William Hone to John Hunt, 8 May, 1817

[1780-1818] - [1818-1824] - [1825-1832] - [1832-1842] - Hone Correspondence

WH to John Hunt, 8 May, 1817.1-TEI-


Your kind conversation with my wife on Monday sensibly affects me— I am often backward in expressing acknowledgments of services but I am never insensible of them. On the present occasion, however, many untoward accidents have combined to prevent me from dropping you a line until now. — I was ill when I came here, seriously ill. My application to the Court for leave to sit until the second Information was read proceeded from real indisposition. I was ready to fall & I believe had the Court delivered it in civil terms I should have fallen—But Lord Ellenborough's NO! — (you might have heard it to the entrance door of Westminster Hall from the Palace Yard) — was as good as Thieves' vinegar; it startled me and recovered me till I was taken out of Court.2 I have met with very little accomodation too at this place — so that, though I am in general pretty adaptable to circumstances, no great comfort has been my portion. The prison is full and decent rooms not to be had but at an enormous price. I think I shall have one tomorrow which though dark & not very airy will be better than wandering in the area or idling in the coffee room without the power of writing in it. Like the Seer of old I shall get a table & a chair & a stool (& a few books withal) and make myself happy as I can. If my conduct have the approbation of such men as you I desire nothing further—I have no wish to goad Government to extremity but were all their force in array against me and if I stood single handed, in a just quarrel, I should defy their efforts and say as the man did to love "Ah Jupiter! you are in a passion—you are wrong and you fly to your thunder."

I have received so many kindnesses from you and I owe you so much of service on the Fenning account that nothing I can say on paper or verbally will put you in possession of my feelings. There is an abundance of the heart which the mouth cannot utter; when all that a man hopes for is the power which the mouse had of shewing hers, as we read in the spelling book, to the fine old lion who was caught in a net after he had been kind to her.

All this, by the by, is to apologize to you for not writing as soon as I heard you had called in the Old Bailey — Will you do more? — drop me a few lines directed there unless you reckon upon coming this way before "the first day of next Term" & do me the honour of a call. — I want your opinion of the stand I take to obtain Copies of the Informations before pleading.3 This you see is refused on the ground of custom—precedent—which I say would be more honoured in the breach than in the observance. When the powers that be encroach so much & so daily by new precedents against us, it is worth trying, surely, to make them go back a little and create a precedent for us.—

I am, Sir, with great respect,
Your faithful servant,
W. Hone
British Library, BL Add. MS, 38108 f. 189. [return]
This emphatic "No!" from Lord Chief Justice Ellenborough became part of the radical story of Hone's eventual triumph in the courtroom. For a contemporary engraving, see Charles Williams's Law vs. Humanity. [return]
The context of Hone's controversial stance in the courtroom is explained in the biographical fragment on "Publishing the Parodies."
William Hone. Date: 2012-05-19