This article seeks to explain Edmund Burke's notorious verbal vehemence as the consequence of a deliberate rhetorical strategy. I argue that over the course of a thirty-year parliamentary career, Burke relied on sharply formulated historical contrasts in order to express his opposition to the policies of successive ministries and warn of threats to the nation's defining achievements. Through the use of four distinct syntactical patterns, Burke cultivated a style of hyperbole which exaggerated both the failings of the present and the virtues of the national past, focusing on two periods in particular: the High Middle Ages and the early eighteenth-century era of Whig Oligarchy.

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