1849 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Babington Macaulay

John Gibson Lockhart to John Wilson Croker, 12 January 1849; The Croker Papers, ed. Louis J. Jennings (1884) 2:387.



January 12th, 1849.

If you could do it [Macaulay's History of England] pure justice, nothing more is wanted to give the author sufficient pain. He has written some very brilliant essays — very transparent in artifice, and I suspect not over honest in scope and management, but he has written no history; and he has, I believe, committed himself ingeniously in two or three points, which, fitly exposed, would confound him a good deal, and check his breeze from El Dorado. Chiefly, his bitter hatred of the Church of England all through is evident; it is, I think, the only very strong feeling in the book; and his depreciation of the station and character of the clergy of Charles II. and James II. to-day is but a symptom.

Then his treatment of the Whig criminals Sidney and Russell, is very shabby, and might be awfully shown up by merely a few quotations from the State trials and Barillon.

You will tell me by-and-bye what you think of this. I own that I read the book with breathless interest, in spite of occasional indignations, but I am now reading Grote's new volume of his "History of Greece," and, upon my word, I find the contrast of his calm, stately, tranquil narrative very soothing. In short, I doubt if Macaulay's book will go down as a standard addition to our historical library, though it must always keep a high place among the specimens of English rhetoric.

Ever yours,

J. G. L.