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only as contributions to the newspapers or other journals of the day, — not by themselves, like the numbers of the Spectator, the Rambler, and the other works of that description that have been mentioned. Our next series of periodical essays, properly so called, was that which began to be published at Edinburgh, under the name of The Mirror, on Saturday, the 23d of January, 1779, and was continued at the rate of a number a week till the 27th of May, 1780.
The conductor and principal writer of The Mirror was the late Henry Mackenzie, who died in Edinburgh, at the age of eighty-six, in 1831, the author of The Man of Feeling, published anonymously in 1771, The Man of the World, 1773, and Julia de Roubigné, 1777, novels after the manner of Sterne, which are still universally read, and which have much of the grace and delicacy of style as well as of the pathos of that great master, although without any of his rich and peculiar humor. The Mirror was succeeded, after an interval of a few years, by The Lounger, also a weekly paper, the first number of which appeared on Saturday, the 5th of February, 1785, Mackenzie being again the leading contributor ; the last (the 101st) on the 6th of January, 1787. But with these two publications the spirit of periodical essay-writing, in the style first made famous by Steele and Addison, expired also in Scotland, as it had already done a quarter of a century before in England.
POLITICAL WRITING. WILKES. JUNIUS.
A HOTTER excitement, in truth, had dulled the public taste to the charms of those ethical and critical disquisitions, whether grave or gay, which it had heretofore found sufficiently stimulating ; the violent war of parties, which, after a lull of nearly twenty years, was resumed on the accession of George III., made political controversy the only kind of writing that would now go down with the generality of readers ; and first Wilkes's famous North Briton, and then the yet more famous Letters of Junius, came to take the place of the Ramblers and Idlers, the Adventurers and Connois
The North Briton, the first pumber of which appeared on Saturday, the 5th of June, 1762, was started in opposition to The
Briton, a paper set up by Smollett in defence of the government on the preceding Saturday, the 29th of May, the day on which Lord Bute had been nominated first lord of the Treasury. Smollett and Wilkes had been friends up to this time; but the opposing papers were conducted in a spirit of the bitterest hostility, till the discontinuance of The Briton on the 12th of February, 1763, and the violent extinction of The North Briton on the 23d of . April following, fifteen days after the resignation of Bute, with the publication of its memorable “ No. Forty-five.” The celebrity of this one paper has preserved the memory of the North Briton to our day, in the same manner as in its own it produced several reimpressions of the whole work, which otherwise would probably have been as speedily and completely forgotten as the rival publication, and as the Auditors and Monitors, and other organs of the two factions, that in the same contention helped to fill the air with their din for a season, and then were heard of no more than
any other quieted noise. Wilkes's brilliancy faded away when he proceeded to commit his thoughts to paper, as if it had dissolved itself in the ink. Like all convivial wits, or shining talkers, he was of course indebted for much of the effect he produced in society to the promptitude and skill with which he seized the proper moment for saying his good things, to the surprise produced by the suddenness of the flash, and to the characteristic peculiarities of voice, action, and manner with which the jest or repartee was set off, and which usually serve as signals or stimulants to awaken the sense of the ludicrous before its expected gratification comes ; in writing, little or nothing of all this could be brought into play ; but still some of Wilkes's colloquial impromptus that have been preserved are so perfect, considered in themselves, and without regard to the readiness with which they may have been struck out, — are so true and deep, and evince so keen a feeling at once of the ridiculous and of the real, — that one wonders at finding so little of the same kind of power in his more deliberate efforts. În all his published writings that we have looked into — and, what with essays, and pamphlets of one kind and another, they fill a good many volumes — we scarcely recollect anything that either in matter or manner rises above the veriest commonplace, unless perhaps it be a character of Lord Chatham, occurring in a letter addressed to the Duke of Grafton, some of the biting things in which are impregnated with rather a subtle venom. A few of
his verses also have some fancy and elegance, in the style of Carew and Waller. But even his private letters, of which two collections have been published, scarcely ever emit a sparkle. And his House of Commons speeches, which he wrote beforehand and got by heart, are equally unenlivened. It is evident, indeed, that he had not intellectual lung enough for any protracted exertion or display. The soil of his mind was a hungry, unproductive gravel, with some gems embedded in it. The author of the Letters of Junius made his debut about four years after the expiration of The North Briton, what is believed to be his first communication having appeared in the Public Advertiser on the 28th of April, 1767 ; but the letters, sixty-nine in number, signed Junius, and forming the collection with which every reader is familiar, extend only over the space from the 21st of January, 1769, to the 2d of November, 1771. Thus it appears that this celebrated writer had been nearly two years before the public before he attracted any considerable attention ; a proof that the polish of his style was not really the thing that did most to bring him into notoriety ; for, although we may admit that the composition of the letters signed Junius is more elaborate and sustained than that of the generality of his contributions to the same newspaper under the name of Brutus, Lucius, Atticus, and Mnemon, yet the difference is by no means so great as to be alone sufficient to account for the prodigious sensation at once excited by the former, after the slight regard with which the latter had been received for so long a time. What, in. the first instance at least, more than his rhetoric, made the unknown Junius the object of universal interest, and of very general terror, was undoubtedly the quantity of secret intelligence he showed himself to be possessed of, combined with the unscrupulous boldness with which he was evidently prepared to use it. As has been observed, “ ministers found, in these letters, proofs of some enemy, somé spy, being amongst them.” 2 It was imme
1 The 69th Letter, addressed to Lord Camden, is without a date; and there are other private letters, of undisputed authenticity, to Woodfall, the printer of the Public Advertiser, the last two of which are dated 10th May, 1772, and 19th Janu
2 See an ingenious and striking article by Mr. De Quincy, originally published in Tait's Edinburgh Magazine for December, 1840. Mr. De Quincy, proceeding upon the consideration noticed in the text, places in a new and strong light the identification of Junius with the late Sir Philip Francis, first suggested by Mr. John Taylor in his volume published in 1816, and long very generally thought to be as nearly estab
diately perceived in the highest circle of political society that the writer was either actually one of the members of the government, lished as anything ever was by merely circumstantial evidence. People were, indeed, to be met with who doubted or disbelieved; but they might be classed, for the most part, with those crotchety old ladies and gentlemen who, long after the case was clear enough to all persons of any sense or insight, used to go about arguing for the claims of sundry captains, clergymen, and women to the authorship of the Waverley novels, till Scott's own confession silenced them, -if, indeed, they were all put down even by that. They were mostly persons capable of attending to only one consideration at a time, - such as that Mr. Burke was skilled in imitating the styles of other writers and disguising his own, - that Lord George Germaine was a man of a bad, or at least of a warm, temper, – that William Gerard Hamilton evinced in his single speech a faculty of eloquence which, if he was not the author of the Letters of Junius, nobody can imagine what he did with for many years afterwards; as if fifty such insulated facts or fancies as these could outweigh the long unbroken chain of evidence extending over the whole history of Sir Philip Francis, and corroborated, we might almost say, in every way, excepting only by his own confession, in which it was possible that it should be corroborated, - by many peculiarities of expression common to the letters and the acknowledged writings of their suspected author, by strong general similarity of style, by apparent identity of handwriting, nor least of all by the silence of Francis to his dying day (broken only by a solitary, faint equivocation, still more expressive than silence) under an ascription which, whether he might have regarded it as an imputation or as an honor, it is difficult to believe that a man of his temper would have submitted to thus tranquilly if it had not been true. If the humiliation and baseness of such an acquiescence would not have revolted the self-love and pride of a man like Sir Philip Francis, at any rate he was not a fool, and the mere risk of detection and deplumation, which might have happened any day, would have prevented him from enduring his false feathers. It was a case for an affidavit in a court of justice, if nothing less strenuous would serve the purpose ; but there were many other ways by which, if he could not effectually put down the suspicion, he might at any rate have completely relieved himself from the charge of countenancing or encouraging it. We may remark, that the identification of the handwriting of Junius and Sir Philip Francis has been considerably strengthened by some comparative specimens published along with the Correspondence of Lord Chatham, 4 vols. 8vo, Lond. 1839.
Much, nevertheless, has also appeared within the last few years, which would throw doubts on the Franciscan theory. Especial reference may be made to the republication, in 1841, with a Preface, by Mr. N. W. Simons, of the British Museum, of a Letter to an Honourable Brigadier-General (the Hon. George Townshend, afterward the first Marquis Townshend), originally published in 1760, when Francis was only nineteen, between the style of which and that of Junius Mr. Simons • points out many remarkable resemblances, - the late Mr. John Britton's curious volume, entitled the Authorship of the Letters of Junius Elucidated, 1848, in which Colonel Barré is maintained to be both Junius and the writer of the Letter to Townshend,- the statement by Sir David Brewster, in the North British Review, No. 19, for November, 1848, of the claims of Colonel Lachlan Macleane, together with a subsequent article, apparently by the same writer, in No. 38, for August, 1853,the elaborate argument of Mr. W. J. Smith in support of the claims of Earl Temple in the third volume of the Grenville Papers, 1852,- and an important series of papers published in the Athenæum in 1853. On the other hand, very recently a fresh vein of investigation has been opened, which seems to hold out a promise, if VOL. II.
or a person who by some means or other had found access to the secrets of the government. And this suspicion, generally diffused, would add tenfold interest to the mystery of the authorship of the letters, even where the feeling which it had excited was one of mere curiosity, as it would be, of course, with the mass of the pub. lic. But, although it was not his style alone, or even chiefly, that made Junius famous, it is probably that, more than anything else, which has preserved his fame to our day. More even than the secret, so long in being penetrated, of his real name : that might have given occasion to abundance of conjecture and speculation, like the problem of the Iron Mask and other similar enigmas ; but it would not have prompted the reproduction of the letters in innumerable editions, and made them, what they long were, one of the most popular and generally read books in the language, retaining their hold upon the public mind to a degree which perhaps never was equalled by any other literary production having so special a reference, in the greater part of it, to topics of a temporary nature.
The history of literature attests, as has been well remarked, that power of expression is a surer preservative of a writer's popularity than even strength of thought itself; that a book in which the former exists in a remarkable degree is almost sure to live, even if it should have very little else to recommend it. The style of Junius is wanting in some of the more exquisite qualities of eloquent writing; it has few natural graces, little variety, no picturesqueness ; but still it is a striking and peculiar style, combining the charm of high polish with great nerve and animation, clear and rapid, and at the same time sonorous, — masculine enough, and yet making a very imposing display of all the artifices of antithetical rhetoric. As for the spirit of these famous compositions, it is a remarkable attestation to the author's power of writing
pursued, of the positive conviction of Francis. See a paper in the third number of the Cornhill Magazine, for March, 1860. When this new evidence was explained to Lord Macaulay, a very short time before his death, he at once saw all its importance (provided only further research should establish what was as yet only highly probable), and he remarked to his informant, “ Depend on it, you have caught Junius in the fact.” Even the North British Reviewer of 1853, although he had set out (p. 482) with describing the claims of Francis as having been based principally on certain habits of expression found in his writings and also in those of Junius, concludes his elaborate investigation by admitting (p. 517) that, of all the persons to whom the authorship has been attributed, “Sir Philip Francis and Colonel Lachlan Macleane have the highest claims." After all, it is quite possible that the true Junius has never yet been named.