This distinguished orator is the second son of Mr. Garret Burke, an attorney of fair character, and extensive practice, in the city of Dublin. He was born in the year 1730, and was, during his childhood, educated at a celebrated school, near Ballytore, in the King's county; the master of which, one of the people called Quakers, had written several pamphlets against the Tories; in consequence of which, many eminent families of Whig principles sent their children to be bred under his tuition.
From this seminary of learning, he was removed to Trinity College, Dublin, where he gave many proofs of soon becoming an adept in those branches of polite literature, which essentially contribute to form the orator and the poet. — In this university he took the degree of Bachelor of Arts, and, being designed by his father for the study of the law, soon after came to London, and entered a student in the Middle Temple, where he read the law for upwards of two years, at which period his father died; when he gave his genius it's natural bent, and applied himself solely to the Belles Lettres.
His first performance was a Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful; a work which was so well received by the public, that it ran through several editions in a short space of time. This Essay recommended him to several gentlemen of distinction in the republic of letters; and William Gerard Hamilton, Esq. being appointed Secretary to Lord Halifax, who had just been made Viceroy of Ireland, he invited Mr. Burke to accompany him to that kingdom, where, by his address and penetration, he did considerable services to the Court-party; and received, as a douceur, a pension of five hundred pound per ann.
No man was better acquainted with the state of that kingdom than himself, and he gave in such an ingenious representation to the Minister, with respect to their commerce and finances, that no demands were made by government, but what were granted that sessions, so well were all parties convinced, that, while he served the Court, he was a firm friend to the liberties of his country. During these transactions, it is asserted, his friend the Secretary grew jealous of his great abilities, and took several opportunities of depriving him of that pension he had so deservedly obtained.
The Duke of Northumberland was appointed Lord Lieutenant, in the room of the Earl of Halifax, and used his utmost endeavours to make Mr. Burke's situation agreeable to him; but that gentleman was so dissatisfied with the ungrateful treatment he had received, that he politely declined any farther connection with administration, on whom he was determined to lie under no obligation, and therefore resigned his pension, notwithstanding the Duke, in the most liberal manner, pressed him to have it continued.
On his return to England, Mr. Burke attached himself in the warmest manner to the popular party; and, as he had inherited an estate of £600 per annum, by the death of his elder brother, he was elected a Member of Parliament, and soon became formidable, from his uncommon oratory, and political knowledge.
His election for Bristol in the last Parliament did not cost him a shilling, and is consequently a proof of the high opinion of the inhabitants of that city entertained of his superior talents and abilities.
He married the only daughter of Doctor Nugent, a learned physician at Bath, by whom he has had one son.
Mr. Burke is said to be the author of the historical part of the Annual Register, and is thought by many to be the writer of those Epistles which appeared some years since with the signature of JUNIUS.