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there was a man called Edmund Burke, who Nor are we inclined to lay much stress on wrote a treatise on the Sublime and Beau- what has been called the analysis of the tiful.
mind. More than one critic bas attempted This opinion is well illustrated by an inci- to prove that it was quite impossible for dent that occurred to ourselves some years Burke to write a satisfactory essay on the ago. We happened to meet in a watering subject, because he did not possess abilities place in the North, a venerable old gentle- fit for abstract reasoning. It has been said, man with white hair, and after some conver- that he always failed when attempting to sation, we discovered that he was the old analyze very closely, and that it was in obvillage schoolmaster, who had taught us our servation that the great strength of his infirst rudiments of knowledge. A strange tellect consisted. feeling came over us at the sight of the re- gular that the author of the essay on the tired pedagogue. His ferule, wig, and spec- Sublime and Beautiful has also been accused tacles had been laid aside, he had done his of too great a tendency to speculation and part in life; the little boys whom he had refinement. It appears to us that the concaned had become fathers of families, and tradictions and errors which abound in this he was now tottering on the verge of the treatise might be found in the speculations of tomb, and patting the heads of his pupils' the most subtle reasoner, and that many of babies. He did not at first recognize us, the faults belong to the nature of the subject and we chose to talk to him without enlight- itself
. Such defects may be discovered in ening his darkness. It was during the sum- all the metaphysical works of the eighteenth mer of 1848, that summer of revolutions, century, and in none more frequently than in and we naturally proceeded to talk about those of the Scotch metaphysicians. It will those terrible days of June. To our aston- scarcely be said that Hume's mind was inishment and mortification, our old master, capable of close analysis, for surely no human whose word was once law, at whose glance being ever possessed a more subtle intellect. multitudes trembled, and whose head was Yet, does not Hume's most elaborate work believed to contain all the knowledge that abound in absurdities and contradictions ever a human head could possess, talked the almost as striking as any that can be found language of a little child, and had never in the Essay on ihe Sublime and Beautiful? heard of the great continental revolutions. It is, perhaps, impossible to reconcile metaWe quoted Burke. He stared vacantly, as physics and physiology, and hence many of if he had somewhere before heard the name, Burke's errors. and then said, “ Ah! he wrote on the Sub- His theory is entirely mechanical, and this lime!"
is not a little singular when we consider how We are, however, far from being disposed he disdained all mechanical philosophy in his to join in the fashioneble condemnation of political reasonings. He always asserted that this metaphysical essay. It is true that it there was something higher than logic, and does not exhibit all the peculiar powers of that the strange creature man had desires its author's mind. It is true that many of and aspirations such as no mechanical phithe philosophical doctrines are absurd; and, losopher could ever explain. A greater indeed, when we look at them now, appear truth was never preached. It is as appliperfectly ridiculous. If Sir Joshua Reynolds cable to the science of metaphysics as to that be worthy of credit, Burke himself, in his of government; and one cannot but wonder later years, was as ready as any one to make why the greatest political philosopher the merry with some of the blunders in his own world has ever seen should become so mework. The statesman could afford to laugh chanical, when treating one of the noblest at the metaphysician. All this, however, subjects that could ever occupy the mind. may be admitted, and yet this work on the Now and then, indeed, he speaks out in a Sublime and Beautiful has always appeared truly philosophical spirit, and some of the to us an able work, and by no means un critical remarks are beautiful and true ; but worthy of the author's name. Though as a he soon relapses again into the usual tone, whole his theory may be incorrect, though and with a pair of ordinary spectacles seems pleasure may not be the cause of the beau- passionately determined on exploring the tiful, nor terror of the sublime, yet surely darkest mysteries of humanity. when we consider the age of the writer, the The origin of our ideas concerning the state of this branch of metaphysical science Sublime and Beautiful is surely a great subat the time when the book was published, it ject. But is it likely to be thoroughly undermust be allowed to be a masterly work. stood by discourses about proportion, fitness,
smallness, smoothness, variation, and the we gaze on the face of a sleeping infant, mere physical causes of love? Is every- when we look into the happy face of boything in this world so entirely dust, that no hood, when we gaze into the eyes of her who rays of Divine wisdom can be seen? Is awakened the mysterious sympathies of love everything, then, of the earth, and earthy ? in our young hearts, when we stand by the What, then, becomes of the doctrine, that altar where beauty and innocence plight their there is nothing beautiful but what is good, troth, when we comfort the afflicted, admire and that the beautiful includes the good ?" the generous, alleviate the pains of sickness, Undoubtedly, proportion is not the cause of and smooth the pillow of the dying. beauty either in vegetables, animals, or the It would be easy to point out many faults human species; but is it credible that a in the essay; but we should unconsciously man like Burke should believe beauty to be be writing a treatise on the subject. The only “some quality in bodies acting mechani- book soon reached a second edition, and the cally upon the human mind by the interven- author's name became known in all literary tion of the senses”? What gives beauty to circles. Hume mentions him as “the author the glorious bow that spans the skies? Does of a very pretty treatise on the Sublime.” the knowledge of all the laws of optics make But however much he might be delighted us admire the rainbow more ? Does its beauty with the success of his work, his health had depend upon the theory of colors ? When suffered dreadfully during its execution. the sky has been blackened, and the rain has After it was published, he went down to poured in torrents, and the clouds are again Bristol, where he resided with Dr. Nugent, beginning to break, and the rays of the sun a native of Ireland, an excellent physician, to gladden our eyes, with the words “I set and a good man. As it is not very extraormy bow in the heavens” in our memory, we dinary for young authors to do, he fell in care little for the laws of refraction and the love with the daughter of his host: she could primary colors, as we feel our eyes glad- love a man of genius, who offered her himdened, and our hearts comforted, on looking self, at that time all his worldly possessions. at the symbol of peace to a deluged world. They were married, and the marriage was a In the twentieth Section of the third Part, source of great happiness. Burke says, most truly, that the eye has a During the years that immediately folgreat share in the beauty of the animal crea lowed the publication of the Enquiry, Burke tion; but is it sufficient to declare that this appears to have written much for the bookbeauty consists merely in its clearness, mo- sellers. He is known to have labored with tion, and union with the neighboring parts ? Dodsley in the establishment of the Annual There are even brighter and more moving Register, and to have written an unfinished objects than the eye, and yet they never ap- essay on English history. Many other pubproach to it in beauty; is it not because the lications are said to have proceeded from his eye is the index of the soul that it is so ex- pen; and doubtless, if it be true, as it has quisitely beautiful ? All eyes are not beau- often been asserted, and, notwithstanding the tiful. The brightest and most active eyes efforts of Mr. Prior, still remains very probaare perhaps the maniac's, and yet, do they ble, that he was often involved in pecuniary affect us with any idea of beauty? It is the difficulties, and had to depend for subsistence eye of affection, the eye of genius, the eye of entirely on the booksellers, his unavowed innocence, in which beauty is found; because productions must have been very numerous. affection, genius, and innocence are really But his friends and biographers seem to have qualities that we love, admire, and esteem. a great fear lest the Right Honorable EdThis same great law is prevalent through all mund Burke should be known to have spent the different objects that raise in our minds his early years in writing for his subsistence. sublime and beautiful ideas. To affect us It appears that at one time he was obliged very powerfully, there must be some human to sell his books; the humiliating fact having interest in the things we gaze upon. Could been discovered by the coat-of-arms that was the knowledge of the refrangibility of the pasted in them. From his correspondence, rays of light ever make the tints of the even- we learn that he received occasional remiting sky appear more beautiful to a reflecting tances from his father ; but the fact that mind ? “So dies a hero, to be worshipped,” these are mentioned, proves that they were exclaimed Schiller, as the sun was sinking only occasional. Mr. Prior has so much behind the distant mountains. All the me- horror lest Burke should be considered poor, chanical theories in the world will not ex- that he makes the desperate assertion that plain the different emotions that arise when I the writer received even so much as twenty thousand pounds from his friends. This is were printed and daily poured forth from the most absurd. Burke, after he had become press. Nor were these the most threatening connected with the Marquis of Rockingham, symptoms, informing all men that evil times paid a great sum for the purchase of an were approaching : on the American contiestate called Gregories : he had then inherited nent the clouds grew blacker and blacker, the property of his family, and it is well and Burke's eye became more earnest and known that he owed much to the friendship anxious as it scanned the political horizon. of his noble patron; but in his earlier years The opposition was composed of two pareverything shows that he was poor indeed. ties, the Rockinghams and the Grenvilles ; The attempt to conceal such poverty in a but they had very little in common: they man of genius is discreditable only to those seem indeed for some time to have hated who make it, and think it reflects any shame each other much more than they hated the on his memory.
ministry that they both assailed. A torrent By the friendship of Lord Charlemont, of publications of all sizes, quartos, octavos, Burke became connected with William Ge- pamphlets, and squibs, was diligently poured rard Hamilton, and accompanied him to Ire- by the Grenvilles on the heads of the Rockland. This alliance, after continuing for two inghams. For a long while the patriotic or three years, was broken off, the pension Whigs forbore to reply to all these assaults, that Hamilton was said to have procured for but at length a pamphlet called The Present his assistant resigned, and Burke again un-. Stale of the Nation, written, if not by Grensettled. The quarrel with Hamilton was in ville himself, certainly under his immediate one sense fortunate, for in a few months the direction, made its appearance, and the longadventurer became private secretary to the tried patience of their opponents gave way. Marquis of Rockingham.
To this production Burke replied by his great The administration of his patron continued political treatise, Observations on a late Pubone year and twenty days. Before it reached lication entitled “ The Present State of the the period of its brief existence, Burke's star Nation.” The reply was every way concluwas fast rising in the ascendant. He was sive, powerful and triumphant. Some critics considered a person of so much importance, have regretted that this pamphlet, and many that he was indirectly offered a place in the others of Burke's compositions, should be so new arrangement. This, contrary to the dis- much devoted to the topics of the day, and interested advice of the Marquis of Rocking that therefore they become less interesting ham, he declined, and cheerfully took his as these temporary events fade away in the seat on the opposition benches.
darkness of the past. We cannot think that He drew up, on the spur of the mo- Burke's choice of subjects is to be regretted. ment, a “Short Account of a late Adminis- If the use of studying the political writings tration;" a little piece that does not occupy of past times is to instruct us amidst the three octavo pages, but is at the same time perplexing difficulties of the present, no a brilliant defence of his friends.
works equal these in the attainment of this Two or three important years passed great end. To the mere lover of fine writing away, when he again made his appearance in the Observations may be less attractive than the literary arena as the champion of the any of his other political pamphlets ; but to Rockingham party.
the philosopher, economist and historian, The ministry that was formed by the Earl few even of Burke's works more deserve an of Chatham proceeded most inauspiciously attentive study. It abounds in statistics, but in its career.
The guiding hand of the great the statistics have one merit often wanting Palinurus being taken away, the vessel of the in the statistical works of some other times ; state was driven at the mercy of the waves, for instead of confusing, they really illustrate now in one direction, now in another, and in the subject. every direction but that in which its nominal George Grenville had many admirers. chief intended it to go. The storm that, dur. Bred a lawyer, and connected with families ing the short sway of the Marquis of Rock- of great political influence, he was of course ingham, had nearly subsided, now burst forth introduced early into the House of Commons. with redoubled fury. The whole kingdom After he had once set his feet in St. Stewas convulsed ; a sense of insecurity became phen's Chapel, he appears to have believed general ; men looked in each other's faces, that there were no manners, customs, or and trembled at the thoughts they read ways of thinking in the world, except what there. Libels, such as were unexampled were dreamed of in the philosophy of the even in the most troubled political times, I clerks. The Journals were his Bible, the
ministerial benches the seat of all human
“ Tritonida conspicit arcem happiness, and revenues and statistics the Ingeniis, opibusque, et festa pace virentem ; be-all and the end-all of existence : for them Vixque tenet lacrymas quia nil lacrymabile cernit." he lived, in them he died; he was the embodiment of official regulations, the personi- however, had he never done anything but
It would have been well for England, fication of red tape. It is amusing, if also melancholy, to see
stand on her citadel, and weep over her the profound ideas that this great statesman peace and prosperity ; but alas ! this man, had about the government of mankind. by his own madness and folly in his day of Burke himself says that a man is rendered power, did indeed leave as an inheritance to somewhat a worse reasoner for having been The defeat of our armies, the loss of our ma
successors many causes for bitter tears. a minister; and undoubtedly the assertion is ritime pre-eminence, the increase of our debt, very well borne out by the reasonings of the dismemberment of the empire, and a Mr. George Grenville. While the Tower guns were announcing victory after victory: tion, were what England owed to the weep
legacy of hatred from generation to generaGrenville was weeping for the downfall of England. While the French finances were ing patriotism of Grenville. His economy ruined, the government without credit, and was “penny wise, but pound foolish ;” the the people starving, Grenville shuddered at evils that he did lived after him, and his the Hourishing condition of the rival country. wisdom is necessary to make a legislator,
whole parliamentary life showed how little While every sea was covered with our ships,
The Obserrations, however, is something and our language heard on every shore, Grenville was in dismay at the decline of ble sophisms. It shows how deeply, even
more than a masterly refutation of fashionaBritish shipping, and the want of British en terprise.
from the commencement of his political exWhile great manufacturing cities were starting up on barren heaths, and all istence, Burke was conversant with all subparts of England and Scotland were resound-jects relating to political economy. He was ing with the busy hum of industry,
Gren not only far beyond his own age, but in some ville was sighing for the loss of our manufac- things far beyond ages which have prided tures, and the increase of imports over opinions. His notions are universal; they
themselves on their enlightened commercial exports. While little bands of our country; are truly liberal, for they embrace the intermen were extending the dominion of England in the countries watered by the Ganges
, ests, not of one class, but of all classes ; while our American colonists in little more
showing most distinctly how the interests of than half a century were doubling the com
the manufacturer and the interests of the ag. merce of Great Britain, and on every side riculturist are identical
, and that the prosthe genius of the great Saxon race seemed perity of the one must conduce to the proswaging war even with Nature herself, Gren- perity of the other. We have intentionally ville was rending his clothes, and putting but there is one passage concerning trade, in
forborne to make quotations from his works, ashes upon his head, that he might bear his part in the humiliation of his country. Our a letter addressed a few years afterwards to
the merchants at Bristol, that we think it conquests, he said, were fallacious ; our exports were principally consumed by our own
our duty to copy, as illustrating the views he fleets and armies; our seamen were wasting
entertained. The merchants of Bristol of their energies in privateers and men-of-war;
course did not agree with him, and it was our carrying trade was entirely engrossed by tion of that great trading city :
one of the causes of his defeat for the electhe neutral nations; the number of our ships was diminishing ; our revenues were decreasing; our husbandry was standing still for of the merchants of Bristol will soon disabuse
“I am sure, Sir, that the commercial experience want of hands; on all sides it became quite them of the prejudice, that they can trade no evident that our glory was departing. Such longer, if countries more lightly taxed are perwere Grenville's ideas on the State of the Na-mitted to deal in the same commodities at the tion, and of such nonsense was the work com- same markets. You know that, in fact, you posed that Burke ridiculed. And yet Gren- trade very largely where you are met by the goods ville was by no means considered an ordinary of all nations. You even pay high duties on the man, though nothing can appear more child import of your goods, and afterwards undersell
nations less taxed, at their own markets, and ish than his notions on all the affairs of his where goods of the same kind are not charged at time. To bim, in this work, Burke applied all. If it were otherwise, you could trade very the happy quotation :
little. You know that the price of all sorts of
manufacture is not a great deal enhanced (except | can war, he strenuously opposed the Stamp to the domestic consumer) by any taxes paid in Act, the Massachusetts Bill, and all the other this country. This I might very easily prove."
violent proceedings of the ministry, he con
tended with equal vehemence for the supreThis range of mental vision is, perhaps, macy of British legislation over all the the greatest of all Burke's characteristics. British dominions, and, contrary to the In one sense, his political life might be called opinion of Chatham, supported the Declaraa failure, for during a service of thirty years, tory Act. Hence it is, that with such only a few months were spent in office. He powerful argument and impassioned elowas so much above the greatest statesmen of quence, for the first twenty years of his his generation, that while always admitting career, he threw himself so manfully against his industry and eloquence, it was long the influence of the court ; and that after indeed before they had any idea of his great this influence had been curbed, when wild political wisdom. He did not inspire great democratic notions began to threaten all masses with confidence. He did not keep courts and thrones with destruction, and together for any length of time any great when revolution, like the giant on the mouncombination. His life was to many people tains, stood up and shook her bloody locks in an enigma; his thoughts were not their the face of the whole world, with argument thoughts, nor his ideas their ideas. He sat not less powerful, and with eloquence still in his place at Westminster anong men, but more impassioned, he endeavored to rouse not of them ; it was, as he said himself, a all Europe to eternal battle against an custom among the leading politicians to have enemy that he believed opposed to the his word go for nothing. Why was it that interests and the civilization of mankind. Fox and Pitt were so much more followed, His contemporaries, the liberal politicians and so much more trusted ? Not, surely, of the following age, and even a distinguished because their abilities were superior to his, statesman and orator of a later time, did not not because they were more eloquent, more give him credit for this comprehensive learned, more cautious, or even more practi- | faculty. They looked only at one side of cal. They surpassed him in influence, sim- the question, and therefore accused him of ply because they were inferior to him, inconsistency; but the fact is, that while because their ideas were more the ideas of inconsistent in name, he was always conordinary men. For there is one great secret sistent in spirit. in politics. It is possible for a politician to There is one circumstance in his political be very wise, and yet, at the same time, not life that has been overlooked by his accusers. wise in his generation. The plainest country Before the outbreak of the French Revolugentleman, the most prosaic merchant, could tion, Burke confined himself entirely to the understand all that William Pitt or Charles politics of this empire, and professed himself Fox said on any question : these two celebrat- a Whig. Now there is nothing paradoxical ed men only put into their own language the in saying that the principles of the old ideas of common people. But it was not so Whigs and Tories were national principles, with Burke. He could not but be at all that they sprang out of the party disputes times a great philosopher, thinking deeply on of this island, and could only be well underthe nature of man, and the condition of stood and applied to the politics of Great society. These were his constant themes, Britain. They are as natural to England as his thoughts by day, and his dreams by our roast beef and plum-pudding : nowhere night. He looked at them from all points else could they exist in such perfection. So of view, and while examining one point, Burke appears always to have considered, never forgot its relation to the other. Hence and his political writings, until the year it is that he never would go all lengths with | 1790, were all on national affairs. But the any party, and was called, even during the French Revolution was not a mere national early part of his career, a man of aris-movement; its distinguished advocates detocratic principles; for these seemed to be a clared and boasted that its principles were just middle ground between the doctrines universal. Burke, therefore, addressing his professed by the gentlemen who called them- | Reflections and his Letters on a Regicide selves king's friends, and those of the city Peace to all Europe, was obliged to be more tradesmen who cheered Jack Wilkes. Hence general in his observations than he had been it is that we find him so often accused of in- while he directed his attention entirely to consistency: men did not know what to English politics. make of him; for though, during the Ameri- On reviewing his first philosophical treatise,