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of the globe1. Every one of us has his own perplexity. His remote destination, my home-confinement, thy complicated arduous engagements embitter our several cups of life, and fully prove to each of us that it is a cup of mixture. To live in the awful fear of our Creator and keep a conscience void of offence helps much to sweeten the draught. Tell him my love and good wishes attend him there and back again. Remember me most affectionately to thy household, or rather desire them to forget me. My father and my wife are well, and preserve a sincere affection for you all.... However, this be assured of, that whether ever I see or hear from thee again, or whether this letter closes our correspondence for life, I am, with unabated, undiminished affection, thy sincere and faithful friend,
My dear friend,
E. Burke to R. Shackleton.
Gregories, May 6th, 1770. I am now in the place from whence I was weak and blameable enough to write you a very angry, a very cruel, and in all respects a very improper letter. I will not be more dilatory in making all the amends in my power for the offence than I was in offending. So I write immediately on the receipt of your letter. But let my apology be, if it be one, that a spirit not naturally over-patient had about that time ten thousand things to mortify it, and this coming on the back of them did for awhile put me beside myself. I assure you I am so concerned for what you have felt, that I could not bear to read through your description of it. A little triflingmere imprudence at worst-did by no means deserve anything like a reproof, much less so harsh a one. As to my wife, you needed to make no apology at all to her; she felt nothing but good wishes and friendship to you; and is by no means liable to those spurts of passion to which I am unfortunately but too subject. In truth the publication was soon forgot, produced no sort of effect, but was borne down the torrent of such matter, where one succeeds and carries away the other too velut unda impellitur unda.
Pray forget it, as the world has and I do; burn the letter I wrote which deserves no better fate; and I beg-since it is one of the drawbacks on those who get a little consideration in the world that every little matter relative to them, how unfit soever for the public eye, is dragged before it by one means or other—that you would commit to the flames any letter, letters, or papers of mine which you may find and think liable through some accident to be so abused. It is hardly credible how many people live by such publications, and how hard it is altogether to escape this interested diligence....Adieu, my dear Shackleton; forgive one who, if he is quick to offend, is ready to atone; who loves, values, and esteems your abilities and your virtues; and never can think of your early and continued friendship but as one of the chief blessings of his life.
I am, my dear friend, once more truly and affectionately yours,
Have we no hope of seeing you this summer?
1 Edmund Burke's brother Richard, who was about to sail for Bermuda.
London Evening Post1
April 14-17th, 1770
To the PRINTER of the London Evening Post.
Observing in your paper of the 10th instant a short, though pertinent account of the justly celebrated Edmund Burke, I take the earliest opportunity of transmitting to you his genuine Character, as given by a gentleman in Ireland, of distinguished learning and ability, and of unquestionable integrity, who was and has been intimately acquainted with Mr. Burke, through the progressive stages of his education, and since. It was conveyed to a friend of mine by an Irish gentleman, who had it immediately from the author himself, but not designed for a public appearance. As the exhibition of great and noble characters to public view may probably influence some to copy after such amiable examples, I think myself justly excuseable from censure on this account, and doubt not but you will readily give it a place in your next paper.
I am your's, &c.
Edmund Burke is the son of Richard Burke, who was an attorney-atlaw, of middling circumstances, but punctual honesty. Richard was a Protestant, originally from the province of Munster in Ireland; and married a wife from thence, whose name was Nagle. She was of a Popish family; I cannot say whether she legally conformed to the Church of England, but she practised the duties of the Romish religion with a decent privacy.
Her husband was more concerned to promote his children's interest in the world, than to trouble himself about controverted points of religion, and therefore brought his sons up in the profession of that which he thought the most public road to preferment, viz. the religion of the country, established by law. His three sons, Garret, Edmund, and Richard, were educated at Ballitore School, and there fitted for their several destinations in life. They constantly went with the other Protestant boys to their place of worship, and betrayed not the least inclination to the errors of the Church of Rome, about which they seemed to concern themselves no more than the rest of their school-fellows. Edmund was a lad of most promising genius, of an inquisitive and speculative cast of mind, which was improved in him by a constitutional indisposition, which prevented him from suffering by those avocations from study, which are the consequence of puerile diversions. He read much while he was a boy, and accumulated a stock of learning of great variety. His memory extensive, his judgment early ripened, he would find in his own mind, in reasoning and comparing with himself, such a fund of entertainment, that he seemed not at all to regret
1 In the British Museum.
his hours of solitude; yet he was affable, free and communicative, as ready to teach as to learn. He made the reading of the classics his diversion, rather than his business. He was particularly delighted with history and poetry, and whilst at school performed several exercises in the latter with a manly grace. The day after he left Ballitore, he was admitted into the University of Dublin. Though the course of study which then obtained there, was not at all adapted to his taste, yet he went through the College exercises with reputation and success; and seems to have extracted from every science whatever was fine and useful in it, leaving the rest to mere scholars.
From the University he went to the Temple, where he read the Law for some time, with that intense application which it necessarily requires; but found that it would neither suit his habit of body, or mind, to adopt that profession for a means of livelihood. He therefore, followed the bent of his inclination in those literary researches and productions which could not fail to recommend him to the distinguished notice of those who had ruminated on the cause of things, and gone somewhat farther than ordinary (tho' perhaps out of the beaten track) into the extensive regions of knowledge. By these he was introduced to the acquaintance of Men in power, who made him easy in his circumstances, and on whom he reflected honour, as long as they were worthy to be his patrons. The rise of his fortune has neither made him forget his friends nor himself. Conscious of the fallacy of human reason, as well as the uncertainty of human condition, he is neither elevated by his learning, nor his situation: He is neither opinionated nor proud. He argues with an irresistable cogency, yet with a modesty and gentleness which is more persuasive than any argument.
He has studied the English language with a surprising accuracy and, speaks it with fluency and propriety. He is rather too precipitate in his speech; for his ideas crowd so fast upon his imagination, and his judgment ranges them so quickly in order, that he has not the delay of deliberation or recollection. The innate goodness of his heart, thinks more of informing his audience of that which he believes to be their advantage to know, than of acquiring the fame of a fine speaker to himself. And as he is not tinctured with that self complacency which acquiesces intirely with itself, he bears about him the modest diffidence which ever accompanies true genius. He is in haste to finish his own speech, that he may hear to be better informed by that of others. Rarely in one man does there happen such a union of good qualities. There is combined in him the contemplative sagacity of a philosopher, and the easy politeness of a courtier, the prudent reserve of a man of business, and the open frankness of a friend; a profound knowledge of books, and universal acquaintance with men and things; a most delicate and lively invention, a most exact and refined judgment.
He has a person and parts which command our admiration and respect; He has a manner and disposition which win our love and esteem.
Though deep now engaged in scenes of political business, and conversant in the intrigues of States, that amor patria which warmed his earliest youth, still predominates in his soul. Neither a consideration of his own temporary interest, nor that of any other, can check his flame. In his
public life he is noble, wise, and steady; in his private, just, benevolent, and humane.
The great, the good, and the amiable qualities, are most happily blended in his character; and into this composition enters a certain unaffected simplicity of manners and conduct, which characterises the whole man with a peculiarly pleasing distinction. Though he is of speculative, yet he is also of a social cast. He took to wife, the daughter of Dr Nugent, born also in Munster, but educated in England; a genteel, well-bred woman1, of the Roman faith, whom he married neither for her religion, nor her money, but from the natural impulse of youthful affection and inclination, which guided his choice to an agreeable object with whom he promised himself happiness in a married state. This connection has given rise to an opinion, that he was addicted to the errors of that Church, but without any foundation in reason for such a conclusion. He is well satisfied there are many errors of that Church; but at the same time thinks there may be some (though fewer) in his own.
He thinks the Clergy of the Church of England, to be in the general a very worthy class of people, attends them at their places of devotion, and no others, and is intimately connected with some of the first rank in the body; yet he believes in religion as he does in politics, that no human system is on all sides perfect; and as there is a mixture of good and bad people amongst the professors of every religion, that there is also a mixture of right and wrong tenets amongst the principles of every profession.
He knows the prejudices of education are strong, and human understanding is comparatively weak. He believes Papists are wrong; he doubts if Protestants are altogether right. He has not yet been favoured to find that clue which could lead him to the indubitable certainty of true religion, undefiled with the mixture of human inventions, to which his own spirit as a man (though truly excellent) can no more guide him, than their fine parts and reasoning could guide the ancient poets, philosophers, &c. who notwithstanding their noble exertion of the rational faculties in investigating the works of nature, remained in the grossest ignorance and absurdity respecting the truths of Christianity:
And surely, in a matter most essentially necessary and interesting, it is not to be imagined that Divine Wisdom and Goodness would leave us destitute of the means of infallible certainty.
1 His wife has since conformed legally to the Church of England.
WILL OF RICHARD BURKE1
4 NOVEMBER, 1761
In the Name of God Amen. I Richard Burke of the City of Dublin, Gent. do make and publish this my last Will and testament in manner following (That is to say) I bequeath and resign my soul to ye almighty God my Creator believing and hoping for remission of my sins and everlasting life by the merits and passion of Christ Jesus my only Saviour and Redeemer. And as to my body I desire my Executore hereinafter named, may order the same to be buried privately, and therefore decently buried in St. James's Church yard Dublin, if I dye in Dublin, as near the place where my Children are buried as may be guessed, the expence of such burying not to exceed the sum of Six pounds, to be buried late in the evening or early in the morning. And as to such worldly Substance wherewith it has pleased the Almighty to bless my labour and industry in this life, which consists of money secured by Judgements, Bills, Bonds, Notes, or otherwise, Plate and household furniture I dispose thereof in manner following. First I order and direct that the Interest of the Lease of the house wherein I now live on Ormond Quay and all the moveables in and about the same which I purchased, together with all my household goods furniture and plate be sold by public Cant to the best bidder in one month at most, next after my decease, except and saving thereout such of my goods furniture and Plate as I have hereinafter devised and disposed of to my wife and Daughter. Secondly I devise give and bequeath unto my dearly beloved wife Mary Burke in full satisfaction and barr of all other demands she can or may make to all or any of my substance after my decease either at law or in Equity, the yearly Interest of Six hundred pounds which is part of the principal sums of Six hundred pounds due to me from Ambrose Harding Esq. by two several Judgements by me obtained against him in the Court of Exchequer in Ireland to be paid to her by half yearly payments during her natural life. And I further devise give and bequeath unto her the sum of twenty pounds Sterling to be received by her out of the arrear of Interest that shall be due on the same Six hundred pounds. If so much shall be due thereon at the time of my decease. And if so much Interest shall not be then due, so much as it shall be deficient in to be received by her and retained in her hands out of such money as I shall have by me at the time of my decease, or out of such money as shall arise by sale of my goods as aforesaid. And I further devise and give unto her ye further sum of five pounds to buy her Mourning. And I give and bequeath unto her all her Cloathing and apparel of what kind or nature soever, rings, watch, one pair of silver salts, and two Salt spoons and two Silver table spoons. And I do 1 From a Record Office copy. The original will has been destroyed with the Public Record Office, Dublin, in which it was deposited.