Edmund Burke The Practical Imagination Author:Gerald W. Chapman Edmund Burke was considered by Hazlitt, Arnold, and Leslie Stephen, among others, to be the greatest prose writer in English literature, and was conceded to be a consummate statesman by even the bitterest of his opponents. Yet Burke has remained, in many ways, an elusive and ambiguous figure. Few previous studies have fully revealed the force an... more »d grace of his intelligence, or his extraordinary perceptiveness, humanity, and breadth of vision.
"I have tried to remember," Mr. Chapman states, "that Burke's ideas were the finite activities of a man who, day by day, like other men, felt the weight of of his own existence, and exerted his thought as he could to lighten the weight, to grope for the ideal ground where truth and practice meet; who comprehended some matters well, perhaps better than anyone else in his day or in ours, but saw others in the twisted lights and dark glass of his passion; who drew upon inspiration of many unrelated kinds; who embodied much of his best thinking in a happy phrase as often as in a logical deduction. I conclude that a source of his greatness is a mode of imaginative practicality which has appeared in English culture, from Hooker to Whitehead, in many different expressions -- a peculiar fusion of poetic conception and literary brilliance, ethical awareness and religious reverence, preference for concrete inquiry and compromise, common sense and sense of duty, and what Fox called a 'reverse of selfishness." Burke was at once, for his time, its exemplar, and, in some measure, by rendering it conscious, its creator."« less