw a copy of Hume at a bookseller's window with the following label: “Only 2l. 2s. Hume's History of England in eight volumes, highly valuable as an introduction to Macaulay.” I laughed so convulsively that the other people who were staring at the books took me for a poor demented gentleman. Alas for poor David!
    • Journal entry (8 March 1849), quoted in George Otto Trevelyan, The Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay, Volume II (1876), p. 253

Lays of Ancient Rome (1842)

edit
Full text online at Project Gutenberg
 
Lars Porsena of Closium
By the Nine Gods he swore
That the great house of Tarquin
Should suffer wrong no more.
 
To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his gods?
  • Lars Porsena of Closium
    By the Nine Gods he swore
    That the great house of Tarquin
    Should suffer wrong no more.
    By the Nine Gods he swore it,
    And named a trysting day,
    And bade his messengers ride forth,
    East and west and south and north,
    To summon his array.
    • Horatius, st. 1
  • Then out spake brave Horatius,
    The Captain of the Gate:
    "To every man upon this earth
    Death cometh soon or late.
    And how can man die better
    Than facing fearful odds,
    For the ashes of his fathers,
    And the temples of his gods
    ,

    And for the tender mother
    Who dandled him to rest,
    And for the wife who nurses
    His baby at her breast,
    And for the holy maidens
    Who feed the eternal flame,
    To save them from false Sextus
    That wrought the deed of shame?"

    • Horatius, st. 26 & 27; this quote is often truncated to read:
To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his gods?
  • Then none was for a party,
    Then all were for the state;
    Then the rich man helped the poor,
    And the poor man loved the great;
    Then lands were fairly portioned,
    Then spoils were fairly sold;
    The Romans were like brothers
    In the brave days of old
    .

    Now Roman is to Roman
    More hateful than a foe;
    And the Tribunes beard the high
    and the fathers grind the low;
    As we wax hot in faction,
    In battle we wax cold;
    And men fight not as they fought
    In the brave days of old.

    • Horatius, st. 32 & 33
  • Was none who would be foremost
    To lead such dire attack;
    But those behind cried, "Forward!"
    And those before cried, "Back!"
    • Horatius, st. 50
  • "Oh, Tiber! Father Tiber!
    To whom the Romans pray,
    A Roman's life, a Roman's arms,
    Take thou in charge this day!"
    So he spake, and speaking sheathed
    The good sword by his side,
    And with his harness on his back,
    Plunged headlong in the tide.
    • Horatius, st. 59
  • No sound of joy or sorrow
    Was heard from either bank;
    But friends and foes in dumb surprise,
    With parted lips and straining eyes,
    Stood gazing where he sank;
    And when above the surges,
    They saw his crest appear,
    All Rome sent forth a rapturous cry,
    And even the ranks of Tuscany
    Could scarce forbear to cheer.
    • Horatius, st. 60
  • When the goodman mends his armor,
    And trims his helmet's plume;
    When the goodwife's shuttle merrily
    Goes flashing through the loom;
    With weeping and with laughter
    Still is the story told,
    How well Horatius kept the bridge
    In the brave days of old.
    • Horatius, st. 70

1850s

edit
  • It is odd that the last twenty-five years which have witnessed the greatest progress ever made in physical science—the greatest victories ever achieved by mind over matter—should have produced hardly a volume that will be remembered in 1900.
    • Journal entry (9 March 1850), quoted in Thomas Macaulay, The Letters of Thomas Babington Macaulay: Volume 5, January 1849–December 1855, ed. Thomas Pinney (1981), p. 99
  • I think that good times are coming for the labouring classes of this country. I do not entertain that hope because I expect that Fourierism, or Saint Simonianism, or Socialism, or any of those other "isms" for which the plain English word is "robbery," will prevail. I know that such schemes only aggravate the misery which they pretend to relieve. I know that it is possible, by legislation, to make the rich poor, but that it is utterly impossible to make the poor rich.
    • Speech in Edinburgh (2 November 1852), quoted in Speeches of the Right Honourable T. B. Macaulay, M.P. (1854), p. 517
  • I believe that the progress of experimental science, the free intercourse of nation with nation, the unrestricted influx of commodities from countries where they are cheap, and the unrestricted efflux of labour towards countries where it is dear, will soon produce, nay, I believe that they are beginning to produce, a great and most blessed social revolution.
    • Speech in Edinburgh (2 November 1852), quoted in Speeches of the Right Honourable T. B. Macaulay, M.P. (1854), p. 517
  • Joe Hume talked to me very earnestly about the necessity of an union of Liberals. He said much about Ballot and the Franchise. I told him that I could easily come to some compromise with him and his friends on these matters, but that there were other questions about which I feared that there was an irreconcileable difference, particularly the vital question of national defence. He seemed quite confounded, and had absolutely nothing to say. I am fully determined to make them eat their words on that point, or to have no political connection with them.
    • Journal entry (November 1852), quoted in George Otto Trevelyan, The Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay, Volume II (1876), p. 368
  • That noble Lord is of opinion, not only that we ought to exclude Natives from office, but that even by encouraging them to study the arts and learning of Europe, we are preparing the way for the utter destruction of our power in India. I must leave it to the noble Lord to explain what seems to me a rather singular inconsistency in his opinion. I am at a loss to understand how, while utterly contemning education when it is given to Europeans, he should regard it with dread when it is given to Natives. This training, we are told, when given to a European, makes him a bookworm, a twaddler, a man unfit for the active duties of life; but give the same education to the Hindoo, and it arms him with such an accession of intellectual power, that an established government, with an army of 250,000 men, backed by the whole army and navy of England, are to go down inevitably before its irresistible power.
  • Your Constitution is all sail and no anchor.
    • Letter to H.S. Randall, author of a Life of Thomas Jefferson (23 May 1857)
  • Motley called. I like him much. We agree wonderfully well about slavery, and it is not often that I meet any person with whom I agree on that subject. For I hate slavery from the bottom of my soul; and yet I am made sick by the cant and the silly mock reasons of the Abolitionists. The nigger driver and the negrophile are two odious things to me. I must make Lady Macbeth's reservation: “Had he not resembled—”.
    • Journal entry (8 July 1858), quoted in George Otto Trevelyan, The Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay, Volume I (1876), p. 23, n. 1
  • The only revolutions wh[ich] have turned out well have been defensive revolutions – ours of 1688 – the French of 1830 – the American was, to a great extent, of the same kind.
    • Journal entry (29 December [1858]), quoted in Joseph Hamburger, 'Introduction', to Thomas Babington Macaulay, Napoleon and the Restoration of the Bourbons: The Completed Portion of Macaulay's Projected "History of France from the Restoration of the Bourbons to the Accession of Louis Philippe", ed. Joseph Hamburger (1977), p. 22
  • These be the great Twin Brethren
    To whom the Dorians pray.
    • The Battle of Lake Regillus; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)

History of England (1849–1861)

edit
  • Those who compare the age in which their lot has fallen with a golden age which exists only in imagination, may talk of degeneracy and decay; but no man who is correctly informed as to the past, will be disposed to take a morose or desponding view of the present.
    • Vol. I, ch. 1
  • I shall cheerfully bear the reproach of having descended below the dignity of history if I can succeed in placing before the English of the nineteenth century a true picture of the life of their ancestors.
    • Vol. I, ch. 1
  • There were gentlemen and there were seamen in the navy of Charles II. But the seamen were not gentlemen, and the gentlemen were not seamen.
    • Vol. I, ch. 2
  • The Puritan hated bear-baiting, not because it gave pain to the bear, but because it gave pleasure to the spectators.
    • Vol. I, ch. 3
  • The Chief Justice was all himself. His spirits rose higher and higher as the work went on. He laughed, shouted, joked, and swore in such a way that many thought him drunk from morning to night. But in him it was not easy to distinguish the madness produced by evil passions from the madness produced by brandy. A prisoner affirmed that the witnesses who appeared against him were not entitled to credit. One of them, he said, was a Papist, and another a prostitute. "Thou impudent rebel," exclaimed the Judge, "to reflect on the King's evidence! I see thee, villain, I see thee already with the halter round thy neck." Another produced testimony that he was a good Protestant. "Protestant!" said Jeffreys; "you mean Presbyterian. I'll hold you a wager of it. I can smell a Presbyterian forty miles." One wretched man moved the pity even of bitter Tories. "My Lord," they said, "this poor creature is on the parish." "Do not trouble yourselves," said the Judge, "I will ease the parish of the burden."
  • Now, if ever, we ought to be able to appreciate the whole importance of the stand which was made by our forefathers against the House of Stuart. All around us the world is convulsed by the agonies of great nations. Governments which lately seemed likely to stand during ages have been on a sudden shaken and overthrown... Meanwhile in our island the regular course of government has never been for a day interrupted. The few bad men who longed for license and plunder have not had the courage to confront for one moment the strength of a loyal nation, rallied in firm array round a parental throne. And, if it be asked what has made us to differ from others, the answer is that we never lost what others are wildly and blindly seeking to regain. It is because we had a preserving revolution in the seventeenth century that we have not had a destroying revolution in the nineteenth. It is because we had freedom in the midst of servitude that we have order in the midst of anarchy. For the authority of law, for the security of property, for the peace of our streets, for the happiness of our houses, our gratitude is due, under Him who raises and pulls down nations at his pleasure, to the Long Parliament, to the Convention, and to William of Orange.
    • Vol. II, ch. 10
  • The ambassador [of Russia] and the grandees who accompanied him were so gorgeous that all London crowded to stare at them, and so filthy that nobody dared to touch them. They came to the court balls dropping pearls and vermin.
    • Vol. V, ch. 23


Attributed

edit
  • People crushed by law have no hopes but from power. If laws are their enemies, they will be enemies to laws.
    • According to Kenneth Owen Morgan (The Illustrated History of Britain (1984) p. 421) this was said by Macaulay in 1832. If so, he was quoting a letter written by Edmund Burke in 1777.
  • The measure of a man's real character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out.[citation needed]
    • The earliest quotations of this give it as anonymous or unknown author.[1] [2]
  • "We are free, we are civilised, to little purpose, if we grudge to any portion of the human race an equal measure of freedom and civilisation." [3]
  • "Nine-tenths the calamities of the human race are due to the union of high intelligence with low desires."
    • "Lord Bacon", (1837) in Essays 2:183
  • "If any person had told the Parliament which met in terror and perplexity after the crash of 1720 that in 1830 the wealth of England would surpass all their wildest dreams, that the annual revenue would equal the principal of that debt which they considered an intolerable burden, that for one man of £10,000 then living there would be five men of £50,000, that London would be twice as large and twice as populous, and that nevertheless the rate of mortality would have diminished to one half of what it then was, that the post-office would bring more into the exchequer than the excise and customs had brought in together under Charles II, that stage coaches would run from London to York in 24 hours, that men would be in the habit of sailing without wind, and would be beginning to ride without horses, our ancestors would have given as much credit to the prediction as they gave to Gulliver's Travels."
  • "Copyright is monopoly, and produces all the effects which the general voice of mankind attributes to monopoly. [...] Monopoly is an evil. For the sake of the good we must submit to the evil; but the evil ought not to last a day longer than is necessary for the purpose of securing the good." [4]
  • "The work of Dr. Nares has filled us with astonishment similar to that which Captain Lemuel Gulliver felt when first he landed in Brobdingnag, and saw corn as high as the oaks in the New Forest, thimbles as large as buckets, and wrens of the bulk of turkeys. The whole book, and every component part of it, is on a gigantic scale. The title is as long as an ordinary preface: the prefatory matter would furnish out an ordinary book; and the book contains as much reading as an ordinary library. We cannot sum up the merits of the stupendous mass of paper which lies before us better than by saying that it consists of about two thousand closely printed quarto pages, that it occupies fifteen hundred inches cubic measure, and that it weighs sixty pounds avoirdupois. Such a book might, before the deluge, have been considered as light reading by Hilpa and Shallum. But unhappily the life of man is now three-score years and ten; and we cannot but think it somewhat unfair in Dr. Nares to demand from us so large a portion of so short an existence. Compared with the labour of reading through these volumes, all other labour, the labour of thieves on the treadmill, of children in factories, of negroes in sugar plantations, is an agreeable recreation."
  • "To punish public outrages on morals and religion is unquestionably within the competence of rulers. But when a government, not content with requiring decency, requires sanctity, it oversteps the bounds which mark its proper functions. And it may be laid down as a universal rule that a government which attempts more than it ought will perform less."
    • "Leigh Hunt" (1841), in Critical...Essays 2:509
  • "There is not, and there never was on this earth, a work of human policy so well deserving of examination as the Roman Catholic Church. The history of that Church joins together the two great ages of human civilisation. No other institution is left standing which carries the mind back to the times when the smoke of sacrifice rose from the Pantheon, and when camelopards and tigers bounded in the Flavian amphitheatre. The proudest royal houses are but of yesterday, when compared with the line of the Supreme Pontiffs. That line we trace back in an unbroken series, from the Pope who crowned Napoleon in the nineteenth century to the Pope who crowned Pepin in the eighth; and far beyond the time of Pepin the august dynasty extends, till it is lost in the twilight of fable. The republic of Venice came next in antiquity. But the republic of Venice was modern when compared with the Papacy; and the republic of Venice is gone, and the Papacy remains. The Papacy remains, not in decay, not a mere antique, but full of life and youthful vigour. The Catholic Church is still sending forth to the farthest ends of the world missionaries as zealous as those who landed in Kent with Augustin, and still confronting hostile kings with the same spirit with which she confronted Attila. The number of her children is greater than in any former age. Her acquisitions in the New World have more than compensated for what she has lost in the Old. Her spiritual ascendency extends over the vast countries which lie between the plains of the Missouri and Cape Horn, countries which a century hence, may not improbably contain a population as large as that which now inhabits Europe. The members of her communion are certainly not fewer than a hundred and fifty millions; and it will be difficult to show that all other Christian sects united amount to a hundred and twenty millions. Nor do we see any sign which indicates that the term of her long dominion is approaching. She saw the commencement of all the governments and of all the ecclesiastical establishments that now exist in the world; and we feel no assurance that she is not destined to see the end of them all. She was great and respected before the Saxon had set foot on Britain, before the Frank had passed the Rhine, when Grecian eloquence still flourished at Antioch, when idols were still worshipped in the temple of Mecca. And she may still exist in undiminished vigour when some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Paul's."
    • "Essay on Ludwig von Ranke's 'History of the Popes', in "Critical and Historical Essays", iii, (London; Longman, 7th Edn. 1952), 100-1.
  • “Enormous fortunes,” says Macaulay, “were rapidly accumulated at Calcutta, while thirty millions of human beings were reduced to the extremity of wretchedness. They had been accustomed to live under tyranny, but never under tyranny like this.”
    • in Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage : India and Her Neighbors. , quoting MACAULAY, T. B.: Critical and Historical Essays. Everyman Library. i.528


Misattributed

edit
  • I have travelled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in the country, such high moral values, people of such caliber, that I do not think we would conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self esteem, their native culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation.
    • This quotation is commonly said to have been spoken by Macaulay during a speech to the British Parliament in 1835. Since Macaulay was in India at the time, it is more likely to have come from his Minute on Indian Education. However, these words do not appear in that text. According to Koenraad Elst, these words were printed in The Awakening Ray, Vol. 4, No. 5, published by the Gnostic Center, preceded by: "His words were to the effect." Burjor Avari cites this misattribution as an example of "tampering with historical evidence" in India: The Ancient Past ISBN 9780415356169, pp. 19–20), writes: "No proof of this statement has been found in any of the volumes containing the writings and speeches of Macaulay. In a journal in which the extract appeared, the writer did not reproduce the exact wording of the Minutes, but merely paraphrased them, using the qualifying phrase: ‘His words were to the effect.:’ This is extremely mischievous, as numerous interpretations can be drawn from the Minutes." For a full discussion, see Koenraad Elst, The Argumentative Hindu (2012) Chapter 3

Quotes about Macaulay

edit

A–L

edit
  • When you sit down to Macaulay, remember that the Essays are really flashy and superficial. He was not above par in literary criticism; his Indian articles will not hold water; and his two most famous reviews, on Bacon and Ranke, show his incompetence. The essays are only pleasant reading, and a key to half the prejudices of our age. It is the History (with one or two speeches) that is wonderful. He knew nothing respectably before the seventeenth century, he knew nothing of foreign history, of religion, philosophy, science, or art. His account of debates has been thrown into the shade by Ranke, his account of diplomatic affairs, by Klopp. He is, I am persuaded, grossly, basely unfair. Read him therefore to find out how it comes that the most unsympathetic of critics can think him very nearly the greatest of English writers.
    • Lord Acton to Mary Gladstone (1 September 1883), quoted in Letters of Lord Acton to Mary Gladstone, ed. Herbert Paul (1904), p. 173
  • Macaulay, at least, was not an aristocrat. He had done more than any writer in the literature of the world for the propagation of the Liberal faith, and he was not only the greatest, but the most representative Englishman then [1856] living
    • Lord Acton, quoted in Historical Essays & Studies by John Emerich Dalberg-Acton, First Baron Acton, eds. John Neville Figgis and Reginald Vere Laurence (1907), p. 482
  • One great speech of his on the Reform question I heard... The House was entranced, almost breathless: and I recollect that, when I overtook him the same night walking home, I could hardly believe that the little, draggled, ordinary-looking man plodding by himself up the Strand was the same creature whom I had seen holding the House of Commons absorbed as the Opera house is by a first-rate singer.
    • John L. Adolphus to H. H. Milman (14 December 1861), quoted in John Clive, Macaulay: The Shaping of the Historian (1973), p. 159
  • “Explain yourself,” said I; “why do you call Mr. Hepworth Dixon's style middle-class Macaulayese?” “I call it Macaulayese,” says the pedant, “because it has the same internal and external characteristics as Macaulay's style; the external characteristic being a hard metallic movement with nothing of the soft play of life, and the internal characteristic being a perpetual semblance of hitting the right nail on the head without the reality. And I call it middle-class Macaulayese, because it has these faults without the compensation of great studies and of conversance with great affairs, by which Macaulay partly redeemed them.”
  • The immense popularity of Macaulay is due to his being pre-eminently fitted to give pleasure to all who are beginning to feel enjoyment in the things of the mind.
    • Matthew Arnold, ‘A French Critic on Milton’, Mixed Essays: Irish Essays and Others (1883), p. 184
  • Mr. Macaulay's Erastian support of State Churches, his calm toleration of Dissent in its various forms, down to the zero of belief, and worst of all, his toleration of Popery, were from the first against him in earnest Edinburgh. He had a provoking lack, also, of that accommodating pliability which enables many candidates for parliamentary honours to pledge, or appear to pledge, themselves to anything that seems popular. He was too well informed and fixed in principles to be unprepared or indefinite on any question of importance. He was too honest to conceal any of his opinions, or to abstain from arguing in support of them, instead of listening deferentially to objections, and cautiously saying that he would give them his best consideration. He had no electioneering tact, no political diplomacy, but argued and acted as if all men were as free from prejudice and open to conviction as he was himself.
    • Adam Black, Memoirs of Adam Black, ed. Alexander Nicolson (1885), p. 145
  • On several subjects I should venture to differ from Mr. Macaulay; but I cannot refrain from expressing my admiration of his unwearied diligence, of the consummate skill with which he has arranged his materials, and of the noble love of liberty which animates his entire work. These are qualities which will long survive the aspersions of his puny detractors,—men who, in point of knowledge and ability, are unworthy to loosen the shoe-latchet of him they foolishly attack.
  • [T]he greatest display of eloquence I ever witnessed at the Club was made by a man some years our senior, and who twice came up during my residence to grace our debates—the now renowned Macaulay. The first of these speeches was on the French Revolution, and it still lingers in my recollection as the most heart-stirring effort of that true oratory which seizes hold of the passions, transports you from yourself, and identifies you with the very life of the orator, that it has ever been my lot to hear, saving, perhaps, one speech by O'Connell, delivered to an immense crowd in the open air. Macaulay, in point of power, passion, and effect, never equalled that speech in his best day in the House of Commons. His second speech, upon the Liberty of the Press, if I remember rightly, was a failure.
    • Edward Bulwer-Lytton, quoted in the Earl of Lytton, The Life of Edward Bulwer First Lord Lytton, Vol. I (1913), p. 79
  • During these visits to Cambridge, I became acquainted with Macaulay. I remember well walking with him, Praed, Ord and some others of the set, along the College Gardens, listening with wonder to that full and opulent converse, startled by knowledge so various, memory so prodigious. That walk left me in a fever of emulation. I shut myself up for many days in intense study, striving to grasp at an equal knowledge: the trophies of Miltiades would not suffer me to sleep.
    • Edward Bulwer-Lytton, quoted in the Earl of Lytton, The Life of Edward Bulwer First Lord Lytton, Vol. I (1913), pp. 79-80
  • Macaulay's so-called Whig prejudices, so far as they influence his historical judgments, are greatly exaggerated. The Whigs actually come off worse than one has been led to expect, and conversely the Tories come off better. The Revolution of 1688 and the Revolutionary Settlement, not the Whigs, are the central themes of the History. Macaulay is an apologist for the Revolution, and it is well to remember that both Tories and Whigs made that Revolution possible. To preserve the Revolution required a nice and constant moderation, and with this in view, Macaulay becomes a defender of the middle-roaders, the trimmers, whose cautious policies protected the Revolution and made impossible a counter-revolution. If there is extreme partisanship in Macaulay, it is the partisanship of English nationalism, not of Whiggery.
    • William G. Carleton, 'Macaulay and the Trimmers', The American Scholar, Vol. 19, No. 1 (Winter 1949–50), pp. 73-74
  • [T]here is no denying that Macaulay's historical sympathies were strongly enlisted in support of limited and constitutional government, parliamentary and cabinet government, the extension of civil liberties, the expansion of religious toleration, the broadening of intellectual freedom, the curbing of mercantilistic restrictions, the elimination of trading barriers, the widening of free trade. Since the rising middle class was an exponent of many of these policies, Macaulay in a sense may be said to be an apologist of that class. And since the Whig party was frequently an advocate of many of these policies, Macaulay, in his role of historian, often appears friendly to that party. But this is about as far as Macaulay went in writing from the Whig point of view.
    • William G. Carleton, 'Macaulay and the Trimmers', The American Scholar, Vol. 19, No. 1 (Winter 1949–50), pp. 74-75
  • The real villains of Macaulay's piece are the extremists of right and left, those on the right who refused to accept the Revolutionary Settlement, and those on the left who would go so far toward Dissent, latitudinarianism, restricted monarchy, and even republicanism as to jeopardize the Revolutionary Settlement. The villains of the right are the Nonjurors and the Jacobites, open and secret... And as so often happens in politics, left and right frequently worked together in common opposition to the center—in this case the Revolutionary center—and this was a fact Macaulay never forgot.
    Macaulay's History, then, becomes a classic defense of the middle of the road. Make progress, as much as practicable, within the framework of the Revolutionary Settlement, but never do anything to jeopardize that Settlement.
    • William G. Carleton, 'Macaulay and the Trimmers', The American Scholar, Vol. 19, No. 1 (Winter 1949–50), pp. 77-78
  • But above all, he typified the two things that really make the Victorian Age itself; the cheapness and narrowness of its conscious formulae; the richness and humanity of its unconscious tradition.
  • What Macaulay did was to infuse the liberal creed with the spacious and sanguine spirit of humanism and history.
    • John Clive, Macaulay: The Shaping of the Historian (1973), p. 497
  • If, as criticism in the 1970s suggests, condescending treatments of Macaulay are no longer fashionable, he may be seen to rank among the greatest English prose writers, with Addison and Johnson, the subjects of two of his finest essays.
  • The intellectual expression of Macaulay's countenance was magnificent—never on a nobler forehead, piled up with sagacity & depth. He was a splendid orator; a writer of the first class, both in originality of treatment & power of expression; his learning was very extensive & very various. No man ever had a memory at the same time so prodigious, & so cultivated.
    • Benjamin Disraeli, quoted in Disraeli's Reminiscences, eds. Helen M. Swartz and Marvin Swartz (1975), p. 8
  • The speeches made by Mr. Macaulay on the spur of the moment...are generally, when thus the spontaneous product of the moment, most able and vigorous arguments on the subject under discussion, which is, in most cases, placed in an entirely new light. After he has spoken on such occasions as these, the debate usually takes a new turn. Members on both sides of the House, and of all ranks, are to be found shaping their remarks, either in confirmation or refutation of what Mr. Macaulay has said; so influential is his bold, vigorous, uncompromising mode of handling a question; so acute his analysis; so firm his grasp.
    • G. H. Francis, Orators of the Age. Comprising Portraits, Critical, Biographical, and Descriptive (1847), pp. 92-93
  • I know that to run down Lord Macaulay is the fashion of the day. I have heard some speak against him who have a right to speak; I have heard many more who have none. I at least feel that I have none; I do not see how any man can have the right who has not gone through the same work through which Macaulay went, or at least through some no less thorough work of a kindred sort. I can see Macaulay's great and obvious faults as well as any man; I know as well as any man the cautions with which his brilliant pictures must be studied; but I cannot feel that I have any right to speak lightly of one to whom I owe so much in the matter of actual knowledge, and to whom I owe more than to any man as the master of historical narrative. Read a page of Macaulay; scan well his minute accuracy in every name and phrase and title; contrast his English undefiled with the slipshod jargon which from our newspapers has run over into our books; dwell on the style which finds a fitting phrase in our own tongue to set forth every thought, the style which never uses a single word out of its true and honest meaning; turn the pages of the book in which no man ever read a sentence a second time because he failed to catch its meaning the first time, but in which all of us must have read many sentences a second or a twentieth time for the sheer pleasure of dwelling on the clearness, the combined fulness and terseness, on the just relation of every word to every other, on the happily chosen epithet, or the sharply pointed sarcasm .
    • Edward Augustus Freeman, Methods of Historical Study (1886), pp. 104-6, quoted in C. H. Firth, A Commentary on Macaulay's History of England, ed. Godfrey Davies [1938] (1964), p. 32
  • Macaulay once remarked that if the law of gravity were unfavorable to any substantial financial interest, there would soon be no lack of arguments against it.
  • However true it may be that Macaulay was a far more consummate workman in the manner than in the matter of his works, we do not doubt that the works contain, in multitudes, passages of high emotion and ennobling sentiment, just awards of praise and blame, and solid expositions of principle, social, moral, and constitutional. They are pervaded by a generous love of liberty; and their atmosphere is pure and bracing, their general aim and basis morally sound.
    • William Ewart Gladstone, ‘Macaulay’, The Quarterly Review (July 1876), quoted in W. E. Gladstone, Gleanings of Past Years, 1844–78. Vol. II: Personal and Literary (1879), p. 294
  • His style...was one of those gifts of which, when it had been conferred, Nature broke the mould... It is paramount in the union of ease in movement with perspicuity of matter, of both with real splendour, and of all with immense rapidity and striking force. From any other pen, such masses of ornament would be tawdry; with him they are only rich... In none, perhaps, of our prose writers are lessons such as he gives of truth and beauty, of virtue and of freedom, so vividly associated with delight.
    • William Ewart Gladstone, ‘Macaulay’, The Quarterly Review (July 1876), quoted in W. E. Gladstone, Gleanings of Past Years, 1844–78. Vol. II: Personal and Literary (1879), pp. 294–295
  • I must embrace the opportunity of expressing, not what I felt, (for language could not express it,) but of making an attempt to convey to the House my sympathy with it in its admiration of the speech of my honourable and learned friend: a speech which, I will venture to assert, has never been exceeded within these walls for the development of statesmanlike policy and practical good sense. It exhibited all that is noble in oratory; all that is sublime, I had almost said, in poetry; all that is truly great, exalted, and virtuous in human nature. If the House at large felt a deep interest in this magnificent display, it may judge of what were my emotions when I perceived in the hands of my honourable friend the great principles which he expounded glowing with fresh colours, and arrayed in all the beauty of truth.
    • Charles Grant on Macaulay's speech on the India Bill delivered in the House of Commons on 10 July 1834, quoted in G. O. Trevelyan, The Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay, Volume I (1876), pp. 292–293
  • When I personally knew Lord Macaulay, I still more enjoyed my disposition to admire him. The harmony was perfect between the man and the artist, the talker and the writer. Nothing bore a closer resemblance to Lord Macaulay's works than his conversation. There was the same richness and readiness of memory, the same unaffected ardour in the thought, the same vivacity of imagination, the same clearness of language, the same natural and pointed turn in the reflections. There was as much pleasure and almost as much instruction in listening to as in reading him. And when after so many remarkable and charming Essays, he published his great work, The History of England from the Accession of James the Second, the same qualities developed themselves therein with even increased abundance and effect. I know no history in which the past and the historian who relates it live so intimately or familiarly together.
  • The justice of the historian surmounted the habits of the politician; he is much more impartial in his history of the reign of William the Third, than in that of James the Second, or above all, than in the summary of those of Charles the First and Charles the Second. He judges the Whigs of 1692 more severely than the Republicans of 1648; and if I am correctly informed, his new-born impartiality won for him from several interested or ardent Whigs, animated reproaches.
  • History, Macaulay believed, should serve politics by teaching politicians and citizens how to maintain a moderate, constitutional regime in which both liberty and order are preserved, each balanced against the other, and neither promoted to the neglect of the other. This meant that the political centre had to be protected by politicians who opposed extremist parties on both sides of the political spectrum, for at the extremes one found doctrinairism, zeal, and fanaticism on behalf of policies that would lead, in one direction, to anarchy, or, in the other, to despotism. The extremes could be diminished and the centre defended, Macauay held, by making adjustments in institutions in response to demands for change, and by making concessions to those who had grievances.
    • Joseph Hamburger, 'Introduction', to Thomas Babington Macaulay, Napoleon and the Restoration of the Bourbons: The Completed Portion of Macaulay's Projected "History of France from the Restoration of the Bourbons to the Accession of Louis Philippe", ed. Joseph Hamburger (1977), p. 9
  • Political history indeed has lost much of the power and fascination it had in the nineteenth century; and it is doubtful whether any historical work of our time has had a circulation or direct influence comparable with, say, Macaulay's History of England.
    • Friedrich Hayek, 'History and Politics', in F. A. Hayek (ed.), Capitalism and the Historians (1954), p. 7
  • Macaulay's success in making the achievement of the constitutional struggles of the past once more a living possession of every educated Englishman is now rarely remembered.
  • It may be granted that Macaulay would have been a still greater historian than he is, if he had possessed more aptitude for speculative thought,—if his mind had been more philosophic; but the fact that he was not a philosopher is no reason for denying that he was, in his own way, a great historian.
    • Richard Claverhouse Jebb, Macaulay. A lecture delivered at Cambridge, on August 10, 1900, in connection with the summer meeting of university extension students (1900), p. 16
  • [I]t remains true that Macaulay gave a new life and meaning to the historical Essay. He made it a vehicle through which thousands of people, who would never have read history at all, have acquired in a pleasurable way some acquaintance with great characters and events. These essays are probably the best of their kind in Europe. And there can be no doubt that they will live. Only it is much to be desired that, when they are used for purposes of education, students should be warned against the errors which many of them contain. On a higher level than any but the very best of the Essays, stand those five biographies which Macaulay wrote for the ‘Encyclopaedia Britannica,’—those of Atterbury, Bunyan, Goldsmith, Johnson, and the younger Pitt. All these are mature and careful pieces of work, quieter and more restrained in style than the Essays, but hardly less attractive. They show Macaulay as a master of artistic condensation. Taking into account their merits both of matter and of form, we should be safe in affirming that, as a writer of short biographies, Macaulay has not been surpassed, if he has been equalled, by any English writer. The life of the younger Pitt, in particular, calls for unqualified admiration. It was written in the January of 1859, the year of his death; and he never wrote anything better. It is a sample of what he could have done in the History if he had reached that period, and it must enhance our regret that the History remained a fragment.
    • Richard Claverhouse Jebb, Macaulay. A lecture delivered at Cambridge, on August 10, 1900, in connection with the summer meeting of university extension students (1900), pp. 43–44
  • Matthew Arnold was unjust to Macaulay's style. Its external characteristic, he said, was “a hard metallic movement, with nothing of the soft play of life.” ... But there are other styles more especially adapted to the historical presentation of facts, and to the conduct of argument, not as among intimates, but in the forum. Such styles, as distinguished from the others, may be called objective; and in these we do not look for “the soft play of life.” Gibbon's is such a style; Macaulay's is another. It suited his subjects; it also suited his temperament, which, though imaginatively dreamy, was not reflective, and still less introspective. It is a style, of course, which has its limitations; but it has also its own sphere, its own virtues, its own beauty and grandeur; yes, and its own play of life too—but not that which Matthew Arnold calls a soft play of life.
    • Richard Claverhouse Jebb, Macaulay. A lecture delivered at Cambridge, on August 10, 1900, in connection with the summer meeting of university extension students (1900), pp. 53–54
  • [N]o historian of any age has been so prodigal of original and profound reflective suggestion, aye and weighty and authoritative decision also, on innumerable questions of great difficulty and general interest; though these precious contributions are not ostentatiously ticketed and labelled, as separate gifts to mankind, but woven, with far better grace and effect, into the net tissue of the story.
    • Lord Jeffrey to Mr. Empson on Macaulay's History of England (20 March 1849), quoted in Lord Cockburn, Life of Lord Jeffrey With a Selection from His Correspondence, Vol. II (1852), p. 459
  • This book, therefore, has already, in the course of three little months, scattered to the winds, and swept finally from the minds of all thinking Englishmen, those lingerings of Jacobite prejudice, which the eloquence and perversions of Hume, and the popular talents of Scott and other writers of fiction, had restored to our literature, and but too much familiarised to our feelings, in the last fifty years. This is a great work, and a great triumph, and ought, I think, so to be hailed and rejoiced in. All convertible men must now be disabused of their prejudices, and all future generations grow up in a light, round which no cloud can again find means to gather.
    • Lord Jeffrey to Mr. Empson on Macaulay's History of England (20 March 1849), quoted in Lord Cockburn, Life of Lord Jeffrey With a Selection from His Correspondence, Vol. II (1852), pp. 459-460
  • In the evening I dined quietly at the Athenaeum with Herbert Spencer... We talked much about style in writing, he being strong about the uselessness of knowing the derivation of words, about the bad writing of Addison, about the especial atrocity of Macaulay, whose style “resembles low organisations, being a perpetual repetition of similar parts. There are savages,” &c.
    • William Edward Hartpole Lecky to his wife (21 September 1876), quoted in Elisabeth van Dedem Lecky, A Memoir of the Right Hon. William Edward Hartpole Lecky, M.P., O.M., LL.D., D.C.L., LITT. D., Member of the French Institute and of the British Academy (1909), p. 130
  • The man is a humbug—a vulgar, shallow, self-satisfied mind, absolutely inaccessible to the complexities and delicacies of the real world. He has the journalist's air of being a specialist in everything, of taking in all points of view and being always on the side of the angels: he merely annoys a reader who has the least experience of knowing things, of what knowing is like. There is not two pence worth of real thought or real nobility in him. But he isn't dull…
    • C. S. Lewis, in a diary entry regarding Macaulay (July 1924), published in Letters (1966), p. 97

M–Z

edit
  • The discipline of history does not evolve through the abrupt and complete replacement of one type of history by another. Political history, with its emphasis on government and leadership, is alive and well today, and conversely, social history has appeared at various points in the past, most notably in the nineteenth century. In France from the 1820s on, historians inspired by the Revolution, like Adolphe Thiers and Jules Michelet, wrote histories in which groups like “the bourgeoisie” or “the people” were the main movers in an epic struggle against a selfish aristocracy, which led to the nation’s revolutionary birth in 1789. Leading English historians wrote “social history” long before the 1960s: Thomas Babington Macaulay’s 1848 History of England from the Accession of James the Second, a landmark chronicle of the nation’s progress through political emancipation, includes a section on England in 1685 that covers everything from social classes to coffeehouses, street lighting, and newspapers. Nearly a century later, in the midst of World War II, Macaulay’s great-nephew, the Cambridge historian George Macaulay Trevelyan, wrote a highly successful volume entitled English Social History. First published in 1942, Trevelyan’s book is a six-hundred-page account of social conditions in England from the Middle Ages to 1901, which like Macaulay’s covers a breadth of topics, from trade routes and population trends to marriage customs and diets. Leafing through Trevelyan you may come across stories of young girls in the age of Chaucer being beaten into accepting unattractive marriage partners, reports on upper-class drinking and smoking habits in the late seventeenth century, or a vividly imagined account of what life felt like (extremely damp, among other things) in a peasant home around 1750.
    The type of social history written by Macaulay and Trevelyan, which has equivalents in other national traditions, was clearly subordinate and accessory to political history. In Macaulay’s History of England the lengthy opening section on “the state of England in 1685” serves as a scenic backdrop to the significant action taking place center-stage, the political maneuverings of James II, William of Orange, and their associates. Trevelyan wrote his English Social History as a late-career outtake from his previous works of political history; it was intended to boost wartime morale in the country at large as a sort of Shakespearean paean to the land of thatched cottages and “stout yeomen.” The volume aptly illustrates Trevelyan’s much-quoted, controversial, and pithy description of social history as “the history of a people with the politics left out.” The older “customs and living conditions” tradition of social history epitomized by Trevelyan’s book is indeed notable for the assumption that “politics” is purposeful activity that happens only in the highest realm and is therefore absent from society at large. The poor and middling are presumed not to affect historical change; as a result, a book like English Social History reads like a series of picturesque descriptions rather than an argument or a story.
    • Sarah Maza, Thinking about History (2017), Chap. 1 : The History of Whom?
  • Randolph, who is writing a life of the late Lord Derby for Longman's, brought to luncheon a young man of that name. His talk interested the P[rime] M[inister] [Winston Churchill] ... Macaulay, Longman went on, was not read now; there was no demand for his books. The P.M. grunted that he was very sorry to hear this. Macaulay had been a great influence in his young days.
    • Lord Moran's diary (7 February 1954), quoted in Lord Moran, Winston Churchill: The Struggle for Survival, 1940–1965 (1966, 1968), pp. 553–554
  • If you see the Morning Chronicle you must have observed a Speech lately made at the Anti-Slavery Meeting. It was the Maiden Speech of Macaulay's Son, a youth who has just left College. I have it under the hand of Mr. Wilberforce and other grave senators that it was equal to any speech of Pitt or Fox. This seems a bold assertion but it is supported by Brougham, &c. This young Man was my pet at six years old, and we then manfully fought Homer's battles; and he could descant on the heroes of both sides with no little discrimination. He was the firm Trojan.
    • Hannah More to Sir William Pepys (12 July 1824), quoted in A Later Pepys: The Correspondence of Sir William Weller Pepys...Volume II, ed. Alice C. C. Gaussen (1904), pp. 382-383
  • He never wrote an obscure sentence in his life, and this may seem a small merit, until we remember of how few writers we could say the same.
    • John Morley, ‘Macaulay’, Critical Miscellanies, Vol. I (1908), p. 275
  • Macaulay's life as a writer and as a politician was consecrated to the service of freedom. His style is far from perfect. It has often a hard sound and a metallic look. To say with Matthew Arnold that it has the perpetual semblance of hitting the right nail on the head without the reality is in my judgment absurd. Macaulay habitually hit the right nail on the head, and he did not, as Mr. Arnold sometimes did, knock out two tacks in the process. But there is always the semblance as well as the reality, and it is the reality without the semblance which charms us in the greatest writers of all.
    • Herbert Paul, ‘Macaulay and His Critics’, Men and Letters (1901), p. 311
  • Portions of the speech were as beautiful as anything I have ever heard or read. It reminded one of the old times.
    • Robert Peel on Macaulay's first speech on the Reform Bill (2 March 1831), quoted in G. O. Trevelyan, The Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay, Volume I (1876), p. 175
  • No doubt Lord Macaulay was strongly attached to his political friends, and deeply imbued with those immortal principles which have assigned to the Whig party so glorious a share in the annals and government of this country. But he raised those principles to a higher power. He gave them a broader and more universal character. He traced them along the mighty streams of history, and he expanded them till they embraced the noblest destinies of man. Enshrined in the memorable Essays which first appeared in the pages of this journal, and embodied in the great History, which though still incomplete, includes the most remarkable epoch and the most formidable crisis of British constitutional freedom, these truths will be remembered in the language he gave them, when parliamentary orators and the contentions of statesmen are forgotten. Above all things his public career was singularly high-minded and pure; he was actuated by no selfish motives; he disdained every vulgar reward; and bound by principle to the Whig party, he never made the slightest sacrifice of his own judgment and independence to the demands of popular prejudice or to the dictation of authority.
    • Henry Reeve, 'Lord Macaulay', The Edinburgh Review (January 1860), pp. 274-275
  • I liked him, and, in many respects, admired him. Personally I mean, for his abilities and acquirements commanded more than ordinary admiration. His sentiments and expressions were always generous, his feelings noble; he hated duplicity, meanness, violence; he never thought that brilliant exploits compensated for the want of moral worth; and he would call a man a villain, a rogue, or an oppressor, whether he were arrayed like Solomon, or in tatters like Lazarus.
    These super-eminent and mighty talents, though never openly and directly employed for God's service, were, at least, never perverted to evil uses. Is there a sentence in any of his writings to offend decency, morality, the Christian faith?—not one. I did not know till now how much I was attached to him. May I never forget his true and noble speech made, at my request, in the House of Commons on behalf of the factory children! Their prayers, I trust, ascended for him to the Throne of Grace.
    • Lord Shaftesbury, diary entry (3 January 1860), quoted in Edwin Hodder, The Life and Work of the Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, K.G. Vol. III (1886), p. 73
  • It was an immense advantage to have at the head of our literature a man who thought calmly, who spoke moderately, who wrote fastidiously, whose enthusiasm was never intemperate, whose judgment was never excited. This great potentate in letters opposed to the license of speculation and the riot of the imagination, a simple theory of morals, a simple system of politics, and a simple code of criticism.
    • John Skelton, Nugæ Criticæ: Occasional Papers Written at the Seaside by Shirley (1862), p. 437
  • [T]ake at hazard any three pages of the Essays or History; and, glimmering below the stream of the narrative, as it were, you, an average reader, see one, two, three, a half score of allusions to other historic facts, characters, literature, poetry, with which you are acquainted. Why is this epithet used? Whence is that simile drawn? How does he manage, in two or three words, to paint an individual, or to indicate a landscape? Your neighbour, who has his reading, and his little stock of literature stowed away in his mind, shall detect more points, allusions, happy touches, indicating not only the prodigious memory and vast learning of this master, but the wonderful industry, the honest, humble previous toil of this great scholar. He reads twenty books to write a sentence; he travels a hundred miles to make a line of description.
  • Macaulay's permanent reputation rests chiefly on his History of England in the reigns of James II and William III, the causes and the course of the English Revolution and the Revolution Settlement as worked out under William. Lord Acton once told me that he considered Macaulay, with all his faults, as the greatest historian.
    • G. M. Trevelyan, 'Greatness of Macaulay', The Times (28 December 1959), p. 7
  • Economic and social history are now so large a part of historical study and writing that it is difficult to remember how new a thing it was in 1848 for Macaulay to introduce social history woven in with the political narrative that could not really be understood without it. His famous Third Chapter on the State of England in 1685 has faults... Nevertheless the Third Chapter was a great new thing in English historiography... After the Third Chapter the narrative gets fairly into swing, and the wonderful story is told how James II in three years turned even Tories into rebels, and the series of events and chances which enabled the Revolution to take place without a civil war. I think this is the greatest piece of historical narrative in our literature.
    • G. M. Trevelyan, 'Greatness of Macaulay', The Times (28 December 1959), p. 7
  • His worst fault was imputing motives, which is always a dangerous game played in the dark. For instance, though he gives the facts of Churchill's part in the Revolution correctly he seems to blame him for turning against James, while everyone else is applauded for doing so. Macaulay was, I think, very much affected by Swift's Tory attacks on Marlborough. Indeed it is not true, as is often said, that he always think the Whigs right and the Tories wrong. He detested the Shaftesbury Whigs at the time of the Popish Plot and the adoption of Monmouth as candidate for the crown. He thinks the Tories were right about the Indemnity Bill of 1689, about the attainder of Fenwick and about making peace "without Spain" at the end of the Marlborough wars. He is perfectly fair to Tory leaders like Danby and Nottingham and gets his prejudice against Marlborough from Tory sources. The path Macaulay trod was no doubt narrow, but it was well in the middle. Although he was a Whig of the Nineteenth Century, for the period in the past about which he wrote he was not a Whig but a Williamite.
    • G. M. Trevelyan, 'Greatness of Macaulay', The Times (28 December 1959), p. 8
  • A new India was born in 1835. The very foundations of her ancient civilization began to rock and sway. Pillar after pillar in the edifice came crashing down.
    • G. D. Trevelyan (a biographer of Macaulay), [Macaulay's Minute on Indian Education was delivered in 1835]. Quoted from Koenraad Elst, The Argumentative Hindu (2012) Chapter 3
edit
 
Wikipedia
Wikipedia has an article about:
 
Wikisource
Wikisource has original works by or about:
 
Commons