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The Great Melody: A Thematic Biography of Edmund Burke Reprint Edition
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O'Bien's book takes an in-depth look at Burke's career in parliament and as a member of the Whig party through an extensive analysis of his letters, speeches, political relationships, and writings, specifically, as they relate to his struggle on behalf of the American colonists, the struggle of the Irish Catholics, the people of India suffering at the hands of the rapacious East India Co., and the French Revolution.
The work can be a little dry at times and tends to quote in an overly lengthy manner, but the immense erudition and scholarship and the insightful picture of Burke that emerges more than compensate for this. I do wish, however, that O'Brien had spent more time on "Reflections On The Revolution in France," but he feels that since it is so readily available to the reader there is no need. Finally we see an Edmund Burke as he really was and not the "old reactionary" that is so often depicted.Read more ›
O'Brien, the great man of Irish diplomacy, shows in this extraordinary book that Burke, whom recently history has shown as a fawning servant to the political leaders of his time (Rockingham and Pitt), was at the heart of the great fight between George III's royal absolutism and the emerging English democracy. Burke was on the right side of virtually all the fights he picked. He advocated equality before the law for the Irish subjects of the king, first tolerance and then freedom for the American colonies, the end of the colonialist abuses of the East India company, and a quarantine on the infectious ideas of the French Revolution. The later one is still a contentious affair. Zhou En Lai famously opined that it was still too early (in the 1970s) to judge the French Revolution. Burke would have had none of that. As early as 1790, in the "benign" initial phase of the revolution, he foresaw the Terror, the execution of the Royal Family, the Consulate and the Empire, and the French banner covering all of the Europe, in the name of "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity".Read more ›
O'Brien makes old political controversies regarding Ireland, India, America and revolutionary France fresh and engaging. An initial puzzle of this book is O'Brien's passionate refutations of the Namierite view of Burke. Yet, Burke continues to be a bogeyman to the academic left for good reason. Burke hated tyranny in any form and virtually alone among his contemporaries recognized that recasting society in the name of an idea promised the worst form of tyranny. Devotees of the French Revolution detest Burke whose credentials as a champion of the oppressed in Ireland, India and America were beyond reproof.
O'Brien himself, however, was curiously un-Burkean during his political career as it related to the Cold War. Burke correctly recognized that the French Revolution was a proto-totalitarian movement. He saved his most withering scorn for his former allies who viewed the revolution as a net benefit for the French and the world. In contrast, O'Brien in his UN days urged that Ireland follow the "decent" countries such as Sweden and stay above the US-Soviet fray. One wishes that O'Brien, now in his eighties, would have come to grips with his past as a neutral in the struggle between freedom and the successors of the French Revolution.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I wasn't crazy about it because the author gets lost in too many quotes and too much digression.Published 7 months ago by Bill Van Daalen
The subtitle is "A Thematic Biography and Commented Anthology of Edmund Burke", and the Preface explains this: the book is not organized chronologically, but around Burke's... Read morePublished on July 14, 2012 by Ralph Blumenau
If you want a normal biography of Edmund Burke, this isn't the one to pick up. Read Kirk's. There is a lot about the man that this book does not purport to touch. Read morePublished on November 5, 2011 by Carl Reed
This is a piece of trash written by a leftist hack seeking to claim Burke for his own pathetic ideology. Read morePublished on January 21, 2009 by Bonnie Prince Charlie
When I read this book ten years ago, I had only a glancing sense of Irish history. I read it to gain some perspective on that history through the eyes of one of Ireland's... Read morePublished on December 19, 2008 by R. Bono
There is much in O'Brien's book that is interesting, original and insightful. But it suffers from two fatal flaws, one stylistic/structural, one substantive: (1) It is a mess. Read morePublished on December 25, 2000