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EDMUND BURKE was born in Dublin in 1728 or 1729,in which year is not known with certainty. His father (a Protestant) was a lawyer of some local reputation; his mother was a Roman Catholic. In his first schoolteacher, one Abraham Shackleton, Burke had the good fortune to find a gentleman, a scholar, and a friend. With fond and pardonable exaggeration, he attributes his success in life to the teachings of this worthy man.
Burke was at Trinity College, Dublin, from 1743 to 1748; Goldsmith from 1744 to 1749. The young men may have known each other at this time, though we have no record of the fact; we do know, however, that, like most men of genius, they both disliked and neglected the narrow routine of the college curriculum. Burke in college read omnivorously in natural philosophy, logic, metaphysics, history, and poetry; it is not probable that he desired or needed much tutorial guidance in acquiring a first-hand knowledge of these subjects.
In 1750 Burke went to London and entered at the Temple, but was never admitted to the bar. Fortunately for us, the green fields of literature charmed him more
than the dusty courts of law. Fortunately, I said, but not so thought his father. His solicitor-soul was hugely grieved at the young man's apostasy; in 1755 he withdrew his son's allowance, and Burke was left to sink or swim on the frail plank of penny-a-lining. Somehow or other he managed to support thereon not only himself, but a wife, whom he took unto himself in 1756. The same year he published two books, A Vindication of Natural Society, and A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of our Ideas on the Sublime and Beautiful. The Vindication is a satire written in the style of Bolingbroke, and attempts to show that the kind of arguments which that writer uses against revealed religion, applies with equal force against “artificial ” society, — that is, society as developed and organized in Burke's day. In this early paper we detect that profound distrust of democracy which, in the Letters on a •Regicide Peace, degenerated into a Toryism worthy of Tax-collector Wordsworth. The Philosophical Inquiry is chiefly interesting as having given Lessing some suggestions for his Laokoön. Mr. Ruskin thinks poorly of Burke's æsthetics; what would Burke have thought of Mr. Ruskin's political economy?
From 1761 to 1763 Burke was in Ireland as private secretary to Gerard Hamilton, chief secretary to the Lord Lieutenant (Halifax). This was an unlucky connection — for Burke, as Hamilton was a small-minded and ungrateful politician, quite unable to appreciate his subordinate's ability. Burke had better have been in London engaged in the mournful task of writing articles for