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cannot choose wrong, nor will he be in much danger of making himself ridiculous by affectation or false glitter, when, whatever subject he treats of, he must treat of it in the same way. This indeed is to wear golden chains for the sake of ornament.
Burke was altogether free from the pedantry which I have here endeavoured to expose. His style was as original, as expressive, as rich and varied, as it was possible ; his combinations were as exquisite, as playful, as happy, as unexpected, as bold and daring, as his fancy. If any thing, he ran into the opposite extreme of too great an inequality, if truth and nature could ever be carried to an extreme.
Those who are best acquainted with the writings and speeches of Burke will not think the praise I have here bestowed on them exaggerated. Some proof will be found of this in the following extracts. But the full proof must be sought in his works at large, and particularly in the Thoughts on the Discontents ; in his Reflections on the French Revolution ; in his Letter to the Duke of Bedford ; and in the Regicide Peace. The two last of these are perhaps the most remarkable of all his writings, from the contrast they afford to each other. The one is the most delightful exhibition of wild and brilliant fancy, that is to be found in English prose, but it is too much like a beautiful picture painted upon gause ; it wants something to support it : the other is without ornament, but it has all the solidity, the weight, the gravity of a judicial record. It seems to have been written with a certain constraint upon himself, and to shew those who said he could not reason, that his arguments might be stripped of their ornaments without loosing any thing of their force. It is certainly, of all his works, that in which he has shewn most power of logical deduction, and the only one in which he has made any important use of facts. In general he certainly paid little attention to them : they were the playthings of his mind. He saw them as he pleased, not as they were ; with the eye of the philosopher or the poet, regarding them only in their general principle, or as they might serve to decorate his subject. This is the natural consequence of much imagination : things that are probable are elevated into the rank of realities. To those who can reason on the essences of things, or who can invent according to nature, the experimental proof is of little value. This was the case with Burke. In the present instance, however, he seems to have forced his mind into the service of facts : and he succeeded completely. His comparison between our connection with France or Algiers, and his account of the conduct of the war, are as clear, as convincing, as forcible examples of this kind of reasoning, as are any where to be met with. Indeed I do not think there is any thing in Fox, (whose mind was purely historical) or in Chatham, (who attended to feelings more than facts) that will bear a comparison with them.
Burke has been compared to Cicero-I do not know for what reason. Their excellences are as different, and indeed as opposite as they well can be. · Burke had not the polished elegance, the glossy neatness, the artful regularity, the exquisite modulation of Cicero:
he had a thousand times more richness and originality of mind, more strength and pomp of diction.
It has been well observed, that the ancients had no word that properly expresses what we mean by the word Genius. They perhaps had not the thing. Their minds appear to have been too exact,
too retentive, too minute and subtle, too sensible to the external differences of things, too passive under their impressions, to admit of those bold and rapid combinations, those lofty flights of fancy, which, glancing from heaven to earth unite the most opposite extremes, and draw the happiest illustrations from things the most remote. Their ideas were kept too confined and distinct by the material form or vehicle in which they were conveyed to unite cordially together, or be melted down in the imagination. Their metaphors are taken from things of the same class, not from things of different classes ; the general analogy, not the individual feeling, directs them in their choice. Hence, as Dr. Johnson observed, their figures are either repetitions of the same idea, or so obvious and general as not to lend any additional force to it; as when a huntress is compared to Diana, or a warrior rushing into battle to a lion rushing on his prey. Their forte was exquisite art and perfect imitation. Witness their statues and other things of the same kind. But they had not that high and enthusiastic fancy which some of our own writers have shewn. For the proof of this, let any one compare Milton and Shakespeare with Homer and Sophocles, or Burke with Cicero.
It may be asked whether Burke was a poet. He was so only in the general vividness of his fancy, and in richness of invention. There may be poetical passages in his works, but I certainly think that his writings in general are quite distinct from poetry; and that for the reason before given, namely, that the subject matter of them is not poctical. The finest parts of them are illustrations or personifications of dry abstract ideas; and the union between the idea and the illustration is not of that perfect and pleasing kind as to constitute poetry, or indeed to be admissible, but for the effect intended to be produced by it ; that is, by every means in our power to give an animation and attraction to subjects in themselves barren of ornament, but which at the same time are pregnant with the most important consequences, and in which the understanding and the passions are equally interested.
I have heard it remarked by a person, to whose opinion I would sooner submit than to a general council of critics, that the sound of Burke's prose is not musical ; that it wants cadence ; and that instead of being so lavish of his imagery as is generally supposed, he seemed to him to be rather parsimonious in the use of it, always expanding and making the most of his ideas. This may be true if we compare him with some of our poets, or perhaps with some of our early prose writers, but not if we compare him with any of our political writers, or parliamentary speakers. There are some very fine things of lord Bolingbroke's on the same subjects, but not equal to Burke's. As for Junius, he is at the head of his class; but that class is not the
highest. He has been said to have more dignity than Burke. Yes, if the stalk of a giant is less dignified than the strut of a petit-maitre. I do not mean to speak disrespectfully of Junius, but grandeur is not the character of his composition ; and if it is not to be found in Burke, it is to be found no where.
His Speech on presenting a Plan for the better security
of the Independence of Parliament, and the economical Reformation of the Civil and other Establishments.
Mr. Speaker, I RISE, in acquittal of my engagement to the house, in obedience to the strong and just requisition of my constituents, and, I am persuaded, in conformity to the unanimous wishes of the whole nation, to submit to the wisdom of parliament. “ A plan of reform in the constitution of several parts of the public economy.”
I have endeavoured, that this plan should include in its execution, a considerable reduction of improper expence ; that it should effect a conversion of unprofitable titles into a productive estate ; that it should lead to, and indeed almost compel, a provident administration of such sums of public money as must remain under discretionary trust; that it should render the incurring debts on the civil establishment (which must ultimately effect national strength and national credit) so very difficult, as to become next to impracticable.
But what, I confess, was uppermost with me, what I bent the whole force of my mind to, was the reduction of that corrupt influence, which is itself the perennial spring of all prodigality, and of all disorder; which loads us, more than millions of debt; which takes away vi. gour from our arms, wisdom from our councils, and every shadow of authority and credit from the most venerable parts of our constitution.
Sir, I assure you, very solemnly, and with a very clear conscience, that nothing in the world has led me to such an undertaking, but my zeal for the honour of this Vol. II.
house, and the settled, habitual, systematic affection I bear to the cause, and to the principles of government.
I enter perfectly into the nature and consequences of my attempt ; and I advance to it with a tremor that shakes me to the inmost fibre of my frame. I feel, that I engage in a business, in itself most ungracious, totally wide of the course of prudent conduct; and I really think, the most completely adverse that can be imagined, to the natural turn and temper of my own mind.
1 know, that all parsimony is of a quality approaching to unkindness; and that (on some person or other) every reform must operate as a sort of punishment. Indeed the whole class of the severe and restrictive virtues, are at a market almost too high for humanity. What is worse, there are very few of those virtues which are not capable of being imitated, and even out-done in many of their most striking effects, by the worst of vices. Malignity and envy will carve much more deeply, and finish much more sharply, in the work of retrenchment, than frugality and providence. I do not, therefore, wonder that gentlemen have kept away from such a task, as well from good nature as from prudence. Private feeling might, indeed, be overborne by legislative reason : and a man of a long-sighted and strong-nerved humanity, might bring himself, not so much to consider from whom he takes a superfluous enjoyment, as for whom in the end he may preserve the absolute necessaries of life.
But it is much more easy to reconcile this measure to humanity, than to bring it to any agreement with pru. dence. I do not mean that little, selfish, pitiful bastard thing, which sometimes goes by the name of a family in which it is not legitimate, and to which it is a disgrace; I mean even that public and enlarged prudence, which, apprehensive of being disabled from rendering acceptable services to the world, withholds itself from those that are invidious. Gentlemen who, are with me, verging towards the decline of life, and are apt to form their ideas of kings from kings of former times, might dread
the anger of a reigning prince ;—they who are more provident of the future, or by being young are more in. terested in it, might tremble at the resentment of the successor; they might see a long, dull, dreary, unvaried visto of despair and exclusion, for half a century, before them. This is no pleasant prospect at the outset of a political journey.
Besides this, sir, the private enemies to be made in all attempts of this kind, are innumerable; and their enmity will be the more bitter, and the more dangerous too, because a sense of dignity will oblige them to conceal the cause of their resentment.
Very few men of great families and extensive connections but will feel the smart of a cutting reform, in some close relation, some bosom friend, some pleasant acquaintance, some dear protected dependant. Emolument is taken from some; patronage from others; objects of pursuit from all. Men, forced into an involuntary independence, will abhor the authors of a blessing which in their eyes has so very near a resemblance to a curse. When officers are removed, and the offices remain, you may set the gratitude of some against the anger of others; you may oppose the friends you oblige against the enemies you provoke. But services of the present sort create no attachments. The individual good felt in a public benefit, is comparatively so small, comes round through such an involved labyrinth of intricate and tedious revolutions; whilst a present personal detriment is so heavy where it falls, and so instant in its operation, that the cold commendation of a public advantage never was, and never will be, a match for the quick sensibility of a private loss : and you may depend upon it, sir, that when many people have an interest in railing, sooner or later, they will bring a considerable degree of unpopularity upon any measure. Şo that, for the present at least, the reformation will operate against the reformers; and revenge (as against them at the least) will produce all the effects of corruption.
This, sir, is almost always the case, where the plan has