A couple of days ago I mentioned lengthy titles and subtitles, a style now vanished. I was reminded of a favorite takedown of a long-winded writer by Thomas Macaulay (no stranger to length himself), in a review of a book on Lord Burghley, Elizabeth's chief minister for decades, by the unfortunate Rev. Edward Nares. Macaulay writes:
The work of Dr. Nares has filled us with the astonishment similar to that which Captain Lemuel Gulliver felt when he first landed in Brobdignag, and saw corn as high as the oaks in the New Forest, thimbles as large as buckets, and wrens of the bulk of turkeys. The whole book, and every component part of it, is on a gigantic scale. The title is as long as an ordinary preface; the prefatory matter would furnish out an ordinary book; and the book contains as much reading as an ordinary library.
Compared to the labour of reading through these volumes, all other labour, the labour of thieves on the treadmill, of children in factories, of negroes in sugar plantations, is agreeable recreation.
He goes on from there, destroying in detail once the ground is softened up with rhetoric, and Dr. Nares, no doubt, never showed his face again.
Macaulay is also irritated with Nares for his extoling of Burghley's moral virtue, and his account of a politic and wily minister amid the shifting sands of the Reformation can't be bettered:
He never deserted his friends till it was very inconvenient to stand by them, was an excellent Protestant when it was not very advantageous to be a Papist, recommended a tolerant policy to his msitress as strongly as he could recommend it without hazarding her favour, never put to the rack any person from whom it did not seem probable that useful information could be derived, and was so moderate in his desires that he left only three hundred distinct landed estates, though he might...have left much more.
For a politician, this is virtue. The rest of the essay is a delicate anatomizing of the perils of the period, and of how the Tudors ruled, "a popular government, under the forms of despotism". Nares is forgotten, as the ostensible reasons for Macaulay's essays so often are, except for a last smack when Macaulay says he must stop, lest his essay
...swell to a bulk exceeding that of other reviews, as much as Dr. Nares's book exceeds the bulk of all other histories."