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Under the tuition of this master, Burke devoted himself with great ardour, industry, and perseverance, to his studies, and laid the foundation of a classical erudition, which alone would have entitled ordinary men to the character of great scholars, but constituted a very small proportion of his multifarious knowledge. His classical learning was the learning of a philosopher, not of a pedant. He considered the ancient languages not as arrangements of measures, but as keys to ancient thoughts, sentiments, imagery, knowledge, and reasoning. *
* I had the following anecdote from a respectable Irish gentleman, who vouches for its authenticity; it shews that the versatility of Burke's genius, which was so astonishing in manhood, displayed itself in early youth. Mr. Shackleton, one day that the assizes were held at Carlow, perinitted his scholars to have a holiday to see the procession, on condition that the elder boys should give a description in Latin verse of the objects which they had been viewing, with their own impressions from them. Edmund gave a very full and able description of what he had beheld. · A school. fellow, whose exercises he often composed for him, applied, but too late for Burke to bestow any serious attention on the application ; and having his ideas nearly exhausted by diversity of exercises for his many applicants, he tried to get some hints from the youth in question ; but found that he
Johnson observes, that there is not an instance of any man whose history has been minutely related, that did not in every part of his life discover the same proportion of intellectual vigour. Though, perhaps, this as a general position may admit of modifications, it is certain that Burke, from even boyish days, manifested a distinguished superiority over his contemporaries. He was the pride of his master, who foreboded every thing great from his genius.
He regarded his preceptor with a respect and gratitude which did honour to both. For near forty years that he went annually to Ireland, he travelled many miles to pay him a visit. Mr. Shackleton lived to a good
had observed no object but a fat piper, with a brown coat. Edmund, accordingly, began in doggerel Latin :
• Piper erat fattus qui brownum tegmen habebat :' ; and went on through many verses in the same style as the Polemonidinia of the celebrated 'Scotch bard, Drummond* of Hawthornden.
* Mr. Drummond's representative is Captain Francis Drummond, of Brompton-row; a gentleman who, though he has not exerted his powers in writing poetry, is, in point of acuteness and force of understanding, 'a descendant worthy of so ingenious and able an ancestor.
old age, and was succeeded by his son, Mr. John Shackleton, under whom the school continued to flourish. From Mr. John Shackleton it descended to his son, Mr. Abraham Shackleton, who is its present master, with no less reputation and success than his father and grandfather.
Burke's brother, Richard, who abounded in vivacity and pointed wit, was, by many ésteemed, in their boyish days, the abler of the two: as, among superficial judges, boys are rated according to the vivacity, not the force of their intellectual qualities and operations; by the quickness of the vegetation more than the value of the production. Hence the fruits of ripened manhood are often very different from the appearance of juvenile blossom.
Of the comparative merits of the two brothers, both their master and father entertained a very different opinion from that which others had conccived. They allowed that Richard, was bright, but maintained
that Edmund would be wise. The event justified their opinion. Richard was quick and acute; Edmund perspicacious, comprehensive, inventive, and energetic. Of the two, Richard would have been the better writer of epigrams, Edmund of epic poetry.
Leaving school, he was sent to Dublin College. In 1746 he was a scholar of the house, which is a similar appointment to that of being a scholar of Christ-Church, Oxford. Goldsmith, in conversation, often asserted that Burkė did not render himself very eminent in the performance of his academical exercises. Dr. Leland, who was also his contemporary, has declared the same. This assertion of these gentlemen has been confirmed by others, and never contradicted.
When we consider the immense extent and variety of his knowledge, we may fairly infer, that even in his youth he must have laid in great stores, though without display. That many young men of talents are at College eclipsed, by more emulous inferiors, in established exercises, is certainly true; that
they themselves and their fellow students, and sometimes even their masters, estimate general ability by a specific direction, often happens. Imperfect knowledge will apply erroneous criteria, and consequently draw wrong conclusions. By many, not only boys but men, talents are rated by the facility of combining Latin and Greek syllables in a certain order, instead of the facility of know. : ing and explaining difficult and important truths. But penetration will discover talents, though not employed in customary details.
It is of the greatest importance in a history of an extraordinary mind, to mark, as far as possible, the progression of its powers, exertions, and attainments; the discipline or direction which may have had an effect on them; quibus initiis quo progressu, usque eo creverit. What was chiefly attended to at Dublin when he was at the University was the logic of the schools. That species of logic which seeks truth by investigation and induction, had not made its way in Dublin so completely as to expel the absurd system