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could fancy any one watching them, and being conscious of their daily little changes; the events are picturesque variations; the unity is a unity of political painting, of represented external form. It is evident how suitable this is to a writer whose understanding is solid, whose sense is political, whose fancy is fine and delineative.
To this merit of Macaulay is to be added another. No one describes so well what we may call the spectacle of a character. The art of delineating character by protracted description is one which grows in spite of the critics. In vain is it alleged that the character should be shown dramatically; that it should be illustrated by events; that it should be exhibited in its actions. The truth is, that these homilies are excellent, but incomplete; true, but out of season. There is a utility in unseen portrait, as Lord Stanhope says there is in painted. Goethe used to observe, that in society, in a tête-à-tête rather, you often thought of your companion as if he was his portrait: you were silent; you did not care what he said ; but you considered him as a picture, as a whole, especially as regards yourself and your relations towards him. You require something of the same kind in literature : some description of a man is clearly necessary as an introduction to the story of his life and actions. But more than this is wanted; you require to have the object placed before you as a whole, to have the characteristic traits mentioned, the delicate qualities drawn out, the firm features gently depicted. As the practice which Goethe hints at is, of all others, the most favourable to a just and calm judgment of character, so the literary substitute seems required as a steadying element, as a summary, to bring together and give a unity to our views. We must see the man's face. Without it, we seem to have heard a great deal about the person, but not to have known him; to be aware that he had done a good deal, but to have no settled, inbred, ineradicable notion what manner of man he was who did them. This is the reason why critics like Macaulay, who sneer at the practice when estimating the works of others, yet practise it at great length and with great skill when they come to be historians themselves. The kind of characters whom Macaulay can describe is limited - at least we think so— by the bounds which we indicated just now. There are some men whom he is too impassive to comprehend; but he can always tells us of such as he does comprehend, what they looked like, and what they
A great deal of this vividness Macaulay of course owes to his style. Of its effectiveness there can be no doubt; its agreeability no one who has just been reading it is likely to deny,
Yet it has a defect. It is not, as Bishop Butler would have expressed it, such a style as " is suitable to such a being as man, in such a world as the present one.” It is too omniscient. Every thing is too plain. All is clear; nothing is doubtful. Instead of probability being, as the great thinker expressed it, “the very guide of life,” it has become a rare exception-an uncommon phenomenon. You rarely come across any thing which is not decided ; and when you do come across it, you seem to wonder that the positiveness, which has accomplished so much, should have been unwilling to decide any thing. This is hardly the style for history. The data of historical narratives, especially of modern histories, are a heap of confusion. No one can tell where they lie, or where they do not lie; what is in them, or what is not in them. Literature is called the “fragment of fragments;" so little has been written, and so little of that little has been preserved. So is history a vestige of vestiges ; few facts leave any trace of themselves, any witness of their occurrence; of fewer still is that witness preserved ; a slight track is all any thing leaves, and the confusion of life, the tumult of change sweeps even that away in a moment. It is not possible that these data can be very fertile in certainties. Few people would make any thing of them: a memoir here, a Ms. there-two letters in a magazine- an assertion by a person whose veracity is denied,—these are the sort of evidence out of which a flowing narrative is to be educed-of course, it ought not to be too flowing. “If you please, sir, to tell me what you do not know," was the inquiry of a humble pupil addressed to a great man of science. It would have been a relief to the readers of Macaulay if he had shown a little the outside of uncertainties, which there must be—the gradations of doubt, which there ought to be—the singular accumulation of difficulties, which must beset the extraction of a very easy narrative from very confused materials.
This defect in style is, indeed, indicative of a defect in understanding. Mr. Macaulay's mind is eminently gifted, but there is a want of graduation in it. He has a fine eye for probabilities, a clear perception of evidence, a shrewd guess at missing links of fact; but each probability seems to him a certainty, each piece of evidence conclusive, each analogy exact. The heavy Scotch intellect is a little prone to this: one figures it as a heap of formulæ, and if fact b is reducible to formula B, that is all which it regards; the mathematical mill grinds with equal energy at flour perfect and imperfect-at matter which is quite certain, and at matter which is only a little probable. But the great cause of this error is, an abstinence from practical action. Life is a school
of probability. In the writings of every man of patient practi. cality, in the midst of whatever other defects, you will find a careful appreciation of the degrees of likelihood ; a steady balancing of them one against another; a disinclination to make things too clear, to overlook the debit side of the account in mere contemplation of the enormousness of the credit. The reason is obvious : action is a business of risk; the real question is the magnitude of that risk. Failure is ever impending; success is ever uncertain; there is always, in the very best affairs, a slight probability of the first, a contingent possibility of the non-occurrence of the second. For practical men, the problem ever is to test the amount of these inevitable probabilities; to make sure that no one increases too far; that by a well-varied choice the number of risks may in itself be a protection—be an insurance to you, as it were, against the capricious result of any
A man like Macaulay, who stands aloof from life, is not so instructed; he sits secure: nothing happens in his study; he does not care to test probabilities; he loses the detective sensation.
Mr. Macaulay's so-called inaccuracy is likewise a phase of this defect. Considering the enormous advantages which a picturesque style gives to ill-disposed critics; the number of points of investigation which it suggests; the number of assertions it makes, sentence by sentence; the number of ill-disposed critics that there are in the world; considering Mr. Macaulay's position, -set on a hill to be spied at by them,
he can scarcely be thought an inaccurate historian. Considering all things, they have found few certain blunders, hardly any direct mistakes. Every sentence of his style requires minute knowledge; the vivid picture has a hundred details ; each of those details must have an evi. dence, an authority, a proof. A historian like Hume passes easily over a period; his chart is large; if he gets the conspicuous headlands, the large harbours, duly marked, he does not care. Macaulay puts in the depth of each wave, every remarkable rock, every tree on the shore. Nothing gives a critic so great an advantage. It is difficult to do this for a volume; simple for a page. It is
easy to select a particular event, and learn all which any one can know about it; examine Macaulay's descriptions, say he is wrong, that X is not buried where he asserts, that a little boy was one year older than he states. But how would the critic manage, if he had to work out all this for a million facts, for a whole period ? Few men, we suspect, would be able to make so few errors of simple and provable fact. On the other hand, few men would arouse a sleepy critic by such startling assertion. If he finds a new theory, he states it as a fact. Very likely it really is the most probable theory; at any rate, we know of no
this is wrong.
case in which his theory is not one among the most plausible. If it had only been so stated, it would have been well received. His view of Marlborough's character, for instance, is a specious one; it has a good deal of evidence, a large amount of real probability, but it has scarcely more. Marlborough may have been as bad as is said, but we can hardly be sure of it at this time.
Macaulay's "party-spirit is another consequence of his posi. tiveness. When he inclines to a side, he inclines to it too much. His opinions are a shade too strong ; his predilections some degrees at least too warm. William is too perfect, James too im. perfect. The Whigs are a trifle like angels; the Tories like, let
“our inferiors." Yet this is evidently an honest partyspirit. It does not lurk in the corners of sentences, it is not insinuated without being alleged; it does not, like the unfairness of Hume, secrete itself so subtly in the turns of the words, that when you turn to prove it, it is gone. On the contrary, it rushes into broad day. William is loaded with panegyric; James is always spoken evil of. Hume's is the artful pleading of a hired advocate; Macaulay's the bold eulogy of a sincere friend. As far as effect goes,
The very earnestness of the affection leads to a reaction; we are tired of having William called the "just ;" we cannot believe so many pages ; "all that can scarcely be correct. As we said before, if the historian's preference for persons and party had been duly tempered and mitigated, if the probably good were only said to be probably good, if the rather bad were only alleged to be rather bad, the reader would have been convinced, and the historian escaped the savage censure of envious critics.
The one thing which detracts from the pleasure of reading these volumes, is the doubt whether they should have been written. Should not these great powers be reserved for great periods ? Is this abounding, picturesque style, suited for continuous history ? Are small men to be so largely described ? Should not admirable delineation be kept for admirable people? We think so. You do not want Raphael to paint sign-posts, or Palladio to build dirt-pies. Much of history is necessarily of little value-the superficies of circumstance, the scum of events. It is very well to have it described, indeed you must have it described ; the chain must be kept complete; the narrative of a country's fortunes will not allow of breaks or gaps. Yet all things need not be done equally well. The life of a great painter is short. Even the industry of Macaulay will not complete this history. It is a pity to spend such powers on such events. It would have been better to have some new volumes of essays solely on great men and great things. The diffuseness of the style would have been then in place; we could have borne to hear the
smallest minutiæ of magnificent epochs. If an inferior hand had executed the connecting-links, our notions would have acquired an insensible perspective; the best works of the great artist, the best themes, would have stood out from the canvas. They are now confused by the equal brilliancy of the adjacent inferiorities.
Much more might be said on this narrative. As it will be read for very many years, it will employ the critics for many years.
It would be unkind to make all the best observations. Something, as Mr. Disraeli said in a budget-speech, something should be left for “ future statements of this nature.” There will be an opportunity. Whatsoever those who come after may find to say against this book, it will be, and remain, the “ Pictorial History of England.”
ART. V.-CONVERSATION AND POETRY OF ROGERS.
Recollections of the Table-Talk of Samuel Rogers. London, Edward
Moxon, 1856. The Poetical Works of Samuel Rogers. London, Edward Moxon,
1853. THERE has been much talk of a consolidation of the statutes; when shall we have a consolidation of Whig anecdotes ? A Holland-House Joe Miller, bringing up all the dinner-talk of that party to the present date, is greatly needed. Such a work, forming a general body of reference, from which moreover it should be as fatal to quote as from the old body of English wit comprised in the original of that name, would constitute at once a valuable repertory of amusement and a much-needed barrier against boredom. At present Whig wit is in much the same state as English common law, it must be gathered from a mass of independent reports; and the novelty and parentage of a joke is as laborious a thing to ascertain as the truth and authority of a position in law. Let the thing be done thoroughly and once for all; let us have the remaining two volumes of Mr. Moore's diary; print two more, if it is absolutely necessary; publish all his invitations to dinner, with copies of the answers; put in his butcher's bill; furnish more full details about Bessy's accouchements; ransack the drawers of every Whig nobleman and distinguished literary character of liberal principles ; exhaust the memory of all dowager duchesses and diners-out; invite all the filial spirits who