Prose style of Edmund Burke

Question: Discuss Edmund Burke’s prose style. The prose style of Edmund Burke


Edmund Burke (1729 – 1797) was an Irish statesman and philosopher, historian, and political writer. He served as a member of parliament between 1766 and 1794 in the House of Commons of Great Britain with the Whig Party after moving to London in 1750. His prose style is characterized by proportion, dignity, and harmony.

Characteristics of Edmund Burke’s prose style

After scanning his prose, we get sundry features which are given below:

Oratory style

Burk’s prose style is oratory. Oratory style means words are written as drafts of an oratory. If we read his writing, we will get his words as a powerful oratory. His writing is life-like at that time, now, and will be attractive and acceptable in the future. That means his writing is like an encounter between writer and reader though he has died in 1797. This will be clear from the given line:

“My second assertion is, that the Company has never made a treaty,

which they have not broken.’’

The writer of romantic prose

He is an identified writer of romantic prose. In his writing, we get sundry features that refer to romantic prose. Major romantic features are given below:

High imagination: High imagination is a leading feature of a romantic composer. In the writing of ‘‘Speech on the East India Bill’’, we get its touch. He speaks about Indian people and the geography of India but he never came to India.

Subjectivity: Subjectivity is another leading feature of being a romantic one. In the ‘‘Speech on the East India Bill’’, we get its touch as well. He speaks for the Indian people in parliament from the first-person point of view. This will be clear from the given line:

“The strong admission I have made of the Company’s rights (I am conscious of it) binds me to do a great deal.”

Common people: Passion and compassion for common people is also romantic feature. In ‘‘Speech on the East India Bill’’, we come to know that he speaks for the Indian common people. So, from this point of view, he is a romantic prose writer.

Choice of language: Edmund Burke uses colloquial language in his writing, ‘‘Speech on the East India Bill’’. His choice of language is like William Wordsworth’s and Scott’s as well. From the language-using perspective, he is a romantic prose writer.

Use of figures of speech

Burke is called the poet of prose but in his ‘‘Speech on the East India Bill’’, he uses some figures of speech like poetry. After scanning his writing, we get sarcasm, oxymoron, simile, irony, and so on. Thus, Burke becomes a high orator.

Use of rhetorical question

The rhetorical question means asking questions instead of providing answers in a literary work. This is also a feature of Burke’s prose style. While speaking of Hastings’ treatment of Cheit Sing, he puts a number of rhetorical questions. For example:

“Did he cite this culprit before his tribunal? Did he make a charge? Did he produce a witness?”

Use of classical and historical allusion

Edmund Burke was a learned person which is why he has been able to rife his literary works with classical and rhetorical allusions. ‘‘Speech on the East India Bill’’ uses classical or historical allusion. He studies a lot of books as a result we get standard quality writing with reference to historical personalities or incidents.

Lack of humor as a demerit

After scanning Burke’s writing, we get his defect that he has a lack of humor. In his prose writing, there are no entertaining elements like other prose writers. Though it is a fault, it is unique because his essays have not lost their attraction and acceptance.


From the light of the above discussion, we can say that Burke is a great prose writer and orator as well. He is the greatest master of English rhetorical and political wisdom. He opens a new door for a newcomer prose writer.

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SR Sarker
SR Sarker
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