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S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.

John Wilkes

  • [A famous English politician and wit, called by Johnson “the phœnix of convivial felicity;” born in London, 1727; educated at Leyden; member of Parliament, 1757; founded “The North Briton,” 1762; in No. 45 accused the king of “an infamous fallacy” in a speech from the throne; imprisoned in the Tower; expelled from the House for libel, 1764, and outlawed; elected for Middlesex, but unseated, and re-elected; Lord Mayor of London, 1774, and admitted to sit for Middlesex, which he represented for many years; died 1797.]
  • God forget you! He’ll see you d—— first!

  • An exclamation caused by the concluding sentence of a speech of Lord Thurlow’s: “When I forget my king, may my God forget me!” Burke added, “The best thing that could happen to you.”
  • His opponent at Brentford said, “I will take the sense of the meeting.”—“And I will take the nonsense,” added Wilkes; “and we will see who has the best of it.”
  • He replied to the Prince Regent, who asked when he became so loyal, by saying, “Ever since I had the honor of knowing your Royal Highness.” But he said of George III., “I love the king so much that I hope never to see another.”
  • He refused to take a hand at whist, saying, “I am so ignorant that I cannot tell a king from a knave.”
  • “Fish,” he once said, “is almost the only rare thing by the seaside.”
  • He remarked of an unmannerly man in a chop-house, “Usually the bear is brought to the stake: here the steak is brought to the bear.”
  • Wilkes said of Burke’s florid style, “His oratory would sometimes make one suspect that he eats potatoes and drinks whiskey.” In speaking of Wilkes and his mob-following, Burke substituted humeris for numeris in Horace’s line (“Odes,” IV. 2),—
  • “—numerisque fertur
  • Lege solutis,”
  • so that it might read,—
  • “He is carried on shoulders uncontrolled by law.”
  • BOSWELL’S Johnson, 1778.
  • Burke also said of the popular excitement in favor of Wilkes, “Whenever the people have a feeling, they commonly are in the right. They sometimes mistake the physician.”