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DEATHS IN BURKE'S FAMILY.
own. Young Burke possessed much to justify parental affection. He had talents excellent in themselves, and assiduously cultivated. His attainments were extensive, for his studies were directed and his mind formed under his father, a man himself of boundless information--a man whose most casual conversation was rich with instruction—a man, too, who believed that almost every thing might be accomplished by industry, and who was the mortal enemy to those great allies of ignorance—sloth and dissipation. The son was amiable in disposition, and was devotedly attached to his parents. As he grew up, he gave proof of considerable ability. Even with the interrupted attention to business which his delicate health permitted, he had earned the high opinion of men of rank and talents; an opinion which his conduct as agent for the Catholics of Ireland confirmed. He had shown himself deeply conversant with the history and constitution both of Ireland and Great Britain. He is said to have aided his father in collating some of the instances of speeches and opinions by the old Whigs, to whom Edmund Burke in his pamphlet appealed from the new. The father looked upon the son—no doubt a really clever man
as far more than that; as, indeed, a prodigy of genius even superior to himself. His overrating fondness had created a picture of imaginary perfection, upon which his fancy dwelt for years with doating satisfaction. Great was his gratification when the time and opportunity came of making his son secretary to Earl Fitzwilliam, then Lord-lieutenant of Ireland.
Burke had accompanied his son to the hustings at Malton; had introduced him to his constituents to men devoted to himself—tenants and friends of his late patron Rockingham, and stanch supporters of the noble house of Wentworth, whose chief still followed where Burke would lead. The scene made Burke young again. It is related that this excursion into Yorkshire revived his spirits, damped by his brother's demise. He came back full of hope. He had at that time a town house in Duke Street, St. James's; there he and his son arrived from Malton on the 25th.
July, 1794. The next day a party of intimate friends dined with him to celebrate the return to parliament and the promotion of Richard. The father found it difficult to suppress his exultation : his animation enlivened the board, but it was with a melancholy pleasure ; for others saw what he in his doating blindness could not see.
They perceived the sallow hue and the emaciated form of the son—the hectic flush and the short cough-tokens but too visible of approaching dissolution.
In a few days Richard grew worse ; yet none dared reveal: to the unconscious parent the imminence and extent of the danger. Dr. Brocklesby, the family physician, declared from his long knowledge of the intensity of Edmund Burke's affection, that the agony of any lengthened suspense would probably be fatal to him; that brief as was the term of the son's existence, the torment of knowingly awaiting death must for the father be briefer still.
The district of Old Brompton, the fairest and healthiest rural suburb of the great metropolis, has ever been a customary resort, and in many instances a saving refuge, for those threatened with death from consumption. Here, at a villa called Cromwell House, lodgings were taken for Richard Burke. His father himself selected the residence, because he thought its nearness to town. would the more readily enable the new secretary to depart for Ireland as soon as his health returned. . Cromwell House, like many other localities nigh to it, acquired the name of “ that great bad man”—as Burke termed him—the Protector, either from his having lodged or having had his head-quarters there or in the vicinity, at some eventful period of the Civil War. The tenement and its gardens must at one time have presented a pleasing countrified appearance. Latterly the place had been suffered to fall into decay, until its aspect became truly desolate and forlorn-a. fit memorial of the statesman's perished hopes. The ruined abode has just been entirely removed, making way for new improvements. To this Cromwell House Burke's son was accordingly brought. The fatal symptoms pressed swiftly on, and death was
LETTER DESCRIBING RICHARD BURKE'S DEATH.
evidently close at hand. A few days before it came, Dr. Brocklesby felt he must no longer delay disclosing the truth in its full terrors. From the moment he heard it, Edmund Burke abandoned himself to the desperation of despair : “Mine,” he exclaimed, “ is a grief which cannot be comforted.”
Richard Burke expired on the 2d August, 1794, aged 36.
A celebrated letter, written at the time to Burke's niece, Mrs. Haviland, contains an exquisitely affecting description of the particulars of the fatal event. The letter was from the eminent civilian, and attached friend of Burke and his family, Dr. French
Laurence, brother of Dr. Richard Laurence, late Archbishop of Cashel. According to this letter, the actual death occurred thus :
During the night previous, Richard Burke was restless and discomposed. In the morning his lips were observed to have become black. His voice, however, was better; and some little sustenance which he took remained quietly on his stomach. But his father and mother, having relinquished even the shadow of hope, thought nothing of these deceptively favourable symptoms. Their lamentations reached him where he lay. He instantly arose from his bed, and to make his emaciated appearance less shocking to his parents, changed his linen and washed himself, He then desired Mr. and Mrs. Webster, the old and faithful family servants, whose tender care of him was unremitting, to support him towards the door of the room where his father and mother were sitting in tears. As soon as he arrived at the door, he exerted himself to spring forward alone; and treading with studious firmness, for the purpose of showing how little his strength was diminished, he crossed the room to the window. He endeavoured to enter into conversation with his father ; but grief keeping the latter silent, he said, “Why, sir, do you not chide me for these unmanly feelings? I am under no terror; I feel myself better, and in spirits : yet my heart flutters, I know not why. Pray talk to me, sir; talk of religion, talk of morality, talk, if you will, on indifferent subjects.” Then turning round, he asked, “ What noise is that? Does it rain ? Oh, no; it is the rustling of the wind through the trees;" and immediately, with clear voice, with correct and impressive delivery, and with more than common ease and grace of action, he repeated these three lines from Adam's morning hymn in Milton — a favourite passage of his father, and of his uncle just deceased :
“ His praise, ye winds, that from four quarters blow,
Breathe soft or loud ; and wave your tops, ye pines,
With every plant, in sign of worship wave,” He began again, and again pronounced the verses; bowed his
NOTICE RESPECTING RICHARD BURKE.
head' in sign of worship, and worshipping sunk into the arms of his parents as in a profound and sweet sleep, and expired. Mrs. Burke with her own hands closed his eyes.
Further on in this letter, Dr. Laurence states that, during the first day of the death, Edmund Burke was truly terrible in his grief. He occasionally worked himself up to an agony of affliction, and then bursting away from all control, would rush to the room where his son lay, and throw himself headlong, as it happened, on the body, the bed, or the floor ; yet at intervals he attended and gave directions relative to every little arrangement which the sad event rendered necessary, pleasing himself with thinking what would be most consonant to the living wishes and affections of his lost son. At intervals, he would argue against the ineffectual sorrow of his wife. She, on the other hand, sometimes broke into fits of violent weeping ; sometimes showed a more quiet but a more determined grief; and at other times, again, a more serene composure than her husband. Instead of dashing herself down, like him, she only lamented that when, a day or two before, by an accidental fall she sprained her wrist, it had not been her neck; but when her husband attempted to persuade her that she had no business still to remain in the house, she answered steadily, “ No, Edmund; while he remains here, I will not go.” At last, a promise was obtained from the afflicted parents, that neither of them would ever enter more the chamber where the son lay. This promise they kept. They finally left Cromwell House shortly after.
The excellent and affectionate friend of the Burke family, Dr. Walker King, afterwards Bishop of Rochester, published, within the week after Richard's death, the following notice of the lamentable event, which appeared in the papers of the day:
“ Died on Saturday last, at Cromwell House, aged thirty-six, Richard Burke, Esq., M.P. for the borough of Malton, and the only son of the Right Hon. Edmund Burke.
“ The irreparable loss which his country, his friends, and re