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66 EVIDENCE ON A SUBJECT LIKE THIS, LONG PASSED AND PURPOSELY CLOUDED OVER FOR CONCEALMENT, MUST BE MADE UP OF MINUTE CIRCUMSTANCES, CLOSELY AND ACCURATELY EXAMINED, IF ANY LIGHT IS TO BE OBTAINED, WHEN CLAIMS ARE TO BE ADVANCED OR DISPROVED."-Gentleman's Magazine, Feb. 1842.
AMOUNT OF TIME AND Labour devoTED TO THIS ESSAY-FIRST CLUE TO THE AUTHORSHIP Of Junius's Letters-AlludeD TO BY THE PREsent Writer ON FORMER OCCASIONS-THE INQUIRY PURSUED ASSIDUOUSLY FOR THE LAST TWELVE MONTHS-THE AUTHOR, LIEUTENANT-COLONEL BARRÉ; HIS ASSOCIATES, LORD SHELBURNE, AND JOHN DUNNING-WILLIAM GREATRAKES, THE PRESUMED AMANUENSIS HIS STORY A ROMANCE-CHARACTER OF THE LETTERS-MYSTERY AND DANGER ATTENDING THEIR PUBLICATION-MANNERS AND HABITS OF MINISTERS-FREEDOM OF THE PRESENT AGE-THE LETTERS DESCRIBED AND CRITICISED BY THE AUTHOR, BY MITFORD, BY COLERIDGE, AND OTHERS-ACKNOWLEDGMENTS TO CORRESPONDENTS.
WHEN I resolved to publish a new and distinct Essay, to elucidate the authorship of Junius's Letters, little did I anticipate the extent of labour and time which would be requisite to accomplish the task I had undertaken. Since I was first apprised of the source
whence they were believed by my informant to derive their origin, more than half a century has elapsed; and though I have since read many treatises, and heard various opinions respecting their authorship, I cannot find, in any of the parties hitherto named, the qualifications and traits of character peculiar to Junius: those characteristics are, however, combined in a pre-eminent degree in three eminent politicians who, for many successive years, spent their summer months at Bowood, in Wiltshire. At different times and in different publications, I have incidentally alluded to the place and parties; but I have forborne to name the author or to specify particulars, until I had an opportunity of investigating the case in all its bearings and relations. For the last twelve months I have sought by extensive reading, inquiry, and correspondence, to obtain authentic, satisfactory evidence; and the result is, that the materials which I have accumulated, whilst they serve to elucidate the political and private character and talents of the anonymous AUTHOR of the LETTERS, LIEUTENANT-COLONEL BARRE-also point out and implicate his intimate associates LORD SHELBURNE and MR. DUNNING. There are likewise some extraordinary revelations respecting WILLIAM GREATRAKES, whose career in life, and the circumstances attending his death, with the disposal of his property, abound in mystery, and are pregnant with suspicion. The story of this gentleman is a romance of real life, and, like that of the concealed Author, is enveloped in a cloak of ambiguity and darkness; yet it is confidently believed that he was the Amanuensis to Colonel Barré, and also his confidential agent and messenger. To identify these persons and explain their connection with the public correspondence referred to-to bring out facts of dates and deeds from the dark and intricate recesses in which they were studiously and cunningly concealed-to reconcile and account for contradictions and inconsistencies, have occasioned more
CHARACTER AND INFLUENCE OF THE LETTERS OF JUNIUS. vii
anxiety, toil, and scrupulous analysis, than can possibly be imagined by any person who has never attempted a similar task. The issue and effects, however, are now submitted to that public tribunal, which invariably awards a proper and just decision, and which I feel assured will ultimately pronounce an impartial verdict, whether favourable or adverse to the author's hopes and opinions.
So strong was the sensation created by these alternately calumniated and extolled epistles, that they may be regarded as an integral part of the history of our country; and, candidly and honestly viewed, they will be found to constitute an important feature, not only in the political, but in the literary, the moral, and the philosophical annals of the nation. It is my conviction that had they never appeared-had not their publication been met by state prosecutions-had not their elements and principles produced an extensive influence on the public mind-the existing generation would have been deprived of many political privileges and advantages which they now actually possess. The abolition of the Test and Corporation Acts, Catholic Emancipation, and Reform of Parliament, might, I am persuaded, have been unknown in the present peaceful age, if the "Letters of Junius" had not led the way to that free and unfettered expression of public opinion which has produced such important results.
It will not be difficult to prove that the "Letters of Junius" have tended, in a most essential manner, to produce the present state of free and fearless discussion which characterises the press of this country. The tone and sentiment which pervade those eloquent epistles have been revived in many modern periodicals.
When I commenced my present arduous and delicate task, I expected to bring my observations and deductions within the comof a few pages, so as to form part of the AUTO-BIOGRAPHY
I am now engaged in; but the extent and variety of the materials which I have collected, I found would require more space for their full development, than could, with propriety, be devoted to them in that work.
In the vast and varied field of literature there is not a scene or event more completely involved in obscurity-more replete with interest in its origin, progress, and results-than the authorship of Junius's Letters. The "Wandering Jew," the "Iron Mask," "The Great Unknown" of the North, were all men and objects enveloped in mysterious darkness-all provoked and created intense interest and inquiry-but neither of these, nor any other person, or band of public persons, ever gave occasion for such ardent speculation, or provoked such a host of royal, noble, and plebeian enemies and critics as the writer of the anonymous epistles now referred to. Spies, traps, and stratagems of every kind were employed for some years to detect the author-bribes, threats, provocations of all sorts, were exercised to bring him into open daylight. He was pronounced to be "a liar and a coward;"* ;"*"a lurking assassin;"+ "a lying, infamous, cowardly scoundrel," and was, indeed, anathematised in every form of vituperative language which rage and revenge could suggest. Instead of provoking angry and hostile passions in the person thus assailed, the language not only excited in him a cool and self-relying complacency, but produced replications so stringently severe and galling to the writers, that the assailants shrunk from further literary combat. Knowing, as he well did, the temper and character of some of his foes, it is but reasonable to conclude that Junius became more and more cautious to conceal his person,
* Woodfall's edition of "Junius's Letters," vol. ii., 368. Ibid.. ii., 278.
Ibid., iii., 412.
TENDENCY OF THE LETTERS-HABITS OF MINISTERS. ix
though at the same time he charged his pen with increased acrimony and satire. It should be borne in mind that the general tenour and gist of his Letters is in reprobation of public men and public measures, in the cause of political honour and national good; and it must also be remembered that the ministry, with its satellites and enslaved dependents, were corrupt and arbitrary, mercenary and crafty-that they were so devoid of sh ne as even to endeavour to justify their vices and delinquencies by pleading bygone customs and the practices of their predecessors and contemporaries. The sale of public places and offices was of frequent and unblushing occurrence-moral and political prostitution was practised in open daylight, and personal and mental freedom of action and thought were frequently assailed by aristocratic and ministerial power. Drunkenness and swearing were fashionable, and deemed venial. At such a time, and under such circumstances, the honest Satirist is to be hailed and applauded as a public benefactor and a friend to his species--a monitor and instructor-the sincere friend of virtuethe foe to vice.
We may now comment on the political writings and opinions of Junius, of Burke, of Wilkes, of Paine; as well as on the Parliamentary harangues of Chatham, North, Pitt, Fox, Sheridan, and other once-famed orators and statesmen, without fear of offending the good feelings of honest and independent readers. I remember when men were hooted at and pelted in the public streets, for wearing a light coloured hat, and for attending certain meetings presumed to be either republican or anti-jacobin; but, thanks to the influence of the press and the lecturer, the diffusers of knowledge, and the improvers of human intellect, those days are passed, and may justly be ranked with the "dark ages."
Many writings have appeared in the "Times," and the "Morn