In the year 1709 the struggle was at its height between Harley and the adherents of Marlborough. The queen, favouring Harley, had been obliged to give way, and Harley had been dismissed from his office of Secretary of State. But he only waited a chance to return, having with him both the royal favour and the popular feeling. Just at this juncture Dr. Sacheverell preached, on November 5, before the Lord Mayor and aldermen, a sermon, at St. Paul's, in which he attacked the ministry in the most violent terms. The sermon was printed and 40,000 copies sold in a few weeks. The ministry impeached him and he was tried in Westminster Hall. But this drew out such a great popular manifestation in his favour that the queen felt strong enough gradually to effect the changes in the ministry she had long desired.
Johnson must intend to allude to the sale of the sermon when he speaks of the sale of the trial, for though the trial was printed, and contained the speech in defence spoken by Sacheverell, and supposed to have been composed for him by bishop Atterbury, there is no record, as in the case of the sermon, of any very enormous sale. (Cf. Life of Pope, p. 166, 1. 8, and note.)
« LAST» Note «NEXT»