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Thy young men's coming was not known to me,
But Abigail, on her return, poor Nabal found
And David blessed the Lord, who stayed his hand
MR. ALARIC ALEXANDER WATTS.
Tue duty of a journalist imposes on him, not unfrequently, a task, in performing the chronicler's part, from which he would otherwise have turned away in disgust
. It is his province to notice, as they pass over and off the stage, the dwarfs as well as the giants of human society,—the notorious as well as the illustrious of mankind. Such an office devolves upon us on the present occasion, - mitigated, however, by one feature which is of a satisfactory cast,– namely, that, as far as the individual is concerned, it is our closing communication. For it is our lot this month to take our final leave of the now well-known Mr. Alaric Atula — we beg pardon – Mr. Alaric Alerander Watts. And such appears to be the singular conformation of this person's mind, that we have little doubt that he will hear this announcement with transports of joy,—and that, so that he may get from under Regina's lash, he will care little to feel that he owes his future immunity to his past misconduct, and that he has found a retreat from frequent chastisement only by working his own final excommunication.
William Cobbett was very fond of relating an anecdote of a combat which he once witnessed between two countrymen; one of whom at last—and the one who had been the aggressor-getting the worse of the pugilistic fray, drew his knife on his antagonist. Cobbett delighted to describe the indignation of the just combatant, and the wrath with which, having snatched a huge stick from a bystander, he belaboured the cowardly miscreant.
Alaric Alexander Watts and Fraser's Magazine have been at fisty-cuffs this many a day. We have met his jests, scurvy as they were, with jests,--his harder knocks with knocks as hard.
At last, finding that he was getting the worst of the fray, like the creature in Cobbett's story, he draws his knife! From the court of public opinion he appeals to the Court of King's Bench -- from the verdict of the literary world he flies to the verdict of a Middlesex jury.
His weapon, bowever, has been turned upon bimself. By succeeding, through a quirk of the law, in shutting out our evidence of provocation, and by thus compelling the jury to decide on a view of only half the facts of the case, he obtained a verdict against this Magazine. Four days afterwards, he had to make his appearance again before a jury; but now in the character of a defendant. A man whom we really believe he had no more liholled thon
ane had lihallad
have been told, perhaps erroneously, that the pique originated in some newspaper arrangements of a strictly private kind; and we are sure that Dr. Maginn did not give himself the trouble of reciprocating the ill-will of which he was the object. Into the mysteries of this dislike, however, we have no wish to pry; but that it existed, and grew, and daily became more and more troublesome, both to him who cherished it and to all who came near him, was too clear. For five long years, and more, in newspapers of every description, and even in the Literary Souvenir itself, has this private quarrel (if that can be called a quarrel which is wholly carried on by one party) been habitually obtruded on the public ear. We have now bad, for several years, the advantage of the frequent contributions of the individual thus pertinaciously attacked; and with that advantage we, and many of our most esteemed friends, had also to bear a portion of the wrathful and splenetic assaults of Mr. Watts. And as Fraser's MAGAZINE soon became an established mark for his abuse, it very naturally followed that, when insulted individuals sought to return his compliments in kind through our columns, admission to these retorts was not always denied.
This was the sort of quarrel which Mr. Watts thought it becoming the character of a literary man to bring into a court of law. And very consistently and fittingly, when it was there brought, all bis efforts, and the efforts of his counsel, were directed to keep out of view the whole of our case, to suppress our proof of manifold provocation, and to set up Mr. Watts, most falsely, as a poor, innocent, persecuted, and grossly slandered man. These efforts partly succeeded : the judge ruled that to produce the copies of Mr. Watts's own newspapers, which had been officially deposited by his own servants at the Stamp Office, was not evidence of publication ! and thus our whole case was shut out,--the jury were left to decide on a view of half the facts, and Mr. Watts carried a verdict against us.
Well, he has drawn his knife! and it is now for us to decide as to the course we shall take, in this wholly changed state of circumstances between us. Revenge- if that were any object with us --- revenge the most complete and ample inight easily be obtained. No one can glance for three moments over the specimens, culled from Mr. Watts' newspapers, which ornament Mr. Erle's speech, without being perfectly satisfied that he himself has given a dozen times more and more frequent ground for libel-actions, than ever could be found in Fraser's MAGAZINE. Ilalf a dozen of our contributors might each justly maintain their several actions, and (especially if, like him, they could contrive to shut out all evidence tending to shew the least provocation) their chances, in every case, of a verdict of 1501. would be far greater than ever were Mr. Watts' on the 5th of December. What the end of this game would be, as far as Mr. " Alaric Alexander” is concerned, it is not at all difficult to imagine.
But we have neither time nor taste for this sort of life. It may suit
20 new circumstance, is in a totally opposite direction. We say to Mr. Watts : " Go! Henceforth fear nothing from Fraser's Magazine. You are no longer of our order. You have doffed your literary armour, and cased you in latitats, subpænas, and bills of costs. With these we wage no warfare. Under their safeguard you may well rely on the most perfect impunity. As soon should we think of using any freedom of speech towards Dicas the attorney, or Byers the common informer !
We therefore bid Mr. Watts farewell, with no sentiment of anger, and certainly with still less of regret. The parting, though abrupt, is perhaps not greatly accelerated by what has past. We have heretofore sailed, if not in company, yet within sight of each other ; but a greater distance was obviously becoming inevitable. We have been steadily advancing, for some time past, in public favour and acceptance ; Mr. Watts, as an author, or editor, as steadily der lining. The witness who came from the house of his late publishers, Messrs. Longman and Co., deposed to the regular decline of sale of bis Souvenir, in each of the last five years; so that, at the end of the conn
nnexion, its sale was about, or rather less than, half what it had been at the beginning. And, as consumption generally runs through a family, we are not surprised to hear that his poor little newspapers all betray similar symptoms of rapid decay. On every ground, therefore, it was becoming necessary for us to part company. According to all present appearances, it is rather improbable that Mr. Watts should be able to continue to hold his place in that rank of literature which falls within the cognisance of a monthly periodical. lle must do as better men have done before him. Leigh Hunt -eminently gifted with (what this man lacks) a heart to sympathise with generous emotions, and taste to appreciate the beautiful — has long since given up his newspapers, and lias found foolscap volumes of verses pay no better than Mr. Watts's rhymes,— he does a three-halfpenny thing for Charles Knight. Even Roebuck, dissolving partnership with the Westminster Review, has set up a “ twopenny on his own account. This refuge is still open to oor late antagonist. To the Olio, the Mirror, or the Penny Mugazine, he may prove a useful hand, - with this essential proviso, however, that the sternest prohibition be put upon his pugnacious propensities, especially towards a certain Doctor of Canon and Civil Law. This point especially stipulated, we bereby endorse his character, as one who, though of a quarrelsome disposition, might, if well muzzled, in “ a place of all work,” make himself “ generally useful.”
And so, good bye! Master Alaric Alexander !
To our readers we offer, and we know not whether we ought to apologise for such a demand on their attention, the clear and simple statement of our case, as it was actually presented to the court by Mr. Erle. That gentleman's rising fame renders it superfluous for us to testify our sense of the talent displayed by bin on that occasion. Had the case, as opened by him, and on which evidence
THE SPEECH OF WILLIAM ERLE, ESQ., K.C., IN THE CASE OF
WATTS V. FRASER AND MOYES, On the 5th of December, 1835, in the King's Bench, Westminster,
BEFORE LORD DENMAN AND A SPECIAL JURY.
Gentlemen of the jury,-You have now laid before you the Plaintiff's case, which my learned friend the AttorneyGeneral undoubtedly introduced with all the eloquence wbich he possesses, and which he employed in heaping abuse on my client, - a course which I own a little surprised me, when I reflected upon the character of Mr. Watts--I mean his professional, and not his private, cha. racter. When I speak of Mr. Watts's professional character, I mean that he has, for many years, been before the pub. lic as an author in, I believe, a variety of capacities - being concerned in news. papers, annuals, and the publication of poetry. When a man comes before the public in this way, the public has an in. terest in his works,—they become, as it were, public property ; and he has not the same right to complain as a private individual would have of public atten. tion being drawn to himself in his works. One of the defendants in this action is the Editor of FRASER'S MAGAZINE ; the other is an industrious, laborious tradesman, removed by his occupation and the path of life which he pursues from those feuds which irritate literary men, and having no share at all in the production of such articles as those in question, which give so much pleasure to readers on the one hand, and so much pain to the authors who are attacked on the other. The latter defendant to whom I refer is Mr. Moyes, the printer of the Maga. zine, who had no connexion whatever with the production of that which is charged as libellous, and is, therefore, morally, not guilty of any intention to injure Mr. Watts's character ; although, I am bound to admit that, in the eye of
asked for the name of the author,-that he never made any application whatever to the publisher of the Magazine, but was pleased to resort to an action for damages, which, let it always be remem. bered, will, in the event of your verdict being for the plaintiff, be awarded against Moyes, the printer, as well as Mr. Fraser, the publisher. For what purpose Mr. Moyes was joined with Mr. Fraser in this action I can scarcely conceive. The plaintiff pretends that he has two causes of complaint, one differing in many respects from the other. One of his grounds of complaint is, that his property in the Literary Souvenir has been injnred by the criticism in FRASER'S MAGAZINE. Now I hope that, looking at the nature of this publication, consi. dering the right of the public to criticise any work which is placed before it, and reflecting upon the danger, to which my learned friend adverted, of placing any restriction at all on public works, you will pause before you sanction the plaintiff's claim to compensation on that ground,- my learned friend's observa. tions as to the motives which prompted the article in question. The writer of that article was actuated by no feeling of malice against the proprietor of the Li. terary Souvenir; nor is that work treated with greater severity than other works of a similar description. Let us look at the nature of the article. Se. veral writers in the Magazine are supposed to be assembled in a room, some of whom are playing at backgammon. It is proposed that two of the party shall each write an article on the" Annuals ;" and by a cast of the dice the task devolves upon Barry Cornwall and a gen