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Or, if the mind be torn with deep distress,
To this compliment he wrote the following letter in reply
“ MY DEAR Miss SHACKLETON, “ I ought not to have suffered myself to remain so long at a disadvantage in your mind. My fault is considerable, but not quite so great as it appears ; for your letter went round by way of Carlisle, and it was a good while before it came to my hands. It ought, indeed, to have been my care to have made the earliest possible acknowledgment, where nothing more was required ; and in a case where, indeed, there was little more in my power to do than to tell you in a few plain and sincere words, how extremely sensible I was of the honour you have done me, by making this family and this place the subject of some of the most beautiful and most original verses that have for many years been made upon any place or any persons.
“ They make us all a little more fond of ourselves, and of our situation. For my own part I will not -complain, that when you have drawn a beautiful landscape, you have put an old friend of your father's as a figure in the foreground; nor shall I pretend that I am not pleased even with the excess of partiality, which has made him an object worthy of appearing in such a scene. The scene itself, fine as it is, owes much to the imagination and skill of the painter; but the figure owes all to it. You great
artists never draw what is before you, but improve it up to the standard of perfection in your own minds. In this description, I know nothing of myself; but what is better, and may be of more use, I know what a good judge thinks I ought to be.
“ As to your picture of this part of the country, I cannot help observing, that there is not the least of common-place in it. One cannot apply it equally to every country, as most things of this kind
may be turned. It is particular and appropriated ; and that, without being minute or tedious in the detail. Indeed, it is a sweet poem; and shows a mind full of observation, and retentive of images in the highest degree. Some of the lines are not quite so finished as to match the rest; and some time or other, I may take the liberty of pointing them out to you ; and some of the rhymes hitch upon words, to which nothing (not even you) can give grace. But these are lesser blemishes; and easily effaced either by omission or a trivial change. You will excuse this freedom. But in so fine a poem, in which your kindness for an old friend of your father has given me so great an interest, you will naturally expect that I should wish for the perfection which I know you can give your work with a little more of your
Pray excuse this very late and very imperfect acknowledgment of the great favour you have done
I cannot plead business in favour of my delay. I have had a great deal of leisure time. At the moment I write this, I never was more busy in my life ; and, indeed, thus much is in favour of activity and occupation, that the more one has to do the
more one is capable of doing, even beyond our direct task. I am ever, with Mrs. Burke's, my brother's, , and my son's most affectionate regards to you, and to all Ballitore, which we love with great sincerity, my dear Miss Shackleton, “ Your most faithful and most obliged “ And obedient humble servant,
“ EDMUND BURKE. “ Beaconsfield, Dec. 13th, 1784."
His benevolence, as the preceding poetic compliment implies, was frequently shewn in administering medicine, of which he knew a little of the practical part, to his poorer neighbours in the country, when they were unable to pay for more regular advice, or too distant to procure it immediately; and also to his servants and family. On one of these occasions in mixing some medicines for Mrs. Burke, he used a wrong one by mistake, and when he found it was likely to be productive of serious consequences, experienced indescribable agony for a few hours until assured there was no farther danger. In allusion to this unpleasant occurrence, he sometimes afterwards used to say to Doctor Brocklesby, “ I mean to leave off practice, Doctor, for I fear I am little better than a quack.”
To beggars he was kind and charitable, showing more compassion to the itinerant class than is generally exhibited, and which his education in Ireland, where from there being no poor laws, more consideration is displayed to such objects than in this country, tended to strengthen. All the silver which he carried out, in going for a walk, was usually disposed of in this way before he came home, so that if a hackney-coach brought him to the door, he was scarcely ever able to discharge it without procuring the means from some one in the house. He would not admit that persons refused to assist travelling mendicants from policy. “ No, Sir,” said he, in a conversation on the subject, “it is only an apology for saving their money.”
Some years after this time, when enfeebled by infirmity and by grief for the loss of his son, he was walking in the neighbourhood of Beaconsfield, with two ladies, near relatives, a beggar-man rather advanced in years accosted them, requesting assist
Mr. Burke, after a few questions, gave him a shilling. “I wonder, my dear Sir,” remarked one of the ladies, as they walked on, “ you should bestow upon those people, who are generally worthless characters, so much ; what you have just now given will be spent in gin.” “ Madam,” replied he emphatically, after a pause, and assuming a severe aspect, “he is an old man ;-and if gin be his confort, let him have gin.”
Speech on the Nabob of Arcot's debts.- Report of the Shipwreck
of his son.— Impeachment of Mr. Hastings.Peroration on opening the Charges.—Visit to Ireland by Mr. Burke.-Conversations with a Gentleman in London.—Letters to Lord Charlemont.-Mr. Hardy's account of him.—Preface to Bellendenus.—Epitaph on the Marquis of Rockingham.
In the Session commencing 25th January, 1785, no notice being taken of India affairs in the Speech from the Throne, Mr. Burke moved an amendment, warmly supported by Mr. Fox, and observed in allusion to the Governor General, that “there was at this moment in India as great a phenomenon as ever the world had produced. A person who stood not as a delinquent, but as a criminal in the eye of that House-whose criminal charge was on the records of their journals, and whose recal had been ordered by that House; nevertheless, in defiance of their authority, that criminal was at this moment commanding our armies, and directing the expenditure of our revenues in Bengal.”
He likewise took part on the subject of the Westminster scrutiny, in which the Minister was accused of showing as much unworthy resentment towards Mr. Fox, as he had done in the preceding Session toward the Member for Malton; also on the question of the cotton tax; on that of the treatment of convicts under sentence of transportation; on the