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MR. MACAULAY is one of the few men of letters, who succeed in all they attempt. He be- », came first known to the public as the writer of the most brilliant series of papers which have ever appeared in the Edinburgh Review. He was brought into the House of Commons, and there became conspicuous for the eloquence of his speeches, and the copious erudition with which he illustrated every subject on which he spoke. His ballads of Ivry and the Armada, showed poetical ability, and a great command of the characteristic rhythms of the English language. The Lays of Ancient Rome, founded upon an exact appreciation of the historical researches of Niebuhr, exhibit also a keen perception of the true character of ancient ballad poetry, and a
wonderful power to express the ideas that belong to it, under modern forms. These Lays, ever since their first appearance, have held one of the highest places in the popular estimation: and their position in English literature may be considered as permanently fixed. There are many, probably, who will not go so far as Macaulay, in adopting the views of Niebuhr and his school, with regard to the history of the Kings of Rome.
A reaction has already commenced against the : historical scepticism for which German scholarship has been celebrated. Wolf's Homeric theory must be abandoned as untenable, in the present state of philological investigation. The existence of numerous popular ballads, however, before the Iliad and Odyssey, embodying the traditions and legends which the great Ionian poet made the basis of his Epics, must still be admitted. The outlines of the early history of Rome, will probably be restored to their place in the common belief : but criticism has proved beyond any reasonable doubt that many of the details so picturesquely narrated by Livy, are the creation of ballad-singers,
working out the popular legends upon a ground. plan of truth.
These legends Mr. Macaulay has employed with extraordinary skill and power. He has produced a series of Lays which will live as long as Roman History shall be read, and the heroic spirit of the genuine epic ballad shall stir the soul of the reader like the sound of a trumpet.
To these various claims to public admiration, Mr. Macaulay has still added the honors of a most successful writer of History. In this grave department of literature, he combines with the fervid imagination which makes him the most picturesque of narrators, a capacity for laborious research scarcely inferior to that of Gibbon. He clothes the past with the freshness and life of the present, and makes political history not only profoundly instructive, but as entertaining and attractive as the best of romances.
C. C. F.
CAMBRIDGE, JUNE, 1856.