I have not the least doubt that the finest poem in the English language, I mean Milton's "II Penseroso, was composed in the long-resounding aisle of a mouldering cloister or ivy'd abbey. Yet after all, do you know tbat I would rather sleep in the southern corner of a little country churchyard than in the tomb of the Capulets. I should like, however, that my dust should mingle with kindred dust. The good old expression "family burying-ground" has something pleasing in it, at least to me.—(1751) Prior's Life (ch. II).
I have little to recommend my opinions but long observation and much impartiality. They come from one who has been no tool of power, no flatterer of greatness; and who in his last act does not wish to belie the tenor of his life. They come from one, almost the whole of whose public exertion has been a struggle for the liberty of others; from one in whose breast no anger, durable or vehement, has ever been kindled, but by what he considered as tyranny; and who snatches from his share in the endeavours which are used by good men to discredit opulent oppression, the hours he has employed on your affairs; and who in so doing persuades himself he has not departed from his usual office: they come from one who desires honours, distinctions, and emoluments but little; and who expects them not at all; who has no contempt for fame, and no fear of obloquy; who shuns contention, though he will hazard an opinion: from one who wishes to preserve consistency, but who would preserve consistency by varying his means to secure the unity of his end; and, when the equipoise of the vessel in which he sails may be endangered by overloading it upon one side, is desirous of carrying the small weight of his reasons to that which may preserve its equipoise —Reflections(IV. 275).
I was not, like his grace of Bedford, swaddled, and rocked, and dandled into a legislator; "Nitor in adversum" is the motto for a man like me. I possessed not one of the qualities, nor cultivated one of the arts that recommend men to the favour and protection of the great. I was not made for a minion or a tool. As little did I follow the trade of winning the hearts, by imposing on the understandings, of the people. At every step of my progress in life (for in every step was I traversed and opposed), and at every turnpike I met, I was obliged to show my passport, and again and again to prove my sole title to the honour of being useful to my country, by a proof that I was not wholly unacquainted with its laws, and the whole system of its interests both abroad and at home. Otherwise no rank, no toleration even, for me. I had no arts but manly arts—Noble Lord (VI. 51).
I believe, if he [ Burke] could venture to value himself upon anything, it is on the virtue of consistency that he would value himself the most. Strip him of this, and you leave him naked indeed.—Appeal (V. 30).
We live at a time when men are not repaid in fame for what they sacrifice in interest or repose.— Letter to Hon. C. J. Fox, 1777.
I did not come into Parliament to con my lesson. I had earned my pension before I set my foot in St. Stephen's chapel .—Noble Lord (VI. 50).
I am a young man with very old pensions; he is an old man with very young pensions,—that's all.—Noble Lord (VI. 57).
My ever dear friend Garrick, who was the first of actors, because he was the most acute observer of nature I ever knew.—Regicide Peace (VI. 351).
Indeed, my lord, I greatly deceive myself, if in this hard season I would give a peck of refuse wheat for all that is called fame and honour in the world. This is the appetite but of a few. It is a luxury, it is a privilege, it is an indulgence for those who are at their ease.—Noble Lord (VI. 64).
It has ever been my rule through life, to observe a proportion between my efforts and my objects. I have never been remarkable for a bold, active, and sanguine pursuit of advantages that are personal to myself.—Bristol, 1780 (III. 49).
Let who will shrink back, I shall be found at my post. Baffled, discountenanced, subdued, discredited, as the cause of justice and humanity is, it will be only the dearer to me. Whoever, therefore, shall at any time bring before you anything towards the relief of our distressed fellow-citizens in India, and towards a subversion of the present most corrupt and oppressive system for its government, in me shall find a weak, I am afraid, but a steady, earnest, and faithful assistant.—Arcot (III. 269).
I never shall be ashamed to confess, that where I am ignorant I am diffident—Letter to Sheriffs (II. 269).