Books: Victorian Bust

MACAULAY: THE SHAPING OF THE HISTORIAN by JOHN CLIVE 499 pages. Alfred A. Knopf. $15.

Thomas De Quincey's mother, who ought to have known one when she saw one, called the infant Thomas Babington Macaulay a "baby genius." From the age of three, "Clever Tom" was a compulsive reader whose idea of a wild childhood game was to act out Homer, reserving for himself the role of Achilles. At six, the future author of the five-volume History of England was at work on a compendium of world history.

Prodigies are seldom lovable, and Macaulay...

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