Page:Books Condemned to be Burnt - James Anson Farrer.djvu/193

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177
Our Last Book-Fires.

there such an invasion of sanctity, or so profane a scaling of the heights of intellect! What could the Lords do, being a patriotic body, but vote such an attempt, without even waiting for a conference with the Commons, "an audacious forgery and high contempt of his Majesty, his crown and dignity," and condemn the said forgery to be burnt on the 8th at Westminster, and three days later at the Exchange? How could they sentence King to less than six months of Newgate and a fine of £50 though, in their gentleness or fickleness, they ultimately released him from some of the former and all the latter penalty? Happy those who possess this political curiosity, and can compare it with the speech which the King really did make on the same day, and which, perhaps, did not show any marked superiority over the forged imitation.

The next book-fire to which history brings us is associated with one of the most important and singular episodes in the annals of the British Constitution. I allude to the famous North Briton. No. 45, for which, as constituting a seditious libel, Wilkes, then member for Aylesbury, was, in spite of his privilege as a member, seized and imprisoned in the Tower (1763). We know from the experiences