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called him the dinner-bell. Nothing is more melancholy than to read of the fate of the last Parliamentary speech which he gave to the world through the press, that on the Nabob of Arcot's Debts (1785). Brougham considered this by far the finest of his orations, and it certainly contains his finest exordium. But no one listened to it, or seemed to understand it. Erskine slept through the five hours which it occupied in delivery, though he afterwards thumbed the printed copy to rags. Yet this was the speech in which the orator's feelings were most thoroughly roused
-in which there is more wealth of imagery, more invective, and more sarcasm than in any other. Never, says Dr. Goodrich, was there a greater union of brilliancy and force, or a more complete triumph over the difficulties of a subject. Near its close, Pitt asked Lord Grenville whether it would be necessary to reply.
The answer was, No! not the slightest impression has been made. The speech may with perfect safety be passed over in silence.'
But while the speeches of Sheridan are read once, and then laid on the shelf, the writings of Burke are the daily bread of statesmen, speakers, and political writers. We cannot take up a review or newspaper without finding some trace, however faint, of their effect. Similarly, as Coleridge says, the very sign-boards of our inns afford evidence that there was once a Titian in the world. We cannot peruse the speeches of any successful modern orator, without observing how much they owe to the method, the phraseology, the images, and even the quotations of Burke. To him may be applied with truth the epitaph of Ennius? The speeches of Canning are especially recommended as an example of what a clever man, without much originality, may make of himself with the aid of Burke. The difficulty is not, indeed, to see where Burke's influence is to be found, but to preserve our own vision unaffected by it. His genius is of so peculiarly brilliant a nature, that it seems to affect the mind's eye the more, the more the mind's eye becomes accustomed to it. It seems to dazzle the strong intellect more effectually than the feeble. It has been well said that Burke sways the mass of intelligent and cultivated readers with almost as little resistance as a demagogue experiences from a mob. In the endeavour
· Volito vivu' per ora virom.
to penetrate the cause of this we shall not be much assisted by any criticism specially directed to the subject, though many capable men have penned such criticisms at greater or less length. Hazlitt, who has left two contradictory estimates of Burke, is the most conspicuous exception : and he, in another work, has admitted the futility of the attempt. The student will beware of falling into this error. He will aim at a minute knowledge of the relics of Burke's genius, a comprehension of their method, and a perception of their relation to each other. In this way will an idea gradually be created, not to be got at second-hand, and a species of faith in his author will be generated, which will end in the disappearance of seeming discrepancies. He will supplement this by the interesting task of tracing the influence of Burke's views upon those of more modern writers, an influence quite unparalleled, except in the history of theology. Burke's reputation is full of variety. He devoted much of his toil to demolishing the modern school of philosophy, but the philosophers, both in Germany and in France, have forced him into their systems. He was born to a position outside the religious controversies of the day, and he confirmed himself in it by deliberation; but his extreme tolerance has exposed him to the claims of both parties. The Catholics tell us that he was really a Catholic, or would have been so if he had lived in our own time. He has often been quoted, like Scripture, for and against the same doctrine. Even the democrats admire him and approve him exceedingly, although they have somewhat against him. They did the same in his lifetime. "These priests (of the Rights of Man) begin by crowning me with their flowers and their fillets, and bedewing me with their odours, as a preface to the knocking me on the head with their consecrated axes.' Some charm forces from them an unbelieving homage, before they stamp him to pieces, and scatter his fragments to the winds.
This multifarious praise is balanced by a general outcry against him for deserting his early convictions. Burke's consistency has always been a trite point of controversy, and many acute minds have been deceived by appearances. The charge against him will be found forcibly stated in Moore's Life of Sheridan:
1 Burke's father was a Protestant and his mother a Catholic. The girls of the family were brought up in the faith of the mother, the boys in that of the father. Mrs. Burke was born in a family similarly circumstanced.
"He has left behind him two separate and distinct armouries of opinion, from which both Whig and Tory may furnish themselves with weapons, the most splendid, if not the most highly tempered, that ever Genius and Eloquence have condescended to bequeath to Party. ... Burke was mighty in either camp: and it would have taken two great men to effect what he, by this division of himself, achieved. His mind, indeed, lies parted asunder in his works, like some vast continent severed by a convulsion of nature-each portion peopled by its own giant race of opinions, differing altogether in features and language, and committed in eternal hostility with each other.'
This view has descended from Whig politicians of Burke's time to the philosophical writers of our own day. This inconsistency was accounted for easily enough-in the last decade of his life he was alleged to be mad. The French Revolution at any rate, if it did not turn his brain, was said to have turned the current of his opinions, and made him a Conservative, as the horrors of Münster made More and Erasmus persecutors. Even Mr. Cobden echoed this cry?. He admitted, however, a certain method in this madness. “Burke's strictures on the Revolution,' he says, 'began with criticism, grew into menace, and ended in a cry for war. The story of his madness is stated in its most absurd form by Mr. Buckle. Burke lent support to this silly notion, by speaking of the decay of his powers in his last years, while he was preaching his crusade against the Republic with a force that seemed superhuman, and with a spirit that bordered on fanaticism. But it was reserved for Mr. Buckle to clothe this with the
dignity of history,' and to make lamentation over the ruins of that mighty intellect.' It is sufficient in this place to say that the whole story is utterly without foundation. Burke's intellect was never more firmly settled, never exerted more widely its magical influence, and never expressed itself in sager utterances, than in these last years. Let the student examine the Letters on a Regicide Peace,' and he will find Burke's folly wiser than the wisdom, and his madness saner than the reason, of his critics?.
The term inconsistency may be used in different ways to imply charges of very various kinds. In the shifting circumstances
1.1793 and 1853,' Works, vol. i.
2 Hazlitt says with great truth, that those who looked upon him as a man of disordered intellect, did so 'because he reasoned in a style to which they had not been used, and which confounded their dim perceptions.'
of political life, the statesman is often forced into 'inconsistent' positions. He often acts, in consequence, in ways which seem, and may really be, inconsistent. He reaches the climax of ,inconsistency by deliberately changing his opinions, and with them his course of policy. Such a change, accompanied by a frank avowal of the fact, and an exposition of his reasons, was that of a great modern statesman on the question of the Irish Church. But the inconsistency which lies in acting differently under different circumstances, with the same radical views, does not come under any of these heads. The physician may, one day, order the patient's chamber window to be kept open, and the next, order it to be kept shut. But on the first day the wind was in the south-west, on the second day in the north-east. Of this nature was the inconsistency of Burke. He maintained to the last the perfect consistency of his political opinions. He valued himself upon it. 'I believe,' he writes in the third person, 'if he could venture to value himself upon anything, it is on the virtue of consistency that he would value himself the most. Strip him of this, and you leave him naked indeed. In order to gain a first idea of the opinions to which Burke adhered so tenaciously, the student is advised to set out with the idea that Burke was always what would now be called a Conservative. Party distinctions are of so perishable a nature that unless we can fix on something belonging to our own times, and 'coming home to our business and bosoms,' we are in danger of becoming the victims of words. We will not limit this term to the attitude or principles of the political party which is at this day in possession of it. By conservatism is meant that preference for and indulgence to what is already established, that faith in what has been tried, and that distrust of what exists only in speculation, which never wholly forsakes every sound politician, of whatever party. Passing from sentiment to logic, we might describe it, in the words of a German philosopher, as a system which holds the thinking away of what exists, and the thinking back in its place of what does not, to be the root of fallacies. Passing to practice, we use it to express briefly that policy in a commonwealth which, in the words of Hallam, "favours possession. The word is attempted, for the nonce, to be changed from a counter into
i From the Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs, written to vindicate himself from this charge.
a coin. It indicates that memorable group of principles which are enforced in the Reflections on the French Revolution?. In that work is contained, though not the first use of the idea, the first application in all its bearings of the doctrine of conservation.' The principles of that work were eagerly adopted by the politicians of the restoration, and it was to these, and to their principles respectively, that the words conservateur and conservatif came to be first generally applied, about the years 1820-1830. Mr. Croker, in the Quarterly Review, is said to have first given the term an English application, and Canning, who drew so largely from the later statesmanship of Burke, seems to have fixed it in English parlance. Since it has become a party name, it has of course incurred the liability common to all party names of losing not only its original meaning, but all vestige of any meaning whatsoever. The vicissitudes of such names are curious. The term •Whig,' for instance, near the time of its first appearance, was interpreted by a lexicographer, homo fanaticus, factiosus. “Whiggism’ he translated by enthusiasmus, perduellio. In the middle of the last century, however, “Whig' was a most honourable title, claimed by politicians of all parties. Supporters of the court, of the great families, and of the rights of the people, all boasted of it, much as contending sectaries might claim the honoured title of Christian. It was understood to imply exalted sentiments of constitutional liberty. When anything occurred in Parliament to offend these sentiments, men used to say, 'it made all the Whig blood boil in their veins.' Whiggism seems now to be in its dotage, and to mean a spurious kind of Conservatism, which nobody is very eager to profess. The history of the term 'Tory'is yet more curious. When it was introduced into our classical literature, the loyalty of a Tory was compared with the courtesy of a fasting bear 3.
Now the Whiggism of the last century was in nearly every respect more conservative than are the principles of any party which exists at present. Nearly all reforming measures proceeded from the Tories, and jealousy for the constitution was
i Contained in vol. ii. of these Select Works.
• Think Tories loyal, or Scotch Covenanters;