And what is this fame? It is not that of a philosophical historian like Guizot, for his History is not marked by profound generalizations, or even thoughtful reflections. He was not a judicial historian like Hallam, seeking to present the truth alone; for he was a partisan, full of party prejudices. Nor was he an historian like Ranke, raking out the hidden facts of a remote period, and unveiling the astute diplomacy of past ages. Macaulay was a great historical painter of the realistic school, whose pictures have never been surpassed, or even equalled, for vividness and interest. In this class of historians he stands out alone and peerless, the most exciting and the most interesting of all the historians who have depicted the manners, the events, and the characters of a former age,—never by any accident dull, but fatiguing, if at all, only by his wealth of illustration and the over-brilliancy of his coloring. He is the Titian of word-painting, and as such will live like that immortal colorist. Critics may say what they please about his rhetoric, about his partial statements, about his want of insight into deep philosophical questions; but as a painter who made his figures stand out on the historical canvas with unique vividness, Macaulay cannot fail to be regarded, as long as the English language is spoken or written, as one of the great masters of literary composition. This was the verdict pronounced by the English nation at large; and its great political and literary leaders expressed and confirmed it, when they gave him fortune and fame, elevated him to the peerage, bestowed on him stars and titles, and buried him with august solemnity among those illustrious men who gave to England its power and glory.
BY RALPH WALDO EMERSON.
Great men are more distinguished by range and extent than by originality. If we require the originality which consists in weaving, like a spider, their web from their own bowels; in finding clay and making bricks and building the house; no great men are original. Nor does valuable originality consist in unlikeness to other men. The hero is in the press of knights and the thick of events; and seeing what men want and sharing their desire, he adds the needful length of sight and of arm to come at the desired point. The greatest genius is the most indebted man. A poet is no rattle-brain, saying what comes uppermost, and, because he says everything, saying at last something good; but a heart in unison with his time and country. There is nothing whimsical and fantastic in his production, but sweet and sad earnest, freighted with the weightiest convictions and pointed with the most determined aim which any man or class knows of in his times.
[Footnote 3: Reprinted from “Representative Men,” by permission of Messrs. HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN, AND CO., publishers of Emerson’s works.]