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February 2009

Reflections on Burke's Reflections

by Gertrude Himmelfarb

Revisiting the lasting, provocative wisdom of Edmund Burke.

Edmund Burke was, and still is, a provocative thinker—a provocation in his own day, as in ours. At a time when most right-minded (which is to say, left-inclined) English literati were rhapsodizing over the French Revolution—Wordsworth declaring what “bliss was it in that dawn to be alive”—Burke wrote his Reflections on the Revolution in France, a searing indictment of the Revolution. He was accused then, as he often is now, of being excessive, even hysterical, in his account of the Revolution:

a ferocious dissoluteness in manners, an insolent irreligion in opinions and practices, … laws overturned, tribunals subverted, industry without vigor, commerce expiring … a church pillaged … civil and military anarchy … national bankruptcy.

All this, one must remember (it is sometimes hard to remember) ...

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Gertrude Himmelfarb is the author of the forthcoming The People of the Book: Philosemitism in England, From Cromwell to Churchill (Encounter Books).


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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 27 February 2009, on page 4

Copyright © 2014 The New Criterion | www.newcriterion.com

http://www.newcriterion.com/articles.cfm/Reflections-on-Burke-s--i-Reflections-i--4004

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