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ART. I.-Diary illustrative of the times of George the Fourth, interspersed with original Letters from the late Queen Caroline, and from various other distinguished Persons. 2 vols. 8vo. Colburn. London: 1838.
TH HE appearance of this silly, dull, and disgraceful publication both calls for some remarks adapted to the offence itself, and affords an opportunity of entering upon the important subjects of the Abuses of the Press, and the Characters of the Individuals of whom the book treats.
Various circumstances have concurred to make the restraints upon publicity far less effectual of late years than they ever were before; and in proportion to the greater liberty enjoyed from the diminished risk of legal proceedings, has been the increased license assumed by all who cater for the bad feelings, and bad taste of the public, in providing for its gratification, and swelling their own gains. Among the chief of these circumstances must, no doubt, be reckoned the rapid progress of free opinions, the conviction of the press's importance as an engine of public instruction, and a vehicle, above all, of political discussion; the aversion felt by all friends of liberty to impose any fetters upon this important agent of good, and the disposition thus produced to pass over its errors, and pardon its abuse in consideration of its eminent usefulness in the vast majority of instances. It thus became one of the great distinctions between the parties which divide political men both in England and other countries, that the friends of arbitrary government were jealous of the press's licentiousness,
and always prone to enforce the law against it; while the advocates of liberal opinions scarcely ever could be persuaded that a case was made out which justified prosecution. It is true, that until a comparatively late period, the friends of the press, however hostile to proceedings against libellers, always restricted this disinclination to cases of public or political writings, and avowed themselves the enemies of all private slander and personal abuse; holding the protection of that offence to be altogether unnecessary to public liberty, and the commission of it to be pernicious, and not beneficial to the liberty of the press, in the true acceptation of the term. But the line which separates attacks upon private and personal failings from the discussion of public conduct, like that which parts the consideration of measures from the judgment to be pronounced upon men, the authors of those measures, is not always easy to trace or to observe; and the consequence has been, that almost at all times considerable latitude has been allowed of mingling comments on private with remarks upon public conduct; so that, generally speaking, they who were the most adverse to state prosecutions were also the most patient of personal attacks, and the least disposed to seek protection from the law against even very unmeasured abuse of their private demeanour. It is hardly necessary to add, that such distinctions between the two parties, and such repugnance in both to proceedings against libels of any kind, became more marked as the diffusion of liberal opinions became more general, and that progress more rapid. But it is fit that we consider the effects of this improvement, as it materially affected the conduct even of the party most opposed to the licentiousness of the press. They followed their more liberal adversaries, though at a distance which was increasing and not lessening. State prosecutions became daily more rare, and it seems difficult to believe that we live in the same country and under the same law, when we cast our eye over the kind of publications prosecuted as libels, not merely fifty, but five-and-twenty years ago; and see the sedition and the scurrility now daily printed without the least effort to check either by judicial proceedings. Who can think that he lives in the same community which expressed no kind of surprise or reprobation, when Sir Vicary Gibbs filed, all at once, between twenty and thirty ex officio informations, chiefly for comments upon the character and conduct of members of the Royal family; and when the same law officer of the Crown some years later, put the editor of the most moderate and most respectable paper of the day, upon his trial, for remarking that the successor of George the Third would have a glorious task when he came to the throne, from the contrast which his reign might afford to that of his royal predecessor? It may safely be asserted, that there is no one newspaper or other publication now, in the whole United