Patriotism and Public Spirit: Edmund Burke and the Role of the Critic in Mid-Eighteenth-Century Britain

Ian Crowe. Patriotism and Public Spirit: Edmund Burke and the Role of the Critic in Mid-Eighteenth-Century Britain (Stanford University Press, 2012).


l h e picture ofBurke that emerges from this book is intended to capture those dominant personal and intellectual influences that have been marginalized by current historiographical and methodological orthodoxies. It will stress, in particular, the reformist Patriot goals and the Latimdinarian spirit that infused the network within which Burke found his early literary and intellectual bearings. It is not designed to prefigure or highlight positions that Burke was to adopt in his later political career, although this is not to say that its reconsideration of the “prepolitical” Burke offers no clues to explaining important aspects of his later career. Burke’s justly famous rhetoric in defense of prescription and providence, in support of justice for Imperial subjects, against programs of social or political innovation, all sprang from insights into the nature of religious, historical, and poetic truth anchored in the Republic of Letters that he knew as a young man. The role of critic that he formulated there continued to dictate his approach as a member of parliament, rendering him much more effective as an opposition spokesman than he ever was holding the levers of power.

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