Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Authorship of Junius

Jan. 1837.—I have had a great deal of conversation with Lord Braybrooke on the, old subject of Junius. I see he puts little faith in the promised revelation of the mystery by the Duke of Buckingham,* and I may as well, before I proceed, write all I remember of what the Duke told me some five or six years ago. He said that, examining some papers of our grandfather (George Grenviile), he found a letter which entirely cleared the matter; that he had immediately written this to Lord Grenville, and had offered to exchange his secret information for that which he had always understood was in my uncle's possession.

No answer was returned, and the Duke said that, as it was evident that Lord Grenville did not wish for any communication on the subject, he thought it more delicate towards him not to make it to anyone as long as he lived. Four years have now elapsed since the death of Lord Grenviile, and nothing is made known on the subject of Junius.

Whether the Duke is still restrained by delicacy towards my dear surviving uncle,** whether subsequent discoveries have cast a doubt upon that which he considered so positive, I of course know not. At the time when he told the above to Lady Delamere and me, he was in a very communicative humour, allowed us to question, and promised to refuse to answer unless he could reply truly. He said that Junius was not any one of the persons to whom the Letters have been ascribed ; that, from the situation in which he found the paper in question, he had every reason to believe that his father had never read it.

I know that very soon after my uncle's (Earl Temple's) death, he told Charles that he had found a private letter from Junius to my grandfather. Nugent, I understand, was with him when the paper was found; indeed, I believe was the first to open it,
and, of course, partakes in the secret.

The impression left upon the mind of my sister by this conversation was, that Lord Temple was the man. If so, he must have had an amanuensis in the secret, for the hand of a Secretary of State must have been too well known in all its manner not to have been discovered. The same objection has been made to the supposition of Lord Chatham, and has been removed by a conjecture that the letters were transcribed by Lady Chatham.

From all that I have been used to hear of little Lady Temple—thought so very little by all the younger members of his family—I am inclined to think that the same conjecture could not apply to her; that hers was not the pen of a ready writer, that in her orthography even she was (according to the fashion of that day) very deficient.***

Lord Braybrooke conceives the pretensions of Sir P. Francis as being better supported than those of any other of the candidates for the authorship. In support of this assertion, he told me a singular story. Giles, whom we all remember so well, told him that when his sister, Mrs. King, was a young Bath belle, she received anonymously a copy of love verses; that some years after Sir Philip Francis owned himself to be the author of these. It happened that the mystery long attached to these verses had induced her to preserve the original paper, and upon comparison with the autographs in "Woodfall's edition, it proves that the handwriting is the same as that which Junius feigned, and not his natural hand.

Mr. Giles, to establish this curious fact, had Sir Philip's verses exactly copied in lithograph, and gave one of the copies to Lord Braybrooke. He has inserted it in his 'Junius,' and promised, but afterwards forgot, to show it me.

Lord Braybrooke told me that there was a moment when he expected some very interesting information on this subject. The present king, William IV., gave him a message of apology to Lord Grenville for having driven, by a mistake of the coachman, close to the house at Dropmore, began talking about my uncle's supposed knowledge of the secret of Junius, and added, ' I will tell you what my father said one day to me upon this subject. He was, after every attempt to discover the secret, quite as much in the dark as any of his subjects; but he added: 'I will tell you, my son, now that you are grown up and can understand them, what are my conjectures upon the subject.'

One can imagine the anxious curiosity of Lord Braybrooke at this preface, and his extreme disappointment at the conclusion, 'I am convinced that it cannot be the work of any one person, and that several were concerned.' **** Now, setting aside the evidence of unity of style and purpose, which is strong against this supposition, it would make the mystery even more wonderful than it has appeared—indeed, one may say, impossible.

Lord Braybrooke told the King an anecdote connected with this, though perhaps not much to the purpose. Lady Holland, in one of her imperious moods, made.Rogers go to Sir P. Francis to pump him upon the question of authorship. Her unwilling angry ambassador returned, and was of course very closely questioned; he was sulky, and to the leading, ' Come, tell me what you have discovered ?' replied, ' I have found out that Francis is Junius—Brutus. Lord Braybrooke said it was quite evident to him that the merit (such as it was) of the reply was quite lost upon King
William, whose acquaintance with Junius Brutus, if it ever existed, was quite lost.*****

This forgetfulness, strange as it is, is perhaps less so than that of Lord Euston. A few days after the publication of Woodfall's ' Junius,' Nugent, seeing it on the table of the Duke of Grafton, turned to Lord Euston and said, ' It is an odd coincidence to see this book for the first time in this house.' Lord Euston stared and asked, ' Why should it not be here ?'

Editor's Notes
* The first Duke, who was made Duke in 1822, and died in 1839.

** The Right Honourable T. Grenviile. The Duke told Mrs. Rowley (his great-niece) that the authorship had become known to him through a paper or papers discovered some time after his father's death, and that he communicated the discovery to Mr. T. Grenville, who said it was no news to him, but that for private (or family) reasons the secret must be kept. He also repeated to Mrs. Rowley what he told Lady Delamere and Miss Wynn, that Juniua was not one of the persons to whom the Letters had been popularly ascribed. Mrs.Rowley was out of England when the first edition was in preparation.

*** The facsimiles given by Mr. W. J. Smith, in the third volume of his edition of The Grenville Papers, are in a good. clear hand, betokening a ready penwom an. In that volume he has printed three private letters from Mr. George Grenville, supposed to he from Junius, prior to his adoption of that signature. These three throw little or no light on the disputed question of the authorship. I have heard the late (the second) Duke of Buckingham make a statement similar to his father's, and leading to a conclusion that he, too, was in the secret. The strongest argument against Francis is, his obvious wish to enjoy at least the posthumous reputation of the authorship, and his inability to leave any proof better than the copy of 'Junius Identified,' bequeathed to his wife. When that work was published, he saw and had some conversation with the publisher, whom he impressed with the conviction that he was by no means offended at the imputed identity. Mere similarity of style in compositions subsequent to the publication of the Letters proves little or nothing.

**** This is hardly reconcilable with a statement attributed to George III., soon after the cessation of the letters, that 'Junius had. been provided for and would write no more.'

***** The evidence touching the Junius Brutus story is curiously
conflicting. Lady Francis, in her letter to Lord Campbell, says: 'He (Sir Philip) affronted poor Sam Rogers, whom he liked so much, to avoid an ensnaring: question.' Mr. Prescott writes from London: 'Perhaps you have heard of a good thing of Rogers, which Lord Lansdowne told me the other day lie heard him say. It was at Lord Holland's table, when Rogers asked Sir Philip Francis (the talkhad some allusion to Junius) if he, Sir Philip, would allow him to ask a certain question. 'Do so at your peril,' was the amiable reply. If he is Junius, said Rogers in an undertone to his neighbour, then he must be Junius Srvtus ' (Ticknor'-f Life of Prescott, p. 314). Moore relates the story with the addition that Lord Brougham was by (Memoirs, vol. vi. p. C6). But Rogers' own version (given in the Table Talk) is: 'I was conversing with Lady Holland in her dressing-room, when Sir Philip Francis was announced. "Now," she said, "I will ask him if he is Junius." I was about to withdraw, but she insisted on my staying. Sir Philip entered, and soon after he was seated, she put the question to him. His answer was “Madam, do you mean to insult me?” and he went on to say, that when he was a younger man people would not have centured to charge gim with being the author of these letters. Scrope Davies (Byron’s friend) who was intimate with Francis, once began: ‘Sir Philip, will you allow me to put a question to you?” “At your peril, sir.” I had this from Davies himself.


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