Open main menu

Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 07.djvu/367

This page has been validated.
Burke
Burke
361

ment. At its close his long labours in the cause were ended, and on 20June he and the other managers received the thanks of the house. At the prorogation in July Burke retired from parliament. The same month the formal union which he had done so much to bring about was made between the Portland whigs and the ministry. Lord Fitzwilliam gave Burke’s seat to his son Richard, and Burke went to Malton to witness the election. On 2 Aug. his son died. The blow shattered Burke’s life, and he went down to Beaconsfield broken in heart. In the midst of his sorrow he took an active interest in the subscription for the relief of the French clergy, and sent 50l. to his son's old friend the Abbé de la Bintinnaye. On 30 Aug. he was informed that the king had granted him an immediate pension of 1,200l. a year, on the joint lives of himself and Mrs. Burke, and that during the next session an application would be made to parliament for the grant of a larger sum. As his debts were troublesome, he asked that this pension might be antedated to the beginning of the year. This was done. Pitt found means for the larger pension without applying to the house, and a further sum of 2,500l. a year was granted him for his own life out of the West India 4½ per cents (Stanhope, Life of Pitt, ii. 245-50). Burke expressed his thankfulness for these grants, but was displeased that the second pension was not brought before the house. The civil list pension he seems to have sold at once for the payment of his debts (Dilke).

The recall of Lord Fitzwilliam from Ireland early in 1795 excited Burke’s fears for the cause of religious toleration in his native land, and was the occasion of his second letter to Sir Hercules Lingishe, written on 26 May (Works, vi. 47? He corresponded constantly on this subject with Dr. Hussey (afterwards bishop of Waterford), and took a strong interest in the foundation of the catholic college at Maynooth, of which Hussey was the first president. On 23 April he was present at the acquittal of Hastings, after a trial of seven years, ‘that principal act which he said was to be the glory or the shame of his whole public life’ (ib. ii. 309). He then went back to Beaconsfield and interested himself in the lives of his poor neighbours, in the growth of his trees an the management of his farm. At the end of the year he was occupied in writing a reply to a pamphlet by Lord Auckland entitled ‘Remarks on the Apparent Circumstances of the War.’ This reply remained unfinished, and was published after his death under the title of the ‘Fourth Letter on a Regicide Peace] An attack made on his pension in the House of Lords by the Duke of Bedford and Lord Lauderdale caused him to lay aside this work to write his indignant ‘Letter to a Noble Lord’ (ib. v. 213). This reply in its turn called forth a crowd of answers. ln the spring of 1796 he drew up a scheme for a school for the sons of French emigrants, which, with the co-operation of the government, he established at Penn, a village near Beaconsfield. Among the children of this school he seemed almost to forget his load of sorrow, and his former adversary, Mackintosh, who warmly admired him, when on a visit to Beaconsfield at Christmas in 1796 saw Burke romp with the little ones ‘with cordial glee’ (Life of Sir James Mackintosh, 87-94). The melancholy of Burke’s life was also cheered by the kindness and the frequent presence of his friends Windham, now secretary at war, and Dr. Laurence. During the summer of 1796 he worked at the first two ‘Letters on a Regicide Peace.’ Their publication was delayed by a severe attack of illness in July. He went to Bath accompanied by his wife and William Burke, and returned somewhat better in September. A dispute having arisen with Owen, his publisher, he transferred the right of publishing his forthcoming letters to another house. Greatly to his annoyance, Owen brought out an unauthorised copy of his ‘Letters on a Regicide Peace,’ and the two editions appeared together, almost on the day on which Lord Malmesbury set out on his abortive embassy (Macknight, iii. 675). The exhibition of the character of these negotiations in the third letter was Burke's last work. His disease, found after death to have been internal abscesses, grew rapidly worse, and Windham persuaded him to again visit Bath in the end of January. ‘Your life,’ he wrote, ‘is at this moment of more consequence than that of any man living’ (Works, ii. 366). The war party indeed ‘depended on Burke’s pen and Hoche’s sword.' He worked in the intervals of pain. Windham came to him as soon as business allowed, and Wilberforce, who visited him at Bath, remarked how his part came to the dying statesman as men sought Ahithophel, ‘as if one who went to inquire of the oracle of the Lord’ (Life of Wilberforce, ii. 211). While he lay ill, Owen published the unauthorised edition of ‘Observations on the Conduct of the Minority,’ but Burke was not told of it until an injunction to stop the sale had been obtained. At the end of May he returned to Beaconsfield, conscious that all hopes of any recovery were at an end, not grieving for himself, but dwelling with sorrow and in-