Edmund Burke: Commentary (2)


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Terry Eagleton
Robert Welch
Siobhán Kilfeather
Majorie Howes
Declan Kiberd
Harvey Mansfield
Luke Gibbons
David Bromwich
P. J. Marshall
Daphne Abernethy
Paul Bew
Kevin Whelan
W. J. McCormack
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Library of Congress Country Studies (“Bangladesh: 1773 and after”: ‘[…] Most British subjects who had served with the British East India Company until the end of the eighteenth century were content with making profits and leaving the Indian social institutions untouched. A growing number of Anglican and Baptist evangelicals in Britain, however, felt that social institutions should be reformed. There was also the demand in Britain, first articulated by member of Parliament and political theorist Edmund Burke, that the company’s government balance its exploitative practices with concern for the welfare of the Indian people.’ (See further, online.)
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Terry Eagleton, ‘Aesthetics and Politics in Edmund Burke’, in Michael Kenneally, ed, Irish Literature and Culture [CAIS Conf., Marianopolis 1988] Irish Literary Studies No. 35] (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1992), pp.25-34: ‘The “aesthetic” [referring to Alexander Baumgarten:], that strange new Enlightenment discourse, concerns itself with all that which follows from our sensuous relation to the world, and crom tht which takes root in the guts and the gaze, with the way reality strikes the body on its sensory surfaces. It is only later in the evolution of German idealism that the paradigm of all this will become art; asesthetics emerges into the world of modern Europe not in the first palce as a language of art, but as a social phenomenology.’ (p.25.) ‘The only problem is where all this imitating ends: social life for Burke would appear a kind of infinite chain of representations of representations, without ground or origin. If we do as others do, who do the same, then all of these copies would seem to lack a transcendental original, and society is shattered to a wilderness of mirrors. / This ceaseless mutual mirroring has about it something of the stasis of the Lacanian imaginary, and if taken too literally would spell the death of difference and history.’ (p.28.) regards the sublime as ‘a phallic “swelling” arising from our confrontation with danger […] a suitably defused, aestheticised version of the values of the ancien regime. It is as though those traditionalist patrician virtues of daring, reverence, free-booting ambition must be at once cancelled and preserved within middle-class life […] to avoid emasculation, they must still be fostered within it in the displaced form of aesthetic experience. The sublime is an imaginary compensation for all the uproarious old upper-class violence, tragedy repeated as comedy.’ (p.29.) [Cont.]

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Terry Eagleton (‘Aesthetics and Politics in Edmund Burke’, 1992) - cont.: quotes, ‘We submit to what we admire, but we love what submits to us; in one case we are forced, in the other flattered, into compliance.’ (“Enquiry”, in Works, 1906, Vol. 1, p.161), and comments: The distinction between the beautiful and the sublime, then, is that [29] between woman and man; but it is also the difference between what Louis Althusser has called the ideological and the repressive state apparatuses.’ (pp.29-30.) ‘We shall see, howeer, that Bruke is not so much an aesthete as an aestheticiser [of power], which makes a significant difference.’ (p.41.) ‘What the aesthetic in Burke sets its face most firmly against is the notion of natural rights […] All ofthis strange homespun psycho-physiology is a kind of politics, willing to credit no theoretical notion which cannot somehow be traced to the muscular structure of the eye or the texture of the fingerpads.’ (p.32.) ‘The true danger of revolutionaries is that as fanatical anti-aestheticians they offer to reduce hegemony to maked power […] angered by this iconoclasm, Burke speaks up instead for what Gramsci will later term “hegemony”’ (p.32.) ‘The law is male, but hegemony is a woman; this transvestite law, which decks itself out in female drapery, is in danger of having its phallus exposed. Power is ceasing to be aestheticised.’ (p.33.) ‘The politic victory of the aesthetic in Burke is more than a local one. Indeed one might claim that from Burke and the later Coleridge and onward throughout the nineteenth century, the aesthetic as a category is in effect captured by the political right.’ (p.34.) ‘But when Walter Benjamin instructed us that since the fascists had aestheticised politics, we must politicise aesthetics, he did not, presumably, mean tha twe must replace the aesthetic with the political. Instead, we must find our own ways to reinterpret the classical tradtion of the aesthetic, which as I hve tried to show begins life as a kind of primitive proto-materialism.’ (p.34.)

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Robert Welch, ‘Language and Tradition in the Nineteenth Century’, in Changing States: Transformations in Modern Irish Writing (London: Routledge 1993) [Chap. 2]: ‘[…] English nerves were very alert to those events [viz., the French Revolution], and there were none more alert than those of the man who gave English constitutional liberty its most forceful,and persuasive language: the Irishman Edmund Burke. There is an irony here the depth of which it is hard to fathom. / Burke hated what he called the “new conquering empire of light and reason” which strips life of its moral and emotional clothing, to leave it naked and shivering. He endows “traditionary” rights and privileges with a sacral and humane aura, and sees those who would dissolve that aura as “sophistors”, mechanicals, Jacobins. They are without dignity because they {15} insult the instinct life has, according to Burke, to make and sustain codes [quotes]: “All the decent drapery of life is to be rudely torn off. All the super-added ideas, furnished from the wardrobe of the moral imagination, which the heart reveres, and the understanding ratifies, as necessary to cover the defects of our naked shivering nature, and to raise it to dignity in our own estimation, are to be exploded as a ridiculous, absurd, and antiquated fashion. (Reflections, ed. Conor Cruise O’Brien, 1968, p.171.)’ [Cont.]

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Robert Welch, ‘Language and Tradition in the Nineteenth Century’ (1993) - cont.: ‘Burke argues that it is a meddling and profane intelligence that refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of codes and of their continuance. It is meddling because it does not know tact; and it is profane because it cannot see that the codes and systems a people evolves in which to represent itself to itself have what he considers a sacred and “awful” quality, a gravity; because it is through them and in them that we have our relationship with life itself. It is through these codes and languages that we respond to the call life makes to us; these codes and languages are a creative and natural response. We are impelled into making them by life itself and in making them we are imitating nature. To break them is to be mechanized and Jacobinical, to be out of nature, to be monstrous. It is blasphemy because such an attitude is an affront to the secrecy of life itself in its “great mysterious incorporation of the human race” [quotes]: “Our political system is placed in a just correspondence and symmetry with the order of the world, and with the mode of existence decreed to a permanent body composed of transitory parts; wherein, by the disposition of a stupendous wisdom, moulding together the great mysterious incorporation of the human race, the whole, at one time, is never old, or middle-aged, or young, but in a condition of unchangeable constancy, moves on through the varied tenour of perpetual decay, fall, renovation, and progression.” (Ibid., p.120.)’ [Cont.]

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Robert Welch, ‘Language and Tradition in the Nineteenth Century’ (1993) - cont.: ‘The placing and disposition of these phrases is not just windy rhetoric. The writing is straining to realize, as it reflects upon the revolution in France , that renovation of the system of English liberty which will not be revolution. Watch again the movement and rhythm of the last clause in the passage above, which is all one sentence: “moves on through the varied tenour of perpetual {16} decay, fall, renovation, and progression”. Burke wants his speech to be visited by and to enact that principle of nervous yet flexible self-possession and constancy that he sees embodied in the British constitution. He wants to give that principle a language. And, of course, he succeeded, remarkably well. Poise, passion, gravity, dignity, he has all of these things. He provides a language, a system of representation, in which the English can see, defined and renovated, the liberty which they, Burke insists, must feel proud to inherit. He makes a system for a system. He shows that English can expand to accommodate the immediacy of the events in France and react to them, and measure them because it itself, the language, is grounded in an affiance with life. It is empty-headed meddling, and dangerous blasphemy, to be attracted by the kind of views advanced in the sermon given by Richard Price in the Old Jewry, the immediate stimulus to the Reflections. The English system, redefined and renovated, ensures that the English people will enjoy a sure and “domestic” (one of Burke’s favourite words) relation with the things of life. Things are dear to us because we can rest upon an assurance of continuity; take continuity away and things lose their substance; they become chimeras and fantasies. This is Burke’s argument and it is one of the most capacious statements of conservative thought ever made. And it was made by an Irishman, defining the nature of English freedom to the English; just as Burke’s opposite, Shaw, showed the nature of the confinements of English life over a hundred years later.’

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Siobhán Kilfeather, ‘Origins of the Irish Female Gothic’, in Bullán, 1, 2 (Autumn 1994), pp35-46: ‘Burke describes the sublime as masculine and the beautiful as feminine, and sees this difference as an issue of power relations; but he does not ask what effects such a distribution might have on the aesthetics or consciousness of the individual gendered subject. Burke’s Enquiry is particularly significant for Irish gothic writers in that it [constantly] refers them back to the landscape of home, but of a home alienated by the perception that everywherhe the landscape speaks of death. Burke seems to direct his reader to seek for the submlime in alpine landscapes, but Griffith, Roche and Owenson recognise and refigure those landscapes as Irish; quotes Burke on grieving: ‘It is the nature of grief to keep its object perpetually in its eye, to present it in its most pleasurable views, to repeat all the circumstances that attend it, even to the last minuteness; to go back to every particular enjoyment, to dwell upon each, and to find a thousand new perfections in all, that were not sufficiently understood before; in grief, the pleasure is still uppermost.’ (Kilfeather, p.37..) Further quotes, ‘They would conjure up the ghosts from the ruins of castles and churches … They would not wantonly call on those phantoms, to tell by what English acts of parliament, forced upon two reluctant kings, the lands of their coutnry were put up to a mean and scandalous auction in every goldsmith’s shop in London.’ (Unfinished letter to Richard Burke, Works, 1883, Vol. VI, pp.61-80.)

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Declan Kiberd, Inventing Ireland: The Literature of the Modern Nation (London: Jonathan Cape 1995): ‘[Burke] contended that what happened to the native aristocracy of Ireland under Cromwell and the Penal Laws befell the nobility of France in the revolution of 1789: an overturning of a decent moral order. … Burke’s empathy with India under occupation was also expressed in terms which vividly recalled the extirpation of Gaelic traditions by adventurers and planters … Burke complained[,] “The first men of that country”, “eminent in situation” were insulted and humiliated by “obscure young men” pushing upstarts who “tore to pieces the most established rights, and the most ancient and most revered institutions of ages and nations” (Works, Boston, 1869, Vol. 2, 222; Kiberd p.17.) Kiberd here quotes the passage on Marie Antoinette [viz., “ten thousand swords …”] and explicitly compares it with the trope of the spéirbhean in Gaelic (i.e. Jacobite) poetry. Further, ‘Like Ireland, India appeared to him as a theatre of the unconscious, a place where unbridled instincts ran riot, while the contraints of civilisation were abandoned by those very people who pretended to sponsor them. / In his later years, Burke chose to imagine the return of the repressed in the figure of an animal from the colonies now unleashed on the mother of parliaments: “I can contemplate without dread a royal or national tiger on the borders of Pegu … But if, by habeas corpus or otherwise, he was to come into the lobby of the House of Commons […] who would not gladly make escape out of the back windows. [… &c.]’ (Works, Vol. 5, 225; Kiberd, p.19.) [Cont.]

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Declan Kiberd (Inventing Ireland: The Literature of the Modern Nation, 1995) - cont.: ‘Burke was of course no separatist. He believed that the link with England, though the cause of many woes, would be Ireland’s only salvation. Nevertheless, as the product of an Irish hedge-school he had a natural sympathy, if not for revolution, then at least for those caught up in the stresses of a revolutionary situation. Conor Cruise O’Brien has inferred from this a conflict at the centre of Burke’s writings between the outer Whig and inner Jacobite …’ (p.19.) ‘Taking up where Céitinn had left off, he attacked misrepresentations by more recent English historians: “But there is an interior History of Ireland - the genuine voice of its records and monuments - which speaks a very different language from these histories from Temple and from Clarendon [… and says] that these rebellions were not produced by toleration but by persecution.”’ (Corr., 1, 202; Kiberd, p.19.) ‘though no separatist, Burke prophesied the end of empire and saw sovereignty in residually Irish terms’ (pp.17-19).

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Marjorie Howes, Yeats’s Nations: Gender, Class, and Irishness (Cambridge UP 1996): ‘[…] The position Arnold and other liberal Victorian thinkers adopted was deeply indebted to the works of Edmund Burke. Burke’s unionism involved criticizing the corruption and [19] brutality of the Protestant Ascendancy, calling for a “true aristocracy” to replace it, and protesting against the penal laws and other forms of Catholic oppression. Later these positions became central to nineteenth-century efforts to kill Home Rule with kindness. [Seamus Deane, ‘Arnold, Burke and the Celts’, in Celtic Revivals: Essays in Modern Irish Literature 1880-1980, Faber 1985.] Arnold cited Burke frequently and even edited an anthology of Burke’s writings on Irish affairs. The publication of On the Study of Celtic Literature coincided with an increase in “Fenian fever” in Ireland and the United States, an outbreak of Fenian violence in Ireland and England, an English crackdown on Irish unrest, and a rise in popular and media attention to the Fenian movement. In this political climate its enthusiasm for Celtic culture and its relatively benign form of imperialism made it a fairly radical document, and it made little impression on Arnold’s immediate contemporaries.’ (pp.19-20.) Further, ‘From Edmund Burke through the nineteenth century, a number of thinkers had linked the French revolution (and political revolutions generally) to particularly feminine depravities and sexual pathologies. Burke associated the excesses of the French revolution with “the horrid yells, and shrilling screarns, and frantic dances, and infamous contumelies, and all the unutterable abominations of the furies of hell in the abused shape of the vilest of women.” [Reflections on the French Revolution [1790], ed. Thomas Mahoney, NY: Bobs-Merrill, 1955, p.82.] Arnold described the Celtic political temperament as tending towards revolution and sexual pathology: “The Celt, undisciplinable, anarchical, and turbulent by nature, but out of affection and admiration giving himself body and soul to some leader … is not a promising political temperament. [Complete Prose Works, p.347.] (p.23.) Howes goes on to discuss Marx and Engels’ similarly feminine view of Irishness.]

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Harvey Mansfield, ‘Gentleman’s Gentleman: Edmund Burke’s critique of theory’, feature article in Times Literary Supplement (11 July 1997), p.15: ‘For Burke democracy is inseparable from the theorists who bring it about’; ‘Two centuries later, we now have conservatives on the Right and postmodernists on the Left who both share something of Burke’s distrust of rational control. Conservatives don’t think the economy can be planned and managed, post-modernists want to replace the influence of rational principle with that of non-rational, ethnic identity in our culture. Among our moral philosophers, an untheoretical prudence respecting of the individual cases has returned to favour. And everybody suspects technocrats and dislikes bureaucrats, the dual executives of human reason when it seeks to command our lives’; Burke called Rousseau “a lover of his kind but a hater of his kindred” in view of his leaving his offspring in orphanages; “Nothing universal can be rationally affirmed on any moral or political subject”; “labyrinths of political theory”; “No man examines into the defects of his title to his paternal estate, or to his established government”; Mansfield paraphrases: ‘Political questions are timeless and reversible; so a theorist always has time to change his mind. Practical questions must be decided here and now, and they cannot be reversed’; comments that historians find Burke fulsome in his generalisations, philosophers find him meagre for lack of grounding in first principles, and that Burke’s audience is in between these two schools; prudence is “the good of this lower world […] the first of all the virtues as well as the supreme director of them all”; quotes, “there is no qualification for government but virtue and wisdom, actual and presumptive”. Mansfield glosses ‘presumptive virtue’ as ‘snobbery’, and paraphrases the concomitant social ideas, ‘Presumptive virtue is the lesser, probable virtue that can be presumed in well-bred gentlemen of prominent families born into situations of eminence where they are habituated to self-respect’; Burke held pragmatically that such are “used to the censorial aspect of the public eye [… and to taking] a large view of the widespread and infinitely diversified combinations of men and affairs in a large society”; he distinguished between the “rules of prudence” and the “prudence of a higher order”, the former being “formed upon the known march of the ordinary providence of God”; Further, “[t]he road to eminence and power, from obscure condition, ought not to be made too easy”; once Burke said that his chief employment was, borrowing from Swift, the “woeful one of flapper” to awaken the gentlemen of his party; “A perfect democracy is […] the most shameful thing in the world”; in Burke’s vindication of the idea of responsible government by a “true natural aristocracy of men who were few enough to feel shame, Mansfield finds that ‘he was a political Jeeves, a gentleman’s gentleman, who defended gentlemen in distress; notes also Burke’s use of manly in defence of himself by comparison with Bedford in A Letter to a Noble Lord; “I love a manly, moral regulated liberty”; “I had no arts but manly arts”; glosses ‘manly’ and courage and prudence.”

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Luke Gibbons, ‘Edmund Burke: On Our Present Discontents’, in History Ireland (Winter 1997), pp.21-25; notes citation from Burke in Brian Friel’s Philadelphia, Here I Come!’; characterises Burke’s view of tradition as a regard for ties other than those of property: ‘Burke was among the first to recognise that the commodity is no substitute for the common good, and that for commerce even to take place, there has to be a cultural substratum or system of values which transcends the logic of the marketplace.’; cites Burke on Protestant celebrations of Cromwell and William III: ‘One would not think that decorum, to say nothing of policy, would permit them to call up, by magic charms, the grounds, reasons, and principles of those terrible confiscatory and exerminatory periods’ when the established their rule [no source]; Burke had little sympathy for triumphalist versions of Britishness which sought to trample on the rights of other cultures, and which would construe any badge of difference - the Irish language, Catholicism, or, in our time, even Gaelic games - as a form of subversion (the reference here to the Northern Irish state.) without connective tissue of tradition, and a common culture, however diversified, even the most basic forms of civil society cannot survive … the problem was not one of diversity but of domination; if the state could only be maintained by keeping entire cultures in subjection, then one was dealing with … thinly veiled forms of coercion; remarks that Burke acknowledged the civilisation of India; quotes extensively his account of famine under the government of Warren Hastings (‘these details are of a species of horror so nauseous and disgusting; they are so humiliating to human nature itself that, on better thoughts, I find it more advisable to throw a pall over this hideous object, and to leave it to your general conceptions.’.) Quotes, ‘the state ought not to be considered as nothing better than a partnership agreement in a trade of pepper and coffee, calico or tobacco, or some other such low concern’; sees Burke’s theatricality (viz., ‘dagger speech’) in the context of his idea of the primacy of culture; compares him to Yeat’s in the ultimate risk of acting out his deepest thoughts; draws on A Philosophical Enquiry to emphasis the extent to which for Burke his aesthetic theory of the sublime betrayed a darker side … a fascination with disorder, terror and the imagination of disaster; his aesthetic theory of the sublime made allowance or obscurity and inscrutability in language, attacking the Enlightenment principle [of] the clear idea’; (acc. Burke, ‘another name for a little idea’.) Quotes Mary [Shelley] Wollestonecroft’s reply to Reflections, viz., ‘Reading your Reflections warily over, it has continually and forcibly struck me, that had you been a Frenchman, you would have been, in spite of your respect for rank and antiquity, a violent revolutionist.’ Notes that Burke considered the newspapers of the United Irishmen ‘rational, manly and proper’ except for their tendency to ascribe to the British connection ills that emanated from the ‘jobbing Ascendancy’; cites Burke’s letter to Dr. Hussey in which he blames the Church for disarming the Catholic laity, writing that ‘I am not at all surprised at it [Armagh pogrom] and consider it one of the natural consequences of a measure better intended than considered - that of the Catholic clergy persuading the laity to give up their arms. Dreadful as it is, but it s now plain enough that Catholic Defenderism is the only restraint to Protestant Ascendancy’; cites Tom Paulin’s remark that ‘you see the next two centuries of Irish history waiting to be born’ in Burke’s style.

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David Bromwich, ‘Remember! Remember!’, review of Ian Crowe, ed., Edmund Burke: His Life and Legacy (Blackrock: Four Courts 1997), Frans de Bruyn, The Literary Genres of Edmund Burke (OUP 1996), and Jim McCue, Edmund Burke and Our Present Discontents (Claridge 1997), in TLS, 16 Jan. 1997), pp.3-4; notes of Crowe that it shows it is now became a usual practice to read Burke as a precursor of modern communitarianism, while the ‘collection also curiously displays the indifference of Burke’s writings to adoption by the communitarian Left or Right’, citing contributions by John Redwood, P. J. Marshall and others; remarks, ‘His record on Ireland cannot be made to point so palin a moral, because it is so full of tactical shifts. In the 1780s,when Burke’s party was close to power, hjis interest seemed to be confined to free trade; but by then he had already recorded his doubts regarding the Whig ascendancy in his unpublished Tract on the Popery Laws; and in public and private letters in the ’90s, he would warn the Pitt ministry that the continunued disenfranchisement of Catholics was giving a legitimate complexion to a revolutionary movement.’; quotes extensively from Burke: ‘When the useful parts of an old establishment are kept, and what is superadded is to be fitted to what is retained, a vigorous mind, steady persevering attention, various powers of comparison and combination, and the resources of an understanding fruitful in expedients are to be exercised; they are to be exercised in a continued conflict with the combined force of opposite vices; with the obstinacy that rejects all improvement, and the levity that is fatigued and disgusted with every thing of which it is in possession [… .] If circumspection and caution are a part of wisdom, when we work only upon inanimate matter, surely they become a part of duty too, when the subject of our demolition and construction is not brick and timber, but sentient beings, by the sudden alteration of whose state, condition, and habits, multitudes may be rendered miserable […] Political arrangement, as it is a work for social ends, is to be only wrought by social means. There mind must conspire with mind. Time is required to produce that union of minds which alone can produce all the good we aim at. Our patience will achieve more than our force.’; Further, ‘They have a right to the fruits of their industry; and to the means of making their industry fruitful. They have a right to the acquisitions of their parents; to the nourishment and improvement of their offspring; to instruction in life, and to consolation in death. Whatever each man can separately do, without trespassing upon others, he has a right to do for himself; and he has a right to a fair portion of all which society, with all its combinations of skill and force, can do in his favour.’; Further quotes Burke, ‘I do not like to see anything destroyed; any void produced in society; any ruin on the face of the land’, and remarks: ‘He did not believe with Locke that things were necessarily improved by ‘mixing our labour’ with them; and he often wrote as if the transition from nature to commodity were a passage in the depravation of humanity itself. We are humanised by the time it takes to grow used to our own response to things, and we do not have enough time if the stimuli change at too rapid a rate. As for society, as no single person has made it, nor has the latest living generation [either]; and by seeking to reform it quickly and efficiently, we risk the creation of a mechanism void of the conditions that made us possible. The self-contempt that is latent in such a policy will always be legible in its effects.’; cites Elie Halévy’s account of Burke as ‘half-Œmpiricist, half mystical philosophy, based on the principle of utility’; quotes Mary Wollestonecraft’s response to the Reflections, in which she spoke of ‘the sophistry of asserting that nature leads us to reverence our civil institutions from the same principle that we venerate aged individuals’, which was ‘palpable fallacy that is so like the truth it will serve the turn as well.’ [Also cites, ‘My lords, they began by winding cords round the fingers of the unhappy freeholders of those provinces … against their oppressors?’; see infra, Quotations, Impeachment of Warren Hastings.]

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P. J. Marshall, review of Frederick G. Whelan, Edmund Burke and India: Political Morality and Empire (Pittsburgh UP 1997), Times Literary Supplement (7 Nov. 1997), remarks: ‘Except for the most tenacious present-day partisans of Burke, the rights and wrongs of all this [Hastings affair] no longer seem at all clear, and the recent historiography of India has sapped the foundations on which such debates rested. Eighteenth-century India no longer seems to be stricken victim waiting either to be raised by firm, just government or pillaged by the predatory British. It is presented as a vigorous commercial society, as much shaping the Raj as shaped by it. The role of the British seems much less clear than in the older books assumed. If Burke took pleasure in anything that happened in British India after he began his crusades, it would presumably have been in the Permanent Settlement of the revenues of Bengal and Bihar. Few would now regard that as a benign legacy, however admirable the intentions was. … Whelan’s intention is to explore what he sees as the conflict of principle. Burke insisted on the strictest interpretation of law and morality in the government of an empire, while Whelan sees Hastings as a realist who accepted the need for some latitude for raison d’état. … He reaches the conclusion that Burke believed that natural justice and sound morality were embodied in “traditional” institutions all over the world. Whatever one may thing about how he treated Hastings, or about the terms in which he represented the Indians, Burke’s efforts to incorporate the whole world into a common humanity subscribing to a universal morality remains a powerful reason for persevering in reading that he had to say about India.’ (p.31.)

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Daphne Abernethy, ‘Edmund Burke and the Paradoxes of History’ (UUC MA Diss., 1998): ‘While the concept of luxury was central to the struggle for power between the aristocracy and bourgeoisie in early eighteenth-century England, where each attempted to undermine the other with accusations of adherence to luxury, it is significant that the main threat of luxury to the rising middle-class at this time (when Burke was writing the Enquiry), came mainly from the lower orders, through fears of a working-class rising during the Seven Years War. However, as Sekora points out, this fear faded considerably after the Treaty of Paris when England began to sense the possibility of expansion through its commercial and industrial revolution. The notion of luxury was, nevertheless, retained as a means of restricting that expansion to the middle and upper-classes. Having virtually won its ideological struggle, then, the bourgeoisie, in the second half of the eighteenth century, set about expanding its own economic and political horizons, while, simultaneously, redefining the limits beyond which the “idle poor” may go. [Vide, John Sekora, Luxury: The Concept in Western Thought, Johns Hopkins UP 1977.] For this reason Burke, in Reflections, was able to assume a collusion of interests between the new middle-class and the traditional ruling class, when faced with a political movement apparently based on the dissolution of the limits both classes set on the “lower orders”. This also explains why Burke repressed beauty in The Enquiry, where it is generally played down, in comparison to the enterprising impulse of the sublime, which, at this point in history, is elevated. Significantly, he adopts the reverse position in Reflections, where the beautifull is exalted - in the face of an overwhelming threat from the (revolutionary) sublime. However, this shift in emphasis does not necessarily point to a profound poetical change on Burke’s part, but, on the contrary, indicates that the logical and ideological contradiction is within the structure of his bourgeois and aesthetic thought from the outset. / The paradox at the heart of Burke’s ideology, I would argue, points to the dilemma which confronted the rising middle-class of that time: how to make individual ambition appear not only socially beneficial, but also natural. In order to expand commercially, the new bourgeoisie at once wanted a system which would continue to marginalise the poor and inhibit their desire for luxury, and, at the same time, compete successfully against, yet not appear alien from, the existing aristocratic order. Burke needed then to show how the sublime was available to all (through a notion of common nature), and yet restricted, so as to ensure it was in no way a threat to the traditional order which he was so keen to emulate and maintain.’ (pp.57-58.)

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Paul Bew, ‘Where is Burke’s Vision of the Union?’, in Times Literary Supplement (16 March 2001), remarks that the Union lacks a theory: ‘The Union is a great fact. Than Antrim consistuency where this article is being written has been represented at Westminster for 200 years, but where is the reflection of that fact?’ Bew calls the securing of the loyalty of the Ulster Presbyterians to the Crown the ‘only one unambiguous triumph’ of the Union. Quotes Lloyd George: ‘Mr de Valera says that Ireland is a nation [cries of No! and Two Nations!]. The mere fact it is an island is not proof it is a nation. Britain is an island, but it has three nations. In religion, in temperament, in tradition and outlook, in everything that constitutes a nation, unfortunately [the Irish] differ […] they [Irish nationalists] are not satisfied with getting self-determination for themselves without depriving others of the right of self-determination.’ Sir Patrick Mayhem, speech to the Irish Association, Dublin May 1994, spoke of ‘a belief that all the people of these islands - English, Welsh, Scots and Irish too - share far more than divides them; a belief that there is as much value in their confirmed and various diversity as there is in their actual conformity; a belief that in a democratically established union there is more strenth to be found than in the sum of its constituent parts; a belief, therefore, that all will gain from being freely associated together with an entity that is a union’. Bew concludes, that ‘All the historical evidence suggest that a modernising Unionism needs the active sponsorship of the central British State’, remarking that ‘the Gladstone of 1868-74, who brought major reforms in the areas of land and religious equality in Ireland, would never have dreamt of accepting that his own party should not have a presence in a constituent part of the United Kingdom.’ [End]. (pp.6-7.)

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Kevin Whelan, ‘The Other Within: Ireland, Britain and the Act of Union’ (2001): ‘Burke inflected the Scottish Enlightenment model of civilisation in his celebrated reflections on the consequences of the French Revolution. Burke asserted that there is a uniform and universal human nautre, as profound as it is unchanging. Civility (in the Scottish Enlightenment sense) could be calibrated against this universal set of values. Burke’s innovation was to argue tha the French Revolution had failed to meet the this standard of civility, because it had fundamentally altered human nature itself in its brutal pursuit of an unattainable and abstract human perfectability. Revolutionary jacobinism also backlit the essential features of that universal human nature which it so rudely assaulted - the domestic values of feeling, fiidelity, loyalty and a profound at-homeness. Burke then argues that the new France had betrayed the old values while the placid, dull, almost bovine, English had not. The placity of thier national character, grooved in immemorial routine, firmly rooted tme in their traditions, unlike the volatile, frivolous French. This curious British reworking of the Scottish Enlightenment and the French Revolution had massive Irish repercussions. The identification of civiity s the apex of human development and its instantiation in Great Britain meant that other forms of identity, like the Gaelic, were deemed incapable of aspiring to the universal. Similarly, the British imperium in Ireland had to be seen as a defender of universal human values indelibily identified with the British way of life and British nationalism. […/] Burke and, later, Coleridge are able to theorise the relatinship between Englishness and civilisation,and the British state which preserved and guaranteed them as a system of universal values. The Irish can then only be celts in a saxon world, like greeks in a roman one, whose function is to be absorbed - either coercively (through punitive means) or genially (the Gladstone project). The Gael occupied the space of the past, as the celts became the memory of the saxon. [Quotes Wordsworth, “The pibroch’s note [… &c.] all speak of manners withering to the root’.] (In Dáire Keogh & Whelan, eds., Acts of Union: The Causes, Contexts and Consequences of the Act of Union, Dublin: Four Courts Press 2001, p.27; Bibl. incls. Seamus Deane, ‘Factions and fictions: Burke, Colonialism and Revolution’, in Bullán, IV, No. 2, 2001, pp.5-26.)

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W. J. McCormack, ‘Edmund Burke’, in The Blackwell Companion to Modern Irish Culture, ed. McCormack (1999): ‘[…] Cold War Burke was made up of suitably public texts, in which the Reflections naturally played a major part, with the substitution of the Soviet Union for Jacobin France already recommended by [A. V.] Dicey at the time of the Bolsheviks. To counter such blatant exploitation, a number of American, British and Irish scholars came together to edit a full edition of Burke’s letters … [1958-1968] the Correspondence has had the efect o revealing a Bruke who is far less consistent than the inspirer of the Newsletter, who is occasionally at odds with himself and his friends, who is embroiled in an immense dossier of local complaint and historical precedent, of private speculation, personal grief and philological analysis. Apart from contributing to the release of Burke from the crusade against Moscow, the editors of the Correspondence may also have facilitated a shift of attention away from Burke on American Affairs (in the 1700s &c.) towards Burke on Irish Affairs (in the 1790s). This has had its own ironic repercussions in latter-day Irish cultural disquisitions.’ (pp.87-88.) [Cont.]

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W. J. McCormack, ‘Edmund Burke’ (1999) - cont.: ‘The edition of the Reflections appearing with an introduction by Conor Cruise O’Brien (1968) generated a great deal of interest, especially in directing attention towards Burke’s allegedly Janus-like postion vis-à-vis the conflict of religious denominations in Ireland. But, appearing on the eve of the Northern Ireland “Troubles”, this intervention has proved as troublesome as many which it condemns.’ (p.88.) Further, ‘In the past quarter of a century, Burke has preoccupied two Irish thinkers whose resemblance to each other each would vigorously deny. In his T. S. Eliot memorial lectures (The Suspecting Glance) O’Brien, already mentioned, debated the American Cold War claim that Burke had healed the schism between politics and morality. More recently, he has published a life, The Great Melody: A Thematic Biography and Commented Anthology of Edmund Burke (1992), while Seamus Deane has deployed Burke in his Short History of Irish Literature [1980] and edited a selection of the writings in the first volume of the controversial The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (1991). For each, Burke’s attitude towards Irish Catholics in the 1790s is the dominant issue. Both of these mutually repelling Burkeans have retreated from the left-wing positions of their earlier years - Deane to become a near-uncritical supporter of Ulster Republicanism, and O’Brien to become a member the Ulster Forum of 1996 in the Unionist interest. Together, they have reassembled with all the integrity of their ancient quarrel the Janus-dilemma of Burke himself in the decade when the Dublin authorities refused concessions to Irish Catholics while relying on their loyalty in the struggle against France.’ [Cont.]

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W. J. McCormack, ‘Edmund Burke’ (1999) - cont. ‘Without suggesting that we can return the scene of these crimes to examine the evidence afresh, we can surely admit that some closer attention to what Burke actually wrote may demonstrate how the operations of langguage remain crucial to an understanding of Burke’s protean availability. In the theoretical terms of the late twentieth century, To, Furniss’s Edmund Burke’s Aesthetic Ideology is certainly helpful. But the Cruiser-Deane paradox lies beyond Furniss’s remit. Essentially, Deane wishes to recruit Burke’s sympathy for disadvantaged Irish Catholics while ignoring Burke’s scornful contempt Irish Jacobin republicanism. To balance this, Cruise O’Brien emphasises Burke’s attention to the “little platoon” from which he came, while passing over in silence Burke’s scornful contempt for the “junto of jobbers” trade as defenders of Protestant Ascendancy [sic]. / Rather than go over once again the complicated, and to some extent inscrutable, utterances of Burke on the last-used phrase, readers might turn to the splendid edition of William Godwin’s Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (first published in 1793) and his novel Caleb Williams (1794) as they are now presented in the volume editions edited by Mark Philip. From an examination of the successive editions of the Enquiry which Godwin published in the 1790s we can now trace how positively the founder of modern anarchism responded to Burke; in a discussion of Godwin’s famous novel, the present writer has drawn out a critique of Ascendancy ideology which clarifies Burke’s own contemporaneous response to the phrase in a manner which assists neither Deane nor Cruise O’Brien. […; &c.]’ (pp.88-89.)

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Francis Fukayama, The Great Disruption: Human Nature and the Reconstitution of the Social Order (NY: The Free Press 1999; London: Profile Books 1999), p.7: ‘[..] The view that society’s moral order has been in long-term decline is one long held by certain conservatives. The British statesman Edmund Burke argued that the Enlightenment itself, with its project of replacing tradition and religion with reason, is the ultimate source of the problem, and Burke’s contemporary heirs continue to argue that secular humanism is at the root of today’s social problems. But while conservatives may be right that there were important ways in which moral behavior deteriorated in the past two generations, they tend to ignore the fact that social order not only declines, but also increases in long cycles. This happened in Britain and America during the nineteenth century. It is reasonably clear that the period from the end of the eighteenth century until approximately the middle of the nineteenth century was one of sharply increasing moral decay in both countries. Crime rates in virtually all major cities increased; families broke down and illegitimacy rates rose; people were socially isolated; alcohol consumption, particularly in the United States, exploded, with per capita consumption in 1830 at levels perhaps three times as great as they are today. But then, with each passing decade from the middle of the century until its end, virtually each one of these social indicators turned positive: crime fell; families began staying together in greater numbers; drunkards went on the wagon; and new voluntary associations sprouted up to give people a greater sense of communal belonging.’ Fukayama goes on to argue that, in the wake of the Information Age, the Western World will develop a new, community-based form of social capital.

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Fred Botting, ‘Reflections of Excess: Frankenstein, the French Revolution and Monstrosity: “Combining Perspectives”’, in Frankestein by Mary Shelley, ed Johanna M. Smith (Boston: Bedford/St. Martins 2000), pp.432-44: ‘[…] For Jacques Lacan, the construction of subjectivity in language also involves relations of doubling: identifying with its specular image in the mirror, identifying with the Other of language, the subject exists only in relations of difference and desire. Determined by the laws of the symbolic order, the subject is constructed by the effects of signification and is also subject to the shifts, the displacements of desire, within the system of differences that is language. Constituting the limits of subjectivity and meaning, the differences and desires at work in language also transgress and exceed those limits. In and between language and theory, then, a space of reflections appears in a fragmented, mirrored, doubled and interrogative form, a space from which meanings multiply. A similar position is disclosed by the monsters that appear in revolutionary controversies and in Frankenstein. From this space of reflections, this position of doubling and monstrosity, it becomes possible to generate different readings of Burke’s Reflections, radical responses to it and Frankenstein’s monsters and doubles. / Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790) exemplifies the diffractions involved in processes of reflection: his text casts its rather partial light on events in France and reflects back on the situation in England and upon its own modes of representation. Monsters proliferate among these reflections. Already a conventional image of the enraged and riotous mob, monsters are also used to signify the French National Assembly’s destructive capacity and the Constitution of Republican France (See Reflections, ed. Conor Cruise O’Brien, 1968; pp.279-80, 313). This written document is opposed to the unwritten “constitution” of 1688, which Burke sets up as the guardian of English liberty, tradition and good order. Indeed, everything in France is constructed as England’s other: “out of nature,” irrational, irreligious and illegitimate, the affairs of France form a “monstrous fiction” that displays the rightness of English “good order” as well as the obvious truth of Burke’s case (Burke, op. cit., p.124). / This is a most traditional deployment of monstrosity, one which, as Chris Baldick (In Frankenstein’s Shadow, 1987, pp.10-11), following Foucault, observes, stages vice in order to vindicate virtue, presenting a cautionary tale that warns against the horrors of transgression. The “monstrous tragi-comic scene” performed in France describes a state of chaos, of revolving and uncontrollable extremes. In Burke’s words, “the most opposite passions necessarily succeed, and sometimes mix with each other in the mind., alternate contempt and indignation; alternate laughter and tears; alternate scorn and horror” (Burke, op. cit., pp.92-93). Revolutionary France, moreover, exists as a monstrous fiction in several other senses. It is the invention of “literary caballers and intriguing philosophers,” revolutionary alchemists whose evil imaginations conjure up and attempt to realise their own extreme and perverse ambitions (Ibid., p.93). Exposing the deceptions of such conspirators in France and England, Burke attempts to forestall revolution in Britain, a revolution advocated publicly in the monstrous fictions of radicals, like Richard Price, that identify with the revolutionary slogans of France. / The monsters constructed in Burke’s text as figures that affirm the presence and value of good order in England betray a certain anxiety. Instead of affirming good order they expound the need for, and thus lack of, good order. Burke’s final metaphor is telling in this respect. His book, he humbly admits, comes from one who “when the equipoise of the vessel in which he sails, may be endangered by overloading it upon one side, is desirous of carrying the small weight of his reasons to that which may preserve its equipoise” (Ibid., p.377). The ship of State in which he sails is already unstable, however, already under threat from forces which are beginning to exceed the bounds of liberal reason. To follow Stephen Blakemore’s 1988 analysis of Burke’s texts [ Burke and the Fall of Language, New England UP 1988] as writings deeply concerned about the maintenance of linguistic propriety and decorum within traditional orders of meaning, the ship might also he interpreted as a figure of conventional discourse upset by radical and revolutionary contestations and appropriations of meaning. These struggles raise the danger of the ship being cast adrift in chaotic seas of signification. In the name of good order, reason, nature, liberty and [419] tradition. Burke’s text become anthor monstrous fiction engaged in, and seriously affected by, the “revolution in sentiments, manners and moral opinions” Burke, op. cit., p.175) that it sets out to control.’ (Botting, op. cit., pp.419-20.)

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Luke Gibbons, Edmund Burke and Ireland (Cambridge UP 2003), Introduction: ‘If it is incumbent on art history to explain the re-emergence of the sublime in the shadow of the Holocaust in the post-World War Two period, the task facing Irish cultural history is to explain how this mythos of terror was formulated in the first place in the colonial context of eighteenth-century Ireland, in the aesthetic writings of the young Edmund Burke (1730-97). Burke’s A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful was published in 1757, when he was twenty-seven years old, but was begun at least ten years earlier, during his period as a student at Trinity College, Dublin. What was unusual, and indeed unsettling, about the shift in cultural sensibility effected by the Enquiry was its identification of “terror”, and the figure of the body in pain, as the basis of the most intense forms of aesthetic experience. According to Burke, in a formulation that launched a thousand Gothic quests [quotes:] “Whatever is fitted in any sort to excite the ideas of pain, and danger, that is to say, whatever is in any sort terrible, or is conversant about terrible objects, or operates in a manner analogous to terror, is a source of the sublime; that is, it is productive of the strongest emotion which the mind is capable of feeling […]. When danger or pain press too nearly, they are incapable of giving any delight, and are simply terrible; but at certain distances, and with certain modifications, they may be, and they are delightful, as we everyday experience.” (Enquiry [1757], London: Routledge & Kegan Paul 1958, pp.39-40). / It is this aesthetics of shock, dependent on the proximity of danger or pain but giving rise nonetheless to ambivalent, agreeable sensations, which Burke links to the emotional rapture of the sublime. The provenance of some of the central ideas in the Enquiry can be traced to Burke’s adolescence in Dublin, as is evident in a remarkable letter written to Richard Shackleton on 2-5 January 1745, describing a storm in which the River Liffey burst its banks alongside his family home on Arran Quay. Burke, then fifteen years of age, reassures his friend that he will endeavour to reply to his previous letter: “tho’ every thing around me conspires to excite in me a Contrary disposition, the melancholy gloom of the Day, the whistling winds, and the hoarse rumblings of the Swoln Liffy [sic], with the flood which even where I write lays close siege to our whole Street […] yet the joy of conversing with my friend, can dispel the cloudiness of the Day[,] Lull the winds and stop the rapid passage of the flood […]” / The young Burke was, perhaps, expecting a lot of the power of friendship and conversation to calm the storm, but, as we shall see, his later attempts to infuse abstract social relations, particularly in the face of adversity, with the [2] emotional charge of friendship and “sympathy” owes much to his formative experiences in Ireland. (… &c.’; pp.2-3.)

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Luke Gibbons, Edmund Burke and Ireland (Cambridge UP 2003), Conclusion [quotes Adam Smith on the paradox that ‘what is most difficult’ [i.e., poetry] is ‘what the Barbarous least civilised nations excell in’, and remarks: ‘Set against this backdrop, the spectacle of ten infirm harpers assembled by associates of the United Irishmen at the Harpers’ Festival in 1792, marked a radical turning point in the attitude of the Enlightenment towards native or indigenous cultures. The Enlightenment, in its dominant American and French forms, had set its face firmly against “first peoples” or vernacular cultures, unless, that is, they were brought within the remit of Romanticism, where they enjoyed a new, sequestered afterlife in the realms of the imagination. In America, to embrace indigenous culture would have meant acknowledging the social and political heritage of native Americans, but their only mention in the Declaration of Independence is as “merciless Indian savages” [Declaration of Independence]. In France, the Convention in year II of the Revolution declared that minority languages such as Breton and Basque should be “smashed” or “obliterated”. The aim in both cases was to transform natives into citizens of the world, freed from the limiting horizons of local culture and the encumbrances of time and place. / It was this insistence on the politics of place, the lived complexity of recent history and the inherited past, that Burke brought to bear on Enlightenment debates, albeit in the guise of its most avid and (true to Smith’s stereotype of the Irish) eloquent opponent. It is true that from the point of view of metropolitan - or imperial - culture, the obduracy of tradition, due to the very “sluggish” and “inert” qualities commended by Burke [in Reflections], acted as a major force of conservation, absorbing the shocks of modernity and militating against challenges to the existing order. Insofar as it bore witness to the triumph of order and stability over the centuries, British nationalism’s embrace of a secure, enduring tradition, and its ability to mask over the real discontinuities presented by, for example, the convulsions of the Civil War, was indeed counter-revolutionary frorn this perspective. By contrast, tradition in an Irish context, the volatile legacy of the recent as well as the remote past, was more akin to an “igneous mass’ (as Burke himself noted) and, fused with a radical Enlightenment project, was capable of demolishing the imposing Georgian facades of colonial civility: “There is a hollow murmuring under ground; a confused movement is felt, that threatens a general earthquake in the political world” (Reflections). The tradition of the oppressed is charged with the disruptive force of [232] the sublime, deriving its energies from the fact that the originary violence of conquest had never been put to rest. [… ] In the absence of the tranquillising effects of tradition, Burke’s great fear was that the transformative power of terror would pass from master to slave, in keeping with the logic of the sublime whereby the endangered subject appropriated to itself part of the force which threatened to overwhelm it.’ (pp.232-33; and see also extract from Preface under Gibbons, Quotations, infra.)

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Spurgeon Thompson, ‘Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France and the Subject of Eurocentrism’, in Irish University Review ( Spring/Summer 2004), pp.245-62: ‘Perhaps the most compelling reason to read and critique Reflections as situated within travel discourse is to establish the relationship between Eurocentric, European nationalism, and that fearful, disruptive element of the French revolution that 1 have yet to discuss: theory. Seamus Deane states that “France was a new territory - the territory of theory. Burke was the traveller making a report on its astonishing bad eminence in the world” (Strange Country, 1996, p.8). Reflections is a visit to “a new world in which the human person, as traditionally understood, was a stranger” (idem.). What is most interesting about Reflections is not that it advocates this or that social theory to affirm this “human person”, but that we have in front of us a profoundly non-theoretical text, trenchantly resistant to quick refutations and simple reversals, lavish in its metaphors and figurative constructions, prolix in its tables and lists, and freighted with associations and conceptual pairings that do not, on the face of them, seem coherent - the most compelling, for our purposes, being “barbarous philosophy” (Pocock, ed., Reflections, Indianapolis 1987, p.68). David Musselwhite has described Burke as a political theorist “who produces concepts that have a performative rather than a logical consistency, concepts which produce the behavioral reality” (‘Reflections on Burke’s Reflections, 1790-1990’, in Peter Hulme & Ludmilla Jordanova, eds., The Enlightenment and its Shadows, Routledge 1990, p.126.) Producing this text, indeed, is the national and European subject who can associate French theory by fiat with the utterly foreign twelve times with specific references taken from travel discourse, and who can use the vocabulary of travel throughout (with words like savage, wild, and barbarian recurring over and over again). In the Reflections, Burke associates theory, through various mediations, with: Maroon slaves in Jamaica (Refelctions, 1987, p.32), Onondaga native Americans (ibid., p.59), Antropophages (ibid., p.64), Persian tyrants and Turkish despots (ibid., p.111), Turkish despotism again (ibid., p.115), Egyptian and Indian gangs of warrior-thieves (ibid., p.118), disastrous land speculations in Mississippi and the South Seas (ibid., p.169), the Serbonian bog (ibid., p.172), American slave-holders’ suppression of “Negroes” (ibid., p.195), and the “magic lantern” of An Arabian Nights Entertainment (ibid., p.212). This, in a text that manifestly has taken France, but twenty-six miles away, as its object. As with [Edward] Said’s claim about representation, then, it is not France and the revolution, which can or should be recovered and defended (like Said’s impossible Oriental essence) in a critique of Burke; rather, it is the social and logical function of the representation that is at issue, and the tendencies with which it is connected.’ (Thompson, p.258.) Note that Thompson identifies an obsession with the femme cannibale and a revulsion at female nudity as the site of a neurosis in Burke: ‘The fear of, and disgust with, female sexuality within Burke’s obsession with stripping run deep and are worth investigating … we can locate his furthest Other upon which the distinctly male, European national subject relies inherently for its own elaboration.’ (p.250.)

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Barton Swaim, ‘Maybe They All Meant It’, review of Yoon Sun Lee, Nationalism and Irony: Burke, Scott, Carlyle (OUP), in Times Literary Supplement (1 April 2005), p.25-26: ‘[…] The governing idea is that Edmund Burke, Walter Scott and Thomas Carlyle merged their belief in the integrity and organic coherence of the nation - Great Britain to be precise - with an analytic mode primarily defined by ironic detachment; these writers, she says, were able “to see their own nationalism as both nature and disguise, habit and fashion, and their nation as both manufactured artifact and transcendental reality”. Whether “nationalism” is the right word I rather doubt; here, anyhow, it refers to any understanding of the nation other than that it is purely a construction, which would make nearly everyone alive (then and now) a nationalist. Nor is their nationalism in this sense always “ironic”, a word suggesting hidden but categorical negation: modified, perhaps, or in Scott’s case paradoxical, but not properly ironic. / The chapter on Burke is to my mind the weakest. It is true, as Lee concludes, that Burke’s notion of deference to authority is far more sophisticated (“equivocal” is her term for it) than most of his detractors and some of his followers understood. He did not advocate mindless subservience to king and country, but a form of deference that could encompass selfinterested motives and politic negotiations. But 1 suspect this will not surprise most readers of Burke in the least - except those attached to English literature departments, where Burke is usually thought of as an extremely gifted hack whose reactionary attitudes provide a nice foil for the radical writers in whom there is more interest. Moreover, Lee relies too much on close readings of Burke, whose labyrinthine prose, when examined without sufficient regard to his overarching argument, lends itself to misinterpretation. Thus Lee misreads the passage from the Reflections on the Revolution in France most central to her chapter. When Burke writes that “religion, morals, laws, prerogatives, privileges, liberties, [and] rights of men” do not themselves give rise to the injustices and calamities of this world but are merely the “pretexts” employed by “avarice, revenge, lust, sedition, hypocrisy”, etc, he is not saying - as Lee writes - that “the true drama [in national history] is performed by “pretexts”: “morals, laws, prerogatives, privileges, liberties”, which, if true, would indeed mean that Burke has argued that “the nation’s laws, manners, and its entire constitution are themselves simply ephemeral figures of speech”. This interpretation may make sense of the passage’s grammar, but it makes a hash of Burke. He is saying, rather, that the problems of human civilisation arise from man himself (avarice, revenge, lust), not from his belief at any one time (religion, morals, laws) or from the arrangement or make-up of his institutions (prerogatives, privileges, liberties.) / Lee’s treatment of Scott, by contrast, in particular her reading of his strange novel The Antiquary , is very insightful indeed. […; &c.]

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Thomas Bartlett, ‘Grounded in Ireland’, review of Seamus Deane, Foreign Affections: Essays on Edmund Burke, in The Irish Times (17 Dec. 2005): ‘[…] The central question posed by Burke and here mulled over at length by Deane is: is liberty compatible with colonial rule? Burke’s answer was, on the whole, yes, and he pointed to the British colonies in north America. He did, however, enter two major qualifications: colonial rule was outside the rule of law (the East India Company in India), or where a corrupt faction aggrandised itself by the violent exercise of arbitrary power and unappeasable greed (Ireland or France), there were only two classes, the oppressed and the oppressor, or perhaps three classes, the infantry, the horse, and the artillery. Deane is concerned to show that Burke’s thinking on all these issues was  “clear and consistent”, and that the apparent contradictions in his thought are just that, apparent not real, / Hence Burke was correct in his own terms to laud the American Revolution but revile that of France, because one stemmed from liberty while the other was its inversion. So far so good, but we are not told that Burke made of the “liberty” enjoyed by black slaves throughout North America. nor what he felt about the on-going annihilation of the native peoples in that region. For the record, he was against slavery but did not feel that the time was ripe for abolition - which is hardly earth-shaking. The point here is that Burke was completely uncritical of the American revolutionaries, many of whose leaders were slave-owners, while he was absurdly denunciatory of the leaders of the French Revolution who would abolish slavery in 1794. Famously, Burke had no first-hand knowledge of America, nor indeed of India, about which he spoke and wrote at length, and he only spent a few weeks in France, though he saw enough to persuade him that all was well there. We may remember that for over 30 years Burke was a politician in the Rockingham camp, and it can scarcely be a coincidence that his positions on the great issues of the day - America, India and France - mirrored those of his patrons. Had the Rockinghamites been charged with enforcing the Stamp Act, Burke’s widely anthologised speech On the iniquity of American taxation might well have contained different sentiments. We may note that he rejected all calls to jettison the anti-American Declaratory Act, a Rockinghamite measure, denounced the proposed Irish Absentee Tax, which would have hit the Rockinghamite fortune, and steadfastly resisted any attempt at parliamentaray reform, which would have damaged the Rockinghamite power. True, his reasoning on these matters was dressed up in principle, but the whiff of political partisanship can be detected too. / By contrast, Burke did have first-hand knowledge of Ireland, and he well knew the furies that lurked on or just below the surface of Irish life. Deane is at his most persuasive in explicating Burke’s thinking on Ireland. Ireland, was after all, not a cause, like India or America, which he picked up and put down again: rather it was the one constant theme in his life; and there is a case for arguing that his other crusades were conducted largely in Irish terms. In Burke’s view a gimcrack junta of Irish Protestant kleptocrats had seized the levers of power in Dublin Castle and, protected by a series of vicious and ingenious exclusionary penal laws, was indulging its capacity for rapacity with undiminished energy. That, according to Burke, was the case in the 1760s, and it remained the situation in the 1790s. It had been a similar story in India, where the East India Company “offiicers” (Burke, scorns its lack of “men”) were systematically raping and plundering an ancient civilisation, and it was a mirror image of Paris where, with “extraordinary and perverted energy” a small cabal of down-at-heel arrivistes was busily inverting the world of feeling by making truth a lie, religion a nonsense, reality an abstraction and fact fiction. […]’ Bartlett calls it a book to be savoured and one that enhances his reputation for groundedness in Irish affairs, &c. Includes censure of de Tocqueville’s agonising over American slavery and his equinamity at Bugead’s butchery in Algeria.

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Richard Bourke, reviewing Nicholas B. Dirks, The Scandal of Empire: India and the Creation of Imperial Britain ([London:] Belknap Press 2006), in Times Literary Supplement (1 Dec. 2006), p.28, writes: ‘[…] the real concerns of this book is not with the scandal of the British Empire (which is taken as read), let amone with that of its American reprise. Instead, the author’s ultimate purpose is to expose the series of attempts that were made to cover up the scandal. In tracking back through this sequence he finds many culprits to blame. the Black Hole [of Calcutta in 1756] figures in his story as an exemplary instance of how to use a dubious pretext for advancing the ambitions of Imperial powerw. Thsi tale of Indian atrocity offered early endorsement for the project of empire. But Dirks prefers to name names in recounting the methods by which Imperial injustice has been excuses. James Mill, John Stuart Mill and J. R. Seeley all come in for much flak. So too do contemporary historians from Holden Furber to P. J. Marshall. But Dirk’s real ire is reserved for the arch-culprit, Edmund Burke. / Burke, who had taken responsibility for launching the impeachment of the first Governor General of the East India Company, Warren Hastings, in the late 1780s, became steadily consumed by a determination to bring to light the corruption which had attended the British presence on the subcontinent since the Battle of Plassey. But in Dirk’s estimate, Burke’s sin was to imply that the situation was in any sense remediable: on this analysis, reform could only cover up the enormity of the crime of British rule.’ Bourke writes in conclusion, ‘No explanation is offered as to why empire might have failed in the hands of the British, nor why it might eb prone to failure as a political system considered more generally’, calling it a complex subject that ‘deserves more historical analysis and a less effusion.’

 

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