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conscience was void of offence; for 'he had cautioned him not to rely on them, for that they were not authentic.' (Hawkins, Life, p. 129.)
That they should generally have passed current shews how unacquainted people at that time were with real debating. Even if we had not Johnson's own statement, both from external and internal evidence we could have known that they were for the most part 'the mere coinage of his imagination. They do not read like speeches that had ever been spoken. 'None of them,' Mr. Flood said, 'were at all like real debates' (post, under March 30, 1771). They are commonly formed of general statements which suit any one speaker just as well as any other. The scantier were the notes that were given him by those who had heard the debate, the more he had to draw on his imagination. But his was an imagination which supplied him with what was general much more readily than with what was particular. Had De Foe been the composer he would have scattered over each speech the most ingenious and probable matters of detail, but De Foe and Johnson were wide as the poles asunder. Neither had Johnson any dramatic power. His parliamentary speakers have scarcely more variety than the characters in Irene. Unless he had been a constant frequenter of the galleries of the two Houses, he could not have acquired any knowledge of the style and the peculiarities of the different members. Nay, even of their modes of thinking and their sentiments he could have gained but the most general notions. Of debating he knew nothing. It was the set speeches in Livy and the old historians that he took as his models. In his orations there is very little of the tart reply;' there is, indeed, scarcely any examination of an adversary's arguments. So general are the speeches that the order in which they are given might very often without inconvenience be changed. They are like a series of leading articles on both sides of the question, but all written by one man. Johnson is constantly shifting his character, and, like Falstaff and the Prince, playing first his own part and then his opponent's. It is won. derful how well he preserves his impartiality, though he does 'take care that the Whig dogs should not have the best of it.'
He not only took the greatest liberties in his reports, but he often took them openly. Thus an army bill was debated in committee on Dec. 10, 1740, and again the following day on the report in the full House. “As in these two debates,' he writes, the arguments were the same, Mr. Gulliver has thrown them into one to prevent unnecessary repetitions.' (Gent. Mag. Dec. 1742, p. 676.) In each House during the winter of 1742–3 there was a debate on taking the Hanoverian troops into pay. The debate in the Lords was spread over five numbers of the Magazine in the following summer and autumn. It was not till the spring of 1744 that the turn of the Commons came, and then
they were treated somewhat scurvily. “This debate,' says the reporter, who was Johnson, 'we thought it necessary to contract by the omission of those arguments which were fully discussed in the House of Hurgoes, and of those speakers who produced them, lest we should disgust our readers by tedious repetitions.' (Ib. xiv. 125.) Many of these debates have been reported somewhat briefly by Bishop (afterwards Archbishop) Secker. To follow his account requires an accurate knowledge of the times, whereas Johnson's rhetorick for the most part is easily understood even by one very ignorant of the history of the first two Georges. Much of it might have been spoken on almost any occasion, for or against almost any minister. It is true that we here and there find such a correspondence between the two reports as shews that Johnson, as he has himself told us, was at times furnished with some information. But, on the other hand, we can no less clearly see that he was often drawing solely on his imagination. Frequently there is but the slightest agreement between the reports given by the two men of the same speeches. Of this a good instance is afforded by Lord Carteret's speech of Feb. 13, 1741. According to Johnson 'the Hurgo Quadrert began in this manner':
"As the motion which I am about to make is of the highest importance and of the most extensive consequences; as it cannot but meet with all the opposition which the prejudices of some and the interest of others can raise against it; as it must have the whole force of ministerial influence to encounter without any assistance but from justice and reason, I hope to be excused by your Lordships for spending some time in endeavouring to shew that it wants no other support; that it is not founded upon doubtful suspicions but upon uncontestable facts,' and so on for eight more lines, (Gent. Mag. xi. 339).
The Bishop's note begins as follows:
"CARTERET. I am glad to see the House so full. The honour of the nation is at stake. And the oldest man hath not known such circumstances as we are in. When storms rise you must see what pilots you have, and take methods to make the nation easy. I shall (1) go through the foreign transactions of several years ; (2) The domestic; (3) Prove that what I am about to propose is a parliamentary method.' (Parl. Hist. xi. 1047.)
Still more striking is the difference in the two reports of a speech by Lord Talbot on May 25, 1742. According to the Gent. Mag. xii. 519, 'the Hurgo Toblat spoke to this effect':
* So high is my veneration for this great assembly that it is never without the utmost efforts of resolution that I can prevail upon myself to give my sentiments upon any question that is the subject of debate, however strong may be my conviction, or however ardent my zeal.'
The Bishop makes him say:
'I rise up only to give time to others to consider how they will carry on the debate.' (Parl. Hist. xii. 646.)
On Feb. 13, 1741, the same Lord, being called to order for saying that there were Lords who were influenced by a place, exclaimed, according to the Bishop, "“ By the eternal G-d, I will defend my cause everywhere," But Lords calling to order, he recollected himself and made an excuse. (Parl. Hist. xi. 1063). In the Gent. Mag. xi. 419, 'the Hurgo Toblat resumed :-"My Lords, whether anything has escaped from me that deserves such severe animadversions your Lordships must decide.”
Once at least in Johnson's reports a speech is given to the wrong member. In the debate on the Gin Bill on Feb. 22, 1743 (Gent. Mag. xiii. 696), though the Bishop's notes show that he did not speak, yet a long speech is put into his mouth. It was the Earl of Sandwich who had spoken at this turn of the debate. The editor of the Parl. Hist. (xii. 1398), without even notifying the change, coolly transfers the speech from the 'decent' Secker', who was afterwards Primate, to the grossly licentious Earl. A transference such as this is, however, but of little moment. For the most part the speeches would be scarcely less lifelike, if all on one side were assigned to some nameless Whig, and all on the other side to some nameless Tory. It is nevertheless true that here and there are to be found passages which no doubt really fell from the speaker in whose mouth they are put. They mention some fact or contain some allusion which could not otherwise have been known by Johnson. Even if we had not Cave's word for it, we might have inferred that now and then a member was himself his own reporter. Thus in the Gent. Mag. for February 1744 (p. 68) we find a speech by Sir John St. Aubyn that had appeared eight months earlier in the very same words in the London Magazine. That Johnson copied a rival publication is most unlikely-impossible, I might say. St. Aubyn, I conjecture, sent a copy of his speech to both editors. In the Gent. Mag. for April 1743 (p. 184), a speech by Lord Percival on Dec. 10, 1742, is reported apparently at full length. The debate itself was not published till the spring of 1744, when the reader is referred for this speech to the back number in which it had already been inserted. (Ib. xiv. 123).
The London Magazine generally gave the earlier report; it was, however, twitted by its rival with its inaccuracy. In one debate, it was said, it had introduced instead of twenty speakers but six, and those in a very confused manner. It had attributed to Cæcilius words remembered by the whole audience to be spoken by M. Agrippa.' (Gent. Mag. xii. 512). The report of the debate of Feb. 13, 1741, in the
1. E'en in a bishop I can spy desert,
Pope, Epil. Sat. 11. 70.
London Magazine fills more than twenty-two columns of the Parl, Hist. (xi. 1130) with a speech by Lord Bathurst. That he did speak is shewn by Secker (ib. p. 1062). No mention of him is made, however, in the report in the Gent. Mag. (xi. 339). But, on the other hand, it reports eleven speakers, while the London Magazine gives but five. Secker shows that there were nineteen. Though the London Magazine was generally earlier in publishing the debates, it does not therefore follow that Johnson had seen their reports when he wrote his. His
have been kept back by Cave's timidity for some months even after they had been set up in type. In the staleness of the debate there was some safeguard against a parliamentary prosecution.
Mr. Croker maintains (Croker's Boswell, p. 44) that Johnson wrote the Debates from the time (June 1738) that they assumed the Lilliputian title till 1744.
In this he is certainly wrong. Even if we had not Johnson's own statement, from the style of the earlier Debates we could have seen that they were not written by him. No doubt we come across numerous traces of his work; but this we should have expected. Boswell tells us that Guthrie's reports were sent to Johnson for revision (ante, p, 118). Nay, even a whole speech now and then may be from his hand. It is very likely that he wrote, for instance, the Debate on buttons and button-holes (Gent. Mag. viii. 627), and the Debate on the registration of seamen (ib. xi. 1). But it is absurd to attribute to him passages such as the following, which in certain numbers are plentiful enough long after June 1738. “There never was any measure pursued more consistent with, and more consequential of, the sense of this House' (ib. ix. 340). “It gave us a handle of making such reprisals upon the Iberians as this Crown found the sweets of' (ib. x. 281). “That was the only expression that the least shadow of fault was found with' (ib. xi. 292).
Johnson told me himself,' says Boswell (ante, p. 150), 'that he was the sole composer of the Debates for those three years only (1741-2-3). He was not, however, precisely exact in his statement, which he mentioned from hasty recollection ; for it is sufficiently evident that his composition of them began November 19, 1740, and ended February 23 , 1742–3. Some difficulty is caused in following Boswell's statement by the length of time that often elapsed between the debate itself and its publication. The speeches that were spoken between Nov. 19, or, more strictly speaking, Nov. 25, 1740, and Feb. 22, 1743, were in their publication spread through the Magazine from July 1741 to March, 1744. On Feb. 13, 1741, Lord Carteret in the House of Lords, and Mr. Sandys, “the Motion-maker',' in the House of Commons, moved an address to the King for the removal of Sir Robert So Smollett calls him in his History of England, iii. 16.
Walpole. Johnson's report of the debate in the Lords was published in the Magazine for the next July and August. The year went round. Walpole's ministry was overthrown, and Walpole himself was banished to the House of Lords. A second year went by. At length, in three of the spring numbers of 1743, the debate on Sandys's motion was reported. It had been published in the London Magazine eleven months earlier.
Cave, if he was tardy, nevertheless was careful that his columns should not want variety. Thus in the number for July 1743, we have the middle part of the debate in the Lords on Feb. 1, 1743, the end of the debate in the Commons on March 9, 1742, and the beginning of another in the Commons on the following March 23. From the number for July 1741 to the number for March 1744 Johnson, as I have already said, was the sole composer of the Debates. The irregularity with which they were given at first sight seems strange; but in it a certain method can be discovered. The proceedings of a House of Commons that had come to an end might, as I have shown, be freely published. There had been a dissolution after the session which closed in April 1741. The publication of the Debates of the old parliament could at once begin, and could go on freely from month to month all the year round. But they would not last for ever. In 1742, in the autumn recess, the time when experience had shewn that the resolution of the House could be broken with the least danger, the Debates of the new parliament were published. They were continued even in the short session before Christmas. But the spring of 1743 saw a cautious return to the reports of the old parliament. The session closed on April 21, and in the May number the comparatively fresh Debates began again. In one case the report was not six months after date. In the beginning of 1744 this publication went on even in the session, but it was confined to the proceedings of the previous winter.
The following table shews the order in which Johnson's Debates were published :
Debate or part
of debate of Parliament was dissolved?
} Feb. 13, 1741
Dec. 9, 1740