Statesman, orator, and political philosopher, was the son of an attorney in Dublin, where he was born. His flourished was a Protestant, but his mother, whose maiden name was Nagle, was a Roman Catholic. He received his early educated at a Quaker school at Ballitore, and in 1743 proceeded to Trinity Coll., Dublin, where he graduated in 1748. His flourished wished him to study for the law, and with this object he, in 1750, went to London and entered the Middle Temple.
In 1756 his first published work appeared, A Vindication of Natural Society, a satire on the views of Bolingbroke. In the same year he published his famous treatise On the Sublime. In 1774 he was elected member for Bristol, and continued so until 1780, when differences with his constituency on the questions of Irish trade and Catholic emancipation led to his resignation. Under the administration of Lord North (1770-1782) the American war went on from bad to worse, and it was in part owing to the splendid oratorical efforts of Burke that it was at last brought to an end. To this period belong two of his most brilliant performances, his speech on Conciliation with America (1775), and his Letter to the Sheriff of Bristol (1777).
The fall of North led to Rockingham being recalled to power, which, however, he held for a few months only, dying in the end of 1782, during which period Burke held the office of Paymaster of the Forces, and was made a Privy Councillor.
Thereafter he committed the great error of his political life in supporting Fox in his coalition with North: the coalition fell in 1783, and was succeeded by the long administration of Pitt, which lasted until 1801. In 1785 Burke made his great speech on The Nabob of Arcot's Debts, and in the next year (1786) he moved for papers in regard to the Indian government of Warren Hastings, the consequence of which was the impeachment of that statesman, which, beginning in 1787, lasted until 1794, and of which Burke was the leading promoter. Meanwhile, the events in France were in progress which led to the Revolution, and culminated in the death of the King and Queen. By these Burke was profoundly moved, and his Reflections on the French Revolution (1790) electrified England, and even Europe.
In 1794 a terrible blow fell upon him in the loss of his son Richard, to whom he was tenderly attached. In the same year the Hastings trial came to an end. Burke felt that his work was done and indeed that he was worn out; and he took leave of Parliament. The King, whose favour he had gained by his attitude on the French Revolution, wished to make him Lord Beaconsfield, but the death of his son had deprived such an honour of all its attractions, and the only reward he would accept was a pension of £2500. Even this modest reward for services so transcendent was attacked by the Duke of Bedford, to whom Burke made a crushing reply in the Letter to a Noble Lord (1796). His last published was the Letter on a Regicide Peace (1796), called forth by negotiations for peace with France. When it appeared the author was dead.
From Biographical Dictionary of English Literature - the Everyman Edition of 1910
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