Page images

lished the said Account of the Trial from a printed Paper which was left at his House, directed to him; but he does not know from whom it came.” “ Being asked, “ how long he has been a publisher of The Gentleman's Magazine ?” he said, “that it is about sixteen years since it was first published ; that he was concerned in it at first with his nephew; and, since the death of his nephew, he has done it entirely himself.” Notice being taken to him," that the said books have contained Debates in Parliament;" he said, “ he had left off the Debates ; that he had not published any Debates relative to this House above these twelve months ; that there was a speech or two relating to the other House, put in about the latter end of last year.” Being asked, “ how he came to take upon him to publish Debates in Parliament ?" he said, “ he was extremely sorry for it; that it was a very great presumption; but he was led into it by custom, and the practice of other people: that there was a monthly book, published before the Magazines, called The Political State, which contained Debates in Parliament; and that he never heard, till lately, that any persons were punished for printing those books." Being asked, “how he came by the Speeches which he printed in The Gentleman's Magazine ?” he said," he got into the House, and heard them, and made use of a black-lead pencil, and only took notes of some remarkable passages; and, from his memory, he put them together himself.” Notice being taken to him, “ that some of the Speeches were very long, consisting of several pages ;' he said, “ he wrote them himself, from notes which he took, assisted by his memory.”. Being asked, “ whether he printed no Speeches but such as were so put together by himself, from his own notes ?” he said, "Sometimes he has had Speeches sent him by very eminent persons; that he has had Speeches sent him by the Members themselves; and has had assistance from some Members, who have taken notes of other Members


Speeches." Being asked, “ if he ever had any person whom he kept in pay, to make Speeches for him?" he said, “he never had."

The Report proceeds to state, that Astley had been also brought before them ; and a former examination of the 8th of April having been read to him, he said, “ that contained all the information he was able to give their Lordships *.'

In consequence of this Report, Mr. Astley in regard of his lameness with the gout as not to be able

* At this examination, Mr. Astley owned that he had published the London Magazine, but was not apprehensive it was a breach of privilege, being compiled chiefly from Newspapers. He was then examined, as to the Debates contained in those pamphlets, and how he came by them; and said, “they were generally sent him by the penny post, or by messengers, pursuant to advertisements frequently inserted, inviting persons to furnish him with matters of that nature.” But, being more strictly inquired of touching that affair, he acquainted the House," that he was supplied with a great many Speeches by one Mr. Clarke, who he supposed was an attorney, and died in May last; but whether they were fictitious or genuine, he knew not; and, for aught he knew, they might be made by himself." Being asked, - what gratuity he made him?" said, “he had given himn ten guineas at a time; and has received no Speech since Clarke's death, but by the post." The said Astley further acquainted the House, “ he was the first who printed Magazines ;" and acknowledged, “that of late the Debates have been inserted, under the notion of an imaginary Club." Being further asked, “whether the letters, mentioned in his said examination to be sent him by the penny


mark by which he could know from whom they came?" he said, “ they had no such mark; that he does not know from whom they came ; and he supposes, upon such an occasion, the persons would disguise their common handwriting." Being asked, whether he believes the Speeches, which he mentions in his said examination to be furnished him by Mr. Clarke, were made by the said Clarke ?” he said, “ he believes some of them may; but Clarke has told him he has had helps from his friends." Being asked, “ whether he thinks any of the Speeches which Clarke furnished him with were the Speeches of the Members ?" he said, " he did sometimes believe that some of them were the Members' Speeches ; that Clarke represented them as such to him." Being asked, " whether he knows that the said Clarke used to attend the House upon Debates ?" he said, " he believes Clarke sometimes got into the House, behind the Throne."


post, had

[ocr errors]

to walk, was discharged out of custody, paying his fees; and Mr. Cave was ordered to be brought up for the same purpose on the following day; which was accordingly done, and he was also discharged, with a reprimand, on paying his fees *.

On the morning of Dec. 7, 1784, only six days before this death, Dr. Johnson requested to see the Exlitor of these Anecdotes ; from whom he had borrowed some of the early volumes of the Magazine, with a professed intention to point out the pieces which he had written in that collection. The books lay on the table, with many leaves doubled down, particularly those which contained his share in the Parliamentary Debates ; and such was the goodness of Johnson's heart, that he solemnly declared, “that the only part of his writings which then gave him any compunction, was his account of the Debates in the Gentleman's Magazine ; but that, at the time he wrote them, he did not think he was imposing on the world. The mode," he said, “was to fix upon a Speaker's name; then to make an argument for him ; and to conjure up an answer. He wrote those Debates with more velocity than any other of his productions; often three columns of the Magazine within the hour. He once wrote ten pages in one day, and that not a long one, beginning perhaps at noon, and ending early in the evening. Of the Life of Savage he wrote forty-eight octavo pages in one day ; but that day included the night, for he sat up all the night to do it.”

His portion of the Parliamentary Debates was collected into two octavo volumes; to which the Editor has substituted the real for the fictitious speakers. “The illuminations of Johnson's Oratory," it is observed, “were obscured by the jargon which Cave thought it prudent to adopt, to avoid Parliamentary indignation. These Debates, like

* Journals of the House of Lords, vol. XXVII. pp. 94, 100, 101, 107, 108, 109.


the Orations of Cicero and Demosthenes, ought to be studied by the British youth, as specimens of splendid eloquence, nervous argument, and Parliamentary decorum. Though few can hope to rival Johnson's performances, every youth, who from his birth or fortune expects to sit in Parliament, ought to aim, by studious perusal, at Johnson's perfection in oratory and reasoning. And those Debates may be usefully inspected by every public man, for felicities of expression, for the struc ture of sentences, happy at once for point, dignity, and elegance.

“ Few of the collections of Parliamentary Debates can be justly regarded as much more authentic than Johnson's Orations. The most antient are probably the most authentic. D'Ewes's Journals of Elizabeth's Parliaments, as they contain the oldest Parliamentary speeches, are assuredly the most curious. The first volume of the Commons' Journals contains several important Debates during the interesting period from the accession of James I. till the cessation of Parliaments under his unhappy Son. The authentic Debates of the Session 1621 were published in 1766 from a Member's manuscript. The collections of Rushworth contain many of the Parliamentary Debates during the Civil Wars. To these follow Gray's Debates, which are still more authentic. But as to those various collections, which profess to give the Parliamentary Debates during that disputatious period, from the Restoration till late times, they can ; be deemed of little more authority than the speeches of Johnson.

“ It was the Revolution which finally unshackled the press. But it was still criminal, at least dangerous, to publish Parliamentary proceedings without Parliamentary permission. During King William's reign, the Newspapers sometimes gave a detached speech of a particular speaker, who wished, by contributing the outlines, to gratify his vanity, or secure his seat.

“ It was in the factious times which immediately succeeded, when Parliamentary Debates were first distributed through the land in monthly pamphlets. Then it was that Boyer's* zeal propagated the Political State. This was succeeded, on the accession of George I. by the Historical Registers, which were published by soberer men, and may be supposed therefore to contain more satisfactory information.

The Gentleman's Magazine seon after furnished the publick with still more finished Debates, which were first compiled by Guthrie, then by Johnson, and afterwards by Hawkesworth. The success of this far-famed Miscellany prompted many competitors for public favour, who all found an interest in propagating what the people read, however contrary to Parliamentary resolves. And these resolves have at length given way to the spirit of the people, who, as they enjoy the right of instructing their Representatives, seem to have established the privilege of knowing what their Representatives say 6.".

The Lilliputian names were continued in the Magazine till 1745; in which year, p. 135, Mr. Cave very fully announced his plan of publishing Mr. Anchitell Grey's Debates, from 1669 to 1694; and gave the particular subject of each Debate. After which no Debate occurs till November 1749, when they were given in the form of a Letter from a Member of Parliament to his Country Friend.

In 1752 the Proceedings in Parliament were res ported briefly in the Magazine, in the shape of a Letter thus introduced : The following heads of Speeches in the Hof C

of C were given me by a gentleman, who is of opinion, that Members of Parliament are accountable to their Constituents for what they say, as well as what they do, in their Legislative capacity ; that no honest man, who is

* Abel Boyer, the well-known political writer.
† Preface to Johnson's Debates, 1787,
Vol. V.



« PreviousContinue »