HAWTHORNE, MACAULAY, AND MRS. STOWE
From the Boston Traveller.
Now that Mrs. Beecher Stowe is receiving so many compliments, we wonder that no one has reproduced what Lord Macaulay once wrote of her chief work, almost 30 years since. As no other person has quoted it, so far as we know, here it is, taken from his diary, Oct. 4, 1852: "I finished 'Uncle Tom's Cabin,' a powerful and disagreeable book; too dark and Spagnoletto-like for my taste, when considered as a work of art. But on the whole, it is the most valuable addition that America has made to English literature." The extent of this praise is best understood when we bear in mind that the great critic thus wrote about a year and a half after the appearance of "The House of the Seven Gables," by Hawthorne, and more than two years and a half after the publication of "The Scarlet Letter," works that are as much superior to "Uncle Tom's Cabin" as that is superior to "The Dairyman's Daughter." "The Scarlet Letter" has no superior in the language, and its equals are to be found only in one or two of Shakespeare's plays and in as many of Scott's novels. As Lord Macaulay read everything, and as he had a special interest in and fondness for novels and romances, we must suppose that he had read both the works of Hawthorne we have named. It appears that Mr. Hawthorne did not become acquainted with Macaulay, though he resided in England some years; and he saw him but once, at a breakfast given by Mr. Milnes, (now Lord Houghton,) in the Summer of 1856. In his "English Note-books" he says: "All through breakfast I had been more and more impressed by the aspect of one of the guests, sitting near to Milnes. He was a man of large presence—a portly personage, gray-haired, but scarcely as yet aged; and his face had a remarkable intelligence, not vivid nor sparkling, but conjoined with great quietude—and if it gleamed or brightened at one time more than another, it was like the sheen over a broad surface of sea. There was a somewhat careless self-possession, large and broad enough to be called dignity; and the most I looked at him, the more I knew that he was a distinguished person, and wondered who he was. He might have been a Minister of State; only there is not one of them who has any right to such a face and presence. At last—I do not know how the conviction came, but—I became aware that it was Macaulay, and began to see some slight resemblance to his portraits. But I have never seen any that is not wretchedly unworthy of the original. As soon as I knew him I began to listen to his conversation, but he did not talk a great deal—contrary to his unusual custom, for I am told he is apt to engross all the talk to himself. Probably he may have been restrained by the presence of Ticknor and Mr. Palfrey, who were among his auditors and interlocutors, and as the conversation seemed to turn much on American subjects, he could not well have assumed to talk them down. I am glad to have seen him—a face fit for a scholar, a man or the world, a cultivated intelligence." Macaulay was then in the closing part of his fifty-sixth year, and he died in less than four years. His portraits indicated—as we have heard assertions to the same effect by person who have seen him—that he was a handsomer man in the decline of life than he had been in his youth. In 1856, all his history that he lived to publish, personally, had been some time before the world. Hawthorne saw him when he was at the height of fame and fortune. The two men died at about the same age—the Englishman early in his sixtieth year, (1859,) and the American late in his sixtieth year, (1864.)