A Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol: A Speech at Bristol on Parliamentary Conduct; a Letter to a Noble Lord

By Edmund Burke; W. Murison | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

I. LIFE OF BURKE

EDMUND BURKE was born in Dublin. The date of his birth is uncertain: January 12, 1729, appears to be best authenticated. His father, an attorney, was Protestant, his mother Catholic; a combination which is regarded as enabling us to understand Burke's religious toleration. At the age of twelve Edmund went as pupil to a school in the village of Ballitore, conducted by Abraham Shackleton, a Quaker from Yorkshire, by whose goodness and integrity he was very deeply impressed. Two years later, Burke entered Trinity College, Dublin, where he remained till he graduated B.A. in 1748, diligent in his studies but desultory in his manner of studying. He tells us that from 1744 to 1746 he was under the influence, first of the furor mathematicus, then of the furor logicus, next of the furor historicus, and finally of the furor poeticus. In Classics, Cicero was his favourite; his model both for life and for literature.

Early in 1750 he came to England to keep his terms at the Middle Temple. But, though his writings and speeches. show that he had more than a tincture of law, legal studies did not attract him. Giving up the thought of qualifying as a barrister, he turned to literature. In 1756 he married Dr Nugent's daughter, a Catholic lady, who however conformed. In the same year Burke published A Vindication of Natural Society, in ridicule as well as in imitation of Bolingbroke, and The Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful. On his suggestion, Dodsley produced, in 1759, the first issue of the Annual Register, which Burke wrote. To the successive issues, till about 1788, he contributed the survey of events. Among his acquaintances at this time was W. G. Hamilton--

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