Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 07.djvu/362

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He sat up all night reading ‘Evelina,' and carried ‘Cecilia’ about with him, readign it at every leisure moment until he had finished it. His last official act was to procure Dr. Burney the appointment of organist at Chelsea College (Mme. d’Arblay, Diary, ii, 271; Memoirs of Dr. Burney, ii. 376; Macknight, iii. 58–60).

Burke’s depression seems to have continued during the early months of 1784, and he took little part in politics. Having been elected lord rector of Glasgow, he visited the university in April, and was installed in his office. It is said that, on rising to deliver an address on this occasion, he for once found himself at fault, declaring that he had never before addressed so learned a body, though he afterwards made a speech which was received with much applause. The triumph of Pitt and the king, and the consciousness that public opinion was against him, led him, on the meeting of the new parliament, to move a representation to his majesty on the constitutional aspect of the late dissolution (Works, iii. 515). Two hours were occupied in reading this document; the house heard it with impatience, and negatived it without a division. He was now constantly greeted with rude interruptions when he rose to speak. ‘I could teach a pack of hounds,’ he said on one such occasion, ‘to yelp with greater melody and more comprehension.' The anonymous attacks upon his character,‘the hunt of obloquy,‘ never ceased. One charge brought against him by the ‘Public Advertiser ’ was so gross that he was forced to prosecute the printer, and obtained a verdict for 100l. damages and costs (Ann. Reg. 1784, p. 197). At Beaconsfield he found peace and happiness. There he entertained his old friends, with his own hands dispensed food and medicine to the poor, and now and then patronised a company of strolling players, and helped to replenish their wardrobe. He was a constant attendant at the parish church, and used to spend the time between morning and evening prayer in chatting with the parson.

Burke was now steadfastly set on making Hastings answer for his misdeeds. Great difficulties stood in his way; the house where Pitt was now supreme had ceased to treat him with respect, and his speech of 28 July on the ministers' India Bill, which certainly contained a passage at once vehement and ludicrous, was unfavourably received (Parl. Hist. xxiv. 1214). Pitt threw obstacles in his way, and Major Scott, the agent of Hastings, taunted him with the non-fulfilment of his threats. The opposition, however, took up the matter, and on 28 Feb. 1785 Fox moved for papers relating to the debts of the nabob of Arcot, On this occasion Burke made a speech full of eloquence and of surprising knowledge of this intricate subject (Works, iv. 1). Even while fully engaged in preparing for his great attack, he was alive to wrong in every shape, and effectually interfered to prevent the establishment of a penal settlement in the unhealthy district of the Gambia river (Parl. Hist. xxv. 391, 431). When, in July, Pitt brought forward his resolutions on Irish commerce, by which Ireland would have attained perfect equality in trade, subject to a contribution to certain imperial objects, Burke, contrary, as it seemed, to his former policy, oppose the minister. His conduct has been blamed as factious (Morley, E. B., a Study, 188). Allowance should, however, be made for his susceptibility on all matters affecting his native country, quickened as it was in this case by his remembrance of American disaster, for he based his opposition on the ground that the resolutions were imposing a ‘tribute’ on Ireland, and indicated a policy such as had led to the contest with America (Parl. Hist. xxv. 647). His re-election at Glasgow was the cause of another visit to Scotland in the autumn of this year, and of a very pleasant tour over a considerable part of that country (Works, i. 522). In the course of this tour, on which he was accompanied by his son and his friend Windham, he visited Minto, the seat of Sir G. Elliot, where he astonished Dr. Somerville of Jedburgh, who gives an interesting account of his conversations with him, by the richness of his language and the universality of his knowledge (T. Somerville, Own Life and Times, 220–3). The early part of 1786 was taken up with the preliminaries of the attack on Hastings, in which Burke found an eager ally in Philip Francis, with motions for papers and the like. On 1 June he moved the Rohilla charge, and, though ably supported by Fox, was defeated by 119 to 67. Pitt, however, unexpectedly agreed to an article of the impeachment moved by Fox, and Burke thus gained his object. Other charges were moved by Sheridan, Windham, and Francis, but Burke inspired every speaker, and took an active part in the debates. At length, 10 May 1787, attended by a majority of the commons, he appeared at the bar of the House of Peers, and solemnly impeached Hastings of high crimes and misdemeanours (Parl. Hist. xxvi. 1149).

Burke still had much opposition to contend with, and the refusal of house to appoint Francis a manager of the impeachment, ‘a blow he was not prepared to meet,’ much dis-