Old and New London: Volume 1. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.
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FLEET STREET (TRIBUTARIES—CRANE COURT, JOHNSON'S COURT, BOLT COURT).
Removal of the Royal Society from Gresham College—Opposition to Newton—Objections to Removal—The First Catalogue—Swift's jeer at the Society—Franklin's Lightning Conductor and King George III.—Sir Hans Sloane insulted—The Scottish Society—Wilkes's Printer—The Delphin Classics—Johnson's Court—Johnson's Opinion on Pope and Dryden—His Removal to Bolt Court—The John Bull—Hook and Terry—Prosecutions for Libel—Hook's Impudence.
In the old times, when newspapers could not legally be published without a stamp, "various ingenious devices," says a writer in the Bookseller (1867), "were employed to deceive and mislead the officers employed by the Government. Many of the unstamped papers were printed in Crane Court, Fleet Street; and there, on their several days of publication, the officers of the Somerset House solicitor would watch, ready to seize them immediately they came from the press. But the printers were quite equal to the emergency. They would make up sham parcels of waste-paper, and send them out with an ostentatious show of secrecy. The officers—simple fellows enough, though they were called 'Government spies,' 'Somerset House myrmidons,' and other opprobrious names, in the unstamped papers—duly took possession of the parcels, after a decent show of resistance by their bearers, while the real newspapers intended for sale to the public were sent flying by thousands down a shoot in Fleur-de-Lys Court, and thence distributed in the course of the next hour or two all over the town."
The Royal Society came to Crane Court from Gresham College in 1710, and removed in 1782 to Somerset House. This society, according to Dr. Wallis, one of the earliest members, originated in London in 1645, when Dr. Wilkins and certain philosophical friends met weekly to discuss scientific questions. They afterwards met at Oxford, and in Gresham College, till that place was turned into a Puritan barracks. After the Restoration, in 1662, the king, wishing to turn men's minds to philosophy—or, indeed, anywhere away from politics—incorporated the members in what Boyle has called "the Invisible College," and gave it the name of the Royal Society. In 1710, the Mercers' Company growing tired of their visitors, the society moved to a house rebuilt by Wren in 1670, and purchased by the society for £1,450. It had been the residence, before the Great Fire, of Dr. Nicholas Barebone (son of Praise-God Barebone), a great building speculator, who had much property in the Strand, and who was the first promoter of the Phoenix Fire Office. It seems to have been thought at the time that Newton was somewhat despotic in his announcement of the removal, and the members in council grumbled at the new house, and complained of it as small, inconvenient, and dilapidated. Nevertheless, Sir Isaac, unaccustomed to opposition, overruled all these objections, and the society flourished in this Fleet Street "close" seventy-two years. Before the society came to Crane Court, Pepys and Wren had been presidents; while at Crane Court the presidents were—Newton (1703–1727), Sir Thomas Hoare, Matthew Folkes, Esq. (whose portrait Hogarth painted), the Earl of Macclesfield, the Earl of Morton, James Burrow, Esq., James West, Esq., Sir John Pringle, and Sir Joseph Banks. The earliest records of this useful society are filled with accounts of experiments on the Baconian inductive principle, many of which now appear to us puerile, but which were valuable in the childhood of science. Among the labours of the society while in Fleet Street, we may enumerate its efforts to promote inoculation, 1714–1722; electrical experiments on fourteen miles of wires near Shooter's Hill, 1745; ventilation, apropos of gaol fever, 1750; discussions on Cavendish's improved thermometers, 1757; a medal to Dollond for experiments on the laws of light, 1758; observations on the transit of Venus, in 1761; superintendence of the Observatory at Greenwich, 1765; observations of the transit of Venus in the Pacific, 1769 (Lieutenant Cook commenced the expedition); the promotion of an Arctic expedition, 1773; the Racehorse meteorological observations, 1773; experiments on lightning conductors by Franklin, Cavendish, &c., 1772. The removal of the society was, as we have said, at first strongly objected to, and in a pamphlet published at the time, the new purchase is thus described: "The approach to it, I confess, is very fair and handsome, through a long court; but, then, they have no other property in this than in the street before it, and in a heavy rain a man may hardly escape being thoroughly wet before he can pass through it. The front of the house towards the garden is nearly half as long again as that towards Crane Court. Upon the ground floor there is a little hall, and a direct passage from the stairs into the garden, and on each side of it a little room. The stairs are easy, which carry you up to the next floor. Here there is a room fronting the court, directly over the hall; and towards the garden is the meeting-room, and at the end another, also fronting the garden. There are three rooms upon the next floor. These are all that are as yet provided for the reception of the society, except you will have the garrets, a platform of lead over them, and the usual cellars, &c., below, of which they have more and better at Gresham College."
When the society got settled, by Newton's order the porter was clothed in a suitable gown and provided with a staff surmounted by the arms of the society in silver, and on the meeting nights a lamp was hung out over the entrance to the court from Fleet Street. The repository was built at the rear of the house, and thither the society's museum was removed. The first catalogue, compiled by Dr. Green, contains the following, among many other marvellous notices:—
"The quills of a porcupine, which on certain occasions the creature can shoot at the pursuing enemy and erect at pleasure.
"The flying squirrel, which for a good nut-tree will pass a river on the bark of a tree, erecting his tail for a sail.
"The leg-bone of an elephant, brought out of Syria for the thigh-bone of a giant. In winter, when it begins to rain, elephants are mad, and so continue from April to September, chained to some tree, and then become tame again.
"Tortoises, when turned on their backs, will sometimes fetch deep sighs and shed abundance of tears.
"A humming-bird and nest, said to weigh but twelve grains; his feathers are set in gold, and sell at a great rate.
"A bone, said to be taken out of a mermaid's head.
"The largest whale—liker an island than an animal.
"The white shark, which sometimes swallows men whole.
"A siphalter, said with its sucker to fasten on a ship and stop it under sail.
"A stag-beetle, whose horns, worn in a ring, are good against the cramp.
"A mountain cabbage—one reported 300 feet high."
The author of "Hudibras," who died in 1680, attacked the Royal Society for experiments that seemed to him futile and frivolous, in a severe and bitter poem, entitled, "The Elephant in the Moon," the elephant proving to be a mouse inside a philosopher's telescope. The poem expresses the current opinion of the society, on which King Charles II. is once said to have played a joke.
In 1726–27 Swift, too, had his bitter jeer at the society. In Laputa, he thus describes the experimental philosophers:—
"The first man I saw," he says, "was of a meagre aspect, with sooty hands and face, his hair and beard long, ragged, and singed in several places. His clothes, shirt, and skin, were all of the same colour. He had been eight years upon a project for extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers, which were to be put in phials hermetically sealed, and let out to warm the air in raw, inclement summers. He told me he did not doubt that, in eight years more, he should be able to supply the governor's gardens with sunshine at a reasonable rate; but he complained that his stock was low, and entreated me 'to give him something as an encouragement to ingenuity, especially since this had been a very dear season for cucumbers.' I made him a small present, for my lord had furnished me with money on purpose, because he knew their practice of begging from all who go to see them. I saw another at work to calcine ice into gunpowder, who likewise showed me a treatise he had written concerning the 'Malleability of Fire,' which he intended to publish.
"There was a most ingenious architect, who had contrived a new method of building houses, by beginning at the roof and working downward to the foundation; which he justified to me by the like practice of those two prudent insects, the bee and the spider. I went into another room, where the walls and ceiling's were all hung round with cobwebs, except a narrow passage for the architect to go in and out. At my entrance, he called aloud to me 'not to disturb his webs.' He lamented 'the fatal mistake the world had been so long in, of using silk-worms, while we had such plenty of domestic insects who infinitely excelled the former, because they understood how to weave as well as spin.' And he proposed, farther, 'that, by employing spiders, the charge of dying silks would be wholly saved;' whereof I was fully convinced when he showed me a vast number of flies, most beautifully coloured, wherewith he fed his spiders, assuring us, 'that the webs would take a tincture from them;' and, as he had them of all hues, he hoped to fit everybody's fancy, as soon as he could find proper food for the flies, of certain gums, oils, and other glutinous matter, to give a strength and consistence to the threads."
Mr. Grosley, who, in 1770, at Lausanne, published a book on London, has drawn a curious picture of the society at that date. "The Royal Society," he says, "combines within itself the purposes of the Parisian Academy of Sciences and that of Inscriptions; it cultivates, in fact, not only the higher branches of science, but literature also. Every one, whatever his position, and whether English or foreign, who has made observations which appear to the society worthy of its attention, is allowed to submit them to it either by word of mouth or in writing. I once saw a joiner, in his working clothes, announce to the society a means he had discovered of explaining the causes of tides. He spoke a long time, evidently not knowing what he was talking about; but he was listened to with the greatest attention, thanked for his confidence in the value of the society's opinion, requested to put his ideas into writing, and conducted to the door by one of the principal members.
"The place in which the society holds its meetings is neither large nor handsome. It is a long, low, narrow room, only furnished with a table (covered with green cloth), some morocco chairs, and some wooden benches, which rise above each other along the room. The table, placed in front of the fire-place at the bottom of the room, is occupied by the president (who sits with his back to the fire) and the secretaries. On this table is placed a large silver-gilt mace, similar to the one in use in the House of Commons, and which, as is the case with the latter, is laid at the foot of the table when the society is in committee. The president is preceded on his entrance and departure by the beadle of the society, bearing this mace. He has beside him, on his table, a little wooden mallet for the purpose of imposing silence when occasion arises, but this is very seldom the case. With the exception of the secretaries and the president, everyone takes his place hap-hazard, at the same time taking great pains to avoid causing any confusion or noise. The society may be said to consist, as a body corporate, of a committee of about twenty persons, chosen from those of its associates who have the fuller opportunities of devoting themselves to their favourite studies. The president and the secretaries are ex-officio members of the committee, which is renewed every year—an arrangement which is so much the more necessary that, in 1765, the society numbered 400 British members, of whom more than forty were peers of the realm, five of the latter being most assiduous members of the committee.
"The foreign honorary members, who number about 150, comprise within their number all the most famous learned men of Europe, and amongst them we find the names of D'Alembert, Bernouilli, Bonnet, Buffon, Euler, Jussieu, Linné, Voltaire, &c.; together with those, in simple alphabetical order, of the Dukes of Braganza, &c., and the chief Ministers of many European sovereigns."
During the dispute about lightning conductors
(after St. Bride's Church was struck in 1764), in
the year 1772, George III. (says Mr. Weld, in
his "History of the Royal Society") is stated to
have taken the side of Wilson—not on scientific
grounds, but from political motives; he even had
blunt conductors fixed on his palace, and actually
endeavoured to make the Royal Society rescind
their resolution in favour of pointed conductors.
The king, it is declared, had an interview with
Sir John Pringle, during which his Majesty earnestly entreated him to use his influence in supporting Mr. Wilson. The reply of the president
was highly honourable to himself and the society
whom he represented. It was to the effect that
duty as well as inclination would always induce
him to execute his Majesty's wishes to the utmost
of his power; "But, sire," said he, "I cannot
reverse the laws and operations of Nature." It
is stated that when Sir John regretted his inability
to alter the laws of Nature, the king replied,
"Perhaps, Sir John, you had better resign." It
was shortly after this occurrence that a friend of
Dr. Franklin's wrote this epigram:—
"While you, great George, for knowledge hunt,
And sharp conductors change for blunt,
The nation's out of joint;
Franklin a wiser course pursues,
And all your thunder useless views,
By keeping to the point."
A strange scene in the Royal Society in 1710 (Queen Anne) deserves record. It ended in the expulsion from the council of that irascible Dr. Woodward who once fought a duel with Dr. Mead inside the gate of Gresham College. "The sense," says Mr. Ward, in his "Memoirs," "entertained by the society of Sir Hans Sloane's services and virtues was evinced by the manner in which they resented an insult offered him by Dr. Woodward, who, as the reader is aware, was expelled the council. Sir Hans was reading a paper of his own composition, when Woodward made some grossly insulting remarks. Dr. Sloane complained, and moreover stated that Dr. Woodward had often affronted him by making grimaces at him; upon which Dr. Arbuthnot rose and begged to be 'informed what distortion of a man's face constituted a grimace.' Sir Isaac Newton was in the chair when the question of expulsion was agitated, and when it was pleaded in Woodward's favour that 'he was a good natural philosopher,' Sir Isaac remarked that in order to belong to that society a man ought to be a good moral philosopher as well as a natural one."
The Scottish Society held its meetings in Crane Court. "Elizabeth," says Mr. Timbs, "kept down the number of Scotsmen in London to the astonishingly small one of fifty-eight; but with James I. came such a host of traders and craftsmen, many of whom failing to obtain employment, gave rise, as early as 1613, to the institution of the 'Scottish Box,' a sort of friendly society's treasury, when there were no banks to take charge of money. In 1638 the company, then only twenty, met in Lamb's Conduit Street. In this year upwards of 300 poor Scotsmen, swept off by the great plague of 1665–66, were buried at the expense of the 'box,' while numbers more were nourished during their sickness, without subjecting the parishes in which they resided to the smallest expense.
"In the year 1665 the 'box' was exalted into the character of a corporation by a royal charter, the expenses attendant on which were disbursed by gentlemen who, when they met at the 'Cross Keys,' in Covent Garden, found their receipts to be £116 8s. 5d. The character of the times is seen in one of their regulations, which imposed a fine of 2s. 6d. for every oath used in the course of their quarterly business.
"Presents now flocked in. One of the corporation gave a silver cup; another, an ivory mallet or hammer for the chairman; and among the contributors we find Gilbert Burnet, afterwards bishop, giving £1 half-yearly. In no very Scotsman-like spirit the governors distributed each quarter-day all that had been collected during the preceding interval. But in 1775 a permanent fund was established. The hospital now distributes about £2,200 a year, chiefly in £10 pensions to old people; and the princely bequest of £76,495 by Mr. W. Kinloch, who had realised a fortune in India, allows of £1,800 being given in pensions of £4 to disabled soldiers and sailors.
"All this is highly honourable to those connected, by birth or otherwise, with Scotland. The monthly meetings of the society are preceded by divine service in the chapel, which is in the rear of the house in Crane Court. Twice a year is held a festival, at which large sums are collected. On St. Andrew's Day, 1863, Viscount Palmerston presided, with the brilliant result of the addition of £1,200 to the hospital fund."
Appended to the account of the society already quoted we find the following remarkable "note by an Englishman":—
"It is not one of the least curious particulars in the history of the Scottish Hospital that it substantiates by documentary evidence the fact that Scotsmen who have gone to England occasionally find their way back to their own country. It appears from the books of the corporation that in the year ending 30th November, 1850, the sum of £30 16s. 6d. was spent in passages from London to Leith; and there is actually a corresponding society in Edinburgh to receive the revenants and pass them on to their respective districts."
In Crane Court, says Mr. Timbs, lived Dryden Leach, the printer, who, in 1763, was arrested on a general warrant upon suspicion of having printed Wilkes's North Briton, No 45. Leach was taken out of his bed in the night, his papers were seized, and even his journeymen and servants were apprehended, the only foundation for the arrest being a hearsay that Wilkes had been seen going into Leach's house. Wilkes had been sent to the Tower for the No. 45. After much litigation, he obtained a verdict of £4,000, and Leach £300, damages from three of the king's messengers, who had executed the illegal warrant. Kearsley, the bookseller, of Fleet Street (whom we recollect by his tax-tables), had been taken up for publishing No. 45, when also at Kearsley's were seized the letters of Wilkes, which seemed to fix upon him the writing of the obscene and blasphemous "Essay on Woman," and of which he was convicted in the Court of King's Bench and expelled the House of Commons. The author of this "indecent patchwork" was not Wilkes (says Walpole), but Thomas Potter, the wild son of the learned Archbishop of Canterbury, who had tried to fix the authorship on the learned and arrogant Warburton—a piece of matchless impudence worthy of Wilkes himself.
Red Lion Court (No. 169), though an unlikely spot, has been, of all the side binns of Fleet Street, one of the most specially favoured by Minerva. Here Valpy published that interminable series of Latin and Greek authors, which he called the "Delphin Classics," which Lamb's eccentric friend, George Dyer, of Clifford's Inn, laboriously edited, and which opened the eyes of the subscribers very wide indeed as to the singular richness of ancient literature. At the press of an eminent printer in this court, that useful and perennial serial the Gentleman's Magazine (started in 1731) was partly printed from 1779 to 1781, and entirely printed from 1792 to 1820.
Johnson's Court, Fleet Street (a narrow court on the north side of Fleet Street, the fourth from Fetter Lane, eastward), was not named from Dr. Johnson, although inhabited by him.
Dr. Johnson was living at Johnson's Court in 1765, after he left No. 1, Inner Temple Lane, and before he removed to Bolt Court. At Johnson's Court he made the acquaintance of Murphey, and he worked at his edition of "Shakespeare." He saw much of Reynolds and Burke. On the accession of George III. a pension of £300 a year had been bestowed on him, and from that time he became comparatively an affluent man. In 1763, Boswell had become acquainted with Dr. Johnson, and from that period his wonderful conversations are recorded. The indefatigable biographer describes, in 1763, being taken by Mr. Levett to see Dr. Johnson's library, which was contained in his garret over his Temple chambers, where the son of the well-known Lintot used to have his warehouse. The floor was strewn with manuscript leaves; and there was an apparatus for chemical experiments, of which Johnson was all his life very fond. Johnson often hid himself in this garret for study, but never told his servant, as the Doctor would never allow him to say he was not at home when he was.
"He" (Johnson), says Hawkins, "removed from the Temple into a house in Johnson's Court, Fleet Street, and invited thither his friend Mrs. Williams. An upper room, which had the advantage of a good light and free air, he fitted up for a study and furnished with books, chosen with so little regard to editions or their external appearances as showed they were intended for use, and that he disdained the ostentation of learning."
"I returned to London," says Boswell, "in
February, 1766, and found Dr. Johnson in a good
house in Johnson's Court, Fleet Street, in which
he had accommodated Mrs. Williams with an
apartment on the ground-floor, while Mr. Levett
occupied his post in the garret. His faithful Francis
was still attending upon him. He received me
with much kindness. The fragments of our first
conversation, which I have preserved, are these :—I told him that Voltaire, in a conversation with
me, had distinguished Pope and Dryden, thus:
'Pope drives a handsome chariot, with a couple
of neat, trim nags; Dryden, a coach and six stately
horses.' Johnson: 'Why, sir, the truth is, they
both drive coaches and six, but Dryden's horses
are either galloping or stumbling; Pope's go at
a steady, even trot.' He said of Goldsmith's
'Traveller,' which had been published in my
absence, 'There's not been so fine a poem since
Pope's time.' Dr. Johnson at the same time
favoured me by marking the lines which he furnished to Goldsmith's 'Deserted Village,' which
are only the last four:—
'That trade's proud empire hastes to swift decay,
As ocean sweeps the labour'd mole away;
While self-dependent power can time defy,
As rocks resist the billows and the sky.'
At night I supped with him at the 'Mitre' tavern, that we might renew our social intimacy at the original place of meeting. But there was now considerable difference in his way of living. Having had an illness, in which he was advised to leave off wine, he had, from that period, continued to abstain from it, and drank only water or lemonade."
"Mr. Beauclerk and I," says Boswell, in another place, "called on him in the morning. As we walked up Johnson's Court. I said, 'I have a veneration for this court,' and was glad to find that Beauclerk had the same reverential enthusiasm." The Doctor's removal Boswell thus duly chronicles:—"Having arrived," he says, "in London late on Friday, the 15th of March, 1776, I hastened next morning to wait on Dr. Johnson, at his house, but found he was removed from Johnson's Court, No. 7, to Bolt Court, No. 8, still keeping to his favourite Fleet Street. My reflection at the time, upon this change, as marked in my journal, is as follows: 'I felt a foolish regret that he had left a court which bore his name; but it was not foolish to be affected with some tenderness of regard for a place in which I had seen him a great deal, from whence I had often issued a better and a happier man than when I went in; and which had often appeared to my imagination, while I trod its pavement in the solemn darkness of the night, to be sacred to wisdom and piety.'"
Johnson was living at Johnson's Court when he was introduced to George III., an interview in which he conducted himself, considering he was an ingrained Jacobite, with great dignity, selfrespect, and good sense.
That clever, but most shameless and scurrilous, paper, John Bull, was started in Johnson's Court, at the close of 1820. Its specific and real object was to slander unfortunate Queen Caroline and to torment, stigmatise, and blacken "the Brandenburg House party," as her honest sympathisers were called. Theodore Hook was chosen editor, because he knew society, was quick, witty, satirical, and thoroughly unscrupulous. For his "splendid abuse"—as his biographer, the unreverend Mr. Barham, calls it—he received the full pay of a greedy hireling. Tom Moore and the Whigs now met with a terrible adversary. Hook did not hew or stab, like Churchill and the old rough lampooners of earlier days, but he filled crackers with wild fire, or laughingly stuck the enemies of George IV. over with pins. Hook had only a year before returned from the Treasuryship of the Mauritius, charged with a defalcation of £15,000—the result of the grossest and most culpable neglect. Hungry for money, as he had ever been, he was eager to show his zeal for the master who had hired his pen. Hook and Daniel Terry, the comedian, joined to start the new satirical paper; but Miller, a publisher in the Burlington Arcade, was naturally afraid of libel, and refused to have anything to do with the new venture. With Miller, as Hook said in his clever, punning way, all argument in favour of it proved Newgate-ory. Hook at first wanted to start a magazine upon the model of Blackwood, but the final decision was for a weekly newspaper, to be called John Bull, a title already discussed for a previous scheme by Hook and Elliston. The first number appeared on Saturday, December 16, 1820, in the publishing office, No. 11, Johnson's Court. The modest projectors only printed seven hundred and fifty copies of the first number, but the sale proved considerable. By the sixth week the sale had reached ten thousand weekly. The first five numbers were reprinted, and the first two actually stereotyped.
Hook's favourite axiom—worthy of such a satirist—was "that there was always a concealed wound in every family, and the point was to strike exactly at the source of pain." Hook's clerical elder brother, Dr. James Hook, the author of "Pen Owen" and other novels, and afterwards Dean of Worcester, assisted him; but Terry was too busy in what Sir Walter Scott, his great friend and sleeping partner, used to call "Terryfying the novelists by not very brilliant adaptations of their works." Dr. Maginn, summoned from Cork to edit a newspaper for Hook (who had bought up two dying newspapers for the small expenditure of three hundred guineas), wrote only one article for the Bull. Mr. Haynes Bayley contributed some of his graceful verses, and Ingoldsby (Barham) some of his rather ribald fun. The anonymous editor of John Bull became for a time as much talked about as Junius in earlier times. By many witty James Smith was suspected, but his fun had not malignity enough for the Tory purposes of those bitter days. Latterly Hook let Alderman Wood alone, and set all his staff on Hume, the great economist, and the Hon. Henry Grey Bennett.
Several prosecutions followed, says Mr. Barham, that for libel on the Queen among the rest; but the grand attempt on the part of the Whigs to crush the paper was not made till the 6th of May, 1821. A short and insignificant paragraph, containing some observations upon the Hon. Henry Grey Bennett, a brother of Lord Tankerville's, was selected for attack, as involving a breach of privilege; in consequence of which the printer, Mr. H. F. Cooper, the editor, and Mr. Shackell were ordered to attend at the bar of the House of Commons. A long debate ensued, during which Ministers made as fair a stand as the nature of the case would admit in behalf of their guerrilla allies, but which terminated at length in the committal of Cooper to Newgate, where he was detained from the 11th of May till the 11th of July, when Parliament was prorogued.
Meanwhile the most strenuous exertions were made to detect the real delinquents—for, of course, honourable gentlemen were not to be imposed upon by the unfortunate "men of straw" who had fallen into their clutches, and who, by the way, suffered for an offence of which their judges and accusers openly proclaimed them to be not only innocent, but incapable. The terror of imprisonment and the various arts of cross-examination proving insufficient to elicit the truth, recourse was had to a simpler and more conciliatory mode of treatment—bribery. The storm had failed to force off the editorial cloak—the golden beams were brought to bear upon it. We have it for certain that an offer was made to a member of the establishment to stay all impending proceedings, and, further, to pay down a sum of £500 on the names of the actual writers being given up. It was rejected with disdain, while such were the precautions taken that it was impossible to fix Hook, though suspicion began to be awakened, with any share in the concern. In order, also, to cross the scent already hit off, and announced by sundry deep-mouthed pursuers, the following "Reply"—framed upon the principle, we presume, that in literature, as in love, everything is fair—was thrown out in an early number:—
"The conceit of some people is amazing, and it has not been unfrequently remarked that conceit is in abundance where talent is most scarce. Our readers will see that we have received a letter from Mr. Hook, disowning and disavowing all connection with this paper. Partly out of good nature, and partly from an anxiety to show the gentleman how little desirous we are to be associated with him, we have made a declaration which will doubtless be quite satisfactory to his morbid sensibility and affected squeamishness. We are free to confess that two things surprise us in this business; the first, that anything which we have thought worth giving to the public should have been mistaken for Mr. Hook's; and, secondly that such a person as Mr. Hook should think himself disgraced by a connection with John Bull."
For sheer impudence this, perhaps, may be admitted to "defy competition"; but in point of tact and delicacy of finish it falls infinitely short of a subsequent notice, a perfect gem of its class, added by way of clenching the denial:—
"We have received Mr. Theodore Hook's second letter. We are ready to confess that we may have appeared to treat him too unceremoniously, but we will put it to his own feelings whether the terms of his denial were not, in some degree, calculated to produce a little asperity on our part. We shall never be ashamed, however, to do justice, and we readily declare that we meant no kind of imputation on Mr. Hook's personal character."
The ruse answered for awhile, and the paper went on with unabated audacity.
The death of the Queen, in the summer of 1821, produced a decided alteration in the tone and temper of the paper. In point of fact its occupation was now gone. The main, if not the sole, object of its establishment had been brought about by other and unforeseen events. The combination it had laboured so energetically to thwart was now dissolved by a higher and resistless agency. Still, it is not to be supposed that a machine which brought in a profit of something above £4,000 per annum, half of which fell to the share of Hook, was to be lightly thrown up, simply because its original purpose was attained. The dissolution of the "League" did not exist then as a precedent. The Queen was no longer to be feared; but there were Whigs and Radicals enough to be held in check, and, above all, there was a handsome income to be realised.
"Latterly Hook's desultory nature made him wander from the Bull, which might have furnished the thoughtless and heartless man of pleasure with an income for life. The paper naturally lost sap and vigour, at once declined in sale, and sank into a mere respectable club-house and party organ." "Mr. Hook," says Barham, "received to the day of his death a fixed salary, but the proprietorship had long since passed into other hands."