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JOHN HORNE TOOKE. .
JOHN HORNE TOOKE was, perhaps, the most extraordinary man of the period in which he lived. Scarcely any political occurrence happened in which he did not take an active part. During his long life of seventy-seven years, he witnessed more revolutions of politics and of parties than any other man ; and in all of them his talents and indefatigable spirit were exerted either on one side or the other.
In noticing some of the traits of this remarkable man's character, it will be necessary to touch briefly upon the principal events of his life. His father, whose name was Horne, was a poulterer in Westminster, and was, to say the least, in very comfortable circumstances, if not rich. Anxious to bestow the best education upon
his son, whom he intended for the church, he sent him first to Westminster School, and then to St. John's College, Cambridge ; at both which seminaries he distinguished himself by talent and assiduity. On entering into holy orders, he was, under the patronage of the Duke of Newcastle, immediately inducted into the lucrative living of Brentford, where he continued for twenty-four years ; during which time, however, he never quitted the field of politics.
During the commotions raised by Wilkes, the Reverend Mr. Horne espoused the popular side ; and when the “ favourite of the people” was disappointed in being returned to serve in Parliament, in 1768, he exerted the whole of his power and influence in procuring his election for Middlesex ; which Herculean task he at length achieved by canvassing town and country; by soliciting votes and subscriptions; and by opening houses of entertainment for the voters.
Wilkes and he, however, soon afterwards quarrelled; for Mr. Horne did not find, when his turn was served, that Mr. Wilkes was the redhot patriot that he had pretended. A paper war ensued, in which the celebrated Junius took a part. It was during this dispute, that the Rector of Brentford and the City Chamberlain meeting one day, upbraided each other for the several parts they took. At length, Horne told Wilkes that “ he was a renegado from the cause of liberty; and that he ought to blush for his lukewarmness.” “ You mistaken, my dear parson,” replied Wilkes,
replied Wilkes, “I never Wilkite!”
Mr. Horne was a powerful advocate for American independence; but, in his zeal for liberty, he was so imprudent as to open and advertise a subscription" for the relief of our unfortunate brethren in America, who were basely murdered by the British troops at Lexington.”—For this he was prosecuted and imprisoned in the King'sBench.
All hope of ecclesiastical preferment being at an end, or rather having imbibed the free-opi
nions of the period, Mr. Horne, soon after his release from prison, threw off his canonicals, resigned the living of Brentford, and entered the Society of the Inner Temple; where he kept strict terms, and studied the law as a profession. In due time, the period arrived when he ought to have been called to the bar; but, when he put in his claim, the benchers refused to admit him on the ground that “the clerical character was indelible ;” and that, “ having been in holy orders, they would not countenance so indecent and impious a desertion of his former profession.”In this rejection, however, it was believed that political, or party, feeling had more weight than any desire to preserve the purity of religion.
Although he was now a layman in fact, and without a profession whereby to earn a livelihood, Mr. Horne's abilities were duly appreciated by the leaders of the political parties on each side ; and he certainly was of great use to Mr. Fox, by whom he was held in great consideration; and with whom he remained for many years on terms of strict intimacy and friendship.
In 1790, he, Mr. Fox, and Lord Hood stood as candidates for Westminster; but, from mismanagement, Mr. Tooke did not succeed in his wish to represent that city.
It is now time that the reader should be informed of the cause, and of all the circumstances connected with Mr. Horne's change of name.
An elderly gentleman, named Tooke, who had made a large fortune as a merchant in the African Company, bought some lands in Lincolnshire ; but, the title being supposed to be defective, the crown set up a claim for them, and the Attorney-General was employed to conduct the case. Mr. Tooke had heard of the rejection of Mr. Horne by the benchers of the Inner Temple, and he conceived that this exclusion was no proof of his being an unsound lawyer. He accordingly applied to him ; and Mr. Horne having solicited the suite, had the good fortune to defeat the crown lawyers.
Mr. Tooke was altogether so well pleased with his success, that he became strongly attached to his solicitor ; and invited him to reside with him at his house in Westminster; which he did for