Five Fascinating Facts about Edmund Burke

The life and work of Edmund Burke, told through five great pieces of trivia

1. Burke anticipated the Romantic movement. In his A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757), Burke introduced the concept of the Sublime, which he defined in opposition to the Beautiful. Whereas the Beautiful is harmonious and aesthetically pleasing, there is something unsettling and dangerous about the Sublime – something potentially destructive. The Sublime, in other words, is both awesome and awful – both terrific and terrifying/terrible. This idea would influence the philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) but also the Romantic poets: Percy Shelley’s poem about Mont Blanc is often cited as a great example of the Sublime in Romantic poetry. Because the Sublime was wilder and potentially more dangerous, whereas the Beautiful was ordered and controlled, the two terms are said to mark the divide between the Neoclassical poetry of writers such as Alexander Pope (whose verse reflects order and control) and the Romantic era, where poets became more interested in the wild power of nature and man’s relationship with it.

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