By Ian Crowe
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Extra resources for An Imaginative Whig: Reassessing the Life and Thought of Edmund Burke
Many of his letters, for example, are, in effect, position papers that articulate considered opinions. Together with the reports of his speeches, they provide a rich body of material, especially about 15. Burke, Reflections, 255. 16. Note-Book, 67–69. 17. Burke, Correspondence, 1:35, 9:343 (“Christ”). , 1:33, 36, 6:478; Writings, 6:459). 18. 10]. 26 ` F. P. LOCK the institutional elements of religion. This advantage, however, comes with corresponding drawbacks, which qualify their evidential value.
I would go further and attribute to Burke most of the more generalizing and philosophical material in the book. In both episodes, the author presents the Puritans unfavorably, as motivated by a love of dissent for its own sake. 27 With Burke’s attitude to Roman Catholics, we are on firmer ground. Here, there is nothing equivocal or varying even in tone from one period of Burke’s career to another. From beginning to end, he is a consistent champion of restoring to Catholics their basic rights. English Catholics, of course, were a small and marginal minority who suffered comparatively minor disabilities.
Burke takes something from each party. Viewing the Druids with a more skeptical eye than the idealizers, he shares their respect for what he recognizes as a serious religion. Burke historicizes and naturalizes the Druids: their ideas are the natural result of human thinking in their cultural context. Natural religion is civilizing, though less civilizing than Christianity (or, as he later came to think, Hinduism). Most eighteenth-century writers thought of a “religion” as having certain defining features: a priesthood, a body of sacred texts, a liturgy, and so forth.
An Imaginative Whig: Reassessing the Life and Thought of Edmund Burke by Ian Crowe