1862 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Babington Macaulay

Thomas Arnold, in A Manual of English Literature (1862; 1885) 474-75.



Thomas Babington Macaulay, son of Zachary Macaulay, a noted abolitionist, and of the daughter of an English quaker, was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge. Bred to the bar, he passed early into the political arena; but he found that the want of a settled independence, was injurious to him; he wished also to make a provision for his family; and in spite of the charms of London society, in which he — perhaps the most brilliant talker of our day — was so well fitted to excel, he accepted a seat in the Council of India, and resided at Calcutta between 1833 and 1838. Returning then to England with a competent fortune, he was returned to the House ofCommons as member for Edinburgh, and joined the ministry of Lord Melbourne, as Secretary for War, in 1839. His spirited Lays of Rome appeared in 1842. Before and after this date he was a frequent contributor to the Edinburgh Review and his articles, collected and republished in 1843, under the name of Essays, have ever since, enjoyed, in a most marked degree, the favour of the reading public. Of Macaulay's History of England the first two volumes appeared in 1848; the third and fourth in 1855; the fifth volume was published soon after his death in 1859. For this work also the demand has been, and is, immense both in England and America. Macaulay is an incomparable master of the historic style; and it may be safely asserted that no person of average faculties, who once began to reader a volume of his History, ever felt tempted to lay it aside.