The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIV. The Victorian Age, Part Two.

II. Historians, Biographers and Political Orators

§ 33. W. N. Molesworth

We come nearer to the present age in The History of England from 1830, first published in 1871–3, by William Nassau Molesworth, vicar of Rochdale and a reformer who dwelt and worked very near the fountain-head. His unpretentious, but lucid, book, justly exercised a wide popular influence. Finally, mention should be made of Sir Spencer Walpole, who, in his History of England from 1815 (1878–86) and its continuation, The History of Twenty-Five Years, 1856 to 1880 (1904–8), showed himself alive to the great value of a clear grouping of events and transactions according to the sides of the national life on which they bear, and of the demonstration thus afforded of the changes in national policy brought about by the progress in the conditions and ideas of successive generations. He repeatedly contrasts this method with the biographical; but he did good work in both kinds of historical composition. His intelligence and clearness of mind, and his freedom from political partisanship, together with his unusually varied administrative experience, fitted him for his chief historical task, which he carried through successfully, though without conspicuous power or brilliancy. His observations on financial problems are marked by special lucidity.