Allerly by Melrose
Jany 7th 1837
My Dear Sir,
My last letter <1> was so crammed with Science, that I could not find a corner to ask your aid in a question of Literature. As I am writing however to Mr Scrope <2> I shall avail myself of his Cover rather than wait for a future occasion of writing to you.
Our leisure time at Lacock Abbey <3> was so much better employed that I never thought of mentioning to you that I had been led into an inquiry respecting Junius, <4> by the accidental possession of some papers which led me to believe that Lachlan Macleane <5> who was private Secretary to Lord Shelburne <6> was the Author of these celebrated Letters. My inquiries took a very wide Range from America to India, and I have collected a body of evidence in favour of my theory, which it is not easy to resist. About 9 or 10 years ago when I was at Edgeworthstown Miss Edgeworth, <7> who took a great interest in the Inquiry, wrote to the Marquis of Lansdowne <8> requesting some information about Macleane. I inferred from his Lordships answer that the subject was not agreeable to him, and that he did not like the eager and universal curiosity which it had excited.
As I have been urged to publish the result of my inquiries, and have resolved upon doing it, it occurs to me that after ye communication made to the Marquis by Miss Edgeworth it might be proper to make his Lordship aware of my intentions, in case he might be disposed to communicate any information tending either to confirm or to overturn my hypothesis. I should of course take care to treat the subject in so far as it relates to Lord Shelburne in a way which would be agreeable to the family. Sir Richard Phillips <9> published some singular details of a conversation he had on the subject with Lord Shelburne; but it is generally believed that they are not correct. I should like also to know if there is a Copy of Macleanes pamphlet on the Falkland Islands in the Library of Bowood. <10> Lord Glenelg <11> tried many years ago to procure it for me from the British Museum, but it could not be got. If you should think from what I have said that the subject would be disagreeable to Lord Lansdowne, you will of course not say any thing to him on the matter.
I am My Dear Sir Ever Most Faithfully yrs
H.F. Talbot Esqr
2. George Julius Duncombe Poulett Scrope (17971876), MP & scientist.
3. Brewster had stayed at Lacock just before the Bristol meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, which began on 22 August 1836 [see Doc. No: 03339]. A plan to spend a day there after the meeting had to be abandoned. [See Doc. No: 03363].
4. The pseudonym used by the writer of letters published in the Public Advertiser between 1769 and 1771. The letters are bitterly anti-Tory and attack many well-known figures. The identity of Junius has never been incontrovertibly established but Sir Philip Francis (17401818) is the most likely candidate.
5. Laughlan or Laughlin Macleane (1727-1777), Scottish adventurer and army surgeon and under-secretary to Lord Shelburne.
6. William, 2nd Earl of Shelburne (17371805); created Marquess of Lansdowne 1784.
7. Maria Edgeworth (17671849), novelist. Edgeworthstown was the family seat in Ireland.
8. Henry Petty Fitzmaurice, 3rd Marquess of Lansdowne (17801863), MP, WHFTs uncle.
9. Sir Richard Phillips (17671840), writer, bookseller and publisher.
10. Bowood House, nr Calne, Wiltshire, 5 mi NE of Lacock: seat of the Marquess of Lansdowne.
11. Charles Grant (17781866), Baron Glenelg.
12. Readdressed in another hand.