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O man! while in thy early years,
How prodigal of time!
Thy glorious youthful prime!
Licentious passions burn;
That man was made to mourn.
Or manhood's active might:
Supported is his right.
With cares and sorrows worn,
Show man was made to mourn.
In pleasure's lap carest;
Are likewise truly blest.
Are wretched and forlorn;
That man was made to mourn.
Inwoven with our frame !
Regret, remorse, and shame!
The smiles of love adorn,
Makes countless thousands mourn!
So abject, mean, and vile,
To give him leave to toil:
The poor petition spurn,
And helpless offspring mourn.
By Nature's law design'd,
E’er planted in my mind ?
His cruelty or scorn?
To make his fellow mourn?
Disturb thy youthful breast:
Is surely not the last!
Tais most distinguished writer and statesman was born at Dublin on the 1st of January, 1730. On his mother's side he was connected with the poet Spenser, from whom, it is said, he received his Christian name. He was educated at Ballitore in the county of Kildare, at a classical academy under the management of Abraham Shackleton, a Quaker of superior talents and learning. Here, according to his own testimony, Burke acquired the most valuable of his mental habits; he ever felt the deepest gratitude for his early instructor, and with his only son, Richard, the successor in the school, he preserved an intimate friendship to the end of his life. In 1744 he entered Trinity College, Dublin, and in 1750 he was entered as a law-student at the Middle Temple, London: but his thoughts were soon entirely turned to literature and politics, to which, henceforth, all his time, and talents, and energies were devoted. His first publication was anonymous, entitled, “ A Vindication of Natural Society, in a Letter to Lord by a Noble Lord.” It was such an admirable imitation of the style of Lord Bolingbroke, that many were deceived by it, and deemed it a posthumous publication of that nobleman, who had been dead but five years. It was ironical throughout, endeavoring to prove that the same arguments with which that nobleman had attacked revealed religion, might be applied with equal force against all civil and political institutions whatever.
In the next year, Burke published his « Essay on the Sublime and Beautiful,” which, by the elegance of its language, and the spirit of philosophical investigation displayed in it, placed him at once in the very first class of writers on taste and criticism. His object is to show that terror is the principal source of the sublime, and that beauty is the quality in objects which excites love or affection. The fame acquired by this work introduced the author to the best literary acquaintances, among whom were Sir Joshua Reynolds and Dr. Johnson. In 1758 he suggested to Dodsley the plan of the Annual Register, and engaged, himself, to furnish the chief historical matter, which he continued to do for very many years, and which has made that work the most valuable repository of historical knowledge of the times.
In 1765, on the accession to power of the Marquis of Rockingham, he was appointed by that minister his private secretary, and was brought into parliament for the borough of Wendover. It would be impossible, in the limited space assigned to these biographical sketches, to give an outline of his subse
quent parliamentary and political career, or to enumerate all his various publications. His life is a history of those eventful times,-for in them he acted a part more conspicuous than any other man. His able and eloquent opposition to those infatuated measures of the ministry which led to and prolonged the contest between England and our own country—his advocacy of the freedom of the press of an improved libel law-of Catholic emancipation of economical reform-of the abolition of the slave-trade-his giant efforts in the impeachment of Warren Hastings—and his most eloquent and uncompromising hostility to the French Revolution, in his speeches in parliament and in his well-known “Reflections on the Revolution in France,"—all these will ever cause him to be viewed as one of the warmest and ablest friends of man.
In 1794, his son, who had just been elected to parliament, took ill and died ;-a blow so severe to the father, that he never recovered from it; and it doubtless hastened his own end, which took place on the 9th of July, 1797.
As an eloquent and philosophic political character, Burke stands alone. His intellect was at once exact, minute, and comprehensive, and his imagination rich and vigorous. As to his style, he is remarkable for the copiousness and freedom of his diction, the ndor and great variety of his imagery, his astonishing command of general truths, and the ease with which he seems to wield those fine weapons of language, which most writers are able to manage only by the most anxious care. The following remarks of an able critics are as beautiful as they are just :
“There can be no hesitation in according to Mr. Burke a station among the most extraordinary men that have ever appeared; and we think there is now but little diversity of opinion as to the kind of place which it is fit to assign him. He was a writer of the first class, and excelled in almost every kind of prose composition. Possessed of most extensive knowledge, and of the most various description; acquainted alike with what different classes of men knew, each in his own province, and with much that hardly any one ever thought of learning; he could either bring his masses of information to bear directly upon the subjects to which they severally belonged-or he could avail himself of them generally to strengthen his faculties and enlarge his views or he could turn any portion of them to account for the purpose of illustrating his theme, or enriching his diction. Hence, when he is handling any one matter, we perceive that we are conversing with a reasoner or a teacher, to whom almost every other branch of knowledge is familiar: his views range over all the cognate subjects; his reasonings are derived from principles applicable to other theories as well as the one in hand: arguments pour in from all sides, as well as those which start up under our feet, the natural growth of the path he is leading us over; while to throw light round our steps, and either explore its darker places, or serve for our recreation, illustrations are fetched from a thousand quarters; and an imagination marvellously quick to descry unthought-of resemblances, points to our use the stores, which a lore yet more marvellous has gathered from all ages, and nations, and arts, and tongues. We are, in respect of the argument, reminded of Bacon's multifarious knowledge and the exuberance of his learned fancy; while the many-lettered diction recalls to mind the first of English poets, and his immortal verse, rich with the spoils of all sciences and all times.”!
1 Those who are not well read in the history of those times can hardly have an idea of the deep, bitter, malignant hostility, which the early English abolitionists, Sharp, Clarkson, Wilberforce, and others, had to encounter. Even Lord Chancellor Thurlow said, in his place in the House of Lords, on the 18th of June, 1788, that "it was unjust that this sudden fit of philanthropy, which was but a few days old, should be allowed to disturb the public mind, and to become the occasion of bringing men to the metropolis, who were enguged in the trade, with tears in their eyes and horror in their countenances, to deprecate the ruin of their property, which they had embarked on the faith of parliament;" and the Earl of Westmoreland considered that “as much attention was due to our property and manufactures as to a false humanity."
The devotion of Burke to the best interests of man caused Abraham Shackleton to write of him thus: “The memory of Edmund Burke's philanthropic virtues will outlive the period when his shining political talents will cease to act. New fashions of political sentiment will exist: but Phllanthropy-IMMORTALE MANET.”
2 “The immortality of Burke," says Grattan, “is that which is common to Cicero or to Bacon, that which can never be interrupted while there exists the beauty of order or the love of virtue, and which can fear no death except what barbarity may impose on the globe." 8 Read the article in vol. xlvi. of the Edinburgh Review: also, his Life by James Prior.
1 The following comparison between Burke and Johnson is taken from Cumberland's "Retro. spection."
Nature gave to each
Johnson, if right I judge, in classic lore
Both had a taste
Splendor of style, fertility of thought,
TERROR A SOURCE OF THE SUBLIME.
No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear; for fear being an apprehension of pain or death, it operates in a manner that resembles actual pain. Whatever therefore is terrible with regard to sight, is sublime too, whether this cause of terror be endued with greatness of dimensions or not; for it is impossible to look on any thing as trifling or contemptible, that may be dangerous. There are many animals, who, though far from being large, are yet capable of raising ideas of the sublime, because they are considered as objects of terror; as serpents and poisonous animals of almost all kinds. Even to things of great dimensions, if we annex any adventitious idea of terror, they become without comparison greater. An even plain of a vast extent of land, is certainly no mean idea : the prospect of such a plain may be as extensive as a prospect of the ocean; but can it ever fill the mind with any thing so great as the ocean itself? This is owing to several causes, but it is owing to none more than to this, that the ocean is an object of no small terror.
SYMPATHY A SOURCE OF THE SUBLIME.
It is by the passion of sympathy that we enter into the concerns of others; that we are moved as they are moved, and are never suffered to be indifferent spectators of almost any thing which men can do or suffer.
For sympathy must be considered as a sort of substitution, by which we are put into the place of another man, and affected in a good measure as he is affected; so that this passion may either partake of the nature of those which regard self-preservation, and turning upon pain may be a source of the sublime; or it may turn upon ideas of pleasure, and then,
And ornamental epithet drawn out,
And best attainment author can possess. Sir Joshua Reynolds, who was on the most intimate terms with both, thought that Dr. Johnson possessed a wonderful strength of mind, but that Mr. Burke had a more comprehensive capacity, a more exact judgment, and also that his knowledge was more extensive: with the most profound respect for the talents of both, he therefore decided that Mr. Burke was the superior character.