1902 Encyclopedia > "Junius"

18th-century pseudonymous writer in England

JUNIUS. This is the signature of an unknown writer who, after exciting and baffling the curiosity of three or four generations of critics, has been allowed to take rank amongst English classics under a pseudonym. The first of the published letters with this signature was dated January 21, 1769; the last, January 21, 1772. The entire series appeared in the Public Advertiser, a popular newspaper edited by Woodfall, to whom a number of private letters were also addressed by the same writer. These are included in the collected and complete editions, as well as a number of letters attributed on varying grounds, more or less satisfactory, to Junius.

The first of the letters was a sweeping attack on the Government for the time being. Its spirit may be judged from the concluding sentence : " They (posterity) will not believe it possible that their ancestors could have survived or recovered from so desperate a condition while a duke of Grafton was prime minister, a Lord North chancellor of the exchequer, a Weymouth and a Hillsborough secretaries of state, a Granby commander-in-chief, and a Mansfield chief criminal judge of the kingdom." He does not condescend to particulars, and the letter might have passed unnoticed if Sir William Draper, a man of considerable note, had not undertaken the defence of Lord Granby in answer to it. A bitter controversy ensued, which rapidly degenerated into an exchange of personalities, much to the disadvantage of Sir William. Then came letters to the duke of Grafton, the prime minister, directed more against his private character and conduct than his policy, the main charge against his Grace being his abandonment of Wilkes, whom Junius treats throughout the letters as the champion of the constitution, to be supported against the ministry and the crown. He takes Blackstone, the author of the Commentaries, severely to task for justifying the expulsion of Wilkes, whose cause he also espouses in an altercation with Home Tooke; and he omits no opportunity of denouncing Luttrell, the elect of Middlesex. The address to the king, the most celebrated of Junius's compositions, after recapitulating the familiar charges of personal pique and favouritism, calls upon his Majesty to summon his whole council without consulting his minister: "Lay aside the wretched formality of a king, and speak to your subjects with the spirit of a man and in the language of a gentleman. Tell them you have been fatally deceived." Many of the letters turn on topics which have no longer the slightest interest. A long letter is addressed to Lord Mansfield for bailing a man named Eyre. In another, equally elaborate, this learned lord is accused of tampering with the common law by an admixture of the civil law, which is now regarded as his highest praise ; Junius treats it as an attempt to undermine the liberties of England. He relies little on argument or proof. His force is in his style. He commonly assumes his victim to be what he wishes him to be thought, and produces the desired effect by irony, sarcasm, or polished invective. One of his happiest figures of speech is in the letter on the affair of the Falkland Islands : " Private credit is wealth ; public honour is security ; the feather that adorns the royal bird supports his flight; strip him of his plumage, and you fix him to the earth." Although an admirer of Lord Chatham, Junius agreed with MrGrenville as to the right of England to tax the colonies ; and, although an uncompromising supporter of popular rights, he was an advocate or apologist for rotten boroughs.

The sensation Junius created in the political world may be inferred from the manner in which the leading orators and statesmen of the day spoke of him. " How comes this Junius," exclaimed Burke, addressing the Speaker, " to have broke through the cobwebs of the law, and to range uncontrolled, unpunished, through the land ? The myrmidons of the court have been long, and are still, pursuing him in vain. They will not spend their time upon me or you. No, sir, they disdain such vermin when the mighty boar of the forest who has broke through all their toils is before them. But what will all their efforts avaiH No sooner has he wounded one than he lays clown another dead at his feet. For my part, when I read his attack upon the king, I own my blood ran cold." .... "Nor has he dreaded the terrors of your brow, but he has attacked even you—he has—and I believe you have no reason to triumph in the encounter. In short, after carrying away our royal eagle in his pounces and dashing him against a rock, he has laid you prostrate. King, lords, and commons are but the sport of his fury. Were he a member of this House, what might not be expected from his knowledge, his firmness, and integrity 1 He would be easily known by his contempt of all danger, by his pointed penetration and activity." Lord North spoke in the same strain : " Why should we wonder that the great boar of the wood, this mighty Junius, has broke through the toils and foiled the hunters 1 Though there may be at present no spear that will reach him, yet he may be some time or other caught."

What added signally to his influence was the general belief of his contemporaries that he was a man of rank and position, familiar with what was passing behind the scenes in high places; and this belief arose not simply from the intimate knowledge he showed of things and persons about the court and the principal departments of the state, but from the lofty and independent tone that was habitual and seemed natural to him,—as when he tells Sir William Draper, "I should have hoped that even my name might carry some authority with it if I had not seen how very little weight or consideration a printed paper receives even from the respectable signature of Sir William Draper"; or when in private letters to the publisher, after waiving all right to the profits of the publication, he says : "myself, be assured that I am far above all pecuniary views." ..." You, I think, sir, may be satisfied that my rank and fortune place me above a common bribe."

In the preface to the second volume of Bonn's edition of 1855. no less than thirty-seven persons are enumerated to whom the authorship has been attributed. Contemporary opinion strongly inclined to Burke, whose power of assuming or disguising style is proved by his Vindication of Natural Society; and, as his biographer Prior pointedly remarks, " contemporary opinion, as formed from a variety of minor circumstances which do not come within the knowledge of future inquirers, is perhaps, on such occasions, the truest." Dr Johnson, who had entered the lists against Junius, told Boswell: "I should have believed Burke to be Junius, because I know no man but Burke who is capable of writing these letters; but Burke spontaneously denied it to me." Burke told Reynolds that he knew Junius, and uniformly spoke of him as he would hardly have spoken of himself. A very strong case was made out for Lord George Sackville, on whom, after Burke's denial, Sir William Draper's suspicions permanently fixed. Fox used to say that, although he would not take Single-speech Hamilton against the field, he would back him against any single horse. Boyd is another candidate who did not lack supporters. A plausible claim was advanced for the American General Lee, backed by three experts who pretended to detect him by the handwriting. A famous expert, Imbert, gave a written certificate on the same ground in favour of Home Tooke; and another, Netherclift, declared that there was more of the Junius character in the handwriting of Mrs Dayrolles (the alleged amanuensis of Lord Chesterfield) than in any other specimen submitted to him as a possible performance by the great unknown. Other experts declared confidently for other claimants. Sut the identity remained an open question, and case after case was pronounced not proven, till the appearance of Mr Taylor's Junius Identified in 1816, when Sir Philip Francis immediately became the favourite, and during the next half century the problem was pretty generally considered at an end.

Prior to the publication, Mr Taylor called on Sir Philip to intimate what was intended, and came away with the impression that he was rather pleased than displeased with the intimation. In fact, he had been already playing Junius, and he continued playing the part till his death in 1818. "His first gift," writes his second wife, whom he married in 1814, two years before Junius Identified, "was an edition of Junius, which he bade me take to my room and not let it be seen or speak upon the subject; and his posthumous present, which his son found in his bureau, was Junius Identified, sealed up and directed to me." The real Junius might have bequeathed a much more conclusive legacy. He writes to Woodfall, December 17, 1771 : " When the book is finished, let me have a sett (sic) bound in vellum, gilt, and lettered 'Junius I. II.' as handsomely as you can. The edges gilt, let the sheets be well dried before binding, I must also have two setts in blue paper covers. This is all the fee I shall ever require of you." These were duly sent, and it would have been something to the purpose had Francis bequeathed one of them to his wife. Neither of them has turned up. The surviving son (by the first wife) likewise claimed the authorship for the father as a source of pride to the family, so that no evidence in their possession would have been kept back.

Pitt told Lord Aberdeen (the fourth earl) that he knew who Junius was, and that it was not Francis. On its being objected that the Franciscan theory had not been started till after Pitt's death, Lord Aberdeen replied "that's stuff," and proceeded to relate that he himself had once dined in company with Francis when proofs of his being Junius were adduced before him, that he had listened with evident pleasure, and at last exclaimed in a stilted theatrical manner, " God ! if men force laurels on my head, I'll wear them." His immediate contemporaries remained unconvinced. Sir Fortunatus Dwarris states broadly that no one who knew, heard,~ or read Francis thought him capable of producing Junius. Lord Broughton confirmed this. Tierney said: " I know no better reason for believing the fellow to be Junius than that he was always confoundedly proud of something, and no one could ever guess what it could be."

Lord Stanhope, however, would admit no shadow of doubt upon the point, and Lord Macaulay declared that all reasoning from circumstantial evidence was at an end unless Francis were admitted to be Junius. Both these eminent authorities agree in resting their case on similarity of handwriting, on the internal evidence of style, and on five points which are summarily stated by Lord Macaulay in his essay on Warren Hastings. As regards similarity of handwriting, there is one plain test on which experts are agreed, namely, that " it is impossible for a man, hi order to disguise his writing, to write better than he does habitually "; and the best penmanship of Junius is incomparably superior in fineness, delicacy, and grace to the best of Francis, who wrote a large, coarse, clerk-like hand. As regards style, the specimens culled from Francis's speeches and writings prove no more than that he, an assiduous imitator of Junius, succeeded occasionally in catching the mannerism, without any one of the distinctive merits, of his model. Lord Macaulay, not denying the inferiority, endeavours to weaken the argument drawn from it by remarking that it may be urged with at least equal force against every claimant that has ever been mentioned, with the single exception of Burke. "And what conclusion," he asks, "after all, can be drawn from mere inferiority'? Every writer must produce his best work ; and the interval between his best and his second best work may be very wide indeed." This undeniable truth might have been urged with equal force by any pretender to a disputed authorship,—for example, by Theophilus Swift, the dean's cousin, when he claimed the authorship of the Tale of a Tub. Surely the strongest argument in favour of any given candidate is that (tested by his known writings) he alone was equal to the authorship, and the strongest argument against any given candidate that (tested in the same manner) he was unequal to it. Francis put forth his full powers in his controversy with Hastings, and his friend D'Oyly writes to him in 1778 that the public who had followed the controversy allowed both to be good writers; " but, in their opinion, he (Hastings) takes the lead so decidedly as to admit of no comparison."

The five points (which have been logically resolved into three) remained untouched till the publication of the memoirs of Sir Philip Francis by Parkes and Merivale in 1867. This book entirely changed the aspect of the controversy by showing that Francis's position, opinions, interests, manner of life, and tone during the Junian period were the reverse of what those of Junius might be supposed to have been. During the whole of that period he was first clerk in the war office under Lord Barrington. Born in Dublin, October 22, 1740, he was in his thirtieth year when the famous letters commenced. He was the son of Dr Francis, the translator of Horace, but had married under his station, and was associating principally with his wife's relatives and connexions. The habits of his set may be collected from his letters, e.g. : "January 4, 1769 : I am just returned from spending a riotous fortnight at Bath. Gravier and two others filled a post-coach, which was dragged with no small velocity by four horses. We travelled like gentlemen, and lived like rakes." February 12, 1771: " Til man dined with me yesterday, and swallowed a moiety of two bottles of claret. " . . . . "We lead a jolly kind of life. This night to a concert, on Thursday to a ridotto, on Saturday the opera, and on Tuesday following a grand private ball at the London Tavern." July 26, 1771 : "Tomorrow Godfrey, Tilman, another gent, and I set out upon a tour through Derbyshire, and propose to reach Manchester." They did not return till August 13, the clay on which Junius's reply to Home Tooke appeared. On June 25, 1771, in the very thick of the Junian correspondence, Francis writes to a friend abroad : " For the next three years I am likely enough to remain in my present state of uninteresting indolence."

There is no trace at this time of any connexion with the newspapers, nor of any earnest or sustained literary occupation. The only political personage we find him in communication with was Calcraft, to whom he occasionally supplied scraps of official news. By a startling coincidence, all the persons who had been kind or useful to him in promoting his advancement, including Wood (to whom he owed his clerkship), his chief (Lord Barrington), and Calcraft, were bitterly assailed by Junius. The predilections of the pair, the substance and the shadow, are as hard to reconcile as their antipathies. Junius had a high respect for Wilkes's judgment, and avows a liking for both the cause and the man. On November 8, 1771, he writes to Woodfall: "Show the dedication and preface of the letters to Mr Wilkes, and, if he has any material objection, let me know." Francis, in his private correspondence, uniformly expresses the most unmitigated contempt for Wilkes. He writes like one of the general public about Junius. Thus on June 12, 1770, to his brother-in-law: " Junius is not known, and that circumstance is perhaps as curious as any of his writings. I have always suspected Burke; but, whoever he is, it is impossible he can ever discover himself." Sir William Draper, Junius's first victim, was an old friend of the Francis family, and in a letter dated Bath, January 28, 1769, Dr Francis writes to Philip: " Give my love to Mr Calcraft. Tell him to expect a very spirited and exceeding honourable defence of L. G—y (Granby) against the virulent Junius, by our friend Sir W. D—r. I truly honour him for it." Again, February 11, 1769: "Poor Sir William! I am glad he is gone to Clifton, where he may eat his own heart in peace. When he repeated to me some passages of his letter, I bid him prepare his best philosophy for an answer. But who is this devil Junius, or rather legion of devils? Is it not B—rke's pen dipped in the gall of Sa—lie's heart t Poor Sir William !"

One of Lord Macaulay's five points is that Junius was " bound by some strong tie " to the first Lord Holland, the friend of Dr Francis and the early patron of Philip. Now, in a fragment of autobiography (included in the memoirs) it is stated that, long before the Junius letters, Dr Francis considered himself grossly ill used by Lord Holland, and " was stung with the idea of having been so long the dupe of a scoundrel." "In this," adds the son, "I concurred with him heartily." Another point, and a most important one, is that Francis bitterly resented the appointment (over his head) of Mr Chamier to the place of deputy secretaryatwar, and that to the resentment thus aroused was owing the downright ferocity, the brutal abuse (as Mr Merivale calls it), with which Lord Barrington was assailed by Junius under the signature of Veteran. Laying out of the account the fact that Lord Barrington had been the object of Junius's unrelenting attacks for more than two years before the appointment of Chamier, it is sufficient to refer to Francis's letter of January 24, 1772, to Major Baggs, in which he says : " You will have heard that Mr D'Oyly has resigned his employment (of deputy). He did it while I was at Bath. Immediately upon my return, my Lord Barrington was so good as to make me the offer with many obliging and friendly expressions. I had, however, solid reasons for declining the offer, and Mr Anthony Chamier is appointed." He was obviously looking out for an Indian appointment, and left the war office in the March following, relying on Lord Barrington's aid in procuring one. After relating in the autobiography how he accidentally heard that Cholwell, one of the intended commissioners for India, had declined the appointment, he proceeds : " It was the king's birthday, and Barrington was gone to court. I saw him the next morning; and, as soon as I had explained my views, he wrote the handsomest and strongest imaginable letter in my favour to Lord North. Other interests contributed, but I owe my success to Lord Barrington." After his arrival in India, Francis was in the habit of writing long and confidential letters to Lord Barrington, who, in 1777, writes to express his gratification at the good understanding between Francis and Clavering. "I love you both so much that I cannot wish youto continue long in a situation so painful though so creditable to you." One of the first visits Francis paid on his return was to Lord Barrington at his country house. " It is the imputed folly," urge the opponents of the Franciscan theory, " not merely the imputed baseness of Francis that startles us. He is represented systematically writing against every friend, benefactor, and patron in succession, without a rational motive or an intelligible cause."

As if the embarrassments of his position were not enough, he must have gone out of his way to multiply them. The terms on which Junius stood with Sir William Draper are well known. In a letter dated February 14, 1770, he describes Sir John Burgoyne as " sitting down for the remainder of his life infamous and contented." On December 11, 1787, when Francis was attacked in the House of Commons for having allowed himself to be included in the list of managers for the impeachment of Warren Hastings, his personal enemy, he rose and stated that the two persons whom he had consulted as the best judges of points of honour were Sir William Draper and Sir John Burgoyne. Draper was dead, but Burgoyne rose and handsomely responded to the appeal, which, if Francis was Junius, has been justly stigmatized as one of the strongest examples of gratuitous folly and brazen impudence on record.

That Earl Temple wrote or inspired Junius is a theory which has been maintained in two able essays, and it derives plausibility from Pitt's assertion that he knew who Junius was, as well as from the language of the Grenville family, which all points to Stowe as the seat of the mystery. The Right Hon. T. Grenville told the first duke of Buckingham, who thought he had discovered the secret, that it was no news to him, but for family reasons the secret must be kept. He also stated to other members of the family, subsequently to the publication of Junius Identified, that Junius was not either of the persons to whom the letters had been popularly ascribed. Lord Grenville told Lord Sidmouth that he (Lord G.) knew who Junius was. Lady Grenville told Sir Henry Holland and Dr James Ferguson that she had heard Lord Grenville state that he knew who Junius was, and that it was not Francis. The handwriting of Countess Temple (supposed to have acted as the amanuensis of her lord) comes far the nearest to the Junian hand of any that have been produced as similar to it, especially as regards powers of penmanship ; but evidence is altogether wanting that Earl Temple, or any one about him, possessed the required literary qualifications and capacity. The authorship of the letters, therefore, remains a mystery, and §W Nominis Umbra is still the befitting motto for the title-page.

See John Wade, Junius, including Letters by the same writer under other Signatures, dc, 2 vols., 1850 ; Parkes and Merivale, Memoirs of Sir Philip Francis, K.G.B., with Correspondence and Journals, 2 vols., 1867 ; John Tayior, Junius Identified, 1816 ; A. Hayward, More about Junius, 1868 ; Charles Chabot, The Handwriting of Junius Professionally Investigated, with preface and collateral evidence by the Hon. E. Twisleton, 1871. (A. H.)

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