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In order to avoid confusion in the most variegated landscapes the painter need only fix upon one striking point of view, and, by the magic of his pencil and colours, make
surrounding object tend, as it were, to that center of unity. But the rich scenery of genius will by no means admit of the like artifice or method. Its branches are often so luxuriant and expansive, that each of them completely fills the eye, and precludes the idea of secondary importance. There are few characters to which this remark is more justly applicable than to that of Mr. Burke. The liveliness of his fancy, and the accuracy of his judgment ;---the grasp of his memory, and the fertility of his invention ;---the vigor of his native powers, and his immense acquirements by learning and study;---feem almost equally to attract our notice, and to excite our admiration. Possessing as great a command of the pen as of the tongue, he is one of the rare instances to be met with, either in ancient or modern times, of men who have united the talents of speaking and writing with irresistible force and elegance. He has risen to no less distinction in the literary than in the political world, and may be said to have shone with extraordinary lustre in two different hemispheres. Instead, therefore, of vainly attempting to embrace, at a single glance, such a diffusion of light, we must be content to follow it in all its revolutions, in all the whirling changes of its eccentric course : we must remark with strict attention the moments of its dimness and obscurity, as well as those of its brighest effulgence; and, after describing with heart-felt rapture the beauties of its meridian fplendor, let us not be blamed for shedding a tear at its linking under a total and irremovable eclipse.
It would be trifling not only with our readers, but with the subject, to dwell on circumstances of little importance, or of general notoriety, such as the birth-place and family of Mr. Burke. All that we need observe concerning these matters is, that he was born in the year 1729, near the town of Carlow in Ireland, a country on which it was fondly hoped by his friends that he would reflect imniortal honour, while he elevated the dignity of human nature. His parents lived in a state of decent mediocrity, equally removed from penury and opulence. It was his good fortune to be placed at a very early period under the instruction of a Mr. SHUCKLE TON, an amiable and enlightened quaker, who kept a school at Ballytore, in the county of Kildare, and who, soon discovering the abilities of his pupil, cherished his ardor and assisted his exertions in the pursuit of every valuable attainment. PHILIP of Macedon thanked the Gods, at the birth of ALEXANDER, not so much for their having blessed him with a son, as for that son's being born at a time when an ARISTOTLE was living to superintend his education. Mr. Burke's father must have felt fimilar emotions on finding a SHUCKLETON in his neighbourhood, to train up the young orator.
We may also very casily conceive how much the natural pride of the tutor must have been flattered and gratified by the rapidity
of his scholar's progress. Yet, that pleasure was not wholly unmixt with mortification at perceiving the early dawn of genius obscured by some marks of an overbearing and intolerant spirit. The old quaker often related the following anecdote with tears. A pamphlet had just been published, written with great virulence, though in a masterly style, against the Roman catholics of Ireland. Mr. SHUCKLETON put it into the hands of young BURKE, and desired to know his opinion of it. He thus expressed himself, after reading the work :---- The only fault I find in it is its being too concise, and not severe enough. Instead of a little duodecimo, were I to write on the subject, I should make it a large quarto, and thould give a keener edge to every argument; for I really think that our establishments both in church and state will never be fecure, without an absolute extermination of the papists.” He has since shewn greater kindness for the Roman catholic
part of his countrymen: he has even pleaded their cause in a strain of the most persuasive eloquence : yet they do not in general believe that this proceeds from any real change in his original principles, ---but from an affectation of liberality towards them, while he wished to direct the whole tide of persecution against another party. A few of their leaders, who are in the secret, ascribe his zeal to a bribe of two thousand pounds which they gave him for his services, and to the appointment of his son as their
agent. All these motives may, indeed, have concurred to operate very powerfully on his perseverance; but it is candid: to suppose that a correction of early prejudices, and a more enlightened policy, gave the first impulse to his laudable exertions.
An opinion prevails in England, chiefly from the boldness with which the thing has been asserted by some of Mr. BURKE's poli.. tical adversaries, that he was rocked in the cradle of popery ;--that beads and rosaries were the playthings of his childhood ;---
that he received his first lessons, or rudiments of learning, from one of the koly fathers, and completed his studies at the Jesuits' College at St. Omer's. To these calumnies, though tot lly unfounded in fact, some colouring has been given by his funeral lamentations on the downfall of the French clergy; by his writings in favour of the catholics of Ireland; and by his permitting a wife of that persuasion sometimes to keep a priest in the house. But, as civil and spiritual tyranny had been inseparably united in the old French system, he could not propose the re-establishment of the one, without endeavouring to prop up the rotten pillars of the other: his views in becoming an advocate for the Irish catholics have been already hinted at, and will be farther explained : and with regard to his allowing Mrs. Burke a domestic chaplain, it should be considered as a proof of his affectionate indulgence, though lie has also been known to derive another pleafure from it, like that of VOLTAIRE in admitting Father ADAM to his table, merely to make the poor priest the butt of deistical raillery.---This digression seemed necessary to correct a popular mistake on the subject of Mr. Burke's religious principles. We Mall now resume the thread of our biographical narrative.
After a regular course of study under the good quaker, the pride of the school, for fo young EDMUND was called, was removed at the age of fixteen to Trinity College, Dublin, where the presages already formed of his genius were more and more confirmed. In the second year of his residence there, he obtained a scholarship, which is somewhat similar in point of honour and emolument to the rank of a student at Christ Church, Oxford. As soon as he took his batchelor's degree in 1749, he came over to London, and entered himself a member of the honourable society of the Middle Temple, with a view of being called to the bar. Fired by the examples of DEMOSTHENES and Ci
CERO, he bent all the powers of his capacious mind to the acquisition of knowledge. He left no region of science unexplored, no path of learning untrodden, which could lead him to professional eminence. But his health was gradually impaired by this intense application to study; and a dangerous illness threatened to deprive himself, his friends, and the world, of the fruits of such unparalleled industry and talents.
Mr. Burke, on being attacked in fo alarming a manner, sent for Doctor NUGENT, a man of great skill, and still greater goodness of heart, who perceiving that the noise and other inconveniences, to which his patient was exposed in chambers at an inn of court, must greatly obstruct his recovery, persuaded him to accept of apartments at the house of his liberal and benevolent physician. Here he was treated with all the care which an only son could experience under the roof of the fondest parent. The return of his health was not more promoted by the effect of salutary medicines than by the tender attention of the whole family, and particularly of the daughter, Miss NUGENT, who was almost constantly at his bedside, affording him every asistance in her power, and cheering the languid hours of sickness by her sweet and lively conversation. Gratitude on his part soon grew into love; and the only adequate return he could make to his endearing nurse was an offer of his heart. It was accepted; and in all the chequered scenes of his life since that period, he has never had
any cause to repent his having fixed his affections on so worthy an object.
But Mr. Burke's attachment to his intended bride did not prevent him from renewing his addresses to nine other ladies, of whom he had before been the zealous votary. The Muses heard him with gracious siniles; and though he wrote in prose, yet it was prose adorned with the choicest gifts of those deities that