In the 1970s, when I began to take interest in Burke, not only was there was no collected Correspondence, but there was not even any modern edition of his Works. I successively purchased secondhand copies of the six-volume Bohn edition, and then (in the flush of a modest pay rise) of the Boston Little, Brown edition. The interpretive work was not extensive, and heavily influenced by two kinds of presentist preoccupation—both distinctively anglophone. One was the preoccupation with Burke's “contribution” to elements of the English Constitution—party government, the nature of representation, financial management—and his success in characterizing its customary, gradualist, pragmatic political culture, subsequently identified as “conservatism.” The other—prominent in American readings—comprised energetic attempts to recruit Burke into Cold War polemics: the clash between Burke and the French Revolutionaries (and their British supporters) presaging the clash between Marxism–Leninism and Western, free-market democracy. For scholars of a Straussian persuasion this involved reading into Burke a commitment to neo-Thomist natural law. These parameters spun an intellectually vertiginous confusion of issues. Quite how Burke's opposition to Paine was supposed to cohere with their shared defence of the America he (Paine) helped to create raised a number of historical issues. But instead of resolving these it was the implications of merely supposing them to be coherent that constituted the interpretive field. Controversies focused on whether Burke's political identity was conservative or liberal—anachronistic lexical markers, further complicated by their different connotations on either side of the Atlantic—and on how to characterize the “philosophical core” of his thinking. These too were contested in often disarmingly proleptic categories: liberal, utilitarian, collectivist. Looking back, this ideological fog was only made possible by the absence of any reasonably clear sense of eighteenth-century political-theoretical discourse within the categories and preoccupations of which to situate the man.