In this essay, Wilfred Heeley reviews
Macaulay’s A History of England,
from the accession of James the Second
, published a year
earlier. Heeley begins by contrasting his own thoughts with those of other
reviewers, who criticized Macaulay for factual mistakes: “those
jealous critics who, pained by the reflection that the author knows
infinitely more than they do, set about restoring their peace of mind by
proving that, after all, he is not omniscient” (173). But Heeley’s
essay, unlike most of the reviews in The Oxford and Cambridge
Magazine, is still a negative one. Rather than
criticizing Macaulay’s factual inaccuracies, Heeley finds fault with his
“rhetorical power, uncontrolled by reverence” (176). Macaulay,
he argues, distorts the truth in order to balance his sentences with
rhetorically pleasing antitheses, or misrepresents historical figures in
favor of superlative statements like “the most accomplished man in
Europe” (177). Heeley is particularly offended by Macaulay’s lack of sympathy with certain historical figures, and his harsh treatment of men like Pope and Marlborough.
In the course of this criticism, Heeley nicely summarizes one of the central
tenets of the Morris Brotherhood’s
theory of art, that it should be used for the “bettering of
our moral nature” (176), not just the pleasing of the senses.
Heeley also reviewed, more favorably than he did Macaulay,
James Anthony Froude’s History of England
for the June issue of the Magazine.
First printed in
The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine
, March, 1856.