From the library of Edmund Burke

Posted on 29th May 2019 by simonbeattie

As readers will know, we are based in Chesham, just a twenty-minute drive from Edmund Burke’s former home in Beaconsfield. Though his estate, Gregories, no longer exists (it was burned down in a fire in 1813), it was a treat to recently stumble across one of the books from his library:

The book, an apparently unpublished eighteenth-century Italian manuscript, describes an easy method for learning the fundamental rules of the Italian language. The text is divided into over thirty-five individual sections, including lessons on the articles; grammatical gender; plurals; superlatives; diminutives; personal, demonstrative, and possessive pronouns; the interrogative; cases; accents; and conjugations (a full listing of topics available on request). Following the introductory lessons are four dialogues about travel, finding lodging, etc., with Latin translation on facing pages.

Although Burke (1729–1797) never went to Italy, he had intended to visit with Samuel Johnson, but ‘neither Burke nor Johnson was destined to achieve the “grand object of travelling” [i.e. visiting Italy]. Johnson was disappointed when the Thrales abandoned their journey to Italy on the death of their son. In Burke’s case, the project was superseded by an even more ambitious enterprise’ (Lock, Edmund Burke I, 249), namely the purchase of his 600-acre estate Gregories, in 1769, where he lived until his death. His library was auctioned off in 1833 along with that of ‘a near relative’ by Mr R. H. Evans at his home, No. 93, Pall Mall. The sale, lasting three days and comprised of 664 lots, realised £383/19/4 (Cone, Edmund Burke’s Library, p. 153).

For more on this manuscript, and to see all of our recent acquisitions, check our our newly-released list for Firsts London, available in PDF form by clicking here.

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