“Who now reads Bolingbroke?” Burke asked, thus casually, irrevocably, consigning him to the ash-heap of history. So the modern historian may be tempted to ask, “Who now reads Macaulay?” Who, that is, except those who have a professional stake in him—professional in a very special sense, not historians who might be expected to have an interest in one of their most illustrious predecessors, but only those who happen to be writing treatises or monographs on him. In fact, most professional historians have long since given up reading Macaulay, as they have given up writing the kind of history Macaulay wrote.

Yet there was a time when anyone with any pretension to cultivation read Macaulay. It is often said that he was so widely read because he was so brilliant a stylist, so readable. This should not be taken to mean that he was easy to read, a “good read,” as the...


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