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376 ORATORY OF BURKE. '
Register, which first appeared in 1759. So, writing for daily bread, and struggling manfully with many difficulties, cheered by the love of his wife and his little son, Burke toiled onward and upward, never letting go the hope of fame. His entrance on political life may be dated from his appointment in 1761 as private secretary to “Single Speech” Hamilton, who then became Chief Secretary for Ireland. The atmosphere of Dublin Castle did not long agree with the clever young Whig, who threw up a lately conferred pension of £300 a year, broke with Hamilton, and returned to London, where a brilliant career awaited him. Having been appointed private secretary to the Marquis of Rockingham, who became Prime Minister in 1765, Burke in the following year entered Parliament as member for Wend1766 over in Buckinghamshire. At the age of thirty-six he A.D. stood for the first time on the floor of St. Stephen's Chapel, whose walls were to ring so often during the next eight-and-twenty years with the rolling periods of his grand eloquence, and the peals of acclamation bursting alike from friend and foe. Among the great men who then sat upon the benches of the ancient hall, Burke at once took a foremost place. The triumphs of his eloquent tongue we cannot follow here, for it is ours to mark only the achievements of his brilliant pen. In the stirring years of the American War he poured out the opulence of a richly-stored mind in many noble orations; but the crown of his glory as an orator was won in the great Hall of Westminster, where, in the presence of the noblest and the fairest, the wisest and most gifted of the land, he uttered the thunders of his eloquence in the impeachment of Warren Hastings, Governor-Gene1788 ral of India. Opening the case in February 1788 in a A.D. speech of four days, he continued his statement during certain days of April, and wound up his charges with an address, which began on the 28th of May and lasted for the nine succeeding days. As he spoke, the scenery of the East—rice-field and jungle, gilded temple and broad-bosomed river, with a sky of heated copper glowing over all—unfolded itself in a brilliant
“The FRENCH REvolution.” 377
picture before the kindled fancy of his audience; and when the sufferings of the tortured Hindoos and the desolation of their wasted fields were painted, as only Burke could paint in words, the effect of the sudden contrast upon those who heard him was like the shock of a Leyden jar. Ladies sobbed and screamed, handkerchiefs and smelling-bottles were in constant use, and “some were even carried out in fits.” Another great subject filled his thoughts during his last years. He foresaw the hurricane that was blackening over France, and, when it broke in fury, he wrote his greatest work, -1790 entitled Reflections on the Revolution in France; in which A.D. helifts a powerful voice to warn England against cherishing at home the fatal seeds that were bearing so terrible a harvest across the waves of the Channel. From the ceaseless toil of a statesman's life Burke sometimes stole away to his gardens at Gregories, near Beaconsfield, where, so far back as 1768, he had purchased an estate for £20,000. A heavy blow at last fell on his grey head, and bowed it with sorrow to the grave. His dear son Richard, who had been for thirty-six years the light of his eyes, sank under a rapid consumption. With some of Milton's glorious words upon his lips, this gifted man died in the arms of his great father. The world was then all darkness to Edmund Burke. But a little ago it was June, and he had sat for the last time in the Commons, glory- 1794 ing in the thought that he had a gallant son to fill the A.D. place he was leaving empty. It was now an August day —a marble mask of that son lay before him in an unclosed coffin, but the spirit had left the clay. In his retreat at Beaconsfield he still continued to write, producing during his last two years some of his best works. A pension having been conferred on the veteran statesman, two of the Peers thought fit to find fault with the richly-deserved honour. It would have been wise for the Duke of Bedford and the Earl of Lauderdale to let the old lion die in peace. They thought that he was toothless, until he rose with gnashing fangs and tore tho Wretches limb from limb. The Letter to a Noble Lord, called forth
SPECIMEN OF BURKE'S PROSE.
by this ungenerous attack, stands next to the “French Revolution" as a specimen of Burke's powerful style. Other works of his last years were Letters on a Regicide Peace and Observations on the Conduct of the Minority. At last he began to sink daily, for his heart
was still bleeding for his son. In vain for four months 1797
the waters of Bath were tried. He returned home to die, A.D.
and was laid in a vault under Beaconsfield Church, beside the dust of his darling Richard.
(FROM THE FRENCH REVOLUTION.”) It is now sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the Queen of France, then the Dauphiness, at Versailles; and surely never lighted on this orb, which she hardly seemed to touch, a more delightful vision. I saw her just above the horizon, decorating and cheering the elevated sphere she just began to move in-glittering like the morning star, full of life, and splendour, and joy. Oh, what a revolution! and what a heart must I have to contemplate without emotion that elevation and that fall! Little did I dream, when she added titles of veneration to those of distant, enthusiastic, respectful love, that she should ever be obliged to carry the sharp antidote against disgrace concealed in that bosom; little did I dream that I should have lived to see such disasters fallen upon her in a nation of gallant men, in a nation of men of honour and of cavaliers. I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult. But the age of chivalry is gone. That of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded ; and the glory of Europe is extinguished for ever. Never, never more shall we behold that generous loyalty to rank and sex, that proud submission, that dignified obedience, that subordination of the heart, which kept alive, even in servitude itself, the spirit of an exalted freedom. The unbought grace of life, the cheap defence of nations, the nurse of manly sentiment and heroic enterprise is gone! It is gone,-that sensibility of principle, that chastity of honour, which felt a stain like a wound, which inspired courage whilst it mitigated ferocity, which ennobled whatever it touched, and under which vice itself lost half its evil by losing all its grossness.
If we compare our English literature to a beautiful garden, where Milton lifts his head to heaven in the spotless chalice of the tall white lily, and Shakspere scatters his dramas round him in beds of fragrant roses, blushing with a thousand various shades-some stained to the core as if with blood, others unfolding their fair pink petals with a lovely smile to the summer sun,—what shall we find in shrub or flower so like the timid, shrinking spirit of William Cowper, as that delicate sensitive-plant, whose leaves, folding up at the slightest touch, cannot bear even the brighter rays of the cherishing sun
The Reverend Doctor John Cowper, a royal chaplain, the son of a judge, and the nephew of a lord-chancellor, was rector of Great Berkhamstead in Hertfordshire, when his son William was born there in 1731. A tender mother—a lady of the highest descent-watched the infancy and childhood of the boy. Her hand it was that wrapped his little scarlet cloak around him, and filled his little bag with biscuits, every morning before he went to his first school. By her knee was his happiest place, where he often amused himself by marking out the flowered pattern of her dress on paper with a pin, taking a child's delight in his simple skill. He was only six years old when this fond mother died; thus early upon the childish head a pitiless storm began to beat, More than fifty years after the day on which a sad little face, looking from the nursery window, had seen a dark hearse mov
380 STUDYING LAW WITH THURLOW.
ing slowly from the door, an old man, smitten with incurable madness but then enjoying a brief lucid interval, bent over a picture, and saw the never-forgotten image of that kindest earthly friend, from whom he had so long been severed, but whom he was so soon to join in the sorrowless land. There are no more touching and beautiful lines in English poetry or prose than Cowper's Verses to his Mother's Picture. The circumstance to which his morbid nervousness and melancholy may most of all be traced, is full of warning for the young, The poor motherless boy of six was sent to a boarding-school at Market Street in Hertfordshire, where a senior pupil, whose brutality and cowardice cannot be too strongly condemned, led the child a terrible life for two years, crushing down his young spirit with cruel blows and bitter persecution. It was a happy release, when he was removed from this scene of misery to the house of an eminent oculist, for the treatment of his eyes, which the poor little fellow had probably cried into a state of violent inflammation. His seven years at Westminster School were less unpleasant to the timid boy, though there too he had to take his full share of buffeting and sneers. The law being his appointed profession, he entered an attorney's office at eighteen, and there spent three years. This period and a few succeeding years formed almost the only spot of sunshine in the poet's life. Many a hearty laugh echoed through the gloomy office, where Cowper and his fellow-apprentice—afterwards LordChancellor Thurlow—made believe that they were studying the English law. Called to the bar in 1754, he lived for some time an idle, agreeable life, in his Temple chambers, writing a little for the serials of the day, and taking a share in the wit-combats of the “Nonsense Club,” which consisted nearly altogether of West. minster men. It was during this part of his life that he fell in love with his cousin Theodora, a passion the unfortunate issue of which gave a darker colouring to the naturally sombre spirit of the young lawyer. A relative presented him in the year 1763 to a valuable clerkship in the Lords, which required the holder of the office to