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On My Life as An English Major as Written by Edmund Burke in 1795

To Whom It May Concern,

They pursue even such as me into the obscurest retreats and haul them before their revolutionary tribunals. Neither sex nor age — not the sanctuary of the tomb is sacred to them. They have so determined a hatred to all privileged orders that they deny even to the departed the sad immunities of the grave. They are not wholly without an object. Their turpitude purveys to their malice, and they unplumb the dead for bullets to assassinate the living…

I have lived long and variously in the world. Without any considerable pretensions to literature in myself, I have aspired to the love of letters.

I have lived for a great many years in habitudes with those who professed the same love… Men so formed and finished are the first gifts of Providence to the world. But when many of these sorts have once thrown off the fear of God, and the fear of man, which is now the case, and in that state come to understand one another, and to act in concert, a more dreadful calamity cannot arise out of hell to scourge mankind.

Nothing can be conceived more hard than the heart of a thoroughbred metaphysician. It comes nearer to the cold malignity of a wicked spirit than to the frailty and passion of a man. It is like that of the principle of evil himself, incorporeal, pure, unmixed, dephlegmated, defecated evil. It is no easy operation to eradicate humanity from the human breast.

What Shakspeare calls “the compunctious visitings of nature” will sometimes knock at their hearts, and protest against their murderous speculations. But they have a means of compounding with their nature. Their humanity is not dissolved. They only give it a long prorogation. They are ready to declare, that they do not think two thousand years too long a period for the good that they pursue.

It is remarkable, that they never see any way to their projected good but by the road of some evil. Their imagination is not fatigued with the contemplation of human suffering through the wild waste of centuries added to centuries of misery and desolation. Their humanity is at their horizon—and, like the horizon, it always flies before them.

The geometricians, and the chemists, bring, the one from the dry bones of their diagrams, and the other from the soot of their furnaces, dispositions that make them worse than indifferent about those feelings and habitudes, which are the support of the moral world.

Ambition is come upon them suddenly; they are intoxicated with it, and it has rendered them fearless of the danger, which may from thence arise to others or to themselves. These philosophers consider men in their experiments, no more than they do mice in an air pump, or in a recipient of mephitic gas.

Whatever his Grace may think of himself, they look upon him, and everything that belongs to him, with no more regard than they do upon the whiskers of that little long-tailed animal that has been long the game of the grave, demure, insidious, spring-nailed, velvet-pawed, green-eyed philosophers, whether going upon two legs, or upon four.

Paras. 60-83. Burke, Edmund. A Letter to a Noble Lord.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • John the River August 19, 2018, 9:26 AM

    Glad you only published a snippet, I took a look at the link and (Man!) that guy could write on, and on, and on. There was a man how would not be interested in Twitter, “Only a hundred and forty characters?, absurd!”

  • Marica August 19, 2018, 9:49 AM

    John– And yet, consider the sentences individually. I especially like this one:

    “It is remarkable, that they never see any way to their projected good but by the road of some evil.”

    Even that final paragraph/sentence is amazing. Sure it’s long. But what to cut? And compare this to what English majors write today… .

  • Casey Klahn August 19, 2018, 11:57 AM

    “They unplumb the dead for bullets…”

    That’s so true! Anything I read or watch in the genre of history, other than authors like VDH, must ascertain the gayness of the characters first and foremost. We are long past sorting the class or the struggle; we must now promote the scat.

    If one cannot read history firstly for the meanings native to the historian and the era- the proper context- then everything is up for grabs. Although he makes the dog’s breakfast of his terms, Jordan Peterson tries to make this point, and in that he is correct. Meaninglessness abounds in the contemporary world; you are naive to argue with a prog intellectual because they flush anything you say that is objective. I wish we had better minds than Prof. peterson, though. His use of terms sucks and it makes him look ignorant.

  • james wilson August 19, 2018, 5:23 PM

    Burke, by written word alone, convinced Britons that the French Revolution was not in their interest when public and private opinion was still enthusiastic about supporting it. Such a thing had never been done through the written word before, or since. Even if fewer people were literate in that day, or perhaps because there were fewer, the literate were apparently far more lettered than we are. I thrill to reading Burke’s “antiquated” writing. His grasp of issues and personalities was illuminating and when he was done there was no place left to proffer deceit. Tocqueville, who was born six years after the death of Burke, referred to this man as his teacher. This is what Burke refers to as he writes of men of letters shepherding civilization, and the consequence of their perversion.

  • Teri Pittman August 19, 2018, 6:03 PM

    This has absolutely nothing to do with this topic. Thought I’d share it, in thanks for the link to the Japanese version of country roads.


  • pbird August 19, 2018, 9:46 PM

    Casey, I’d sure like to see some examples of what you are talking about in Peterson. I don’t see it at all.
    I mean, after all, don’t you owe some examples?

  • Casey Klahn August 19, 2018, 11:24 PM

    I studied theology in school, which has parallels with philosophy. Your words have to be defined, not loose. Post Modernism, which is an art movement, also has become a subject in philosophy. Most people can’t distinguish modernism from post modernism. To use the phrase post modernism in an almost all-inclusive manner, as Peterson does, is weak.

    Post Modernism questions commonly held beliefs; it was an anti-modernist movement that sought to supersede optimism and innovation. It is not a boogeyman that contains everything you don’t like about the contemporary era. In fact, the post modernist era has been over for almost decade. It’s in the history books. Peterson just uses it as a talisman, in my opinion.

    I agree with him that contemporary thought is organized around a lack of big “T” truth. Philosophers now say that you cannot agree on observed truth. That is philosophy, but it is not post modernism. I heard Noam Chomsky saying that we can use the misdefinition of post modernism because it is now commonly understood as something other than what it originally meant. Not today, Noam. Not on my watch. As an artist, I assert that it has a meaning and yours and Peterson’s ain’t it.

    I’ll admit that my guy, Victor Davis Hanson, uses the term, too. But he admits up front that it is a can of marbles banging around with loose definition. Peterson spouts the term like a snake handler.

    Let’s be smarter. He doesn’t float my boat, although I may agree with him on many points, I can’t use him as a source. he sounds stupid to me. Sorry, but there it is.

  • ghostsniper August 20, 2018, 7:16 AM

    Don’t apologize Casey, I see it too, and have refrained from saying much about the dood cause I too see some value in his words. Something just seems fake about the boy, or disingenuous. I wouldn’t be surprised to find he is owned by someone. He should learn the notion that, while Marshall “shreds”, Fender “controls”, and both have their place. IOW, use as few word as possible and put razor sharp points on the front of them.

    You’re also correct about, “Your words have to be defined, not loose.”, and you won’t find that much these days. Because I require the precise use of words in all ways it narrows the field considerably in which conversations I am exposed to. I just won’t put up with much bullshit and that stuff is everywhere now. Just about everything can be said in 10 words or less but most people prefer to use 50 or more. Sorry but I’m running out of time.

    “Life is like a roll of toilet paper, the closer you get to the end the faster it goes – a shitty deal if you ask me.”
    –gs, 2099

  • Kevin Dickson August 20, 2018, 8:01 AM

    He does a wonderful job of verbalizing that which keeps me awake at night. We are I’m afraid……once again….headed for the abyss.

  • pbird August 20, 2018, 12:27 PM

    Thanks Casey, for answering. The way I see it is, nobody gets it all right. How could they. He’s just really on about some basic stuff that people have forgotten or their mamma’s never taught them.
    I think a lot of his fans don’t really read all those words. I think its like any other situation with a star in some ways. I know I haven’t read all that stuff, but I don’t need to! I already know what’s up.

    PS, I think some old fellers are a little jealous of him. He gets all the attention.

  • pbird August 20, 2018, 12:31 PM

    Casey again, I like your blue pot painting best.
    My life as a grown person began with paint too. I have smeared a lot of paint around.

  • Casey Klahn August 20, 2018, 1:38 PM

    Thanks, pbird.

    I don’t wish to sour JP for anyone, really. Just voicing my opinion.