The French Revolution Debate in English Literature and Culture

By Lisa Plummer Crafton | Go to book overview

Burke's Perception of Richard Price

John Faulkner

On November 11, 1789, Edmund Burke received a letter from Charles François Depont, the "very young gentleman at Paris" whom he would address in Reflections on the Revolution in France, requesting not so much his opinion as his approval of the French Revolution. Burke could not give Depont the assurances he desired. Burke's wary suspension of judgment on the Revolution, his correspondence suggests, had already ended in settled antipathy late in September. When news arrived of the forced removal of the royal family to Paris on October 6th with the Constituent Assembly in its train, he appears to have regarded it as a confirmation of earlier suspicions. 1 Still, by offering Depont criteria by which the Revolution might be evaluated--even possibly approved--and by keeping to a high level of generality, he was able to imply his disapproval in a tone more equable than that in any of the public writings he would later publish. This is probably a measure of the relatively low intensity of his opposition to what he could consider a while longer to be a French misfortune. 2

Although for good rhetorical reasons Burke would address Reflections to Depont, there are no indications that he had intended to write or even speak publicly on the Revolution until he began to see it as a British issue. This occurred in mid-January 1790 when he read the sermon Dr. Richard Price had delivered on November 4th to the Society for Commemorating the Revolution [of 1688] in Great Britain, published as A Discourse on the Love of Our Country. Burke began taking notes for a reply, and the greater part of this essay will inquire into how he may have perceived Price as he read it. A month later he would issue his first published writing on the French Revolution, the "substance" of his Speech on the Army Estimates delivered in the House of Commons on February 9th, in which he does not mention Dr. Price. Even before its appearance, the London press had reported a second work under way. 3

The title given for Burke's work-in-progress, Reflections on Certain Proceedings of the Revolution Society of the Fourth of November, 1789, amplified

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The French Revolution Debate in English Literature and Culture
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions to the Study of World Literature ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Introduction ix
  • Notes xv
  • Chronology xvii
  • Burke's Perception of Richard Price 1
  • Notes 21
  • Religion and Politics in the Revolution Debate: Burke, Wollstonecraft, Paine 27
  • Notes 38
  • The "Ancient Voices" of Blake's The French Revolution 41
  • Notes 53
  • Arguing Benevolence: Wordsworth, Godwin, and the 1790s 59
  • Notes 76
  • "Great Burke," Thomas Carlyle, and the French Revolution 83
  • Notes 103
  • Politics of the Episteme: The Collapse of the Discourse of General Nature and the Reaction to the French Revolution 107
  • Notes 118
  • Representations of Revolutionary Women in Political Caricature 123
  • Notes 131
  • Postscript: The French Revolution and Romanticism 137
  • Select Bibliography 145
  • Index 149
  • About the Contributors 155
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