Page:A Compendium of Irish Biography.djvu/238

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wrung from the natives, all he brought back was ^30,000, for the most part saved out of his salary. Immediately on his re- turn to England, he entered Parliament for Yarmouth, his introduction to the House being heralded by a strong eulogium from his friend Burke. He sided with the Whigs, then in opposition, led by Fox, and soon became a distinguished member, but never rose to any height of oratory. The impeachment of Hastings was to a great extent his work. Though he did not take a prominent part in the matter, it was he who supplied most of the grounds of impeachment, and he was ever at hand to second the action of Burke and the other accusers. Through the horrors of the French Revolution his radicalism con- tinued of the most prominent type. From 1797 to 1802 he wa^ out of Parliament. The death of Pitt in 1805 brought his party again into power, and he strove in vain to be appoiuted Governor-General of India ; he was, however, made Knight of the Garter. His parliamentary career closed in 1807. His latter years, rendered irksome by disease, were spent in literary pursuits and social intercourse. He died on the 23rd of December 1 8 1 8, aged 7 8, and was buried at Mortlake. In religion he was through life a freethinker. There are good grounds for believing that Francis was the author of the Letters of Junius, and the sev- eral anonymous contributions to the public press, under the signature of "Candor" and "Anti-Sejanus," that led up to "Ju- nius." The first letter of the "Candor" series appeared in "Woodfall's paper, the Public Advertizer, in August 1764. Two years afterwards, in 1766, a series of six- teen letters in the same paper, imder the signature of " Anti-Sejanus," were com- menced. The Junius Letters number sixty- nine — the first appeared in the Public Advertizer, 21st January 1769; the last, 2 1st Janu"^ 1772. This series of power- ful letters from the pen of an anony- mous writer asserted the claims of civil liberty, constitutional law, and freedom of religious thought and profession, against the Government policy that culminated in the arrest and trial of Wilkes. They are singularly free from personalities and coarseness, though lavish in sarcastic irony and wit. We are not told how the copy and proofs were conveyed between Wood- fall and his anonymous correspondent, nor is it believed that Woodfall had any idea as to who it was that so largely contributed to the enormous sale and popularity of his pa- per, and the large profits arising therefrom — profits that amply repaid him for the risks he ran of public and private actions 214


at law. "The classic purity of their lan- guage, the exquisite force and perspicuity of their argument, the keen severity of their reproach, the extensive information they evince, their fearless and decisive tone, and, above all, their stern and steady attachment to the purest principles of the constitution, acquired for them, with an almost electric speed, a popularity which no series of letters have since possessed, nor, perhaps, ever wUl ; and, what is of far greater consequence, diflnsed among the body [of the people] a clearer know- ledge of their constitutional rights than they had ever before attained, and ani- mated them with a more determined spirit to maintain them inviolate. Enveloped in the cloud of a fictitious names, the writer of these philippics, unseen himself, beheld with secret satisfaction the vast influence of his labours, and enjoyed, though, as we shall afterwards observe, not always with- out apprehension, the universal search that was made to detect him in his disguise. He beheld the people extolling him, the court execrating him, and ministers, and more than ministers, trembUng beneath the lash of his invisible hand." '* Charles Chabot, the distinguished expert, says, in summing up a report upon a comparison of handwriting of " Junius " and Francis, which occupies a large quarto volume, pub- lished in 1 871 : "I have shown in matters of detail, in the several component parts of the writing, in matters of style connected therewith, and in matters of material, there is in each abundance of evidence to justify me in the opinion I have formed, and to demonstrate that the Junian letters have emanated from no other hand than that of Sir Philip Francis." ^' The controversy regarding the authorship of the Letters of Jxmius cannot, however, be considered as definitely settled. ■* '^s =01 3x3

Fraser, John, a verse- writer, was born near Birr about 1809. He was a cabinet- maker, " a steady and unassuming work- man, enjoying the respect of his fellow- workmen, and the friendship of those to whom he was known by his literary and poetic talents. He possessed much mental power ; and had his means permitted him to cultivate and refine his poetic mind, he would have occupied a higher position as a poet than is now allotted to him. As it is, he has clothed noble thoughts in terse and harmonious language." He wrote un- der the assumed name of "J. De Jean." Pieces from his pen will be found in most collections of Irish poetry. He died in Dublin in 1849. '59»

French, Nicholas, Bishop of Ferns, a distinguished politician and writer, was