Page images

ART. VI.--Memoirs of John Horne Tooke, Esq.; together with

his valuable speeches and writings-also containing proofs, identifying him as the author of the celebrated Letters of Junius. By J. A. GRAHAM, LL. D. New-York, 1828.

Two of the mysteries which have perplexed the ingenuity of the literary world, the man in the iron mask, and the author of Waverley, have been set at rest; the third, the author of Junius, after a concealment of sixty years, has yielded to the Edipus, whose labours are prefixed to this article. - John A Graham, LL. D. to whom the world is indebted for this discovery, we are proud to say, is an American; his effigie, which adorns his book, and the motto “Justitiæ generesque humani advocas,” inscribed below it, sufficiently proclaim to the world, both the character and the pretensions of the original.

His work is dedicated to the late Chief Justice of the state of New-York, who is pathetically entreated to give it a place in some corner of his library, “that when I shall have shuffled off this mortal coil, this volume may sometimes catch your eye. The worthy advocate of the human race then proceeds to state, " that it must be understood, that he does not claim the originality of the suggestion, that John Horne Tooke is Junius; but hopes, without subjecting himself to the imputation of vanity, he may be allowed the merit of having contributed to change mere suspicions into enduring and unalterable belief.”—As our object in bringing the subject before our readers, is hy no means to lessen the merit of one who simply “seeks by his own humble labours, not to weave the wreath, but merely to bind it on, having first ascertained the brows destined to wear it,” we shall cite his proofs, and leave them to find their way down to posterity through the incredulity of the present age. They consist of certain admissions made by Mr. Tooke himself to Dr. Graham in the years 1794 and 1797, at which period, he had “the honour of being sent on a mission to England, by the Episcopal convention of the state of Vermont, upon ecclesiastical affairs, connected with the courts of Canterbury and York," and are as follows. “In the summer of 1797, I held a conversation with him upon the subject of his controversy with Junius, in which after mentioning my admiration of the style of Junius, I added, with a smile, that I of course excepted his harsh epithets and coarse invective against Parson Horne; upon which, Mr. T. replied, smiling, Junius is the best friend I ever had on earth.'"-"On another occasion, in a similar conversation, I put the question directly to Mr. T. Do you then know the author of Junius? “Yes,' replied he, 'I do know him better than any man in England.' Pray, Sir, is he now living?' 'Yes, my dear sir, he is yet

man, do

alive.' He must then be an old


know his age?' Mr. T. instantly replied, “Strange as it may seem, I can assure you, that Parson Horne and Junius were born on the same day, in the city of Westminster.'”

The inferences to be drawn from these confessions, in conjunction with the other matters contained in the doctor's essay, seem in his judgment conclusive of the fact, “that John Horne Tooke is Junius." The remainder of the doctor's octavo, of two hundred and thirty-eight pages is made up of the writings of Mr. Tooke and other matters of equal notoriety, that have long been familiar to readers of every description. These comprise the “proofs” drawn from the dim obscurity of thirty years' concealment in the doctor's bosom, which are to stamp his name perhaps with the glory of a second Christopher Columbus. We must not omit to inform our readers that the essay contains fac similes of the aụtographs of Junius and of John Horne Tooke; moreover the oath of the lithographer, attesting the resemblance of the hands writing, but which, we are compelled to say, with unfeigned sorrow, bear marks of utter dissimilarity.

We are far from intending to disprove the hypothesis thus asserted; but we owe it to the world and to ourselves to state, that we have one, which we claim to be our own; in a word, we have our reasons for believing that his late Majesty George the Third, was the sole author of Junius, and probably “the sole depositary of his own secret.” This discovery we freely bequeath to the doctor, because we think his proofs are rather stronger in making out our case than in establishing his

Having thus disburdened ourselves of a secret, that has for many years weighed heavily upon us, we shall devote the remainder of our article to the life and character of John Horne Tooke, esquire.—In compiling an abstract of the principal events of the career of this extraordinary political adventurer, we shall be guided by his friend and biographer Alexander Stephens, whose work has never been published in this country, and is probably very little known to most of our readers. The name of John Horne Tooke is connected with the history of the times in which he lived, and in which the independence of our country was achieved. Nearly the whole of his life was devoted to what he denominated “a constitutional struggle with official despotism." He possessed a powerful and highly cultivated mind, an invincible spirit of opposition to established authority, whether in law, literature or in politics. No sufferings could appal him, and no power awe him into a moment's submission. That “Horne's situation did not correspond with his intentions,” we believe to be the honest confession of his heart. Nature had endowed him with qualities fitted for a leader in the active scenes of public


life, and he burned with ambition to wrestle with the master spirits of his age in fair and legitimate contest for fame ; but these dispositions were fatally counteracted by the humble sphere of life in which he was born, and the adverse circumstances that thwarted his efforts to gain distinction: irritated and disappointed in his designs, his mind was seized with a settled hatred to all that opposed his progress, and he wasted his existence and his talents in unavailing struggles with political power. Wilkes was undoubtedly the prototype of Horne; his beau ideal of a political adventurer: in his daring and successful example, he beheld the only means left him to attract the gaze of the multitude. They have taught the world how much it lies within the power of the humblest individuals, to brave the punishments and set at defiance the highest authorities of a government upheld by settled laws. In France, under the old regime, such spirits would have expired, without the least public sympathy, in the dungeons of the Bastile; under our own government, their intolerance and hatred of settled forms would have soon become neutralized by the total absence of restraint and persecution. England was the only state in Europe in which they could have waged war under the protecting shield of its constitution, and with its highest ministerial and judicial agents. We think there is a significant moral to be gleaned from the example of these political heroes, not less striking than that drawn from their illustrious original the hero of Paradise Lost.

John Horne, for the cognomen of Tooke was long afterwards assumed, was born in Westminster, in the year 1736 ; his father was a poulterer, whose name is known in the law reports, for his manly resistance and triumph over the then heir-apparent of the crown of England, in an illegal attempt to force a passage through his premises. Theorists may see shadowed in this victory of the father the subsequent disposition to resist power that distinguished the life of the son. The natural turbulence of his disposition indeed displayed itself sufficiently early; he lost the sight of an eye, by some unlucky affray with a schoolboy; and before he had reached his tenth year, he absconded from his pedagogue and actually made good his retreat to his father's house, twenty miles distant from the school, without a penny in his pocket. Upon being sternly interrogated by his father, the future grammarian observed, “that his master was utterly unfit to instruct him; for although he might, perhaps, know what a noun or a verb was, yet he understood nothing about a preposition or a conjunction; and so, finding him an ignorant fellow, he had resolved to leave him.” Whilst at Westminster and Eton, he was of course in association with the sons of patricians, and being aware of the ridicule that attaches to humble origin, he contrived to avert the mortification of their questions by answering “that

it was indeed true, he could not boast of any titles in his family, but that his father was an eminent turkey merchant.

After a creditable residence of three years at Cambridge, he obtained the degree of bachelor of arts. He now officiated in quality of a tutor for a year or two, but at the earnest request of his father he entered into holy orders and was ordained deacon, but did not qualify himself for the priesthood, until some time afterwards. The law was always the profession most congenial to his taste, and to the latest hour of his life, he never ceased to speak of it with admiration. Conscious of his ability to excel in this pursuit, he suddenly abandoned the church and entered himself a member of the Inner Temple in the year 1756 ; here he became intimate with Dunning and Kenyon. Neither of the parties was rich, and they lived with a degree of frugality which forms a ludicrous contrast to their subsequent wealth and celebrity; they used to dine together during the vacation at a little eating-house in Chancery lane, for the sum of seven-pence halfpenny each. Horne was accustomed to add ; “we were generous, for we gave the girl who waited upon us, a penny a piece; but Kenyon, who always knew the value of money, sometimes rewarded her with a half-penny, and sometimes with a promise." It appears, that his father never sanctioned his partiality to the bar, and he was now reluctantly obliged to resume the duties of his first profession, by fresh entreaties and promises of future provision. In 1760 he was admitted a priest in the church of England, by the bishop of Sarum, and in the course of the same year, obtained the living of New Brentford in the county of Middlesex, which was purchased for him by his father, and came to yield about three hundred pound per annum. In 1763, he accompanied a son of the eccentric miser Elwes to the continent, and remained abroad for a year.

His prospects of advancement in the church at this time stood high; his connexions possessed influence, and he performed his official duties faithfully; he even studied the healing art, and established a dispensary in the parsonage house, that he might relieve his poorer parishioners by supplying them with medicines. He used to say, “ that although physic was said to be a problematical art, he believed that his medical were more efficacious than his spiritual labours.” He now began his career as a politician. He early imbibed exalted notions of public liberty, and these operating on a sanguine temperament, produced a degree of zeal, which, before it was corrected by experience, at times verged upon political fanaticism.

The misguided influence of the favourite, Lord Bute, had irritated the public mind almost to a state of phrenzy. Pitt was the idol of the people, and the undisputed leader of the opposition. The arrest of Wilkes, for a libel, under the illegal pro

cess of a general warrant, with his subsequent discharge, by the solemn decision of a court of law, rendered him the most popular man in the kingdom.

Such was the feverish crisis of public affairs, when Mr. Horne, dazzled by the triumph of Wilkes, first appeared upon the scene of action. It was his settled belief, that the young monarch, under the pernicious influence of his favourite, meditated the entire destruction of the constitutional liberty of England; this belief, which he never relinquished to the end of his days, may be regarded as the main spring of all his future opposition to the government. He opened his battery in an anonymous pamphlet, aimed at Lord Mansfield, against whom, like another Hannibal, he had sworn eternal warfare. Unfortunately he escaped the pillory, an honour which he seemed most ardently to covet.

In 1765 he again accompanied a young gentleman on a tour to the continent. Upon his arrival at Paris, he eagerly sought an introduction to his idol Wilkes, and was graciously received by him, as a brother patriot. This celebrated character, was then wearing out his exile in the elegant dissipations of a luxurious metropolis; all the world knows, that he united the refined taste of a scholar with the vices of a fine gentleman and the courage of a hero. Perceiving the superior talents and aptitude of Mr. Horne, as well as the uses to which they might afterwards be converted, he readily obtained his confidence, and exacted from him a promise of correspondence. They separated, and Mr. Horne, after visiting the chief cities of Italy, returned with his companion, to pass some time at Montpelier; here, he seemed first to recollect his pledge to the banished patriot, and he accordingly addressed to him a letter, which had a material influence upon the subsequent events of his life.

After casting obloquy upon his clerical profession, and protesting that he was not yet an ordained hypocrite, he ventured upon some shrewd political surmises, as to certain negotiations of the patriot with the English ministry, the design of which, was, either to obtain a pension, or an embassy to the Ottoman Porte, as a boon for his unmerited persecutions.

No answer was given to this singular epistle, and Mr. Horne upon his return to Paris, demanded from the patriot an explanation of his silence; but the gallant colonel of the Buckingham militia skilfully parried the inquiries of his friend, by endeavouring to turn the affair into a joke. Finding him not disposed to share in his merriment, he at once satisfied his offended pride, by a positive denial of the receipt of the letter.

Mr. Horne now returned to England, previously confiding to his friend Wilkes his fashionable wardrobe, consisting of sundry suits of scarlet embroidered with gold and silver, which

« PreviousContinue »