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So Much for Staying Single

Maya Jasanoff: 18th-Century Calcutta, 20 March 2008

Hartly House, Calcutta 
by Phebe Gibbes.
Oxford, 222 pp., £13.99, April 2007, 978 0 19 568564 0
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... Georgian political theatre at its best. The drama owed much of its intensity to its chief player, Edmund Burke, the leader of the prosecution. For four consecutive days, Burke held his audience transfixed with a speech detailing Hastings’s alleged rapacity, corruption, blackmail and worse. Transporting his listeners ...


José Harris, 1 December 1983

John Maynard Keynes: Hopes Betrayed 1883-1920 
by Robert Skidelsky.
Macmillan, 447 pp., £14.95, November 1983, 0 333 11599 6
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... convention can be reconciled with his admiration for that most ‘conventional’ of philosophers, Edmund Burke. One is left wondering at times whether Keynes’s affirmations of nihilism were not merely expressions of a delayed adolescent desire to shock: Cambridge ‘clever-clever’ rather than serious moral conviction. Nevertheless, this first volume ...

Carers or Consumers?

Barbara Taylor: 18th-Century Women, 4 November 2010

Women and Enlightenment in 18th-Century Britain 
by Karen O’Brien.
Cambridge, 310 pp., £17.99, March 2009, 978 0 521 77427 7
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... Its inspiration was medieval chivalry, which the Scots, and other enlightened modernists like Edmund Burke, regarded as the forerunner of civilised manners. Women and Enlightenment also examines in rich detail the rediscovery of Britain’s Gothic heritage, with its cult of the ‘lady’ as the embodiment and guardian of chivalric values. Some women ...

C’est mon métier

Jerry Fodor, 24 January 2013

Philosophy in an Age of Science 
by Hilary Putnam.
Harvard, 659 pp., £44.95, April 2012, 978 0 674 05013 6
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... and data are tangled with theories; norms are tangled with forms of life. I think Hume and Edmund Burke had this more or less right: ethics is intrinsically about us in ways that empirical science isn’t. Consensus about norms rests on – presupposes – convergences of sympathies and sensibilities in ways that empirical consensus doesn’t. In ...

That Satirical Way of Nipping

Fara Dabhoiwala: Learning to Laugh, 16 December 2021

Uncivil Mirth: Ridicule in Enlightenment Britain 
by Ross Carroll.
Princeton, 255 pp., £28, April, 978 0 691 18255 1
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... same time as mocking them herself. In her Vindication of the Rights of Men (1790), she attacked Edmund Burke for mean-spirited ridicule, while making fun of his ‘infantile sensibility’ and delicate ‘nervous system’. It was wrong to despise one’s inferiors, Wollstonecraft believed, but ‘dignified’ mockery could unmask the pretensions of ...

The devil has two horns

J.G.A. Pocock, 24 February 1994

The Great Melody: A Thematic Biography and Commented Anthology of Edmund Burke 
by Conor Cruise O’Brien.
Minerva, 692 pp., £8.99, September 1993, 0 7493 9721 7
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... takes rise from two lines of Yeats: American colonies, Ireland, France and India Harried, and Burke’s great melody against it. The problem is how to use the first line to answer two questions: how did the ‘great melody’ come to be uttered; and what exactly was ‘it’? Yeats answered the latter: Whether they knew or not, Goldsmith and ...

A Talented Past

Linda Colley, 23 April 1987

The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1790-1820. Vol. I: Survey 
edited by R.G. Thorne.
Secker, 400 pp., £225, August 1986, 0 436 52101 6
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The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1790-1820. Vol. II: Constituencies 
edited by R.G. Thorne.
Secker, 704 pp., £225, August 1986, 0 436 52101 6
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The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1790-1820. Vol. III: Members A-F 
edited by R.G. Thorne.
Secker, 852 pp., £225, August 1986, 0 436 52101 6
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The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1790-1820. Vol. IV: Members G-P 
edited by R.G. Thorne.
Secker, 908 pp., £225, August 1986, 0 436 52101 6
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The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1790-1820. Vol. V: Members P-Z 
edited by R.G. Thorne.
Secker, 680 pp., £225, August 1986, 0 436 52101 6
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... sat in the Commons at some time during this period; and so did men of the calibre of Edmund Burke, Charles James Fox, Henry Grattan, David Ricardo, Richard Brinsley Sheridan and William Wilberforce. ‘What a mercy to have been born an Englishman, in the 18th century,’ mused the latter, and if one had the right class and gender and a taste ...

Greatest Genius

Frances Harris, 23 July 1992

Charles James Fox 
by L.G Mitchell.
Oxford, 338 pp., £25, June 1992, 0 19 820104 4
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... of a right to office against a medley of contrary factors: the powerful intellectual influence of Burke, who early recognised him as the spokesman for the Whigs, the instinctive sympathy of Fox the indulged child and adult libertine with any rebels against authority, English, American or French, the intoxication of a popular role and the pressure from his ...

Revolutionary Yoke

William Doyle: Le Nationalisme, 27 June 2002

The Cult of the Nation in France: Inventing Nationalism 1680-1800 
by David A. Bell.
Harvard, 304 pp., £30.95, November 2001, 0 674 00447 7
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... did not believe that as yet this nation had a patrie. Only with the Revolution did the French, as Edmund Burke put it to the Irish patriots in 1782, ‘begin to have a country’. They saw the task of the Revolution as regenerating, building the nation afresh, to make the French worthy of it. Beneficiaries of the collapse of a centuries-old former ...

Valorising Valentine Brown

Patricia Craig, 5 September 1985

Ascendancy and Tradition in Anglo-Irish Literary History from 1789 to 1939 
by W.J. McCormack.
Oxford, 423 pp., £27.50, June 1985, 0 19 812806 1
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Across a Roaring Hill 
edited by Gerald Dawe and Edna Longley.
Blackstaff, 258 pp., £10.95, July 1985, 0 85640 334 2
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Celtic Revivals: Essays in Modern Irish Literature 1880-1980 
by Seamus Deane.
Faber, 199 pp., £15, July 1985, 0 571 13500 5
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Escape from the Anthill 
by Hubert Butler.
Lilliput, 342 pp., £12, May 1985, 0 946640 00 9
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... it ‘the one Irish century that escaped from darkness and confusion’. Swift, Berkeley, Burke, Goldsmith and Sheridan: all these stood for clarity of thought, while Dublin gaiety, Belfast liberalism, and the sense of national consequence acquired at Dungannon, all contributed something to the Yeatsian image of a mellow era. That this particular form ...

Tory History

Alan Ryan, 23 January 1986

English Society 1688-1832 
by J.C.D. Clark.
Cambridge, 439 pp., £30, November 1985, 0 521 30922 0
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Virtue, Commerce and History 
by J.G.A. Pocock.
Cambridge, 321 pp., £25, November 1985, 0 521 25701 8
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... another in his stead. Richard Price was to say just that in 1790 and bring down the wrath of Edmund Burke, and Locke probably construed 1688-9 in that light: but the Whigs’ most reliable support was the view that James II had left them in the lurch and had left them to find the nearest (Protestant) descendant to replace him. Their strongest card ...

The Sage of Polygon Road

Claire Tomalin, 28 September 1989

The Works of Mary Wollstonecraft, Vols I-VII 
edited by Janet Todd and Marilyn Butler.
Pickering & Chatto, 2530 pp., £245, August 1989, 1 85196 006 6
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... and reviewer for Johnson; it was her bread and butter, but no more. The French Revolution, and Burke’s Reflections on it, fired her to a riposte which brought her some notoriety, and her true originality appeared in 1792, with her Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Just about everything she wrote after that is interesting, and often surprising. Her ...


Terry Eagleton, 20 June 1996

States of Fantasy 
by Jacqueline Rose.
Oxford, 183 pp., £20, March 1996, 0 19 818280 5
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... political identities go together like Laurel and Hardy, and the august authority of the state, as Edmund Burke was aware, is a version of the sublime superego. There is that within any political power which is excessive, self-undoing, and so a threat to its untrammelled sovereignty. Daydreams of homecoming, nightmares of rootlessness, fetishism of the ...

Ghosts in the Palace

Tom Nairn, 24 April 1997

... sense of continuity and permanence was derived, the identity which was argued for by Edmund Burke but not really in existence until well after 1832. Once up and running it posed as immemorial, but actually it has lasted for about a century and a half. Thatcherism was its terminal disease. Enforced rejuvenation of the economic body destroyed ...


Alan Finlayson, 18 May 2017

... implicitly (and sometimes, in my experience, explicitly) favour submission to Providence. Edmund Burke and Brexitists ought not to agree on much, but Brexitists do seem to share Burke’s belief that ‘the awful Author of our Being is the Author of our place in the order of existence … Having disposed and ...

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