Dodsley's Irishman: Burke's Ireland and the British Republic of Letters
Dodsley's Irishman: Burke's Ireland and the British Republic of Letters
Abstract and Keywords
This chapter explains Burke's successful penetration of Tully's Head by showing how his upbringing and education in Ireland had already infused his writing with Popeian imitations and had prepared him for the salient aspects of Patriot debate in London. It challenges widely accepted notions that Burke's “Irishness” would have been a severe handicap in an increasingly assertive and nationalistic England, and shows how the vibrant exchange of ideas and personnel in publishing and literary circles across the Irish Sea contributed to his identity as a writer and critic.
Patria est ubicunque est bene.1
I: The Irish Question
The aim of this chapter is to place Burke's association with Robert Dodsley and Tully's Head in the context of his Irish background and upbringing before his arrival at the Middle Temple in London in 1750. A reassessment of the significance of Burke's “Irishness” is necessary because the predominant historical approaches to the subject today, influenced by current ideological and disciplinary preoccupations, almost unanimously convey a slanted and negative picture of that background from the perspective of his prospects in England. They assume that his ethnicity, and the Roman Catholicism of his maternal family, the Nagles, implanted in him, in his youth, bitterness toward the English elites and became a hindrance to him when he arrived in London, where he was forced to contend with persistent, negative stereotypes of “the Irish.” They conclude, therefore, that his critical rhetoric must be read in a way that accommodates a concealed anger at the injustices perpetrated against his nation, his compatriots, and his mother's coreligionists. Burke was undoubtedly and rightly sensitive to the potential obstacles to advancement that lay in his Irish background; but the picture presented here will modify the prevalent view in a number of ways.2 It will show how Burke worked imaginatively within the orbit of an increasingly diverse and divided Irish Patriot tradition in a way that made his Irish background serve his advantage at Tully's Head and in the wider British Republic of Letters. This was possible since the features and modes of operation that distinguished Irish Patriotism from its British variety, particularly the (p.109) legislative disabilities imposed upon a freshly disenfranchised Catholic majority after the expulsion of the Catholic king James II, also drew upon and accentuated a shared vocabulary of civic participation and inherited constitutional liberty. A talented writer of Burke's background, then, enjoyed many potential advantages when it came to accommodating himself to the intellectual and professional concerns of Tully's Head in the 1750s.
Burke was born into a well-to-do but religiously mixed family of “Old English” ancestry stretching back to the Norman settlers. His father was a Dublin attorney, probably a recent convert to the Church of Ireland; his mother was from an established Catholic landowning family in County Cork, some of whose members had been, and were to be, implicated in antigovernment activities.3 Considering, then, the vehemence of his later campaigns against the injustices of British imperial rule in the American colonies and India, it has been all too tempting to co-opt Burke himself into wider narratives about imperialism, nationalism, and postcolonialism that have been read back into the British Empire of the mid-eighteenth century. But inasmuch as these lines of enquiry are intended to help us understand national resistance movements in the modern world, they generally fail to engage sufficiently with the subtleties of the language and complexity of the political issues of the time. As a result, they load eighteenth-century debates with anachronistic terminology and misrepresent the very principles that set up affinities between Burke and the Tully's Head circle and grew to define key aspects of his political thought later in life. It is these modern perspectives that have prevented us from appreciating the real significance of Patriotism in Burke's early intellectual formation in Ireland, particularly since the concept itself was under renegotiation as vigorously in Ireland as in England. In Burke's Irish biography, “Patriotism,” erroneously presented in modern literature as, at best, a precursor of nationalism, and, at worst, a cover for cynical political opportunism, has been interpreted as protonationalism, exclusionary Protestant bigotry, or both, depending upon whether Burke is considered as an “enlightened” Protestant or a crypto-Catholic. It is a goal of this chapter to redress these distortions by situating Burke within the Irish Patriot discourse, but outside any movement, Catholic or Protestant, that could be regarded as protonationalist or anticolonialist in any sense recognizable today.
Historiographical misconceptions have dogged analysis of the Irish Burke ever since Patriotism, Irish Nationalism, and British Imperialism were brought together in conflict in the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century and began to develop a form still familiar to us. One year after (p.110) Burke's death, an unsuccessful Irish rebellion brought about the dissolution of the parliament in Dublin and Ireland's complete constitutional subordination to Westminster. Precisely because of the subsequent emergence of a violent Irish nationalist movement, Burke's Anglocentric attachment to his homeland became almost immediately a delicate matter, as it could be taken to condone constitutional subservience. Judiciously understated by his earlier biographers, it gained brief consideration in the years of Gladstone and the Home Rule question, but remained problematic for Protestant and Catholic Home-Rulers alike, since Burke at no time furnished an unambiguous defense of Irish independence or supraconstitutional resistance.4 In 1923, however, in the early days of the Irish Free State, Arthur Warren Samuels, former M.P. for Dublin University and judge of the High Court of Justice in Ireland, published the unfinished researches of his late son, Arthur P. I. Samuels, under the title The Early Life Correspondence and Writings of The Rt. Hon. Edmund Burke LL.D. This volume has become significant in Burke scholarship in part because it contains transcriptions of a number of scarce documents and publications related to Burke's student days, including information from material lost in the fire that engulfed the Dublin Record Office during the Easter Rising of 1916. But Samuels also used that material to describe a Burke closely identified with the Protestant nationalist wing of Irish Patriotism in the 1740s—a Burke, in other words, highly suited to the new state.5 Samuels's interpretation of the texts gained little purchase among Burke scholars, and the soil for an Irish Nationalist Protestant Member of the British Parliament became increasingly barren thereafter, at least until denominational and Irish nationalist tensions lessened in the 1990s.
At the same time, the dissolution of the ideological preoccupations of the Cold War exposed resurgent, violent nationalist movements in other parts of Europe. Commentators on Burke's life folded their researches increasingly into the burgeoning study of the history of nationalism and the debate over Irish historical revisionism, reconfiguring the significance of Burke's religiously divided upbringing and producing powerful, incisive analyses both of the tensions passed on through his ancestry and the cultural influences of his ethnicity.6 Initially political in focus, these influences have recently taken a literary turn in which Burke's aesthetic writings have been interpreted through his imputed youthful experiences of social injustice and colonial violence.7 Each of these interpretative variants has adhered to certain evidential and analytical constants: the repressed tension of the outsider or subaltern; the primary influence of the marginalized in Burke's (p.111) early life and consciousness (whether nationalist or Catholic); the rhetoric of the unspoken agenda; and the centrality of certain “canonical” documents. That canon, once almost exclusively comprising Burke's American speeches and the Reflections on the Revolution in France, is now centered upon those earlier, preparliamentary writings listed already—the Reformer (particularly the seventh issue), the “Tracts relative to the laws against popery in Ireland,” the Vindication of Natural Society (particularly the section on the wide social inequalities of artificial life discussed in the previous chapter), the Philosophical Enquiry, and, tying all these texts to the end of his life, the Letter to a Noble Lord.
While postcolonialist and aesthetic readings of these texts have justifiably acquired considerable purchase in Burke studies, they may give rise to as much distortion as the earlier “history of ideas” approach that they have supplanted. As noted earlier, Michel Fuchs's impressively researched bicentennial study of Burke hides nothing of its underlying thesis in its choice of title, Edmund Burke, Ireland, and the Fashioning of Self, and may be compared to two earlier biographies, Isaac Kramnick's The Rage of Edmund Burke and Conor Cruise O'Brien's Great Melody, in its construction of a “hidden,” perpetually alienated subject whose political and rhetorical passions were driven by the resentment of the colonized and marginalized Irishman in England. Fuchs, like Kramnick, who had earlier stressed Burke's anger at the economic iniquities he had witnessed as a child, points to the persuasive rhetorical power of the social criticism contained within Burke's early writings as evidence of the depth of his antipathy to the colonial attitudes of his new masters. In Edmund Burke and Ireland: Aesthetics, Politics, and the Colonial Sublime, Luke Gibbons brings together the young and old Burke by binding Ireland to India as a paradigm of colonialism, where a surface order and calm is spread thinly and tightly over economic exploitation, cultural oppression, and simmering native discontent. Gibbons's chief aim is to show how Burke, like Swift, was determined to “reinstate the wounds of history into the public sphere, and, by extension, ‘obsolete’ or ‘traditional’ societies into the course of history”; but his attempt to show how, ironically, the “cultural logic” of this sublimated colonial discourse “led ultimately to the political project of the United Irishmen,” depends upon a cross-referencing of texts from Burke's youth and old age that detracts from a sense of development in the contexts that shaped his thought.8
In this chapter and the next, I shall argue that the significance of the Irish basis of Burke's early writings is better understood in the context of the debate among Irish Patriots about how public spirit could best be promoted (p.112) for the greater prosperity of Ireland without reigniting religious and ethnic tensions rooted deeply in the history, language, and culture of the land. For an aspiring member of his country's Republic of Letters, this involved balancing a number of factors, including the origin of Patriot rhetorical modes in London (even, of course, for the doyen of Hibernian Patriotism, Jonathan Swift), the desire for an orderly broadening of civic involvement in a period of expanding public markets, and the need to nurture local civic affections while recognizing the stability generated by the union with Britain. The key to this balance appeared to lie in separating religious identity from civic identity without endangering the religious pillars of society. A contextualization of Burke's private and early public writings as an adolescent and undergraduate in Dublin in the 1740s will show how Burke attempted to negotiate these issues from the position of a young Patriot for whom the rhetoric of an older generation of Patriots was no longer entirely appropriate. This was particularly the case with the sectional histories that were being promoted to provide authority for matters of public order and constitutional policy. What will emerge from this treatment is a writer committed to a cosmopolitan rhetoric of Patriot affections, sympathetic to Catholicism only in the sense that he refused to see ecclesiology as a basis for constitutional policy, convinced that the prosperity of the little platoon depended upon the wider union of Ireland and Britain, influenced much less by colonial resentments or imperial disaffection than by writers such as Pope and Sir Richard Cox, and consequently (despite undoubted anti-Irish prejudice in Britain) highly marketable among the Patriot circles of literary and political London.
II: An Irish Republic of Letters
The Ireland in which Burke grew up and was educated, and which he left in 1750, was not the Ireland of the agrarian disturbances of the 1760s or of those organized Patriot political campaigns of Henry Grattan and Henry Flood that led to greater constitutional independence between 1779 and 1783. This is an obvious point; but it requires emphasis at the outset because nineteenth- and twentieth-century critiques of British imperial rule have stretched an artificially cohesive narrative of systemic oppression right across the varied features of eighteenth-century Ireland. In fact, the political and social issues that surrounded Burke in his youth had their strongest referents pointing not forward to independence but back to a shared constitutional (p.113) history with England. It was the Glorious Revolution and subsequent Williamite Settlement that provided the backdrop against which the meaning of liberty and its relationship to religious tolerance had to be played out in each of the two islands. The same backdrop served to highlight the threat of servitude, whether to the Church of Rome, the court of Versailles, or through internal corruption, and so Irish Protestants might see their escape from James II in terms very similar to England's deliverance from Philip II in the reign of Elizabeth. It was upon these grounds that Patriot writers in London and Dublin shared modes of critical literary and political rhetoric, and that the literature of a Bolingbroke or Scriblerian resonated in Dublin as it did in London.9
At the same time, in practical terms, the Williamite settlement had been anything but a settlement, religiously or constitutionally. Catholic resistance to the Glorious Revolution continued in passive and coded language within the folds of Irish society, while Patriots in Ireland had to negotiate particular complications that made their rhetoric of liberty and property even more raw and urgent. William III's triumph over the forces of James II in 1691 and the resulting Treaty of Limerick had seen the salvation of the existing Protestant classes, but only at the price of their incorporation into a highly ambiguous liberal inheritance. While those liberties were now identified more clearly than ever with the rights enshrined in Magna Carta and its successors, their exercise rested upon a constitutional subservience to England implied in the Revolution Settlement and upon the series of discriminatory legislative acts known as the penal, or popery, laws that were passed periodically from 1695 to 1734. Did the struggle of the Irish Protestant elites against the return of servitude, then, depend upon the constitutional enforcement of servitude?
Grappling with such political, philosophical, theological, and, increasingly, historical ambiguities were a number of Irish-born intellectuals who might be said to have constituted the kernel of an Irish Republic of Letters, and whose ideas were prominent in the Patriot discussions that surrounded Burke as he grew to intellectual maturity. Besides Jonathan Swift, the following achieved particular significance. William Molyneux, founder of the Dublin Philosophical Society (which he envisioned on the model of the Royal Society in London), laid down the historical case for Irish constitutional independence most firmly in his seminal tract The Case of Ireland's Being Bound by Acts of Parliament in England, Stated (1698), which was dedicated to William III and owed a great deal to the author's close friendship with John Locke. The occasion was the passing at Westminster (p.114) of commercial restraints on the Irish woolen manufacture that provided a lightning rod for constitutional debate for the next several decades. Robert Molesworth, in his Account of Denmark as it was in the Year 1692 (1696) and his edited translation of François Hotman's Franco-Gallia (1711), stressed the role of a virtuous and independent noble class in preserving political liberty against the encroachments of monarchical tyranny. As Michael Brown has shown, Molesworth developed that concept of liberty culturally and philosophically by linking commonwealth principles with aesthetic philosophy and moral improvement, and he became something of a living paradigm, through his patronage of Francis Hutcheson during the latter's time in Dublin and by his own example in cultivating his estate at Brackdenstown.10 Hutcheson himself reached the peak of his influence in Ireland in the years 1724–28. In An Inquiry Concerning the Original of our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue (1724), he presented a philosophical and moral system for the preservation of civil liberty that rejected the amoral, rationalist mechanism of Hobbes and Mandeville in favor of the theory of an innate “moral sense,” a concept that was intended to ground the natural human sociability of Lord Shaftesbury's moral philosophy more firmly in science and religion. Out on the periphery, John Toland, whose patron was Lord Shaftesbury and who was an acquaintance of both Molyneux and Molesworth, offered a philosophical, rationalist alternative to denominational divisions within the Irish social classes through a powerful critique of priest-craft and superstition to which Bolingbroke appears to have been indebted. Most famous for his Christianity not Mysterious, which occasioned his flight from Dublin in 1697, he later explored in Tetradymus (1720) the tension between the pursuit of philosophy and civil order and the esoteric/exoteric division first mentioned by Parmenides and popularized in the works of Plato. His references here to the Egyptian temple of Saïs, his interest in secret societies, and his historical jibes at Moses the Lawgiver put one in mind of Bolingbroke's later philosophical and historical essays.
While none of these intellectuals resided or pursued their careers exclusively, or even primarily, in their native country, their works and literary networks should remind us that Ireland was not an isolated country either politically or intellectually. Before he moved to Glasgow in 1730, Hutcheson was patronized by John Carteret, a leading Patriot politician who was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from 1724 to 1725—that is, in the period of the crisis over “Wood's Halfpenny” and Swift's immensely powerful Drapier's Letters. John Toland (ne Seán Eoghain), after a short and somewhat fraught period in his native land, traveled extensively in Europe and gathered an (p.115) eclectic and cosmopolitan group of acquaintances including Leibniz, Bayle, Robert Harley, and Lord Shaftesbury himself. Molesworth and Molyneux graduated from Trinity College, Dublin, to the Inns of Court in London to pursue legal training and both experienced a brief exile from their homes during the Stuart invasion of Ireland in 1689. Molesworth became a diplomat in the service of William III and wrote pamphlets against stockjobbers during the South Sea Bubble crisis, a commercial upheaval that had serious repercussions on the Irish economy in the 1720s. Jonathan Swift's personal, emotional, and professional ties across the Irish Sea are too well known to be repeated here, but, in the relatively restricted geographical area of Dublin, he was a key focal point for the Scriblerian world of the 1720s and for Dublin's own home-grown polemicists such as the elder Thomas Sheridan, and Patrick Delany.11
Within the wider postrevolutionary context mentioned above, what were the immediate practical issues to which this Republic of Letters applied its historical and cultural perspectives? The two chief recurrent themes were the effects of the Popery Laws upon Roman Catholics and the impact of British trade restrictions upon the Irish economy. While both issues rightly remain central to modern perceptions of mid-eighteenth-century Ireland, neither is necessarily perceived today in the way it was by contemporaries. In each case, framed by the ideological perspectives we have already identified, the nature of the source material has tended to privilege legislative intent above practical effect and, as a result, commentators have taken the burden of the latter too much for granted and, in respect of the former, passed too lightly over the inconsistencies of Ireland's political, social, and economic development. The more penetrating findings of revisionist historiography over the past twenty years have introduced some welcome complications to the orthodox narratives about the practical effects of Catholic legal penalties, the rise of Irish nationalism, and the unrelieved desolation of the Pax Britannia.12
The actual impact of the legislation passed against popery in the years following the revolution remains a matter of considerable uncertainty and contention.13 Burke would certainly have had first-hand experience of the effect of these laws through his relationship with the Catholic Nagles, his mother's landowning family in County Cork, although their experiences could equally have been drawn upon to argue the continuing vibrancy of entrepreneurial opportunities open to such families. For example, although the legal bars upon Catholic education in Ireland may have driven young Catholic Irishmen abroad to colleges in France or Spain, it should not be (p.116) forgotten that this could also lead to the strengthening of commercial ties that Catholics were still at liberty to exploit.14 Such ties helped to establish Cork as one of the more prosperous ports in the British sphere of influence, and the Nagles of the Blackwater Valley, while they may have owed their security to the conversion of Burke's father to the Church of Ireland, were hardly in straitened circumstances. If the evidence of Burke's childhood reveals, in the words of Elizabeth Lambert, “an Ireland that was divided in essential ways between the Roman Catholics, who were impoverished and stultified by law, and their Church of Ireland countrymen who, in contrast, could be described as ‘flourishing,’” Kevin Whelan has shown the Nagles themselves to be a part of an established rural Catholic class that was “[p]rosperous, self-confident, well-educated, well-connected, aware of external ideas and motivations.”15
More broadly, L. M. Cullen has argued persuasively for the relative stability of the Irish economy during the period of Burke's youth. In times of dearth, agriculture, while dangerously inflexible in its yield, benefited from buoyant overseas demand or impetus from the revival of the linen trade in the 1730s and 1740s, a circumstance that helped to moderate the rhetoric over British trade restrictions. It also served to refocus the attention of some reformers to the less contentious or constitutionally fraught issue of absentee landlords, where the draining of Irish currency and issues of neglect, character, and dereliction of public spirit formed a perspective well suited to Patriot rhetoric. Cullen, indeed, paints a picture of “decisive improvement in economic conditions in the late 1740s and early 1750s,” a period marked by increasingly ambitious schemes of civic renovation and estate planning, fueled by upturns in landlord income. Such conditions were to contribute to widespread social unrest only when a change in fortunes led to retrenchment and tightening of leaseholds early in the next half-century, by which time Burke had moved to England. Consequentially, Cullen's researches also suggest that levels of smuggling and tenant-landlord hostility have been overestimated by historians anxious to read back into the eighteenth century the problems of landownership that drove political division in post-Famine Ireland.16
The historian's task of evaluation is made no easier by the fact that Catholic communities developed diverse coded strategies, enveloped in Gaelic, to fortify their own ties of loyalty or negotiate and resist discrimination. Yet, one uncontestable fact about the Popery Laws, and about British commercial policy toward Ireland, is that neither had ignited any serious, open Catholic resistance during the first half of the eighteenth century. Indeed, (p.117) Burke's youth spanned a period that saw no wide-scale, sustained political or social unrest beyond perennial and sporadic outbreaks of urban disorder. Those protests that did occur—the famous Drapier's Letters crisis of 1723–24 (over the proposed introduction of a new halfpenny coin), and the Lucas affair of 1748–49, considered below—were indicative of divisions within the politically enfranchised, rather than of systemic or chronic economic conditions. It was, rather, the very lack of widespread disorder in the 1730s and 1740s that provided an opportunity for Irish commentators and public critics, including Patriots, to revisit assumptions about the advisable limits of religious toleration in the kingdom and the prejudices against Catholics as enslaved by a superstitious loyalty to a foreign temporal power, the pope. Instead, borne in by the tide of Shaftesburian and Hutchesonian philosophy, there developed a more positive sense that dogmatic Catholicism, detached from its European network, could have its political teeth drawn and be absorbed into a strain of active citizenship through a mixture of legal incentives and the instructive example of industrious Protestant settlers. Fresh opportunities for civic participation would offer a way out of superstition much more likely than legal coercion to promote religious conformity, social order, and economic prosperity. In Cork, Sir Richard Cox, without ever suggesting a repeal of the penal laws, could describe his promotion of the linen industry on his estates as a way of making popery wither from the root. The chief requirement was public-spirited, resident landowners. Even trade restrictions were tangential concerns, since the strength and interests of the mother country were precisely the safeguard against Irish Catholics being reabsorbed into the secular orbit of the bishop of Rome. From this perspective, the constitutional independency demanded by some Irish Patriots, in the tradition of Molyneux, could be interpreted by others as precisely the solvent to the Patriot program that would bring disorder and slavery back to Hibernia.
In Dublin particularly there was a further, social dimension to these considerations. While it was recognized widely in Ireland and Britain that nurturing a politically responsible citizenry was a prerequisite for the preservation and strengthening of liberty, there remained many Protestants for whom Irish history showed incontestably that a hasty repeal of the laws against popery would open the door to Catholic-fomented disorder within the corridors of government. For these people, civic “inclusivity” could be interpreted as the prying open of doors to political power that had been sealed by closed cabals of corrupt politicians, and such a move seemed possible only by mobilizing the Protestant citizenry in its wider sense. Since (p.118) this included people whose propertied credentials to the status of gentleman were hardly established, it was prone to interpretation as, potentially, an act of social subversion. Yet how could the achievements of the Orange settlement be secured otherwise, without relying upon a perpetual constitutional subservience to London? As Helen Burke has shown recently, this mobilization of an allegedly disenfranchised citizen electorate was not confined to printed broadsheets and journals, but took place prominently upon the stage and through developments in the organization of the theater in Dublin—a situation made more volatile by the fact that, in Dublin, the constitutional remit of Walpole's 1737 Licensing Act was uncertain. It is not so much in an unverifiable and repressed yearning for justice, but within this intellectual and cultural nexus, and the tensions that shaped the Irish Patriot legacy in the 1740s, that we need to understand the early writings of Edmund Burke.
There can be no doubt that Burke's childhood was one of divided experiences. It was stretched between his father's house on Arran Quay, on the banks of the Liffey in Dublin, and the rural settings of the Nagles' homes in the Blackwater Valley in County Cork, where Burke is thought to have spent some extended periods of time on account of ill health.17 If the evidence of Richard Burke's conversion is admitted, this might well be seen to represent the stark contrasts of early-eighteenth-century Ireland: the young Burke would have been brought up in the religion of his Protestant father, yet it is frequently claimed that he was educated for a while at a hedge school by a priest during his extended visits to his maternal family.18 At the same time, beyond the geographical and denominational contrasts, a young mind might as easily have absorbed the similarities between his parents' backgrounds, and it may have been these, rather than the differences, that set the young Burke thinking critically about the religious, legal, and constitutional anomalies of his native land.
Burke spent his first three years of formal schooling under an English-born Quaker, Abraham Shackleton, at Ballytore, just thirty miles, or a day's ride, from Dublin. The school was nonsectarian, and the detailed documentation left by the Shackleton family suggests strongly that the experience, which Burke found highly congenial, would have strengthened in him a sense of religious toleration and of denominational differences rightly (p.119) subordinated to the higher goals of learning and sociability. “I am sure,” Burke wrote to his schoolmaster's son, Richard, in October 1744, “I should not be displeased at hearing all the praises you could possibly bestow on a belief which you profess and which you believe to be the true and pure Doctrine of Christ, we take different Roads tis true and since our intention is to please him who suffered the punishment of our sins to justifie us, He will I believe consider us accordingly, and receive us into that glory which was not merited by our own good Deeds but by his sufferings which attone for our Crimes. Far be it from me to exclude from Salvation such as beleive [sic] not as I do, but indeed it is a melancholy thing to consider the Diversities of Sects and opinions amongst us.”19 What better preparation for the Latitudinarian religiosity of Dodsley's Tully's Head enterprise?
Dublin, Burke's home during his teenage years, was, like the country generally, a society in controlled and gradual transition, experiencing significant but short-term economic crises cushioned by a broad and general increase in economic activity, and we know that Catholic families such as the Nagles were fully involved in civic projects such as support for educational establishments (taught in English) and societies for cultural and agricultural improvement.20 Rather than the legal oppression of an ideological system yet to be labeled as “Protestant Ascendancy,” Burke was more likely to see in the Dublin around him, instantiated in its architecture, a vibrant sense of the potentialities of economic, commercial, and social progress offered by a sort of Patriot Imperialism. In this light, and, perhaps, in light of the recent parliamentary union of Scotland and England in 1707, his experiences would have opened up to him the possibilities that a civic-centered religious toleration held for the reconciliation of religious conscience and civic duty in his native country. This was a hope that was dashed by events only after he had moved to London, with a renewal of constitutional conflict over the Money Bill of 1753, and of an economic downturn that stirred the infamous “Whiteboys” disturbances of the early 1760s.
When he entered Trinity College, Dublin, on April 14, 1744, Burke is unlikely to have encountered any serious challenges to such perspectives. Trinity College was a center of Irish Protestant sentiment, and also, under its long-serving, English-born provost Richard Baldwin, increasingly focused on the raising of virtuous, civic-minded gentlemen.21 Baldwin appears to have been an indifferent scholar, but he was a loyal Whig placeman who worked hard to impose discipline among the students after years in which they had gained a reputation for laxity and disorder. The thrust of the college's pedagogic priorities is a subject that commentators on Burke's Irish (p.120) background have glossed over, but it conformed closely to the mixture of Christianized Shaftesburianism and Lockean empiricism that was helping to redefine debate among Irish Protestant Patriots in the first half of the century. Those (admittedly few) members of the teaching staff at Trinity College who published in this period were united in their support for the various institutes of civic renewal that were to become, by the middle of the century, exempla of the Patriot program of self-help in the cause of liberty. Patrick Delany, for example, a Tory, a close associate of Jonathan Swift's, and the college's first professor of oratory and history, wrote many pamphlets in support of new enterprises such as the Incorporated Society in Dublin for promoting English Protestant Working-Schools in Ireland, on trade reform with Britain, and on broader themes of educational reform.22 John Lawson, one of Delany's successors in the chair of oratory and history, published numerous charity sermons on behalf of local schools and hospitals.23 This growing confidence in the duty of the homegrown Patriot had a material parallel in the building enterprises that took place in the college under Baldwin's rule. A magnificent new library building was opened in 1732, and the Printing House, designed by the German immigrant architect Richard Cassell, was completed two years later.
Contemporary records of the undergraduate curriculum, which is described by Webb and McDowell as “cosmopolitan and conservative,” reveal examination exercises that contain a broad and predictable list of loyal Protestant themes, from “Queen Elizabeth” to “Death of the Queen” (1737): from “Commerce” (1748) to “Death of the Prince of Wales” (1751).24 The lists of set texts for the period suggest that Burke enjoyed a conventional curricular fare in Greek, Latin, logic, natural science and ethics, and metaphysics.25 In his surviving private correspondence as an undergraduate, though, certain particular interests and recommendations reveal a more discriminating picture: enthralled, early on, by the pseudo-Platonic Table of Cebes, by his third year he was enthusing to Shackleton (now a schoolmaster at his father's school) over Xenophon's Cyropaedia—“I don't know any Book fitter for Boys who are beginning to Comprehend what they read”—and recommending Sallust as “indisputably one of the best Historians among the romans, both for the purity of his Language and Elegance of his Stile.”26 Furthermore, woven through the successive furores—logicus, historicus, poeticus—that he charted in his private letters to his old school friend were extracurricular works. Most notable is a recurring interest in Pope's writings, from a mock-heroic poem penned in June 1744 with reference to the Dunciad (the fourth book of which had been published in Dublin that (p.121) year), and his recording of the purchase of a copy of the Ethick Epistles in July 1744, “which … I assure you they are very fine,” through criticism of his own Latin style as “prose on Stilts or poetry falln [sic] lame,” to a quotation from the Essay on Criticism built into his letter of March 5, 1747—“Each bad author is as bad a friend.” This interest only grows through his remaining years in Dublin, and, as is argued below, serves almost as a template for the literary and political criticism to be found in his early journalism. He was familiar with other writers from Pope's literary circle: Swift, of course, but also George Lyttelton, the pennames of whose characters in the Persian Letters he appropriates for a letter of his own in November 1744.27
A selection of Burke s youthful poetry, the composition of which we can also trace in part from the private letters, has been collected in the first volume of the Writings and Speeches of Edmund Burke, where it is described by the editors as “satiric, complimentary, imitative in the Augustan sense; but present, too, is that critical intelligence so evident in the final part of the Philosophical Enquiry, during the subtle and sensitive investigation of affective language.”28 The pervasive influence of Pope, again, is apparent in each piece. In his early months at Trinity College, Burke appeared more inclined to imitate Pope's mock-heroic style, an affectation of modesty, perhaps, but indicative of a persistent sensitivity to the pitfalls of the “dunces.” Besides these Popeian references, we find a couple of borrowings from Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene. Spenser, the growing fascination of some literary Patriots, had lived and composed at Kilcolman Castle, not far from the Nagles' lands, and his son, Sylvanus, had later married into the Nagle family.29 Scattered archival evidence also yields a lengthy “Ode on the Birth-day of his Majesty King George the Second,” entirely in spirit, as one might expect, with the loyal Protestant college topics mentioned above.30
Above all, perhaps, these poetic efforts reflect a highly social and collaborative process of composition. Burke is both poet and critic in his personal letters to Shackleton, and revisions of each other's verse drafts evidently continued sometimes for months.31 We can trace, for example, the production of a panegyric on a prominent Dublin businessman and family friend, John Damer, from its inception in July 1744 to its completion three years later.32 Perhaps this collegiate spirit helps to explain the prominence of one particular theme across the years—that of friendship in absentia. It speaks of a social and mental rootedness that might suit an aspiring citizen of the Republic of Letters but should not be associated too quickly with the physicality of one's native soil. While, for example, that physical attachment to the local soil is often assumed in Burke's later, famous comment about the (p.122) “little platoon” that we love in society, the evidence of a poem of 1751 suggests that his early sense of belonging, at least, points in another direction: “In vain we fly from place to place to find / What not in place consists, but in the mind.”33
Alongside his enduring friendship with Richard Shackleton, Burke developed two important new relationships with contemporaries in Dublin during his undergraduate years. One was with Beaumont Brenan, who, it appears from the surviving correspondence, helped to draw him away from poetry to an interest in the theater in his final year at college. Brenan's influence will be considered in more detail below. The other, more dominant relationship was with William Dennis, Burke's college roommate. In a natural extension of collegiality, Dennis and Burke founded a debating club in April 1747, the first minute book for which has fortuitously survived and is now housed in the Trinity College archives. The entries are largely in Burke's hand.34 This club, comprising six members at its height—Burke and Dennis, Andrew Buck, Richard Shackleton, Joseph Hamilton, and Abraham Ardesoif—met at least twice weekly, and ran on a formal set of fundamental laws designed to regulate the various activities of speech-making, paper presentation, recitation, and formal debate.35 There was a president, a secretary, a censor, a budget, and an elaborate set of penalties for absence or failure to submit assigned materials. Clearly, these minutes present an opportunity to uncover formative aspects of Burke's thinking, or, at least, the early context of that formation; but, like all the other texts considered in this book, they are also open to historiographical distortion.
The most prevalent of these distortions is the assumption that Burke was the intellectual and organizing genius behind the project. Samuels, for example, who first published the text of the minute book in his Early Life, is characteristically overzealous in, first, ascribing to Burke the motivation for the establishment of the club and, second, interpreting Burke's contributions as displaying “the germs of his career and character.”36 Following a similar line of thinking, Thomas Mahoney asserts that the “numerous speeches which membership in the ‘Club’ enabled [Burke] to make were notable for their contents rather than for their delivery.”37 The truth of the matter is probably the reverse. It is evident, and sometimes recorded explicitly, that members often adopted positions contrary to their persuasions or inclinations. The club was, in large part, role-play, and an exercise in the recovery of “the plain truth of things” within a framework of rhetorical order and historical imagination. Thus, issues under debate ranged from the fate of Scipio, Hannibal, or Philipoemon to the expulsion of Coriolanus, (p.123) from the great earthquake in Peru in 1746 to clemency for the Jacobites or the Prince of Orange haranguing his troops, and from atheism to Mahomet's banning of alcohol. It is no surprise to see how closely these subjects shadow the college curriculum, and they can also be discerned, to some degree, in the lists of Dublin booksellers and newspaper advertisements.38 Presidential judgments on the debates, whoever was in the chair, were almost always scrupulously moderate.
Having said this, the minutes do offer valuable insight into the context of Burke's developing thought when they are interpreted in the light of formal procedure and patterns of characterization. First, as F. P. Lock points out, there is as yet no sign of interest in theatrical matters, but rather a stress upon the need for purity in “language,” which, in the preamble to the laws of the “Club,” or “Academy of Belles Lettres,” is described as “the eye of Society.” “[As] language is the cement of Society,” the text continues, “so is the perfection thereof perhaps its greatest ornament, and not the least of its Blessings.”39 Second, occasional heated debates over the regulations and laws informing the procedures of the club were evidently stoked by the common recognition that, since passion mattered in rhetoric, rhetoric required a regulatory structure that could be defined in some sense as “natural” in its style. This perceived need to balance the spirit kindled by rhetoric with an implicit orientation to order meant that excessive or disorderly rhetoric was challenged by members on occasion as a sign of disloyalty or false Patriotism. Katherine O'Donnell has drawn out the immediate topicality of this issue by identifying a divergence between a group of scholars she terms “the Trinity rhetoricians” or “Trinity school,” including Thomas Leland and John Lawson, and the disciples of John Locke, with the former supporting Bishop Berkeley's defense of eloquence in rejection of Locke's apparently reductionist semantics.40 Third, there is some evidence of repeated differences of opinion that may be read as symptomatic of more ingrained attitudes or character traits among the club members. In particular, Dennis appears willing to pursue a distinctly “protectionist” position on Irish economic and cultural issues to an extent that discomfited Burke. More than once Burke censures his friend for heat and disloyalty (to the crown). On May 26, 1747, we find Dennis writing, in a joint letter with his accuser, Burke, that: “I'm now accused of a design of destroying the Club, (thus modern patriots urge every thing an introduction to popery and slavery, which they don't like,) when, alas! No one has a greater desire to preserve it…. The approbation I met with in the character of Cato has made me so much the more a stickler for liberty, that not bearing any encroachment on it in (p.124) our assembly I am deemed a criminal.” Burke, as censor of this rhetorical “exclaiming for his liberty,” plays a consistent role in defense of a few, but rigorously enforced, laws.41 On one occasion, Dennis is pointedly made to orate upon dissuading the students from rioting (at a time when the student body had been embroiled in the so-called Black Dog riots in Dublin), and, on another, Burke cannot believe Dennis speaks in earnest when he adopts a position against the taxing of absentee landlords.42
We hear nothing more of the club after the minute book records break off on July 10, 1747. Burke is quite explicit in his private letters about the enduring power of his furor poeticus, and he, together with Shackleton, did, indeed, have some verse published the following year, in a collection by Mary Goddard entitled Poems on Several Occasions.43 As Gaetano Vincitorio has emphasized, Burke's preoccupations at the end of his time at Trinity remained literary rather than overtly political.44 But they were also turning, more practically, to the opportunities that Dublin might offer to satisfy his own publishing ambitions and those of his confederates. By the time he graduated, in January 1748, Dublin appears already to have become too provincial for him, and he could see more attractive prospects awaiting him as a writer in London where, in conformity with his father's plans, he had been registered to study law at the Middle Temple. Ironically, it was the shattering of that very provincial dullness over the next year by a powerful combination of cultural and political Patriotism, that provided a perfect opportunity for this aspiring critic to sharpen up his professional skills for his escape.45
The early stages of this Patriot furor concerned the role of the Dublin stage in the politics of the city. It was, in fact, as part of a campaign against Thomas Sheridan, manager of the Theatre Royal in Smock Alley, and Sheridan's alliance with Charles Lucas, Dublin's leading Patriot demagogue, that Burke launched his journalistic career, in the same month that he graduated.
Thomas Sheridan was a former student at Trinity College and the son of Jonathan Swift's literary acquaintance Dr. Thomas Sheridan. In a decision that was to haunt him through his career, however, he had decided to risk his inherited social status as a “gentleman” by entering the acting profession. In 1745, two years after a highly successful debut at Smock Alley, he was appointed manager of the theater there. Immediately, he introduced a (p.125) series of procedural, financial, and technical reforms in the staging of performances designed to establish firmer order among theater audiences and elevate the perception of the theatrical profession in the cultural life of the city. These ranged from reorganizing the flow of street traffic outside the theater to pacifying the traditionally disorderly gallery audience, abolishing cheap tickets for late arrivals (who were often drunk and disruptive), cutting back the number of spectators allowed on the stage, and prohibiting public access backstage.
Such artistic and managerial concerns could not be detached from wider political and social currents, and Sheridan's innovations, however much driven by the demands of budgets and practical concerns, were interpreted in the context of wider movements for the reformation of mores and government in Dublin and the elevation of the city's social and cultural status. The theater, after all, as Simon Davies reminds us, was “a public space where people not only came to see but to be seen, a potential site of collective celebration or factional disapproval.”46 It was also a field in which there was considerable movement and interaction between Dublin and London. Sheridan's programs, indeed, had their parallels in London, where we have already noted the prominent, disruptive role that footmen could play in and around the capital's theaters. David Garrick, whom Sheridan met and acted under on a visit to London in 1745 and who performed at Smock Alley during the 1745–46 season, was to institute similar reforms at Drury Lane mid-century. Sheridan was initially rewarded for his reformist agenda with the approval of the king's ministers in Dublin during the tense period of the Jacobite rising in 1745–46, and of Patriot politicians such as Lucas, who saw it as an inspirational example of native Protestant leadership.
Sheridan also drew support from the students of Trinity College, who had first backed him in a trivial but salacious spat with Theophilus Cibber (son of the actor and poet laureate, and Pope's bete noire, Colley Cibber) in 1743.47 In February 1747, as we learn from Burke's private correspondence, they lent practical support to him during the so-called Kelly Riots, when the Smock Alley theater was sacked by a group of “gentlemen” from Connaught, a predominantly Catholic area. The destruction was an act of vengeance on behalf of a certain “Kelly,” the group's leader, who had been publicly denounced by Sheridan for sexually accosting one of his actresses backstage during an earlier performance. The flashpoint for the contretemps, significantly, had been Sheridan's reported claim to be addressing Kelly “gentleman to gentleman,” an assertion of social equality that had rankled with the group, who vainly demanded a public apology. Burke (p.126) himself was involved in the next episode of retribution directed against Sheridan's tormentors: after they had halted business at Smock Alley for several nights, the ringleaders were sought out by Trinity students and led forcibly to College Green where they were made to pay public penance for their lawlessness.48
The Kelly Riots spawned a rash of publications, including a pro-Sheridan tract entitled Brutus' Letter to the Town, which was written by William Dennis. Perhaps emboldened by Sheridan's perceived debt to the student body, Burke and Dennis also started agitating for Smock Alley to stage “The Lawsuit,” a play written by their friend Beaumont Brenan. Brenan, who appears first in Burke's correspondence in 1746, was at that time, among his companions, perhaps the closest to achieving a wider public recognition. While we know little of his peripheral, and short, literary career, Brenan authored A Congratulatory Letter from One Poet to Another, on the Divorcement of His Wife (1747), and Burke's private correspondence attests that he was well known in publishing circles in Dublin.49 Burke, at least, appears to have been committed to his friend's success: among his unpublished works can be found a fragmentary “Hints for an Essay on the Drama,” composed around 1761, where “The Lawsuit” is used as a model of propriety in the comedic style.50 As 1747 drew to a close, though, the “Reformer of the Stage,” as Sheridan was happy to be styled, appeared to be hesitating in his Patriot duty to foster the native talent of Burke's friend. In all likelihood, his indecision was based on strong practical and commercial grounds. He had not been long in his managerial post, his reforms were producing some financial dislocation, and he was now facing serious competition from a theater company that had been established nearby in Capel Street, in 1745. Confronted with such challenges, Sheridan turned his popular credentials into populist ones and ostentatiously consulted his market on the selection of plays for his seasons' programs, a tactic that naturally increased the representation of traditional, familiar, tried-and-tested pieces in the repertoire.51 It was no time for taking chances on little-known writers.
In the face of such frustrating prevarication, Burke's associates decided on a new strategy to force the issue: a press war was to be waged against the theater manager until he should relent and stage the play. The scheme is outlined in a surviving letter of William Dennis to Richard Shackleton, dated January 14, 1748, where Dennis outlines a scheme for forming “an association in defense of Irish wit; then charging the town with a heap of papers on Sheridan, proving him an arrogant ass, and displaying his faults in the management of the theatre till having weakened his party so as not to (p.127) fear opposition.” This Grub Street project was to be coordinated with the activities of unspecified friends, who would “spread a favourable report of [‘The Lawsuit’] to prepare the town for its reception when they call for it in the playhouse.” Dennis urged Shackleton to join the group by “throw[ing] some hints together likewise immediately for the press and send[ing] them up,” and, as one last prong of the attack, Brenan himself was to produce a more substantial tract or “grave enquiry” into the behavior of the manager. “[T]hus,” Dennis concludes, “we will persecute [Sheridan] daily from different printers till the plot is ripe, and we have established liberty on the stage, and taste among the people.”52
It is unclear whether the club formed an integral part of this “association in defense of Irish wit” (Shackleton had been admitted and retained as a member even though he could rarely attend meetings in person), or even whether it was now still in existence; but one of the “heap of papers” was shortly to be realized in the publication of a weekly journal that appeared toward the end of January 1748 under the title of the Reformer. This paper complemented another anti-Sheridan weekly, the Tickler, which was written by Dr. Paul Hiffernan, a Catholic Irish writer who was already a fierce enemy of Sheridan's ally Charles Lucas. While Dennis may claim his share in the shaping of this anti-Sheridan strategy (the letter has all the vigor of his contributions to the club earlier), it is possible that the driving force was, actually, Hiffernan, to whom Dennis refers in his letter as “a poet, philosopher, and play-wright in this town, who stirred up by hatred to Sheridan as manager, and as we suspect by the rejection of a play he offered to the stage, is purposed to oppose and pull down that tyrant's pride.” Hiffernan, who had spent time in France training first for the priesthood and then in medicine, was a friend of the bookseller Samuel Cotter and his daughter Sally and probably the person who introduced Burke to the Cotters. Like Burke and Brenan, he was eventually to seek success in London, where he eked out a living as a writer until his death in 1777.53
This, then, was the “association in defense of Irish wit,” comprising Burke, Dennis, Brenan, Shackleton, and Hiffernan, that forms the context for Burke's early journalistic and critical works, and the immediate purposes that shaped that association should be carefully weighed when interpreting their contents in a longer perspective.
Dennis also mentions in his letter a “paper,” or broadsheet, written by Burke, that had recently “paved the Way” for the “heap of papers” by selling 300 copies in its first day. This was Burke's publishing debut: a tract signed by “Punchinello” and entitled Punch's Petition to Mr. S———n, to be admitted (p.128) into the Theatre Royal. Dennis records that Hiffernan persuaded Cotter to publish it, “telling him he thought it a humorous, sharp piece.” Punch's Petition purports to be an appeal by the fictitious author for admittance into the Smock Alley repertory, now that Sheridan's “excellent Design for the Improvement of the Stage, and your happy Executions of it … have effected what has been so long Wish'd for by all who love the Stage, namely, the bringing it to as near a resemblance of your Petitioner's as may be, which has always been look'd upon by the judicious as the Standard of Perfection in that way.”54
F. P. Lock is the first commentator to have incorporated this text into a survey of Burke's Irish writings, linking the style and subject matter to the burlesque satire evident in Burke's letters and in the famous literary examples of Swift. This is surely correct. The ironic praise of the comedies that had been performed recently at Smock Alley, and of the “Reformation you have made in the Morality of the Stage” establish a key theme in Burke's youthful journalism and identify the piece as a promotion of Brenan's “more wholesome Comedic” achievement. Recently, Helen Burke has provided further stylistic context for the work by drawing attention to the traditionally subversive harlequin genre within which Punch's Petition gains its layered appeal. “Punch” figures were utilized by Patriot writers of the 1720s, by Sheridan's own father (protesting at the popularity of Randal Stretch's puppet show, which was established in Dublin in 1721), and also, significantly, by Paul Hiffernan in the Tickler, which started its run in March 1748.55 She is also probably correct in concluding, from Hiffernan's influence, that Charles Lucas was as much the target of Punchinello's satire as Sheridan, and that the source of Burke's antipathy to the theater manager was the threat that he believed a Lucas-Sheridan alliance posed to cultural standards in Dublin. Just as that alliance heightened the confusion between politics and entertainment, so it drew out increasingly antagonistic themes within Irish Patriotism concerning the potential impact upon public spirit and civil order of broadening social access to political affairs along with an expansion of the term “gentleman.” It is worth noting here, with Helen Burke, that Swift satirized the Irish Whig politician Richard Tighe as a “Punchinello” in his poem “Mad Mullinix and Timothy,” which appeared in a short-lived journal that he cowrote with Sheridan's father, in 1728. By using that term, Swift meant to pillory Tighe's form of anti-Jacobite populism as nothing better than the performance of an outdated and manipulated puppet, holding to party and denominational hatreds long after the leaders he had served decades earlier had laid down their arms and made off (p.129) with the prizes. It would not be odd for Burke to see Sheridan and Lucas in a similar light, mindful all the time that Punch is a violent as well as a ridiculous figure, a source of subversion in his pantomimic chaos as well as of entertainment.56
Helen Burke takes her analysis a step further in deriving a crypto-Catholic message from this piece. Relating Punch's Petition to the much later Reflections, she discovers in Burke's early writings “a politically unstable kind of conservatism,” by which he harbored suppressed loyalties to a persecuted and marginalized Catholic nobility—struck, in this case, by a concealed sympathy for the humiliations suffered by Catholic gentlemen at the hands of thrusting Protestant arrivistes, and an abhorrence of the rise of Lucas's “proto-Jacobin” demagoguery. But the satirical purpose of Punch's Petition falls comfortably within the bounds of critical techniques familiar to the Patriot mainstream—a mainstream clearly signaled by Burke in his own hand as fully in the tradition of the “Hibernian Patriot” Jonathan Swift. What Punch says of himself is that he is “an ingenious native … descended from the Antient British Harlequins, who have had Possession of the Stage long before these Italian Performers were heard of.” While an Ancient British identity might just point to a breach between the Anglo-Irish and the Cromwellian settlers (among whom Lucas, but not Sheridan, proudly counted himself), the explicit contrast with “Italian Performers” should indicate the broader national, and yet more narrowly Scriblerian, tradition within which the petitioner is making his plea. And if “Punch” or his harlequins had a more loaded religious symbolism to clothe a deeper nationalist resentment, none has been found to date.57
Just five days after the appearance of Punch's Petition, on January 28, the Reformer began its run. It was a weekly four-page journal, and lasted for thirteen issues, the final issue appearing on April 21, 1748. Each number comprised, in the main, one central essay and occasional advertisements and correspondence, both genuine and contrived. Textual and circumstantial evidence suggest that the main essays were written by Burke, Brenan, Dennis, and Shackleton, although no certain identification is available for the four monikers “B,” “AE,” “U,” and “S.” In some ways, attribution is not important—Burke's involvement in the project as a whole is evident and deep, but the project was, just as evidently, a collaborative effort.58 Consequently, problems arise only when the contents of specific essays are fitted into a longer-term analytical perspective. This is most famously the case with the seventh essay, on social and economic inequalities in Ireland, which has become central to the lineage of the repressed, radical, or unstable (p.130) stable conservative Burke, and which is considered in more detail below. Samuels transcends any such authorial complications by attributing all but “S” to Burke: the one piece by “S” being a religiously self-conscious piece judged to be more in the character of the Quaker Shackleton.59 But Samuels is almost certainly incorrect. F. P. Lock, while agreeing that the essay by “S” is too “earnest” for Burke, is surely closer to the mark in giving a share of the essays to each of the four members of the group.60 In this scheme, Burke is “AE,” credited with pieces on acting and the vicious tastes of contemporary audiences, “spirit” in writing and its inauthentic imitation in the false sublime style, the relationship between poetry and the prosperity of the state (illustrated with references to Spenser and Roscommon), and the famous seventh issue.
Stylistically, the Reformer project contains all the ingredients of smart, presumptuous, self-promoting students just graduated from college: it shows signs both of the energy generated by the immediate, personal goals of the enterprise, and a lack of any mature awareness of the commercial restraints that necessarily acted upon theater managers. As such, it may be seen as a natural development for aspiring critics from the activities of the club, a youthful imitation of the Scriblerian Republic of Letters. In addition to internal textual borrowings from that literary tradition—open references to works such as the Dunciad, the Essay on Criticism, and echoes of Swift's satire, Peri Bathous, and the Ode on Solitude—there are more circumstantial parallels: the anonymity that the writers appear to revel in (as when the author of the fifth essay passes from coffee house to coffee house, incognito, “to see how the Town stood affected to my Labour”); the attempt to manipulate the bookseller Samuel Cotter's publishing list through advertisements for book subscriptions; the very idea of a concerted journalistic campaign against Sheridan (which conjures up the Scriblerian attacks on Rich, Colley Cibber, and Walpole over the fate of Gay's Polly in 1730); even the fact that Sheridan does not easily fit the characterization in the Reformer, since this mismatch parallels the insertion of Cibber into the Dunciad in place of Theobald (as an act of spite after an acrimonious dispute between him and Pope in the early 1740s).
There is, of course, much more to the Reformer than an opportunistic plug for Brenan's play, and it should, indeed, be taken with Punch's Petition as indicative of Burke's affections for his native land. As a fresh, precocious graduate, he has more than Sheridan's theater management in his sights, and, behind the Popeian verse and Swiftian satire, the internal evidence of the paper shows a group of friends involved in a serious exploration of (p.131) what it means to engage with Dublin's “public sphere.” T. O. McLoughlin sees signs of “Burke's early cultural nationalism” in the ways in which the Reformer imitates familiar Popeian critiques of dullness and debased taste in order to blast Sheridan and his audiences for their “uncritical acceptance of ‘English prejudice’” and their servile acceptance of colonial oppression, and he illustrates this position by reference to attacks on British playwrights and actors that appear in the earlier issues, and by a rebuke in the ninth issue (which echoes the description of “the utmost Penury in the Midst of a rich Soil” that marks the theme of the seventh) that “no civilized People in Europe are less concerned for the Welfare of their Country” than the Irish. Elsewhere, situating the journal within Burke's burgeoning aspiration to become a writer and critic, McLoughlin comments on the uniqueness of a paper dealing “more often than not implicitly, with the city's theatre as a manifestation of the cultural vitality of a national socio-economic system,” and suggests that this reveals a Burke already harboring the strength and passion of suppressed resentments, “crusad[ing] for an Irish identity for Irish culture.”61 But this line of argument diverts us from the real significance of the Patriot program of this literary project by relying too heavily on reading it through the lens of Burke's later texts, and assuming too narrowly that it was Burke's own, undiluted ideological creation.
In fact, the Reformer attests to two themes in particular: the continuing influence of Pope and Swift on a rising generation of aspiring public critics, and the desire of Burke and his friends to articulate from within that tradition a re-formation of a Swiftian “Hibernian Patriot” program of cultural and political self-education appropriate to the changing religious and commercial dynamics of Ireland in the 1740s.62 It was in this latter maneuver that Sheridan, Lucas, and their new political allies (like Bolingbroke and the Pelhams across the water) emerged not only as obstacles to cultural aspirations, but, through their adherence to rigid constitutional and historical interpretations of liberty, as potential betrayers of Patriotism. Increasingly, their rhetoric appeared to denote not the rejuvenation of true public spirit at which it purportedly aimed, but disorderly faction disguised.
The first two issues of the Reformer, which sold, reportedly, an impressive 1,000 and 500 copies, respectively, flowed smoothly from Punch's Petition. They castigated theater manager and patrons for their attention to shallow, imported drama, and charged them with ignoring their duty to patronize the morally educative productions of the native Republic of Letters. The specific target of Sheridan's management is never lost sight of in the run of issues, recurring in numbers 8, 10, and 11 as the season's program unfolded; (p.132) nor is the centrality of the relationship between taste in the theater and the broader appeal to a recovery of moral spirit among the Irish people: for “the Depravation of Taste is as great as that of Morals, and tho' the correcting the latter may seem a more laudable Design, and more consistent with public-Spirit; yet there is so strong a connection between them, and the Morals of a Nation have so great Dependence upon their Taste and Writings, that the fixing the latter, seems the first and surest Method of establishing the former.” This point is given specificity in the eighth issue, when the author is advised by “one of the Smarts of this City” that “to rail at what the People lik'd, was the worst Way in the World to gain their Esteem,” and in the tenth, where Edward Moore's recently staged The Foundling is criticized as symbolic of the formulaic, sentimental entertainment that has dislodged the true, Classical vis comica and its noble task of “ridiculing the Follies, and Vices of Men, to make them ashamed of them.”63
Moore's piece was one of several imports from London that Sheridan used this season, and which earned the dismissive judgment of the Reformer: “A Set of Writers have stolen into the Esteem of this City, who while they continue in vogue, will never suffer good Taste to make any Advances among us; such are Farquhar, Cibber, Centlivre, &c. and the fustian Tragedies of Lee and Young.” While Farquhar was Irish, the other names, juxtaposed against appeals for native Irish talent, might suggest support for McLoughlin's cultural nationalist and anticolonialist interpretation. But the fixing of this discussion within familiar currents of broader criticism—regret for the passing of the art of satire, contempt for the expense lavished on “Fiddlers, Singers, Dancers and Players”—makes the national appeal to home-grown talent incidental to the wider problem of the debasement of taste and the driving of moral purpose and political criticism from the stage. As Jonathan Swift had earlier suggested in his poem “Mad Mullinix and Timothy,” it was undoubtedly convenient to British colonial rule and the Protestant political elite to turn the city's entertainments insipid and the populace comatose; but this “national embarrassment” was also part of a character flaw that was blind to ethnicity—the indolent beggary, extortion, and inventive paralysis that had been produced by absentee landlordism that is the subject of a vicious Swiftian admonition against “Whoredom, Idleness, Thievery, and all manner of Debauchery” supplied by “S” in issue 9.64 One solution to this indolence, as Pope, Dodsley, and the Tully's Head circle evidently understood, started with a reengagement of the audience with home-grown culture (Brutus, the “Virgin Queen”) and native talent. Serious cultural and historical education, rather than cultural protectionism (p.133) and political nationalism, was the best response to French fopperies and English comedies: the former policy was rooted in the very principles of civic participation and benevolence, while the latter were artificial constructs imposed from above.
The Reformer does, however, attempt to live up to its name and balances its disgust over the state of public taste with some positive models for achieving a revitalization of public spirit. The first is institutional. The journal makes a number of commendatory references to organizations, “formed for the support of useful Trades and Charities,” that symbolize and give effect to the principles of civic improvement. These include the Royal Dublin Society, founded in 1731 (which Burke, at one of the club sessions, had suggested might be supported by a tax on absentee landlords), the Physico-Historical Society, founded in 1744, and the charter schools that had been established to instill industry, loyalty, and religion in the city's youth.65 The second is moral, and focuses upon the proper character of a “gentleman.” As the Patriot's task is to “establish a spirit of Benevolence, good sense, and religion in [Dublin],” the Patriotic duty of the Reformer is to restore public spirit citizen by citizen; but that requires the identification of the virtues necessary for such vital public involvement. We have already met the urgency of this issue of “gentlemanliness” in the disciplinary reforms of Provost Baldwin at Trinity College and in the origins of the Kelly Riots in 1747. However we choose to interpret Burke's emotional investment in that latter episode, the frequent use by writers in this period of the “buck” or “smart”—the “anti-gendeman,” who debased leadership and squandered responsibility by a sterile application of his personal, physical, and financial resources—was intended to show forcefully that breeding alone was no guarantee of gentleman status. This picture of the gentleman in negative was popularized by Addison in the Spectator, and it appears several times in the Reformer, where, for example, the wandering writer is vexed to see in the coffee houses of Dublin, “so much Gentility, with so little Appearance of Reason,” or gentleman whose discussion was of “their wenches, or who danced best at the Theater.” The writer's friend Asper (possibly Hiffernan) argues persuasively in the sixth issue that “the young Gentlemen of this Age, partly from Nature, partly from Education, have got a low kind of Prudence, and are taught to think every Thing that does not gratify the Senses, unsubstantial and trifling, and fit only for romantick Heads.”66
But the idea of the Patriot gentleman is given positive, concrete form in that famous seventh issue, in which, after a bitter attack upon landowners (p.134) and their neglect of their subtenants that is now generally regarded as an indication of Burke's indignation at the consequences of a repressive denominational colonialism, “AE” furnishes the story of a “Gentleman of Fortune” who reforms the life and productivity of his tenants through careful cultivation of the local economy. While much of the attention to this essay has focused on the opening vivid description of “the utmost Penury in the Midst of a rich Soil,” this text's most recent editor correctly points out that the latter section fits closely with a genre of contemporary Patriot pamphlets. In one such publication, A View of the Grievances of Ireland (1745), a “True Patriot” argues from the same stark starting point for a more astute implementation of the goals of the Popery Laws that will produce the gradual elimination of Catholicism through the integration of a class of middle-status—that is, “gentleman”—Catholic landowners. This would produce a new, cohesive class of public-spirited individuals, such that, “Had many of our Gentlemen the same just Way of thinking, we should no doubt see this Nation in a short time in the most flourishing Condition, notwithstanding all the Disadvantages we labour under.”67 In its stress upon the evils of absenteeism, this Reformer is also probably indebted to the reissuing of Thomas Prior's infamous pamphlet List of the Absentees of Ireland, first published in 1729. Prior, together with a number of his acquaintances including the Cork landowner, politician, and writer Sir Richard Cox, saw absenteeism as a moral rather than a constitutional or political issue: at least, a fierce stand against absenteeism need not imply any sympathy toward constitutional independency at all, and was as compatible with the full exercise of the Popery Laws as it was with covert Catholic sympathies.68
Far from an “unstable” conservative nostalgia for the native, hereditary aristocracy, this program for reconciling education, breeding, and taste in the “gentleman”—a proper citizen of the Republic of Letters and of the Patria—could be taken as a striking validation of the role of the novus homo. But, if so, it is a highly conditional one, since the Reformer holds its fiercest attacks precisely for “those who owe much of their own Fortune to their parts, [but are] so slow in rewarding them in others, and … so diligent in raising Funds for Folly, but none for Science.” Henry Fielding shows us in Tom Jones that education, no more than breeding, is sufficient to make a gentleman. In the failings of the religious zeal of Tom's tutor Thwackum and the philosophy of his other mentor, the free-thinker Square, Fielding reveals the limitations of Shaftesbury's detached aesthetics, which, in its dispassionate approach to the qualities of judgment and taste, lacks the je (p.135) ne sais quoi of a gentleman's. Not unlike Spence's stress upon the importance of religion to the critic and poet, the virtues of an educated, but not inspired, gentleman can become desiccated and sterile. We see in the fourth issue of the Reformer, for example, how the preference shown to a foreign dancer over a native writer is cleverly imputed to “the Politeness of the Audience, who would not dishonour their Country, by ill-treating a Foreigner; but let them consider that this Complaisance is a Detriment, not to say Disgrace to our Nation; Politeness we grant in itself very laudable, but when, by Misapplication, it opposes that greater Virtue Publick-Spirit it is liable to the severest Reproach.”69
The virtue of a gentleman, then, must be infused with a status-free acer spiritus ac vis to realize its true civic potential. At root, this means that the recovery of the “gentleman” is a religious issue, and public spirit, while it is awakened, nurtured, and engaged at a local level, has its origin and ultimate goal in “the love of Mankind.” We might not expect to find great religious import in a youthful paper of literary criticism; but it is there in the moral censoriousness of the early essays, in S's (Shackleton's?) strident attack on the “Canker of Idleness” and “Ruse of Sloth,” and in the Maundy Thursday sermon (written by “U” but entirely consistent with Burke's style), in a way that shows how the religious focus, uncomfortable with denominational qualifications, has shifted to the broader program of civic tolerance and Latitudinarian conscience. Issue 11, in particular, contains a fascinating assault upon “The two greatest Enemies of Religion … Infidelity and Blind Zeal” and argues that “a true religious Life has the same Efficacy to the prevention of both.” It might finally be noted here that Burke was to pen a few years later, in London, some short essays on the character of “a wise man,” “a good man,” and “a fine gentleman,” in each of which it is the lack of religious coordinates in the superficial politeness and virtues of these figures that renders their public roles sterile.70
Nor should any of this surprise us, since it had been Hutcheson's goal while in Dublin to promote a concept of benevolence that held to the civic importance of religion while acknowledging the need to divorce benevolence from the fear or promise of future reward. This maneuver, central to his Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue (1725), was both a defense of Locke against the criticisms of his former pupil and an implicit recognition that Shaftesbury's own Classical moral parameters, strictly understood, could not provide the moral underpinning of the natural affections required to ensure public order in an increasingly unwieldy and diverse public sphere.71 “I doubt,” Hutcheson observes, “we have made (p.136) Philosophy, as well as Religion, by our foolish management of it, so austere and ungainly a Form, that a Gentleman cannot easily bring himself to like it; and those who are Strangers to it, can scarcely bear to hear our Description of it. So much it is changed from what was once the delight of the finest Gentlemen among the Antients, and their Recreation after the Hurry of publick Affairs!”72 Burke may not have accepted Hutcheson's solution to the secularizing tendencies of Shaftesbury and his followers, but it would be hard to argue that the “association in defense of Irish wit” was not in tune with the spirit of Hutcheson's enterprise.73
Against such a manifesto for civic rejuvenation, the enemy was only incidentally and partially British colonial rule. A more urgent problem was the enemy within—the sort of Protestant Patriot who used history and reason to produce a hardening and narrowing of Irish civic identity and fed upon the language of religious bigotry. The “Reformer” encounters such a figure amid the self-obsessed characters—“Divines, Gentlemen, Grave Citizens, Scholars, Fops, Pedants, Lawyers and Politicians”—who inhabit the capital's bars and coffee houses, where he is circulating covertly to test reactions to his journal. Amid this disconnected group, in an inner room, he spies an earnest orator, declaiming passionately in the cause of Sheridan and against the “Reformer” himself, who “must necessarily be some Scoundrel, who was tempted to write thus for the sake of a Dinner.” “The Meanness of this last Reflection,” the essayist continues, “so grated me, that I could not help stepping up, and representing to him, how unworthy of a Gentleman such Expressions were; which so raised his Choler, that the Cudgel, which till now stuck under his Arm, began to appear in his Hand; when one of his Auditors … cautioned me to have a Care what I said, for that, to his Knowledge, this angry Person was one of Manager's [sic] Partizans, who had it in his Commission to abuse all who dared dislike his Proceedings.” As the writer retires, the orator takes his opportunity to lead the rest of the crowd against the “Reformer,” and those who lack the stabilizing orientation of true taste fall to partisanship masquerading as righteous judgment. They have been beguiled by an ignis fatuus, which AE (Burke?) helpfully identifies in issue 12 with “a flighty bombast Stile, without connection or order [or] full of that low kind of City Pertness, so conspicuous in waggish Apprentices, joined to some Market Phrases and some Parody.”74 For Burke and his Irish Patriot reformers, it is here, in the heart of Dublin's public spaces, even within the boundaries of the Irish Republic of Letters and the ranks of the Patriots, that the true enemy of public spirit is to be found.
Following the line of Burke as a frustrated polemicist, T. O. McLoughlin argues that the young Irishman was tinged with “cynicism and disillusion” by the end of the Reformer's run of thirteen issues; but the judgment does not take full account of the immediate goals of the project. There was no practical sense in agitating for Brenan's play after April, since the season closed then. Besides, the final few issues of the journal suggest more strongly than frustration the mapping out of a new, more ambitious publishing enterprise to follow the Poems on Several Occasions. We find, for example, advertisements for a proposed publication entitled “The Foolish Miscellany,” a “choice Collection of the most singular and entertaining Pieces of Dulness that have been written or published for this three Years past in this City.” The project falls entirely within the spirit of the Scriblerians' Peri Bathous, as “perhaps as poinant [sic] a Satyr upon the Scriblers of these Times, as ever was written.”75 More immediately, though, a number of alternative publishing opportunities arose for Burke and his friends through the fierce pamphlet war that was being generated by Charles Lucas's tenacious political ambitions in Dublin. It was this extended contest that was to bring to a head the tensions within the Irish Patriot tradition that we have been tracing so far. In so doing, it was to place the capstone on Burke's cultural and political aspirations as he prepared his move to London, and, incidentally, would further enhance his marketability in the particular surroundings of Tully's Head.
Charles Lucas was born in 1713, in County Clare, of Cromwellian planter stock, and trained for a profession in medicine. From the time of his appointment to the Dublin City committee as a representative of the guild of apothecaries, in 1741, he associated himself with the imputed liberties of the Protestant free citizens and freeholders of the city and fomented opposition to what he saw as the monopolistic privileges of the aldermen. Manipulating every device available in Dublin's “public sphere,” including the stage, to promote his populist agenda, he sealed his reputation as a dangerous demagogue when he stood for a vacant parliamentary seat in Dublin in 1748.76 Issuing more than 200,000 printed words in defense of his candidature, he was eventually threatened with imprisonment for sedition and fled to the Isle of Man days before the poll, in October 1749. He was to return home eleven years later, transformed by events into the vatic protector of Protestant hegemony in the island.
(p.138) The Lucas affair of 1748–49 was a pivotal moment in Dublin politics.77 Burke's involvement in the pamphlet wars that surrounded Lucas's election campaign is either thought to have been indirect, arising, as we have seen, from Lucas's associations with Thomas Sheridan earlier, or speculative, relying upon the uncertain attribution of a number of anonymous political tracts both for and against Lucas's candidature. In any event, Burke's assumed Catholic sympathies are generally considered by commentators to have made him antagonistic toward Lucas. That view is strengthened by his evident friendship with Paul Hiffernan, whose Tickler, as we have seen, was openly hostile to Lucas, and it has recently been argued that Burke was involved in the production of another such attack, the Censor Extraordinary, which masqueraded as a special edition of Lucas's propaganda mouthpiece, the Censor, and parodied the Lucasian position ad absurdum.78 Certainly, by 1761, when Lucas returned triumphantly to Dublin from exile, Burke had come to see the old Patriot as a “Mountebank” and expressed wearily the wish that he would “descend from his stage” and cover his political blunders with his “medical quackery.”79
Sean Murphy has recently revived Samuels's contention that Burke actually wrote in support of Lucas by identifying five articles in the Censor, signed “B,” that are “almost certainly the work of the young Edmund Burke.” Given that we can be sure Burke was opposed to the Popery Laws and to anti-Catholic rhetoric, Murphy is obliged to accompany his attribution with a modification of our perception of Lucas's religious bigotry, claiming that Lucas withdrew somewhat from the fierce anti-Catholicism of his “Barber's Letters” in support of Sheridan, which had appeared in 1747.80 While it is beyond doubt that Lucas, whatever his personal views, wanted his Patriot stand for liberty to be interpreted as naturally anti-Catholic (since its rhetorical opposite, “slavery,” was most effectively and urgently associated with the apparatus of popery and the Catholic priesthood), it is true that Protestant orators could benefit, in these calmer times, from blurring the distinction between Catholic religious doctrine and the Church's position on the temporal power of the papacy.81 Murphy's reconsideration of Burke's attitude to Lucas, while inconclusive in itself, at least allows us space in which to remark the complexities and inner tensions of the Irish Patriot position in these pivotal years, and to avoid the tendency to simplify it as only the prelude to more sharply defined nationalist and sectarian movements later in the century.82 In making the valuable point that Burke's anti-Lucasian stance has rested until now largely on assumptions of his Catholic sympathies, Murphy helps us to recover aspects of the (p.139) intellectual context of Dublin in the 1740s that we have encountered in the Reformer, such as the continuing vibrancy of Irish-British Patriot discourse, and the moral and religious context within which public spirit and civic participation were understood. We must add to these one more: the significance of historiographical analysis and legal precedent in defining the constitutional liberties at the heart of the Patriot program. Each of these aspects illuminates in its own way subtle and not so subtle divergences in outlook between Burke and Lucas that would explain the former's antipathy toward the latter in intellectual and rhetorical rather than social and religious terms.83
The literature of Lucas's parliamentary campaign in 1749 illustrates in a number of ways the significant level of interaction between the Republic of Letters in Dublin and London. In particular, Lucas shared the formulaic English Patriot Jeremiad of corruption in the body politic, the threat of civic “Bondage … effac[ing] all Rudiments of Public Spirit,” and the attendant identification with “all Men of Genius and Morals, who, scorning to stoop to the mean and sordid Ends of private Parties, or Factions, have the general Good of Civil Society, principally, if not solely, at heart.”84 The Censor acknowledges its debt to Bolingbroke, Pulteney, and the Craftsman from the outset, and those borrowings appear prominently in an emphasis on the dangers of infection from London and its “scalawag” stooges in Dublin. The admonition becomes increasingly frantic as the contagion of moral bankruptcy is spread all the more virulently through the tentacles of the expanding commercial metropolis of London. Indeed, Lucas wonders whether eradicating the source of the infection is even an option any more:
I fear, incurable poison to the state; Fraud, Venality and Corruption, into the Fountain-Head of our Liberties, ELECTIONS and PARLIAMENTS; and, by Bribes and Pensions cunningly applied; suppressed, or extinguished the vivifying Spirit of LIBERTY and PATRIOTISM, in England; their Parliaments have been running counter to the Principles of their Policy, to the very Ends of their Institution.85
Irishmen have to be more keenly educated in the political and civil rights they have inherited: “It is time … to be put in Mind,” Lucas affirmed, “that Liberty is not the Product of any particular Soil, nor inherent to any particular Climate,” in furtherance of which, he republished the British Freeholder's Political Catechism, written by that “true Patriot of a neighbouring Country,” under a modified title in 1748.86
Lucas and his supporters, like Irish Patriots more widely, were in fact negotiating (p.140) a difficult path between a critique of political corruption and cultural enervation that respected no national boundaries and the particularities of Ireland's situation, which became increasingly centered upon its constitutional history. This required a perpetuation of the language of political opposition as it existed in England, not least because Lucas's campaign was designed to have purchase with parliamentarians in Westminster who had next to no knowledge of Ireland. In an attack on the Walpolean years that could have come directly from Bolingbroke's writings, Lucas states, “It is most certain, that while British parliaments stood on pure, constitutional principles, such an Outrage on the Rights and Liberties of Ireland, as governing it, by Laws, made without the Consent of the People; was never attempted.” At the same time, Lucas had to particularize his rhetoric for his Irish audience, which he did by demanding the recovery of legislative independence in a way that built upon Molyneux through the remembrance of a catalog of injustices inflicted by the English on that country. This was a pitch that was certainly politically—though not culturally—“nationalist,” and, ironically, it was a maneuver that drove him to a further conceptual borrowing from the British Patriots, the historiographical tradition associated most closely with Bolingbroke by which liberty was understood to reside within canonical texts that must be contested, recovered, and preserved in their legal and linguistic purity. As a result, we see that much of Lucas's propaganda, including such a “popular” vehicle as the Censor, focuses on the support for legislative independence and popular liberties enshrined in historical charters and a particular interpretation of Ireland's incorporation into the constitutional inheritance of the English nation.
Lucas stated his historical position most directly, if not lucidly, in A Tenth Address to the Free Citizens, and Free-Holders of the City of Dublin, which appeared early in 1749. Here, he claims that “it is, on all hands confessed and agreed, that the Constitution of Ireland was settled and established upon the same Foundation and Principles, with that of England; Being made a free, independent and compleat Kingdom, under the Crown of England.” The conclusion he draws from that proposition, that “there was no general Rebellion in Ireland, since the first British Invasion, that was not raised or fomented, by the Oppression, Instigation, evil Influence, or Connivance of the English” was to be the cause of his indictment on a charge of treason later in the year and his flight into exile.87 In the first Censor, dated June 3, 1749, he states, feigning the impartiality of the antiquarian, that one of the editor's goals is “to collect a History of the antient and present State, or Constitution, of all the Cities, Boroughs, and Towns Corporate in this Kingdom. (p.141) And to enquire into, and explain the true Causes of the Devastation of many, once considerable, Towns, in this Kingdom.” On a later page is advertised the publication of “Magna Charta Libertatum Civitatis Dublini: The Great Charter of the Liberties of the City of Dublin. Transcribed and Translated into English, with explanatory Notes. Dedicated to his Majesty, and presented to his LORDS JUSTICES of IRELAND. By C. Lucas, a Free Citizen.” The Magna Charta itself, a common focal point for the liberties of the Britannic Constitution, provides the measure, in future issues, of the loss of liberties by Dublin's citizens that forms the subject matter of the essays.88 As in the Tenth Address, Lucas draws from Bolingbroke and the older tradition of seventeenth-century constitutional thought to affirm Molyneux's earlier denial that Ireland had been “conquered” by Henry II, while stressing that the Irish lords willingly entered under the protections and liberties of laws stretching back to Anglo-Saxon times. Thus, the preconquest origins of English constitutional liberties recover their direct significance for the Irish, having been exported under the Plantagenets through consent of the indigenous people, not by conquest.
In this way, Lucas effects an historical union of Norman and later English settlers in an alliance that transcends, or, at least, subordinates, the strict denominational divide between Protestant and Catholic; but the move carries a number of further significant implications. The recovery of rights assumed “time out of mind” follows a narrative, familiar from Bolingbroke's writings, that privileges the collapse of the superstition and ignorance associated with Catholicism and the pope's historic claims to plenitudo potestatis. As a result, Lucas can leave his hearers free to draw the conclusion that the grip of priest-craft renders Catholics incapable of the exercise of the duties of a free citizen. It is something of a judicial and political parallel with the economic reductionism echoed in a “True Patriot's” insistence that “there was something in the Spirit of Popery incompatible with a laborious life.”89 At the same time, this approach to constitutional liberty leaves little room for an effective, theoretical attack upon the moral or legal rectitude of the penal laws, since their origins are evidently bound in with the preservation of rights recovered in the Revolution Settlement.
While we cannot be sure of Burke's precise role or interest in the Lucas affair, it presumes too much to explain his later aversion to Lucas's sentiments in terms of concealed Catholic sympathies and suppressed colonial resentment. As Michael Brown observes about Burke's later Irish writings, “[We] should not confuse Burke's antipathy for the jobbing ascendancy for a hidden affiliation with the religious belief system offered by Roman Catholicism. (p.142) To be sympathetic to the plight of the Roman Catholic community does not imply any intellectual assent to their foundational assumptions.”90 In fact, the Lucas affair shows us that criticism of Lucas's campaigns fell comfortably within the scope of internal Patriot debate. To some degree, this may have been a generational issue. For Burke and his immediate associates, the defining experience of Patriotism was not the establishment of the Williamite settlement in Ireland but the quiescence of the Irish Catholic population during the Jacobite rebellions of the eighteenth century. This perception could only weaken the prejudices that bound respectable Catholics to a history of insurgency, priest-craft, and foreign intervention, and it threw back into discussion the immediate context within which the legal disabilities against Catholics had been established.
To illustrate more fully the political and economic arguments that helped to define disagreement and revision within Irish Patriotism, we might briefly consider the ideas of the Patriot politician Sir Richard Cox, who published a number of works against Lucas during the Dublin election campaign and was, in Samuels's judgment, “by far the most powerful and virulent opponent of Lucas.”91 The Cox family's fortunes had been affected both by the threat of Catholic rebellion and the vagaries of party politics, and when he inherited the family properties, Cox showed himself an imaginative estate manager, promoting linen manufacture over wool and encouraging the immigration of skilled Protestant weavers from northern Ireland.92 By the mid-1740s, he was expressing a cautious optimism over the growth of the Irish economy, perhaps influenced by the urban and commercial renewal taking place in the city of Cork at the time.93 Cox's estates and political base at Dunmanway, Co. Cork, were not far from those of John Perceval, 2nd Lord Egmont, for whom Burke was to write during his early years in London. Cox's and Egmont's similar positions within the Patriot camp are attested by the fact that Egmont's powerful plea for the removal of British restrictions on the Irish wool trade, Some Observations on the Present State of Ireland, Particularly with Relation to the Woollen Manufacture (1731), was misattributed to Sir Richard Cox by contemporaries.94
Heavily invested in the Patriot cause, Cox found his own credentials and those of his family challenged forcefully in 1749 by Charles Lucas, who objected to their adherence to Ireland's constitutional dependence upon Great Britain.95 It was, in fact, Cox who was instrumental in setting in motion the charges against Lucas that resulted in the latter's flight, and he was rewarded by being appointed collector of customs for Cork in 1750. Somewhat against his enemies' claims of venality, he then clashed with the (p.143) authorities at Dublin Castle during the money bill dispute of 1753–56, at which time he was lauded by Burke's old friend Beaumont Brenan in his poem The Patriots.96
Of particular interest to our contextualization of Burke's Patriot thought at this time are the arguments Cox employs to attack Lucas's historical claims for “Independancy” and related charges against English misgovernment in Ireland reaching back through 1641 to the original acceptance of Magna Carta by the Irish nobles. In the words of S. J. Connolly, Cox launched “an effective critique of Lucas's autodidactic obsession with ancient grants and charters, arguing that texts and precedents from the remote past must be read in their historical context.”97 From this basis, he appealed to the steadying hand of prescriptive right as shown through history, and argued that “Independancy” as extracted from old charters was “a Doctrine, which had but little force, when it was first broached, but is totally enervated, by a long Possession against it, and by the Authority, against which it Points, being now necessarily interwoven with our Constitution, and intermixed with all our Property.”98 Cox was of the opinion that Lucas's historical defense of independency would only play into the hands of a resurgent papist interest by sowing discord among Protestants, thereby resulting in the reintroduction of slavery (and putting us in mind of the comment made by William Dennis in the early days of the club, directed at Burke, that “modern patriots urge every thing an introduction to popery and slavery, which they don't like”).
In the tense atmosphere of 1749, though, Cox was less interested in refuting Lucas's facts than in tracing how “restless and turbulent spirits” were fashioning an explosively disorderly concept of liberty out of a pseudogenealogy of half-understood and butchered charters. He addressed the constitutional implications of his position by arguing that a prudent, historically grounded acknowledgment of the reality of Irish constitutional subservience to Britain is a source of, and not a hindrance to, Irish liberty: “He who represents a DEPENDANCY to be the free Choice of IRELAND, puts her into the most amiable Light, of using her Liberty, so as not to abuse it; and preferring her true Interest, to the vain Caprice of her licentious Children.”99 Beside the practical economic benefits he saw accruing to the Irish linen manufacture and entrepreneurial estate management from such a constitutional relationship, his argument accorded on a theoretical plane with the position of the Rockingham Whigs when they passed the Declaratory Act over the American colonies in 1766. Burke was to be a vocal supporter of this act because, not in spite, of his conciliatory attitude toward the colonies, (p.144) arguing that concessions were much more feasible within a context of the unquestioned theoretical constitutional supremacy that the Declaratory Act affirmed. It is not so well known that a similar act had already been passed in respect of Ireland, in 1719.100 In A Serious and Seasonable Address to the Citizens of Dublin (1749), in language sometimes strikingly redolent of Burke later, Cox advises his readers that, among other things, gentlemen should be guided in their choice of representative by the fact that no government has ever been good enough to avoid the censure and condemnation of “restless and turbulent Spirits,” that “the lowest among the People are very unfit Instruments” for reforming even dangerous abuses of power, and that there will surely be a number of “good and disinterested Minds” found in any government equal to the task of rectifying abuses and restoring “the good Order of that Administration, wherein they preside.”101
We can also detect Cox's correlation of pseudo-history, false rhetoric, and social disorder in the Censor Extraordinary, where the prime satirical aim in shadowing Lucas's demagogic parliamentary campaign was to expose the destabilizing and disorderly intentions of its target. The strategy employed involved, first, imitating the overblown, dazzling rhetoric with which Lucas was considered to be diverting his audience from the falsity of his reasoning and the looseness of his historical understanding.102 Second, a number of issues contained references to spoof charters, such as that, in the eleventh issue, to “the Reign of William Rufus, Ann. 27. Gul. 2di” against the corruption of local officials, which carefully complains at the same time that “Our Justices behave as if they knew nothing of this Act, which is yet unrepealed.”103 Third, there were frequent parodies of Lucas's recurrent comments in the Censor upon the casual brutality and arrogance of “high boasted” gentlemen and Jesuitical intrigues among the Catholic priesthood. The cumulative effect was to convey an atmosphere taut with veiled threats of violence which might put us in mind of the coffee house orator wielding his cudgel in the Reformer.
These are the same concerns present in Burke's undisputed writings of the 1740s and 1750s, both in Dublin and at Tully's Head. In the Reformer and the club meetings, in his early borrowings from Pope and Swift, in the Vindication, and even in the Philosophical Enquiry, the relationship of false historical authority, false reasoning, and the rhetoric of a false sublime are played out in a way that accords fully with debates and revisions within Patriot literary and political circles. Burke did not have to harbor or repress any “Jacobin flame” to engage in such revisionary Patriot discourse: in fact, the need to see him as standing at the threshold of Irish Catholic or nationalist (p.145) liberation movements requires us to distance him, without any firm evidence, from what we see in retrospect were the doomed agendas of figures such as Cox, or to interpret those agendas in language that makes their failure self-evident by highlighting an enduring, colonial-fed anti-Catholicism as the uniting feature of Irish Patriotism. Cox's contest with Lucas, on the contrary, reminds us that Patriotism contained within it widely variant paths toward one goal, and his dependent Patriotism held a greater possibility of reform in religious affairs and among the gentry who held power than that of the Lucasians—and with less attendant danger of serious social upheaval. If the goal of Irish cultural and economic self-sufficiency, realized through the capacity for Irish gentlemen to cultivate a vibrant public spirit, was shared by Cox and Lucas, the more important question, after years of increasing stability and prosperity was, rather, what was most likely to jeopardize that interest. If some saw “Independancy”—or what some term nationalism—as the antidote, others, with contrasting perceptions of history, reached exactly the opposite conclusion.
It was, in fact, within those contrasting perceptions of history, even more than through the satirical mode of criticism, that Burke perceived the most promising route toward a regenerative and corrective public spirit. For Burke, revising Patriot rhetoric and Patriot political goals depended upon discovering a more “usable” approach to Ireland's constitutional history than that being offered by Patriots such as Lucas, one that included a nonsectarian religiosity and an inclusive historical imagination. In this respect, the Lucas controversy reinforced an academic interest that Burke had harbored since his teenage years. In a letter dated July 12, 1746, shortly after the defeat of the Jacobite rising at Culloden, Burke had confided to Shackleton that he had been “read[ing] some history … endeavouring to get a little into the accounts of this our own poor Country.”104 As the project matured in his mind, his Nagle ties to Cork were certainly important, though not as sources of marginalization and repression but as illustrative of the practical benefits that could be derived from a broader political conception of comprehension and toleration in civil life. The key was to uncover an historical perspective and, more important, nurture a style of historical rhetoric, that undermined the brittle, text-based narrative of liberty and servitude without whitewashing popery or opening a back door to the complete secularization of politics and public spirit. This ambition was to draw him to a group of Catholic intellectuals and antiquarians including John Curry and Charles O'Conor, who were intent on integrating the evidence of Gaelic history into the study of liberty and civilization in Ireland, (p.146) and, more contentiously, revising the record of the 1641 Catholic rebellion. Lucas's historical approach, on the other hand, drew its scholarly weight from publications such as Walter Harris's Hibernica (1747).105
As events turned out, Burke's Irish Patriot affections were to be stretched by the disappointments of the 1750s (disappointments paralleled in the relationship with the American colonies during the following decade). The money bill crisis and a downturn in the economy fueled the growth of the Catholic Committee, led by men such as Curry and O'Conor, and, at the same time, more extreme forms of Protestant separatism. While Burke's historical thinking remained firmly oriented toward Patriot revisionism in that decade, as will be shown in Chapter 5, below, his intellectual focus was redirected in the early 1760s to more immediate matters of public policy, as the “Whiteboy” rural disturbances exposed the lost opportunities for constitutional reform and set the background for Burke's bitter “Tracts on the Popery Laws.” While he was working on these notes, and now employed in Ireland under William Gerard Hamilton, chief secretary to the lord lieutenant Lord Halifax, Burke wrote to his friend Charles O'Hara, a member of the Irish parliament: “I own I am somewhat out of humour with patriotism; and can think but meanly of such Publick spirit, as like the fanatical spirit, banishes common Sense; I do not understand that Spirit, which could raise such hackneyed pretenses, and such contemptible Talents, as those of Dr Lucas to so great consideration, not only among the mob, but, as I hear on all hands, among very many of rank and figure.”106
But these disappointments lay in the future. The evidence suggests that when he left Dublin in 1750, Burke did so believing that the union of crowns, administered by Patriot gentlemen, held the best hope for liberating an Hibernian public spirit that could reconcile the country's fractured religious and ethnic past. This hope depended, in many ways, on a successful critical reappraisal of Patriot rhetoric, which threatened presently to arouse an unstable public spirit that excluded the very quality of gentlemen required to give the cause of Patriot opposition its purchase against entrenched factions or systemic injustices. That threat arose from the working of what Burke understood to be a “false” sublime emanating from one of two tainted sources. The first source was the deceptive or misperceived authority seen in the character of a demagogue or assumed in a figure of social eminence—a threat detectable through absurd or artless constructions and evident character faults, and quarantined by the artful ridicule and satire of vigilant critics. The other source was more insidious and contagious because seemingly more coherent, and it relied for its disarmingly pure and elevating (p.147) effect precisely on the undetected and persuasive falseness of reasoning in matters of religion, philosophy, or historical analogy that lay at the very foundation of its arguments. This false sublime, even sincerely articulated and propagated, revealed itself only at its ultimate point of deception, in producing the opposite of what the parties concerned had anticipated or imagined.
Our discussion of the Vindication's pseudo-Bolingbroke in the previous chapter has touched upon Burke's satirical treatment of this extended sense of the “false sublime.” In the fifth chapter, below, we will consider how Burke tackled the same perceived threat by way of a different method, a Patriot history of his own. Before that, we will consider the work that most clearly spans Burke's formative years in Dublin and London, his Philosophical Enquiry, encountering there Burke's engagement with a kind of “pseudo-Longinus,” and tracing in more detail Burke's reasoning over the dangerous ambiguities and uncertainties of the “sublime” and the implications for the Patriot critic as guardian of public spirit.
(1.) Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, V.37. “A man's country is wherever he lives at ease.” Cicero is quoting from the Roman poet Pacuvius's tragedy Teucer.
(2.) For an often cited example of this sensitivity, see Burke's letter to Richard Shackleton, dated April 19, 1770, in Correspondence, 2:129–31. According to Paul Langford, it was around this time that sections of the press began to include derogatory Irish nicknames in their political attacks on the parvenu Burke. Burke, Writings and Speeches, 2:8–9. See also Nicholas K. Robinson, Edmund Burke: A Life in Caricature (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996), 11–12.
(3.) The most comprehensive and up-to-date treatment of Burke's family can be found in Lock, Edmund Burke, 1:3–15. More stress upon the formative influences of the Nagles on Burke (a stress that remains largely speculative) can be found in Katherine O'Donnell, “Burke and the Aisling: ‘Homage of a Nation,’” British Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies 30 (2007), esp. 405–8; and Lambert, Edmund Burke of Beaconsfield, 24–25, where Lambert refers to Burke's uncle Patrick Nagle as a “surrogate father.” See also Elizabeth Lambert, “The Law, the Nun, and Edmund Burke,” in Crowe, ed., An Imaginative Whig, 158–74.
(4.) The Liberal politician and historian John Morley gives some space to Ireland in his biography of Burke, where the “virulent opposition of the tyrannical Protestant faction in Ireland, and the disgraceful but deep-rooted antipathies of the English nation” are marked out as the chief obstacles to the removal of commercial restrictions and the gradual emancipation of the Catholic majority—“the two processes to which every consideration of good government manifestly pointed” (Morley, Burke, 25). Such policies, of course, promoted industriously by Burke during his parliamentary career, would have been implemented by a Gladstonian government. In this way, Burke is volunteered for Home Rule rather as an example of the prudent British statesman than as a passionate Irish exile. Matthew Arnold published a collection of Burke's writings on Ireland entitled Edmund Burke: Letters, Speeches and Tracts on Irish Affairs, by which he attempted to “set [people] on thinking” about Gladstone's plans for Home Rule. See Conor Cruise O'Brien, “‘Setting People on Thinking’: Burke's Legacy in the Debate on Irish Affairs,” in Crowe, ed., Edmund Burke: His Life and Legacy (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1997), 94–103; also published as The Enduring Edmund Burke (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 1997).
(5.) Arthur P. I. Samuels, The Early Life Correspondence and Writings of The Rt. Hon. Edmund Burke LL.D. With a Transcript of The Minute Book of the Debating “Club” founded by him in Trinity College Dublin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1923).
(6.) For a valuable survey of the historiography, see Michael Brown, “The National Identity of Edmund Burke,” in Donlan, ed., Edmund Burke's Irish Identities, in Donlan, ed., Edmund Burke's Irish Identities, 201–25.
(7.) Gibbons, Edmund Burke and Ireland. Gibbons is following upon broader couplings of Burke's aesthetic and political thought to be found, for example, in Tom Furniss, Edmund Burke's Aesthetic Ideology: Language, Gender and Political Economy in Revolution (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993).
(8.) It also rests upon the assumption, powerfully challenged by L. M. Cullen, (p.259) that Burke maintained a clear-sighted connection with developments in Ireland after his departure in 1750. See Gibbons, Edmund Burke and Ireland, xii, xiii; and Louis M. Cullen, “Burke's Irish Views and Writings,” in Crowe, ed., Edmund Burke: His Life and Legacy, 62–75.
(9.) See Jacqueline Hill, From Patriots to Unionists: Dublin Civic Politics and Irish Protestant Patriotism, 1660–1840 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), 96. Hill identifies a number of areas in which English Patriot thought contributed to this dialogue through its own historical understanding of the nature of the liberties enshrined in the ancient constitution, preserved through vibrant civic republicanism, and bolstered by Anglican political theory. She concludes, “The Dublin civic Patriots saw themselves as engaged in an identical campaign with their London counterparts.”
(10.) Michael Brown, Francis Hutcheson in Dublin, 1719–1730 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2002), 41.
(11.) Central aspects of Swift's “Irishness” are treated in the following: Robert Mahony, Jonathan Swift: The Irish Identity (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995); Fabricant, Swift's Landscape; and F. P. Lock, Swift's Tory Politics (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1983). Delany hosted weekly gatherings for the literati at his town house in Stafford Street, Dublin, and at his suburban retreat, Delville.
(12.) For a comprehensive, early revisionist position, see S. J. Connolly, “Eighteenth-Century Ireland: Colony or ancien régime?” in D. George Boyce and Alan O'Day, ed., The Making of Modern Irish History: Revisionism and the Revisionist Controversy (New York: Routledge, 1996), 15–33.
(13.) For a good summary of the debate, see C. D. A. Leighton, Catholicism in a Protestant Kingdom: A Study of the Irish Ancien Regime (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1994), 6–13; and John Bergin et al., eds., New Perspectives on the Penal Laws (Dublin: Eighteenth-Century Ireland Society, 2011).
(14.) The perpetuation of Catholic-Protestant extremes has hindered historians from appreciating the significance of Catholic merchants, businessmen, and travelers to the wider Irish economy and to cultural and economic links to the European continent. A recent corrective is Graham Gargett and Geraldine Sheridan, eds., Ireland and the French Enlightenment 1700–1800 (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999). See also L. M. Cullen, An Economic History of Ireland since 1660, 2nd edition (London: Batsford, 1987).
(15.) Lambert, Edmund Burke of Beaconsfield, 22. See also B. O'Connell, “The Nagles of Ballygriffin and Nano Nagle,” Irish Genealogy 3 (1957): 67–73. Whelan writes that the Nagles “epitomize perfectly that fusion of long-established rural Catholic families, with close ties to the towns and links to the continent and the new world, which backboned Irish Catholicism…. There is no reason to suggest that the foundations of such successes had not been laid or preserved during the earlier part of the century.” Kevin Whelan, “The Regional Impact of Irish Catholicism 1700–1850,” in William J. Smyth and Kevin Whelan, ed., Common Ground: Essays on the Historical Geography of Ireland (Cork: Cork University Press, 1988), 268.
(16.) L. M. Cullen, “Economic Development, 1691–1750,” and “Economic Development, 1750–1800,” in T. Moody and W. E. Vaughan, eds., A New History of Ireland, Vol. IV: Eighteenth-Century Ireland, 1691–1800 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986), 123–58, 159–95. Notes to Chapter
(17.) Lock, Edmund Burke, 1:18. Cullen writes of Burke's “five childhood years on the Blackwater,” though the actual timing and nature of the stay are not known.L. M. Cullen, “Burke, Ireland, and Revolution,” Eighteenth-Century Life 16 (1992): 24; and see also O'Donnell, “Burke and the Aisling.” The danger here lies in equating, too readily, enduring ties of kinship with the Nagles as solidarity with Catholicism in its opposition to Protestantism.
(18.) Thomas H. D. Mahoney, Edmund Burke and Ireland (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1960), 2; Conor Cruise O'Brien, The Great Melody: A Thematic Biography of Edmund Burke (London: Sinclair Stevenson, 1992), 21; Gibbons, Edmund Burke and Ireland, 159.
(19.) Burke, Correspondence, 1:32–33. Letter to Richard Shackleton, October 15, 1744. See also his letter to Richard Shackleton, dated November 1, 1744, ibid., 1:35–36. Richard Shackleton's daughter gathered a valuable family archive, including a significant number of private letters between Burke and Shackleton, in the years 1744–50. These were later published in Mary Leadbeater, Leadbeater Papers, 2 vols. (London, 1862).
(20.) The Dublin Philosophical Society had folded by 1740, but the Royal Dublin Society and the Physico-Historical Society of Dublin were both in existence by 1744.
(21.) Baldwin, who was driven into exile by the Jacobite occupation of the college in 1689–90, was elected a fellow in 1693 and was provost from 1717 to 1758. Records suggest that his rule was remarkable for an improvement in the behavior of Trinity students. See R. B. McDowell and D. A. Webb, eds., Trinity College Dublin, 1592–1952: An Academic History (Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press, 1982), 37–41.
(22.) See, for example, Patrick Delany, A Sermon Preach'd before the Society Corresponding with the Incorporated Society in Dublin, for promoting English Protestant Working-Schools in Ireland (London, 1744). Delany, whose Revelation Examined With Candour (1731) was also an important defense of divine providence against the “misdirected wit” of free-thinkers, was chancellor of Christ-Church Cathedral, Dublin, at the time of publication. The chair of oratory and history at Trinity was founded in 1724.
(23.) For an important recent study of the work of John Lawson and other Protestant Irish academics in relation to rhetoric, oratory, and Patriot politics in mid-century Dublin, see Paddy Bullard, Edmund Burke and the Art of Rhetoric (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), esp. chapter 2, “Rhetoric in Ireland, 1693–1765.” A detailed study of the influence of Shaftesburian thought in Ireland can be found in Rivers, Reason, Grace, and Sentiment.
(24.) TCD Mun/v/27/1 fo.906; McDowell and Webb, Trinity College, 49.
(25.) Lock, Edmund Burke, 1:35–37; Francis Canavan, The Political Reason of Edmund Burke (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1960), 197–211.
(26.) Burke, Correspondence, 1:73, 89. A translation of the Table of Cebes (or, “Cebes's Picture of Human Life”) appears in Joseph Spence's Moralities, which Dodsley published in 1753), and this was followed by an edition of the same work in 1754, The Fable of Cebes, or the Picture of Human Life, with notes by Thomas Scott. Earlier translations had been added to the text of Arrius on Epictetus (London, 1709) and to Porch and Academy Opened, or Epictetuss [sic] Manual (London, 1707). The latter (p.261) advertised, on its title page, “Cebes's Table. Never before Translated into English Verse. By a Lady.” For the Cyropaedia, see below, pp. 196–97. T. Gordon published an edition of Sallust's works in Dublin in 1744, complete with prefatory discourses on subjects including “Faction and Parties,” and “Patriots and Parricides.”
(27.) Burke, Correspondence, 1:12–15, 29, 69, 85, 34–36.
(28.) Burke, Writings and Speeches, 1:25.
(29.) Burke, Correspondence, 1:80n1.
(30.) Bodl. MS Eng. Misc. b.169, fos. 35–38. Lock confirms the date of composition as 1747, Edmund Burke, 1:53n73.
(31.) Mary Leadbeater believed her father had possessed “a genius for poetry.” Leadbeater Papers, 1:38.
(33.) See “An Epistle to Doctor Nugent by E.B.,” in Correspondence, 1:116.
(34.) TCD Mun/Soc/Hist/81, and Samuels, Early Life Correspondence and Writings, 226–95. See also Declan Budd and Ross Hinds, The History of Edmund Burke's Club (Dublin, 1997), 2, where the club is described as “the earliest debating society composed of students of the university of which any definite record remains”; and L. M. Cullen, “Edmund Burke and Trinity College,” Studies in Burke and His Time 20, no. 1 (2005): 82–94. The club was eventually incorporated into the college Historical Society, which is still in existence.
(35.) Dennis eventually took holy orders and became a parish clergyman; Buck became Principal of the Hibernian Academy; Shackleton took over his father's school in Ballytore. Of Hamilton and Ardesoif we know nothing.
(36.) Samuels, Early Life Correspondence and Writings, 214. Samuels goes on to state that “the young Edmund Burke training in these College debates was there rapidly evolving those distinct characteristics which, matured, distinguished him as the greatest statesman of his time, and, perpetuated, have moulded ever since, and will in future ages, mould the polity of every nation that seeks progress and safety along the paths of ordered liberty.”
(37.) Mahoney, Edmund Burke and Ireland, 4.
(38.) For example: Mark Akenside's Pleasures of Imagination. A Poem. In Three Books (London, 1744); and T. Gordon's edition of the Works of Sallust (1744); Thomas Prior's A list of the absentees of Ireland, and the yearly value of their estates and incomes spent abroad. With observations on the present trade and condition of that Kingdom—a new edition with a “Letter to a Member of the Parliament of Ireland” by Philo-Patria (dated November 8, 1745), added (1745); Addison's Cato, and Onno Zwier van Haren, The Sentiments of a Dutch Patriot (1746); John Hawkey's edition of Milton's Paradise Lost (1747). Hawkey, an Englishman and alumnus of Trinity College who had established a school in Dublin, also published editions of Horace and Juvenal around this time. Thomas Prior, a friend of Berkeley's and also an alumnus of Trinity, was one of the founders of the Dublin Society for the Promotion of Agriculture, Manufactures, Arts and Sciences, which was incorporated in 1749.
(39.) Samuels, Early Life Correspondence and Writings, 227–28.
(40.) Katherine O'Donnell, “Burke and the Trinity School of Irish Oratory,” Studies in Burke and His Time 21 (2007): 77, 80. O'Donnell might overstate the cohesion of the “Trinity rhetoricians” and their impact upon Burke's thought, but her broader (p.262) point should stimulate important discussion of the significance of Burgersdijk as a conveyor and adaptor of Aristotelian rhetorical thought. The “hideous” (in Burke's words) Burgersdijk was a seventeenth-century Dutch philosopher and author of the Institutionum Logicarum Libri Duo, which was set for Trinity undergraduates in their first year of study. Burke, Correspondence, 1:4, 7.
(41.) Burke, Correspondence, 1:93; Samuels, Early Life Correspondence and Writings, 253. That extreme Patriotism might ironically usher in popery and slavery through dividing the existing Establishment was a charge leveled at the politician Charles Lucas in the stormy Dublin election of 1749. Burke has occasion later to object to Dennis's “hot speech”—this time against passing a bill against piracy in the publishing trade (Samuels, Early Life Correspondence and Writings, 272).
(42.) Samuels, Early Life Correspondence and Writings, 252.
(43.) These included an imitation of Virgil's Georgics, II.458–540, “By a young Gentleman,” and a short piece entitled “On a bad Poet's turning Critick.” See [Mary Goddard], Poems on Several Occasions (Dublin: by S. Powell for the author, 1748), 15–22, 96–97. The latter piece is answered by a “Mr. B–,” most likely Burke's close friend and Trinity scholar Beaumont Brenan. Another of Burke's friends, Richard Shackleton, contributed a verse introduction “To the Author of the Following Poems.” For Mary Goddard, see A. C. Elias, Jr., “Male Hormones and Women's Wit: The Sex Appeal of Mary Goddard and Laetitia Pilkington,” Swift Studies 9 (1994): 5–16.
(44.) “Every sign points to Burke's absorption in poetry and aesthetics in his latter days at Trinity.” Gaetano Vincitorio, “Edmund Burke and Charles Lucas,” PMLA 68, no. 5 (December, 1953): 1050. Vincitorio inexplicably leaves out drama.
(45.) Burke “had been enrolled on 23 April, 1747, as a student of the Middle Temple” (Samuels, Early Life Correspondence and Writings, 219). Burke wrote later that year to Shackleton, presumably about his friend Dennis, “Don't you think had he money to bear his charges but 'twere his best course to go to London? I am told that a man who writes, can't miss there of getting some bread, and possibly good. I heard the other day of a gentleman who maintained himself in the study of the law by writing pamphlets in favour of the ministry” (Burke, Correspondence, 1:101). The original of this letter has been lost.
(46.) Simon Davies, “Ireland and the French Theatre,” in Gargett and Sheridan, eds., Ireland and the French Enlightenment, 197.
(47.) The affair of Cato's cloak centered upon Sheridan's decision to cancel a performance of Addison's Cato because he could not find the cloak he preferred for the lead role. Cibber undermined Sheridan and embarrassed him before the house by taking on Cato's part as well as his own, and the performance continued. The episode resulted in a pamphlet war that can be followed in Theophilus Cibber, Cibber and Sheridan: or, the Dublin Miscellany (Dublin, 1743).
(48.) Letter to Richard Shackleton, February 21, 1747 in, Burke, Correspondence, 1:82–84.
(49.) Ibid., 1:72. Brenan's Congratulatory Letter was something of a public taster for a longer collection of his poetry, but that project never materialized. After a few more minor publications, Brenan made the move to London in 1758 but died three years later. “Sure he was a man of first rate Genius,” Burke wrote to Shackleton in (p.263) 1761, “thrown away and lost to the world.” Ibid., 1:142–43. No copy of “The Lawsuit” is known to exist.
(50.) The text of the “Hints for an Essay on the Drama” can be found in Writings and Speeches, 1:553–63. Samuels goes so far as to suggest that Burke had also written a play in 1747, which he had passed, unsuccessfully, to Benjamin Victor, assistant manager at the Smock-Alley theater, for consideration; but the reference, which is to Burke visiting Victor, “who has not yet read the play,” comes from a letter written by William Dennis to Shackleton and more probably refers to Beaumont Brenan's “The Lawsuit.” Samuels, Early Life Correspondence and Writings, 113–14. Esther Sheldon accepts Samuels's attribution of the piece to Burke and assumes that personal slight to be the cause of Burke's later hostility to Sheridan. Esther K. Sheldon, Thomas Sheridan of Smock-Alley (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967), 118, and 105n149.
(51.) It is noteworthy that Sheridan twice appealed to “majority” votes among his audience in face-to-face confrontations with Kelly's supporters in the theater auditorium. The need to appeal to regular patrons would also explain Sheridan's conservative approach to the structure of evening programs, including dance and pantomime routines that Burke and his associates were to attack vigorously in their journal the Reformer.
(52.) For the text of this letter, see James Prior, Life of Goldsmith, 2 vols. (London, 1837), 2:315–18.
(53.) Helen Burke makes the claim for Burke's admiration for Hiffernan in “Speaking from behind the Scenes: Edmund Burke and the Lucasians, 1748–49,” in Donlan, ed., Edmund Burke's Irish Identities, 36, 43n42.
(54.) Burke to Richard Shackleton, May 28, 29, 1747: “I have myself almost finished a piece—an odd one; but you shall not see it until it comes out, if ever.” Correspondence, 1:92. In the same letter, in Dennis's hand, we find that the piece is a humorous one, intended for publication. I agree with Lock that this is unlikely (pace Samuels and Boulton) to be an early draft of the Philosophical Enquiry. Punch's Petition is a much more likely candidate, unless the reference is to a lost piece. The eight-month gap between this reference and the appearance of the piece is not hard to explain, especially since the theater program did not start again until the fall. The complete text can be read in Lock, Edmund Burke 1:plate 3.
(55.) Helen Burke, Riotous Performances: The Struggle for Hegemony in the Irish Theater, 1712–1784 (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2003), and “Speaking from behind the Scenes,” in Donlan, ed., Edmund Burke's Irish Identities, 28–44.
(56.) For a survey of harlequins, pantomime, and political entertainment in Britain in the 1730s, see John O'Brien: Harlequin Britain: Pantomime and Entertainment, 1690–1760 (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004). O'Brien stresses also the analogical commonplace between Walpole's political craft and the theatrical craft of Punch.
(57.) Similar to analyses of the Vindication discussed in Chapter 2, above, Helen Burke's conclusion is that “[t]his Punchinello act of ventriloquism, it could be said, allows Burke to complain of the ascendancy of the new elite and the marginalization of the old gentry while simultaneously concealing his Catholic sympathies.” (Burke, Riotous Performances, 173, 146.)
(p.264) (58.) For a summary of the debate about the extent of Burke's involvement in the project, see T. O. McLoughlin, “Did Burke Write The Reformer?” Notes and Queries 39, no. 4 (December 1992): 474–77.
(59.) Samuels, Early Life Correspondence and Writings, 174. But this is to ignore two private letters by Burke (both to Shackleton) that show a similar style of tolerance and enthusiasm. See Correspondence, 1:32–34, 35–36.
(60.) Lock, Edmund Burke, 1:56–57.
(61.) McLoughlin, Contesting Ireland, 167, 168; and, “The Context of Edmund Burke's The Reformer,” Eighteenth-Century Ireland 2 (1987): 42, 45. A passage from the Reformer, no. 1, runs: “Our Countrymen are esteemed in a neighbouring Isle the dullest of Mankind, and there is scarce a Scribbler among them who has any other Name for this Nation than BOEOTIA: I don't know for what we deserve the Appellation more than the senseless Encouragement we give their wretched Productions; so plentifully do they supply, and so greedily do we swallow that Tide of fulsom Plays, Novels, and Poems which they pour on us, that they seem to make Stupidity their Science, and to have associated for the Destruction of Wit and Sense.” But Benjamin Victor, Sheridan's submanager, who was English and represented all the worst of budget-driven Anglocentrism, is not mentioned. The seventh issue is actually an attack on absenteeism, which, while it may be nurtured by colonialism, is hardly the same thing. See Samuels, Early Life Correspondence and Writings, 297–98, 314–17, and below.
(62.) In his introduction to a selection of Swift's Irish pamphlets, Joseph McMinn describes the “Hibernian Patriot” in the following terms: “Swift's patriotism is real, but it belongs to eighteenth-century Ireland not to modern romantic nationalism. It is based solidly on the idea of public service. It is conservative but critical, against useless change but forever demanding improvement. The pamphlets expose many contradictions of the colonial relation with England, but they can never envisage a resolution of those contradictions.” The evidence of his early literary experiments suggests strongly that this was the spirit of the Irish Republic of Letters with which Burke and his associates identified.
(63.) Burke, Writings and Speeches, 1:66, 101–2, 113.
(68.) See, for example, Sir Richard Cox, A Letter from Sir Richard Cox, Bart. To Thomas Prior, Esq; &c. (Dublin, 1749). Cox introduced a linen manufacture on his estate in Cork and hoped thereby to “release the inferior People, from a state of Villeinage; and to create a Yeomanry at last in the Kingdom” (43). What better aspiration for a public-spirited gentleman, especially as the yeomanry was, naturally, to be Protestant.
(69.) Burke, Writings and Speeches, 1:86.
(71.) Rivers, Reason, Grace, and Sentiment, 2:205–15.
(72.) Francis Hutcheson, An Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue (Dublin, 1725), 9–10.
(p.265) (73.) Hutcheson was to reaffirm this purpose in his Essay on the Nature and Conduct of the Passions and Affections three years later: “The Knowledge and Love of the DEITY, the universal MIND, is as natural a Perfection to such a Being as Man, as any accomplishment to which we arrive by cultivating our natural Dispositions; nor is that Mind come to the proper state and vigor of its kind, where Religion is not the main Exercise and Delight.” Francis Hutcheson, An Essay on the Nature and Conduct of the Passions and Affections. With illustrations on the moral sense (Dublin, 1728), 213. The editors of Burke's Writings and Speeches have attributed a poem, “To Dr H——n,” to Burke and argued that it is dedicated to Hutcheson (Burke, Writings and Speeches, 1:32–34).
(74.) Burke, Writings and Speeches, 1:89, 90, 121, 120.
(75.) Ibid., 1:122, 124. There is no record of the project ever reaching publication. The possible allusion to Lucas is strengthened by the fact that the writer traces the origin of the “flighty bombast Stile” to John Lilburne, a mid-seventeenth-century political agitator and pamphleteer—see ibid., 1:120n1.
(76.) The sitting MP died in August 1748, but since the Irish parliament met only biennially, a writ for a by-election was not issued until the following year. The election campaign in this case lasted fourteen months. See Sean Murphy, “Charles Lucas and the Dublin Election of 1748–1749,” Parliamentary History 2 (1983): 93–111.
(77.) There is no biography of Lucas, but note the work of Sean Murphy above, and his article “Charles Lucas, Catholicism and Nationalism,” Eighteenth-Century Ireland 8 (1993): 83–102. See also Hill, From Patriots to Unionists, chapter 3. “It was to be Lucas's achievement during the 1740s,” Hill writes, “to transform a purely municipal struggle for the restoration of ‘ancient rights’ into a campaign of national (and, in the eyes of some supporters, international) significance, aiming at nothing less than the regeneration of the ancient ‘free’ constitution as a whole” (83).
(78.) Lock, Edmund Burke, 1:62. The first issue of the Censor does promise that, “as often as any particular Emergency demands [the writer's] more immediate Interposition, [the writer] will not fail to send forth an OCCASIONAL CENSOR.” (Censor, no. 1, Saturday, June 3, 1749, p. 1.)
(79.) Burke, Correspondence, 1:139–40.
(80.) Murphy, “Charles Lucas, Catholicism and Nationalism,” 92.
(81.) References to Catholicism in the Censor focus largely, as one would expect, on the deviousness or intolerance of the priesthood rather than on liturgical or doctrinal issues.
(82.) Murphy can only go so far as to argue that, on the question of the Popery Laws, Lucas, “[w]hile not committing himself to a call for their repeal … clearly implied that penal laws obliging catholics and other non-Anglicans to deny their religion or limiting their property rights were unjust, and that all that should be required of them was acceptance of the civil constitution” (“Charles Lucas, Catholicism and Nationalism,” 89). Ironically, Murphy reveals his own design to coopt Lucas into a conveniently expanded definition of the Irish “nationalist” movement.
(83.) They could also, incidentally, be seen to broaden the scope of Murphy's authorial investigation further than he appears to contemplate by raising the question: Why couldn't Burke have written both for and against Lucas?
(p.266) (84.) The Censor, no. 1, June 3, 1749, p. 1.
(85.) Charles Lucas, A Tenth Address to the Free Citizens, and Free-Holders of the City of Dublin (Dublin, 1748), 29.
(86.) Ibid., 31. Charles Lucas, The British Freeholder's Political Catechism: Addressed and Recommended to the Free Citizens, and Free-Holders, of the City of Dublin, at this Critical Juncture (Dublin, 1748). In the preface to this work, Lucas writes: “Among the various means whereby wicked Men have effected the enslaving of Nations, the keeping them in Ignorance has always proved the most effectual.” The Freeholder's Political Catechism, published in 1733, was attributed both to Bolingbroke and to Dr. Arbuthnot.
(87.) Lucas, A Tenth Address, 15, 24.
(88.) See Censor, no. 4, June 24, 1749, p. 1, on the delay, denial, and obstruction of justice by local city magistrates. Such offenses, predictably likened to “a Popish Inquisition,” were imputed to the grandfather of Sir Richard Cox, “one of the knighted, ermined Villains of the perfidious Ministry of the late abused Queen ANNE.” Lucas's charge, that Cox had imprisoned the Gaelic poet Hugh McCurtin for having criticized his Hibernia Anglicana, appears to be unfounded and surfaces for the first time in print here.
(89.) [True Patriot], View of the Grievances of Ireland (Dublin, 1745), 3. The “True Patriot's” concerns about the lack of public spirit also contain interesting similarities to the diagnosis of the Reformer, not least in their attack upon the indolence and selfishness of the “gentlemen” of Ireland. A familiar variant of the criticism of “bucks” to be found in the Spectator and elsewhere, this might, in and of itself, explain the tensions raised by Kelly and his followers: “It is evident … that the great Bane of this Country lies in our having no Class of People amongst us between the Gentleman and the Beggar” (6).
(90.) Michael Brown, “The National Identity of Edmund Burke,” in Donlan, ed., Edmund Burke's Irish Identities, 357.
(91.) Samuels, Early Life Correspondence and Writings, 182.
(92.) Cox, A Letter from Sir Richard Cox, Bart. To Thomas Prior. Prior was a founding member of the Dublin Society for the Promotion of Husbandry, Manufacture, Science, and the Useful Arts, in 1731. Cox's grandfather (also Sir Richard), a Tory committed to the 1688 revolution, had spent some years in self-imposed exile in Bristol, but returned to Ireland with William III, crushing Jacobite resistance as governor of the county and city of Cork in the aftermath of the rising of 1689–91. He authored a loyalist history of his native country, Hibernia Anglicana (1689–90), and An Essay for the Conversion of the Irish (1698) in which he argued that the Gaelic and British peoples came from the same ethnic stock. From a similarly loyal position, he criticized the proposed restrictions on the Irish woolen trade in 1698 on the grounds that they would harm both English and Protestant interests in the island. He had also collaborated with William Molyneux in 1685 on a topographical survey of Cork that lauded its recent social and economic progress.
(93.) “[A] very worthy Gentleman of this City [Cork], Sir R—D C—x…. informed me, Ireland was so much improved of late Years, that if a Person could but rise from the Dead, who was intombed forty Years, he would not know the Spot where he was born, or his surrounding Neighbourhood; for the Face of Nature, (p.267) with the Help of Art, had entirely altered every Feature.” A Tour Through Ireland. In several Entertaining Letters. Wherein The present State of that Kingdom is consider'd; and the most noted Cities, Towns, Seats, Rivers, Buildings, &c. are described (London, 1748), 98. S. J. Connolly, to whose research I am indebted for this reference, points out that the observation is the more remarkable for Co. Cork having suffered a devastating famine in the years 1739–40. See S. J. Connolly, Religion, Law, and Power: The Making of Protestant Ireland, 1660–1760 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992), 53–57.
(94.) The original 1731 pamphlet was reprinted in 1749 under the title A Patriot's Letter to the Duke of Dorset, Written in the Year 1731, with a Dedication to the Cork-Surgeon of the Year 1749. The satirical effect of the dedication presupposes that the Cork-Surgeon was the author of the tract, a misattribution followed by Samuels. For the correct attribution, see Manuscripts of the Earl of Egmont (London: Historical Manuscripts Commission, 1920), 1:172. Beside a reference to the Observations, the 1st Earl has written, “I did not then  know nor does any more than myself now know, that my son wrote that pamphlet.”
(95.) Specifically, Lucas charged the senior Cox with imprisoning the Gaelic poet Hugh McCurtin on a personal slight. See n. 88, above.
(96.) Beaumont Brenan, The Patriots: A Poem (Dublin, 1754). Brenan's list of Patriot heroes includes James FitzGerald, Lord Kildare, who had married Lady Emily Lennox, sister of the Duke of Richmond, in 1746, and Anthony Malone, brother of the writer Edmond Malone. Both the Lennox and Malone families were close friends of Burke later in his political career.
(97.) S. J. Connolly, “Cox, Sir Richard, First Baronet (1650–1733),” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).
(98.) [Anthony Litten, pseudo.], The Cork Surgeon's Antidote against the Dublin Apothecary's Poyson (Dublin, 1749), no. 3, p. 4.
(100.) The official title of the act was the Dependency of Ireland on Great Britain Act.
(101.) Sir Richard Cox, A Serious and Seasonable Address to the Citizens and Freemen of the City of Dublin (Dublin, 1749), 6.
(102.) The thirteenth number, for example, opens with this particularly impressive comet: “Whosoever taketh a View of the State of this Nation from the first Dawnings of Government in it, will see a Scene, perhaps, the most melancholy that History affords; such a Succession of TYRANNY, handed down under the Names of Kings, Priests, Lords, Lords Lieutenants, Lords Deputies, Lords Justices, Lords Bishops, and Lords ALDERMEN, and all the Lords who have lorded over us … etc.”
(104.) Burke, Correspondence, 1:68.
(105.) John Curry, A brief account from the most authentic Protestant writers of the causes, motives, and mischiefs, of the Irish rebellion (London, 1747); Charles O'Conor, Dissertations on the Ancient History of Ireland (Dublin, 1753). Curry was from a Catholic mercantile family. He studied medicine in Paris and set up business in Dublin in (p.268) 1743. O'Conor, who, like Curry, had Jacobite ancestors, was a successful gentleman farmer. Harris, who challenged the findings of Curry and O'Conor, is described by Leerssen as an Irish Bolingbroke. See Joep Leerssen, Mere Irish and Fior-Ghael; Studies in the Idea of Irish Nationality, Its Development and Literary Expression prior to the Nineteenth Century (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1997), 323. See also Moody and Vaughan, eds., New History of Ireland, lxi–lxiv.
(106.) Burke, Correspondence, 1:139. For Burke's relationship with Irish Patriot politics and politicians in the 1760s, see Bullard, Edmund Burke and the Art of Rhetoric, 105–8.