Category Archives: Macaulay, Thomas Babington

Dalrymple pricks the pompous

Screen Shot 2013-05-07 at 02.15.06Discussing ‘destructive reviews’, Dalrymple cites Macaulay’s verdict on Edward Nares’s three-volume 1828 work Memoirs of the Life and Administration of the Right Honourable William Cecil, Lord Burghley.

Macaulay stated in his review:

Compared with the labour of reading through these volumes, all other labour, the labour of thieves on the treadmill, of children in factories, of negroes in sugar plantations, is an agreeable recreation.

But Dalrymple shows that he himself is capable of producing a ‘destructive review’ that matches Macaulay in its wit:

Once…I read a short work by a famous man who claimed to have written it in three days, no doubt to impress us with the fecundity of his genius.

I said that I was surprised it took him that long.

This, incidentally, gave rise to anger:

He replied with the fury of the self-important eminent who regard criticism of others in much the same way as summer holidaymakers in the north of Scotland regard the attention of the midges, that is to say very, very annoying but not dangerous.

It is surprising how thin-skinned the eminent can be.

The lost joys of bear-baiting

Dalrymple believes Macaulay was only partly right when he said the Puritans objected to the sport

not because it gave pain to the bear but because it gave pleasure to the spectators.

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