Edmund Burke (17291797). A Letter to a Noble Lord. The Harvard Classics. 190914.
WHEN Burke retired from Parliament at the close of his labors in the trial of Warren Hastings, it was proposed to raise him to the peerage as Lord Beaconsfield; but before the matter came to a point, Burkes son Richard, in whom all his hopes and affections were centered, died and left his father desolate. A hereditary honor was no longer in question, and it was arranged, since Burke was now, as always, in financial difficulties, that he should get £1,200 a year from the Civil List so long as his wife lived, and that the King should propose to Parliament a more liberal recognition of his services. But Pitt, probably in order to avoid unseemly opposition from Burkes enemies, arranged a grant of £2,500 a year directly from the Crown, so that Burke, though glad to get the money, was disappointed in its not being a more broadly national reward.
Pitts caution seems to have been justified, for in the next year, when party feeling was running high, the Duke of Bedford and Lord Lauderdale seized upon the granting of the pension as a weapon with which to attack the administration. Burke at once saw, in the fact that the assault came from the head of the house of Bedford, an opportunity for the most telling repartee, and this opportunity he availed himself of with tremendous effect. As politics, it gives us Burkes own view of his record as an administrator; as literature, the piece is probably unsurpassed in the language for lofty and scornful invective.