An ornament and blessing to the age in which he lived, his memory will continue to be beneficial to mankind, by holding forth an example of pure and unaffected virtue, most worthy of imitation, to the latest posterity. In the last of a series of articles by Mrs. Hall, entitled "Pilgrimages to English Shrines," and published in the London Art Journal , we have an account of a visit to the residences and to the [Pg ] grave of Burke, which we reproduce in the following pages, with its interesting illustrations.
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It has been said that we are inclined to over-value great men when their graves have been long green, or their monuments gray above them, but we believe it is only then we estimate them as they deserve. Prejudice and falsehood have no enduring vitality, and posterity is generally anxious to render justice to the mighty dead; we dwell upon their actions,—we quote their sentiments and opinions,—we class them amongst our household gods—and keep their memories green within the sanctuary of our homes ; we read to our children and friends the written treasures bequeathed to us by the genius and independence of the great statesmen and orators—the men of literature and science—who " have been.
What a happy power this is! If these sweet wakening dreams were more frequent, we should be happier; yes, and better than we are; we should be shamed out of much baseness—for nothing so purifies and exalts the soul as the actual or imaginary companionship of the pure and exalted; no man who purposed to create a noble picture would choose an imperfect model; no one who seeks virtue and cherishes honor and honorable things, will endure the degradation of ignoble persons or ignoble thoughts; no one ever achieved a great purpose who did not plant his standard on high ground.
A little before the commencement of the present century, England was rich in orators, and poets, and men of letters; the times were favorable to such—events called them forth—and there was still a lingering chivalric feeling in our island which the utilitarian principles or tastes of the present period would now treat with neglect, if not contempt.
The progress of the French Revolution agitated Europe; and men wondered if the young Corsican would ever dare to wield the sceptre wrenched from the grasp of a murdered king; people were continually on the watch for fresh events; great stakes were played for all over Europe, and those who desired change were full of hope.
It was an age to create great men. Let us then indulge in visions of those, who, in more recent times than we have yet touched upon,—save in one or two Pilgrimages ,—illumed the later days of the last century; and, brightest and purest of the galaxy was the orator, Edmund Burke. Ireland, which gave him birth, may well be proud of the high-souled and high-gifted man, who united in himself all the great qualities which command attention in the senate and the world, and all the domestic virtues that sanctify home; grasping a knowledge of all things, and yet having that sweet sympathy with the small things of life, which at once bestows and secures happiness, and, in the end, popularity.
Edmund Burke was born on Arran Quay, Dublin, January the 1st, ; his father was an attorney: the name, we believe, was originally spelt Bourke. The great grandfather of Edmund inherited some property in that county which has produced so many men of talent—the county of Cork; the family resided in the neighborhood of Castletown Roche, four or five miles from Doneraile, five or six miles from Mallow—now a railroad station—and nearly the same distance from the ruins of Kilcolman Castle, whose every mouldering stone is hallowed by the memory of the poet Spenser and his dear friend, "the Shepherd of the Ocean," Sir Walter Raleigh.
There can be little doubt that Edmund—a portion of whose young life was passed in this beautiful locality—imbibed much thought, as well as much poetry, from the sacred memories which here accompanied him during his wanderings.
Nothing so thoroughly awakens the sympathy of the young as the imaginary presence of the good and great amid the scenes where their most glorious works were accomplished; the associations connected with Kilcolman are so mingled, that their contemplation produces a variety of emotions—admiration for the poem which was created within its walls—contemplation of the "glorious two" who there spent so much time together in harmony and sweet companionship, despite the storms which ravaged the country; then the awful catastrophe, the burning of the castle, and the loss of Spenser's child in the flames, still talked of in the neighborhood, were certain to make a deep impression on the imagination of a boy whose delicate health prevented his rushing into the amusements and society of children of his own age.
There are plenty of crones in every village, and one at least in every gentleman's house to watch "the master's children" and pour legendary lore into their willing ears, accompanied by snatches of song and fairy tale. All these were certain to seize upon such an imagination as that of Burke, and lay the foundation of much of that high-souled mental poetry—one of his great characteristics; indeed, the circumstances of his youth were highly favorable to his peculiar temperament—his delicate constitution rendered him naturally susceptible of the beautiful; and the locality of the Blackwater, and the time-honored ruins of Kilcolman, with its history and traditions, nursed, as they were, by the holy quiet of a country life, had ample time to sink into his soul and germinate the fruitage which, in after years, attained such rich perfection.
An old schoolmaster, of the name of O'Halloran, was his first teacher; he "played at learning" at the school, long since in ruins; and the Dominie used to boast that "no matter how great Master Edmund God bless him was, he was the first who ever put a Latin grammar into his hands. Edmund was one of a numerous family; his [Pg ] mother, who had been a Miss Nagle,  having had fourteen or fifteen children, all of whom died young, except four,—one sister and three brothers: the sister, Mrs.
French, was brought up in the faith of her mother, who was a rigid Roman Catholic, while the sons were trained in the father's belief. This, happily, created no unkindness between them, for not only were they an affectionate and a united family, but perfectly charitable in their opinions, each of the other's creed. As the future statesman grew older, it was considered wise to remove him to Dublin for better instruction, and he was placed at a school in Smithfield kept by a Mr.
James Fitzgerald; but, fortunately for his strength of body and mind, the reputation of an academy in the lovely valley of Ballitore, founded in the midst of a colony of Quakers, by a member of that most benevolent and intelligent society—the well-known Abraham Shackleton—was spreading far and wide; and there the three young Burkes were sent in , Edmund being then twelve years old.
He was considered not so much brilliant, as of steady application. Here, too, he was remarkable for quick comprehension, and great strength of memory; indications which drew forth at first the commendation, and as his powers unfolded, the warm regard of his master; under whose paternal care the improvement of his health kept pace with that of his intellect, and the grateful pupil never forgot his obligations: a truly noble mind is prone to exaggerate kindnesses received, and never detracts from their value; it is only the low and the narrow-minded who underrate the benefits they have been blessed with at any period of their lives.
In he entered Trinity College, Dublin, as a pensioner. He gained fair honors during his residence there, but, like Johnson, Swift, Goldsmith, and other eminent men, he did not distinguish himself so as to lead to any speculation as to his after greatness, although his elders said he was more anxious to acquire knowledge than to display it;—a valuable testimony. His domestic life was so pure, his friendships were so firm, his habits so completely those of a well-bred, well-born Irish Gentleman —mingling, as only Irish gentlemen can do, the suavity of the French with the dignity of English manners—that there is little to write about, or speculate upon, beyond his public words and deeds.
Like most young men of his time, his first oratory was exercised at a club, and his first efforts as a politician were made in , previous to his quitting the Dublin University, in some letters against Mr. Henry Brooke, the author of "Gustavus Vasa. His youthful impressions of England and its capital are recorded in graceful language in his letters to those friends whom he never lost, but by death; one passage is as applicable to the present as to the past.
It was the taste of his time to desire, if not solicit patronage. In our opinion literature is degraded by patronage , while it is honored by the friendship of the good and great. Nothing is so loathsome in the history of letters as the debased dedications which men of mind some years ago laid at the feet of the so-styled "patron!
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It is only when forgetful of great purposes and great power, that literature is open to be forgotten or sneered at. Still the indifference an Englishman feels towards genius, even while enjoying its fruits, was likely enough to check and chill the enthusiasm of Burke, and drive him to much mystery as to his early literary engagements. One of his observations made during his first visit to Westminster Abbey, while hopes and ambitions quickened his throbbing pulse, and he might have been pardoned for wishing for a resting-place in the grand mausoleum of England, is remarkable, as showing how little he changed, and how completely the youth.
I should like, however, that my dust should mingle with kindred dust; the good old expression, 'family burying-grounds,' has something pleasant in it, at least to me. This was his last, as it seems to have been his first desire; and it has found an echo in many a richly dowered heart. The future orator found the law, as a profession, alien to his habits and feelings, for at the expiration of the usual term he was not even called to the bar.
Some say he desired the professorship of logic at the University of Glasgow, and even stood the contest; but this has been disputed, and if he was rejected, it is matter of congratulation, that his talents and time were not confined to so narrow a sphere. At that period his mind was occupied by his theories on the Sublime and Beautiful, which were finally condensed and published in the shape of that essay which roused the world to admiration.
Prior says, and with every show of reason, "that Mr. Burke's ambition of being distinguished in literature, seems to have been one of his earliest, as it was one of his latest, passions. The literature which is pursued chiefly in solitude, [Pg ] is always the best sort: society, which cheers and animates men in most employments, is an impediment to an author if really warmed by true genius, and impelled by a sacred love of truth not to fritter away his thoughts or be tempted to insincerity. The genius and noble mind of Burke constituted him a high priest of literature; the lighter, and it might be the more pleasurable enjoyments of existence, could not be tasted without interfering with his pursuits; but he knew his duty to his God, to the world, and to himself, and the responsibility alone was sufficiently weighty to bend a delicate frame, even when there was no necessity for laboring to live—but where an object is to be attained, principles put forth or combated, God or man to be served, the necessity for exertion always exists, and the great soul must go forth on its mission.
That sooner or later this strife, or love, or duty—pursued bravely—must tell upon all who even covet and enjoy their labor, the experience of the past has recorded; and Edmund Burke, even at that early period of life, was ordered to try the effects of a visit to Bath and Bristol, then the principal resort of the invalids of the United Kingdom. At Bath he exchanged one malady for another, for he became attached to Miss Nugent, the daughter of his physician, and in a very little time formed what, in a worldly point of view, would be considered an imprudent marriage, but which secured the happiness of his future life; she was a Roman Catholic; but, however unfortunate dissenting creeds are in many instances, in this it never disturbed the harmony of their affection.
She was a woman exactly calculated to create happiness; possessing accomplishments, goodness of heart, sweetness of disposition and manners, veneration for talent, a hopeful spirit to allay her husband's anxieties, wisdom and love to meet his ruffled temper, and tenderness to subdue it—qualities which made him frequently declare "that every care vanished the moment he sheltered beneath his own roof.
Edmund Burke became a husband, and also continued a lover—and once presented to his ladylove, on the anniversary of their marriage, his idea of "a perfect wife. For a considerable time after his marriage Burke toiled as a literary man, living at Battersea or in town, now writing, it is believed, jointly with his brother Richard and his cousin William a work on the "European Settlements in America," in two volumes, which, according to tradition, brought him, or them, only fifty pounds!
Struggling, it may be with difficulties brought on by his generous nature, and which his father's allowance of two hundred a year, and his own industry and perseverance could hardly overcome, the birth of a son was an additional stimulant to exertion, and, in conjunction with Dodsley, he established the Annual Register. This work he never acknowledged, but his best biographers have no doubt of his having brought forth and nurtured this useful publication.
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A hundred pounds a volume seems to have been the sum paid for this labor; and Burke's receipts for the money were at one time in the possession of Mr. Long before he obtained a seat in Parliament he won the esteem of Doctor Johnson, who bore noble testimony to his virtue and talent, and what he especially admired, and called, his "affluence of conversation. For a time he went to Ireland as private secretary to Mr.
Hamilton, distinguished from all others of his name as "single-speech Hamilton;" but disagreeing with this person, he nobly threw up a pension of three hundred a year, because of the unreasonable and derogatory claims made upon his gratitude by Hamilton, who had procured it for him. While in Dublin he made acquaintance with the genius of the painter Barry, and though his own means were limited, he persuaded him to come to England, and received him in his house in Queen Anne-street, where he soon procured him employment; he already numbered Mr.
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He was too successful to escape the poisoned arrows of envy, or the misrepresentations of the disappointed. Certain persons exclaimed against his want of consistency, and gave as a reason that [Pg ] at one period he commanded the spirit of liberty with which the French Revolution commenced, and after a time turned away in horror and disgust from a people who made murder a pastime, and converted Paris into a shambles for human flesh.
But nothing could permanently obscure the fame of the eloquent Irishman, he continued to act with such worthiness, that, despite his schism with Charles James Fox, "the people" did him the justice to believe, that in his public conduct, he had no one view but the public good. He outlived calumny, uniting unto genius diligence, and unto diligence patience, and unto patience enthusiasm, and to these, deep-hearted enthusiasm, with a knowledge, not only, it would seem, of all things, but of such ready application, that in illustration or argument his resources were boundless; the wisdom of the Ancients was as familiar to him as the improved state of modern politics, science, and laws; the metaphysics and logic of the Schools were to him as household words, and his memory was gemmed with whatever was most valuable in poetry, history, and the arts.
After much toil, and the lapse of some time, he purchased a domain in Buckinghamshire, called "Gregories;" there, whenever his public duties gave him leisure, he enjoyed the repose so necessary to an overtaxed brain; and from Gregories some of his most interesting letters are dated. After the purchase of Gregories  Mr.
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Burke had no settled town-house, merely occupying one for the season. In one of his letters to Barry, he tells him to direct to Charles-street, St. James's Square; he writes also from Fludyer-street, Westminster, and from Gerrard-street, Soho; but traces of his "whereabouts" are next to impossible to find. Barry was not the only artist who profited by Edmund Burke's liberality. Barret, the landscape-painter, had fallen into difficulties, and the fact coming to the orator's ears during his short tenure in power, he bestowed upon him a place in Chelsea Hospital, which he enjoyed during the remainder of his life.
Indeed, this great man's noble love of Art was part and parcel of himself; it was no affectation, and it led to genuine sympathy with, not only the artist's triumphs, but his difficulties. He found time, amid all his occupations, to write letters to the irritable Barry, and if the painter had followed their counsel, he would have secured his peace and prosperity; but it was far otherwise: his conduct, both in Rome and after his return to England, gave his friend just cause of offence; though, like all others who offended the magnanimous Burke, he was soon forgiven.
He never forgot his Irish friends, or the necessities of those who lived on the family estate; the expansive generosity of his nature did not prevent his attending to the minor comforts of his dependants, and his letters "home" frequently breathe a most loving and careful spirit, that the sorrows of the poor might be ameliorated, and their wants relieved. We ought to have mentioned before that Mr.
Burke's marriage was only blessed by two sons; one died in childhood, the eldest grew up a young man of the warmest affections, and blessed with a considerable share of talent; to his parents he was every thing they could desire; towards his mother he exhibited the tenderness and devotion of a daughter, and his demeanor to his father was that of an obedient son, and most faithful friend; at intervals he enjoyed with them the pleasure they experienced in receiving guests of the highest consideration; amongst them the eccentric Madame de Genlis, who put their politeness to the test by the exercise of her peculiarities, [Pg ] and horrified the meek and amiable Sir Joshua Reynolds by the assumption of talents she did not possess.