Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 52.djvu/12

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Shebbeare
Shebbeare
2

writer in 1754, with 'The Marriage Act,' a novel, dedicated to John, duke of Bedford, one of the chief opponents of Lord Hardwicke's reform. The author was imprisoned for his reflections on the legislature, but his book was reissued in 1755 as 'Matrimony,' and reappeared in 1766. Shebbeare followed up his success in 1756 by an attack on the Duke of Newcastle in the form of 'Letters on the English Nation, by Batista Angeloni, a Jesuit resident in London,' of which he professed to be the translator only. This political satire, modelled on Bolingbroke's writings against Walpole, alone entitled Shebbeare (in the opinion of Boswell) to a respectable name in literature. Meanwhile he attacked the ministry directly in the 'Monitor' and the 'Con-test,' as well as in a series of outspoken pamphlets entitled 'Letters to the People of England,' having, it was said, determined to write himself into a post or into the pillory (Walpole, Mem. George II, p. 153).

At the close of 1757, after Pitt's dismissal, Shebbeare issued his sixth letter, 'in which is shown that the present grandeur of France and calamities of this nation are owing to the influence of Hanover on the councils of England.' On 12 Jan. 1768 a general warrant was issued against the author, printer, and publisher. On 23 Jan. all copies of a seventh 'Letter' were seized and suppressed. On 17 June Shebbeare was tried for libel on an information laid against him by the attorney-general, Pratt, who on this occasion admitted the right of the jury to judge of the law. During the trial, as Walpole laments, Mansfield laid it down that satires on dead kings were punishable. In summing up he declared that the 'Letter' nearly approached high treason. On 28 Nov. Shebbeare was sentenced to a fine and three years' imprisonment, besides having to find security for good behaviour for seven years. He was also to stand in the pillory at Charing Cross on 5 Dec. Owing to the friendship of Beardmore, the under-sheriff, he was allowed to stand upright between the upper and lower boards of the pillory, while an Irish chairman held an umbrella over his head. At the end of an hour he retired amidst the cheers of the crowd, who had been invited by printed bills to come and see 'the British champion.' Beardmore was afterwards punished for his conduct (cf. Churchill's 'The Author,' quoted in Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. xi. 91). An anonymous squib appeared under the title 'Memoirs of the Pillory; being a consolatory Epistle to Dr. Shebbeare.' While in prison Shebbeare received subscriptions for a history of England, and actually composed one volume, which was not published. When attacked on the subject in a letter in the 'Public Advertiser' of 10 Aug. 1774 he excused himself chiefly on the ground of debts incurred in consequence of a lawsuit against Francis Gwyn, who had been concerned with him in the publication of an edition of Clarendon's 'History of the Reign of Charles II.' The book, for which Shebbeare wrote a strong tory introduction, was suppressed by an in- ' junction m chancery at the instance of the Duchess of Queensberry, and, though Shebbeare recovered expenses from Gwyn, half the sum went in costs. Notwithstanding his position, he refused to avail himself of the Insolvent Act. On his release he advocated peace with France, and attacked Wilkes. On 29 Feb. 1764 a memorial signed by several members of parliament was presented to George Grenvule in his favour,and Shebbeare was granted a pension of 200l. a year. The king, in reply to Sir John Philips, who made the application, is said to have spoken of Shebbeare 'in very favourable terms.' Almon's statement that a pension of 400l. had been previously granted by Bute seems doubtful (cf. Grenville Papers, ii. 271). Henceforth Shebbeare became a steady advocate of the measures of the court, and even assailed his old favourite, Pitt.

His most elaborately written work was 'The History of the Excellence and Decline of the Institutions, Religion, Laws, Manners, and Genius of the Sumatrans, and of the Restoration thereof in the reign of Amurath the Third,' 2 vols. 1763. It is a skilful exposure of the weak points in whig policy and administration, followed by a panegyric on George III and his ministers. In style it is a colourable imitation of Bolingbroke.

On 3 Aug. 1764 Walpole sent Lord Hertford a pamphlet written by Shebbeare under Grenville's direction, adding the remark, 'We do not ransack Newgate and the pillory for writers.' He speaks of him as engaged with Carteret Webbe, solicitor to the treasury, in writing against Pratt, the lord chief justice, in a paper called 'The Moderator" (Mem. George III, ed. Barker, i. 262). In 1766 Shebbeare offered to John Beard [q. v.], the manager of Covent Garden, a play he had written in early life, and its non-production led to the publication of the correspondence between them (1767). In 1768 he wrote for three months the reviews of books in the 'Political Register.' In 1770 Shebbenre published an 'Eighth Letter to the People of England.' He defended the American policy of George III against Price and Burke in the 'Public Advertiser' and elsewhere. The