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1766. EDMUND BURKE. 157

genial mouthpiece in the veteran Duke of Newcastle. His Grace, so long the leader of the Whigs, exerted himself to the utmost to prevent the accession to that party of one of the brightest names that have adorned it. He rushed to Lord Rockingham eager and panting, and most earnestly besought his Lordship to be on his guard against this low adventurer, this wild Irishman, whom his Grace certainly knew to be a Papist, a Jesuit, a Jacobite in disguise. Lord Rockingham in some alarm communicated the warning to his secretary, but Burke justified himself with proofs so cogent, and a spirit so manly, as to banish every shade of distrust from Lord Rockingham's mind. Ever thenceforward he enjoyed that nobleman's full confidence and generous friendship. By the influence of the Marquis with Lord Werney, who then reigned in Wendover, Burke was immediately brought into Parliament; at a later period the Wentworth borough of Malton welcomed him; and when in 1768 he required a sum of money towards the purchase of a country house near Beaconsfield, that sum was spontaneously, and in the form of a loan, bestowed by his liberal patron. Burke was now a Member of the House of Commons, and not long a silent one. On the Address in January 1766, as I have elsewhere mentioned, he spoke for the first time. The praises of Pitt on that occasion were echoed by many more; and the young orator became at once a statesman of high promise and renown. Some of his more distant acquaintances expressed wonder at his sudden rise. “Sir,” said Dr. Johnson, “there is no wonder at all. We who “know Mr. Burke know that he will be one of the first men “in the country.” From this time forward the biography of Burke is blended with the public history of England. There is small risk of contradiction in asserting that his speeches as they may now be perused far outshine all earlier or contemporaneous ones that our Parliamentary Debate-book can afford. For this, besides their own high and undoubted merit, there is another cause to be assigned, These speeches were reported or revised by Burke himself; they appear with their original, perhaps even with added, ornaments, whilst of the oratory of his predecessors or his rivals, of Halifax, of Bolingbroke, of Walpole, of Mansfield, of Charles Townshend, none but most imperfect and disjointed fragments now remain. It is also to be borne in mind that our present just admiration for these speeches is no unerring test of their former or contemporary value. To the end of his days Burke never attained in any degree that mastery over the House of Commons which his great genius fully warranted. One of his kinsmen, writing to Barry the painter scarcely a month after Burke had for the first time risen in the House, observes: “Your “friend Edmund has not only spoke, but he has spoke al“most every day.” This is declared in triumph, but through the whole of Burke's career his speeches were deemed both too frequent and too long. Three hours from him were no uncommon effort. His tone was likewise too didactic, and “at length,” says Horace Walpole, “the House grew weary “of so many essays.”” His figure was not graceful, nor his action in speaking happy, it being usually marked by a peculiar undulating motion of the head. Some remains of the Irish brogue, which to the last he never overcame, formed another obstacle in the way of his success. Notwithstanding all these drawbacks, some of his harangues delivered in stirring times or on special occasions were hailed with much enthusiasm, and followed by much effect. But more commonly it happened that when he rose to speak the Members walked out to dine; and the great orator was nicknamed the “Dinner-bell.” In pamphlets, however, and political essays, – and even speeches when revised and sent forth singly may be comprehended in that class, – the personal disadvantages of Burke could no longer apply; and as regards that class of writings it may be doubted whether he has ever in any age or in any country been excelled. The philosophy and

* Letter of Mr. Richard Burke, Feb. 11. 1766, ** Memoirs of George III, , vol. ii. p. 274.

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deep thought of his reflections, – the vigour and variety of his style, — his rich flow of either panegyric or invective, — his fine touches of irony, - the glowing abundance and beauty of his metaphors, – all these might separately claim applause; how much more then when all blended into one gorgeous whole! To give examples of these merits would be to transcribe half his works. Yet still if one single and short instance from his maxims be allowed me, I will observe that the generous ardour and activity of mind called forth by competition has formed a theme of philosophic comment from a very early age. It is touched both by Cicero and Quintilian; it has not been neglected either by Bacon or Montaigne. Yet still as handled by Burke this trite topic beams forth, not only with the hues of eloquence, but even with the bloom of novelty. He invites us to “an amicable “conflict with difficulty. — Difficulty is a severe instructor “set over us by the supreme ordinance of a parental Guar“dian and Legislator, who knows us better than we know “ourselves, as he loves us better too. He that wrestles with “us strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skill. Our “antagonist is our helper!” If amidst so much of eloquence and feeling as Burke's writings display we are desired to seek for faults, we shall find them not in the want but only in the exuberance and overflow of beauties. The palate becomes cloyed by so much richness, the eye dazzled by so much glare. His metaphors, fraught with fancy though they be, are often bold; they seem both too numerous and strained too far, they sometimes cease to please, and occasionally border even on the ludicrous and low. Of this defect, as of his excellences, a single instance shall suffice me. In the “Letter to a Noble Lord” in 1796 Burke compares the Duke of Bedford to a lamb already marked for slaughter by the Marats and Robespierres of France, but still, unconscious of his doom, “pleased to the last,” and who “licks the hand “just raised to shed his blood!” Thus far the simile is con- . ducted with admirable force and humour. But not satisfied

with his success, Burke goes further; he insists on leading us into the shambles, and makes the Revolutionary butchers inquire as to their Ducal victim, “how he cuts up? how he “tallows in the caul or on the kidneys?” Apart from the beauty of the style, the value, as I conceive, of Burke's writings is subject to one not unimportant deduction. For most lofty and far-sighted views in politics they will never be consulted in vain. On the other hand, let no man expect to find in them just or accurate, or even consistent, delineations of contemporary character. Where eternal principles are at stake Burke was inaccessible to favour or to fear. Where only persons are concerned he was often misled by resentments or by partialities, and allowed his fancy full play. The rich stores of Burke's memory and the rare powers of his mind were not reserved solely for his speeches or his writings; they appeared to no less advantage in his familiar conversation. Even the most trivial topics could elicit, even the most ignorant hearers could discern, his genius. “Sir,” said Dr. Johnson, “if Burke were to go into a stable to see “his horse dressed, the ostler would say, ‘We have had an “‘extraordinary man here!’” — On other occasions also the author of Rasselas extols him as never unwilling to begin conversation; never at a loss to carry it on; never in haste to leave it off. *— His attempts at wit indeed were not always successful, and he might be accused of an inordinate affection for quibbles and puns. His favourite niece, and latterly his guest, was sometimes provoked into an: “Really, uncle, “that is very poor.”* But upon the whole it may be asserted that in social converse Burke was equalled by none of his contemporaries and his countrymen, except only Dr. Johnson himself and perhaps Lord Thurlow. Born to a slender patrimony, and endowed with liberal tastes, Burke was exposed in public life to very many trials

* Boswell's Life of Johnson, under the dates of May 15. 1784, and August 15. 1773. I have given the spirit rather than the words of the latter passage. ** Life by Prior, p. 492.

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and temptations. It is difficult, says a quaint old Spanish proverb, for an empty sack to stand upright. By him, however, these trials were ever courageously borne, these temptations ever nobly surmounted. The welfare of his country and his kind was at all times, I am persuaded, his great, his ruling, his all-absorbing thought. He was no doubt a keen partisan, for his friendships were warm, and his own disposition was eager and empassioned. Like most other partisans he was sometimes hurried into deeds or words of which his calmer judgment may have disapproved. But the higher we may rate his party-spirit, the higher is his praise when on one most momentous occasion he flung his party-spirit aside, deliberately preferred his country to his friends, and rather chose to rend asunder the cherished ties of many years than to encourage, to connive at, or even forbear to raise his voice against, the doctrines and examples of Revolutionary France. How venerable does the “de“solate old man” appear to us in his retreat of Beaconsfield ! How, as we ponder on his living pages, do we seem to share his private sorrows when bereaved of his only son, and how admire that public spirit which could rise superior to such sorrows, and impel him to bequeath the noblest of all legacies -- his last words of counsel and of warning — to his country! The excellent intentions and for the most part excellent measures of Lord Rockingham's administration were not sufficient to avert the evils arising from Lord Rockingham's personal deficiencies. For want of a great controlling centre, the whole system was deranged; several of the satellites were drawn from their orbits and wandered in the realms of space. Towards the close of May the Duke of Grafton resigned his office as Secretary of State. He declared his reasons publicly in the House of Lords. He stated that he had no objection to the persons or to the measures of the present Ministers, but that he thought they wanted strength and efficiency to carry on proper measures with success, and that he knew but one man (meaning of eourse Mahon History. V. 11

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