Letter from EDMUND BURKE to JAMES BARRY, written 19 July 1768, at Gregories

Source: MS F.W.Hilles, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale. Printed: Fryer, Works of Barry, i.135-37, Burke, Correspondence, ii. 7.

Burke had purchased ‘Gregories’, a house and estate of some 600 acres in Buckinghamshire, earlier this year from William Lloyd. He took possession in April even though the payment price of £20,000 had not been fully settled, a matter that dragged on and incurred considerable debts for the Burkes.

Full display

My dear Barry

My Silence has been long & blameable, I confess it, I am really sorry for it. But I trust you will forgive us some inaccuracies in point of attention, when you are convinced we have none in point of real substantial friendship. Indeed none can value you more or wish you better than all the persons who compose this Family. On the Close of the Long Parliament,1 I had thoughts amounting almost to a settled resolution of passing this Summer in Italy, & had even made some dispositions towards my Journey. The pleasures of instruction I proposed to myself from your Company were not the slightest objects of my Tour; for which reason I wrote the short note, wishing to fix you at Rome.2 But I have been diverted another way. We have purchased a pretty house & Estate, the adjusting of which have kept me in England this Summer.3 With the House I was oblig'd to take the Sellers Seller's collection of Pictures & Marbles;4 He he was a considerable Collector; & though I, by this means, went to an Expence5 I wd would not otherwise have incurred, yet I have got some pieces both of Painting & Sculpture which you will not dislike.6 We are in Buckinghamshire, twenty four twenty-four Miles from London, & in a very pleasant County. So much for our Situation. In other particulars, we are thank God well as to health & politically just on the same Ground; out of employment, but with a quiet, conscience, & a pure reputation. Will & I are both chosen into this New Parliament. 7

I think myself very unlucky in having lost one of your Letters; they are all worth keeping; I do not know any that have more curious observations, & better expressed. Your last observations on the improved architecture of the Moderns & its inferiority to the antient ancient is truly curious, & I believe as just as it is ingenious.8 I am proud to found it confirm some Notions I have had myself upon the same Subject.

As to the Pictures which you are so good to think of for us;9 you will regulate them just as you please. We cannot say any thing precise of sizes; because we have left the house at Queen Ann Street, where the doctor now lives, & have had only a temporary residence in Town taken by the Winter.10 As to this House, it is hung, from Top to bottom with Pictures, & we have not yet determined which ought to be displaced. So, as I said before, follow your own Ideas; but by no means lose an opportunity of disposing a picture which may make you friend or money upon our Account. We hope to have some of your Work when you come home. I am glad of Hamiltons Hamilton's opinion. It cannot fail of being serviceable to you some way or other.11 In the meen mean time, I must again press it upon you to live on the best Terms with the people you are with; even dealers, & the like; for it will not follow that because men want some Virtues that they want all. Their Society will be some relief to you, & their intercourse of some advantage, if it were no more, than in dispelling the unsociable humours contracted in Solitude which will, in the End, not fail of corrupting the understanding as well as the manners, & of utterly disqualifying a man for the Satisfactions & the duties of Life. Men must be taken as they are; & we neither make them or ourselves better either by flying or quarrelling with them; & […] [gap in transcription (illegible), chars: 6] Rome & the Trade of Virtue are not the only places & professions in which many little practices ought to be overlookd overlooked in others though they shd should be carefully avoided by ourselves.

I remember you wrote to me with a great deal of Sense and much honest indignation on the Subject of some quackish pretences to Secrets in the Art, such as Macgilps & the like.12 We have had much of the same stuff here. It is indeed ridiculous to the last degree to imagine that excellence is to be attained by any mechanical contrivances whatsoever.13 But still the overvaluing of foolish or interested people ought not to induce us wholly to reject what may be subordinately useful. Every thing is worth a Trial; & much of the Business of colouring belonging to a sort of Natural History, it is rather worth while to make experiments as many as one can. Forgive my trivial observations. Your friend here the doctor, Will, Dick, Mrs Burke all frequently think of you.14 Mr Reynolds & Barret15 inquire enquire for you very kindly. Indulge us with your Letters as frequently as you can & believe me My dear Barry with great Truth & affection yr your sincere friend & humble Sevt Servant

Edn Edmund Burke.

Gregories July 19. 1768.

Direct to me in Charles Street S.t James's Square.