Page:The World's Famous Orations Volume 5.djvu/157

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BIRRELL

made his first speeches; for which purpose he would, unlike some debaters, devote studious hours to getting up the subjects to be discussed. There is good reason to believe that it was in this manner his attention was first directed to India. He was at all times a great talker, and, Doctor Johnson's dictum notwithstanding, a good listener. He was endlessly interested in ev- erything — in the state of the crops, in the last play, in the details of all trades, the rhythm of all poems, the plots of all novels, and indeed in the course of every manufacture. And so for six years he went up and down, to and fro, gather- ing information, imparting knowledge, and pre- paring himself, tho he knew not for what,

But great as were Burke's literary powers, and passionate as was his fondness for letters and for literary society, he never seems to have felt that the main burden of his life lay in that direction. He looked to the public service, and this tho he always believed that the pen of a great writer was a more powerful and glorious weapon than any to be found in the armory of politics.

It is satisfactory to notice how from the very first Burke's intellectual preeminence, character, and aims were clearly admitted and most cheer- fully recognized by his political and social su- periors ; and in the long correspondence in which he engaged with most of them, there is not a trace to be found, on one side or the other, of anything approaching to either patronage or 133

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