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Paul MacRae
Instructor in writing

Affiliation with UVic English: Faculty; M.A., 20005

Special Book: Critical and Historical Essays , Thomas B. Macaulay (1800-1859)

When did you first read this book: 2005


Which sentence from this book has special significance for you?

In his lengthy essay on Sir Francis Bacon, Macaulay writes: “To make men perfect was no part of Bacon’s plan. His humble aim was to make imperfect men comfortable. … In Plato’s opinion, man was made for philosophy; in Bacon’s opinion philosophy was made for man; it was a means to an end; and that end was to increase the pleasures and to mitigate the pains of millions who are not and cannot be philosophers. … The aim of the Platonic philosophy was to raise us far above vulgar wants. The aim of the Baconian philosophy was to supply our vulgar wants.”

What does the sentence mean to you?

Macaulay’s Critical and Historical Essays are, sadly, neglected in English Departments today, but C&HE was one of three books in most American homes in the 1800s. The, others were the Bible and Shakespeare. In other words, Macaulay’s influence on his time and ours, in moving us toward a liberal, progressive, optimistic humanism, is greater than is generally acknowledged.