Mist, Nathaniel (DNB00)
|←Misson, Francis Maximilian||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 38
MIST, NATHANIEL (d. 1737), printer, may have been the son of James Mist of Easton, Wiltshire, and Martha Stagg of Kensington, to whom a license for marriage was granted by the vicar-general in October 1666. In early life, he tells us, he served in the navy, especially in the Spanish seas (Mist's Weekly Journal, 25 Oct. 1718), probably as a common sailor (Hist.MSS. Comm. 10th Rep. pt. i., ‘Manuscripts of C. F. W. Underwood, esq.,’ p.495). On 15 Dec. 1716 he was a printer in Great Carter Lane, and commenced a folio newspaper of six pages, the ‘Weekly Journal, or Saturday's Post,’ which became the organ of the Jacobites and ‘High-flyers.’ In April 1717 Mist was arrested on suspicion of printing libels against the government, but was released after examination (Mist's Journal, 26 April 1717). Next week he was tried for printing ‘The Case of Mr. Francis Francia, the Reputed Jew,’ but was at once discharged (ib. 4 May 1717). The ‘Journal’ for 3 Aug. contained an editorial manifesto, protesting against charges of disloyalty, and promising that every effort should be used to obtain early news, especially direct news from abroad, ‘translated by the ablest hands.’ This address to the reader is, there can be little doubt, the first contribution to the paper by Daniel Defoe [q. v.], who, acting as an agent of the whig government, introduced himself ‘in the disguise of a translator of the foreign news’ into the office of the ‘Journal’ with the object of thus rendering its contents harmless without exciting the suspicion of the proprietor. Defoe's connection with the paper was soon well known; it was referred to in Read's whig ‘Weekly Journal’ for 14 Dec., and in the same paper for 28 Dec. it was alleged that messengers sent to search Mist's house had found the originals of seditious articles, which the publisher swore were in Defoe's handwriting. In Mist's ‘Journal’ for 21 Dec. a correspondent complained that the paper seemed to be turning whig, and a paragraph in reply to Read declared that Defoe was ‘no way at all concerned’ in it; yet in the next number appeared an able article against the imprisonment of honest but disabled debtors, bearing Defoe's own initials, ‘D.D.F.’
Between April and June 1718 Defoe placed on record, in a series of letters to Mr. Charles Delafaye (to be found in Mr. William Lee's ‘Life of Defoe’), an account of his connection with Mist's ‘Journal’ and other tory papers. Sometimes he sent to the secretary of state's office objectionable articles which he had stopped; sometimes he apologised for having overlooked certain paragraphs, and said he had warned Mist to be more wary. At last he thought he had Mist ‘absolutely resigned to proper measures, which would make his paper even serviceable to the government.’ On 4 June he spoke of an attempt made by Edmund Curll [q. v.] to trepan Mist into words against the government, with a view of informing against him. On 5 and 12 April Defoe had published in Mist's ‘Journal’ attacks on Curll's indecent publications, and Curll replied in ‘Curlicism display'd … in a Letter to Mr. Mist.’ Mist seems to have challenged Curll, and he concluded a letter on the subject in the ‘Journal’ for 14 June with the words, ‘O Cur— thou liest.’ According to Read's ‘Journal’ of the same date, Mist was the coward, as he did not keep the engagement. In his ‘Journal’ for 21 and 28 June and 26 July Mist replied to scandalous tales in Ridpath's ‘Flying Post,’ and each party threatened the other with an action for libel. On 20 and 27 Sept. Defoe printed letters in the ‘Journal’ warning Mist not to give the government an opportunity of prosecuting him. In October Read's ‘Journal’ spoke of Defoe and Mist as ‘Daniel Foe and his printer;’ and in the same month Mist's life was threatened by two men because of a letter he had published charging some ladies with irreverence in church (Journal, 4 and 11 Oct.) On 17 Oct. Mist was seized by a messenger, and on the following day was examined before Mr. Delafaye respecting a manuscript, ‘Mr. Kerr's Secret Memoirs’ [see Ker, John, of Kersland], which had been found upon him. He was told that he might be bailed when he pleased, but he did not furnish sureties till the following Saturday. Most of the time, however, he spent at his own house, on parole (State Papers, Dom., George I, Bundle 15, Nos. 14, 29). On that Saturday (25 Oct.) an article appeared in the ‘Journal,’ signed ‘Sir Andrew Politick,’ attacking the war with Spain; but Defoe appended a note qualifying the writer's statements. The number was seized, and an official memorandum says: ‘It is scarce credible what numbers of these papers are distributed both in town and country, where they do more mischief than any other libel, being wrote ad captum of the common people’ (ib. No. 29). On 1 Nov. Mist was examined before Lord Stanhope and Craggs, when he said that it was Defoe who had written the objectionable letter, together with the answer; and this statement was to some extent corroborated by Thomas Warner, printer of the ‘Journal’ (ib. Nos. 30, 33). In the ‘Whitehall Evening Post’ (1 Nov.) Defoe described the searching of Mist's premises, the finding of a seditious libel in the ceiling, and the committal of Mist, who, however, was soon discharged through Defoe's intervention. Read's ‘Journal’ alleged that Defoe had a security of 500l. from Mist not to discover him. This Mist denied on 8 Nov., boldly saying that Defoe never had any share in the ‘Journal,’ save that he sometimes translated foreign letters in the absence of the person usually employed. Defoe now ceased for a short time to have any connection with Mist, whose ‘Journal’ for 8 Nov. was presented by the grand jury for Middlesex on 28 Nov. as a false, seditious, scandalous, and profane libel. In January 1719 Defoe again began to write for the paper on the condition that its tone was to be very moderate (Lee, i. 289).
Early in 1719 Mist published ‘The History of the Reign of King George, from the Death of her late Majesty Queen Anne to the First of August 1718; to be continued yearly.’ James Crossley [q. v.] was of opinion that Defoe compiled this volume. No subsequent issues seem to have appeared.
In June 1720 Mist published news articles reflecting on the aid rendered to the protestants in the Palatinate by the interposition of the English government; and Dr. Willis, bishop of Gloucester, having brought the matter before the House of Lords, Mist was ordered to be prosecuted by the attorney-general. He was accordingly arrested, and committed to the King's Bench prison. Defoe, who was ill at the time, found it necessary to protest his innocence of any share in Mist's present excesses. On 3 Dec. Mist was tried before Lord Chief-justice Pratt, at the Guildhall, and was found guilty of scandalously reflecting on the king's interposition in favour of the protestants abroad. On 13 Feb. 1721 he was brought up upon his recognisance for judgment, and sentenced to stand in the pillory at Charing Cross and the Royal Exchange, to pay a fine of 50l., to suffer three months' imprisonment in the King's Bench, and to give security for good behaviour for seven years. Both at the Royal Exchange, on the 20th, and at Charing Cross, on the 23rd, Mist was very well treated by the mob (Read's Journal, 25 Feb.; Boyer, Political State; Notes and Queries, 4th ser. v. 2). Unable to pay the fine, Mist remained in prison, and in May, owing to the publication in his ‘Journal’ of articles which reflected upon the king and the Duke of Marlborough, he was placed at the bar of the House of Commons, and, as he would not give up the names of the writers of the letters, committed to Newgate, together with several persons who sold the paper. Defoe, writing in ‘Applebee's Journal,’ urged the government to show clemency towards the offenders, visited Mist in prison, and helped him to prepare a selection, in two volumes, of the letters that had appeared in the ‘Journal.’ Illness, brought on by anxiety and the unhealthy conditions of prison life, made it necessary to postpone Mist's trial from 9 Oct. to 9 Dec., when, no evidence being brought against him, he was discharged.
The ‘Collection of Miscellany Letters, selected out of Mist's Weekly Journal,’ appeared on 9 Jan. 1722, in two volumes, with dedications dated from the King's Bench prison, 29 Sept. and 10 Nov. 1721 respectively, in which Mist explained the cause of the delay in the publication of the book, and said that his troubles had cost him more than 1,000l. From 16 Dec. 1721 to 29 Sept. 1722 the ‘Journal’ was ‘printed by Dr. Gayland for N. Mist.’
On 8 June 1723 Mist again printed a libel upon the government, and was again in trouble at the end of the month (Journal, 6 July), but he was liberated on a recognisance of 1,400l. On 24 Feb. 1724 he was tried at the King's Bench and found guilty. The recognisance was estreated (ib. 29 Feb.) He was brought up for judgment on 18 May, and was sentenced to pay a fine of 100l., to suffer a year's imprisonment, and to find sureties for good behaviour during life. Mr. Abel Kettelby of the Middle Temple was counsel both for Mist and for Payne of the ‘True Briton,’ but though he pleaded eloquently, the court ‘thought their offences too great to allow of any mitigation’ (Parker's London News, 20 May 1724). One number of the ‘Journal’ (20 June) was ‘printed by W. Wilkins, at the Dolphin in Little Britain, and sold by J. Peele, Paternoster Row.’ The new Stamp Act of 1725 brought the original series to an end (24 April), but a new series was begun on 1 May, with the title ‘Mist's Weekly Journal.’ The price was raised from three halfpence to twopence, and the paper reduced to a quarto sheet of four pages. The size of the page was enlarged on 30 April 1726. On 25 March 1727 Mist brought out third and fourth volumes of ‘Miscellany Letters,’ taken from the ‘Journal.’ From 2 Dec. 1727 to 31 Aug. 1728 the ‘Journal’ was printed by John Wolfe, Great Carter Lane.
In 1727 Mist was again tried at the court of king's bench for a libel on George I, and was sentenced to pay a fine of 100l., to give security for good behaviour during life, and to be imprisoned till the sentence was fulfilled. The sentence remained in abeyance till 15 Sept., when an escape warrant was issued for seizing Mist at the King's Arms Tavern on Ludgate Hill. Mist's friends are said to have turned out the lights and thrust him out in the confusion that ensued (Citizen, 25 Sept.); but he surrendered on the following day. Mist afterwards, however, denied this story (Journal, 30 Sept.), saying that when the messenger appeared he went with him into another room, and, after examining the warrant (the force of which he at first disputed, because it was signed in the reign of the late King George I), surrendered himself, and was, he added, still in custody. In March 1728 the ‘Journal’ contained several articles directed against Pope, which Fenton noticed in writing to William Broome [q. v.] on 3 April (Pope, Works, ed. Elwin and Courthope, viii. 143); and afterwards various letters from Lewis Theobald, hero of the ‘Dunciad,’ were printed. In that poem (i. 208) Pope spoke incidentally of Mist himself: ‘To Dulness Ridpath is as dear as Mist;’ and among the ‘Testimonies of Authors’ Pope included many passages from the ‘Journal.’
In January 1728 Mist had found it prudent to retire to France, where he joined the banished Duke of Wharton (Read's Journal, 20 Jan.) In March James Watson, who was in custody for printing matter directed against the government, said that Mist had left a certain Mr. Bingley in chief charge of his affairs, and that Bingley might properly be called the author of the ‘Journal,’ except the political essay at the beginning, which he knew to be written by another. An unsuccessful attempt was then made to arrest Bingley (State Papers, Dom. George II, Bundle 7, Nos. 42-5, 106). On 27 July the ‘Journal’ had a paragraph stating that the Duke of Wharton had set up a school in Rouen, and had taken Bingley, formerly a prisoner in Newgate, to be his usher; and that at the same place Mist was driving a hackney coach. All were, it was said, in a fair way of getting a decent livelihood.
On 24 Aug. a letter signed ‘Amos Drudge,’ and directed against Walpole and the government, was printed in the ‘Journal.’ Active steps were at once taken against those who were responsible, but Mist was in safety at Rouen (cf. Read, Journal, 31 Aug.) The king was of opinion that the author, printers, and publishers of the paper should be punished with the utmost severity of the law (State Papers, Dom. George II, Bundle 6, No. 105). The manuscript of the letter signed ‘Amos Drudge’ was seized by the king's messengers, and more than twenty persons were arrested (ib. Bundle 5, Nos. 71, 74) and examined at Hampton Court on 29 and 30 Aug. Among those arrested then or in the following month were James Wolfe, printer, Elizabeth Nutt, widow of Nutt the bookseller, and her daughter Catherine, William Burton, printer, Mist's maid and nephew, Dr. Gayland, and Farley, who had reprinted the letter in a paper he published at Exeter. On 31 Aug. the grand jury for the county of Middlesex expressed their abhorrence at the article, and other grand juries followed the example (Boyer, Political State, August and October 1728). The ‘Journals’ for 7 and 14 Sept. appeared as one number, and the ‘Journal’ for 21 Sept. was the last that appeared. These were printed by J. Wilford, and a warrant was issued against him on account of an attack in the paper for 7 and 14 Sept. upon the action of the legislature against the South Sea Company. Wilford surrendered himself, and was admitted to bail (Read's Journal, 28 Sept.) Wolfe, who had supervised the press for Mist, retired to join his master, then at Boulogne (Budgell's Bee, February 1733); but other friends continued the ‘Journal’ under the new name of ‘Fog's Weekly Journal,’ of which the first number, containing a letter signed ‘N. Mist,’ appeared on 28 Sept. Various persons had been arrested when ‘Mist's Journal’ for 7 and 14 Sept. was seized, and the press was destroyed. There are several petitions from these persons among the ‘State Papers’ (Bundle 5, Nos. 70, 80-6; Bundle 6, Nos. 54, 55, 74-80).
About the end of 1724 Defoe, writing anonymously in ‘Applebee's Journal,’ said that he had been abused and insulted by one whom he had fetched three times out of prison; and that this person had at length drawn a sword upon him, but that, being disarmed, he had been forgiven, and the wound inflicted in self-defence attended to. But, said Defoe, this kindness was followed only by more ingratitude. In 1730, when Defoe was ill and was living in concealment near Greenwich, he spoke of having received a blow ‘from a wicked, perjured, and contemptible enemy, that has broken in upon my spirit.’ Mr. Lee has argued, very plausibly, that this enemy was Mist, who, it is suggested, had represented to the English government the share Defoe had taken in various tory journals, perhaps supporting his statements by the production of objectionable articles, with alterations in Defoe's writing. The discovery by Mist of Defoe's secret understanding with the whigs when working for tory papers probably accounts for his active hostility.
In 1734 the titular Earl of Dunbar had a clandestine correspondence with Mist. In it he requested Mist's aid in bringing out some ‘Observations,’ in answer to a libel which had been issued against him by Charles Hamilton [q. v.] Mist seems to have complied. Dunbar thereupon assured his Jacobite friends and the pretender himself that the paper had been printed without his knowledge. But his letter to Mist was discovered in 1737 and forwarded to the pretender as a demonstrative proof that Dunbar ‘is and has been of a long time a hired spy to the Elector of Hanover’ (Hist. MSS. Comm. 10th Rep. pt. i. pp. 490-1, 493-5, 503, 518).
Mist died of asthma on 20 Sept. 1737, and the 'Gentleman's Magazine,' p. 574, spoke of him as 'well esteemed in private life' (Historical Register, Chron. p. 22; London Mag. p. 517). Letters of administration were granted on 3 Nov. to Anne Mist, widow of Nathaniel Mist, 'late of St. Clement Danes, but at Boulogne in France deceased.'
[Authorities cited; Lee's Life and Newly Discovered Writings of Daniel Defoe, 1869; Catalogue of the Hope Collection of Newspapers in Bodleian Library; Pope's Works, ed. Elwin and Courthope, vols. iii. iv. viii. x.; Curll Papers; Boyer's Political State; Hist. Reg.]