Conor Cruise O’Brien, Irish politician, author and polemicist (1917-2008), has written an unorthdox life and anthology about Edmund Burke, the Anglo-Irish stateman of the late eighteenth century, best known perhaps for his lengthy pamphlet, written in 1790, “Reflections on the Revolution in France and on the proceedings in certain societies in London relative to that event”. Burke was an active member of the Rockingham Whigs, who objected to Lord North’s policies towards America, took the lead role in the impeachment of Warren Hastings, and warned his fellow-countrymen against what he discerned as the disaster unfolding in France. The originality of O’Brien’s biography is that he places Burke in his Irish context, mother and wife being Catholic and his father a convert to Anglicanism. O’Brien takes his lead from W.B.Yeat’s poem, The Seven Sages”: American colonies, Ireland, France and India Harried, and Burke’s great melody against it”–the it, O’Brien argues, was the abuse of power. My review is forthcoming.
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