Mr. Henry Hunt, having brought an action against the printer
and proprietors of the True Sun for a libel, appeared in the Court of Ex- chequer, on Monday, to conduct his cause in person. It was tried be- fore Lord Lyndhurst and a Common Juiy. Mr. Hunt opened his case with an apology for prosecuting, and then came to the subject-matter.
" Gentlemen, this libel, which is contained in three counts—Why, the lawyers will tell you—charges the defendants with a malicious intention to do me an in- jury. Before I proceed further, I will read you the libel complained of. It is in the True Sun of the 18th of December 1832. ' Riot at Preston. (From the Liverpool Courier.) It appears that Hunt, the late Member, pointed
to Counsellor Sagar in the mob, and said, " That is the black sheep." The mob fell upon and murdered him. In the affray Hunt had his nose cut off.' ( Great laughter in Court.) I have heard a similar laugh to that before; but those
who now laugh, if their noses were cut off, would laugh on the wrong aide of their mouths. (Renewed laughter.) The paragraph goes on thus—' The Coroner's inquest has brought in a verdict of "wilful murder " agaii,st Hunt, and
he is in custody—Fudge !' Now, gentlemen, when I, in the first instance, state to you that this is a falsehood from beginning to end—that no such extract ap- peared in the Liverpool Courier—that the whole is a perfect falsehood—that in
point of fact it was manufactured at the True San office—you will doubtless be surprised at the defence which will be set up. I have a witl ess here who will produce the files of the Liverpool Courier for weeks before the transaction. I will put these files into the hands of the counsel for the defendants ; and if they can find the paragraph, or any thing like it, I will consent to withdraw this action and pay.the costs." One part of the libel, the Jury would at once perceive to be false, as he stood before them with his nose on his face; and if any person were disposed to turn this part of the affair into ridicule, he would only wish them to fancy Mr. Humphrey [the defendants' counsel, whose nose is large and prominent] addressing them without his nose, and fancy what a pretty figure he would cut. He maintained that the libel was a malignant slander, no electioneering squib. "I understand," said Mr. Hunt, " that two defences are intended to be set up to this action,—first, that the libel is too absurd and preposterous for any person to believe it to be true; and secondly, it is to be urged that the addition of the single word ' Fudge ' is a justification. I im- derstand that the parties say their only object in inserting the paragraph in their paper, was for the purpose of giving it an unqualified contradiction. It is cer- tainly strange that persons inclined to act so friendly a part, should not make use of a better word than 'fudge' for the purpose. They might as well have written 'finis,' or Figaro,' or ' Wag,' or any other slang term, which the papers now-a-days select for titles. It is to be contended that the word 'fudge' means false.' Why, there is no such word to be found in the English language. One author alone has made use of it—Dr. Goldsmith. But Dr. Johnson, who was living at the same time, has not noticed it. Nor is it to be found in the dic- tionaries of Walker, Bailey, Sheridan, Ainsworth, and others of established re- putation. It is only to be found in the large and expensive edition of Johnson, by Todd, which costs four or five guineas. But if they wanted to contradict the statement, why make use of an equivocal word ?" The Lord Chief Baron (he continued), or any of the Jury, might be charged with any crime, and if only the word "fudge " were added to the statement, it was, it seemed, to be held a justification of the man who made it ; but Mr. Hunt would ask the Jury, as men of the world, whether they should consider it a justification or reparation ? He denied that in the Vicar of Wakefield the word "fudge" was used in the sense of " false ;" for it was applied to several moral maxims which were un- doubtedly true. The readers of the True Sun were probably of the same class of persons as the gentleman's servants who are represented in the farce of High Life below Stairs disputing about the authorship of Shakspeare's Plays. " One said it was Pope, another Cibber, a third Addison; when at last the coachman got up, and silenced all the talkers, by declaring, in a tone of authority, that they were written, not by any of those gentlemen, but by one 'Mr. Finis,' for he had seen his name at the end of the book. Now, gentlemen, it is not at all unlikely that the people who came to such a conclusion are of the class of the readers of the True Sun; and if the former were in error, and did not know the meaning of the word ' finis,' which though not in the English language, is nevertheless a word of common use, where is the improbability that the latter should not know the meaning of a word which is not to be found in any lan- guage at all? If they meant to contradict the libel, the word should not have been such as to bear any equivocal meaning."
Mr. Hunt then proceeded to account for the enmity which the True Sun people bore to him. It arose, he said, from his observing, when the Radicals were called upon for a subscription to support the paper, that their establish- ment was too expensive, not only as regarded the persons employed, but the splendid and costly furniture of the apartments, which he seemed to consider a great scandal to the Radical cause. He thought that an editor and a "scissors- man to make up the paper" were all that was necessary; and that a small room like that of Mr. Black of the Chronicle, filled with books, the tables covered with papers, with half-a-dozen chairs not worth half.a-crown a piece, might answer very well for the True Sun. He reminded the Jury, that he might have proceeded against his libellers by criminal information ; or he might have come for vindictive damages. But he asked not for large damages ; indeed, if the Jury gave them him, he should not get them; but nominal damages were all he wished for, or expected. By way of proving the animus of the True Sun, he read a paragraph from the Spectator, which was copied. into the True Sun, the day before the libel of which he complained appeared. He quoted this only to show the intention, as he should consider himself eternally disgraced if he prosecuted a paper for such a paragraph as that. He read the passage he re- ferred to, which is as follows.
" Cobbett is returned ! We do heartily rejoice at this. lie is a Radical worth having. He will add fifty per cent. to the interest of the session's debates. This is the man who ought to have been put into the House when that poor thing Hunt— whom we are glad to see turned out—was put in. Hunt degraded the labouring classes by his ignorance, and his base association with the Tories. If Cobbett should, in some of his tits of waywardness, imitate him in the latter, he cannot in the former."— Spectator.
[The reading of this extract excited roars of laughter.] Now, he said, whether Fudge, Figaro, or Spectator, or the name of "any other contemptible work," be put to this paragraph, the insertion shows the malicious feeling which pre- vailed in the minds of the editors of the True Sun, the day before the libel appeared. He was sure the Jury would not refuse to give him a verdict, be- cause they thought his character as a Radical might be attacked with impunity ; and that they would let these defendants know, that when next they inserted a malicious libel, if they wished to avoid an action for damages, they must give it a more unequivocal contradiction than the word "fudge."
Mr. Hunt then proceeded to call witnesses to state the meaning which they attached to the word "fudge."
Mr. Henry Hunt junior could not find the word in any dictionary which he had examined ; but supposed it must mean "all stuff," or " nonsense."
Thomas Hart, Mr. Hunt's clerk, could find the word in no dictionary, except in Todd's recent edition of Johnson. He was at a public meeting where Mr. Hunt spoke, and was greeted with cries of " Fudge," which proceeded from Mr. Carpenter, and other persons connected with the True Sun: this was sub- sequent to the insertion of the libel. This witness, who is described as assum- ing a peculiarly knowing look while giving his evidence, was cross-examined by Mr. Humphrey.
" You talk of expensive dictionaries and large quartos; pray; did you ever look to Dr. Chalmers's cheap edition of Johnson, published about 1820 ?" Witness—" No."
Mr. Humphrey—" Look at it ; do you find the word 'fudge' there ?" Witness—" Yes, it is here."
Mr. Humphrey—" So you find it in that ?"
Witness—" 'Yes ; but ill hand you 'haft-a-doz2n in which I can't boot it. Perhaps you'd like to look at mine?" (Laughter.)
Mr. Humphrep,-4, No, I thank you. bid you ever see Dyelte's commas SchoOl Dictionary ?"
Mr. Humphrey—" Why, where have you lived ? What dictinnary, pray,,dial you learn out of?"
Witness—" Why, I hardly know; I think ' Antick's.'" ( Roars of laughter.) Mr. Humphrey—" Upon my word, you seem to be well acquainted with lexi- cography."
Witness—" Why, when I learnt out of dicksonnaries, I didn't look particu- larly for it ; but I have looked in Ainsworth, and five or six others, and could not find it. Now I have found it, I'll make a memorandum of it." ( Great laughter.)
Mr. Humphrey—" Well, read Dr. Chalmers's meaning." Witness—" Yes. ' Fudge—an expression of the utmost contempt, usually bestowed on absurd and lying talkers.—Goldsmith.' " Witness had attended meetings of the working classes ; was acquainted with that class ; they might, perhaps understand the meaning of the word " fudge," but does not think all would ; does not know whether they would take it for the name of a correspon- dent.
The Lord Chief Baron—" That is too absurd. Every body knows the mean • ing of the word 'fudge,' without a dictionary. There are many other terms used in these days, which you will not find in dictionaries ; such as the ward ' Radical,' which you will perhaps not find in any dictionary, in the modern sense, and yet every body knows the meaning of the term."
Dr. Lipscombe, a doctor of medicine, author of the History of the County of Buckingham, and several medical works, thought that the word " fudge," which had only recently been introduced into Todd's Johnson, from which it was taken by Chalmers, was meant by Goldsmith to throw ridicule on the speakers, not on the words spoken.
It was proved that three actions had been already brought for a similar paragraph, against the Globe, the Guardian, and Liverpool paper.
Mr. Humphrey then addressed the Jury for Mr. Ager, the printer of the True Sun. He ridiculed Mr. Hunt's fondness for speechmaking, which with hint amounted to a disease ; and might be termed by his friend Dr. Lipscombe, "a determination of words to the mouth." He commented upon the audacity of the assertion that the defendants had written the paragraph themselves, when it had appeared in the Liverpool Journal, though not the Liverpool Courier, four days before. He affirmed that the word " fudge " was intended to be, and that it was in fact, an emphatic, though brief contradiction of the story in the alleged libel. He referred to the passage extracted from the Spectator, which he said contained the imputation which had really stung Mr. Hunt. " You know that when a gentleman was applied to for the purpose of interfering between two ladies who had quarrelled, before he would undertake the delicate task, he inquired to what extremities they had gone ;—imputations on each other's virtue were not of much moment, but he particularly inquired if they had called each other ugly ; and being answered in the negative, said, then they can be reconciled—a woman will pardon every thing but that. To apply the story, it seemed that the True Sun bad proceeded to that extremity against Mr. Hunt, which he never would forgive. They had certainly not called him ugly, but they had (through the extract from the Spectator) called him igno- rant—they had said that Cobbett might imitate him in his base association with the Tories, but that Cobbett never could imitate him in his ignorance. (A laugh.) Now this is an imputation which Mr. Hunt cannot bear. They might have said his nose was cut off; they might have said he was tried and imprisoned a thousand times over ; but to call him ignorant, was like calling a lady ugly,—the never-to-be-forgiven crime, which was the true secret of the present action." After some remarks upon the meaning of the word " Radical," which Johnson explained to mean—" primitive, original, serving to origination," Mr. Humphrey observed, that there was nothing very primitive about Mr. Hunt, though he certainly " served to originate actions " in the Court of Ex- chequer. He then said, that he would read the passage from the Vicar of Wakefield, where the word "fudge " occurred, and which, strange to say, Dr. Lipscombe affirmed not to mean "false or absurd," as there used. Dr. Lipscombe (apparently in a great passion)—" My Lord, I claim the pro- tection of the Court. It certainly is false or absurd in the disjunctive, but not false alone, for it is applied only to moral truth. I claim protection ; I won't be made absurd by any counsel." [This declaration of the wrathful Doctor pro- duced much merriment in Court.] Mr. Humphrey—" I hope Dr. Lipscombe won't be so angry. I'll read you a passage or two by way of example, and then leave it to Lady Blarney, Miss Carolina Wilhelmina Amelia Skeggs, and Dr. Lipscombe, to decide the meaning of the word. The first passage which illustrates Dr. Lipscombe's moral truth is this— "All that I know of the matter," cried Mrs. Skeggs, " is this, that it may be true, or it may not be true : but this I can assure your Ladyship, that the whole rout was in amaze; his Lordship turned all ma.,ner of colours ; my Lady fell into a swoon; but Sir Tomkyn, drawing his sword, swore be was hers to the last drop of his blood."
On this, Sir William Thornhill cries " Fudge ;" and this is one of Dr. Lips- combe's great moral truths. Now for another— wen," replied our Peeress, "this I can say. that the Dutchess never told me a syllable of the matter; mull believe her Grace would keep nothing a secret from me. This you may depend on as a fact, that the next morning my Lord Duke cried out three times to his valet de chambre, Jernigan ! Jernigan ! Jernigan I bring me may garters." (Roars qf laughter, in which Lord Lyndhurst joined most heartily.) To this great moral truth also, Sir William Thornhill had the assurance to cry "fudge." Mr. Humphrey concluded by calling upon the Jury to repudiate this shallow attempt to convert the paragraph in question into a libel.
Mr. Grant, another of the defendants, spoke a few words. Lord Lyndhurst then charged the Jury— The question here was, with what motive and object was this publication made? If they were satisfied that the publication which appeared in the True Sun was inserted with the intention of injuring Mr. Hunt, he would then be entitled to maintain this action : if, on the contrary, they should come to the conclusion, taking the whole article into their consideration, that the object of the person publishing that article was to vindicate the character of Mr. Hunt against an unfounded charge—in such case this action could not be maintained. Reference bad properly been made to previous acts and paragraphs to show the intentions of the parties. One of these charged Mr. Hunt with ignorance. and with a base as- sociation with the Tories ; a class of men whom the editor of that paper did not appear much to admire. On the other hand, the species of admission made by Mr. Hunt at the Theohald Road meeting had been commented on by the counsel for the defendants, as favouring their view of the question. The witness for the plaintiff had certainly prowl that the statement in the report of Mr. Hunt being interrupted by cries of " Fudge, fudge," was true-' though he also stated that they did not come from the body of the meeting, but for the most part from per- sons connected with the True Sun. The main-object for the Jury to consider, however, would be the intention of the publication.
The Jury, after ten minutes' consideration, returned a verdict with "One Farthing" damages for the plaintiff.
On Tuesday, Mr. Humphrey mide an application to Lord Lynd- kerst, on behalf of the defendants, to " certify ;" bt.t h's Lordship re- fused. This settles the question of costs against the defendants.