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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume X. The Age of Johnson.

XVII. Political Literature

§ 21. The Letters of Junius proper

Junius vanishes with the publication of the collected edition of his letters. It was far from complete. Not only are the letters previous to 1769 omitted, but many of inferior quality or of transient interest, written during the continuance of the great series, usually under other pseudonyms, are absent. And, more remarkable still, there are certain letters of 1772, after the Junian series had closed, which he very anxiously desired not to be known as his, and which passed unidentified for years. Under fresh pseudonyms, such as “Veteran,” he poured forth furious abuse on Lord Barrington, secretary at war. The cause, in itself, was strangely slight. It was only the appointment of a new deputy secretary, formerly a broker, Anthony Chamier, and the resignations of the preceding deputy, Christopher D’Oyly, and of the first clerk, Philip Francis. But, trifling as the occasion might be, it was sufficient to make the cold and haughty Junius mouth with rage.

Junius follows the habit of his fellow-correspondents in dealing very little with strictly political subjects. Personal recrimination is the chief aim of his letters, and it would hardly be fair to contrast them with those of a different class of authors, such as Burke, or even with the product of the acute legal mind of Candor. Yet, when he treats of political principles he does so with shrewdness and insight. He understood the plain-going whig doctrine he preached, and expounded it, on occasion, with matchless clearness. What could be better as a statement than the sentences in the dedication of the collected letters which point out that the liberty of the press is the guarantee of political freedom and emphasise the responsibility of parliament? And the same strong common-sense marks an apophthegm like that on the duke of Grafton—

  • Injuries may be atoned for and forgiven; but insults admit of no compensation. They degrade the mind in its own esteem, and force it to recover its level by revenge.