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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

§ 4. Smollett and The Briton

Meanwhile, events were moving rapidly. George III had been able to oust Pitt and Newcastle from power and to promote his Scottish favourite, Lord Bute, to the office of prime minister. Bute had seen, from the first, that something beyond sporadic pamphlets was needed for converting public opinion to the new régime, discredited as it was by the dismissal of Pitt. For this, an imitation of The Monitor was the only means, a steady drumming of the same views and sentiments into the popular ear. It was all the more necessary, at the moment of Bute’s accession to power, to set up a rival weekly journal, since The Monitor (in this representing the public) was a bitter opponent of the Scottish minister. Bute, however, cannot be called happy in his choice of means. Eminent literary talent was required, but not any sort of literary talent, and Tobias Smollett, famous as a novelist, was only to earn humiliation as a political controversialist. In vain his sheet, The Briton, discharged a weekly broadside of ferocious epithets on the opposition and its journalistic defenders. His persuasive powers were small, and he was fairly distanced in argumentative skill, raillery and vituperation. Arthur Murphy, writer of the dead Test, was soon summoned to Smollett’s aid with a new paper, The Auditor; but, although more bitter than of old, he was not less feeble. The public judgment was only too clear. Neither of the ministerial papers would sell. Of course, Bute’s unpopularity was partly at fault; but the scanty merit of the two champions was unable to surmount the weakness of their case.