Page:Once a Week, Series 1, Volume II Dec 1859 to June 1860.pdf/74

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January 14, 1860.]



were tempted to overlook his unsoundness just as he was himself tempted to perpetrate it,—by the brilliancy and impetuosity of his conceptions and style. When his History began to appear, we were at first more enraptured than ever: then we wished for more of the repose of the true historical method; and when, by degrees, the inaccuracies were checked, and we observed that we were deprived of references, of dates, and of all the ordinary safeguards and tests of historical narration, we were compelled to regard the work as a romance of history, or eclectic presentment of it; and we lost half our pleasure in losing all our confidence. The effect was apparent in the reception of the second instalment; so that before we were aware of the extent to which the author’s health had failed, we doubted whether he would give us much more of his History. Not the less grieved are we now that it is for ever beyond our reach. No one can take up his work: no one can supply his place. The brightest genius of our time is extinguished; and his unfinished work will be the marvel of successive generations, for its pictures of character and action, its wealth of illustration, and the ingenuity and attractiveness of its speculations.

His oratory was very like his writings. His conversation was even more striking than either, because it evidenced a readiness of power scarcely believed in by those who saw how ill he succeeded in debate. The want was, not in readiness of command of his resources, but in sympathy which would enable him to meet the minds of opponents. He thought somewhat too well of himself, and much too contemptuously of antagonists, to make a successful debater.

Political life was, in fact, not the life for him. He was made for literature, and neither for law nor statesmanship. His splendid promise of thirty years ago issued in a certain amount of party service, in upholding an unpopular Whig administration, while he damaged his own position by fighting the battles of his friends through right and wrong with equal impetuosity. He was a Secretary of State for two years; but his work in the study has put that of the War Office out of sight. His peerage was bestowed when he had quitted political life; and it is therefore regarded as a royal acknowledgment of literary eminence. The case is complicated, however, by his services to successive Whig ministries; and, as it is not the habit of the present reign to honour literature, Lord Macaulay’s title will probably be ascribed, in the long run, to a political origin.

The best friends of literature will, perhaps, be those who thus regard the case. They may, at all events, confidently say that he will be remembered, and celebrated in future, as Macaulay, and not as a peer of the realm. If he had left heirs, his works would have been the most honoured of his offspring, though peers of his name were to sit as legislators for centuries to come. As no one grudged his honours, let no one now misinterpret them. He was favoured, on account of his talents, with early position and independence. He had the world before him to make out a career for himself, without drawback or hindrance. He had every opportunity,—every facility for doing what he would and could. What he did was to achieve a vast fame in literature, while substantially failing otherwise. He won intense and universal admiration; he indeed compelled it: but he did not engage much affection, nor inspire a deep interest, beyond that which always waits upon the working of rare faculties, and the achievement of a magnificent success.

Such was Macaulay. His life, its deeds and successes, rather tend to show the self-supporting and self-vindicating force of literature, than to encourage appeals to the Fountain of Honour and the treasury of recompense for the reward of its success. Macaulay would have been our most brilliant writer if he had never entered aristocratic society, or dreamed of entering either House of Parliament. And no author of any order of genius will be likely to illustrate his age and country, who aims at or desires adventitious honour, or who does not feel in the depth of his heart that literary toil is its own “exceeding great reward.”

I. S.


Some observations that I made on cottage-building, under the title “Home or Hospital,” in the 21st number of Once a Week, have occasioned so many inquiries and remarks, that I feel it right and expedient to adopt a suggestion of one of my correspondents, and relate such facts as I can furnish on the subject of the cost of cottage-building. I cannot explain, nor understand, the statements of some of these applicants as to the cost of good dwellings for labourers; and the wide difference between their estimates and my own experience, and that of several persons who have built cottages in various parts of the country, seems to show that there may be great use, if no great beauty, in a matter-of-fact account of what has been done, and may be done any day.

I have built five Westmoreland cottages, the specifications of which, and the receipted bills for which, lie before me now.

The first was a dwelling for my farm-man and his wife—without children. It was built in conjunction with a wash-house for my own house, and a cow-stable for two cows, with all appurtenances. The cottage consists of two good rooms on the ground-floor, with two large closets—one used as a pantry, and the other containing a bed on occasion. The wash-house has the usual fittings—boiler, pump, and sink, and all conveniences. The cow-stable has stalls for two cows, and a smaller one for a calf: two windows in the walls, and one in the roof: a gutter and drain, joining the one from the cottage, and leading to a manure-tank, which is flagged and cemented so as to be perfectly water-tight, and closed with a moveable stone lid: all the buildings are two feet thick in the walls, which are of the grey stone of the district—mortared in the outer and inner courses, and the cavity filled in with rubble. The cottage kitchen has a range, with an oven; and the bedroom has a fireplace. The cost of this group of buildings was 130l.

The other cottages are, however, more in the way of my inquiring correspondents. The four