Page:Notes and Queries - Series 11 - Volume 9.djvu/128

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122


NOTES AND QUERIES. [11 s. ix. FEB. w, 191*.


Not even Jeffreys's gross perversion of justice on that occasion has ever disturbed the law that publication is of the essence of the offence. As Dr. Blake Odgers says :

"If I compose a libel and leave it inside my desk, and my clerk surreptitiously takes a copy and sends it to the papers, he is liable and I am not."

This was what Wilkes in his letter to the Aylesbury electors accused the Ministry with substantial truth of having done ; but there had been, as we shall see, a technical publication by the patriot himself, and not even Pratt, in his ' Letter on Libels ' of 1765 (by some attributed to Dunning), cavils at the correctness of the decision in point of law, though regarding the whole proceedings of Sandwich as a disgraceful oppression.

In the House of Lords, however, jealousy for its honour caused the authorship of the libel to be deemed relevant on the question of privilege, of which the mock notes of Warburton constituted a technical breach.

The late C. W. Dilke (somewhat oddly described by Fitzgerald as " Sir C. Went- worth Dilke, Wilkes's champion in omnibus ") persistently maintained that the author- ship of the poem was not established in the Lords.

" Therefore there was to be an examination as to handwriting. The handwriting of what? Of the poem ? No. Of ' four words,' corrections on the margin of a proof, and the handwriting of the copy -of the frontispiece, in which the name of Dr. War- burton is printed at length. The eager purpose of all [?] parties was to create a belief that Wilkes was the author, and the witness Curry, who could and did depose as to the handwriting on the copy of the frontispiece, could with more certainty have deposed to the handwriting of what is technically called the copy of the poem. The question was not asked, and therefore the reasonable inference must

be that either the copy was not in manuscript

or that the manuscript was not in Wilkes's hand- writing."

Dilke adds :

"It is another and still more significant fact that Wilkes was not prosecuted as the author, but as having printed and published."

To this comment I have already replied ; authorship was not the offence, but publica- tion.

I proceed to the proof that the manuscript was entirely by Wilkes. What follows is from a statement to Webb of the witness Curry, and is in Add. MS. 22132, ff. 271-2:

" The copy of this Essay on Woman I am posi- tive was in Mr. Wilkes's own handwriting, and from some singular circumstances am positive it was his composing." Oct. 31, 1763.


On 7 Nov. Curry stated :

"Mr. Wilkes, whom I have often seen write,, showed me a manuscript in his own handwriting of a work entitled 'An Essay on Woman,' 'The Universal Prayer,' 'The Maid's Wish,' and a parody of the Veni Creator.'" Add. MS. 22132, !. 273.

In the House of Lords Curry was asked (15 Nov., H. of L. J., xxx., 415) :

Q. Who delivered the frontispiece of the Essay, an Woman to you, in which the name of Dr. War- burton is printed at full length ?

A. Mr. Wilkes himself.

Q. In whose handwriting was the copy ?

A. In Mr. Wilkes's handwriting.

Q. Did you know who Dr. Warburton was ?

A. " He never expressed it to me ; it [viz., the copy of the poem] was delivered to me interleaved in an edition of the Essay on Man, and was in- tended to be pasted page for page in the Essay oa Man, and I pasted it myself in one."

Now, it is plain from this that the " copy " delivered to Curry interleaved in Pope was a copy of the whole poem, and not merely of the frontispiece, for the " copy " of that could not be interleaved page for page, and was delivered, not to Curry, but to the engraver, who was called at the trial in the King's Bench to prove it ; and it was the engraved frontispiece, with the name of Dr. Warburton "printed [as Sandwich loosely put it] upon it," that the above- question related to.

" The engraver of the frontispiece is also to be produced, and probably will prove the copy to be Mr. Wilkes's "

so ran the attorney's " Observations on the Prosecutor's proofs " in the brief of Mr. Serjeant Glynn (Add. MS. 30885, f. 156).

Other evidence connecting Wilkes with the poem was given by Jennings, who con- firmed Curry as to the manuscript correc- tions on the black proof being by Wilkes, and also by Jonathan Scott and William Johnstone, who proved Wilkes's letters to Kearsley to be in his handwriting. But the last had never seen Wilkes do more than sign his name (Weston, ' Concerning Wm. John- stone,' 14 Nov., 1763, Guild. MS. 214/3).

This constituted all the evidence in the House of Lords, which on 24 Jan., 1764, recorded :

"That it appearing to this House that John Wilkes, Esq., is the author and publisher of the Essay on Woman with Notes, and another paper intituled ' Veni Creator Spiritus paraphrased,' he be taken into custody."

It is true that Walpole records the dissatis- faction of the Dukes of Devonshire, Grafton,. Newcastle, and Richmond with the nature of Sandwich's proofs, and adds : " ' It