Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Being something of a Burke

The other weekend I finished reading through the text of Edmund Burkes's Reflections on the Revolution in France. Although I knew Burke's ideas and argument, and the famous passages so often cited, I had not previously read the entire book, an omission which I have now made good

First published in 1790, before things got considerably nastier on the other side of the Channel, the book is, somewhat ironically, intended as a celebration of the British Whig genius in having had a limited constitutional adjustment in 1688-89 - in contrast to the wholesale rejection of the past implicit even ion the first months of the French experiment - which has come to be one of the the key texts of British Toryism as reinvented by Pitt the Younger and his allies in the face of the horrors in France.


Edmund Burke


To the modern reader Burke's style can seem somewhat laborious and loquacious  - his training as a barrister shows as he carefully, meticulously, builds up his indictment of the new regime in France with less concern than other might have today to carry his case by rhetoric alone. Today we expect something more punchy and less verbose in our political commentators. It takes a bit of time to read and digest. Nonetheless his case is good, the follies of the revolutionary changes exposed, the impending horrors apprehended, if not directly anticipated.

Reflections on the Revolution in France (Oxford World's Classics... Cover Art 

Image. tower.com 

Regular readers may not be surprised to learn that I already saw myself as being Burkean - a bit of  Burke you might say - and having read the Reflections I am, and am happy to be, a bit more of a Burke.


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