Edmund Burke (Magill's Literary Annual 1990)
Edmund Burke: His Life and Opinions, the latest in Stanley Ayling’s series of biographies of eighteenth century figures, reflects the author’s extensive knowledge of British history. Having completed biographies of King George III (1972), William Pitt the Elder (1976), and Burke’s contemporary Whig ally Richard B. Sheridan (1985), among others, Ayling places Burke securely within the cultural, political, and historical milieus of his own time.
In the United States, Burke has long enjoyed the status of political prophet and philosopher of conservatism, a view somewhat in contrast with his reputation in Britain, largely represented by Ayling. To Britons, Burke is a more complex individual with a checkered career. Like many British heroes, Winston Churchill included, Burke had more failures than successes, yet his successes were sufficiently impressive to assure for him a place in history. A flamboyant rhetorician, highly emotional and passionately involved in causes, Burke delivered and later published some of the greatest orations of his era. At times he became so emotionally involved with his subject that, unable to continue, he had to abandon the podium; at other times, he pressed his points to boring and distracting extremes; at still others, he resorted to theatrics. While he had numerous triumphs as a speaker, his vehement rhetoric occasionally shocked even his political allies. His fellow Whigs did not consider him “steady,” and,...
(The entire section is 1830 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1990)
Booklist. LXXXV, January 1, 1989, p.747.
Boston Globe. March 16, 1989, p.88.
Contemporary Review. CCLIV, January, 1989, p.50.
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Publishers Weekly. CCXXXIV, December 9, 1988, p.57.
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(The entire section is 60 words.)