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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 lately observed, “ ministers found, in these letters, proofs of some enemy, some spy, being amongst them."*
It was immediately perceived in the
* See an ingenious and striking article by Mr. De Quincy (Autobiography of an English Opium-eater) 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 surely as nearly established now as any matter ever was by merely circumstantial evidence. People are still, indeed, to be met with who doubt or disbelieve; but they may be classed, for the most part, with those crotchety old ladies and gentlemen who in our own day, 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 are 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 may say, in every way, excepting only by his highest circle of political society that the writer was either actually one of the members of the government, 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 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 evident 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 an honour, a man of his temper assuredly never would have submitted to thus tranquilly if it had not been true. His conduct, in fact, amounted to what Scott's also was, to acquiescing in and admitting the justice of the common belief-which if any one supposes that either Francis or Scott would have done, that belief being false, we can only say that he appears to us to mistake the whole characters of the men as widely as it is possible to do. If the humiliation and baseness of such an assumption 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, by the by, that the identification of the handwriting of Junius and Sir Philip Francis has been lately made more clear and convincing than ever by some comparative specimens published along with the Correspondence of Lord Chatham, 4 vols. 8vo. Lond., 1839. These specimens leave it hardly possible to doubt that the one hand is merely
would be, of course, with the mass of the public. But, although it was not his style alone, or even chiefly, that first 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. It has been remarked, with considerable truth, 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 deficient in some of the higher qualities of good 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 rhetorie. As for the spirit of these famous letters, it is a remarkable attestation to the author's power of writing that they were long universally regarded as dictated by the very genius of English liberty, and as almost a sort of Bible, or heaveninspired exposition, of popular principles and rights. They contain, no doubt, many sound maxims, tersely and vigorously expressed ; but of profound or farsighted political philosophy, or even of ingenious disquisition, having the semblance of philosophy, there is as little in the Letters of Junius as there is in the Diary of Dodington or of Pepys; and, as for the writer's principles, they seem to be as much the produce of mere temper, and of his individual animosities and spites, as even of his partisan habits and passions. He defends the cause of liberty itself in the spirit of tyranny ; there is no generosity, or even common fairness, in his mode of combating; the newest lie, or private scandal, of the day serves as well, and as frequently, as anything else to point his sarcasm, or to arm as with livid lightning the thunder of declamatory invective that resounds through his pages ; indeed, much of the popularity long enjoyed by these letters, as well of the impression they made when they first appeared, is probably to be attributed to the singular fact that they supply, besides what other matter they may contain, a tolerably abundant chronique scandaleuse of the time, that this great public writer, the eloquent expounder and vindicator of constitutional principles and popular rights, is at the same time the chief recorder and preserver, at least in decent language, of the amours of the Duke of Grafton and Lord Irnham, and of the most piquant passages in the lives of Miss Kennedy, Miss Davis, and Nancy Parsons.
The character of Junius was drawn, while the mysterious shadow was still occupying the public gaze with its handwriting upon the wall, by one of the most distinguished of his contemporaries, in a publication which made a considerable noise in its day, but is now very much forgotten :-"Junius has sometimes made his satire felt, but let not injudicious admiration mistake the venom of the shaft for the vigour of the bow. He has sometimes sported with lucky malice ; but to him that knows his company it is not hard to be sarcastic in a mask. While he walks, like Jack the Giant-killer, in a coat of darkness, he may do much misehief with little strength.
Junius burst into notice with a blaze of impudence which has rarely glared upon the world before, and drew the rabble after him as a monster makes a show. When he had once provided for his safety by impenetrable secrecy, he had nothing to combat but truth and justice-enemies whom he knows to be feeble in the dark. Being then at liberty to indulge himself in all the immunities of invisibility ; out of the reach of danger, he has been bold ; out of the reach of shame, he has been confident. As a rhetorician, he has had the art of persuading when he seconded desire ; as a reasoner, he has convinced those who had no doubt before; as a moralist, he has taught that virtue may disgrace; and, as a patriot, he has gratified the mean by insults on the high. Finding sedition ascendant, he has been able to advance it; finding the nation combustible, he has been able to inflame it.
It is not by his liveliness of imagery, his
pungency of periods, or his fertility of allusion that he detains the cits of London and the boors of Middle
Of style and sentiment they take no cognizance : they admire him for virtues like their own, for contempt of order and violence of outrage, for rage of defamation