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THE LIFE OF EDMUND BURKE.
ALTHOUGH the Spensers boast of the trophies of a Marlborough, Gibbon esteems “the Fairie Queen” the brightest jewel of their coronet; so in the lineage of the historical house of Clanricarde, the fairest name is that of Edmund Burke. But an embarrassment occurs in the pedigrees of both poet and orator: neither can accurately determine the precise connection with his parent stem. In Ireland, the frequent confiscations, and the consequent alienation of lands and destruction of records, have thrown such difficulties in the pathway of the genealogist, that, but for the light which tradition affords him and in the sister island the veracity of family tradition is most remarkable), his enquiries would be fruitless, and his utmost exertions unavailing. In the case of Edmund Burke, tradition affirms that he was a scion of a respectable branch of the house of Clanricarde, long settled in the counties of Galway and Limerick; and this statement is strongly confirmed by his continuous usage of the exact Clanricarde arms, and the recognition of the first Earl, who, on more than one occasion, addresses him as “cousin.”
The greater portion of the Limerick estates of
Mr. Burke's family having been lost in the civil commotions of the 17th century, his great grandfather retired to a property he possessed in the county of Cork, and settled there in the neighbourhood of Castletown Roche, a village about five miles from Doneraile. The grandson, RICHARD BOURKE, or BURKE, the father of Edmund Burke, was brought up to the profession of the law, and resided for some time in Limerick, but eventually removed to Dublin, where he took a house on Arran Quay, and there practised as an attorney with eminent success. About the year 1725, he married Mary, daughter of Patrick Nagle, Esq., of Ballyduff (descended from an ancient family in the county of Cork, of which was Sir Richard Nagle, Attorney-general for Ireland tempore James II.),* and by her he had no less than fifteen children, all of whom died in youth, except GARRETT, EDMUND, RICHARD, and JULIANA. Garrett, the eldest son followed his father's profession, and resided in Dublin: he was never married, and at his decease, in 1765, the county of Cork property, which had been for several generations in his ancestors' possession, devolved on his brother Edmund, by whom it was sold for £4000, in 1793. Richard, the third son, acquired reputation in the political circles of London as a wit and a writer: he was by profession a barrister; after filling the situation of one of the secretaries of the treasury in 1782, and again in 1783, he was, in the December of the latter year, elected Recorder of Bristol, an office he held until his death, the 4th February, 1794. It is to this Richard Burke
* Admiral Sir Edmund Nagle, the friend of King George IV., was Mr. Burke's first cousin.
that the following well-known jocular epitaph of Goldsmith, in “Retaliation,” refers:
“Here lies honest Richard, whose fate I must sigh at;
As often we wished to have Dick back again.”
The second son, EDMUND BURKE, was born in his father's house, on Arran Quay, the 1st January, 1730. Very little is known of his early years, except his being of a delicate constitution, tending as was believed to consumption. This weakly state of health rendering necessary a longer than usual stay under the paternal roof, he was first taught to read by his mother, a woman of cultivated understanding. Tradition also relates that another instructor of this great master of the powers of the English language was an elderly lady, resident in the neighbourhood, who feeling a strong partiality for the boy, took a pleasure in communicating the rudiments of learning to his infant mind. The air of the country, however, becoming essential to give vigour to his frame, he was removed from the metropolis to the house of his grandfather, at Castletown Roche, in the county of Cork. Here he first went to school, and passed several years—some say five—under the discipline of a village schoolmaster. The memory of this period remained ever vivid in the mind of Burke; a pleasing