26 OCTOBER 1850, Page 14


norm's EDITION OF JuNrus.•

Ty is frequently said that the celebrity of Junius depends upon the mystery in which the authorship is involved. And to some extent this is true : the mind delights in what is strange and hidden, even if it be a felony as in the case of Eugene Aram, or a trading piece of humbug like the " Great Unknown" of the Waverley Novels. But unless there had been innate vitality, with great originality to boot, in the Letters of Junius, the mere mystery at- tending the writer would only have secured them a niche among the curiosities of literature, which students may remember, but which the public at large forgets; as in the question did King Charles write Ellyn Basilllie? or who is the author of The Whole Duty of Man f In the avowed Junius, there is the condensation and comprehension of the poetical satirist, as well as the lightning- like power which scathes whatever it strikes, and leaves a mark that neither time nor logic can obliterate. With the faculty of pe- netrating to the very core of characters and affairs, and reaching the essential truth in spite of all external disguises, Junius had also an acquired logic, with a nice discrimination and a directness of purpose which mere logic cannot give. When it was his busi- ness to reason, he was clear, close, and cogent,—witness his argu- ments on expulsion (by the House of. Commons) not of itself creat- ing disqualification, and on the military rescue of General Gansell. His style, too, was original : there was nothing like it, that we are aware of, in English or any other language. It strikes us that Juvenal, and Johnson in his imitations of Juvenal, were the ' nearest prototypes, in a sort of condensed force and comprehen- siveness; but, independently of the differences between Latin and English and the form of poetry in each ease, Junius had a fierce- ness and bitterness appropriate to the combats of political warfare, though not so much in place in the loftier themes of the satirist. But mere originality is not by itself secure of permanent fame.

A writer must be the founder of a distinct kind of writing, or the head of some class of writers. Junius was the founder of the mo- dern school of newspaper political writing. He not only originated the " leader," with its aptness of subject, its sufficient though not critical completeness, its congeniality with the feeling of the mo- ment, its argument—enough to fortify minds with preconceived opinions and to put a face upon the matter even for opponents—its singleness of purpose, its unsparing assault, and its terse Worldly style : he carried it to the highest pitch of perfection as regards extent and composition; and, whatever may be thought of his fairness, he infused a lofty tone of moral feeling into most of his writings. Before his time, there was plenty of foolish and filthy ribaldry 'in the press, with wordy billingsgate, that could excite no feeling butcontempt save with the lowest vulgar, and dirt-throwing that missed its aim, and befouled the thrower more than any- body else. Men of great acquirements and great parts—as Swift, Steele, Addison, Bolingbroke, and others—had indeed:engaged in party political warfare, and with every wish to make their adversaries smart; but they were mostly either too long or too formal. The compositions had generally too much of the treatise, the pamphlet, or the essay, for instant popular effect. They had also too much of the ceremony of the lists or the feneing-school ; they would not " leave their damnable faces and begin. When mind Junius,xor scholastic tiallc smethodsuiomften iwthtieakey weakened their attack; they aimed at cutting throats with a feather, and frequently failed in. that difficult job. Junius dis- carded the old tactics, plunged " in medias res," drove directly at his object, ancl struck without ceremony at the vital point. It is, however, a question whether manners and opinions would some years earlier have given sufficient encouragement to a writer to persevere in his course, even with the same violent state of pal- ' ceinrenithinipalublic hit his time exactly. The manner in which Junius handled some members of "great Whig historical families," with the terror which busy, bustling, ,ktkinacious persons, entertain of the lea talionis in an anonymous form, has caused a good deal of cant to be promulgated about anonymous libelling. To say that all the facts stated by Junius, and on which he based his commentaries, were absolutely true in their extent, would be exaggeration ; but we suspect that they all rest upon. evidence—the evidence of report, and were generally believed in his own time, at least by his own side. To suppose that a satirist, or a political party writer, is to exhibit the ju- dicial or critical mind in his commentaries on public men and public affairs, is to sup se an incompatibility . This passage, for example, towards the close of his letter to the Duke of Bedford, may illustrate what we mean. "Your friends will ask, perham Whither shall this unhappy old man re- tire ? Can he remain in the Metropolis, where his life has been so often threatened and his palace so often attacked ? If he returns to Woburn, ' scorn and mockery await him. He must create a solitude round his estate, if he would avoid the face of reproach and derision. At Plymouth, his de- , struction would be more than probable - at Deter, inevitable. No honest Englishman will ever forget his attachnient, nor any honest Bootchman for- give his treachery, to Lord Bute. At every town he enters he must change his liveries and his name. Whichever way he flies, the hue and cry' of the country gunnies him."

—No one supposes that Junius intended everything here to be

• Junius: including Letters by the same Writer under other Signatures ; to which are added, his Cotindenlial Correspondence with Mr. Wilkes, and his Private Let- tere to Mr. H. S. Woodfall. A new and enlarged edition ; with new Evidence as to the Authorship, and Extracts from an Analysis by •Sir Harris Nicolas. By John Wade, Author of " Chronology of Batista History, ' '• The Cabinet Lawyer." &c. In two volumes. (Bohn's Standard Library.) Published by H. G. Bohn. taken au pied de la lettre. It must be an obtusely literal under-- standing which should fancy that he meant to affirm that the liege India of the hundred or the county raised themselves, or were raised by the authorities, to go in tumultuous but " legal pee_ suit" of the Duke of Bedford. The other statements have literal truth in them, whatever may be said of the animus. Blooms- bury House was oftener than once assailed by the mob, and the Duke sought for ; at Exeter the populace tried to stone him ; he was so unpopular at Bedford that the Corporation opened the borough to defeat his candidate. Nor did the Duke's friends at the time see exaggeration in the facts. Sir William Draper admits them, but ascribes the cause to anonymous writers. " Shall one of the first subjects of the realm," writes the knight of the "blushing dangere„"tf:":bnelperaucinhae:edi with bhiuilstfamceupo.e3, nshmsalluuoshtevesann. sandy lifeheeno ? [that of having been bribed to make extravagant concessions in nego. tinting tin constant



lawless ruffians, his journies impeded, and even the asylum of an altar be insecure from assertions so base and false." To which Junius logically enough replies—" The generous warmth of his resentment makes him confound the order of events. He forgets that the insults and distresses which the Duke of Bedford has suffered, and which Sir William has lamented with many delicate touches of the true pathetic, were only recorded in my letter to his Grace, not occasioned by it." What anonymous writing really does, is to give greater power

and freedom to the writer ; enabling him to exercise his judgment fully on the matter in hand, unfettered by any previous opinion he may have expressed or any peculiarities of position. By tacit usage, it allows him to speak more truly of individuals than the same usage permits in personal speech ; and it enables those who choose to comment more freely on " people they are in the habit of meeting," than they might always like to do if writing avowedly. As for libels and slander, they are as rife in open speech as in " anonymous" writing. Look at the hired state- ments and comments of the bar ; look at the reckless and unscru- pulous venom of the platform, or the not much more measured speech at the political meeting or on the hustings. Do the rules and the Chairman of Parliament hinder the imputing of motives or the inventing of charges ? We talk of the refinement of our own times and the moderation of party; yet the Senate occasion- ally shows us, that When power and its concomitants are at stake, men of a certain cast of mind are as unscrupulous and truculent as they were in the age.of Junius. Within these few months, we saw a bold-fronted, hard-mouthed lawyer—one of those

"haranguers of the throng That seek to get preferment by the tongue "—

" uttering" an absurd charge of conspiracy. against English gentle- men, while the party accepted, and the Prime Minister endorsed the slander with additions of his own. Talk of " anonymous libels " —there is more of hypocrisy and malignity, of cowardice and of impudence, in Parliament and public meetings, than in any re- putable section of the press. As regards the great originator of real anonymous writing, the difference is not in point of morality but of ability ; it is a question of mind and style. The interest still attached to the merit or mystery of Junius is shown by the attention which has been attracted to Mr. Bohn's very complete edition of the writings of Junius and of those ascribed to him. The difficulty of penetrating the secret is proved by the very unsatisfactory result arrived at by the various re- viewers. Indwd, the only satisfactory conclusion reached is the demolition of the deices of Sir Philip Francis on the grounds put forward by his advocates, in a. series of papers in. the Athenaum, by a writer alike remarkable for his extensive knowledge of the minute facts of social and literary history, his untiring per- severance in hunting up particulars, and his power of treating minutiae in an attractive way. That series strikingly exemplifies how little weight belongs to what are called coincidences—how little value attaches to a claim speciously bolstered up, when it comes to be analyzed by a searching mind with competent knowledge. In fact, one difficulty in all circumstantial evidence or coincidence of a general kind is its want of particular application. Resem- blances in handwriting are deceptive, for they apply to so many ; presence or absence of a particular person in a large town can prove nothing affirmative, for it is common to hundreds or thou- sands; exclusive information (of which a good deal more is talked about in the case of Junius than can be established) must be really exclusive. For instance, there were other clerks in the War Office besides Francis, who could learn as much as he could about mili- tary movements or promotions; there were the heads of the Office itself; there was the Cabinet; there were the officers interested in the appointments. We are not going to enter into a discussion on minutiae, or to express an opinion as to the authorship at all; but we may throw out a few observations of a general kind. One essential qualifica- tion in a claimant for the authorship of Junius is, that he should have been able to write the letters. Yet of the thirty-seven per- sons who have been mentioned in connexion with the authorship, the mass of them were clearly incapable of doing anything of the 1 lid. Indeed, there are not half a dozen who from part's or posi- tion appear to have any claim ; and three of those do not bear examination.




Sir Philip Francis. Lord George Sackville. Chesterfield had the terseness and point of Junius; he might pos- sibly have acquired his strength; but he had none of his savage

bitterness, and he had neither means nor motive for writing. He was seventy-five years old ; he had retired from society, afflicted with severe deafness, and overwhelmed by infirmities : indeed he was slowly dying.

In point of genius, Gibbon was quite equal to the task ; but it seems as certain as anything can be in criticism that he had never acquired the manner or style of 'Junius. His views, his temper, his whole nature in fact, appear to have beet entirely opposed to any such proceeding as writing these letters; and he was occupied during the entire period. In the early part of 1769, he was enga-

ged in winding up. his periodical, " Memoires Litteraires de la Grand Bretagne "; in 1770, he was disturbed by anxiety about his

father's decline and death ; and till the autumn of 1772 he was harassed by family embarrassments. It is not impossible that Gib- bon may have been junks, but it is extremely improbable. The genius of Burke was likewise equal to the authorship, and he had the vehemence of Junius. Whether his rich and florid style could have been brought down to the nervous condensation of that writer, may be questioned. But we have Burke's spontanc- ens assurance that he was not the author, made to Johnson under circumstances that commanded implicit belief; otherwise Johnson would have attributed them to Burke, but only on the insufficient ground that he knew no other man who could write them. Gib- bon's History had not then appeared. The abilities of Francis were considerable, and some of his pub- lished works bear a resemblance to the style of Junius : but this might be imitative, especially in a man whose great aim was to be

thought Junius. A perusal of the controversy. of Francis with Hastings during the time he was at Calcutta, will show, we think,

that Francis had the temper of Junius, more especially his readi- ness to receive as indisputable anything that could be made to tell in his favour, on very slender proof, and to regard an opponent as a criminal. Francis, however, does not seem to have had any personal motive for writing as Junius did ; and, as the investigator in the Atheneum remarks, he could hardly have found the time or strength to do what " the Franciscans" attribute to their Francis-Junius. Considerable if not absolute leisure seems to us a sine qua non in the author of Junius. One or two letters might have been written under the excitement of a busy life, but not the series, with the unavowed and private correspondence. The leisure was possessed by Lord George Sackville. He had also means of procuring all current information, and facilities Per observation, especially of a personal kind. Various external cir- cumstances seem to point to him; his disgraceful dismissal from the army, whether he felt it deserved or unmerited, was mo- tive sufficient for him to "run amuck" at all politicians ; and his subsequent acceptance of office and title from George the Third might be a cogent reason to his mind for concealing the authorship. Some letters of Lord George on the state of the Highlands and the Highlanders show that he could discard the fashionable pre- judices of his age and go directly to the reality of affairs : but he exhibits no proof of the power or the temper of Junius. At the same time it may be remarked, that the style of Junius, especially his strength, was the result of great labour,—as we see by his first letter to Home Tooke, his letters under other signatures, and his private correspondence. If we were limited to the list of names, the choice would seem to lie between Francis and Sackville. But is it absolutely necessary to ascribe the authorship to some known person ? especially when only three of those persons (if we exclude Walpole) had literary abilities to preserve their name for the century required by the critical canon. It may seem unlikely that a person with the powers of Junius should write nothing else ; but it must be remem- bered that neither his class of subjects, his style, nor his manner, were well adapted to any other kind of composition. If Junius wished to write anything beyond a political pamphlet, he must begin his training anew. It may seem still more unlikely that he should not wish his name to be preserved as the author. But he might despise the " fancied life in others' breath," or he might be satisfied with the fame of his double, or he might have died soon after and made no sign. Ability to write the Letters of Junius is no doubt rare, but not so rare as might be supposed. The exercise of abilities depends upon a favourable conjunction of internal and external things. It requires no extensive acquaintance with life to meet men of native power and peculiar information who seem to be " lost" for want of motive, opportunity, ambition, or some idiosynoracy. It is true that the difference is great between a person speaking to a companion or a company, with whose cha- racters he may be acquainted, on a topic in which they feel in- terested, and the choice and treatment of a subject addressed to the public, with its various dispositions, humours, and preoccu- pations. Still, where there is power and knowledge there is the material; its display is dependent upon judgment and habit. It is possible, however unlikely, that a man might write a letter on a particular impulse ; be stimulated by success to continue his lucubra- tion ; be excited by the instant celebrity of Junius to throw himself heart and soul into the character, till he began to flag; and feed himself ever after on his conscious self-importance, with a cynical indifference to personal fame ; or he might, as already intimated, have died suddenly, intending at some time to avow himself. In considering the subject at this time of day, one indisputable fact should not be lost sight of. The date of the first letter of Junius is January. 21, 1769. If we allow the writer to have been only five-and-twenty, (and all internal evidence points to a more mature age,) he would now be in his hundred-cud-sixth or hundred-and-seventh year, but according to all critical esti- mate older. We may therefore assume that he is no longer in the land of the living ; as we know that his opponents and many' of their successors have departed, as well as his supposed coadju- tors. It seems useless to look for a resolution of the mystery from any of those rumours and reports with which the world was once amused. The idle story is exploded that his name was " confiden- tially "communicated to the King,—as if Junius were an intimate of George the Third, or had, without an object, engaged go-betweens to satisfy. the Royal curiosity. Lord Grenville died, and his papers famished no information, as the curious once expected. The late Duke of Buckingham was equally silent in the tomb; the strong boxes of other houses have been Just as blank ; and even the two volumes of the complete edition, bound in vellum and transmitted by Woodfall to their author, have never turned up. Time has strengthened, might we not say confirmed, the solemn assertion of the writer in his last address "to the English Nation"--" I am the sole depository of my own secret, and it shall perish with me."