The first and second Georges were mere puppets in their hands. Within the limits of their court, these sovereigns were encouraged to do as they pleased, but they were never suffered to take part in the actual conduct of the state. If the old phalanx of Whigs had held together, they might have despised their assailants. But when Burke entered political life, the great Whig party, which included most of the great territorial families, had split into sections.
What may be called the Edition: current; Page: [  ] legitimate section of the party, that which had for several years been under the leadership of a member of the house of Pelham, had degenerated into a remnant, or as it was called in coarse old political English, a Rump. A fourth section, that which could have lent overwhelming weight to either of the others, and had from Edition: orig; Page: [ xiv ] to constituted the strength of the legitimate section, but which, standing by itself, was the weakest, was composed of the followers of the popular war minister, Lord Chatham.
Such divisions were naturally the one thing needful to give effect to a policy of aggression on the part of the court. It was the first, which we have called the legitimate section of the party, then headed by the Marquis of Rockingham, into which Burke happened to be thrown.
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The sympathies of readers of the present day will probably be divided, as the sympathies of the mass of the people at the time were probably divided, between this party and that which lay under the influence of Chatham. Chatham, with the legitimate Whigs at his back, had been a brilliant, a popular, and a successful minister. But Chatham was no Whig at heart. His powerful influence was of a personal nature, and he despised Whiggism. The best men, by this system, were excluded from the highest offices. The chief arts which recommended to these were private deceit and public corruption.
The whipper-in of an old premier, being an influential peer or near relative of an influential peer, had a right to expect the premiership in his turn. His business was to study the temper of the House of Commons, and to lead it by the nose; to cajole or intimidate the monarch, and to drain the Treasury to enrich his friends, supporters and parasites. It was not likely that under such a system statesmanship could rise to a very high level. Chatham became gradually weary of the supremacy of men whose title to power lay outside their personal capabilities. It was a signal failure, and was probably the most miserable administration that England has ever seen.
The consequences were disastrous. The Whigs went over to it in bodies, America was lost, and England was brought to the verge of Revolution. The principal historical thread which runs through the Edition: current; Page: [  ] present volume is that of this contest between the King and the Whigs.
Edition: orig; Page: [ xv ] The King fought his battle manfully, held each position, as it yielded to him, tenaciously, and gained his victory—though ingloriously. It would have been otherwise had America been compelled to submission. But America and Reform were the sacrifices made to secure his success. A dispassionate critic might possibly sympathise with him in this struggle for what many would regard as his natural rights. He bribed; he bullied; he darkly dissembled on occasion; he exercised a slippery perseverance, which one almost admires, as one thinks his character over.
His courage was never to be beat. It trampled North under foot; it beat the stiff neck of the younger Pitt; even his illness never conquered that indomitable spirit. Corruption, in fact, was the only weapon with which to combat corruption. The chief point for the student to observe is, that all his measures were innovations, attacks on existing interests, and reforms more or less impolitic and mischievous. The setting up of Lord Bute was intended as a reform. The sham Chatham cabinet, however, was at bottom the boldest innovation, and if Townshend had carried out, as he probably would had he lived, the idea of parcelling out America into Royal Governments, the foundation would have been laid of a reform which, supposing a little less public spirit than actually existed among the upper classes, might have ended in reducing England to the model of contemporary continental governments.
The taxation of America was the Edition: current; Page: [  ] thin end of the wedge, and it was a happy thing for England and the world that it was so heroically resisted. The experiment of a ministry headed by a favourite was a conspicuous failure: but the succeeding administrations were an apprenticeship in kingcraft, and with Lord North as an instrument, the King appears, if not a finished master, at least as something better than a bungler.
Like most monarchs by hereditary title, he was totally unfitted to direct the policy Edition: orig; Page: [ xvi ] of his country. He was, however, a fair specimen of the active and popular monarch. Modelling himself, not on those who preceded him, but on the noblemen by whom he was surrounded, he devoted such talents as he had to the duties which he conceived to claim them, and he was rewarded by a full measure of popularity. The impression he left on the hearts of the nation, an index not without its value, comes nearer than any other we could mention to that left by the great Queen Elizabeth.
He was certainly not more ignorant or prejudiced than the bulk of his subjects. Where he erred, he erred with the nation. The reaction against the Whigs, which ended in their practical extinction, was a national reaction. The American War was favoured by pampered national pride, and its great failure was a national lesson. The topics of Whiggism in do not in themselves greatly stir the reader of history. Some of them were stale, others worn to rags. Years before the terrible spectre of a Double Cabinet arose to confound the Whigs and alarm the Edition: current; Page: [  ] susceptibilities of a free nation, statesmen were pretty well agreed as to the meaning of Parliamentary independence.
The whole nation, writes Pulteney to Swift, is so abandoned and corrupt, that the Crown can never fail of a majority in both Houses of Parliament. The precarious nature of the Whig domination, for which Burke contends as earnestly as for some elementary principle of morals, had long been known. Their fall, under changed circumstances, was imminent. Edition: orig; Page: [ xvii ] Chesterfield said that until he read that tract he did not know what the English language was capable of.
It contains nothing specially of a Tory nature in its arguments, and is in fact a piece of the purest Whiggism. Modern liberalism has a creed which differs Edition: current; Page: [  ] widely from either. Bolingbroke had no hopes except from a liberal monarch. Burke rested his system upon an oligarchy of liberal noblemen and landowners. We can now, thanks to the diffusion of wealth and education, appeal securely to a liberal people. How shall we reconcile all this with the reputation which Burke justly enjoys of being himself a great reformer, and the father of the present generation of reformers?
The fact is, that liberalism has always rested upon the positions which it has won, and that the same man may often be fairly regarded in two aspects. An early employment of his pen was to ridicule, by imitation, the Irish democrat Lucas. Another was to expose in a similar way the all-unsettling speculations of Bolingbroke.
Johnson bore a remarkable testimony Edition: orig; Page: [ xviii ] to the nature of these early principles. He hated the party in which his friend had found himself by accident, and confirmed himself by consideration; and he charged Burke with selling himself, and acting contrarily to his convictions. It is certain that Burke never thought he was deserting any principle of his own, in joining the Rockinghams. He had an old and most respectable Edition: current; Page: [  ] connexion to support, and a new and disreputable one to oppose; and his party were at the time devoted to opposing certain most impolitic innovations.
Hazlitt has observed a remarkable anticipation of the political method of Burke in a speech of the Earl of Egmont, 14 a nobleman of remarkable originality and capacity who had been the head of opposition to Dodington in the court of Leicester House. Sir, it is not common sense, but downright madness, to follow general principles in this wild manner, without limitation or reserve; and give me leave to say one thing, which I hope will be long remembered and well thought upon by those who hear me, that those gentlemen who plume themselves upon their open and extensive understanding, are in fact the men of the narrowest principles in the kingdom.
For what is a narrow mind? And pray, what is that understanding that looks upon naturalization only in this general view, that naturalization is an increase of the people, and an increase of the people is the riches of the nation? Never admitting the least reflection, what the people are you let in upon us; how in the present bad regulation Edition: orig; Page: [ xix ] of our police, they are to be employed or maintained; how their principles, opinions, or practice may influence the religion or politicks of the State, or what operation their admission may have upon the peace and tranquillity of the country; is not such a genius equally contemptible and narrow with that of the poorest mortal upon earth, who grovels for his whole life within the verge of the opposite extreme?
It is not difficult to trace this anti-theoretical and conservative method in the works before us, written whilst Burke was labouring on the Whig side. Never did the spirit of conservatism appear more plainly than in the two famous Speeches contained in the present volume, which he composed, delivered, and wrote out for the press on two important occasions in the debates before the war actually broke out. The view of Montesquieu, Blackstone, and De Lolme was not yet treated, as it came to be treated in the succeeding generation, as a plausible romance. But the false picture of a supposed Saxon constitution was constantly held up to view by reformers, in contrast with that which subsisted.
This picture Burke treated with the slight regard it deserved. But these are themselves historical. It is well known that every title in the House of Lords was anciently, if not elective, intended to represent local interests. The Lords represented themselves, and those who stood in the relation of homage to them. The Knights of the Shires and Burgesses represented themselves, and those freemen who, being in homage with no man, would otherwise have had no voice in the national deliberations.
The People deliberating and making laws, and the King controlling by his negative; the King deliberating and making choice of ministers, and the People having the control of their negative by refusing to support them. Here, he says in effect, I lay before you the established rights of the nation; and here, too, is the system by which these rights have always been carried into effect. That system has been Edition: orig; Page: [ xxi ] deranged by an interested and wicked faction, and we claim to have it restored; because it is not only the best possible, but the only possible system by which these rights can be secured.
Possession, he said in one of his writings, passed with him for title. This was in a particular case; but where interests were large, and meddling with them would be hazardous, it became his general maxim. The Whig oligarchy, according to this convenient theory, had an established title to govern the kingdom. And rotten and incongruous as was the parliamentary system through which alone their influence could be maintained, none was to disturb it.
A Ministry accountable to Parliament, and a Parliament accountable to the People, are plausible demands, and they are Edition: current; Page: [  ] demands which a happier generation has realised.
But the consequences of a considerable majority for a single Whig minister, as in the palmy days of Walpole, were a ministry accountable to no one, and a parliament forced on the people whether they liked it or no. Radical reform, as between the two, was as far off as ever, and the Whig opposed it with the most bitterness. A slight concussion might destroy that of his rival, and hence the strongholds of Whiggism were guarded with great jealousy and vigilance. The Whig, in short, was a true Conservative. The cry for radical reform is usually supported by some plausible Edition: orig; Page: [ xxii ] general maxim.
Conservatism is averse from the employment of abstract principles in political reasoning, and in general to what metaphysicians call the philosophical method. It is a matter of observation and of practice, and its laws are those of individual human nature enlarged. Abstract principles, like most things, have their use and their abuse: and the confusion of these has been a main difficulty to the thinking world. To the use of them we owe all our systems, and the effect of our systems, of religion, of law, and of education. All great changes for the better have been produced by engrafting upon the growing understanding of mankind, not bare statements of facts, but generalisations based on facts past and present, and proceeding transitively to other facts present and future.
But while these principles in their use have been to civilisation as the dew and the rain, in their abuse they have been a mildew and a pestilence. What they have nourished they have the Edition: current; Page: [  ] power to corrupt and to destroy. As an instance of an abstract principle often misapplied, let us take that which asserts the cheapest government to be the best. He did not agree with some writers, that that mode of government is necessarily the best which is the cheapest.
He saw in the construction of society other principles at work, and other capabilities of fulfilling the desires and perfecting the nature of man, besides those of securing the equal enjoyment of the means of animal life, and doing this at as little expense as possible. He thought that the wants and happiness of man were not to be provided for as we provide for those of a herd of cattle, merely by attending to their physical necessities.
He thought more nobly of his fellows. He knew that man had his affections, and passions, and powers of imagination, as well as hunger and thirst, and the sense of heat and cold. He took his idea of political society from the pattern of private life, wishing, as he himself Edition: orig; Page: [ xxiii ] expresses it, to incorporate the domestic charities with the orders of the state, and to blend them together. He strove to establish an analogy between the compact that binds together the community at large, and that which binds together the several families which compose it.
He knew that the rules that form the basis of private morality are not founded in reason; that is, in the abstract properties of those things which are the subjects of them, but in the nature of man, and his capacity of being affected by certain things from habit, from imagination, and sentiment, as well as from reason. Thus, the reason why a man ought to be attached to his wife and family is not, surely, that they are better than others for in this case every one else ought to be of the same opinion , but because he must be chiefly interested in those things which are nearest to him, and with which he is best acquainted, since his understanding cannot reach equally to everything; 20 because he must be most Edition: current; Page: [  ] attached to those objects which he has known the longest, and which by their situation have actually affected him the most, not those which are in themselves the most affecting, whether they have ever made any impression on him or no: that is, because he is by his nature the creature of habit and feeling, and because it is reasonable that he should act in conformity to his nature.
He was therefore right in saying, that it is no objection to an institution, that it is founded on prejudice, but the contrary, if that principle is natural and right: that is, if it arises from those circumstances which are properly subjects of feeling and association, not from any defect or perversion of the understanding in those things which fall properly under its jurisdiction. On this profound maxim he took his stand. Thus he contended that the prejudice in favour of nobility was natural and proper, and fit to be encouraged by the positive institutions of society, not on account of the real or personal merit of the individual, but because such an institution has a tendency to enlarge and raise the mind, to keep alive the memory of past greatness, to connect the different ages of the world together, to carry back the imagination over a long tract of time, and feed it with the contemplation of remote events: because it is natural to think highly of that which inspires us with high thoughts, which has been connected for many generations with splendour, with power, and with permanence.
He also conceived that by transferring the respect from the person to the thing, and thus rendering it steady and permanent, the mind would be habitually formed to habits of deference, attachment, and fealty, to whatever else demanded its respect: that it would be led to fix its views on what was elevated and lofty, and be weaned from the low and narrow jealousy which never willingly or heartily admits of Edition: orig; Page: [ xxiv ] any superiority in others, and is glad of any opportunity to bring down all excellence to a level with its own miserable standard.
Nobility did not therefore exist to the prejudice of the other orders of the state, but by and for them. The inequality of the different orders of society did not destroy the unity and harmony of the whole. The health and well-being of the moral world was to be promoted by the same means as the beauty of the natural world; by contrast, by change, by light and shade, by variety of parts, by order and proportion.
To think of reducing all mankind to the same insipid level, seemed to him the same absurdity as to destroy the inequalities of surface in a country for the benefit of agriculture and commerce. In short, he believed that the interests of men in society should be consulted, and their several stations and employments assigned with a view of their nature not as physical, but as moral beings, so as to nourish their hopes, to Edition: current; Page: [  ] lift their imagination, to enliven their fancy, to rouse their activity, to strengthen their virtue, and to furnish the greatest number of objects of pursuit and means of employment, to beings constituted as man is, consistently with the order and stability of the whole.
The same reasoning might be extended further. I do not say that his arguments are conclusive: but they are profound and true as far as they go. There may be disadvantages and abuses necessarily interwoven with his scheme, or opposite advantages of infinitely more value, to be derived from another state of things and state of society. This Burke has done in a masterly manner. He presents to you one view or face of society. Let him who thinks he can, give the reverse side with equal force, beauty, and clearness.
It is said, I know, that truth is one; but to this I cannot subscribe, for it appears to me truth is many. There are as many truths as there are things, and causes of action, and contradictory principles, at work in society. In making up the account of good and evil, indeed, the final result must be one way or the other; but the particulars on which that result depends are infinite and various. Edition: orig; Page: [ xxv ] The discovery of these things, these causes of action, these contradictory principles, is the first business of the statesman. No man can speculate properly on what things ought to be, who has not previously devoted his whole energies to the discovery of what they are.
No man is entitled to criticise the abuse, who has not fully mastered the idea of the use of an institution. Here, indeed, we have arrived at the main point in Burke. Just as, in his Treatise on the Sublime Edition: current; Page: [  ] and Beautiful, he did not aim at shewing the defects of these venerable ideas, or that people often judged by a false standard, but that the traditional ideas of the mass of mankind are sure, in the long run, to be correct, and to be confirmed by being explained and elucidated, so in dealing with social and political ideas, he always took his stand upon those in general currency, and sought to explain and confirm them.
The best instructor is not he who describes the excellences of some wonderful thing which we cannot get, but he who explains and shows us how to use or to improve something which we have got. It is easy to imagine other states of society, but it is difficult to learn the true bearings of our own. The sense of political objects does not come by nature. A partial view, in politics, distorts the judgment, and destroys the mental balance; in no science is it so true that a little learning is a dangerous thing.
Burke will always stand forth as a man whose political knowledge was complete. He was therefore, though a reformer, incapable of rash and inconsiderate action. The man who has arrived at a view of the whole plan of civil society, and taken in the mutual relations and dependencies of distant parts, is not in danger of being consumed by an irrational zeal for or against any established element in that society.
For checking them, nothing is so effectual as a general survey of the complicated structure of society. Burke will help him at once to comprehend the Edition: orig; Page: [ xxvi ] plan of his national polity, and the materials with which it deals. A German Edition: current; Page: [  ] philosopher thought that the vast combination of interests which constituted the British Empire demanded a whole lifetime to be adequately understood. The reader may be sure that he is following the track of a vigorous, acute, comprehensive intelligence; unsparing of fatigue, intent on and always arriving at some valuable result.
It is this quality of solid bullion value which makes it impossible to distil Burke. Of the intellectual labour which prepared the way for this unlimited mastery over fact—which annihilates all obstacles between the group of facts and the intellect—it is not the place here to speak. It was commenced early, and carried on without intermission to the end. Once, in the vigour of his manhood, his constitution sank under his labours.
I had earned my pension before I set my foot in St. They will be to future ages what the works of Cicero are to us—we can reconstruct from them alone, with certainty and ease, the social and political scene in which their author lived. Burke knew very well that nothing could stand long which did not stand on its merits. He led the way in Reform while raising his voice against innovation. The spirit of Conservatism and the spirit of Reform are really the necessary complements of each other. No statesman ever pretends to separate them.
Nowhere else, except in the Politics of Aristotle, shall we find these two principles so well harmonised. With Aristotle, he thinks the spirit of Conservatism the first requisite of the statesman, and its general diffusion the first condition of a well-ordered state. With Aristotle, he allows the fullest share of importance to the reform 24 of existing institutions.
In the older politician, indeed, we find a greater tendency, owing to the excessively analytical bent of the Greek mind, to regard the two principles as opposites; and the same distinction may be observed in the treatment of contrary elements in his moral philosophy. Burke traced the concurrent effect of these two principles everywhere; and he delighted to regard them in their concrete elements, as well as in the abstract form. He writes, for instance, of Parliaments:.
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Nothing is more beautiful in the theory of Parliaments, than that principle of renovation and union of permanence and change, that are happily mixed in their constitution: that in all our changes we are never wholly old or wholly new: that there are enough of the old to preserve unbroken the traditionary chain of the maxims and policy of our ancestors, and the law and custom of parliament; and enough of the new to invigorate us, and bring us to our true character, by being taken from the mass of the people: and the whole, though mostly composed of the old members, have, notwithstanding, a new character, and may have the advantage of change without the imputation of inconstancy.
It was chiefly in connexion with Irish and Indian questions, and on the economy of the Royal revenue, that his exertions Edition: current; Page: [  ] in the cause of Reform were made. The knowledge we possess of the times, and the history of the great battle in the succeeding generation, when the position of the Reformers was much strengthened, induces us to think that he was right. It may also be observed that there is in Burke a bona fide Edition: orig; Page: [ xxviii ] dealing with the question, which is wholly wanting in some later opponents of Parliamentary Reform, and notably in Canning.
In the beginning of the Speech on the East India Bill four canons of reform are laid down. They are indeed immediately applicable to a particular case, but they are substantially those which he applies generally. There must be abuses, he says, in all governments. But there are great abuses and small abuses. Small abuses ought indeed to be reformed, if possible, but if impossible, difficult, or dangerous to be reformed, they may be left alone.
The object affected by the abuse should be great and important: 2nd. The abuse affecting this great object ought to be a great abuse: 3rd. It ought to be habitual, and not accidental: 4th. It ought to be utterly incurable in the body as it now stands constituted. In one of his latest works he proudly declared that it had been the business of his strength to reform Edition: current; Page: [  ] abuses in government; and he classed his last efforts against the French Republic under the same head. His book on the Revolution, he said, spared no existing abuse. Very widely removed from this harmonious contrast of Conservatism and Reform, stands a darker and less reconcileable antithesis.
With that convulsion those speculations had little enough to do. Revolutions are never produced by opinions, but by political facts, such as actual badness of government, or oppression of one class by another. The wildest political opinions usually thrive best under Edition: orig; Page: [ xxix ] the strongest governments.
Minds, however, once imbued with them do not soon relinquish them. It is the slow pressure of facts which imperceptibly modifies them. Fact is the best teacher in political science, and every man who has actually touched the political facts which surround him will recognise the soundness of the following emphatic words, addressed to the general public by one of the most memorable Reformers of our times. Burke was no democrat; but he thought that under certain circumstances a pure democracy might be a necessary and desirable form of government.
This was consonant to the old Edition: orig; Page: [ xxx ] Whiggism; but it was going further than Cicero, who denies to democracy the very name of Republic. Montesquieu had recently given an impetus to the study of politics by a work in which the English constitution received a full measure of praise, and which Burke had studied with much care.
It was foolish to force a work of so miscellaneous a nature into any semblance of system. But this mass of ill-authenticated facts, of opinions derived from ignorant antiquity, of the theories of a modern recluse—this imperfect cyclopaedia of a science which can never be perfectly understood, is also rich with sound reflection, and brilliant with true philosophical genius.
It is best known to the present generation by the caricature of Macaulay, contained in an essay written when he was fresh from college, and which his maturer judgment must have almost wholly disapproved. Sir James Mackintosh thought highly of it, while Burke made use of its materials, and was decidedly influenced by its spirit.
There is much in the mode of thinking of Montesquieu that reminds us of Burke. He did not think much of the inherent wisdom of the masses. He thought the people always had either too much or too little action. He more than eulogised the English constitution; and said with equal wit and truth of Harrington, what might be said of all who plan new forms of government without understanding the excellences of the old, that he had built Chalcedon when he had the shore of Byzantium before his eyes.
He has been accused, like Burke, of degenerating into a solemn and mysterious enunciation of truisms. But there are some truths which are considered unimportant, because they are undisputed; so true that they may be safely neglected, or even tossed into the limbo of the most exploded errors. When they are brought to light, they are called truisms.
Such truisms neither Montesquieu nor Burke disdained. The political essays of Hume exhibit an order of mind equally rare with that of Burke. Both had derived their stimulus in different ways from the restless intellect of Bolingbroke. Hume, in dealing with contemporary topics, was an acute observer, but a bad reasoner: his mind played idly, and, as it were, in patches, on the surface of things which the less exquisite intellect of Burke penetrated in their depths and illuminated Edition: current; Page: [  ] in their entirety.
Burke stands apart from the metaphysical politics of Sidney and Locke, from whom the Whig writers of the early part of the century, and notably Hoadly and Tindal, had derived their tone, though he is occasionally indebted to them for an idea. The former is almost as remarkable for his reluctance to commit himself to broad and general views, as the latter for his eagerness to fortify his particular case by appealing to them.
Swift indeed usually reasoned by a chain of minute particulars, and made his arguments turn in some form on personalities, which Burke, as far as was possible, avoided. Gordon, the English Machiavelli, supplied him with some hints; and from Bolingbroke he learned a philosophical mode of treatment, and an easy and powerful style. But though Burke was never ashamed of borrowing a good idea, the sum of his obligations to the strictly political writers of this or any other country is small.
He had the run of a wider field. The literature of England is remarkable for the extent in which it is pervaded by political ideas. Poets, divines, dramatists, and historians, alike illustrate the leading tendency of the English mind. In the two former of these classes Burke had an especial interest. Hooker and South, Milton and Dryden, were often to him a real fount of inspiration. His philosophical mind readily discerned any analogy which was Edition: current; Page: [  ] convertible to his own purpose, and this faculty in him was rarely misused.
Burke knew general English literature well; and he turned all his knowledge to such account that next to facts and reasonings upon facts, it became his chief resource. Burke moreover, like Cicero, had received the training, not of a politician, but of a man of letters. His scholarship is of the Roman rather than the Greek model.
Cicero, Livy, and Tacitus were familiarised to Edition: orig; Page: [ xxxiii ] him by sympathy with their subject-matter. He was equally acquainted with the poets, and was often indebted to them for an illustration. The general resemblance which may certainly be traced between the style though not the method of Burke and that of Cicero, is due rather to similarity of circumstances than to intentional imitation.
Burke has great information, and great command of language; though in my opinion it has not in every respect the highest elegance. Burke has great knowledge, great fluency of words, and great promptness of ideas; so that he can speak with great illustration on any subject that comes before him. He is neither like Cicero, nor like Demosthenes, nor like any one else, but speaks as well as he can.
In his own writings he rarely lost a certain formal and academical air, which does not disappear altogether in his conversations. Even in the delightful writings of Goldsmith there is a constant savour of the press. He is always forcible and earnest, but, in spite of the compass of his thought and the prodigality of his illustrations, the absence of self-consciousness is as remarkable as in the writings of Hooker and Taylor.
As is usual in the case of men of good feeling, strong conviction, and high principles, there is no sense of labour or display in anything that he writes, and in this respect he even contrasts advantageously with such comparatively unambitious writers as Bolingbroke, Shaftesbury, and Swift. A remarkable identity connects his earliest and his latest works, but the greater diffuseness of the latter is attributable, of course, to the habit of public speaking. He expressed his ideas with all the grandeur in which they were conceived; but the expression Edition: current; Page: [  ] was always natural, and occasionally agreeably relieved by familiarity.
Burke reprehended any attempt to separate the English which is written from the English which is spoken. He often casts to the winds all literary formality, and writes just as he may have spoken in public or private, freely and unrestrainedly. In this way Burke gave a lasting stimulus to English prose literature, as Wordsworth soon afterwards gave a stimulus to poetry, by the introduction of a fresher and more natural diction.
His writings have ever since been the model of all who wish to say anything forcibly, naturally, freely, and in a comparatively small space. The chief art of the speaker and writer consists in giving every part of his work its due degree of force, and its proper shade of colour. He unites every extreme and every variety of composition: the lowest and the meanest words and descriptions with the highest.
Shakspere is no less conspicuously equal to himself whether drawing his greatest or his least characters, than Burke, on the occasion of the impeachment of Hastings, now preparing the highest flights of his rhetoric, and now employed upon the humble task of the legal draftsman. The comparison is unjust. The latter, though premeditated in some of its parts, was delivered in haste, in the heat of a debate; the former was a skilful and elaborate address, carefully prepared, embracing a wide field of subjects, and intended as a lasting vindication of his policy.
The Speech on Conciliation, however, which has generally been the most admired, both by contemporaries and posterity, is almost faultless. Hazlitt confesses himself in despair at the task of analysing the style. We have no common measure to refer to; and his qualities contradict even themselves.
Sometimes, again, the brilliancy is overwrought, and instead of enforcing and illustrating the leading idea, draws off the attention to its picturesque accompaniment. It is hazardous to approach this fiery element too nearly. In the manner of them, as in that of Pindar, there is no harbour for mediocrity: you must either succeed or fail. And the continual study of the finest passages is not to be recommended. It is like taking all our nutriment from highly seasoned food and stimulating drinks. Taylor bears the thought of his reader in an irresistible current from the things of time to the things of eternity.
Shakspere, above all things, refines the taste: Milton quickens and exalts the imagination. The peculiar effect of Burke is to enlarge, strengthen, liberalise, and ennoble the understanding. In following the train of his arguments, even in their minor particulars, he must be a wise man indeed who does not constantly perceive lights that never fell on him before.
In the latter work Burke has been compared to an Atlas; not labouring, but sporting with the burden of a world on his shoulders.
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This Letter has been held to exceed in intellectual magnitude all other single efforts of the human brain. Edition: orig; Page: [ xxxviii ] In his manner of working Burke was unlike Sydney Smith, who composed slowly, and seldom corrected what he wrote. Charles Butler tells us that he never sent a manuscript to the press which he had not so often altered that every page was almost a blot, and never received from the press a first proof which he did not almost equally alter.
Most writers have constantly beside them as a model some favourite classical author. Milton, Pope, and Dryden were quite as familiar to him. Bolingbroke, like Pope in verse, loved to assemble specimens of the finer lights and shades of words. It was rather his practice to bring out the hidden force of common words and phrases, in such a way as to give dignity even to vulgarisms.
This habit was early acquired. He never appears to go out of his way for beauties, and yet his work is full of them. The study of law-books and state papers never blunted his keen sense of literary beauty and propriety, nor was the necessity of grappling with a definite mass of dry facts enough to defeat its habitual operation. Everything that he wrote charms in the reading. To understand the full meaning of these remarks the reader must be familiar with the manner, at once dry and verbose, of the speeches of the younger Pitt.
It is a well-known canon of rhetoric, that, in the selection of words with a view to energy, we must always prefer those terms which are the least abstract and general. Edition: orig; Page: [ xl ] This particularising style is of the essence of poetry; and in prose it is impossible not to be struck with the energy which it produces. The best instances of this energy of style are to be found in the classical writers of the seventeenth century.
Almost every device of the accomplished prose-writer may be learned from Burke. One of the first things to be learned is to avoid the opposite errors of extreme conciseness and of extreme prolixity. The practised rhetorician does this by an instinct which is bound by no rule. The following passage from the First Letter on a Regicide Peace is one of the most remarkable examples of the employment of this effect:. Even when men are willing, as sometimes they are, to barter blood for lucre, to hazard their safety for the gratification of their avarice, the passion which animates them to that sort of conflict, like all short-sighted passions, must see its objects distinct and near at hand.
The passions of the lower order are hungry and impatient. Speculative plunder; contingent spoil; future, long-adjourned, uncertain booty; pillage which must enrich a late posterity, and which possibly may not reach to posterity at all; these, for any length of time, will never support a mercenary war. The people are in the right.
The calculation of profit in all such wars is false. On balancing the account of such wars, ten thousand hogsheads of sugar are purchased at ten Edition: orig; Page: [ xli ] thousand times their price. The blood of man should never be shed but to redeem the blood of man. It is well shed for our family, for our friends, for our God, for our country, for our kind. The rest is vanity; the rest is crime. Burke commonly practises the method of Interpretatio by first expanding the sense, and then contracting it into its most compendious and striking form.
This device is indispensable Edition: current; Page: [  ] when the author is dealing with a subject which is presumed to be unfamiliar to his readers. The following passage, which occurs later in the same work, will further illustrate this way of working, combined with more periodic structure:. And is then example nothing? It is everything. Example is the school of mankind, and they will learn at no other.
This war is a war against that example. It is not a war for Louis the Eighteenth, or even for the property, virtue, fidelity of France. It is a war for George the Third, for Francis the Second, and for all the dignity, property, honour and virtue of England, of Germany, and of all nations. Passages such as these should be committed to the memory as standard examples of the Syntax of modern Rhetoric. This Syntax differs materially from the system employed by the earlier and equally great English rhetoricians, Milton and Taylor. The method of the latter has been called cumulative ; that of Bolingbroke and Burke, constructive or artificial.
The difference lies partly in a studied variety in the grouping of the ideas. The transition from the one style to the other answers to the transition in poetry from a style if unsymmetrical redundance to one in which to quote the editor of Pope in this Series the chief end was form or art. Not that specimens of the earlier style are wanting in Burke, but they are rare. The manner of the following passage will be instantly recognised by the reader of Taylor:.
But when the fear, and the evil feared, come on together, and press at once upon us, deliberation itself is ruinous, which saves upon all other occasions; because when perils are instant, it delays decisions; the man is in a flutter, and in a hurry, and his judgment is gone, as the judgment of the deposed King of France and his ministers was gone, if the latter did not premeditatedly betray him. The modern or French method is to unite the members of the passage by a connexion of ideas; as Dr.
This method leaves better opportunities for marking boldly the transitions in the argument, and, if appropriate, making Edition: current; Page: [  ] corresponding changes in style. In the literary art, as in all others, unprepared transition from one main member of the composition to another is an unfailing mark of barbarism. Of the boldness with which Burke sometimes broke Edition: orig; Page: [ xliii ] through his method for the sake of the method we have a striking instance at page , where he inserts in the first part, which consists of a description of the condition of America, and of American character, a series of objections to the employment of force against the Colonists, properly belonging to second part of the speech.
The characters of Mr. Grenville, of Charles Townshend, of the Chatham Ministry, and of the American Colonists, in this volume, are specimens. They should be compared with those of Walpole, Montesquieu, Fox, Savile, Howard, and others, in other parts of his writings, and with similar compositions of Clarendon and Bolingbroke. Burke had read this work, and had remarked the peculiarities of the style, though he never thought of pronouncing it a Edition: current; Page: [  ] forgery. Burke excels in putting his characters in the peculiar light which suits his work, without seeming directly to intend it.
They are drawn in a few easy, broad, and masterly strokes, fulfilling in a striking degree the canon that works of true are must always appear to have been done easily. Burke possessed the secret of being methodical without the appearance of method. It is evident that he wrote them, especially the latter, under the influence of some mental excitement. In touching slightly on the points of contact between Burke and his contemporaries, it will be necessary to do what has hitherto been avoided—to consider separately his separate characters of orator and author.
No man of modern times has united these characters with equal success. He was the only man of his day who had pursued the only and infallible path to becoming a real orator, that of writing Edition: current; Page: [  ] much, and assiduously cultivating literary excellence. In this way fluency and Edition: orig; Page: [ xlv ] self-possession are always to be gained, eloquence never. The former go to make up the practical debater: and a few pointed remarks and striking images will be enough, with a clever man, to conceal want of art in combining his ideas, and incompetency to present them in their most effective form.
The oratory of the younger Pitt, which is a good example of the speaking of a business-like, practical statesman, has much of this character. It is marked by a certain mechanical fluency, well adapted for bearing the speaker up while he is meditating what he shall say next, but accompanied by a baneful tautology and confusion of method.
It is wanting in organic elasticity. Excellent as is the first part of the Speech on American taxation, the student must look elsewhere than in Burke for the best specimens of the art of Parliamentary debate. The fine perception of the fitnesses of time and circumstances, and the habit of waiting assiduously upon the temper of individuals, and upon the nameless caprices of a collective body, were incompatible with the preoccupation of the state-philosopher. As a debater Burke was the inferior of Pitt, and in an increased degree, of Fox.
The speeches of Fox, in spite of the indifferent state in which they have come down to us, are the classical models for debating, the most important being those on the Westminster Scrutiny and the Russian Armament. With his usual enthusiasm for the ancient orators Brougham goes on to say that he must by no means conclude his studies with the moderns. How is it that so few speeches of modern times, out of so many which survive, grandly constructed, and finely adapted to their purpose, obtain a permanent place in literature?
For this doubtless there must be something which shall touch the permanent nature of mankind at large, not only the temporary disposition of particular assemblies. Burke dealt largely in questions of great permanent interest, but this was hardly sufficient in itself Edition: orig; Page: [ xlvi ] to account for the extent in which his writings and speeches have been cherished.
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The first requisite for preservation is a certain amount of literary skill employed either in their original construction or in their preparation for the press. The same may be said of forensic oratory. Most of the speeches of Windham and Canning, of Erskine and Edition: current; Page: [  ] Curran, have for succeeding generations an interest which hardly rises above that of the subjects with which they are concerned. Those of Grattan and Brougham possess something of the same interest which attaches to those of Burke. The writings of Burke have often been classed, in point of style, with those of Johnson and Gibbon.
The resemblance is only partial. Johnson conceived it to be his mission to reform his native tongue, an in his own words, to clear it from colloquial barbarisms, licentious idioms, and irregular combinations. If we imagine Bolingbroke—whom nature intended for a demagogue, and endowed with a natural flow of exquisite and expressive language, coupled with a natural flimsiness and quackery of reasoning—possessed, instead, of this Johnsonian sense and judgment, we have something approaching to the manner of Burke.
Gibbon set before himself a higher literary ideal tan ever governed the pen of Burke. Whatever may be faults of the style of Gibbon, it possesses one excellence of a high order—that its graces are not destroyed by translation. The censure of unnaturalness and affectation is, in general, unjustly applied to it.
There is a constant elevation of expression: if monotonous, it is always Edition: current; Page: [  ] dignified. But the tastes, studies, and objects of Burke were wholly diverse from those of Gibbon: Edition: orig; Page: [ xlvii ] and there are too few points at which their works can be said to touch to enable us, as to their style, to draw a just comparison. The best literary artist is Goldsmith.
The few first-class men of the time stand towards the popular authors of the day in a fixed relation which will be best understood by comparing Goldsmith as a writer of fiction with Richardson and Sterne. The literary vice of the age was a sickly and demoralising species of sentimentality. Hardly one of the sentimental poets of the century is free from the taint. What it was in its culmination the reader may see in the once popular poems of Charlotte Smith.
Bowles and Coleridge illustrate it at the time when it was about to disappear before the examples of Cowper, Rogers, and Wordsworth. A hundred forgotten novels exemplify it in prose. Rousseau, Goethe, and many others, show in what way it spread to the literature of neighbouring countries.
Fielding and Smollet afford evidence of it, even whilst protesting against it by their example. A large section of the literature of the age is turned by it into a mass of unqualified rubbish, as worthless as the copper-plate page illustrations that adorned the volumes which contained it. Yet without reference to these it would be impossible to estimate the greatness of Reynolds and his school.
Johnson and Goldsmith, who were original thinkers by nature, and men of letters by profession, derived no literary stimulus from communication with Burke, and there is, in fact, a balance on the other side of the account. It was otherwise with Reynolds. The powers of Burke as a critic and philosopher of art are clearly proved by that work, and by his letters to the painter Barry. Many years afterwards, Northcote, who had good means of knowing, avowed his belief in what Malone had denied, that Burke had supplied much that was necessary to complete their literary form.
To the reader of the present day, judging from these works themselves, it seems more probable that Burke composed them with facts supplied by Reynolds, than that the work of Reynolds was brought into shape and finished off by Burke. But the direct evidence is wholly in favour of the latter view.
The Spoon | Love Volume: I’m Yours, You’re Mine | The Spoon
They bear evidence of a double influence. The philosophical critic guided the views of the artist, and his friendly pen corrected and embellished the writings in which they were expressed. Burke, in the history of English letters, represents the transition from the former style of the early part of the early part of the last century to the far less constrained one which has prevailed in the present.
He restores to literature, in some measure, the wealth and freedom which it had enjoyed in the days of the great dramatists and philosophical divines. We shall probably soon meet, even today I cannot communicate my remarks to you, which during these days I made about my life — were our hearts close together, I should probably not make any such remarks.
My bosom is full, to tell you much — there are moments when I find that speech is nothing at all. Brighten up — remain my true and only treasure, my all, as I to you. The rest the gods must send, what must be for us and shall. Your faithful Ludwig Monday evening, 6 July You suffer, you, my dearest creature. Just now I perceive that letters must be posted first thing early.
Mine Is Longer Than Yours
Mondays — Thursdays — the only days, when the post goes from here to K. You suffer — oh! Where I am, you are with me, with me and you, I shall arrange that I may live with you. What a life! Without you — pursued by the kindness of the people here and there, whom I mean — to desire to earn just as little as they earn — humility of man towards men — it pains me — and when I regard myself in connection with the Universe, what I am, and what he is — whom one calls the greatest — and yet — there lies herein again the godlike of man.
I weep when I think you will probably only receive on Saturday the first news from me — as you too love — yet I love you stronger — but never hide yourself from me. Good night — as I am taking the waters, I must go to bed. Oh God — so near! Is it not a real building of heaven, our Love — but as firm, too, as the citadel of heaven. Good morning, on 7 July Even in bed my ideas yearn towards you, my Immortal Beloved, here and there joyfully, then again sadly, awaiting from Fate, whether it will listen to us. I can only live, either altogether with you or not at all. Yes, I have determined to wander about for so long far away, until I can fly into your arms and call myself quite at home with you, can send my soul enveloped by yours into the realm of spirits — yes, I regret, it must be.
You will get over it all the more as you know my faithfulness to you; never another one can own my heart, never — never! O God, why must one go away from what one loves so, and yet my life in W. Your love made me the happiest and unhappiest at the same time. At my actual age I should need some continuity, sameness of life — can that exist under our circumstances?
Angel, I just hear that the post goes out every day — and must close therefore, so that you get the L.