Book: The Intellectual Life of Edmund Burke

YaleNews features works recently or soon to be published by members of the University community. Descriptions are based on material provided by the publishers. Authors of new books may forward publishers’ book descriptions to us by email.

YaleNews features works recently or soon to be published by members of the University community. Descriptions are based on material provided by the publishers. Authors of new books may forward publishers’ book descriptions to us by email.

The Intellectual Life of Edmund Burke:

From the Sublime and Beautiful to American Independence

David Bromwich, Sterling Professor of English

(Harvard University Press)

This portrait of statesman Edmund Burke (1730-1797) is the first biography to attend to the complexity of Burke’s thought as it emerges in both the major writings and private correspondence. The public and private writings cannot be easily dissociated, nor should they be, the author contends. For Burke — a thinker, writer, and politician — the principles of politics were merely those of morality enlarged. David Bromwich reads Burke’s career as an imperfect attempt to organize an honorable life in the dense medium he knew politics to be.

This intellectual biography examines the first three decades of Burke’s professional life. His protest against the cruelties of English society and his criticism of all unchecked power laid the groundwork for his later attacks on abuses of government in India, Ireland, and France. Bromwich depicts the youthful skeptic, wary of a social contract based on “nature”; the theorist of love and fear in relation to “the sublime and beautiful”; the advocate of civil liberty, even in the face of civil disorder; the architect of economic reform; and the agitator for peace with America. However multiple and various Burke’s campaigns, the author contends, a single-mindedness of commitment always drove him.

Listen to an interview with David Bromwich in which he discusses his new book.

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