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FEBRUARY 1, 1852.
ART. I.-Lectures on the History of France. By the Right Honourable Sir JAMES STEPHEN, K.C.B., LL.D., Professor of Modern History in the University of Cambridge. 2 vols. 8vo. London: Longman. 1851.
IN reading Sir James Stephen there is much to remind us of Mr. Macaulay. The points in which they resemble each other are sufficiently observable to render the points in which there is a difference only the more interesting. We may add, too, that something besides the possession of kindred gifts has contributed to place these two names in relationship. The fathers of these gentlemen were public men of great worth, and fast friends; and the sons grew up in habits of intimacy both at home and at college. Mr. Macaulay, with the slight interruption occasioned by his visit to India, has been wedded, as the world knows, all his life to literature. Sir James Stephen, on the other hand, has been occupied until somewhat beyond the meridian of his days in professional or official duties. His powers of labour are prodigious. As Under Secretary for the Colonies, his mastery of all questions relating to the history and state of our colonial empire was such, we suspect, as no second man in the kingdom possessed, and such as scarcely any second man could have acquired. An odd kind of paradise to a man of cultivated genius that world of state-papers must have been! But though divorced from literature comparatively during a great part of life, Sir James has been gradually returning to it for some years past; and the productions which have been the result may assist us in judging as to the success with which he would have occupied this ground, had it been, as in the case of Mr. Macaulay, his only ground. We scarcely need say that
Mr. Macaulay wrote himself into fame as a contributor to the Edinburgh Review. The same may be said of Sir James Stephen. Mr. Macaulay has now withdrawn from periodical literature, and is employing his powers in a walk of authorship more independent and personal. In this respect, also, the two friends have their course in common.
Both writers are remarkable for the extent of their reading. The reading of Mr. Macaulay, from his having been ever either reading or writing, is probably more discursive and extraordinary than that of his distinguished friend. But the writings of Sir James Stephen exhibit him as a man whose tastes have been always disposing him to make excursions into widely diversified fields of authorship. In literature, we find both bringing within their cognizance, and under the power of their analysis, the well-known and the little known, the light and the ponderous-works which weak men would overlook as insignificant, and works on which even the strong look with dismay, because swollen into libraries, the ore that may be in them having its place as in the midst of a continent of material not very pleasant to deal with. In the power of steady and laborious reading we are inclined to give precedence to Sir James. Few would have had patience to read as our author must have read, in order to write as he has written, on Luther, and Calvin, and Baxter; on St. Francis and Loyola; on the Port-Royalists and the Bollandists. Mr. Macaulay would seem to be endowed with a more restless literary activity, with a more intense and ceaseless curiosity about books, and about what may be seen of humanity through the spectacles of books; and with a memory, if report speaks truly, of more wonderful tenacity than can be attributed to Sir James Stephen. But we are, we think, quite safe in saying, that if Sir James has read somewhat less than Mr. Macaulay, he has reflected more. If he has not travelled so far over the surface of history as his learned friend, it is because he has more frequently descended beneath that surface. If he be not so fully versed in all that men have done, it is because he has felt prompted to concern himself with a prior question-the question as to what men That question-the whence and why of humanity-though initself the question of questions, is one with which Mr. Macaulay will hold no parley-no, not for a moment. No enchanter ever kept more resolutely within his circle than does Mr. Macaulay within his boundary-line of the seen and temporal. His own individuality is marked-potent; but there is no conscious subjectivity in him. He lives to the outward, the inward is left to care for itself. His universe of being, past and present, is, for the most part, a universe of pictures. It is nearly all made up of