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IN THE NEWS
TOUR OF THE MONTH
ON THIS DAY IN LONDON
Thomas B Macaulay lived here
This is where child prodigy and popular historian lived.
Location: 50 Great Ormond Street, London
Description: This is the house where Thomas Macaulay and family resided from 1823 to 1829 (the family stayed on until 1831 when he took chambers in Gray's Inn).
Thomas Macaulay was an English Whig lawyer, politician, essayist, poet and popular historian, but he was also something of a child prodigy having written a universal history by the time he was 8.
It was a large rambling house, at the corner of Powis Place, and was said to have been the residence of Lord Chancellor Thurlow at the time when the Great Seal was stolen from his custody.
Here is an excerpt from From Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay by Sir George Otto Trevelyan:
Those were to me, says Lady
Trevelyan, years of intense happiness. There might be money troubles, but they did not touch us. Our lives were passed after a fashion which would seem indeed strange to the present generation. My father, ever more and more engrossed in one object, gradually gave up all society; and my mother never could endure it. We had friends, of course, with whom we stayed out for months together; and we dined with the Wilberforces, the Buxtons, Sir Robert Inglis, and others; but what is now meant by 'society' was utterly unknown to us.
In the morning there was some pretence of work and study. In the afternoon your uncle always took my sister Margaret and myself a long walk. We traversed every part of the City, Islington, Clerkenwell, and the Parks, returning just in time for a six o'clock dinner. What anecdotes he used to pour out about every street, and square, and court, and alley! There are many places I never pass without 'the tender grace of a day that is dead' coming back to me. Then, after dinner, he always walked up and down the drawing-room between us chatting till tea-time. Our noisy mirth, his wretched puns, so many a minute, so many an hour! Then we sang, none of us having any voices, and he, if possible, least of all; but still the old nursery songs were set to music, and chanted. My father, sitting at his own table, used to look up occasionally, and push back his spectacles, and, I dare say, wonder in his heart how we could so waste our time. After tea the book then in reading was produced. Your uncle very seldom read aloud himself of an evening, but walked about listening, and commenting, and drinking water.
The Sundays were in some respects trying days to him. My father's habit was to read a long sermon to us all in the afternoon, and again after evening service another long sermon was read at prayer-time to the servants. Our doors were open to sons of relations or friends; and cousins who were medical students, or clerks in merchants' houses, came in regularly to partake of our Sunday dinner and sermons. Sunday walking, for walking's sake, was never allowed; and even going to a distant church was discouraged. When in Cadogan Place, we always crossed the Five Fields, where Belgrave Square now stands, to hear Dr. Thorpe at the Lock Chapel, and bring him home to dine with us.
From Great Ormond Street, we attended St. John's Chapel in Bedford Row, then served by Daniel Wilson, afterwards Bishop of Calcutta. He was succeeded in 1826 by the Rev. Baptist Noel. Your uncle generally went to church with us in the morning, and latterly formed the habit of walking out of town, alone or with a friend, in the after part of the day. I never heard that my father took any notice of this; and, indeed, in the interior of his own family, he never attempted in the smallest degree to check his son in his mode of life, or in the expression of his opinions.
I believe that breakfast was the pleasantest part of the day to my father. His spirits were then at their best, and he was most disposed to general conversation. He delighted in discussing the newspaper with his son, and lingered over the table long after the meal was finished. On this account he felt it extremely when, in the year 1829, your uncle went to live in chambers, and often said to my mother that the change had taken the brightness out of his day. Though your uncle generally dined with us, yet my father was tired by the evening, so that the breakfast hour was a grievous loss to him, as indeed it was to us all. Truly he was to old and young alike the sunshine of our home; and I believe that no one, who did not know him there, ever knew him in his most brilliant, witty, and fertile vein.
That home was never more cheerful than during the eight years which followed the close of Macaulay's college life. There had been much quiet happiness at Clapham, and much in Cadogan Place; but it was round the house in Great Ormond Street that the dearest associations gathered. More than forty years afterwards, when Lady Trevelyan was dying, she had herself driven to the spot, as the last drive she ever took, and sat silent in her carriage for many minutes with her eyes fixed upon those well-known walls.