Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Charles Williams on Thomas Babington Macaulay


        “Macaulay’s own controversial habits were finer; he fought the mind with the mind, and he never used insults instead of argument . . . He arranged with the editors of the Edinburgh [Review] to be paid for his articles, while he was away, not in money but in books.  He bought and read books on India -- and (as always) on everything else . . . his resources were the reserves of his mind and the preserves of his books.  He read the Iliad and Odyssey, Virgil, Horace, Caesar’s Commentaries, Bacon’s De Argumentis, Dante, Petrarch, Ariosto, Tasso, Don Quixote, Gibbon’s Rome, Mill’s India, all the seventy volumes of Voltaire, Sismondi’s History of France, and the seven thick folio volumes of the Biographia Britannica . . .
         In 1849 he was going to Ireland.  Between London and Bangor he had read the lives of the Roman emperors, but on the boat at night he could not see to read.  There was magnificent starlight; he sat on deck and repeated to himself Paradise Lost.  ‘I could still repeat half of it, and that the best half.  I really never enjoyed it so much.’  When Macaulay is remembered for blame, that scene should be remembered also to his honour; the short stocky figure, wrapped in a greatcoat, sitting alone on deck under the gory of the stars, and abandoning himself to the unutterable other glory of the most sublime verse English genius has ever made.” 

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