Edmund Burke of Beaconsfield

Edmund Burke of Beaconsfield

Edmund Burke of Beaconsfield

Edmund Burke of Beaconsfield


This study details the domestic life and private friendships of Edmund Burke from 1750 until his wife Jane's death in 1812. While the events of Burke'e public life and his political theories are familiar to many, the private and domestic Burke is not. In many and complex ways Beaconsfield is an essential key to the Edmund Burke who defined himself as the embodiment of Cicero's new man and whose marital relationship with Jane Nugent Burke sustained, nurtured, and drove him throughout his political career.


In “A Survey of Biographies of Burke” in Edmund Burke: A Bibliography of Secondary Studies to 1982 (1983), I summarized why Burke has remained a shadowy figure both in political history and in literary circles:

Despite the dramatic figure he cut in English party politics and in the affiars of
America, Ireland, India, and France, and despite his reputation as a man of
encyclopedic knowledge and political wisdom, among historians and political
theorists, Burke the man remained ambiguous and unreal. the contradictions
[in] his high reputation as a political thinker … created discrepancies not
easily resolved. Burke erected a barrier between himself and his biographers by
the deliberate veil of secrecy he threw over his private life, partly because he
was so deeply involved in party politics, but also because he was poor, proud,
and an Irish outsider among class-conscious Englishmen. in short, as a subject
for biography Burke has remained something of a legendary figure. Since his
death in 1797 thirty-four book-length biographies and about 200 biographical
essays or sketches have been published on him, yet in 1981 there is still no
definitive biography of Burke.

Elizabeth Lambert’s well-researched and beautifully written study of the domestic and private life of Burke removes many of the veils of secrecy regarding Burke and which have been maintained for two centuries, so that an image of the statesman emerges that is quite distinct from the conventional views of Burke.

Some mysteries still remain regarding the early life of Burke, after he graduated from Trinity College, Dublin, in February 1748, and during the “missing years” of his life in London, while studying law and being adrift, from 1748 to around 1755. Where his marriage took place to Jane Nugent (1734–1812) in 1753, is still unknown. But from the time Burke acquired his country estate, Gregories, in Beaconsfield, in 1768, much that was formerly unknown regarding his domestic and personal life is now made clear in Lambert’s study. An image of the statesman emerges that is quite distinct from the conventional views of Burke presented in his previous biographies. Lambert’s study reveals many original insights into the multifaceted personality and character of Burke.

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