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Thomas Babbington Macaulay

Thomas Babbington Macaulay lived from 1800 to 1859. He went to school in Little Shelford. He was a poet, historian and Whig politician. He wrote extensively as an essayist and reviewer and on British History. He was also the Secretary at war between 1839 and 1841 and Paymaster General between 1846 and 1848.

"At eight Macaulay had been sent from his home in Clapham to a select boarding school at Little Shelford run by an evangelical fellow called Preston. When Macaulay, feeling homesick, wrote home unfavourably about the people of Shelford, Zachary urged the 8 year old to set about reforming them." From The Literary History of Cambridge by Graham Pearson.

Thomas Babington Macaulay was at the school from 1812 and even at the tender age of 12 and 13 he wrote extensively. His biography includes many letters written when he was at the School in Little Shelford.

We also know that Rev Preston, who founded the school, was a strong evangelical, and a friend of Isaac Milner a mathematician, inventor and the President of Queens' College, Cambridge. Milner was instrumental in the 1785 religious conversion of William Wilberforce and was a great supporter of the abolitionists' campaign against the slave trade. Milner was also one of the chief representatives of the Little Shelford school and recognised Macaulay's talent even at that young age and based on his letters it appears Milner became something of a mentor to Macaulay. Macauley even mentions in his diaries travelling from Little Shelford to spend a day with Milner and Wilberforce.

There are some lovely insights in the letters written by Macaulay while at school in Little Shelford. On February 22nd 1813 he wrote to his father: “My room is a delightful snug little chamber which nobody can enter as there is a trick about opening the door. I sit like a king with my writing desk before me for would you believe it, there is a writing desk in my chest of drawers. My books on one side, my box of papers on the other with my arm chair and my candle. For every boy has a candlestick, snuffers and extinguisher of his own”. To get more insights on the school you can read “The Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay, Volume 1” by George Otto Trevelyan on Google Books where it is freely available. 


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