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by dictation. No important change, none at all affecting the meaning of any passage, has been made in either, though in the more imperfect parcel, some latitude of discretion in subordinate points was necessarily used.
There is, however, a considerable member, for the greater part of which, Mr. Burke's reputation is not responsible : this is the inquiry into the condition of the higher classes. The summary of the whole topick indeed, nearly as it stands, was found, together with a marginal reference to the bankrupt-list, in his own hand-writing; and the actual conclusion of the letter was dictated by him, but never received his subsequent correction. He had also preserved, as materials for this branch of the subject, some scattered hints, documents, and parts of a correspondence on the state of the country.
He was, however, prevented from working on them, by the want of some authentick and official information, for which he had been long anxiously waiting, in order to ascertain, to the satisfaction of the publick, what with his usual sagacity he had fully anticipated from his own personal observation, to his own private conviction. length the reports of the different Committees, which had been appointed by the two Houses of Parliament, amply furnished him with evidence for this purpose. Accordingly he read and considered them with attention ; but for any thing beyond this the season was now past. The Supreme Disposer of all, against whose inscrutable counsels it is vain as well as impious to murmur, did not permit bim to enter on the execution of the task which he meditated. resolved, therefore, by one of his friends, after much hesitation, and under a very painful responsibility, to make such an attempt as he could at supplying the void ; especially because the insufficiency of our resources for the continuance of the war was understood to have been the principal objection urged against the two former “ Letters on the Proposals for Peace.” In performing with reverential diffidence this duty of friendship, care has been taken not to attribute to Mr. Burke any sentiment which is not most explicitly known, from repeated conversations, and from much correspondence, to have been decidedly entertained
by that illustrious man. One passage of nearly three pages, containing a censure of our defensive system, is borrowed from a private letter, which he began to dictate, with an intention of comprising in it the short result of his opinions, but which he afterwards abandoned, when, a little time before his death, his health appeared in some degree to amend, and he hoped that Providence might have spared him at least to complete the larger publick letter, which he then proposed to resume.
In the preface to the former edition of this letter, a fourth was mentioned as being in possession of Mr. Burke's friends. It was in fact announced by the Author himself, in the conclusion of the second, which it was then designed to follow. He intended, he said, “to proceed next on the question of the facilities possessed by the French Republick, from the internal state of other nations, and particularly of this, for obtaining her ends; and, as his notions were controverted, to take notice of what, in that way, had been recommended to him." The vehicle which he had chosen for this part of his plan was an answer to a pamphlet which was supposed to come from high authority, and was circulated by Ministers with great industry, at the time of its appearance in October 1795, immediately previous to that Session of Parliament when his Majesty for the first time declared, that the appearance of any disposition in the enemy to negotiate for general peace, should not fail to be met with an earnest desire to give it the fullest and speediest effect. In truth, the answer, which is full of spirit and vivacity, was written in the latter end of the same year, but was laid aside when the question assumed a more serious aspect, from the commencement of an actual negotiation, which gave rise to the series of printed letters. Afterwards, he began to re-write it, with a view of accommodating it to his new purpose. The greater part, however, still remained in its original state ; and several heroes of the Revolution, who are there celebrated, having in the interval passed off the publick stage, a greater liberty of insertion and alteration than his friends on consideration have thought allowable, would be necessary to adapt it to that place in the series for
which it was ultimately designed by the Author. This piece, therefore, addressed, as the title originally stood, to his noble friend, Earl Fitzwilliam, will be given the first in the supplemental volumes, which will be hereafter added to complete this edition of the Author's works.
The tracts, most of them in manuscript, which have been already selected as fit for this purpose, will probably furnish four or five volumes more, to be printed uniformly with this edition. The principal piece is entitled “ An Essay towards an Abridgment of the English History ;” and reaches from the earliest period down to the conclusion of the reign of King John. It is written with much depth of antiquarian research, directed by the mind of an intelligent statesman. This alone, as far as can be conjectured, will form more than one volume. Another entire volume also, at least, will be filled with his letters to publick men on publick affairs, especially those of France. This supplement will be sent to the press without delay.
Mr. Burke's more familiar correspondence will be reserved, as authorities to accompany a narrative of his life, which will conclude the whole. The period during which he flourished was one of the most memorable of our annals. It comprehended the acquisition of one empire in the east, the loss of another in the west, and the total subversion of the ancient system of Europe by the French Revolution ; with all which events the history of his life is necessarily and intimately connected ; as indeed it also is, much more than is generally known, with the state of literature and the elegant arts. Such a subject of biography cannot be dismissed with a slight and rapid touch ; nor can it be treated in a manner worthy of it, from the information, however authentick and extensive, which the industry of any one man may have accumulated. Many important communications have been received, but some materials, which relate to the pursuits of his early years, and which are known to be in existence, have been hitherto kept back, notwithstanding repeated inquiries and applications. It is, therefore, once more earnestly requested, that all persons who call themselves the friends or admirers of the late Edmund Burke, will have the goodness to transmit, without delay, any notices of that, or of any other kind, which may happen to be in their possession, or within their reach, to Messrs. Rivington ; a respect and kindness to his memory, which will be thankfully acknowledged by those friends to whom, in dying, he committed the sacred trust of his reputation.
TO THE PRESENT EDITION.
New Edition of the Works of Mr. Burke having been called for by the Publick, the opportunity has been taken to make some slight changes, it is hoped for the better.
A different distribution of the contents, while it has made the volumes more nearly equal in their respective bulk, has, at the same time, been fortunately found to produce a more methodical arrangement of the whole. The first volume contains those literary and philosophical works by which Mr. Burke was known, previous to the commencement of his publick life as a statesman, and the political pieces which were written by him between the time of his first becoming connected with the Marquis of Rockingham, and his being chosen Member for Bristol. In the second are comprehend : ed all his speeches and pamphlets from his first arrival at Bristol, as a candidate, in the year 1774, to his farewell address from the hustings of that city, in the year 1780; and also what he himself published relative to the affairs of India. The remaining two comprize his works since the French revolution, with the exception of the Letter to Lord Kenmare on the Penal Laws against Irish Catholicks, which was probably inserted where it stands from its relation to the subject of the Letter addressed by him, at a later period, to Sir Hercules Langrishe. With the same exception, too, strict regard has been paid to chronological order, which, in the last edition, was in some instances broken, to insert pieces that were not discovered till it was too late to introduce them in their proper places.
In the Appendix to the Speech on the Nabob of Arcot's Debts, the references were found to be confused, and, in many places, erroneous. This probably had arisen from the circumstance that a larger and differently constructed Appendix seems to have been originally designed by Mr.