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27 Charles Lamb, author, d. 1834.
Thomas Sydenham, physician, d. 1689.
Sir John Holt, Chief Justice, b. 1612.
Charter of the East India Company, 1600.
(1) Campion deserves honour on the same grounds as Latimer and Ridley, for he endured torture and death rather than deny his religious convictions. He was condemned ostensibly on political grounds, but in attempting to prove him guilty of treason, the prosecution, says Hallam, 'was as unfairly conducted and supported by as slender evidence as any, perhaps, that can be found in our books.' He was a man of great learning, piety, and sweetness of disposition. (2) The first public service performed in Wren's Cathedral was a Thanksgiving for the Peace of Ryswick. (6) Jacob is one of the most notable of Indian heroes ; soldier, political agent, administrator, pacificator and civiliser of barbarous tribes, he is still held in highest honour by the people among whom his work was done. (10) A great name in the seventeenth century. The then unexampled undertaking called the New River, which brought pure water to London from the springs of Essex, was accomplished by him. He was a goldsmith in London of Welsh birth. (18) This Company was formed by London citizens anxious to find new trading channels, for the purpose of discovering 'a way and passage to Cathay by the north-east.' Their first fleet of three ships started in May 1553, and stumbling up against Russia introduced it to Western Europe. Five years later another expedition opened up a trade across the Caspian Sea to Central Asia.
J. M. S.
DIED DECEMBER 25, 1797.
AN ANNIVERSARY STUDY.
We write the biographies of nobody,' said the late Lord Bowen, and celebrate the centenaries of nothing'; but John Wilkes, in spite of his reputation, stands for a good deal more than nothing in the constitutional history of this country. Mankind has always wondered, and will no doubt continue to wonder, without much profit, at the apparent unworthiness of the instruments which are selected to achieve great ends, and the supposed lack of high qualities appropriate to the part in history he was called upon to play has always been the feature dwelt upon in considering the career of the senior partner in the firm of Wilkes and Liberty, who admitted that he at least was never a Wilkesite, but did more for the success of the joint business than if he had been. Wilkes has suffered more than most men from the friends of his youth ; not only did they turn against him in his lifetime, but the fact of their association with him has been made the chief cause of complaint against him by posterity, which forgets that he was only one of a band of sinners, and by no means the worst, the other members of which added treachery and hypocrisy to their vices, but enjoyed the patronage of a monarch whose morals were as unimpeachable as his folly. If Wilkes was bad, there can be no doubt that Lord Sandwich was a hundred times worse. the singular fate of that distinguished nobleman to make the fortunes of two very dissimilar champions of freedom-Wilkes and Lord Erskine—for, had it not been for his shabby conduct to one Captain Bayley, Erskine would never have been called upon to make that famous maiden speech before the King's Bench, and had he not practised the particularly base piece of treachery towards Wilkes which gained him the name of Jemmy Twitcher, the latter would probably never have been Lord Mayor of London and Member for Middlesex,
For excellent and entertaining accounts of Wilkes and his times, see Mr. Fitzgerald's • Life' in two vols, and a most judicious and impartial Essay by Mr. Fraser Rae in a volume called • Wilkes, Sheridan, Fox.'
John Wilkes was not, as William IV. said of a well-known naval officer, when proposing his health, 'sprung from the dregs of the people'; his father was a successful distiller, a trade which, in those days, as in these, frequently opened out a career of public usefulness to the son. Without wasting his time, like Gibbon, , amid the prejudice and port' of Oxford, he went to Leyden, where he acquired a useful working knowledge of Latin, and the capacity to converse with elegance and freedom in the French tongue, and he also seems to have picked up more than a bowing acquaintance with Greek. Among his friends there were two future Chancellors of the Exchequer-Dowdeswell and Charles Townshend. Even then he was a pushing enterprising fellow, amusing, and excellent company, and eagerly desirous of making á mark in the world, and disposed to adopt extravagant profligacy as the easiest and most agreeable method of doing it. He was afflicted with a tutor, whose views were not those of Wilkes. Being a Dissenting minister, of Unitarian proclivities, he passionately desired to convert his brilliant pupil to his own particular heresy, and so worried Wilkes that, from conviction or expediency, the latter expressed his entire, and not partial, disbelief in the Scriptures, which led to a rupture. After quitting Leyden Wilkes travelled in Germany, and on returning home found that he was expected to marry. A more incongruous match than that into which he now entered has never been known. It combined the disadvantages which flow from marriage at an immature age, and those which are usually supposed to result from a match founded on business principles. The lady was well off, but possessed no other recommendation in the eyes of her husband, for she liked to retain, as he to spend. “It was a sacrifice,' to quote his own words, 'to Plutus rather than to Venus,' and that goddess, as all human experience shows us, is the most prompt to resent any disrespect done to her altars. Mrs. Wilkes had also the misfortune to be a Dissenter, in an age when it meant something more than a reputation for greater austerity than other folks ; she was also ten years his senior, being thirty-two, while he was only two-andtwenty, the same age as that at which St. John married for money.
It is difficult to lay all the blame for his subsequent follies upon the back of a youth thus injudiciously mated by parental schemes. But there is little to commend in his choice of associates Sandwich, Dashwood, and Potter were the leading spirits of the
band, and their prime orgies were held at Wilkes' house in Great George Street, a locality now sacred to the frigid muse of engineering. It is not necessary to say more of Sandwich than that he was, perhaps, the least respectable of the gang. Dashwood, much to his own discomfort, became Chancellor of the Exchequer, and posterity, agreeing with his own predictions, has held him the worst there ever was; he afterwards became Lord Le Despenser. Potter’s father was Archbishop of Canterbury, and the son exaggerated the vices which are erroneously supposed by some to distinguish the sons of ecclesiastics ; but he was an amusing scoundrel, and a great friend of Pitt's. It is little to be wondered at if Mrs. Wilkes was rarely seen at the head of the table when it was graced by these gentlemen.
Not content with the ordinary indulgences of a depraved taste, these associates and others founded the well-known companionship of the “Medmenham Monks. They purchased the ruined Abbey of Medmenham, on the Thames, and there practised what the gossip of the day alleged to be the most revolting travesties of the sacred mysteries of the Christian faith. Tradition has, in all probability, by no means made the least of
Dashwood had been obliged to fly from Rome for his scandalous conduct in the Sistine Chapel on the night of Good Friday, and he now entered the Abbey and became its Abbot. The monks were twelve in number, but there were a number of novices waiting for admission into this precious brotherhood. Wilkes and Sandwich became candidates for the
The latter was chosen as the more wicked, and few will contest'the judgment of their associates on such a point. Wilkes revenged himself for this slight on his character in an appropriate fashion. He shut a baboon in a chest, and let him out at the moment when Lord Sandwich was invoking the Devil. Both the revellers and the monkey being equally frightened, a scene of great confusion followed, and during the uproar the animal leaped on Lord Sandwich's' shoulders, who straightway fell on his knees and loudly expressed his penitence. For this practical joke he never forgave Wilkes.
The fortune of Mrs. Wilkes, though considerable, could not hold out for long against the inroads made upon it, especially as her husband was determined to adopt a political career, for which,
| According to another account the victim was Lord Orford,
indeed, he possessed almost every qualification. He was clever, impudent, agreeable, and possessed influential friends; there was, therefore, every reason to believe that at a time when that wild and dream-like trade of insincerity' was a more lucrative one than it is to-day, he might not only repair his resources, but attain that place in the public eye to which he always aspired. When we consider his career as a whole, it would seem that his early excesses were rather the result of a desire for notoriety than of pure viciousness; this is no excuse for him, but affords an explanation of his conduct as a young man, for during the rest of his life he was certainly no worse than most of his contemporaries in society. In politics, as in vice, he was thorough. He first contested Berwick-on-Tweed, and spent four thousand pounds over it. The Delaval family swayed the borough, and engaged a vessel to bring some of their supporters from London, but Wilkes bribed the Captain to steer for the coast of Norway, where in time he duly landed the free and independent electors. Wilkes, however, lost the election, and had the audacity to present a petition against his opponent's return.
Wilkes did not deliberately, as that typical Tory, Lord Eldon, always said he regretted he had not done, begin life as an agitator. He would have been a devoted follower of the great Commoner had he encouraged him, but, as in the case of Peel and Disraeli, the Minister did not substantially acknowledge his advances. Circumstances, however, made Wilkes his avenger after the disgraceful intrigue which placed Bute in power had half sacrificed the conquests of the Seven Years' War, and commenced the long struggle between the King and the Opposition. Lord Bute, like Sir Willoughby Patterne, 'had a leg,' and like Wilkes himself, kept a private printing press, but had little else to distinguish him. The fact that he was a Scotchman was the most tangible charge against him, and that he had overthrown by underhand means the popular idol. As twenty years had not elapsed since a Scotch army had marched to Derby, it is not surprising that Scotchmen were unpopular in London. Wilkes was in no way behind Dr. Johnson in sharing the national prejudice, and in expressing it throughout his life. In later years Boswell complained, when dining in the City, that he had been robbed of his handkerchief on the way. It is only the ostentation of a Scotchman,' said Wilkes, 'who wishes to show that he possesses one. At the end of his life, when he took to