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it is not my cause, so much as that of literature and its privileges, that is 'at stake. Truth has been not a little injured ; but yet, notwithstanding so many fractures, I hope to set every shattered bone, and restore her to her former symmetry. A loud outcry has been raised against me, in consequence of such gross misrepresentation. The storm roared long and loud : I have waited for a calmer moment to reply. In 1806 I submitted to the Public the result of
my observations made in the year preceding on the sister island, under the title of “ The Stranger in Ireland, or a Tour in the Southern and Western Parts of that Country.” In this work I avoided those topics upon which the public mind has been fearfally divided : I endeavoured to assist in effacing prejudices, and in making my readers of this country better acquainted with, and consequently more disposed to love and esteem, our brethren in Ireland. The Public received my endeavours with such favour, that expensive as the work was, very nearly fifteen hundred copies of it have been sold. It has also had a large circulation upon the Continent and in America, where it has passed through several editions. Some highly respectable writers upoir matters connected with Ireland have honoured me by considering it as a work of authority, and by quoting from it. It moreover obtained for me the friendship and esteem of many distinguished and honourable persons, both here and in Ireland, as well Protestants as Catholics. I hope I may be permitted to state thus much, without an imputation of self-complacency:
In 1807 a work was published, the object of whose title was, to make it appear, for the purpose of injuring me in the public opinion, that my Journal of this
long and rather laborious Tour had been contained in a few pencil hints, or memorandums. The body of the book was filled with fragments of distant and discordant sentences extracted from my works, absurdly jumbled together, and interspersed with falsehood and the vilest perversions, which were presented to the Public under the imposing mask of fair quotation.
Had this attack been announced as a travesty, the Public would have regarded it as a burlesque, and I should have been as much disposed as any one to have smiled at what humour it might have possessed. Indeed I should have deemed it, in some measure, an honour; for, as the nature of travesty is laughable deformity, the original must at least possess some symmetry, before it could be twisted into deformity. Nay, I should have felt myself flattered to have been placed in the same line of attack in which many illustrious Jiterary characters have been assailed, although immeasurably removed from them in literary reputation. I should also have reflected that the Public would not be interested in the travesty of an unknown author. But many, who have never read the Tour in Ireland, have considered the quotations as authentic, and the comment as fair and candid. I am placed before a mirror that distorts, and the mirror is thought to represent me faithfully. Submitting to this malignant and mischievous attack as one of the pains and penalties attached to authorship, I took no notice of the first edition.
In the beginning of the following year, however, a second edition appeared, considerably enlarged, withi several caricature prints. It was advertised, in a long and striking manner, in the London, and most of the -provincial, newspapers; and, lest the Public should
drawing of this barbarous usage ; and, if such print be
mistake the object, my name, at full length, was introduced; and the publishers, by means unusual in the trade with regard to works of such a nature, circulated an immense number of copies of it.
The frontispiece of this publication, in most of its parts, and the explanation annexed to it, attempted personally to degrade me in a' point of view that had no reference to my travels in Ireland. Legal advisers assured me that both were libellous; and it would be impossible, I believe, even for my adversaries, to deny that their own Counsel partook of the same opinion ; I was therefore induced to look for redress to the law. Το prove that these caricature prints ought not to be considered as fair critical elucidation, I beg leave to call the attention of the reader to another of them. In my work I have mentioned, that the cruel custom of yoking the plough to the tail of the drawing horse, which once existed in the uncivilized parts of Ireland, has for some time past been discontinued; yet, in this print, I am represented in the attitude of making a
admitted to be fair criticism, I am made by the artist's pencil to assert that the custom still endures. In fact I am assured that I have already incurred the displeasure of some of the Irish, who have not perused my work, and who have been misled by this print, for Having, as they thought, in this instance thrown an odium upon the character of their peasantry. To return to the action, the frontispiece caricature, and the explanation, constituted the sole ground of my legal complaint. My declaration, or, as it is legally defined, a shewing in writing of the cause of complaint, embraced no other ; and my proofs, as the law requires they should be, were confined to the inuendos contain
ed in the declaration. Could I have conceived, or had I been legally advised, that the Court, after my declaration had been so shaped, would have admitted of evidence to shew that the body of the obnoxious work was unfair criticism, I could have produced many distinguished literary men to have proved it to have been
When the cause came on, the Lord Chief Justice of the Court of King's Bench, who presided, maintained that a personal caricature of an anthor may be considered as fair criticism, as far as he is connected with his work, and impressed such his opinion upon the minds of the jury, who gave their verdict accordingly. My adversaries immediately announced the event as a victory obtained over an enemy to the press, and a person who wished to arm justice against criticism. I hope I shall not be considered as deviating from that respect which is due to Lord Ellenborough as a dignified magistrate, a scholar, and a gentleman, and from that reverence which ought to attend upon judicial opinion, if I submit a few further observations.
So far from aiming at the freedom of the press, I thought I was making a struggle on behalf of its liberty, as well as its dignity, by an attempt to prevent both from being contaminated and brought into discredit by the low and base alliance of caricature and buffoonery; and that I never did wish to interfere with the liberty of the press is plain from my not attacking the first work, which was equally as unjust as the second.
The most dignified satirists, such as Dryden, Boileau, Pope, Swift, and Young, never thought of lashing a man by pictures; that task they left to inferior artists; they confined themselves to their pens alone.
If there was any press that I wished to obtain a victory over, it was not the literary press, but the caricature press. Plain fact will demonstrate that I could have no other intention. Had Lord Ellenborough thought the caricature and explanation were libellous, and had I, in consequence, obtained a verdict, the letter-press part of the work, without the caricatures, might have continued to be sold with impunity.
With regard to the liberty of the press, its abuses have not made me cease to be enamoured with its real utility. The censure of assailants, such as I have had, can no more detach me from revering the press, than the turpitude of a wicked priest can shake my veneration for religion. The liberty of the press is the boast of every honest Englishman, and the Judge who sacrifices something of justice in its defence is more entitled to his admiration than his censure; or, if he awaken censure, he will find it but reluctantly roused, and easily appeased.
To fair legitimate criticism I have, upon the whole, much reason to be grateful. Fortunately for the literature of Great Britain, in no country in the world is criticism so widely disseminated by means of the different reviews. In these, my works, upon the whole, have been favourably dealt with ; and even where my feelings, as an author, may have been mortified, I should be more inclined to admit the liability to error in myself, than to suppose that a degree of censure had been extended to me, which, it was conceived, I did not deserve. I hope I have shewn enough to establish that I was not so thoughtless as to appeal to the laws against criticism. No lawyer, if he valued his character, would either have advised me to it, or ventured to open his lips in a court of justice in support of