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rural pursuits and kept fowls, he complained that they always flew back to the place they came from, until he procured 'a cock and hen pouter from Scotland ; needless to say they never returned.'
When Bute came into power, Wilkes was M.P. for Aylesbury the second time, having been originally seated there by a complicated triangular transaction to which Pitt was a party, and in which Wilkes spent a large sum. He immediately plunged into a violent pamphlet warfare with the Government. There is no reason to suppose that he had any sinister personal aim in so doing; the circumstances fully justified violent opposition. He founded the 'North Briton' to answer the Government hacks, and so effectually did he catch the public taste, that he not only made the Government a laughing stock, but had no small share in frightening Bute into resignation. Forty-four numbers of Wilkes' journal passed unnoticed by the authorities, some of them containing scurrilities that might well have called for attention ; but Bute had wisdom enough to let him alone. He was succeeded by George Grenville, one of the most destructive statesmen with whom a nation can be cursed, a man who mistakes obstinacy for firmness. With a view to being firm, he ordered the issue of a "General Warrant’against the authors, printers, and publishers of a seditious and treasonable paper entitled the North Briton, No. 45. This No. 45 contained nothing as bad as many of the previous forty-four, but it did contain a severe criticism on the King's speech at the opening of Parliament. Under this warrant Wilkes was seized, brought before the Secretaries of State for examination, refused to tell them anything, and was then lodged in the Tower, but was shortly afterwards liberated by Chief Justice Pratt (afterwards Lord Camden) under a habeas corpus, on the technical ground that he was a Member of Parliament. In one day he became a popular idol by the folly of the Ministry and the King. In fact, the next ten years of his life was a struggle between the King and Wilkes, in which the latter ultimately emerged victor at all points. The necessity for the destruction of Wilkes became as persistent an idea in the King's mind as that of Carthage in Cato's, and for this end he laboured persistently and untiringly, as a narrow and obstinate intellect can. No means were too base, no violation of the rights of the subject too daring to accomplish his end. When a younger member of the Royal family wished to be particularly annoying, he would open the King's door and
shout, Wilkes and No. 45 for ever!' and then run away. emerging from the Tower, Wilkes sent a characteristic letter to the Secretaries of State saying that on his discharge he found that his house had been robbed, and I am informed that the stolen goods are in the possession of one or both of your lordships. I therefore insist that you do forthwith return them to your humble servant John Wilkes. He also brought actions for false imprisonment against all the parties concerned in his arrest, and the printers who had suffered with him did likewise. They all recovered heavy damages, and Lord North afterwards confessed that these futile and disastrous proceedings had cost the Treasury in all no less than 100,0001. in legal expenses.
The King's enemies and those of the Ministry were naturally the friends of Wilkes. Among them Lord Temple, Grenville's brother, must be accorded the first place, for the energy he showed, not only in giving counsel, but also the sinews of war for carrying on the campaign; nor were his talents by any means despicable. Mr. Fraser Rae, whose opinions on any matters connected with the period are deserving of considerable respect, believes that he was the author of Junius. There is no doubt that he was a very clever and malignant antagonist, who preferred dealing his blows with the least danger to himself. Macaulay's description of him is well known, and, like much of that great writer's brilliant characterisation, it does not err on the side of moderation. Those who knew his habits tracked him as men track a mole. It was his nature to grub underground. Wherever a heap of dirt was flung up, it might be suspected that he was at work in some foul crooked labyrinth below.' His support of Wilkes was, however, quite above-board, and the King retaliated by removing him from the Lord-Lieutenancy of Bucks, and substituting that model nobleman, Lord Le Despenser, the decorations of whose countryhouse were so indelicate as to shock Wilkes himself.
Foiled in the Law Courts, George now turned to Parliament, which proved more subservient than the judges. The House of Commons passed a resolution condemning No. 45 as 'a false, scandalous, and malicious libel,'a ridiculous misuse of terms. But Wilkes had most foolishly, like many other popular heroes, not been contented with a substantial victory, but must needs repeat his offence and reprint No. 45. The House sentenced it to be burned by the common hangman, and the printer to be put in the pillory. The mob burned a petticoat and a jack-boot instead, a
delicate reference to Lord Bute and the Princess Dowager. They "took the printer to the pillory in a coach ‘marked No. 45,' and made a collection for him to the amount of 2001.
Again the King had ignominiously failed. It remained for the House of Lords to vindicate His Majesty by means of one of the vilest conspiracies known to history, both for its subject, its authors, and the means employed to give it effect.
The name of 'Old Q.’ is still the legendary symbol for all forms of vice. At this time the future Duke of Queensberry was the Earl of March. Among his retinue there was a chaplain, whose particular functions in that household were a source of irreverent conjecture among the noble lord's boon companions. But it was not long before he fully justified his employer's choice. He obtained, by bribery, one of the sheets of an infamous parody on Pope's · Essay on Man,' called "An Essay on Woman,' a few copies of which had been struck off at Wilkes' private press. This production was adorned with notes even worse than the text, purporting to be written by Bishop Warburton of Gloucester, a prelate rather more than suspected of unorthodox views, and rather more than conscious that he merited translation to a higher sphere of usefulness; for later on, having applied for the Bishopric of London, and being refused, he preached a sermon in the Chapel Royal, commenting on his own merits, and the inferior claims of his successful rival. Among his literary efforts was a 'Defence of Christianity,' upon which the views of the world in general were expressed by Mrs. Montagu, who wrote, ' Its levity shocks me, the indecency displeases me, and the grossièreté disgusts me.' To this worthy Lord March communicated his chaplain's lucky find. The third number of this delectable triumvirate was Sandwich, whose reasons for owing Wilkes a grudge have been already mentioned. One is grieved to learn that they were 'inexpressibly shocked' at the work, and determined to spare no efforts to bring the offender to justice. Sandwich even informed the traitorous printer that he had saved the country,' and the next day appalled and disgusted the Peers by reading out the whole production to the end with the greatest deliberation, paying no attention to those who begged him to spare them the rest, for he was in his element. The infamy of his conduct is the more apparent when we remember that at this very time Sandwich frequently spent his evenings with Wilkes, and, according to Walpole, very lately at a club held in the
playhouse in Drury Lane, Lord Sandwich talked so profanely that he drove two harlequins out of the company.'
George III., however, did not take this view of his Minister's conduct. · In after years he declared that of his Lords of the Admiralty, among whom were included Howe and St. Vincent, he valued Lord Sandwich the most. In any case he knew how to please his Royal master. The House of Lords voted the introduction of Warburton's name into the “Essay' a breach of privilege, and directed that Wilkes should be prosecuted. No attention was paid to the fact that there was no proof that he was the author (in all probability that distinction must fall to Potter, above-mentioned), that there was no publication, and that the means by which the piece had been obtained were little short of felonious. People remembered a sentence in the then popular * Beggar's Opera,''that Jemmy Twitcher should peach, I own, surprises me,' and 'Jemmy Twitcher' was the nickname for Sandwich in all the Opposition journals.
Wilkes now saw that his ruin had been determined upon, and fled to the Continent. The Opposition were not sorry to be rid of their embarrassing supporter, and made up a handsome subscription for him, which amounted to 1,0001. a year. Wilkes stayed some time in Paris with his daughter, to whom he was deeply attached. She appears to bave been a sensible and refined lady, who afterwards counted among her friends many of the leaders of society in London and Paris. His letters to ber are full of wit and charm, and are alone enough to prove that he was not the monster depicted by some. While in Paris he became immensely popular in the best circles, through his agreeable manner, ready wit, and high spirits. This charm of address never failed him, even when his fortunes were at their lowest ebb. At one time he was under apprehension that the French Government would expel him from France on the demand of the English, for by this time he had been tried for the libel and outlawed. He thought it prudent to travel for a time in Italy, and found himself received everywhere with a warm welcome, both by natives and foreign residents. He spent money freely, as only those can afford to do who live on others, for he was drawing on Lord Temple and other friends the whole time. On his way back he visited the Grande Chartreuse, and Voltaire at Ferney; he made himself a welcome guest in each instance, though more incongruous hosts it would not be easy to select.
A change of Ministry now came to flatter his hopes of a return to England. Grenville's interminable harangues in the Royal E closet had bored his master into giving him his congé, and
Rockingham had taken his place. Wilkes, not unnaturally, expected a free pardon, and something more, when his friends got into power, but he soon learned that an inconvenient friend will only receive his reward when he becomes troublesome. To do that he must brave the terrors of the law and return to England. Amongst other modest proposals for his advancement, he had suggested that he should be made Ambassador at Constantinople, and receive a pension of 1,0001. a year. That post was hardly as important then as now, but it is not surprising that the King and Ministry failed to receive the suggestion with enthusiasm. On the accession of the Duke of Grafton to the leadership, Wilkes thought that he might return with safety, for his Grace had been one of his boon companions, though the experience he had enjoyed in the case of Sandwich might have made him more cautious. The character of Grafton has been drawn for all time by Junius. 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. For a long time no effort was made to bring Wilkes before the Courts, for, it must be remembered, he was still an outlaw; nor was any attempt made to conciliate him. The conduct of Grafton exhibited neither generosity nor firmness. Wilkes therefore boldly offered himself as a candidate for the City, and, on his rejection, for the county of Middlesex. The scenes of that election beggar description, and are too well known to need it. One incident is too amusing to escape repetition. The Austrian Ambassador, the Graf von Seilern, most solemn and haughty of the representatives of a solemn Court, was dragged from his carriage by the mob, and '45'chalked on the soles of his boots. His constantly reiterated demands for reparation, which it was impossible to satisfy, only made him the more ridiculous. Wilkes and Liberty' was the one topic of the day in letters and conversation. His head was even adopted as a sign for public-houses, and he himself told the story of the old lady who said, “ There he swings, everywhere but where he ought to be.' He easily headed the poll
, and received a complimentary letter from Diderot, who wrote, “The august Senate of Great Britain will still count a Wilkes among its most illustrious members.' That