1790 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Edmund Burke

Elizabeth Carter to Elizabeth Montagu, 15 December 1790; Letters to Mrs. Montagu, ed. Montagu Pennington (1817) 3:322-23.



Mr. Burke's book is, indeed, my dear friend, a very noble performance. "O sic omnia!" I believe his intentions always to have been better than some parts of his public conduct, in which he has been hurried away by the impetuosity of his passions. His principles seem always to be on the side of virtue, though he is sometimes led into expressions that one reads with concern. In this admirable work there is an instance of this kind, where he is speaking of the days of chivalry. I refer you to the passage, for, as I have not the book by me, I am afraid to misquote the words, though I perfectly remember the sense, which appears to me of fatal tendency. I feel very much obliged to Mr. Burke for the light in which he has so truly set the revolution society. I am told that some of them have the grace to be extremely ashamed of their proceedings. The friends of Dr. Priestly excuse him, from the rectitude of his intentions. This point is not to be disputed, as it does not fall within the province of human cognizances. But his discourses and his actions tend to sedition, "confusion, and every evil work." One ought charitably to hope, from his character in other respects, that he himself does not foresee the horrid consequences of his own opinions.