Sunny Memories Of Foreign Lands - Volume 2 - By Harriet Beecher Stowe




































































































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Macaulay is about fifty. He has never married; yet there are
unmistakable evidences in the breathings and aspects of the - Page 2
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Macaulay Is About Fifty.

He has never married; yet there are unmistakable evidences in the breathings and aspects of the family circle by whom he was surrounded, that the social part is not wanting in his conformation.

Some very charming young lady relatives seemed to think quite as much of their gifted uncle as you might have done had he been yours.

Macaulay is celebrated as a conversationalist; and, like Coleridge, Carlyle, and almost every one who enjoys this reputation, he has sometimes been accused of not allowing people their fair share in conversation. This might prove an objection, possibly, to those who wish to talk; but as I greatly prefer to hear, it would prove none to me. I must say, however, that on this occasion the matter was quite equitably managed. There were, I should think, some twenty or thirty at the breakfast table, and the conversation formed itself into little eddies of two or three around the table, now and then welling out into a great bay of general discourse. I was seated between Macaulay and Milman, and must confess I was a little embarrassed at times, because I wanted to hear what they were both saying at the same time. However, by the use of the faculty by which you play a piano with both hands, I got on very comfortably.

Milman's appearance is quite striking; tall, stooping, with a keen black eye and perfectly white hair - a singular and poetic contrast. He began upon architecture and Westminster Abbey - a subject to which I am always awake. I told him I had not yet seen Westminster; for I was now busy in seeing life and the present, and by and by I meant to go there and see death and the past.

Milman was for many years dean of Westminster, and kindly offered me his services, to indoctrinate me into its antiquities.

Macaulay made some suggestive remarks on cathedrals generally. I said that I thought it singular that we so seldom knew who were the architects that designed these great buildings; that they appeared to me the most sublime efforts of human genius.

He said that all the cathedrals of Europe were undoubtedly the result of one or two minds; that they rose into existence very nearly contemporaneously, and were built by travelling companies of masons, under the direction of some systematic organization. Perhaps you knew all this before, but I did not; and so it struck me as a glorious idea. And if it is not the true account of the origin of cathedrals, it certainly ought to be; and, as our old grandmother used to say, "I'm going to believe it."

Looking around the table, and seeing how every body seemed to be enjoying themselves, I said to Macaulay, that these breakfast parties were a novelty to me; that we never had them in America, but that I thought them the most delightful form of social life.

He seized upon the idea, as he often does, and turned it playfully inside out, and shook it on all sides, just as one might play with the lustres of a chandelier - to see them glitter. He expatiated on the merits of breakfast parties as compared with all other parties. He said dinner parties are mere formalities. You invite a man to dinner because you _must_ invite him; because you are acquainted with his grandfather, or it is proper you should; but you invite a man to breakfast because you want to see _him_. You may be sure, if you are invited to breakfast, there is something agreeable about you. This idea struck me as very sensible; and we all, generally having the fact before our eyes that _we_ were invited to breakfast, approved the sentiment.

"Yes," said Macaulay, "depend upon it; if a man is a bore he never gets an invitation to breakfast."

"Rather hard on the poor bores," said a lady.

"Particularly," said Macaulay, laughing, "as bores are usually the most irreproachable of human beings. Did you ever hear a bore complained of when they did not say that he was the best fellow in the world? For my part, if I wanted to get a guardian for a family of defenceless orphans, I should inquire for the greatest bore in the vicinity. I should know that he would be a man of unblemished honor and integrity."

The conversation now went on to Milton and Shakspeare. Macaulay made one remark that gentlemen are always making, and that is, that there is very little characteristic difference between Shakspeare's women. Well, there is no hope for that matter; so long as men are not women they will think so. In general they lump together Miranda, Juliet, Desdemona, and Viola,

"As matter too soft a lasting mark to bear, And best distinguished as black, brown, or fair."

It took Mrs. Jameson to set this matter forth in her Characteristics of Women; a book for which Shakspeare, if he could get up, ought to make her his best bow, especially as there are fine things ascribed to him there, which, I dare say, he never thought of, careless fellow that he was! But, I take it, every true painter, poet, and artist is in some sense so far a prophet that his utterances convey more to other minds than he himself knows; so that, doubtless, should all the old masters rise from the dead, they might be edified by what posterity has found in their works.

Some how or other, we found ourselves next talking about Sidney Smith; and it was very pleasant to me, recalling the evenings when your father has read and we have laughed over him, to hear him spoken of as a living existence, by one who had known him. Still, I have always had a quarrel with Sidney, for the wicked use to which he put his wit, in abusing good old Dr. Carey, and the missionaries in India; nay, in some places he even stooped to be spiteful and vulgar.

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