Edmund Burke

Frances Burney to an unnamed correspondent, 23 November 1790; Diary and Letters of the Author of Madam D'Arblay, ed. Austin Dobson (1904-05) 4:435-36.

November 23, '90.


... I own myself entirely of Mrs. Montagu's opinion about Mr. Burke's book; it is the noblest, deepest, most animated, and exalted work that I think I have ever read. I am charmed to hear its "eloge" from Mrs. Montague; it is a tribute to its excellence which reflects high honour on her own candour, as she was one of those the most vehemently irritated against its author but a short time since. How can man, with all his inequalities, be so little resembling to himself at different periods as this man? He is all ways a prodigy, — in fascinating talents and incomprehensible inconsistencies.

When I read, however, such a book as this, I am apt to imagine the whole of such a being must be right, as well as the parts, and that the time be may come when the mists which obscure the motives or incentives to those actions and proceedings which seem incongruous may be chased away, and we may find the internal intention had never been faulty, however ill appearances had supported any claim to right. Have you yet read it? You will find it to require so deep and so entire an attention, that perhaps you may delay it till in more established health; but read it you will, and with an admiration you cannot often feel excited.

We do not expect to go to town till a day or two before the birthday, the 19th of January: I would not for the world it should be deferred any later; and that time will suit me, I believe, as well as any part of the year. You know the uncertainty of all things here.

F. B.