1871 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Babington Macaulay

S. C. Hall, "Lord Macaulay" in A Book of Memories: Great Men and Women of the Age, from personal Acquaintance (1871) 360.



I knew as little of THOMAS BABINGTON MACAULAY as I did of Henry Hallam: my intercourse with the great critic and historian was limited to one visit while he resided at the Albany, Piccadilly. I had tendered to him some information concerning the scene of the Battle of the Boyne; and he wrote to me a gracious letter asking me to call upon him. During a long conversation that ensued I was impressed — as all who ever saw him were — by his marvellous power to obtain, that he might communicate, facts. Although his scrutiny of the Boyne Water had been but for a few hours, he seemed to know really more of it than I did, and could have imparted on the subject more to me than I could have given to him. I said as much, and deemed an apology necessary for my offered help. I do not forget the exceeding earnestness and courtesy with which he thanked me, making reference to one incident that had not been previously within his knowledge.

He was born in 1800, died on the 28th of December, 1859, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. It was a grand throng of British worthies that accompanied his remains to their grave.

My remembrance of him is that of a man of middle size and robust, "stout on his limbs;" his features were not remarkable for any peculiar or strong expression; his head was good, but not intellectually grand. No doubt he owed much to the retentive memory he is said to have possessed. Harriet Martineau writes, "Before his retirement from the House of Commons in 1856" (he was elevated to the peerage in 1857), "he was the mere wreck of his former self; his eye was deep sunk and often dim, his full face was wrinkled and haggard, his fatigue in utterance was obviously very great, and the tremulousness of limb and feature melancholy to behold."