Memoirs of the Reign of George III.
G.G. and J. Robinson, ( 1795), London
23cm. 364; 431 pp. Volumes I and IV only of four volumes published.
Here’s a fascinating relic… “Junius” was the pseudonym of a writer who published a series of influential political letters in London journals of the 1760s and 1770s critical of the government of King George III. These articles stressed the constitutional rights and liberties of Englishmen and highlighted instances where the government had infringed upon them. As such, his writings were a direct influence on political thought in the American colonies. In 1769, Boston newspapers started to reprint letters from Junius, and these helped inspire revolutionary fervor. The identity of Junius has never been finally settled, but most authorities agree that an Irish-born British politician and pamphleteer named Philip Francis is the most likely candidate. The partial set of books offered here – volumes I and IV (of 4 volumes total) – both bear the bookplate of Philip Francis. Both have been annotated by Francis as he plowed through Belsham’s book, adding notes and comments on nearly every page of volume I (less so in volume IV) that summarize, contradict, or add to the printed text. Generally speaking, Belsham was a defender of George III, so his several references to Junius tend to be dismissive. Francis has noted and responded to several of these. In one, author Belsham says that the writings of Junius “consisted of little else than splendid declamation and poignant invective” – a passage noted by Francis, and a preamble to a lengthy section on the Stamp Act and problems of American representation. In another, Francis adds a lengthy note beginning, “This year was remarkable for the energy given of the Proceed(ngs) of the Friends of Constitutional Liberty…” Regarding the meeting of Parliament in November 1770 to consider a reputed act of Piracy, Francis notes, “See a letter of Junius upon this subject.” I am not competent to form an opinion on the identity of Junius, but I am certain that evidence provided in these two volumes will contribute to the debate. For example, in a lengthy commentary on a section in volume IV, Francis writes, “p, 407. I was in France at the time of the recall of our Ambassador… & can from my own personal knowledge… bear testimony to the truth of this account.” Did Junius every write about this? Such evidence could help establish his identity. This offering consists of two volumes of a four-volume set, bound in half calf over marbled boards. Backstrips perished, boards detached but present, sewing intact. Text and manuscript responses are clean and legible.