Famous Reviews eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 560 pages of information about Famous Reviews.
in some degree disguise a somewhat declamatory and pretentious dogmatism.  It may seem too epigrammatic, but it is, in our serious judgment, strictly true, to say that his History seems to be a kind of combination and exaggeration of the peculiarities of all his former efforts.  It is as full of political prejudice and partisan advocacy as any of his parliamentary speeches.  It makes the facts of English History as fabulous as his Lays do those of Roman tradition; and it is written with as captious, as dogmatical, and as cynical a spirit as the bitterest of his Reviews.  That upon so serious an undertaking he has lavished uncommon exertion, is not to be doubted; nor can any one during the first reading escape the entrainement of his picturesque, vivid, and pregnant execution:  but we have fairly stated the impression left on ourselves by a more calm and leisurely perusal.  We have been so long the opponents of the political party to which Mr. Macaulay belongs that we welcomed the prospect of again meeting him on the neutral ground of literature.  We are of that class of Tories—­Protestant Tories, as they were called—­that have no sympathy with the Jacobites.  We are as strongly convinced as Mr. Macaulay can be of the necessity of the Revolution of 1688—­of the general prudence and expediency of the steps taken by our Whig and Tory ancestors of the Convention Parliament, and of the happiness, for a century and a half, of the constitutional results.  We were, therefore, not without hope that at least in these two volumes, almost entirely occupied with the progress and accomplishment of that Revolution, we might without any sacrifice of our political feelings enjoy unalloyed the pleasures reasonably to be expected from Mr. Macaulay’s high powers both of research and illustration.  That hope has been deceived:  Mr. Macaulay’s historical narrative is poisoned with a rancour more violent than even the passions of the time; and the literary qualities of the work, though in some respects very remarkable, are far from redeeming its substantial defects.  There is hardly a page—­ we speak literally, hardly a page—­that does not contain something objectionable either in substance or in colour:  and the whole of the brilliant and at first captivating narrative is perceived on examination to be impregnated to a really marvellous degree with bad taste, bad feeling, and, we are under the painful necessity of adding—­bad faith.

These are grave charges:  but we make them in sincerity, and we think that we shall be able to prove them; and if, here or hereafter, we should seem to our readers to use harsher terms than good taste might approve, we beg in excuse to plead that it is impossible to fix one’s attention on, and to transcribe large portions of a work, without being in some degree infected with its spirit; and Mr. Macaulay’s pages, whatever may be their other characteristics, are as copious a repertorium of vituperative eloquence as, we believe, our language can produce, and especially against everything in which he chooses (whether right or wrong) to recognise the shibboleth of Toryism.  We shall endeavour, however, in the expression of our opinions, to remember the respect we owe to our readers and to Mr. Macaulay’s general character and standing in the world of letters, rather than the provocations and examples of the volumes immediately before us.

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