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continued to make the most brilliant display of his parliamentary eloquence, he appeared peculiarly desirous of impressing Mr. Fox with his own notions on the French Revolution : but, disappointed in these attempts, he felt the most extreme displeasure: to which he gave vent in his letter to the Duke of Portland « on the Conduct of Domestic Parties.” This letter, it is said, was not designed for publication : but a rough drafe having been copied by the amanuensis whom he employed, it was printed in the beginning of the year 1797, under the title of “ Fisty-four Articles of Impeachment against the Right Hon. Charles James Fox.” On hearing of the publication, Burke disclaimed nothing but the intention of giving it to the world; and he said that it was written in consequence of the Whig Club's declaration respecting the difference between him and Mr. Fox, which had induced Mr. Burke, Mr. Windham, and some others, to withdraw their names from the Club. The asperity with which Burke censures the conduct and principles of Mr. Fox, in this pamphlet, cannot possibly be justified. Even Dr. Bisset does not attempt it.
Towards the close of the year 1793, he wrote the third Memorial, entitled “Remarks on the Policy of the Allies with respect to France.” In this work, he complains that the object of the allies is private aggrandizement, instead of the support of legitimate government; and he advises, as the only means of restoring order, religion, and property in France, that the chief direction of every thing relative to her internal affairs should be committed to the EMIGRANTS, whom he calls “ Moral France !"
Agreeably to the resolution which Mr. Burke had long formed, of retiring from parliament when the trial of Mr. Hastings should be finished, he in this summer resigned his seat :-a sentence having been passed on Mr. Hastings.
On the 2d of August 1794, Mr. Burke lost his son, a gentle. man who is said to have given proofs of considerable abilities, and for whom his father entertained the most enthusiastic af. fection. On the nomination of Lord Fitzwilliam to the Viceroyalty of Ireland, young Mr. B. was appointed his secretary: but his premature death intervened. He had been engaged by the Irish Catholics to manage their affairs respecting the claim of the elective franchise : a privilege which, as appears by his Letter to Sir Hercules Langrishe, Mr. Burke anxiously wished they should obtain. Another Letter from Mr. Burke, defending his conduct and his celebrated “ Reflexions,” in answer to some observations which had fallen from the Duke of Norfolk in parliament, is the only publication, besides those that we have mentioned, which he gave to the world until royal bounty rewarded his services by a pension settled on him and Mrs. Burke. His
acceptance of this mark of favour was said by his enemies to account fully for all his preceding conduct relative to the French Revolution: but Dr.Bisset observes that it isimprobable that Burke at any time sacrificed his principles to his interest. The public, no doubt, have long since settled their opinion on this point; if they have not, our author brings no new argument to assist their determination. The Duke of Bedford and Lord Lauderdale, in the beginning of 1796, made some observations on Burke's pension: which called forth a Letter to Lord Fitzwilliam, in which Mr. Burke boldly and confidently asserts his own services, while he takes a retrospect of those by which the Duke's ancestors acquired their property. Dr. Bisset candidly acknowleges that this invective on his Grace is the mere ebul. lition of an angry mind, as the Duke had a right to inquire into the disposal of the public money.
From this period, Mr. Burke's time was spent in the bosom of his family : his hospitality to the emigrants, the establishment, by his influence, of a school for their children ; and his promotion of friendly clubs among the poor in his neighbourhood ; are the most striking features that distinguish the period of his retirement. His next work was entitled “Thoughts on a Regicide Peace," published when the first overtures were made by government for an accommodation. Of this pamphlet, Dr.Bisset professes to entertain the most favourable opinion.-Mr.Burke's bad state of health now made it necessary for him to visit Bath, whence, however, he returned in the ensuing spring. He then proceeded in the plan of which the “ Thoughts on a Regicide Peace” were a part: but he did not live to finish it.
· His health, from the beginning of June, rapidly declined; but his body only, not his mind, was affected. His understanding operated with undiminished force and uncontracted range: his dispositions retained their sweetness and amiableness. He continued regularly and strenuously to perform the duties of religion and bene. volence. Although his body was in a state of constant and perceptible decay, yet was it without pain. The week in which he died he conversed with literary and political friends, on various subjects, and especially on the awful posture of affairs. He repeatedly requested their forgiveness, if ever he had offended them, and conjured them to make the same request in his name to those of his friends that were absent. Friday, July the 7th, he spent the morning in a recapitulation of the most important acts of his life, the circumstances in which he acted, and the motives by which he was prompted; shewed that his comprehensive mind retained the whole series of public affairs, and discussed his own conduct in the arduous situa. tions he had had to encounter. He expressed his forgiveness of all who had, either on that subject or for any other cause, endeavoured to injure him. The evening he spent in less agitating conversation,
and in listening to the essays of Addison, his favourite author. He frequently had, during his last illness, declared, what his intimates knew well before, his thorough belief of the Christian religion, his veneration for true Christians of all persuasions ; but his own preference of the articles of the church of England. In that mode of faith he was educated, and that he preserved through life. He had conversed for some time, with his usual force of thought and expression, on the gloomy state of his country, for the welfare of which his heart was interested to the last beat. His young friend, Mr. Nagle, coming to his bed-side, after much interesting and tender conversation, he expressed a desire to be carried to another apartment. Mr. Nagle, with the assistance of servants, was complying with this request, when Mr. Burke faintly uttering,“ God bless you!” fell back, and breathed his last, Saturday July 8th, 1797, in the sixty-eighth year of his age'*.
On Saturday the 15th he was interred in Beaconsfield church : his funeral being attended by many noblemen and gentlemen, with whom his latter habits had led him to intimacy. In his will, which is written thoroughly in his own style, he bequeathed all his property to his wife, with the exception of one or two legacies. She was constituted sole executrix; the testator soliciting for her, however, the assistance of Dr. King and Dr. Lawrence.
Thus we have endeavoured to extract a succinct and uninterrupted account of the life of Mr. Burke, from the materials which Dr. Bisset furnishes. We have given barely the facts which lie scattered through an octavo volume of 600 pages. For observations, comments, circumstances, and other collateral matter, we must refer to the book.
With respect to the work itself, we shall now offer a few observations.
Of every composition, it is a principal merit that the author observes throughout an unity of design. In a certain sense, we think that Dr. Bisset is eminently entitled to praise in this respect; for in no part of this volume does he forget for a momeot what appears to have been his first and great object, namely, “ to prove the CONSISTENCY of Edmund Burke.” We have attentively considered the various hints, arguments, allue sions, and remarks, which occur in almost every page of the Doctor's book, all subsidiary to this great end ; and allowing to Dr. Bisset every praise for industry and ingenuity in the accomplishment of his task, we cannot say that he has CONVINCED us. In fact, what has Dr. Bisset done to prove the consistency of Mr. Burke? He has analysed the voluminous productions
* This extract is somewhat abridged, on account of the unusual length of the article.
of this great writer, from his outset in public life until the commencement of the French Revolution, -- and he has extracted from the mass a few detached sentences and a few general principles; and because there is an apparent coincidence between these and some of the principles which Mr. Burke avowed and on which he acted in the latter part of his life, the Doctor infers that Mr. Burke was consistent:but it is not by such ar. guments that consistency is to be ascertained. Where is the political renegado, whose apostacy could be proved if such evi. dence were to acquit? Where is the deserter of his party, who might not boast his steadiness and consistency, if so thin a veil were permitted to cover his versatility? The consistency of a great public character is not to be demonstrated by a casual coincidence of expression, by a sameness of phraseology, or by a continued avowal of the same abstract truths : it is the general tenor of conduct, the tendency of measures pursued, and the operating habitudes of a man's mind, that must prove him faithful or recreant, steady or inconsistent. Judged by these criteria, will Mr. Burke be acquitted ? Will he, who during forty years of his life attached himself to a party, followed it througla all its fortunes, and supported all its measures, be called consistent in breaking with that party, and joining himself to the opposite one, without any change in the p:inciples of either? Was it consistent in him, who applauded America for dissolving its government, venturing into blood, and hazarding all the horrors of anarchy, in supporting its claim to perhaps one of the most doubtful of the “ RIGHTS OF MAN," the right of self taxation; was it consistent in him to reprobate France for shaking off a despotism which violated all the
rights of man," and perverted the ends of society ? Was it consistent in him, the tendency of whose writings, speeches, and conduct, for so many years, was to inspire mankind (and particularly his own country) with the warmest love of liberty and the highest admiration of revolutionary principles *, to write, speak, and act at last, we will not say with a view of re-establishing despotism in a country which had rescued itself from that curse, but certainly in such a manner as counteracted the spirit of liberty every where, and tended to perpetuate every establishment of despotism and superstition? In a word, was it consistent in the zealous champion of popular rights, the strenuous - we had almost said the virulent--antagonist of Mr. Pitt, to become at last a pensioner on the crown, and an eager
* It is apparent that we speak of the principles on which the Revolution of 1688 was founded.
miter have had reasons but that he wasubt
supporter of the administration which he had so often and so severely condemned? We charge not Mr. Burke with base or immoral motives : we have been among the most ardent admirers of his extraordinary powers; and we believe that he may have had reasons for every part of his conduct, which justified him to himself :--but that he was CONSISTENT, we think Dr. Bisset has not proved; and we doubt whether it be possible to prove it.
Considering this work as a literary production, perhaps it does not add much to the character which Dr. Bisset acquired by his last performance : yet it possesses considerable merit. Though what may properly be called the life of Burke is involved in this composition with a great variety of extraneous matter, yet that matter is frequently amusing and instructive ; and, taken all together, it affords something like a general idea of our history during the period which it comprehends. Throughout the volume, indeed, we meet with the strongest proofs not only that the Doctor has attentively studied whatever relates to the immediate subject of which he treats, but that he possesses a very considerable fund of general information. The perusal of his book would, however, have been productive of more pleasure, if it displayed less of a studied phraseology.- Ephemerous expedients,' terrestrial superiority,'' variegated powers,' &c. &c. are expressions which, if they do not violate the propriety of language, at least offend by their semblance of affectation. Dr. B. is likewise too fond of abstraction ; such phrases as the philosophy of mind,' and 'the knowlege of cause, force themselves too ofren on the reader.
Of his learning, and of his critical skill, the Doctor also seems too profuse : ---the analysis of Cicero's eloquence, and the comparison of it with that of Mr. Burke, might have been spared ; and we cannot help thinking that his frequent review of the state of letters, at different periods, seems in a Biographer rather an encroachment on the province of the Historian, and more calculated to display his own knowlege than to illustrate his subject. Without imputing this design to Dr. Bisset, however, we will only farther remark that, were he to appear less learned and more simple in his compositions, he would probably become a much greater favourite with his readers.