1791 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Edmund Burke

Shenkin, "Shenkin in Town, to his Friends in Wales" Lloyd's Evening Post (14 January 1791) 43-44.



Having little to do, and to get rid of time,
And accustom myself to the writing in rhyme,
I'm elected a Member, and one of the Quorum,
That weekly attend at the Westminster Forum:
Last evening the Question propos'd for debate,
Was — What is BURKE'S weight in the scales of the State?
One GENTLEMAN said, and begg'd leave to submit,
That BURKE wss in eloquence great than PITT,
And superior to JOSEPH in satire and wit;
Than FOX or DUNDAS he's in argument stronger,
And can hold out at least for a day or two longer.

Then another observ'd, in the style of suggestion,
That he who spoke first had mistaken the question:
He added, "According to my calculation,
BURKE'S value is equal to that of the Nation;"
(This bold declaration excited surprise,
Which was strongly express'd by upturning of eyes:)
"And, strange as it seems, I shall make it appear,
Like a Problem in EUCLID, quite certain and clear.
I discover'd this truth by a nice calculation,
By means of a new Algebraic Equation,
For finding BURKE'S value in parts of the Nation;
Tho' the worth of the Nation exceeds definition,
'Twill not in the smallest affect the condition.

"But first, as I ought, I'll exhibit to view,
The data from which the conclusion I drew.
In the ANNUAL REGISTER, lately brought forth,
Are data intended to settle BURKE'S worth;
The History of Europe is written and done,
In pages precisely two hundred and one;
And out of this number, GREAT BRITAIN engages,
Within a small portion, just one hundred pages;
And out of this hundred I find seventeen,
Without other matter intrusive between,
Taken up with abridgment of one single speech
Of BURKE'S, on the day he began to impeach:
His complaints of delay, with his threats and defiance;
His opinions of treaties and foreign alliance;
And diversify'd matter which thence did arise,
Such as PITT'S observations, DUNDAS'S replies;
And many more things, which, the Reader may see,
Make up an addition of thirty and three:
If to thirty and three we the seventeen add,
Of fifty exact the amount will be had;
And if we one hundred by fifty divide,
The quotient is two; and I therefore decide,
That the value of EDMUND, on true estimation,
Is a quantity equal to that of the Nation.

"But I said, when I this calculation begun,
There were pages exactly two hundred and one
For the History of Europe, which if, as before,
We by fifty divide, we've a quotient of four;
And, if we require a still closer exaction,
One, divided by fifty, remains for the fraction:
From this calculation, it seems very clear,
BURKE is one fourth of Europe, at last, very near.
This ANNUAL REGISTER was, you'll suppose,
A Barometer, both for his friends and his foes;
And the Speeches of JOSEPH, which you thought so fine,
Are abridg'd and reduc'd to the space of a line;
And tho' it in length comprehended three days,
There is not a single iota of praise;
Which verifies what my old FATHER believ'd,
That the NATION by JOSEPH was greatly deceiv'd;
Whose Speech for a while made a very great flash,
But on analization prov'd nothing but trash."

Here one of BURKE'S enemies begg'd leave to note,
That 'twas EDMUND himself who the REGISTER wrote,
Who fancies himself as puissant and able
As the Fly who sat perch'd on the wheel of the Fable,
And prided himself in the raising a dust—
All laugh'd, and exclaim'd, the COMPARISON'S just.