This classic text first appeared in 1842, and consists of a collection of narrative poems, or lays, composed by Thomas Babington Macaulay when he was in India (1834-1838). Four of these recount heroic episodes from early Roman history with strong dramatic and tragic themes, giving the collection its name. Macaulay also included two poems inspired by more recent history. The Roman ballads are preceded by brief introductions, discussing the legends from a scholarly perspective. Macaulay explains that his intention was to write poems resembling those that might have been sung in ancient times.
Thomas Babington Macaulay, 1st Baron Macaulay (1800-1859) was a British historian and Whig politician. He wrote extensively as an essayist and reviewer; his books on British history have been hailed as literary masterpieces. Although trained as a lawyer (and called to the Bar), he pursued a career as a politician. He went to India in 1834, and served on the Supreme Council of India between 1834 and 1838. He never married, but was particularly fond of his 2 sisters and his niece. His main passion was classical literature, both Greek and Latin, and his knowledge of these was encyclopaedic.
Our book is a particularly handsome copy, bound in olive-green cloth with extensive decoration in gilt and black on the front cover and spine, and with all page edges gilded. Although not particularly large, it is quite heavy, and the cover edges are bevelled. There are some signs of shelf wear - a little softness at top & bottom of the spine, some bumping of corners - but the only frank damage is at the top R/H corner (see photo). Inside, the deep green endpapers are clean apart from one small mark on the front endpaper; the bookbinder's label (Simpson & Renshaw) is inside the back cover. A previous owner's name is neatly ink-written on the page preceding the half-title page. A full-page frontispiece is protected by an intact tissue guard. The binding is firm, and all pages are clean and bright. The 41 illustrations are by J. R. Weguelin (an English artist specialising in pictures of Roman civilisation), some full-page, and others placed within the text of the poems. A very handsome copy of a classic text.