Daily Archives: October 29, 2007

Item of the Day: Junius’ Letters (1772)

Full Title:  The Letters of Junius.   Vol. I. London:  Printed for Henry Sampson Woodfall, in Pater Noster Row. MDCCLXXII. *


To Sir William Draper, Knight of the Bath.


An academical education has given you an unlimited command over the most beautiful figures of speech. Masks, hatchets, racks, and vipers, dance through your letters in all the mazes of metaphorical confusion. These are the gloomy companions of a disturbed imagination; the melancholy madness of poetry, without the inspiration. I will not contend with you in point of composition. You are a scholar, Sir William, and, if I am truly informed, you write Latin with almost as much purity as English. Suffer me then, for I am a plain, unlettered man, to continue that stile of interrogation, which suits my capacity, and to which, considering the readiness of your answers, you ought to have no objection. Even Mr. Bingley promises to answer, if put to the torture.  

Do you then really think that, if i were to ask a most virtuous man whether he ever committed theft, or murder, it would disturb his peace of mind? Such a question might perhaps discompose the gravity of his muscles, but I believe it would little affect the tranquility of his conscience. Examine your own breast, Sir William, and you will discover, that reproaches and enquiries have no power to afflict either the man of unblemished integrity or the abandoned profligate. It is the middle compound character which alone is vulnerable: the man, who, without firmness enough to avoid a dishonourable action, has feeling enough to be ashamed of it.

I thank you for the hint of the decalogue, and shall take an opportunity of applying it to some of your most virtuous friends in both houses of parliament,

You seem to have dropped the affair of your regiment; so let it rest. When you are appointed to another, I dare say you will not sell it either for a gross sum, or for any annuity upon lives.

I am truly glad (for really, Sir William, I am not your enemy, nor did I begin this contest with you) that you have been able to clear yourself of a crime, though at the expence of the highest indiscretion. You say that your half-pay was given you by way of pension. I will not dwell upon the singularity of uniting in your own person two sorts of provisions, which in their own nature, and in all military and parliamentary views, are incompatible; but I call upon you to justiy that declaration, wherein you charge your ____ with having done an act in your favour notoriously against the law. The half-pay, both in Ireland and England, is appropriated by parliament; and if it be given to persons, who, like you, are legally incapable of holding it, it is a breach of law. It would have been more decent in you to have called this dishonourable transaction by its true name; a job to accomodate two persons, by particular interest and management of the castle. What sense must government have had of your services, when the rewards they have given you are only a disgrace to you!

And now, Sir William, I shall take my leave of you for ever. Motives, very different from any apprehension of your resentment, make it impossible you should ever know me. In truth, you have some reason to hold yourself indebted to me. From the lessons I have given, you may collect a profitable instruction for your future life. They will either teach you to regulate your conduct, as to be able to set the most malicious inquiries at defiance; or, if that be a lost hope, they will teach you prudence enough not to attract the public attention upon a character, which will only pass without censure, when it passes without observation.


* See previous entry on Junius for context and a biographical account at: https://18thcenturyreadingroom.wordpress.com/2006/03/06/item-of-the-day-junius-revisited-1769/


Leave a comment

Filed under 1770's, Political Commentary, Posted by Matthew Williams, Satire