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The Right Hon. EDMUND BURKE, LL.D.
III. FACSIMILE OF A PAGE OF THE MINUTE Book
HE circumstances under which this book is produced are these.
graduate in Trinity College, Dublin, devoted himself mainly to the study of history, economics and political science. He gained high honours and graduated as Senior Moderator and Gold Medallist in these subjects in 1909. He was unanimously elected Auditor of the College Historical Society for the session 1910 to 1911; the honour is the highest Trinity students can confer on one of their number. He delivered an inaugural address on "Irish Possibilities,” containing suggestions for the government and administration of Ireland, which, if adopted, might have proved of great practical value, had not “The Impossible” since arrived.
When Auditor he was urged by the members of the Society to edit the original Minute Book of the “Club” founded by Edmund Burke, from which the College Historical Society traces its origin. He undertook the work, but soon came to the conclusion that it was desirable to extend its scope, and to present a picture of Burke's early life and undergraduate surroundings if his utterances and those of his fellow-members as summarised in the Minute Book of the Club were to be presented in an historical setting. This portion of Burke's career had not been treated fully by his biographers. He accordingly investigated the records in the Muniment Room in Trinity College, and studied the newspapers, pamphlets and memoirs of the day, annotated Burke's early correspondence, and made other researches with the object of placing in perspective the undergraduate life of Trinity College in the middle of the eighteenth century, and the surroundings amid which Burke thought and worked.
The manuscript of this book was nearing completion by my son when the War broke out in August, 1914. He was an officer of the Dublin University Officers' Training Corps and had been in training in July with his Corps at Mourne Park, near Mallow. He had there taken the opportunity of visiting the neighbourhood of Monanimy and Castletown-Roche, where Burke's boyhood was spent, and was engaged in making enquiries there when called to take his part in the Great War. He left with the manuscript further notes and suggestions for investigation, which I have used in preparing this book for publication. He was commissioned to the 11th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles, and gazetted Captain in 1914. The Battalion formed part of the famous 36th Ulster Division. He was wounded in the commencement of the Battle of the Somme at Thiepval where his battalion, fighting with the utmost valour, was almost annihilated. He continued to serve in the Ypres salient, and, on the eve of higher promotion, fell at Messines, on 24th September, 1916, shot through the brain.
Pressure of parliamentary and administrative duties prevented me for a considerable time from taking up the trust of completing his work on Burke. I have given in full some of the documents from the Public Record Office, Dublin, which he had more briefly referred to as owing to the execrable destruction on 1st July, 1922, of that magnificent and irreplaceable collection, reference to the originals will never again be possible. As a similar fate may now be awaiting other libraries and depositories of records in Ireland, some quotations from different documents are also given in what may possibly appear to be too great detail.
It was my son's great desire to have had an opportunity of collating Burke's early correspondence, as published, with the actual letters, and to have seen the documents in the possession of the Shackleton family. He had not that opportunity; but through the great kindness and courtesy of Mrs Lydia Pilgrim, of Colne, and her brother, Edward B. ffennell, Esq., M.D., the direct descendants of Richard Shackleton, in whose possession these letters and other valuable manuscripts now are, I have had the advantage of seeing them. I have compared the letters, and corrected some errors and supplied some omissions which occurred in those that were printed in the Leadbeater Papers and Fitzwilliam Edition of Burke's Correspondence. I have also added some of Burke's juvenile poems that are among the Shackleton papers and have not hitherto been published.
My son was called away by duty and death before he recovered (as he undoubtedly would have done) Burke's lost first literary production, the Reformer. In following up some indications left by him, I was fortunate enough to discover that Mr E. R. McC. Dix had in his unique collection of old Irish newspapers the full series of this most interesting miscellany, which is not to be found in any of the great public libraries. Burke's contributions to the Reformer are published in the Appendix.
An entirely new aspect of Burke's first political publications, and of the part he took in the Lucas Controversy, and his attitude towards the problems raised in that agitation, is presented in this volume. My son's view was that the part in it assigned to Burke by Prior, and other