decorated initial 'J' ohn Clive corrects many late-twenteth-century mischaracterizations of Macaulay as a man who "is at present so often condemned and dismissed as cocksure, arrogant, and insensitive, a sort of human counterpart to the Great Exhibition." In the early part of his career he had to find a way to repair the family fortunes destroyed by his well-meaning abolitionist father, Zacharay Macaulay, earning enough money to keep a roof over his family's head. He rose quickly in periodical journalism and politics, and at first he found himself a little impressed by his good fortune in what he described tongue-in-cheek in being invited to "a dinner party including various members of the nobility — 'Listen and be proud of your connection with one who is admitted to eat and drink in the same room with beings so exalted.'" But soon found himself unimpressed and unchanged by his success, and when he was elevated to the peerage as Baron Macaulay of Rothley in 1857

this considerable change of status seems to have left few marks, beyond a possibly excessive awareness of the fact that it had left few marks. As early as 1833, Macaulay called himself "the only parvenu I ever heard of, who, after being courted into splendid circles, and after having succeeded beyond expectation in political life, acquired in a few months profound contempt for rank, fashion, popularity, and money — for all pleasures in short but those which arise from the exercie of the intellect and the affections." Even then, fresh from his oratorical triumphs in the Reform Bill debates, this was on the whole an accurate self-appraisal. Many years later, he recalled that: "there was a time when I was half ashamed of being related to vulgar people. That was when I was fighting my way against all sorts of difficulties. Now it is quite different." . . . Neither money nor social positions, his own or other people's, ever became fundamentally important to him. [221]

His levelheadedness and lack of snobbery are one of many good points of this attractive, appealing person.


Clive, John. "English Cliographers" in Not By Fact Alone: Essays on the Writing and Reading of History. Alfred A. Knopf: New York, 1989.

Last modified 2000