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These passages are a small nosegay of specimens culled from a vast, and not always fragrant, garden. Caradoc, and Britannicus, and Publius, and Ximenes, and Eumenes, and A True Whig, and A Friend to Liberty, were often drearily long-winded, and sometimes unconscionably violent; and yet many thousands of our forefathers read their effusions with solemn satisfaction, and never wished them shorter by a sentence, or less strong by a single superlative. Even where an assailant of the King had the grace to veil his attack beneath a guise of irony, he always took good care to make his meaning obvious. Before the winter Session of 1776, a contributor to a newspaper, signing himself “ Aratus," was at the pains to compose an imaginary Speech from the throne. “My Lords and Gentlemen,' (so George the Third was represented as saying,) "since the whole world knows how I have been deceived, I have chosen in this public manner to declare that I am now sensible of the errors into which I have been led by evil counsellors. I glory in avowing the disposition of my heart; and, convinced of the generosity and magnanimity of my people, I know they will approve my candour. I have no doubt that they will soon reduce France and Spain to peace, if they should dare to draw the sword against me. An English monarch must always be triumphant when he reigns in the heart of his people.”
Odes, as Pindaric as a poet of the antechamber could make them, had long been considered by the French and English Courts to be the appropriate form in which literary incense should be burned before Kings. But George the Third very early learned, — what Louis the Great, to the grievous hurt of his dignity, had been taught by no less skilful a master than Matthew Prior,
1." Prior burlesqued, with admirable spirit and pleasantry, the bombastic verses in which Boileau had celebrated the first taking of Namur. The two odes, printed side by side, were read with delight in London ; and the critics at Will's pronounced that, in wit as in arms, England had been victorious.” Macaulay's History of England; chapter xxi.
- that poetry, and official poetry above any, presents a temptation which an idle and malicious humourist finds it impossible to withstand. Regularly as Whitehead's New Year ode, and Birthday ode, were laid on the bookseller's counter, the whole tribe of scribblers betook themselves with never-failing relish to the work of parody. Opposition newspapers, all through the months of January and June, regaled their subscribers with interminable files of halting stanzas. In case the Laureate died, there was only too evidently a large supply of bards who, if they consented to change their political opinions, had every intellectual qualification for succeeding him. Everything which could be said for or against the King, and the King's Friends, and the King's Ministers, found its way into the strophes and antistrophes with which the town was deluged; and in that Amcebean contest it is hard to pronounce whether panegyrists, or detractors, of Royalty were the sorriest rhymers. The Court ode, a sickly and unnatural species of composition from the very first, whether original, or under the handling of a satirical imitator, became positively nauseous from endless reiteration.
Incidents not unfrequently occurred which inspired more slashing writers with verses less unreadable, but often grossly and extravagantly unfair. The King was
1 “So firm withal, he's fixed as Fate.
He'll stick to his opinions ;
Three parts of his dominions.
How blest the men he condescends
Where steadier could he choose him?
The service they'll refuse him."
These are the most presentable lines which can be discovered among the parodies on the Birthday Ode of 1776.
said to have been in the Royal box at the theatre when the report of a sanguinary battle reached London.
“At the play when the news of the slaughter arrived!
An empire disjoined and a continent lost!
Those were the circumstances, (so Englishmen were bidden to observe,) under which poor George the Third, the most laborious and self-denying of public servants, had ventured forth for a much needed evening out. Such a theory of what propriety demanded constituted a very extensive interference with the King's recreations; for the time was at hand when never a day elapsed that some one, in some quarter of the globe, was not being killed in a war which, after the winter of 1777, the monarch kept afoot by his own personal influence against the very general wish of his people, and the judgement of all prudent members of his Cabinet.
In spite of some excesses, absurdities, and affectations, the best newspapers did much to maintain at a high level the character of the British Press. The conduct of the war by both belligerents was narrowly watched, and was criticised from week to week in outspoken prose not open to the charge of being either trivial or calumnious. There were grave and excellent writers who constituted themselves the guardians of their country men's honour, on whichever side of the quarrel those countrymen fought. They censured the arming of savages by the British War Office, and the burning of defenceless towns by British frigates; but they protested, with as warm disapproval, when the printing establishment of James Rivington, the New
York Loyalist, was sacked by a mob of Whig raiders from Connecticut, and when insults were offered at Philadelphia to Quakers whose scruples would not allow them to take service against the Crown. Newspapers never shrank from expressing an opinion beforehand about strategical operations of the Government; and few were the instances where Lord George Germaine ultimately proved to be in the right, and the newspapers in the wrong. That most illogical test of patriotism which has been insisted upon by unwise rulers, and their flatterers, from the days of Ahab and Micaiah the son of Imlah downwards, had no terrors for Englishmen of a vigorous and valiant generation; and very small attention was paid to ministerial partisans who brought charges of disloyalty against a military critic because he would not prophesy pleasant things.
The Opposition newswriters, when the event showed their anticipations of failure to have been accurate, were bold to point the moral. “Who were they who brought His Majesty's army into a place from which it was a triumph to escape? If Boston was not a spot worth defending for its own sake, why did the troops continue there for near two years? Why were they reinforced until they amounted to near twelve thousand men? Why were four generals sent to command them? Why was the Ordnance Office emptied to defend Boston? Why was the Sinking Fund swallowed up? Why were sixty thousand tons of transports employed in that service? Why was the nation almost starved to feed that town? Why was so much brave blood shed at Bunker's Hill?” These are questions which have never yet received an answer.
When, in January 1777, Howe was forced to abandon the Jerseys, and confine himself to the neighbour
1 First Kings, chapter xxii., verses i to 38. “ And the messenger, that was gone to call Micaiah spake unto him, saying, Behold now, the words of the prophets declare good unto the king with one mouth: let thy word, I pray thee, be like the word of one of them, and speak that which is good.”
2 Letter of Valens; July 11, 1776.
PT. II.-VOL II.
hood of New York City, those journalists who had been all along opposed to the expedition were exceedingly frank in their comments. They condemned the General for his faulty tactics; and still less did they spare the Minister. In making out their case against Lord North they appealed to that sound, and not ignoble, principle which had inspired the foreign policy of Burleigh and of Chatham, and had produced the victories won by Drake, and Clive, and Wolfe, and Amherst. On that principle the greatness of Britain was founded; for it consisted in the recognition of some reasonable proportion between the risks and the expense of hostilities, on the one hand, and the importance of the object for the sake of which those hostilities were commenced, on the other. Was Long Island, (the Opposition publicists inquired,) worth one fortieth part of what it had taken to recover it? If England was to reoccupy the whole of the American coast, at the rate it had cost to regain Long Island, would the entire landed estate of the kingdom, if sold to the best bidder, raise enough to pay for that ill-omened conquest?
A certain sense of comradeship between the two great branches of our people, which the war had not extinguished, was manifested in the feelings entertained by many Englishmen in England towards the Revolutionary leaders who had displayed energy and courage, and particularly towards such as had fallen in battle. After the repulse of the Americans before Quebec, Montgomery's body, by General Carleton's order, was borne into the town with every mark of reverence and regret, and buried with military honours. When the tidings of his death reached the House of Commons, the most powerful orators, not on one side only, praised his virtues, and lamented his fate. Burke spoke of him with admiration. Lord North acknowledged that he was brave, able, and humane, and deplored that those generous epithets must be applied to one who had been a rebel; to which Charles Fox retorted that Montgomery was a rebel only in the same sense as were the old Par