Most helpful positive review
"The Wild Gas" ... let loose...
on May 17, 2002
I personally find, overall, that other persons writing
about and analyzing Burke and his views tend to be a bit
more interesting and compelling, than Burke himself in
I do not consider myself a "conservative" -- in the
sense that that is a political agenda or mindset, nor
a reactionary. There is much in academics and political
philosophy which tends to want to damn by labels -- and
by putting ideas into boxes, filing, and forgetting...rather
than listening to, or thoughtfully considering.
One can believe in classic values, and find his
grounding in classical philosophy without being a
rigid reactionary or even a doctrinaire conservative.
So, when Burke speaks with the speech of the
Ancients and espouses classical warnings and
remonstrances about the necessity of restraint
and careful consideration, one can agree with him.
And, as the editor and author of the "Introduction"
to the Penguin Classics edition, Conor Cruise O'Brien,
points out, there is that of the prophet in Burke as
well, since he published these REFLECTIONS in 1790,
before the Reign of Terror in 1793, yet he correctly
foresees the excesses to which the French Revolution
will proceed in its unchecked course.
One of the best quotes which I like very much from
this work follows:
"When I see the spirit of liberty in action, I see
a strong principle at work; and this, for a while,
is all I can possibly know of it. The wild GAS, the
fixed air is plainly broke loose: but we ought to
suspend our judgment until the first effervescence is
a little subsided, till the liquor is cleared, and
until we see something deeper than the agitation of
a troubled and frothy surface. I must be tolerably
sure, before I venture publicly to congratulate men
upon a blessing, that they have really received one.
Flattery corrupts both the receiver and the giver;
and adulation is not of more service to the people
than to kings. I should therefore suspend my
congratulations on the new liberty of France, until
I was informed how it had been combined with
government; with public force; with the discipline
and obedience of armies; with the collection of an
effective and well-distributed revenue; with morality
and religion; with the solidity of property; with
peace and order: with civil and social MANNERS. All
these (in their way) are good things too; and, without
them, liberty is not a benefit whilst it lasts, and
is not likely to continue long."