The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume X. The Age of Johnson.
§ 2. The Monitor; John Shebbeare and Arthur Murphy
At first, it seemed as if this kind of discussion would hold the field. In August, 1755, The Monitor was founded by a London merchant, Richard Beckford, and was edited, and part written, by John Entick, of dictionary fame. Like its predecessors in political journalism, it consisted of a weekly essay on current events and topics: it was all leading article. The maintenance of whig principles and the uprooting of corruption formed its policy: good information, good sense and a kind of heavy violence of style were its characteristics. Soon, it was supplemented by a series of tory pamphlets, under the title The Letters to the People of England, written by John Shebbeare, a physician of some literary celebrity. They were not his first production; he had for some time been eminent in “misanthropy and literature”; but they were distinguished beyond his other efforts by bringing him to the pillory. His politics, not the scurrility that tinged them, were in fault. He was a virulent tory, and in his Sixth Letter held up the reigning dynasty to public scorn. His highest praise is that he still remains readable. Logical, rhetorical, laboriously plain and, occasionally, cogent, his short paragraphs pretty generally hit the nail—often, no doubt, a visionary nail—on the head. Later, he was to enjoy court favour and be a capable pamphleteer on the side of George III; but his time of notoriety was gone.
Soon, however, the personal conflict asserted itself. In November, 1756, Arthur Murphy, the dramatist, started The Test, with a view to capturing public favour for Henry Fox. But his amiable prosing and feeble giggle were soon overcrowed by the Pittite Con-Test, a far more able, and, also, more scurrilous, print, in some of the better essays of which we detect the pith and point of Shebbeare.