Page images
PDF
EPUB

1

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

life, Mr. Burke behaved kindly to his ingenious countryman, although the behaviour of Barry was far from being such as he could approve,

The literary character of Mr. BURKE is above all praise. Though he wrote rapidly, not a line dropped from his pen but what bore the striking impress of his powerful mind, and in truth he can hardly be said to have written a single page without communicating to the most enlightened reader something new, either in thought or illustration. Wisdom and eloquence, which others attain with labour, were in him the habitual and ordinary march of his ideas; whence his style constantly exhibits such a superabundance of argument and imagery, that while our attention is pursuing the track of his reasoning, we are in danger of losing ourselves amidst the various beauties with which it is enforced and embellished. The same characteristics distinguished the oratory of Mr. BURKE, that are still perceived in his compositions; but though he rarely, if ever, failed to delight his hearers by his manner and his matter, he too frequently weakened the effect of his elocution þy not stopping at the right period of his argument; the consequence of which was, that those who had been charmed and convinced by the former part of the speech, became, at the close of it, languid, tired, and indifferent.

In domestic life Mr. BURKE exhibited such a striking contrast to his associates, that it

is a matter of some surprise how la person of his philosophical principles and temperate habits, could endure a connexion with men, most of whose time was dissipated, to use no worse term, in midnight revelry over the bottle, or at the gaming-table. To reconcile private vice with public virtue, is a task. which no casuist has yet ventured to undertake in a free and impartial spirit; nor would any one engage in the proof that the union is consistent, were it not from a desire to justify particular characters, whose' morals have been at variance with the professions which they set up in the face of the world. Dr. Price was well aware of this, and therefore, in one of his political sermons, he took occasion, sharply, to reprobate the pernicious maxim, that patriotism and 'profligacy could exist in the same person. He did this in reference to the leaders of the party to which he belonged, and he lamented most devoutly and sincerely, that while, by their oratorical powers, these great men were upholding and propagating the same doctrines with himself, as being essential to human happiness, they rendered them altogether nugatory by the most scandalous conduct in the ordinary transactions of life.

When the French Revolution broke out; it was seen that public and private virtue cannot be separated, without endangering the

[ocr errors]

fundamental principles upon which all social order must stand, and by the consummation of which the rights of individuals can alone be secured.

In that storm, BURKE appeared impregnable, like the rock whose basis is infixed in the foundation of eternal morality, while the political sophists of the day having nothing stable in their minds for the regulation of their conduct in perilous times, were driven about by every wind that blew, having no point of certain distinction, nor any principles upon which they could depend for their guidance and security, amidst the sea of revolutionary strife, from which, as they and others vainly flattered themselves, a new world of perfection was about to arise. Most of these visionaries have dropped into oblivion, and the few that remain are so little known, that their very names will in a short space be forgotten. BURKE, on the contrary, has left an imperishable memorial; every day increases its value, and future ages will have recourse to it for the maxims of political wisdom in the government and direction of life. Whatever may be thought of those infirmities which he possessed in common with the rest of mankind, or of the errors into which he occasionally fell, he had the singular merit of dissolving the links of party, at a critical period when that party began to assume the dangerous

part of a faction, under a leader whose ambition admitting no restraint,

Sprung upwards, like a pyramid of fire
Into the wild expanse, and through the shock
Of fighting elements, on all sides round

Environ’d, won his way."Taking, therefore, a retrospective glance at that part of our national history, and looking steadfastly upon the opposite conduct of the men who distinguished themselves when the horrors of the Revolution had nearly broken in upon the shores of Britain, one cannot help admiring the intrepid spirit that first and last opposed the torrent, and for so doing brought upon

himself the hatred of his compeers. Not in the least intimidated by their taunts and reproaches, he pursued his course, and by that firmness became a main instrument of rousing the nation to that resistance against anarchy, which ultimately gave peace to the world. Like the faithful seraph, so admirably painted by the poet, he stood

“ Among innumerable false, unmoy'd,
Unshaken, unseduc'd, unterrified;
His loyalty he kept, his love, his zeal;
Nor number, nor example, with him wrought
To swerve from Truth, or change his constant mind,
Though single. From amidst them, forth he pass'd
Long way through hostile scorn, which he sustain'd
Superior, nor of insolence feared aught;
And with retorted scorn his back he turn'd
On those proud towns to swift destruction hurl'd."

END OF THE MEMOIR.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »