Leslie Mitchell

Many Rights Make a Wrong

The Intellectual Life of Edmund Burke: From the Sublime and Beautiful to American Independence


Harvard University Press 493pp £25 order from our bookshop

Edmund Burke was, and remains, an isolated thinker. In his generation, he belonged to no school of thought and did not establish an academy of followers. He had little contact with the main currents of the Enlightenment in any of its national manifestations and was increasingly dismissive of its claims. Likewise, he denounced those, such as Thomas Paine, who were keen to put democratic demands onto the political agenda. Burke quarrelled with political associates almost as a matter of routine and was unforgiving in his enmities. When dying, he refused to receive a last visit from Charles Fox, who had come to make peace. Fox explained such intransigence by speculating that his old mentor and erstwhile friend had a ‘piece of potato in his head’.

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