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tended to the development of much of his political wisdom, was probably fostered by attendance on occasional meetings of the incipient Historical Society; an association of the students of Trinity college, much celebrated in Ireland, and where some of her greatest men first gave promise of their future fame. It was formally established and countenanced by authority, says the eminent Dr. Elrington, in a communication with which the writer has been favoured, in 1770, suppressed and again resumed in 1794, and finally put down by the heads of the college in 1815 ; being supposed to direct the attention of youth more than was desirable toward political subjects.
That a similar association had this effect upon young Burke, his friends generally believe. His first efforts as a politician, adds the highest college authority, were made in 1749, previous to his quitting the university, in some letters against the intemperate conduct and writings (by pushing his doctrines to their ultimate results, as he afterwards did in exposing the tendency of Lord Bolingbroke's opinions) of Dr. Charles Lucas, a celebrated character of the Irish metropolis ; who, from apothecary, and then physician, became a patriot; thence by the imprudent persecution of the people in power, elevated into a popular idol ; who afterwards became member for the city ; whose statue now stands on the stair-case of the Royal Exchange, Dublin ; whose remains received the unusual honour of being attended to the grave by the whole corporation, which body bestowed a pension
on his widow.' What were the effects of Mr. Burke's
pen it is now vain to inquire; its vigour, judging from his private letters written about this time, was little inferior to that of any future period of his life.
His destination, from an early period, was for the bar; then the usual resort, either as a profesşion or as forming a more easy introduction to the House of Commons, of the young men of Ireland distinguished for talents and ambition. Some of his relations say that he was intended from the first for the English bar, and there is some ground for the belief in the early period at which his name was enrolled at the Middle Temple. The following is the entry.
23 Aprilis, 1747.
Mr. Edmundus Burke, filius secundus Richardi Burke de civitate Dublin. Unius Attornatorum curiæ Scaccariæ Domini Regis in Regno Hiberniæ, admissus est in societatem Medii Templi, London.
Et dat pro fine £4. Os. Od.
Early in 1750, not in 1753 as commonly stated, he arrived in London to keep the customary terms previous to being called to the bar. His name appears again in the books of the society as entering into bond, May 2, 1750; his sureties being John Burke, Serjeant’s-inn, Fleet-street, Gent. and Thomas Kelly, of the Middle Temple, Gent.
His arrival, however, preceded this period by, several months. The first letter to his friend Shackleton bears date the 20th of February, and
mentions the introduction of the bill by the Earl of Chesterfield for that alteration in the calendar, which soon afterwards took place. It may
be remarked here, that a long copy of verses on Mrs. Cibber, the celebrated actress, contained in the Annual Register for 1768, are supposed to have been written by Mr. Burke previous to his quitting Dublin; it is possible they may be by his brother Richard; and the least doubt upon the point is sufficient for not giving them insertion here.
First Impressions of London and England generally.-Con
templates an Attempt for the Logic Professorship of Glasgow.–First avowed Publications.
His first impressions on viewing the English metropolis are vividly expressed in a letter to his schoolfellow already mentioned, Mr. Matthew Smith; and the allusions to Westminster Abbey and the House of Commons, "the chosen temples of fame," as he said on another occasion, will be esteemed by those who look to auguries sufficiently remarkable; the whole is in a peculiar degree expressive of character, the reflections ingenious, and just, and even profound, like most of his let ters written afterwards, which, though really despatched off-hand, were by many believed to be studied compositions.
" You'll expect some short account of my journey to this great city. To tell you the truth, I made very few remarks as I rolled along, for my mind was occupied with many thoughts, and my eyes often filled with tears, when I reflected on all the dear friends I left behind; yet the prospects could not fail to attract the attention of the most indifferent: country seats sprinkled round on every side, some in the modern taste, some in the style of old De Coverley Hall, all smiling on the neat but humble cottage; every village as neat and compact as a bee-hive, resounding with the busy hum of industry; and inns like palaces.
“ What a contrast to our poor country, where you'll scarce find a cottage ornamented with a chimney! But what pleased me most of all was the progress of agriculture, my favourite study, and my favourite pursuit, if Providence had blessed me with a few paternal acres.*
“ A description of London and its natives would fill a volume. The buildings are very fine: it may be called the sink of vice : but its hospitals and charitable institutions, whose turrets pierce the skies like so many electrical conductors, avert the wrath of Heaven. The inhabitants may be divided into two classes, the undoers and the undone, generally so, I say, for I am persuaded there are many men of honesty, and women of virtue, in
An Englishman is cold and distant at first; he is very cautious even in forming an acquaintance; he must know you well before he enters into friendship with you; but if he does, he is not the first to dissolve that sacred bond : in short, a real Englishman is one that performs more than he promises : in company he is rather silent, extremely prudent in his expressions, even in politics, his favourite topic. The women are not quite so reserved; they consult their glasses to the best advantage ; and as nature is very liberal in her gifts to their persons, and even mind, it is not easy for a young man to escape their glances, or to shut his ears to their softly-flowing accents.
“ As to the state of learning in this city, you know I have not been long enough in it to form a
* At this period his elder brother being alive was of course in succession to the paternal property.