Macaulay's English

Harper's Magazine

It seems strange that hitherto there has been no serious attempt made to analyze the peculiar charm of Macaulay's English, which, when carefully compared with that of any other great writer of his own country, will be found to differ from it strikingly in texture, leaving aside the style, arrangement, and matter of the narrative. Taine, indeed, one of Macaulay's most ardent admirers, throws out a very clever hint on the subject, but it is only a hint. He says that Macaulay, while displaying in his writings many mental and moral qualities which mark him out to the French mind as being essentially English, at the same time exhibits such animation, clearness, etc., of style that Englishmen see in him a French mind. Now there is no doubt that Macaulay's English, in its clearness, correctness, and delicacy, resembles the best French compositions, but it is more than probable that this resemblance arises not from imitation of French models, but from the fact that Macaulay alone, of all the eminent English authors of his time, not only studied carefully and assiduously the great classical writers, whom Frenchmen, the leaders of the Latin race, have so often imitated with slavish reverence, but also studied the genius and grammatical structure of the English language with the same enthusiastic devotion that the French alone among the nations of Europe bestow on their native tongue. In his composition he handles every sentence with a tender, affectionate touch, which Taine recognized as peculiarly French.

Those who have read Trevelyan's "Life of Macaulay" will recollect with what care he toiled over his composition, writing and rewriting again and again whole episodes in the History.

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