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Gray's Odes, (which Johnson has damned so completely, and, in my humble opinion, with so much justice,) as the standard of lyric excellence. He did not much admire the Gentle Shepherd. He preferred the Pastor Fido, of which he spoke with rapture, and the Eclogues of Virgil. I pled as I could for Allan Ramsay, because I regard him as the single unaffected poet whom we have had since Buchanan.
Proximus huic, longo sed proximus intervallo.
He answered, “ It is the duty of a poet to write like a gentleman. I dislike that homely style which some think fit to call the language of nature and simplicity, and so forth. In Percy's Reliques too, a few tolerable pieces are buried under a heap of rubbish. You have read, perhaps, Adam Bell, Clym of the Cleugh, and William of Cloudestie.” I answered, Yes, “ Well then,” said he,“ do you think that was worth printing ?” He reflected with some harshness on Dr. Goldsmith; and repeated a variety of anecdotes to support his cenfure.
They amounted to prove that Goldsmith loved a wench and a bottle; and that a lie, when to serve a special end, was not excluded from his system of morality. To commit these stories to print would be very much in the modern tafte; but such proceedings appear to me as an absolute disgrace to typography.
He never spoke but with ridicule and detestation of the Reviews. He said that it was not easy to conceive in what contempt they were held in London. I mentioned a story I had read of Mr. Burke having seduced and dishonoured a young lady, under promise of marriage. “I imagine,” said he, " that you have got that fine story out of some of the Magazines. If any thing can be lower than the Reviews, they are so. They once had the impudence to publish a story of a gentleman's having debauched his own fifter; and
upon inquiry, it came-out that the gentleman never had a fifter. As to Mr. Burke, he is a worthy, honeft, man. He married an accomplished girl, without a filling of fortune.” I wanted to get the Gentleman's Magazine excepted from his general censure; but he would not hear me. He never, he said, looked at a Review, nor even knew the names of the publishers.
He was fond of Pope, and had by heart many favourite passages; but he disliked the private character of the man. He was, he said, all affectation, and mentioned his Letter to Arbuthnot, when the latter was dying, as a consummate specinien of canting; which, to be sure, it is. He had also a very high opinion of Dryden, and loudly extolled his Fa. bles. I mentioned Mr. Hume's objections; he replied, " You will learn more as to poetry, by reading one good poem, than by a thousand volumes of criticism." He quoted some passages in Defoe, which breathed, as he thought, the true spirit of English verse.
He disliked Meikle's translation of the Lusiad, and efteenied the French version of that work as far superior. Meikle, in his presence, has contradi&ted, with great frank- . ness, some of the positions advanced in the Doctor's Inquiry, which may perhaps have disgusted him; but, in truth, Meikle is only an indifferent rhymer.
Dr. Sinith, with Lord Gardenstone, regarded the French Theatre as the standard of dramatic excellence.
He said, that at the beginning of the present reign, the dissenting ministers had been in use to receive two thousand pounds* a year from Government; that the Earl of Bute had, (as he thought, most improperly) deprived them of this allowance, and that he supposed this to be the real motive of their virulent opposition to Government.
Glasgow. • This sum of money has been generally represented as serrn thousand pounds a year.
ON 'THE DOCTRINE OF LIBELS,
AS IT HAS BEEN REPRESENTED BY SOME JUDGES.
To the PRINTER of the PUBLIC ADVERTISER.
February 15, 1792. I CANNOT but rejoice to find, that Mr. Fox has resolved to employ his great abilities in endeavouring to ascertain the LEGAL DOCTrines concerning LIBELS, and to correct them, if found to be detrimental to a just and moderate liberty of reasoning upon political measures. One of the points that will probably be the obje&t of the House's confideration in the debate that will arise upon this subje&t is, “the right of the jury to inquire into the intention of the writer, or publisher, of the paper prosecuted as a feditious libel ; and, into the tendency of the said paper to raise sedition, or disturbance in the country, which is always afcribed to it in the Indictment, or Information, against the publisher, and constitutes the very essence of the crime imputed to him.” Now these points have been, by many modern Judges, considered as matters of law, and therefore, say they, as matters to be referred for the cognizance of the Judges only, and not for that of the jury, whose whole bufinefs is, to declare " whether, or not, the paper in question (such as it is, innocent or misehievous,) was published by the person accused.” Lord Mansfield, in particular has called the opinion, which a reader will form of the bad tendency of the paper, and of the wicked intention of the writer of it, from the perusal of it, an inference of law; as if the knowledge of the law were requisite to form such an inference. But, furely, this may be done without the N4
smallest acquaintance with either Lord Coke's Institutes, or his Reports, or Plowden's Reports, or any other such re, condite learning, and by the mere assistance of common sense, and an ordinary acquaintance with the business and transactions of the world, such as a juryman may be supposed to be possessed-of. And, therefore, I should think it ought rather to be called an inference of reason, than an inference of law, and to be left to the cognizance of the jury; in the fame manner as, in a charge of burglary, or house-breaking by night, with an intention to commit a felony, the jury are to determine not only whether the prisoner at the bar broke into the house by night, but whether he did fo with an intention to commit a felony. These are inferences of reason and common sense, and not of law, as Lord Mansfield, and some other Judges, have represented them, for the sake of taking them out of the cognizance of the jury: though, in truth, if they were inferences of law, it would not follow that the jury would have no right to determine them ; be cause“ point of law that is accidentally intermixed with matters of fa&, in the complicated iffue, or question, referred to the determination of a Jury, is within their cognizance," as Littleton (the great oracle of the law) has expresy declared, and all subsequent lawyers have allowed. But, this is a point not necessary to be infifted-on in considering the doctrine of libels, because in those prosecutions, all the points to be determined are mere matters of fact : to wit, jst, Whether the man published the paper2dly, Whether he had a bad design in publishing it-and 3dly, Whether the paper has a bad tendency, or is likely to produce bad effects; which last point is as truly a matter of fact, as, “whether a man who is charged with wounding another with a sword, touched him with a sword, or touched him with a fencing-foil with a button at the end of it,” or as, “ whether a person who is
charged with poisoning another, by giving him a glass of wine, gave him a glass of mere wine, or a glass of wine with arsenic in it."
This doctrine of Lord Mansfield, and some other Judges, (hut which Lord Camden has repeatedly condemned), “ that these points are inferences of law, and, therefore, (as they too hastily conclude,) not within the jurisdiction of the jury,” was not first invented by Lord Mansfield, but was laid-down by Lord Raymond, in the case of the King and Franklin, which was tried on the 3d of December, 1731; and it has been most commonly, but not, I think, constantly, adheredto by the Judges ever since. But it was not the doctrine laid-down in the trial of the seven bishops, in the year 1688, or the last year of King James the Second, nor by Lord Chief-Justice Bolt, in the reign of Queen Anne. For, in the trial of Mr. Tutchin, in that reign, for one of the most seditious libels that ever were known, that great ChiefJustice addresses the jury in these words : “ Gentlemen of the Jury—this is an Information for publishing libels against the Queen and her Government ;" and then, after stating the proof of the publication of the papers, and reading fome passages from them, he goes-on in this manner—" So that,
now you have heard this evidence, you are to consider “ whether you are satisfied that Mr. Tutchin is guilty of “writing, composing, and publishing these libels. They “ say, these are innocent papers, and that nothing is a libel " but what reflects upon some particular person. But this “ is a very strange doctrine, to say, it is not a libel re“flecting on Government--- to endeavour to possess the “people, that the Government is mal-administered by cor
rupt persons that are employed in such and such stations, “either in the navy or army. For it is very necessary for
every Government that the people should have a good "opinion of it; and nothing can be worse than to endeavour