"Address"; Prefatory to Hone's 1818 publication of his Trials

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"Address" (Prefatory to the Three Trials), 23 January, 18181-TEI-

I intimated an intention of exhorting my fellow-citizens against parodying Scripture or the forms of worship established by law.2 I am glad to find that the intimation had the effect I wished. Had the Parodies been re-published in the way I anticipated, the Ministers of the Crown might perhaps have essayed another alarum to the weak-minded; and—as there is no calculating upon the movements of folly—have asked Parliament for another suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act. They are laughed out of Court; but instead of arising and putting their house in order, and going forth—like sensible men—and doing as one of old did, they still seek unrefreshing slumbers upon the bed of office. The solemn bigotry of one of my Prosecutors, the ‘noble’ Secretary of State for the Home Department3, reposes beneath the unblushing hypocrisy of another of my Prosecutors—my brother parodist—the ‘Right Honourable’ President of the Board of Control.4 Hence, if they keep their places during the year, we may expect four New Lotteries, at least, with improved Schemes, and an increased number of Bible Societies and Executions.

It is my wish and intention, because I trust I shall be enabled, to commence business as a Bookseller, upon a more respectable footing than hitherto. I should be wanting in justice to my family, and in gratitude to my friends, if I did not take this opportunity of making my purpose known.

I shall prepare at leisure, and with care, an enlarged Report of my three Trials, in a form more permanent than this, and more acceptable to the library. Of course there will be great additions. I have just obtained a short-hand verbatim Report of my third day's Defence, with the Attorney-General's Reply, and the Chief Justice's Charge; and am procuring what else I can, respecting the other Trials, from other sources. Thus assisted, I shall be enabled to complete the Report agreeably to my own wishes, and perhaps the desire of the Public. The work will be preceded by a narrative of every material fact connected with the prosecutions, from the time I stopped the sale of the Parodies, until the close of the Public Subscription now open in my behalf—it will conclude with a List of the Subscribers, properly arranged. The Notes and Appendix will possess much interest, on account of the curious matter they will include, from sources of reading and information, to which few take the pains to resort. It will have correct copies of the Parodies I read and referred to in Court, with several others of remarkable interest; and I shall give it all the legal, political, and literary elucidation in my power. It will likewise be illustrated by reduced fac-simile engravings of every print exhibited and referred to on the Trials. These will be executed with great care, and faithfully coloured in the same manner as the originals. The book will be handsomely printed in royal octavo, and I shall omit no pains to render it worthy a place in the best collections. In prefixing my portrait to it, and publishing it by subscription, I follow the advice of the Gentlemen with whom the idea of the Work originated. I shall issue a Prospectus as soon as I correctly ascertain the extent and cost of the undertaking, and I purpose it to be my first Publication on commencing my new career in Business.5

January 23, 1818.
from The Three Trials of William Hone (1818), pp. iii-iv. [return]
See Hone's letter to The Times, 24 December, 1817. [return]
Lord Sidmouth, the Home Secretary who was instrumental in arresting and trying Hone on charges of libel. [return]
George Canning. During his anti-Jacobin days of the late 1790s, Canning had published political parodies based on religious texts. Hone used these parodies during his trials to demonstrate that he was being unfairly singled out for prosecution. [return]
This is the first indication that Hone was planning a long work on the History of Parody. He continued to work on the project for several years, but it never came to fruition, and in 1826 Hone's bankruptcy forced him to sell his private library, effectively making the writing of the History impossible. [return]
William Hone. Date: 2014-03-14