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may have been grief at his death, there was very little sorrow such as affected Goldsmith's wide acquaintance so deeply. "That fellow calls forth all my powers," said Johnson; and it was nearly always Burke's intellect that impressed people.
Burke, like Goldsmith, was an Irishman by birth and education; like Goldsmith, too, he belonged to the circle of Johnson's intimates included
in the original membership of "The Club." He was most notably unlike his fellow-countryman in his handling of money: he was not conspicuous as a giver, and he acquired a large estate, which he kept up in elaborate style. So strongly did he impress his age that shortly after his death a great statesman said: "There is but one event, but that is an event for the world Burke is dead."
Public Career. - From his thirtieth year Burke was in public life, as secretary to cabinet ministers, member of Parliament, prosecutor of Warren Hastings, and Paymaster of Forces. In his public career he was occupied with three great questions: troubles with America, British misgovernment in India, and the French Revolution. After championing the cause of liberty on the first two, he seemed to many to be a turncoat on the third. But the truth is, that he was disheartened by the excesses of the Reign of Terror, and did not understand the real nature of the Revolution. Those who could see beneath the surface of that fearful upheaval
comprehended clearly its causes and aims as almost identical with those of America. Had Burke so understood it, he would beyond a doubt have arrayed himself on the side of the people.
Burke and America. Burke's conduct regarding America must ever be the brightest chapter in his life. The fact that the main basis of his appeal for the colonies was not legal right, but expediency, does not in the least dim its lustre. In the speech On Conciliation he eloquently set forth why the American colonists were jealous of their rights as Englishmen; why, in the light of similar cases, they naturally expected conciliation; and why, in the very nature of the case, they must triumph. In addition to his speeches on America, Burke dealt with the subject in one notable document, Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol (1777), the constituency which he was representing in Parliament. Here, without the heat of debate, and with a careful marshalling of facts and reasoning, he reaches the conclusion as to the war with America, that "its continuance, or its ending in any way but that of an honourable and liberal accommodation," are "the greatest evils which can befall us."
A Great Intellect. - Just as it was Burke's intellect that impressed those who knew him in the flesh, so it is with those who know him only in the printed page. Perhaps the highest compliment ever paid him is one often quoted from the pen of John Morley. Speaking of the three pieces on the American Revolution (speeches On Taxation and On Conciliation, and Letter to the Sheriffs) Morley says: "It is no exaggeration to say that they compose the most perfect manual in our literature, or in any literature, for one who approaches the study of public questions, whether for knowledge or for practice."
Having followed Johnson and his circle of prose masters through, we must turn back in time and study some poets who did not belong to the "School of Pope." Thomson, the forerunner of Romanticism, was not an isolated figure. Other poets were inwardly rebelling against the domination of the polished couplet, the satiric muse, and the pictures in verse of London society. Three of these stand out prominently - Collins, Gray, and Cowper.
Life through College. Of Collins's short and by no means happy life, few facts are known. He was born in Chichester, county of Sussex, near the end of the year 1721; tradition says on Christmas Day. At Winchester for seven years he prepared for Oxford, and entered Queen's College at the age of nineteen. The next year he moved to Magdalen, and was graduated from that college two years later. Virtually nothing is known of his college days, or of his reasons for leaving the university without even applying for a fellowship.
Later Life, and Death. — From 1743 to 1749 he lived in London, and wrote most of his best poetry. He made the acquaintance of Johnson and some of his associates, and as
has been noted, that of James Thomson. Toward the end of his London period Collins took lodgings in Richmond, and became intimate with Thomson, upon whose death he wrote the fine ode, beginning
"In yonder grave a druid lies."
In 1749 the poet inherited a comfortable fortune from an uncle, and in the same year returned to his native town to live. Not long afterwards he became the victim of melancholia, which developed into insanity, necessitating his confinement for a time and bringing about his death in Chichester in his thirty-eighth year.
In Spirit a Romanticist.
The volume of Collins's poetry is small, less than 2000 lines; and even this small product is not uniformly excellent. Five poems belong almost in the first rank: How Sleep the Brave, Ode to Evening, The Passions, On the Death of Thomson, and An Ode on the Popular Superstitions of the Highlands of Scotland. The mere titles indicate his lack of sympathy with the poetic standards of his day. His importance in the Romantic movement arises from his interest in natural scenes and in subjects remote in place or time, and from the subjective character of his whole product.
THOMAS GRAY, 1716-1771
Gray's life was almost as uneventful as was Collins's. He was a lonely scholar; and from 1734 till his death, with the exception of two years spent on the Continent and two years in London while studying manuscripts in the British Museum, he lived a recluse in Cambridge.
Basis of Gray's Popular Fame.
Although he was born in London and spent most of his life in the university town,
Gray's name is inseparably connected with a spot quite removed from both these places - Stoke Poges Churchyard, near Windsor and Eton. In the minds of most English readers, Gray stands out as the author of Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, and only that. Besides this, he wrote
"Where ignorance is bliss,
'Tis folly to be wise."
Add to these two other titles, The Progress of Poesy, and
"Ruin seize thee, ruthless King!