Scholar among Rakes: Macaulay Communes across the Generations
Stove, R. J., The American Conservative
Macaulay--or, to give him his full name and peerage, Thomas Babington Macaulay, first Baron Macaulay--died a century and a half ago. No historian has aroused a greater range of emotions, from deep love to wild hate. The deep love became evident in his own day, when his History of England and his numerous essay collections achieved a commercial success now associated with supermarket tabloids and Oprah-endorsed chick-lit. He was evidently well-liked by both of his chief biographers, namely, his nephew G.O. Trevelyan, whose Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay appeared in 1876, and his spiritual heir Sir Arthur Bryant, whose admiring, though intermittently censorious, single-volume Macaulay dates from 1932. Throughout the former British Empire, schoolteachers long accorded Macaulay's name a reverence that is today confined to Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela. Even Ignatius Reilly, the ferociously anti-Protestant hero of John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces, quotes with approval the Protestant Macaulay.
This firm admiration exists alongside equally firm detraction. After Macaulay's death, Matthew Arnold, never one to stand idly by when there was a mindless slogan in need of publicizing or a literary reputation impudent enough to arise without his help, called Macaulay "the great apostle of the Philistines." In 1931, Sir Herbert Butterfield, who differed from Arnold in having a genuine philosophical impulse, devoted his renowned pamphlet The Whig Interpretation of History to criticizing triumphalist historical narratives in general, and by implication Macaulay's own. Yet Butterfield always paid Macaulay's outlook the compliment of serious argument. Very different was the personal vendetta waged against Macaulay in the same decade by Winston …
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Publication information: Article title: Scholar among Rakes: Macaulay Communes across the Generations. Contributors: Stove, R. J. - Author. Magazine title: The American Conservative. Volume: 8. Issue: 15 Publication date: December 2009. Page number: 45+. © 2009 The American Conservative LLC. COPYRIGHT 2009 Gale Group.
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