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Who Wrote Junius's Letters?








This question has not yet been satisfactorily answered. In 1812, Dr.
Mason Good, in an essay he wrote on the question, passed in review all
the persons who had then been suspected of writing these celebrated
letters. They are, Charles Lloyd and John Roberts, originally treasury
clerks; Samuel Dyer, a learned man, and a friend of Burke and Johnson;
William Gerard Hamilton, familiarly known as "Single-speech Hamilton;"
Mr. Burke; Dr. Butler, late Bishop of Hereford; the Rev. Philip
Rosenhagen; Major-General Lee, who went over to the Americans, and took
an active part in their contest with the mother-country; John Wilkes;
Hugh Macaulay Boyd; John Dunning, Lord Ashburton; Henry Flood; and Lord
George Sackville.

Since this date, in 1813, John Roche published an Inquiry, in which he
persuaded himself that Burke was the author. In the same year there
appeared three other publications on Junius: these were, the Attempt of
the Rev. J. B. Blakeway, to trace them to John Horne Tooke; next were
the "Facts" of Thomas Girdlestone, M.D., to prove that General Lee was
the author; and, thirdly, a work put forth by Mrs. Olivia Wilmot Serres,
in the following confident terms:--"Life of the Author of Junius's
Letters,--the Rev. J. Wilmot, D.D., Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford;"
and, like most bold attempts, this work attracted some notice and
discussion.

In 1815, the Letters were attributed to Richard Glover, the poet of
Leonidas; and this improbable idea was followed by another, assigning
the authorship of the Letters to the Duke of Portland, in 1816. In the
same year appeared "Arguments and Facts," to show that John Louis de
Lolme, author of the famous Essay on the Constitution of England, was
the writer of these anonymous epistles. In 1816, too, appeared Mr.
John Taylor's "Junius Identified," advocating the claims of Sir Philip
Francis so successfully that the question was generally considered to
be settled. Mr. Taylor's opinion was supported by Edward Dubois, Esq.,
formerly the confidential friend and private secretary of Sir Philip,
who, in common with Lady Francis, constantly entertained the conviction
that his deceased patron was identical with Junius.

In 1817, George Chalmers, F.S.A., advocated the pretensions of Hugh
Macaulay Boyd to the authorship of Junius. In 1825, Mr. George Coventry
maintained with great ability that Lord George Sackville was Junius; and
two writers in America adopted this theory.

Thus was the whole question re-opened; and, in 1828, Mr. E. H. Barker,
of Thetford, refuted the claims of Lord George Sackville and Sir Philip
Francis, and advocated those of Charles Lloyd, private secretary to the
Hon. George Grenville.

In 1841, Mr. N. W. Simons, of the British Museum, refuted the
supposition that Sir Philip Francis was directly or indirectly
concerned in the writing; and, in the same year, appeared M. Jaques's
review of the controversy, in which he arrived at the conclusion that
Lord George Sackville composed the Letters, and that Sir Philip Francis
was his amanuensis, thus combining the theory of Mr. Taylor with that of
Mr. Coventry.

The question was reviewed and revived in a volume published by Mr.
Britton, F.S.A., in June 1848, entitled "The Authorship of the Letters
of Junius Elucidated;" in which is advocated with great care the opinion
that the Letters were, to a certain extent, the joint productions of
Lieut.-Colonel Isaac Barre, M.P., Lord Shelburne, (afterwards Marquess
of Lansdowne,) and Dunning, Lord Ashburton. Of these three persons the
late Sir Francis Baring commissioned Sir Joshua Reynolds, in 1784-5, to
paint portraits in one picture, which is regarded as evidence of joint
authorship.

Only a week before his death, 1804, the Marquess of Lansdowne was
personally appealed to on the subject of Junius, by Sir Richard
Phillips. In conversation, the Marquess said, "No, no, I am not equal to
Junius; I could not be the author; but the grounds of secrecy are now
so far removed by death (Dunning and Barre were at that time dead), and
change of circumstances, that it is unnecessary the author of Junius
should much longer be unknown. The world is curious about him, and I
could make a very interesting publication on the subject. I knew Junius,
and I know all about the writing and production of these Letters."
The Marquess added, "If I live over the summer, which, however, I don't
expect, I promise you a very interesting pamphlet about Junius. I will
put my name to it; I will set the question at rest for ever." The death
of the Marquess, however, occurred in a week. In a letter to the Monthly
Magazine, July 1813, the son of the Marquess of Lansdowne says:--"It
is not impossible my father may have been acquainted with the fact; but
perhaps he was under some obligation to secrecy, as he never made any
communication to me on the subject."

Lord Mahon (now Earl Stanhope) at length and with minuteness enters, in
his History, into a vindication of the claims of Sir Philip Francis,
grounding his partisanship on the close similarity of handwriting
established by careful comparison of facsimiles; the likeness of the
style of Sir Philip's speeches in Parliament to that of Junius--biting,
pithy, full of antithesis and invective; the tenderness and bitterness
displayed by Junius towards persons to whom Sir Philip stood well or
ill affected; the correspondence of the dates of the letters with those
of certain movements of Sir Philip; and the evidence of Junius' close
acquaintance with the War Office, where Sir Philip held a post. It seems
generally agreed that the weight of proof is on the side of Sir Philip
Francis; but there will always be found adherents of other names--as
O'Connell, in the following passage, of Burke:--

"It is my decided opinion," said O'Connell, "that Edmund Burke
was the author of the 'Letters of Junius.' There are many
considerations which compel me to form that opinion. Burke was the
only man who made that figure in the world which the author of
'Junius' must have made, if engaged in public life; and the
entire of 'Junius's Letters' evinces that close acquaintance with
the springs of political machinery which no man could possess
unless actively engaged in politics. Again, Burke was fond of
chemical similes; now chemical similes are frequent in Junius.
Again; Burke was an Irishman; now Junius, speaking of the
Government of Ireland, twice calls it 'the Castle,' a familiar
phrase amongst Irish politicians, but one which an Englishman,
in those days, would never have used. Again; Burke had this
peculiarity in writing, that he often wrote many words without
taking the pen from the paper. The very same peculiarity existed
in the manuscripts of Junius, although they were written in a
feigned hand. Again; it may be said that the style is not Burke's.
In reply, I would say that Burke was master of many styles. His
work on natural society, in imitation of Lord Bolingbroke, is as
different in point of style from his work on the French Revolution,
as both are from the 'Letters of Junius.' Again; Junius speaks
of the King's insanity as a divine visitation; Burke said the very
same thing in the House of Commons. Again; had any one of the
other men to whom the 'Letters' are, with any show of probability,
ascribed, been really the author, such author would have had no
reason for disowning the book, or remaining incognito. Any one of
them but Burke would have claimed the authorship and fame--and
proud fame. But Burke had a very cogent reason for remaining
incognito. In claiming Junius he would have claimed his own
condemnation and dishonour, for Burke died a pensioner. Burke
was, moreover, the only pensioner who had the commanding talent
displayed in the writings of Junius. Now, when I lay all these
considerations together, and especially when I reflect that a
cogent reason exists for Burke's silence as to his own authorship,
I confess I think I have got a presumptive proof of the very
strongest nature, that Burke was the writer."



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