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EDMUND BURKE is more frequently cited than any other political author, and at no time so often as at the present day. There scarcely passes a public meeting, or a debate in either house of parliament, where, to sustain the argument, or to round the period, recourse is not had to those thoughts of wisdom, and words of fire, which emanated in such rich profusion from this master-spirit of reason and eloquence. Yet, strange to say, the works of Edmund Burke are not generally read. The knowledge of them appears to be confined to the orator or politician: others, though ever ready to admire and applaud Burke's brilliant passages when quoted, seldom themselves visit the actual store of his rhetorical opulence. The evident cause of the neglect is this—the portions of the writings and speeches of Edmund Burke, which must delight every reader, are aften combined with a quantity of matter of
temporary interest only–with a mass, in fact, of political, financial, and statistical detail which the public or parliamentary business of the moment required. Unless the reader has some particular object in view, his mind hesitates to encounter this formidable obstacle to its gratification. The precious gems lie in the heap it is true, but the labour and perseverance of the diamond seeker can alone arrive at their possession.
The present volume proposes to relieve this embarrassment by giving, under a systematic arrangement, the finer part of the works of Burke.
The plan adopted is a classification into chapters of the different subjects which principally occupied the great statesman's attention ; and a formation under each chapter, of a connected series of extracts the most remarkable for eloquence, argument, or style. The whole, with the biographical summary annexed, displays a concise, and, it is submitted, a clear view of what was the luminous course of Burke's action and
thought—what were his parliamentary and literary
To effect the intended object, nearly all Burke's
productions have been laid under contribution. The two principal instances of omission are his earliest essay, "A Vindication of Natural Society," a piece of continued irony which will not permit of separation or curtailment; and the “ Thoughts and Details on Scarcity," a paper, the excellence of which mainly depends on the unity of the whole. One other exception also occurs. Nothing, beyond a few observations, is taken from the correspondence of Edmund Burke, lately brought out by Earl Fitzwilliam, and Lieutenant-General Sir Richard Bourke. Due consideration must be paid to the very recent publication of those letters; and, in truth, they form altogether so agreeable and attractive a collection, that they do not come within the reason which has
led to this volume's appearance.
The care and
ability devoted to their production reflect high credit on the editors—the one, the representative of a magnificent line, and the son of that great and good man, Burke's truest and dearest friend, the other, Burke's relative, a soldier of distinction, who, as Governor of New South Wales, has, in a distant quarter of the globe, established and enlarged the reputation of his race.
Ever a warm and reverential admirer of the
character and principles of Edmund Burke, the editor of the present volume has already found his task rewarded by the pleasure experienced in its performance; he will feel that satisfaction considerably increased, should the book prove in any way the means of extending the knowledge and
influence of the illustrious mind whose matter it