« PreviousContinue »
Vol. II.-From July to December, 1813, inclusive.
Junius: including Letters of the same writer under other signa
tures, (now first collected). To which are added, his Confidential Correspondence with Mr. Wilkes, and his Private Letters addressed to Mr. H. 8. Woodfall. With a Preliminary Essay, Notes, Fac-similies, fc.
[From the Eclectic Review, for February, 1813.] ANY general observations, that might be not impertinently made on the writings of Junius, will more properly follow than precede a somewhat particular and extended notice of this cdition, the announcement of which will have strongly excited the cu. riosity of many of our readers. And it is a signal testimony to the eminence of the powers displayed in these letters, that, at the distance of nearly half a century from their first coming forth; that after a great number of subsequent political censors have had each his share of attention, and perhaps admiration, and are now in a great measure forgotten; and that in times like the present, superabounding with strange events, and flagrant examples of political depravity of their
own—they should still hold such a place in public estimation, that the appearance of an edition enlarged and illustrated from the store of materials left by the original publisher, will be regarded as an interesting event in the course of our literature. An interest that has thus continued to subsist in vigour after the loss of all temporary stimulants, and that is capable of so lively an excitement, at this distant period by a circumstance tending to make us a little Vol. II. 2D ED.
better acquainted with the author's character, and to put us in more complete possession of his writings, gives assurance that this memorable work may maintain its fame to an indefinite period, and will go down with that portion of our literature, which, in the language of pride and poetry, we call immortal. All will now agree in opinion with the present editor, that it was not vanity in the writer himself to avow a confidence of being read by a remote generation, avoiding, however, to assign, as the strongest foundation of that confidence, his superlative execution; but assuredly this claim to perpetuity was not far from his thoughts when he mentioned only the principles of his work as the ground of his expectation; “ When kings and ministers," he said, " are forgotten, when the force and direction of personal satire is no longer understood, and when measures are felt only in their remotest consequences, this book will, I believe, be found to contain principles worthy to be transmitted to posterity.”
The letters published with the signature of Junius constitute very considerably less than half of the present work. It begins with a Preliminary Essay of 160 pages; next are Private Letters to the late Mr. H. S. Woodfall, the publisher of the Public Advertiser, extending through nearly 100 pages; and these are followed by a private correspondence between Junius and Mr. Wilkes, occupying full 70 pages. Then come the well known Letters, reaching to within 60 or 70 pages of the end of the second volume. This last portion of the second volume, and the whole of the third, are occupied by Miscellaneous Letters of Junius,” which appeared under various signatures, chiefly in the Public Advertiser, before and during the appearance of those of Junius, and most of them verified by internal or circumstantial evidence to be by the same hand. Thus the publication assumes the merit of being, as far as there are any means or chance of accomplishing, a recovery and collection of the entire printed works of the author of Junius's Letters, and challenges the grateful favour of the public, for a service of so much more interesting a kind than it can often happen to a private individual to have the power of conferring.
Every reader will eagerly fall upon the Preliminary Essay. And doubtless it will afford much to gratify all its readers—but will not be quite satisfactory to any one of them. It is much more valuable than the endeavours of former writers on the same subject; and supplies information which probably no other person than the editor bad the means of communicating; but it leaves us surmising and complaining that he has not communicated all he must possess. He tempts us to suspect that he is quite willing to keep the shrine of this mysterious object of idolatry in a measure of its darkness, that he may himself look
the larger by standing a little way within the shade. In pursuing the inquiry, Who was Junius? there appears a sort of affectation of arguing the question on the ground only of public evidence, or general probabilities, in one or two instances where we cannot help flattering him (and he doubtless wishes to be so flattered) by something near a belief that, in consequence of information received from his father, he could have adduced, if he had pleased, the more direct evidence of authority.
The Essay begins with some notice of that state of political affairs in the time of Junius which required such a writer,' and justified his severity. Those times are briefly contrasted, in a political view, with the present. And this contrast gives a curious example of the benefit derived from the study and admiration of Junius. For it represents that the English Constitution (meaning, as far we can comprehend, that constitution of which it is of the very essence, according to all the old books, that there should be a real, uncorruptly elected representation of the people) was at that time in extreme peri), and is at this time in triumphant security! With a mighty burst of grand-sounding words, (which will remind no one, we hope, of the din and the clang made by the Brahmins round the pile of a perishing victim, this constitution is put in rivalry “ with the pyramids of Egypt." How much it is to be deplored that Junius could not have lived and retained all his powers to this happy time, to show us what those powers, so sovereign in the exposure of wickedness, and the prophecy of calamity, could perform in the way of eulogy and congratulation.
Some pages are employed in observations on the prominent distinctions of the celebrated letters; in acknowledging and excusing the excessive acrimony, the appearance of personal enmity, too visible in some parts of them; in describing the alarm and dismay they created among public offenders, up to the very highest order; and in asserting the beneficial operation, even to the present times, by the effect they had in determining some important questions respecting popular rights, especially the right of juries to consider the question of law as well as of fact. Then comes the inquiry which, even at this distance of time, retains so much of its interest, who was Junius? And it is curious to observe, bow populous would be the national Pantheon if all those who fancy themselves to be acquainted with individuals of supereminent talents, might be allowed to place in assembly their respective idols. For we have here a list of no less than fourteen contemporaries, each of whom has been believed, by many persons or by few, to be no other and no less than Junius. And this list does not include either Horne Tooke or Lord Chatham, to each of whom, however absurdly in the case of the for.
mer at least, some slight degree of suspicion has transiently attached. In the editor's opinion all question relative to Lord Chatham would inevitably be set aside by the severe hostility manifested against that statesman, about the time of his obtaining a pension and title, in several letters signed Poplicola and Anti-Sejanus, sent to the Public Advertiser more than a year before the commencement of the series signed Junius, and which letters the editor inserts with a confident affirmation of their being by the same writer, and of their being the first received from him-an affirmation made in such terms that we conclude Mr. W. is warranted by more direct evidence than that afforded by the style and spirit of the letters. He might, however, just as well have said so. Any surmise of Lord Chatham's being the writer, would be repressed also by the expressions of dislike to him in one of Junius's private communications to the printer, and by the slow and suspicious manner in which Junius suffered his lordship to grow considerably into his favour during the course of his letters.
The following are the names of the persons for whom pretensions have been made, and several of whom, it seems, would have been meanly gratified by their being admitted: Mr. Charles Lloyd, Mr. John Roberts, Mr. Samuel Dyer, Mr. Burke, Mr. W. G. Hamilton, commonly called Single-Speech, Dr. Butler, Bishop of Hereford, Rev. Philip Rosenhagen, General Lee, Mr. Wilkes, Mr. Hugh Boyd, Mr. Dunning, afterwards Lord Ashburton, Mr. Flood, and Lord George Sackville. And the whole of the list appears to be included without ceremony in this sweeping sentence of the editor. “ While he does not undertake to communicate the real name of Junius, he pledges himself to prove, from incontrovertible evidence, afforded by the private letters of Junius himself during the period in question, in connexion with other documents, that not one of these pretenders has ever had the smallest right to the distinction which some of them have ardently coveted.” But this is very carelessly expressed; for there is one of the persons enumerated whose claims he has by no means invalidated, and evidently does not think he has: indeed he himself says “ the evidence is indecisive."
A numerous series of notices and hints which he justly describes as “ desultory," and which he plainly affirms to contain « the whole that the writer has been able to collect concerning the author of the Letters," authorizes, he thinks, the rejection of every claimant that does not answer to the following description.
« From the observations contained in this essay, it should seem to follow unquestionably that the author of the Letters of Junius was an Englishman of highly cultivated education, deeply versed
in the language, the laws, the constitution, and history of his native country: that he was a man of easy, if not affluent circumstances, of unsullied honour and generosity, who had it equally in his heart and in his power to contribute to the necessities of other persons, and especially of those who were exposed to troubles on his account: that he was in habits of confidential intercourse, if not with different members of the cabinet, with politicians who were most intimately familiar with the court, and intrusted with all its secrets: that he had attained an age which would allow him, without vanity, to boast of an ample knowledge and experience of the world: that during the years 1767, 1768, 1769, 1770, 1771, and part of 1772, he resided almost constantly in London, or its vicinity, devoting a very large portion of his time to political concerns, and publishing his political lucubrations, under different signatures, in the Public Advertiser; that in his natural temper he was quick, irritable, and impetuous; subject to political prejudices and strong personal animosities; but possessed of a high independent spirit; honestly attached to the principles of the constitution, and fearless and indefatigable in maintaining them; that he was strict in his moral conduct, and in his attention to public decorum; an avowed member of the established church, and, though acquainted with English judicature, not a lawyer by profession.” Preliminary Essay, p. 97.
This descriptive and historical sketch presents, to be sure, but few very marked points: the greater portion of it is casily drawn from the letters already before the public: some of the personal qualities are assumed on very slight authority: but the almost constant residence in or near London during the specified period, the strangely intimate acquaintance with the court and cabinet, the independence of the author's situation in life, and his honourable and generous disposition, are clearly mani. fested in his private correspondence with Woodfall. The two latter particulars are evident by his steady refusal, in a cool and easy manner, of any share of the emolument arising from the publication of the letters collectively, of which he was urged by Woodfall to accept a moiety, and by his voluntary pledge to indemnify this courageous printer for any pecuniary injury he might sustain in case of a prosecution. It is true it may be said he was not put to the test on this point; but there is an unaffected air of dignity and sincerity in his assurances which leaves no room for doubt.
Having laid down the law of qualifications, the editor proceeds to the trial of claims; and he makes very short work with the majority of them.
6 Of the first three of these reported authors of the letters, it will be sufficient to observe, without entering into any other fact whatever, that Lloyd (a clerk of the treasury, and afterwards a