J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

Subscribe thru Follow.it


Thursday, January 12, 2023

Catharine Macaulay “just returned from a Journey to Paris”

Today, after a gap of more than four months, I’m picking up the story of the British author Catharine Macaulay.

To catch us up, I’ll quote Macaulay’s own letter to the Earl of Buchan dated 23 Feb 1778:
The favor of your Lordship’s letter found me just returned from a Journey to Paris where I resided a few weeks for the recovery of my health after a long and dangerous illness.
Macaulay had gained the strength to undertake that journey only after Dr. James Graham had provided her with “a judicious mixture of the Bark” to treat her “Billious intermitting Autumnal fever,” as I quoted here. The doctor’s sister Elizabeth Arnold was Macaulay’s traveling companion.

Both Macaulay and Lord Buchan supported the American cause. France had just become a formal ally of the U.S. of A., and Macaulay wrote:
I have the pleasure to inform your Lordship that sentiments of liberty which are as you observe lost in these united Kingdoms never flourished in a larger extent or with more vigorous animating force than they do at present in France.
That reflected the Enlightenment circles that Macaulay visited since France was, after all, still a less democratic regime than Britain.

The author also told the earl: “I have this month published a vol of the history of England from the revolution to the resignation of Sir Robert Walpole.” That was the first volume of a never-completed set titled The History of England from the Revolution to the Present Time in a Series of Letters to a Friend. It was less formal than Macaulay’s earlier histories.

The “Friend” was the Rev. Dr. Thomas Wilson—Macaulay’s patron, host, and unrequited suitor in Bath. A portrait of Wilson with Macaulay’s daughter set me off on the author’s story last May. That daughter, Catherine Sophia, was “at a Boarding School at Chelsea” when her mother wrote to Lord Buchan; she would turn thirteen the next day. 

TOMORROW: The Wilkesite view.

No comments: