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anecdote describes him revisiting the place in the days of his greatness, and gratifying the pride of his quondam pedagogue by a cordial and affectionate recognition. Near the spot stood the ruins of Spencer the poet's castle—a circumstance which in after life tended powerfully to confirm Mr. Burke's early attachment to the locality. From Castletown Roche he returned to Dublin, but did not long stay there, as his health further declined: his father therefore resolved that the whole of his boyhood should pass in the country, and sent him to the academy of Ballitore, a village in the county of Kildare, about thirty miles south of Dublin. This school, always one of considerable and deserved repute, was then conducted by an excellent and learned Quaker, Abraham Shackleton. Young Burke was at that time in his twelfth year. With the son of the master, Richard Shackleton, who afterwards became master himself, Edmund formed a friendship of the warmest kind; it lasted through the whole of life, neither chilled by time, nor weakened by distance, nor even by the immeasurable interval in point of station and pursuits, which Burke's genius and fame placed between them. Boyish intimacies, the result generally of accident rather than knowledge of character, are seldom durable; not so with this. Through all the statesman's illustrious career, his early and humble ally found him still the same, still preserving, amid the applauses of the senate and the admiration of the world, an undiminished relish for the society of the friend of his childhood. Affectionate correspondence and mutual visits passed between them till Mr. Shackleton's decease in 1792; and, after that event, Mr. Burke continued his intimacy with the Shackletons, until his own death. One of his very last letters was addressed to the daughter of his friend, Mrs. Mary Leadbeater; her affecting answer is to be found in the correspondence recently published by Lord Fitzwilliam and Sir Richard Bourke, and the reader is referred to it as a production fully worthy of a lady who, inheriting the talent of her family, obtained public favour herself as an author, and won the approbation of another genius of Ireland, Maria Edgeworth, a name like that of Edmund Burke, of never fading reputation.
At Mr. Shackleton's school, Burke is said to have displayed little of that splendour and originality of mind which afterwards distinguished him so eminently; indeed, some of his peculiarities were such as are generally supposed dissociated from lofty intellect. A patient assiduity, a tenacious memory, and an unrivalled facility of acquisition, appear to have been his chief attributes in his early years. Towards the middle of April, 1744, having been just three years at the school, he quitted it, and the day after doing so, he entered Trinity College, Dublin, as a pensioner. He passed through the usual routine of a University education with credit, and nothing more. He took the degree of B.A. in 1748, and M.A. in 1751 : he was presented with the further degree of LL.D., in 1791. Having been always designed for the English bar, his name was entered at the Middle Temple so early as 1747. In 1750 he arrived in London to keep terms. Burke, while in London, studied with his accustomed ardour and diligence; but it has been rightly conjectured that his pursuits were somewhat too excursive to permit him to obtain a very profound knowledge of the law; not to men
tion that his health, still delicate, demanded frequent relaxation. From one or other of these causes, or more probably from both, he soon abandoned altogether the profession to which he had been destined ; a step not agreeable to, or sanctioned by, his father. The knowledge he had obtained, however, was respectable, and of considerable use to him in after life; while the discipline which his legal studies afforded, exerted a most beneficial influence on the general character of his mind.
The earliest attempts of Burke were poetic, and of more than ordinary promise; but he subsequently devoted himself to prose compositions alone. There is abundant reason to believe that at this period of his student life, he wrote much and frequently for the various periodicals of the day. His first avowed work, the “ Vindication of Natural Society," came out in 1756. This pamphlet may be termed a piece of philosophical criticism, couched under the guise of serious irony. The design of its author was to produce a covert mimicry both of the style and principles of Lord Bolingbroke, and particularly by pushing those opinions to their ultimate results, to force conviction on the mind of the reader, of their unsoundness, by showing that the arguments employed by the noble writer against religion, applied as strongly against every other institution of civilized men. The attempt proved eminently successful, the imitation being deemed so perfect, as to constitute identity rather than resemblance. A few months afterwards, in the same year, appeared his celebrated essay, "A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful.” The severe application which this
publication demanded injured his health, and compelled him to seek repose. For that purpose he visited Bath and Bristol, where he soon recovered, At Bath he was attended by his countryman, Dr. Christopher Nugent, an eminent physician. This amiable man invited Mr. Burke to his house, where he remained till the re-establishment of his health; and the consequence of the visit was an attachment between Burke and the daughter of his kind hostMiss Jane Mary Nugent. The guest (his income depending on what his father supplied) offered her nearly all he had at that time to present—his hand and heart, which were accepted. This union proved
source of comfort ever after. The lady well deserved Burke's affections. To considerable endowments of intellect she added the utmost amiability of disposition : proud of her conquest over such a man, proud of his genius, and still prouder of his love, she made him the object of almost idolatrous attachment; and to the promotion of his happiness she dedicated her whole life. Invaluable to him was the acquisition of such a companion ; never did man need more than he a sanctuary, and a refuge in the quiet of domestic bliss from the incessant agitation of his public life; a spot of inviolable security, round which the storm of politics might roar and bluster, but never enter. Such was his home, justifying his own strong and beautiful language, that "every care vanished the moment he entered beneath his own roof.” He himself fully felt and acknowledged his wife's surpassing worth, as appears by the terms in which he ever spoke of her, and the agony of care with which he watched over her during frequent periods of ill health, the result of her delicate constitution,
In 1757 appeared, in two volumes octavo, “An Account of the European Settlements in America," a work of disputed authorship, but attributed generally, and on good grounds, to Mr. Burke. The publication of a new edition of the “Essay on the Sublime and Beautiful,” so overcame the parental displeasure at Burke's abandoning the legal profession, that, on presenting his father with a copy, he received a substantial proof of reconciliation in a remittance of one hundred pounds. From this Essay Burke became universally known and admired; his company was courted by men of letters and distinction-among them Goldsmith, Lord Littleton, Arthur Murphy, and Sir Joshua Reynolds. The Colossus of English literature himself also sought the acquaintance and friendship of the author of the “Sublime and Beautiful.” Dr. Johnson declared that Burke was the greatest man living, and that if a stranger were driven to take shelter from a shower of rain under the same gateway with him, he must, in a few minutes' conversation, perceive his superiority over common men. Murphy says Johnson would from Burke bear contradiction, which he would tolerate from no other person. In 1764, Reynolds and Burke originated the LITERARY CLUB, at the Turk's Head, Gerrard Street, Soho. They and Johnson were its most distinguished members; its history brings into association all the great names that adorned that Augustan period of learning and genius.
In 1757, Burke commenced his “Essay towards an Abridgement of English History;" eight sheets were printed by Dodsley, but the work was thrown aside from some cause or other, probably because Hume had entered into a similar undertaking.