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The several posthumous publications, as they from time to time made their appearance, were accompanied by appropriate prefaces. These, however, as they were principally intended for temporary purposes, have been omitted. Some few explanations only, which they contained, seem here to be necessary.
The "Observations on the Conduct of the Minority" in the Session of 1793 had been written and sent by Mr. Burke as a paper entirely and strictly confidential; but it crept surreptitiously into the world, through the fraud and treachery of the man whom he had employed to transcribe it, and, as usually happens in such cases, came forth in a very mangled state, under a false title, and without the introductory letter. The friends of the author, without waiting to consult him, instantly obtained an injunction from the Court of Chancery to stop the sale. What he himself felt, on receiving intelligence of the injury done him by one from whom his kindness deserved a very different return, will be best conveyed in his own words. The following is an extract of a letter to a friend, which he dictated on this subject from a sick-bed.
“MY DEAR LAURENCE, –
BATH, 15th Feb., 1797.
"On the appearance of the advertisement, all newspapers and all letters have been kept back from me till this time. Mrs. Burke opened yours,
and finding that all the measures in the power of Dr. King, yourself, and Mr. Woodford, had been taken to suppress the publication, she ventured to deliver me the letters to-day, which were read to me in my bed, about two o'clock.
"This affair does vex me; but I am not in a state of health at present to be deeply vexed at anything. Whenever this matter comes into discussion, I authorize you to contradict the infamous reports which (I am informed) have been given out, that this paper had been circulated through the ministry, and was intended gradually to slide into the press. To the best of my recollection I never had a clean copy of it but one, which is now in my possession; I never communicated that, but to the Duke of Portland, from whom I had it back again. But the Duke will set this matter to rights, if in reality there were two copies, and he has one. I never showed it, as they know, to any one of the ministry. If the Duke has really a copy, I believe his and mine are the only ones that exist, except what was taken by fraud from loose and incorrect papers by S- to whom I gave the letter to copy. As soon as I began to suspect him capable of any such scandalous breach of trust, you know with what anxiety I got the loose papers out of his hands, not having reason to think that he kept any other. Neither do I believe in fact (unless he meditated this villany long ago) that he did or does now possess any clean copy. I never commu
nicated that paper to any one out of the very small circle of those private friends from whom I concealed nothing.
"But I beg you and my friends to be cautious how you let it be understood that I disclaim anything but the mere act and intention of publication. I do not retract any one of the sentiments contained in that memorial, which was and is my justification, addressed to the friends for whose use alone I intended it. Had I designed it for the public, I should have been more exact and full. It was written in a tone of indignation, in consequence of the resolutions of the Whig Club, which were directly pointed against myself and others, and occasioned our secession from that club; which is the last act of my life that I shall under any circumstances repent. Many temperaments and explanations there would have been, if I had ever had a notion that it should meet the public eye."
In the mean time a large impression, amounting, it is believed, to three thousand copies, had been dispersed over the country. To recall these was impossible; to have expected that any acknowledged production of Mr. Burke, full of matter likely to interest the future historian, could remain forever in obscurity, would have been folly; and to have passed it over in silent neglect, on the one hand, or, on the other, to have then made any considerable
changes in it, might have seemed an abandonment of the principles which it contained. The author, therefore, discovering, that, with the exception of the in troductory letter, he had not in fact kept any clean copy, as he had supposed, corrected one of the pamphlets with his own hand. From this, which was found preserved with his other papers, his friends afterwards thought it their duty to give an authentic edition.
The "Thoughts and Details on Scarcity" were originally presented in the form of a memorial to Mr. Pitt. The author proposed afterwards to recast the same matter in a new shape. He even adver
tised the intended work under the title of "Letters on Rural Economics, addressed to Mr. Arthur Young"; but he seems to have finished only twe or three detached fragments of the first letter. These being too imperfect to be printed alone, his friends inserted them in the memorial, where they seemed best to cohere. The memorial had been fairly copied, but did not appear to have been examined or corrected, as some trifling errors of the transcriber were perceptible in it. The manuscript of the fragments was a rough draft from the author's own hand, much blotted and very confused.
The Third Letter on the Proposals for Peace was in its progress through the press when the author died. About one half of it was actually revised in print by himself, though not in the exact order of the
pages as they now stand. He enlarged his first draft, and separated one great member of his subject, for the purpose of introducing some other matter between. The different parcels of manuscript designed to intervene were discovered. One of them he seemed to have gone over himself, and to have improved and augmented. The other (fortunately the smaller) was much more imperfect, just as it was taken from his mouth by dictation. The former reaches from the two hundred and forty-sixth to near the end of the two hundred and sixty-second page; the latter nearly occupies the twelve pages which follow. No important change, none at all affecting the meaning of any passage, has been made in either, though in the more imperfect parcel some latitude of discretion in subordinate points was necessarily used.
There is, however, a considerable member for the greater part of which Mr. Burke's reputation is not responsible: this is the inquiry into the condition of the higher classes, which commences in the two hundred and ninety-fifth page. The summary of the whole topic, indeed, nearly as it stands in the three hundred and seventy-third and fourth pages,‡ was
* The former comprising the matter included between the paragraph commencing, "I hear it has been said," &c., and that ending with the words, "there were little or no materials"; and the latter extending through the paragraph concluding with the words, "disgraced and plagued mankind."
† At the paragraph commencing with the words, "In turning our view from the lower to the higher classes," &c.
In the first half of the paragraph commencing, "If, then, the real state of this nation," &c.