Thomas Babington Macaulay : Literary Contribution

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      His Life : Thomas Babington Macaulay was born in Leicestershire, his father being Zachary Macaulay, the earnest upholder of negro emancipation. Macaulay was educated privately, and then at Cambridge. From his infancy he was remarkable for his precocity and his prodigious memory. At Cambridge he twice won the Chancellor's Medal for English verse, and in 1824 he was made a Fellow of Trinity College. The collapse of his father's business led him to study law, and he was called to the Bar in 1826. At first he contributed to Knight's Quarterly Magazine, but later he began writing his famous essays for The Edinburgh Review. Having entered Parliament as a Whig (1830), a very promising political career seemed to be opening before him when he accepted a lucrative legal post in India. He was in India for four years; then, returning to England, he re-entered political life, and became in turn Secretary of State for War and Paymaster-General of the Forces. In 1857 he was raised to the peerage, and died when he was still busy with his History.

Macaulay was nearly all written early in his career, and most of it is included in his Lays of Ancient Rome (1842). In style the Poems resemble the narrative poems of Scott, and in subject they are based upon the legends of early Rome, the best-known dealing with the story of Horatius.
Thomas Babington Macaulay

      His Poetry : Macaulay was nearly all written early in his career, and most of it is included in his Lays of Ancient Rome (1842). In style the Poems resemble the narrative poems of Scott, and in subject they are based upon the legends of early Rome, the best-known dealing with the story of Horatius. His verse is virile stuff, moving with vigour and assurance, and is full of action and colour. Like his prose, however, it is hard and brassy, and quite lacking in the softer qualities of melody and sweetness and in the rich suggestiveness of the early ballad. It is not great poetry, but it will always be popular with those who like plenty of action and little contemplation.

      His Prose Works : Before he left for India Macaulay had written twenty-two essays tor The Edinburgh Review; he added three during his stay in India, and finished eleven others after he returned to England. With the five biographies that he contributed to The Encyclopadia Britannica, these include all his shorter prose works. The essays are of two kinds-those dealing with literary subjects, such as those on Milton, Byron, and Bunyan, and the historical studies, including the famous compositions on Warren Hastings and Lord Clive. His method of essay-writing was as follows: he brought under review a set of volumes that had already been published on the subject, then, after a survey, long or short as the case might be, of these volumes, gave his own views at great length. His opinions were often one-sided, and his great parade of knowledge was often flawed with actual error or distorted by his craving for antithesis and epigram; but the essays are clearly and ably written, and they disclose an eye for picturesque effect that in places is almost barbaric.

      His History of England, the first two volumes of which were published in 1849, was unfinished at his death. After two preliminary volumes, it vegan with the Whig revolution of 1688, and Macaulay intended to carry the story down to his own time. But he managed to compass within the four completed volumes only the events of a few years. His historical treatment is marked by the following features: (a) There are numerous, and picturesque details, which retard his narrative while they add to the general interest. (b) The desire for brilliant effect resulted in a hard, self-confident manner, and in a lack of broader outlines and deeper views. These defects have deprived his History of much of its permanent value. (c) To this he added such a partiality for the Whig point of view that his statements, though they are always interesting and illuminating, are generally distrusted as statements of fact. To sum up, he said, " shall not be satisfied unless I produce something which shall for a few days supersede the last fashionable novel on the tables of young ladies." He had full reason to be satisfied; his book had a instant and enormous success, which, however, has been. followed by distrust and neglect.

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