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age whilst it mitigated ferocity, which ennobled whatever it touched, and under which vice itself lost half its evils by losing all its grossness.
[The ablest writer of invective in the English Language is one whose real name is not and probably never will be known. The Letters signed JUNIUS were printed in the Public Advertiser, a popular London newspaper, at various intervals, from 1769 to 1772. They have since been collected and published in various shapes in almost innumerable editions. The conjectures in regard to the authorship of the letters have been very numerous. The extracts which are given will afford some specimens of the finished style, as well as the merciless sarcasm, of this accomplished writer.)
Public Honour. The ministry, it seems, are labouring to draw a line of distinction between the honour of the crown and the rights of the people. This new idea has yet only been started in discourse ; for, in effect, both objects have been equally sacrificed. I neither understand the distinction, nor what use the ministry propose to make of it. The king's honour is that of his people.
Their real honour and real interest are the same. I am not contending for a vain punctilio. A clear unblemished character comprehends not only the integrity that will not offer, but the spirit that will not submit, to an injury; and whether it belongs to an individual or to a community, it is the foundation of peace, of independence, and of safety. 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.
Injudiciousness of Prosecuting Mr. Wilkes. He said more than moderate inen would justify, but not enough to entitle him to your majesty's personal resentment. The rays of royal indignation, collected upon him, served only to illuminate, and could not consume. Animated by the favour of the people on the one side, and heated by persecution on the other, his views and sentiments changed with his situation. Hardly serious at first, he is now an enthusiast. The coldest bodies warm with opposition, the hardest sparkle in collision. There is a holy mistaken zeal in politics as well as religion. By persuading others, we convince ourselves. The passions are engaged, and create a maternal affection in the mind, which causes us to love the cause for which we suffer.
Part of a Letter to the Duke of Grafton. The character of the reputed ancestors of some men has made it possible for their descendants to be vicious in the extreme, without being degenerate. Those of your Grace, for instance, left no distressing examples of virtue, even to their legitimate posterity; and you may look back with pleasure to an illustrious pedigree, in which heraldry has not left a single good quality
upon record to insult and upbraid you. You have better proofs of your descent, my lord, than the register of a marriage, or any troublesome inheritance of reputation. There are some hereditary strokes of character by which a family may be as clearly distinguished as by the blackest features of the human face. Charles I. lived and died a hypocrite; Charles II. was a hypocrite of another sort, and should have died upon the same scaffold. At the distance of a century, we see their different characters happily revived and blended in your Grace. Sullen and severe without religion, profligate without gaiety, you live like Charles II., without being an amiable companion; and, for aught I know, may die as his father did, without the reputation of a martyr.
Part of a Letter to the Duke of Bedford. My lord, you are so little accustomed to receive any marks of respect or esteem from the public, that if in the following lines a compliment or expression of applause should escape me, I fear you would consider it as a mockery of your established character, and perhaps an insult to your understanding. You have nice feelings, my lord, if we may judge from your resentments. Cautious, therefore, of giving offence where you have so little deserved it, I shall leave the illustration of your virtues to other hands. Your friends have a privilege to play upon the easiness of your temper, or probably they are better acquainted with your good qualities than I am. You have done good by stealth. The rest is upon record. You have still left ample room for speculation when panegyric is exhausted.
[After having reproached the duke for corruption and imbecility, the splendid tirade of Junius concludes in a strain of unmeasured yet lofty invective.]-Let us consider you, then, as arrived at the summit of worldly greatness; let us suppose that all your plans of avarice and ambition are accomplished, and your most sanguine wishes gratified in the fear as well as the hatred of the people. Can age itself forget that you are now in the last act of life? Can gray hairs make folly venerable ? and is there no period to be reserved for meditation and retirement? For shame, my lord! Let it not be recorded of you that the latest moments of your life were dedicated to the same unworthy pursuits, the same busy agitations, in which your youth and manhood were exhausted. Consider that, though you cannot disgrace your former life, you are violating the character of age, and exposing the impotent imbecility, after you have lost the vigour, of the passions.
Your friends will ask, perhaps, “ Whither shall this unhappy old man retire? 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 destruction would be more than probable; at Exeter inevitable. No honest Englishman will ever forget his attachment, nor any honest Scotchman forgive his treachery to Lord Bute. At every town he enters, he
must change his liveries and name. Whichever way he flies, the hue and cry of the country pursues him.
In another kingdom, indeed, the blessings of his administration have been more sensibly felt, his virtues better understood; or, at worst, they will not for him alone forget their hospitality.” As well might Verres have returned to Sicily. You have twice escaped, my lord; beware of a third experiment. The indignation of a whole people plundered, insulted, and oppressed, as they have been, will not always be disappointed.
It is in vain, therefore, to shift the scene; you can no more fly from your enemies than from yourself. Persecuted abroad, you look into your own heart for consolation, and find nothing but reproaches and despair. But, my lord, you may quit the field of business, though not the field of danger; and though you cannot be safe, you may cease to be ridiculous. I fear you have listened too long to the advice of those pernicious friends with whose interests you have sordidly united your own, and for whom you have sacrificed everything that ought to be dear to a man of honour. They are still base enough to encourage the follies of your age, as they once did the vices of your youth. As little acquainted with the rules of decorum as with the laws of morality, they will not suffer you to profit by experience, nor even to consult the propriety of a bad character. Even now they tell you that life is no more than a dramatic scene, in which the hero should preserve his consistency. to the last ; and that, as you lived without virtue, you should die without repentance.