The Ruins of the Future: Macaulay’s New Zealander and the Spirit of the Age

  • Robert Dingley


In early April 1997 it became clear that 18 years of Conservative government in Britain were about to end in the forthcoming general election. The Tory press, accordingly, in the final weeks of the protracted campaign, made a last effort to minimise the impending catastrophe. As successive members of John Major’s accident-prone government were pilloried in the tabloids for sexual or financial misconduct, The Daily Telegraph tried desperately to stem the torrent of ‘sleaze’, and Stephen Glover’s editorial for Friday 4 April even conjured up the spirit of Trollope, ‘a vigorous critic of overmighty newspapers’, who had deplored the unwholesome influence of The Times in his early, unpublished analysis of English society, The New Zealander. Trollope’s title, Glover went on,

was borrowed from an essay by Macaulay, who imagined a New Zealander visiting London in the future, and surveying the ruins of our civilisation. If Trollope could be that man, I fancy his former disapprobation of The Times would turn first to incredulity and then to apoplexy were he confronted by our newspapers.1


Daily Telegraph Poetical Work Successive Member Impending Catastrophe Grim Reaper 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 2.
    Thomas Babington Macaulay, Essays and Lays of Ancient Rome (London: Longmans, 1889), p. 548.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Braddon, Aurora Floyd, ed. P. D. Edwards (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), p. 27.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Hawley Smart, Bound to Win: a Tale of the Turf (London: Chapman and Hall, 1877), vol. 3, pp. 235–6.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    Anthony Trollope, The New Zealander, ed. N. John Hall (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972), p. 211.Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    M. L. C., The New-Zealander on London Bridge; or Moral Ruins of the Modern Babylon (London: Tinsley, 1878), p. 1.Google Scholar
  6. 13.
    Gustave Doré and Blanchard Jerrold, London (London: David and Charles, 1971), p. 190.Google Scholar
  7. 14.
    James Thomson, The Speedy Extinction of Evil and Misery: Selected Prose, ed. William David Schaefer (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967), p. 200.Google Scholar
  8. 15.
    See Macaulay, Miscellaneous Writings and Speeches (London: Longmans, 1889), pp. 101–2, 178.Google Scholar
  9. 16.
    See W. Colenso, Three Literary Papers Read Before the Hawke’s Bay Philosophical Institute During the Session of 1882 (Napier, NZ: Daily Telegraph Office, 1883), pp. 36–41.Google Scholar
  10. 17.
    See Anna Laetitia Barbauld, Eighteen Hundred and Eleven, introd. Arthur Bennett (Warrington: ‘Sunrise’ Publishing Company, 1911). Yet another controversy on the origin of the New Zealander erupted on the Red Page of the Sydney Bulletin in 1898. On 18 June Victor Daley, writing under his usual pseudonym of ‘Creeve Roe’, recalled having, years ago, been struck by the resemblance between Macaulay’s image and a passage in Kirke White’s Time (see Bulletin, vol. 19, no. 957). On 9 July, E. Wilson Dobbs, J. K. Murdoch and ‘G. McA.’ all responded by citing between them all of the other usual suspects (Bulletin, vol. 19, no. 960).Google Scholar
  11. 18.
    The most comprehensive factual account is still Rose Macaulay, The Pleasure of Ruins (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1953); among more recent treatments, see especially Jean Starobinski’s provocative remarks in his The Invention of Liberty, trans. Bernard C. Swift (New York: Rizzoli, 1987), pp. 179–87.Google Scholar
  12. 19.
    Thomas Love Peacock, Novels, ed. David Garnett (London: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1948), p. 609.Google Scholar
  13. 20.
    The Poems of Gray, Collins and Goldsmith, ed. Roger Lonsdale (London: Longmans, 1969), p. 264.Google Scholar
  14. 21.
    Horace Walpole, Correspondence, Yale Edition, ed. W. S. Lewis, vol. 24 (London: Oxford University Press, 1967), p. 62.Google Scholar
  15. 22.
    For a good general account of cyclical historiography, see Isaiah Berlin, Vico and Herder: Two Studies in the History of Ideas (London: Hogarth Press, 1976), pp. 64–7.Google Scholar
  16. 23.
    The first English translation of Volney (1792) had gone through 12 editions by 1804, and there was a second translation, dedicated to Jefferson, in 1802 (see Jean Gaulmier, L’Idéologue Volney 1757–1820: Contribution à l’histoire d’orientalisme en France [1951; Geneva and Paris: Slatkine Reprints, 1980], p. 237). E. P. Thompson notes that the The Ruins enjoyed wide circulation among artisan readers (The Making of the English Working Class [Harmonds-worth: Penguin Books, 1968], pp. 107–8), and even Frankenstein’s Monster owes to Volney his impressive grasp of world history.Google Scholar
  17. 25.
    William Gaunt, Bandits in a Landscape: a Study of Romantic Painting from Caravaggio to Delacroix (London: The Studio, 1937), p. 110.Google Scholar
  18. 28.
    For Gandy’s painting, see Brian Lukacher, ‘Gandy’s Dream Revisited’, Joseph Michael Gandy (1771–1843) (London: Architectural Association, 1982), p. 9; Rose Macaulay, The Pleasure of Ruins, pl. 8. The ruined Bank of England features in at least one later vision of a devastated London: George Augustus Sala, in an 1852 Household Words essay, imagines a time ‘when the race of this huge London World-City shall be run’ and wonders what ‘the “Imperial New Zealand Society of Antiquaries”’ will make of the Bank’s ‘broken columns’ (seeGoogle Scholar
  19. Sala, Gaslight and Daylight, With Some London Scenes They Shine Upon [1859; London: Tinsley, 1872], pp. 68–9).Google Scholar
  20. 34.
    Quoted in William Keach, ‘A Regency Prophecy and the End of Anna Barbauld’s Career’, Studies in Romanticism, 33 (1994), 570. For illuminating further discussion of Barbauld’s poem and its hostile reception, see Keach, ‘Barbauld, Romanticism, and the Survival of Dissent’, and Josephine McDonagh, ‘Barbauld’s Domestic Economy’, both in Romanticism and Gender, ed. Anne Janowitz, Essays and Studies 1998 (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1998), pp. 44–61, 62–77;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. James Chandler, England in 1819: the Politics of Literary Culture and the Case of Romantic Historicism (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1998), pp. 114–20.Google Scholar
  22. 35.
    For an excellent discussion of Shelley’s politics in Peter Bell the Third, see P. M. S. Dawson, The Unacknowledged Legislator: Shelley and Politics (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980), pp. 196–203.Google Scholar
  23. 36.
    Percy Bysshe Shelley, Complete Poetical Works, ed. Thomas Hutchinson (London: Oxford University Press, 1927), p. 354.Google Scholar
  24. 40.
    Mary Shelley, The Last Man, ed. Hugh J. Luke, Jr (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1965), p. 336.Google Scholar
  25. 41.
    Ibid., p. 337. For an outstanding treatment of the Last Man theme, see Fiona J. Stafford, The Last of the Race: the Growth of a Myth from Milton to Darwin (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994), and for an informative treatment of early nineteenth-century apocalyptic literature generally, seeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. I. F. Clarke, The Pattern of Expectation 1644–2001 (London: Jonathan Cape, 1979), pp. 35–61.Google Scholar
  27. 42.
    For an admirably detailed account of the rehabilitation of St Paul’s in the nineteenth century, see Stephen Daniels, Fields of Vision: Landscape Imagery and National Identity in England and the United States (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), pp. 11–42.Google Scholar
  28. 43.
    Quoted in full in Guy Davenport, The Geography of the Imagination: Forty Essays (London: Pan Books, 1984), p. 280.Google Scholar
  29. 44.
    For the theory that successive empires have undergone a westward migration, see Robert Dixon, The Course of Empire: Neoclassical Culture in New South Wales 1788–1860 (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1986), pp. 2–3; this section of the chapter is generally indebted to Dixon’s excellent study.Google Scholar
  30. 50.
    William Charles Wentworth, Australasia, ed. G. A. Wilkes (Sydney: Department of English, University of Sydney, 1982), p. 22.Google Scholar
  31. 52.
    Brunton Stephens, Poetical Works (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1912), p. 182.Google Scholar
  32. 54.
    James Anthony Froude, Oceana, or, England and her Colonies (1886; London: Longmans, 1888), pp. 236–7.Google Scholar
  33. 55.
    R. A. K. Mason, Collected Poems (Christchurch, NZ: The Pegasus Press, 1971), p. 40.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Dingley

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations