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Miscellaneous Writings and Speeches — Volume 2 by Baron Thomas Babington Macaulay Macaulay
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commensurate with the period during which a great revolution in
the public taste was effected; and in that revolution he played
the part of Cromwell. By unscrupulously taking the lead in its
wildest excesses, he obtained the absolute guidance of it. By
trampling on laws, he acquired the authority of a legislator. By
signalising himself as the most daring and irreverent of rebels,
he raised himself to the dignity of a recognised prince. He
commenced his career by the most frantic outrages. He terminated
it in the repose of established sovereignty,--the author of a new
code, the root of a new dynasty.

Of Dryden, however, as of almost every man who has been
distinguished either in the literary or in the political world,
it may be said that the course which he pursued, and the effect
which he produced, depended less on his personal qualities than
on the circumstances in which he was placed. Those who have read
history with discrimination know the fallacy of those panegyrics
and invectives which represent individuals as effecting great
moral and intellectual revolutions, subverting established
systems, and imprinting a new character on their age. The
difference between one man and another is by no means so great as
the superstitious crowd supposes. But the same feelings which in
ancient Rome produced the apotheosis of a popular emperor, and in
modern Rome the canonisation of a devout prelate, lead men to
cherish an illusion which furnishes them with something to adore.
By a law of association, from the operation of which even minds
the most strictly regulated by reason are not wholly exempt,
misery disposes us to hatred, and happiness to love, although
there may be no person to whom our misery or our happiness can be
ascribed. The peevishness of an invalid vents itself even on
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