Letter from WILLIAM BURKE to JAMES BARRY, written 3 December 1766, at London

Source: Fryer, Works of Barry, i. 76-77.

William Burke (1728-98) had studied law at the Middle Temple with Edmund Burke in the early 1750s; the two became very close friends and referred to one another as ‘cousin’ or ‘kinsman’, although there seem to have been no blood ties between them. William had recently been appointed Under-Secretary of State. He joined Edmund in financing Barry while he was studying on the Continent.

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December 3, 1766.

Dear Barry,

Any letter that shews you are at your ease, and pleased with your situation, must always make your friends of Queen Ann-Street 1 happy: we are consequently much so, in that of the 4th November from Rome.2 In regard to the first part of it, you wrong yourself and Macleane,3 if you were to suppose he did not do justice to the motives that made you decline his very friendly offers, and which kept you silent. I am however glad you have wrote to him,4 for he is most deserving of your, and every honest man's love and esteem.

I should on the instant have satisfied you on the point of your going to Florence,5 but that I had, and we all had, our doubts on the necessity of sending you a winter journey, upon a business that might be as well answered perhaps by a summer tour. On the whole, you must use your own discretion and determination, according as it suits your general plan. And if you find it advisable to postpone the journey, incloseenclose the letter with a very civil one from yourself to Sir Horace, and profess how happy you would be to receive his commands. Possibly it may get you some useful introduction at Rome. I need not mention that it will be proper to say, that you mean to wait upon him, though not immediately.6

I must now tell you that we are all perfectly well in health and spirits. Your friendship would be in the alarm, if you knew that the administration is almost for a certainty at an end.7 I shall necessarily, because it suits my honour, be out of place,8 and so will our friend Mr. E. B.,9 but our affairs are so well arranged, that we thank God we have not a temptation to swerve from the straightest path of perfect honour. Our friend E. B. has acted all along with so unwearied a worthiness, that the world even does him the justice to know, that in his public conduct, he has no one view but the public good; and indeed, Barry, there is a satisfaction in thinking, that to a friend intimate as you are, to whom we might trust our faults even, we have no one single motive of our conduct to state, but the one which is visible and apparent, that is, a real disinterested desire and determination of acting strictly right. God preserve you, is all our wish, though signed only by the name of your ever faithful,

William Burke.