Edmund Burke

Alfred Webb, in Compendium of Irish Biography (1878) 43-49.

Edmund Burke was born in the house now numbered 12 Arran-quay, Dublin, 1st January 1728-9. His father, Richard Burke, a respectable solicitor, about 1725 married Mary Nagle, descended from Sir Richard Nagle, Attorney-General for Ireland in the time of James II. — a family connected by marriage with Edmund Spenser the poet. She was a Catholic. Edmund was the second son. Of a delicate constitution, he was sent at an early age to his maternal relatives at Balliduffe, in the County of Cork. They were kind and affectionate in their treatment of him. In May 1741, he was sent with his elder brother Garret and his younger brother Richard, to a school at Ballitore, kept by Abraham Shackleton, a member of the Society of Friends. There he formed a lifelong intimacy with Richard Shackleton, the son of his master, who thus writes of him at this period: "Edmund was a lad of the most promising genius; of an inquisitive and speculative turn of mind. He read much, and accumulated a stock of learning of great variety. His memory was extensive; his judgment early ripe. He would find in his own mind, reasoning and comparing in himself, such a fund of entertainment that he seemed not at all to regret his hours of solitude; yet he was affable, free, and communicative, as ready to teach as to learn. He made the reading of the classics his diversion rather than his business. He was particularly delighted with history and poetry, and while at school performed several exercises in the latter with manly grace." He is described by another observer as "then full of genial humour, and with an instinctive and invincible hatred to oppression, his leading characteristic through life." In April 1744 he was removed to Dublin, and entered Trinity College. There he does not appear to have specially distinguished himself in the recognized paths of study; but he revelled in the expansive field of literature the Library opened to him; and his letters to his friend Shackleton show the growing energy of his intellect, the increase of his general knowledge, and the genial goodness of his heart. In May 1746 he obtained a scholarship. On 2lst April 1747, a club was formed, the germ of the Historical Society. It met in George's-lane. Burke was one of the four original members. "Here," in the records of the society, says Sir Joseph Napier, "we can trace Burke from week to week — busy in speech, diligent in composition — now an essay on society, afterwards on painting — at times speaking in an historic character — again the critic of Milton.... It is easy to trace his earnest and persevering disposition — that pouring out of the very fulness of his heart, without regard to the temper of his audience, which afterwards made him so unmanageable in debate." His life after leaving college was desultory and aimless for several years. Nominally he was studying law at the Middle Temple. Although he was not on good terms with his father, of whose temper and bearing towards him he at times complained to his friends, he appears to have had a fair allowance, as he was able to reside in London, to move about from place to place in England, and even to visit France. In one letter we are told that his trouble of mind at this period was at times so great that he formed desperate resolutions; in another, that he contemplated emigration to America. In 1756 he published anonymously the small but celebrated work, entitled A Vindication of Natural Society. It was a successful imitation of Bolingbroke's style; and the design was, as he afterwards declared, to show "that without the exertions of any considerable forces, the same engines which were employed for the destruction of religion might be employed with equal success for the subversion of government; and that specious arguments might be used against those things which they who doubt of everything else will never permit to be questioned." In 1756 his Essay on the Sublime and Beautiful was given to the world. It exhibited much excellence of style and deep thought, and attracted considerable attention. Johnson spoke highly of it, and Blair, Hume, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and other eminent men signified their approbation. To the second edition Burke prefixed an introductory chapter on Taste. On receipt of a copy of this work, his father sent him 100 as a substantial token of his gratification and approval. Early in 1757 Burke married a Catholic lady, the daughter of Dr. Nugent, a physician whom he had consulted regarding his health, and who had taken him to his own residence to have him under his immediate and vigilant care. "His marriage proved a happy one; all who afterwards came in contact with Mrs. Burke agree in the appreciation of her character. "She was soft, gentle, reasonable, and obliging," says Fanny Barney, and in the comparatively straitened circumstances in which they had [at first] to eke out life, she managed his affairs with prudence and discretion. Every care, he said, vanished when he crossed his own threshold." For a time this connexion tended to widen the breach with his father, who was naturally dissatisfied that his son should take upon him such responsibilities without settled means of support. Edmund's son Richard was born in February 1758. Next year the first number of the Annual Register (a work still published) came out under his editorship. It was designed to contain a yearly summary of public affairs, drawn up with clearness and impartiality. Competent judges say that Burke's spirit pervaded the whole. Its compilation proved a useful training, and brought him 100 per annum throughout the eight years of his editorship. On Christmas Day, 1758, he met Dr. Johnson for the first time, at dinner at the house of David Garrick. The conversation turned upon Bengal, and, to the surprise of all, Johnson submitted to the corrections of the young Irishman upon some matters of fact connected with India. In 1759 he vas unsuccessful in an application for the post of consul at Madrid. Later on in the same year he was, by Lord Charlemont, who had already discerned his great talents, introduced to William G. Hamilton, who had a seat at the Board of Trade. Hamilton engaged him as an assistant; and two years afterwards, when appointed Chief-Secretary for Ireland, Burke became his private secretary. About the same period, Burke's father appears to have become reconciled to him and to his marriage: he died soon afterwards, worth about 6,000. Edmund's share of this amount was but small, as 1,000 had been already spent on his education. Afterwards in Parliament, when replying on an occasion to Onslow, whose father and grandfather had been Speakers, Burke proudly declared: "I am not descended from members of Parliament, nor am I descended from any distinguished characters whatsoever; my father left me nothing in the world but good principles, good instruction, good example." On 21st July 1761, Horace Walpole met Burke at Mr. Hamilton's house. In his Notes are found the following remarks: "There were Garrick and a young Burke, who wrote a book in the style of Lord Bolingbroke, that was much admired. He is a sensible man; but has not worn off his authorism yet, and thinks there is nothing so charming as writers, and to be one. He will know better one of these days." In 1763 Hamilton secured a pension of 300 on the Irish establishment to Burke, who stipulated that its acceptance should not imply a sacrifice of all his leisure. Before long his undivided services were claimed, and Burke in a respectful but manly spirit repudiated the liability, and threw up the pension, having enjoyed it but a year. The severance of this connexion occurred in April 1765. Burke afterwards declared: "For six of the best years of my life he took me from every pursuit of literary reputation or of improvement of my fortune." During occasional sojourns in Ireland, he renewed old college and Ballitore friendships, and became intimate with Flood and other leaders of the liberal party in Dublin. We must not omit to note that in 1764 the famous literary club had been founded by Reynolds, Johnson, Burke, Goldsmith, Dr. Nugent (Burke's father-in-law), and Bennet Langton, who with one or two others, were the original members. In 1765, regardless of warnings that Burke was a Jesuit in disguise, Lord Rockingham, who had just become Prime-Minister, appointed him his private secretary; and in January 1766, his return was secured for Wendover, a borough once represented by John Hampden. The proceedings and the routine of Parliament had already engaged his earnest attention; he had been a constant visitor in the gallery; his training and studies eminently fitted him for the foremost part he almost immediately took in the debates; whilst his tall and commanding figure, in the full prime of manhood, and his noble countenance secured attention and inspired respect. He quickly caught the ear of the House, and a competent judge writes that he "astonished everybody by the power of his eloquence and his comprehensive knowledge in all our exterior and internal politics and commercial interests. He wants nothing but that sort of dignity annexed to rank and property in England, to make him the most considerable man in the Lower House." The question that had brought the Rockingham administration into power was the American Stamp Act, and the prudent and conciliatory measures by which the rising storm in the colonies was for the time allayed are understood to have been not only suggested and planned by Burke, but carried mainly by his persevering and persuasive advocacy. This ministry remained only a year in office, and on its dissolution, in July 1766, Burke steadfastly continued in opposition — the publication of many political pamphlets occupying his attention. In August 1766, he again came to Ireland, and delighted his old friends at Ballitore by a visit, of which Mrs, Leadbeater gives a vivid account in The Annals of Ballitore. He went to see his sister, Mrs. French, at Loughrea, where also were his mother and his brother Richard. An instance of his goodness of heart is here related. He was found by Mr. French and other friends one day in the midst of a crowd of children gathered round a showman, making a bargain with the proprietor for the admission of the entire group. They proposed to join him in the expense: "No," he insisted, "this must be my own pleasure. I shall perhaps never again have the opportunity of making, at so small a cost, so many human beings happy." The same disposition had been already shown, but on a more serious occasion, in London. Returning from Parliament late one night he was accosted by an unfortunate, who, when he replied to her solicitations with good advice, implored his assistance to rescue her from a life of shame and misery, and told a story that bore the stamp of truth. They reached his own door. ''Are you willing," said he, "to give up your present life of sin?" He was answered with a fervour that bore evidence of sincerity; he took her into his house; and it is stated that by his care and that of Mrs. Burke, she was restored to society. A portion of his time in Ireland was devoted to the study of its language and antiquities. Of the former he knew enough to make some trifling translations and about five years afterwards communicated to his friend, Dr. Leland, then writing his History of Ireland, two volumes of valuable old Irish MSS., he had discovered in London. Materials for a work on the Penal Laws were collected and partially arranged while in Ireland. He also visited his friends in the County of Cork, where a leasehold interest his brother Garret had bequeathed him, afterwards involved him in considerable trouble. Sir Joseph Napier, in his Lecture upon Burke, has completely vindicated his character from aspersions cast upon him in connexion with this transaction. On 16th January 1767, the freedom of the City of Dublin was presented. "in consideration of his distinguished abilities so frequently exerted for the advantage of Ireland in Parliament." He did not return to London until the meeting of Parliament in November. On the 24th he assailed the new ministry of the Duke of Grafton in an effective speech. In March 1768, Parliament was dissolved and in May following Mr. Burke again took his seat for Wendover. At this period, he writes to his friend Richard Shackleton: "I have made a push with all I could collect of my own and the aid of my friends, to cast a little root in this country. I have purchased a house [Beaconsfield] with an estate of about 600 acres of land in Buckinghamshire, twenty-four miles from London, where I now am. It is a place exceedingly pleasant, and I propose (God willing) to become a farmer in good earnest. You who are classical will not be displeased to hear that it was formerly the seat of Waller the poet, whose house, or part of it, makes at present the farm-house within a hundred yards of me." He incurred a liability of 20,000 for Beaconsfield — paying 6,000 in cash (out of his savings and a considerable bequest from his brother Garret); while 14,000, raised by two mortgages, remained outstanding until the sale of the property by Mrs. Burke in 1812. Besides the 20,000, there appear to have been incumbrances and charges to the extent of 6,633 that were paid off by Burke himself in 1769. Again, in connexion with this purchase, it has been endeavoured to blacken Burke's character; and again the same pen entirely clears him. Sir Joseph Napier endorses the sentiment of another writer: "Believe me, if there be an obscure point in the life or conduct of Edmund Burke, the moment the explanation arrives it will be found to redound to his honour." In 1769 he published an able pamphlet that before long ran to five editions, Observations on a late Publication entitled the Present State of the Nation. A month now seldom passed without his giving to the world some important political manifesto, while the debates from 1768 to 1771 exhibit him as taking an active part in the discussion of every important question. His position continued that of an independent supporter of the opposition, then in an apparently hopeless minority. It is probable that he spoke too often and unreservedly; but, as Johnson remarked, "no one could say he did not speak well." In 1771 he was appointed Agent for New York, in recognition of his labours in Parliament on behalf of the American colonies. This brought a welcome addition of 700 per annum to his income. In 1772 he supported Colonel Burgoyne's motion for a select committee on East Indian affairs. In the summer of this year, and again in 1773, he visited France, where the state of society filled him at once with disgust and alarm. The session of 1772-3 was much occupied with the affairs of the East India Company. During 1774 the attention of Parliament was imperatively directed to the American colonies, then in almost open insurrection. On the 19th April, on a motion by Mr. Rose Fuller, he electrified the House by a display of thrilling eloquence that had seldom been equalled within its walls, and that called forth irrepressible exclamations of admiration. In autumn, Parliament was dissolved. Through the Marquis of Rockingham's interest, Mr. Burke was returned for Malton. As he was expressing his acknowledgments to his new constituents, a deputation arrived from Bristol asking him to stand for that important borough. Travelling night and day, he arrived on the sixth day of the poll, addressed the electors, and after a contest of twenty-seven days was returned — no small honour, considering the weight of the Bristol constituency at that period. In March 1775, he introduced in Parliament his Thirteen Propositions for quieting the troubles in America. His speech on the occasion, recommending some conciliatory measures towards the colonies, then on the eve of revolt, commanded general admiration. In April 1777 he drew up and published an able defence of his conduct on the American question, in the form of A Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol. This was followed in 1778 by Two Letters to Gentlemen in the City of Bristol, on the Bills depending in Parliament relative to the Trade of Ireland, relating to a subject upon which he had given great offence to many of his constituents. On 11th February 1780, he delivered his speech on economical reform, in submitting to Parliament his plan for the regulation of the affairs of the Household, the Ordnance, the Mint, the Exchequer, the Army, Navy, and Pension-pay offices, in five Bills. The favour with which this speech was received both within and without the House was almost unprecedented. On the dissolution, in the summer of this year, he prudently declined standing again for Bristol, his opinions upon almost all questions being in advance of those of his constituents, who were especially incensed against him for the support he had given to the Acts for opening the trade of Ireland, and for his advocacy of Catholic relief measures. He was returned for Malton, a borough he continued to represent during the remainder of his parliamentary career. In March 1782, Lord North and his colleagues resigned, Lord Rockingham again came into power, and Mr. Burke was made a Privy-Councillor, and appointed Paymaster of the Forces. With noble disinterestedness he immediately brought in a Bill curtailing the enormous profits of this office: He fixed the salary at 4,000 a year, where previous occupants netted nearly 20,000. Starting from the vantage ground this treatment of his own interests gave, he carried other Bills of economical reform, in the face of powerful opposing interests. In July 1782 Lord Rockingham died, and on the appointment of Lord Shelbourne to the head of the Treasury, Mr. Burke resigned. In 1783 he was again Paymaster in the short-lived coalition ministry of Fox and Lord North. The result of the notion on Mr. Fox's India Bill (in the debate upon which he displayed his master-grasp of all matters connected with the great Eastern Empire coming under the dominion of Great Britain) sealed the fate of this ministry. Mr. Pitt came into office. Burke was again thrown into the ranks of the opposition, and never afterwards was a member of the Government. To the affairs of India he now devoted most of his attention. The impeachment of Hastings was forced on mainly by his intellectual grasp of the Indian question, and by his matchless eloquence. In 1786 he presented to the House the articles of charge against Warren Hastings for his treatment of the natives and sovereigns of India whilst Governor-General. In February 1788, Hastings' trial commenced in Westminster Hall. Burke opened proceedings, that ultimately dragged on for six years, in a noble speech occupying four days. Preoccupation in Indian affairs did not prevent him from giving earnest attention to the causes and results of the French Revolution. In November 1790 appeared Reflections on the French Revolution, perhaps the ablest of all his works, certainly that prepared with most care. Within one year 19,000 copies were sold in England, and about as many more of a French translation on the Continent. Mr. Prior says "The publication proved one of the remarkable events of the year, perhaps of the century; for it may be doubted whether any previous political production ever excited so much attention, so much discussion, so much praise from one party, so much animadversion from another." It had a profound influence upon public opinion in Great Britain and Ireland. Testimonials of approval flowed in upon the writer from different quarters. The allied sovereigns, the French Princes, Catherine of Russia, Stanislaus, King of Poland, sent Mr. Burke direct acknowledgments; while George III. had a number of copies elegantly bound-declaring it was "a book which every gentleman ought to read." The praises of the learned, however, preceded in the order of time, the approval of the great. The University of Dublin conferred upon him the degree of LL.D.; the graduates of Oxford presented him with an address; Gibbon wrote: "Burke's book is a most admirable medicine against the French disease; I admire his eloquence, I approve his politics, I adore his chivalry, and I can almost forgive his reverence for church establishments." It cannot be denied that the horrors of the Revolution blinded him to the fearful oppressions that had roused the French people, and to the pure and elevated motives of many of the leading revolutionists — men of a widely different stamp from the effeminate emigrants, lay and ecclesiastic, that claimed so much of his pity. The Revolution had a powerful influence in warping his judgment of public events during the remainder of his life. The sincerity of his expressed opinions in regard to it, is shown by his maintaining them at the cost of all his political friendships — more especially those with Fox and with Sheridan. Fox had declared that "he considered the new constitution of France as the most stupendous and glorious edifice of liberty which had been erected on the foundation of human integrity in any time or country." On 6th May 1791, a formal renunciation of his friendship with Fox was made in the House of Commons. The scene is said to have been most distressing — Fox declaring, whilst the tears streamed down his cheeks, "that by being so cast off by one to whom he owed such obligations, he felt that a wound was inflicted for which a grateful heart had no balm." Burke expressed himself thus in his will, written a few years later: "If the intimacy which I have had with others has been broken off by political differences on great questions concerning the state of things existing and impending, I hope they will forgive whatever of general human infirmity, or of my own particular infirmity, has entered into that contention. I heartily entreat their forgiveness." Before his death he sought and brought about a reconciliation with Fox, and with other statesmen from whom politics had estranged him. In his own words: "I shall soon quit this stage, and want to die in peace with everybody." Fox was supported in his views regarding France by the Whig party. This elicited Burke's Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs. In 1792 his son went to Ireland as agent for the Catholics; and his own attention was specially turned to the question of Catholic disabilities — his opinions being laid before the public in letters addressed to his son and Sir H. Langrishe. In February 1793 war with France, so long predicted by him as inevitable, broke out, and in Parliament he strenuously opposed Mr. Fox's resolutions condemnatory of hostilities. In August of this year he formally seceded from the Whig party inconsequence of its action regarding France. Mr. Buckle forcibly points out Burke's extravagance of language on this occasion, and concludes his observations upon his advocacy of war in these words: "In his calmer moments, no one would have more willingly recognized that the opinions prevalent in any country are the inevitable results of the circumstances in which that country had been placed. But now he sought to alter those opinions by force. From the beginning of the French Revolution, he insisted upon the right, and indeed upon the necessity, of compelling France to change her principles, and at a later period he blamed the allied sovereigns for not dictating to a great people the government they ought to adopt. Such was the havoc circumstances had made in his well ordered intellect, that to this one principle he sacrificed every consideration of justice, of mercy, and of expediency. As if war, even in its mildest form, was not sufficiently hateful, he sought to give to it that character of a crusade which increasing knowledge had long since banished and loudly proclaiming that the contest was religious rather than temporal, he revived old prejudices in order to cause fresh crimes. He also declared that the war should be carried on for revenge as well as for defence, and that we must never lay down our arms until we had utterly destroyed the men by whom the Revolution was brought about; and as if these things were not enough, he insisted that this, the most awful of all wars, being begun, was not to be hurried over; although it was to be carried on for revenge as well as for religion, and these scourges of civilized men were to be quickened by the ferocious passions of crusaders, still it was not to be soon ended; it was to be durable; it must have a permanence; it must,' says Burke, in the spirit of a burning hatred, 'be protracted in a long war. I speak it emphatically, and with a desire that it should be marked, in a long war.' It was to be a war to force a great people to change their government. It was to be a war carried on for the purpose of punishment. It was also to be a religious war. Finally, it was to be a long war. Was there ever any other man who wished to afflict the human race with such extensive, searching, and protracted calamities? Such cruel, such reckless, and yet such deliberate opinions, if they issued from a sane mind, would immortalize even the most obscure statesman, because they would load his name with imperishable infamy. For where can we find, even among the most ignorant or most sanguinary politicians, sentiments like these? Yet they proceed from one who, a very few years before, was the most eminent political philosopher England has ever possessed. To us it is only given to mourn over so noble a wreck. More than this no one should do. We may contemplate with reverence the mighty ruin, but the mysteries of its decay let no man presume to invade, unless, to use the language of the greatest of our masters, he can tell how to minister to a diseased mind, pluck the sorrows which are rooted in the memory, and raze out the troubles that are written in the brain." Mr. Morley, in his Essay on the life of Burke, thus writes of his attitude regarding France: "We may be sure that the motives which were at the bottom of his envenomed war against the Revolution, were different from the motives of the men who chose him for their leader. We owe him this justice. He hated the tenor of affairs in France with a large and understanding hatred. He knew what it was he was attacking, and he knew distinctly both why he attacked it, and how his present views were no more than the fair corollaries of the views which he had maintained throughout a public life of five-and-twenty years. His clamorous admirers perceived little more than that the strongholds of privilege had gone down before the cry for liberty.... Of Burke's writings, on the other hand, it may be truly said that the further we get away from the immediate passions of that time, the more surprisingly do we find how acute, and at the same time how broad and rational his insight was, though neither acute nor broad enough." In May 1794 Burke brought the proceedings against Warren Hastings to a close, by an address occupying nine days. Referring afterwards to these exertions on behalf of the people of India, Burke himself says: "If I were to call for a reward (which I have never done) it should be for those services in which, for fourteen years, without intermission, I showed the most industry, and had the least success — I mean in the affairs of India: they are those on which I value myself the most; most for the importance, most for the labours, most for the judgment, most for constancy and perseverance in the pursuit. Others may value them most for the intention. In that surely they are not mistaken." "The mind of Burke," says Earl Russell, "comprehended the vast extent of the question, and his genius animated the heavy mass of materials which his industry had enabled him to master. For years he persevered in his great task. Neither the dilatory plea of dissolution of Parliament, nor the appalling earthquake of the French Revolution (to none more appalling than to him) ever distracted his attention from his great Indian enterprise. The speeches delivered by him in Westminster Hall are great monuments of industry and eloquence; they surpass in power those of Cicero when denouncing the crimes of Verres. Finally, though the impeachment ended in an acquittal, its results were memorable and beneficial. Never has the great object of punishment — the prevention of crime — been attained more completely than by this trial." Sir Joseph Napier adds: "Burke's was a noble proceeding, if we can appreciate the moral chivalry which sustained him to the close. For the best years of his mature life, with no interest but duty, with no reward but from his conscience, the unbought advocate of the friendless and the oppressed, he poured forth that mighty eloquence which will ever adorn our literature whilst goodness is honoured, and genius is admired." The labour had, however, worn him down, and the angry debates on the Regency Bill further helped to shake his constitution. The reply of the Prince of Wales to the communication from Pitt relative to the question, is said by Lord Stanhope to be one of the best state papers in the English language. "This masterly performance came from the pen of Bulks, and it may well enhance our just admiration of his transcendent powers, when we find him, on so lofty an occasion, enabled to adopt a wholly different style — lay aside his glorious imagery, and rise clear from those gusts of violence in which he had so recently indulged." Mr. Burke was now anxious to retire from public life; and an arrangement having been made for his son to succeed him in the representation of Malton, he but remained in Parliament to conclude the prosecution of Hastings. The last day of his appearance in the house was the 20th June 1794, when the thanks of Parliament were voted to the managers of the impeachment for their faithful discharge of the trust reposed in them. An overwhelming affliction now awaited him — the death of his only son, Richard, on 2nd August, at the age of 35. He was a man of some promise, entirely over-estimated by Burke, who believed him to be possessed of greater abilities than his own. He had not shown much prudence or much ability in his management of the affairs of the Catholic Committee. Burke's heart was, however, entirely bound up in him, and from the bereavement he never recovered. "The storm has gone over me, and I am like one of those old oaks which the late hurricane has scattered about me. I am stripped of all my honours, I am torn up by the roots, and lie prostrate on the earth. There, and prostrate there, I most unfeignedly recognize the divine justice. I greatly deceive myself, if in this hard season I would give a peck of refuse wheat for all that is called fame and honour in the world." In the course of May 1795, he published his letter to Sir H. Langrishe on the disastrous effect of the recall of Lord Fitzwilliam upon the hopes of the Roman Catholics, and the welfare of Ireland. His most important utterances of these years were his Letters on the Proposals for Peace with the Regicide Directory q/ France. Burke's views regarding the French Revolution altered the attitude of the King and the court party towards him, and but for the death of his son he would probably have accepted the peerage the King was anxious to confer. In October 1795, pensions to the amount of 3,700 per annum were, at the express wish of the King, settled upon him. For the acceptance of these pensions he was attacked in the House of Lords and elsewhere. He defended himself in his Letter to a Noble Lord, stated to have been "the most brilliant specimen of withering sarcasm and dignified resentment that the English language ever exhibited." His few remaining years were passed in retirement at his estate of Beaconsfield, where, however, he at times aided by his pen the solution of important public problems. Many measures — educational, philanthropic, and otherwise, engaged his attention; whilst most of his time was given to agriculture, in which he delighted. He wrote much concerning Ireland; indeed his last thoughts were turned towards her at a time when matters were precipitating towards the Insurrection and Union. That he desired a closer and a more workable union between Great Britain and Ireland than the constitution of 1782 admitted, cannot be doubted; but one does not gather from his writings that an incorporative union would have met his approval. His last publication was in 1797, on the affairs of Ireland. In February of that year his declining health made desirable a visit to Bath, where at an earlier period of his life he had derived considerable benefit. There he lived for about four months — his health rapidly sinking. In May he was brought back to Beaconsfield. His last moments were occupied in giving directions relative to his affairs, and listening to a paper by Addison on the immortality of the soul. During the reading he became faint, and desired to be carried to his bed. The attendants had taken him in their arms, when his breathing became difficult, he uttered an almost inarticulate blessing, and expired (9th July 1797), aged 68. His remains, in accordance with his express desire, were interred at Beaconsfield. "My body, I desire to be buried in the church at Beaconsfield, near to the bodies of my dearest brother and my dearest son, in all humility praying that as we have lived in perfect unity together, we may together have a part in the resurrection of the just." "Thus died," says the Encyclopaedia Britannica, "Edmund Burke, one of the greatest orators, statesmen, and authors of his age; a man whose name will long continue to be celebrated and one who, had he fallen during the meridian of his fame and character, would have scarcely been considered as second to any man, either of ancient or modern times." Lord Brougham writes of him "With the exception of his writings upon the French Revolution — an exception itself to be qualified and restricted — it would be difficult to find any statesman of any age whose opinions were more habitually marked by moderation; by a constant regard to the results of actual experience, as well as the dictates of an enlarged reason; by a fixed determination always to be practical, at the time he was giving scope to the most extensive general views by a cautious and prudent abstinence from all extremes, and especially from those towards which the general complexion of his political principles tending, he felt the more necessity for being on his guard against the seduction." Burke left the whole of his property to his "entirely beloved and incomparable wife, Jane Mary Burke." She survived until the spring of 1812, having lost the use of her limbs by rheumatism some time previously. Most of her property fell to her relations, the Nugents. Some of the statuary formerly at Beaconsfield is now in the British Museum. The most complete edition of Burke's Works and Correspondence is that of 1852, in 8 vols. 8vo.