Reflections on the Revolution in France

by Edmund Burke

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 307

Reflections on the Revolution in France is a political commentary, an extended statement on the French Revolution and of the English constitution. It does not feature characters in the same way a short story or a novel would. Burke does mention several people in Reflections, however:

Charles-Jean-François Depont

The first notable individual mentioned is Charles-Jean-François Depont, a "very young gentleman in Paris" who wrote Burke asking for his opinions on the "important transactions" that had taken place in France. This is why, as Burke explains in his introduction, the book takes the form of an extended letter.

Reverend Richard Price

Another person of note is the Reverend Richard Price, an English radical whose sermon on the French Revolution drew comparisons between it and the English Glorious Revolution of 1688–1689. These comparisons horrified Burke, who saw in the French Revolution an effort to overturn centuries of tradition (unlike the Glorious Revolution, which Burke saw as upholding the English constitution).

Louis XVI

Burke also writes at length about the French king, Louis XVI, decrying his treatment at the hands of the revolutionaries. According to Burke's lurid account, the royal family was forced to leave "the sanctuary of the most splendid palace in the world, which they left swimming in blood, polluted by massacre, and strewed with scattered limbs and mutilated carcasses."

Marie Antoinette

Burke saves his most maudlin language for his treatment of the French queen Marie Antoinette, who he describes as a beautiful and dignified woman who has been treated in a manner unbecoming of her standing and grace. In fact, if one were to choose a single "character" that summarized Burke's misgivings about the French Revolution, it would be Marie Antoinette. Her supposed rough treatment at the hands of the revolutionaries is used to symbolize the breakdown in manners, morals, and tradition that accompanied the French Revolution in his eyes.

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