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«• L'on me vit obeir, l'on me vit commander,
1 Princes were proud my friendship to proclaim,
• Such was the vain George Scudery! whose heart however wa» warm; poverty could never degrade him; adversity never broke down his magnanimous spirit!'
In the article on the Origin of Newspapers, it is observed that the first newspaper in England was printed in the reign of Elizabeth, in order to give information to the public respecting the Spanish Armada; and that they were r«ry generally used during the civil wars of Cromwell:
• In their origin they were devoted to political purposes: but they soon became a public nuisance by serving as receptacles of party malice, and echoing to the farthest ends or the kingdom the insolent voice of Faction. They 6et the minds of men more at variance, enflamcd their tempers to a greater fierceness, and gave a keener edge ta the sharpness of civil discord.
4 It is to be lamented, that such works' will always find writers or rather adventurers adapted to their scurrilous purposes; who neither want at times, either talents, or" boldness, or wit, or argument. A. vast crowd issued from the press, and are now to be found in a few private collections. They form a race of authors unknown to most readers of these times : the names of some of their chiefs however have just reached us, and in the minor chronicle of domestic literature I rank three notable heroes; Marchamont Needham, Sir John Birkenhead, and Sir Roger L'Estrange.
« Marchamont Needham, the great Patriarch of Newspaper writer*, was a man of versatile talents and more versatile politics; a bold adventurer, and most successful, because the most profligate of his tribe; we find an ample account of him in Anthony Wood. From College he came to London, was an usher in Merchant Taylor's
F 3 school; school; then an under clerk in Gray's-Imi; at length studied physic and practised chemistry, and finally he was a Captain, and in the words of. honest Anthony, '* siding with the rout and scum of the people, he made them weekly sport by railing at all that was noble. In his Intelligence, called Mercurius Brittanicus, wherein his endeavours were to sacrifice the fame of some Lord, or any person of quality, and of the King himself, to the beast with many heads." He soon became popular, and was known under the name of Captain Needhatn of Gray's-'nn; and whatever he now wrote was deemed oracular. But whether from a slight imprisonment for aspersing Chsrles I. or some pique with his own party, he requested an audience on his knees with the King, reconciled himself to his Majtsty, and shewed himself a violent royalist in his " Mercurius Pragmaticus," and galled the presbyterians with his wit and quips. Some time after when the popular party prevailed, he was still further enlightened, and was got over by President Bradshaw, as easily ashy Charles 1. Our Mercurial writer became once more a virulent prcsbytcrian, and lashed the Royalists outrageously in his "Mercurius Politicus ;" at length on the return of Chailes II. being now conscious, says our friend Anthony, that he might be in danger of the halter, once more he is said to have fled into Holland, waiting for an act of oblivion. For money given to an hungry courtier, Ncedham obtained his pardon under the great seal. He latterly practised 36 a physician among his party, hut 'lived universally hated by the Royalists, and now only committed harmless treasons with the College of Physicians, on whom he poured all that gall and vinegar which the government had suppressed from flowing through its,' natural channel.
'The Royalists were not without their Needham in the prompt activity-of Sir John Birkenhead. In buffoonery, keenness, and boldness, (having been frequently imprisoned,) he was not inferior, nor' was he .it times less an adventurer. His Mercurius Aulicus, was devoted to the court then at Oxford. But he was the fertile parent of niim-roiis political pamphlets, which appear to abound in banter, wit, an.l satire. He had a promptness to seize on every temporary circumstance, and a facility in execution. His " Paul's Church Yard'' is a bantering pamphlet, containing fictitious titles of books and acts of Parliaments, reflecting on the mad reformers of these time's. One ot his poems is entitled "The Jolt," being written on the Piotector, havh g falhn off his own coach-box; Cromwell had received a present from the German Count Oldenburgh, of six German horses, and attempted to drive them himself in Hyde Park, when this great political Phaeton met tlie accident of which Sir John Birkenhead was not slo>\ to comprehend the benefit, and hints how unfortunately for the country it turned out! Sir John was during the dominion of Ctoinwell an author by profession. After various imprisonments for his Majesty's cause, (says the venerable historian of English literature, already quoted ) "he lived by his wits, in helping young gentlemen out at dead lilts in making poems, songs, and epistles on and to their mistresses; as also in translating, and other petite employments." He lived however after the Restoration to become one of the masters of requests, with salaries of 3000I. a year. But he shewed the baseness of hij spirit, (says Anthony,) by slighting those who had been his benefactors in his necessities.
'Sir RogerVEstrange, among his rivals, was esteemed as the most perfect model of political writing. The temper of the man was factious and brutal, and the compositions of the author very indifferent. In his multifarious productions and coarse translations, we discover nothing that indicates one amiable sentiment, to compensate for a diction barbarous as the mind of the author. His attempts at wit are clumsy exertions; the heavy hand of a German labouring on a bulky toy. His gravity provokes laughter, but his laughter makes one grave. Queen Mary shewed a due contempt of him after the revolution, by this anagram she made on his name:
f Roger L'Estrange,
* Such were the three Patriarchs of Newspapers. De Saint Foix, in his curious Essals historiques mr Paris, gives the origin of Newspapers to France. Renaudot, a physician at Paris, to amuse his patients was a great collector of news; and he found by these means that he was more sought after than his more learned brethren But as the seasons were not always sickly, and that he had many hours not occupied by his patients, he reflected, after several years of assiduitygiven up to this singular employment, that he might turn it to a better account, by giving every week to his patients, who in this case were the public at large, some fugitive sheets which should contain the news of various countries. He obtained a privilege for this purpose in 1632.
• At the Restoration the proceedings of Parliament were interdicted to be published, unless by authority; and the first daily paper after the Revoluion, took the popular title of" The Orange Intelligencer."
'In the re,ign of Queen Anne, there was but one daily paper: the others were weekly Some attempted to introduce literary subjects, and others topics of a more general speculation. Sir Richard Steeie formed the plan of his Taller. He designed it to embrace the thtee provinces, of Manner?, of Letters, and of Politics. The public were to be conducted insensibly into so different a track from that to which they had been hitherto accustomed. Hence politics were admitted into his paper. But it remained for the chasttr genius of Addison to banish'this disagreeable topic from his elegant pages. The writer in polite letters felt himself degraded by sinking into the dull narrator of political events. From this time, Newspapers and Periodical Literature became distinct works.'
We must not farther dilate on this publication, though its contents certainly afford seducing matter for extracts, because we have already spoken of it several times, and have always laid it under contribution. See M. R. Vol. vii. N. S. p. 270. Vol. xii. p. 177 and 276. and Vol. xvi. p. 415.
Art. XIII. Memoir on the National Deftnte. By J. F. Birch, Captain in the Royal Engineers, ad Edition, corrected and coiw siderabiy enlarged. 8vo. 3s. 6d. Stockdale. 1808.
'T'HOUGH we are far from approving that confident security ■*■ or daring rashness, which leads men to spurn the controul of reason, and to despise all precautions as unnecessary, we cannot help thinking that Capt, Birch has taken a most microscopic and distorted prospect of danger to this country from an attack on it by the French ; and that he has in consequence endeavoured to magnify both the necessity and the modes of our defence, beyond all truth and due proportion. He first takes it for granted that we are to be assaulted, and even insists on it that we must be invaded by Bonaparte with a powerful army for the purposes of conquest and destruction; and that w« shall be reduced to the extremity of contending with that army for the safety and preservation of Great Britain, on this island itself. This, however, is an assumption without any direct or collateral proof of either its probability or its possibility : for nothing can be more preposterous than to compare a paltry expedition to Bantry Bay, which failed of succes, and in which the French lost two ships of the line and three frigates, to a serious invasion of this island, wiih an army sufficiently powerful to undertake the conquest of it. Yet assuming this position, he proceeds in consequence to tell the people of this country that ' he thinks it behoves them to provide for the case'of invasionand that, for the sake of making this provision, it is necessary to alter our present military establish^ ment,as far at least as it relates to the militia and volunteer systems, and to form extensive, permanent, and entrenched camps in the country, which are to be regarded as 'an essential part of the national force, however it may be constituted.'
With reference to the invasion of this country by Bonaparte, Capt. B. thus expresses his sentiments:
4 The probability of his making the attempt must be estimated by the probability of his partial or complete success; by the injury he would do us in either case; by the mischief he himself would incur in case of a failure; by his own character and ruling spirit, and by that of the nation which he governs; by their past enterprises of a similar nature; by their sentiments respecting the invasion of Great Britain; by the means they have of prosecuting it; and those which ate likely to accrue from their relative situation to other states. These topics may seem to open a wide field of discussion, fitted to favour the views of-those who are inclined to a state of indecision and inactivity. To treat them fully would much exceed the limits of my design. I am sensible that the public opinion is already fixed in regard to some of them, and must confine myself to such general remarks, a3 may serve perhaps to tJirow sufficient light upon the subject.'
Here, then, it appears, he has refrained from entering into a discussion of these topics, in order that he might not' favour the views of those who are inclined to a state of indecision and inactivity,' and that he might not ' exceed the limits of his design.' Such a discussion of them, however, as would have completely satisfied the public mind respecting them, ought to have been his principal object in this Memoir; for unless he has proved in the most satisfactory manner, and beyond contradiction, the great probability of such an invasion, it would be the height of folly in the people of this country to adopt the measures which he recommends, in order to provide against it. Now, his vague and general remarks relative to it are so far from being applicable to the subject, that they are much better calculated for involving it in darkness, than < for throwing any light upon it.' He does not even specify those past enterprises of the French, which he says were of a similar nature } for we cannot allow ourselves to suppose that by them he means their equipments of 1795, 179^, 1798, and 1799; which, all things considered, bore no affinity to a serious invasion of England for the purpose of conquest. All these cases, fairly explained, make against his own favourite doctrine'} and we must deny that the French were ever engaged in an enterprise that resembled such an invasion of this country, circumstanced as we are at present with regard to them in various respects, and particularly in that of a marine.
On the militia-men and volunteers, Capt, Ii. thus commences his remarks:
* The militia and volunteer troops, which form at present so considerable a part of the force of the country, will first engage our attention. In regard to militia in general, I cannot do so well as quote the words of Adam Smith, in his chapter of the Wealth of Nations, where he states the services rendered by them in ancient times, let me however in general premise, that the term militia, as it 19 used there, and as it is used by Washington and the French writers, does not strictly apply to a militia constituted as ours, though I cannot but think that our own too labours under the greatest disadvantages in the most important respects; in its total want of experience, and in the composition of its officers, which, if it were good, might in a great measure supply the want of experience in the men, but which at present tends only to aggravate that defect. He says," this distinction being well understood," (that is between a militia which has served several campaigns in the field against the-cnemy, and one which has not had this advantage,) "the history of all ages, it will be found, bears testimony to the irresistible superiority which a well-regulated Standing army has over every sort of militia." Vol. III. p. ^q.
He then quotes Adam Smith's opinion of the superiority of 2 standing army, as exemplified among the Macedonians and