THOMAS BABINGTON MACAULAY (1800–59) ET AL.

A Future London (1840)

Below is an extract from Macaulay’s review of Leopold von Ranke’s The Ecclesiastical and Political History of the Popes during the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries [Die römische Papste], trans. S. Austin, 3 vols. (London, 1840). Compare this with the letter provided from Horace Walpole, and the lines from Barbauld’s poem which depict a youth from Ontario visiting a now-ruined London. Both extracts are also provided on this page.

T. B. Macaulay (1858)

‘And she [the Roman Catholic Church] may still exist in undiminished vigour when some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Paul’s.’

[This image was illustrated by Gustave Doré in his London (1872).]

Letter of Horace Walpole, 24 November 1774, Letters, ed. Sir Horace Mann

‘The next Augustan age will dawn on the other side of the Atlantic. There will, perhaps, be a Thucydides at Boston, a Xenophon at New York, and, in time, a Virgil at Mexico, and a Newton at Peru. At last some curious traveller from Lima will visit England, and give a description of the ruins of St. Paul’s, like the editions of Balbec and Palmyra; but am I not prophesying, contrary to my consummate prudence, and casting horoscopes of empires like Rousseau? Yes. Well, I will go an dream of my visions.’

Extract from Anna Laetitia Aikin [Barbauld], Eighteen Hundred and Eleven (1812)

But who their mingled feelings shall pursue
When London’s faded glories rise to view?
The mighty city, which by every road,
In floods of people poured itself abroad;
Ungirt by walls, irregularly great,
No jealous drawbridge, and no closing gate;
Whose merchants (such the state which commerce brings)
Sent forth their mandates to dependent kings;
Streets, where the turban’d Moslem, bearded Jew,
And woolly Afric, met the brown Hindu;
Where through each vein spontaneous plenty flowed,
Where Wealth enjoyed, and Charity bestowed.
Pensive and thoughtful shall the wanderers greet
Each splendid square, and still, untrodden street;
Or of some crumbling turret, mined by time,
The broken stairs with perilous step shall climb,
Thence stretch their view the wide horizon round,
By scattered hamlets trace its ancient bound,

And, choked no more with fleets, fair Thames survey
Through reeds and sedge pursue his idle way.

Last modified, 18-Jan-2002 .
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