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The Times, Friday, Aug 12, 1825; pg. 3; Issue 12730; col A


                               SUMMER ASSIZES.    
                                      -------------
                      CARLISLE, TUESDAY, AUG. 9.
                       (Before Mr. Baron HULLOCK.)

            WHEATLEY V. GIBSON AND ANOTHER.

Mr. ARMSTRONG opened the pleadings. The plaintiff in this action was George
WHEATLEY, an attorney of the Court of King's Bench, and the defendants were
Robert GIBSON, the printer and publisher, and John PEILE, the sole proprietor,
of a weekly newspaper called the Cumberland Packet. The plaintiff brought his
action to recover a compensation in damages for the injury done to his character
by the publication of two separate libels upon it in the newspaper which they
jointly conducted. The defendants pleaded the general issue, and thereupon issue
was joined.

The action was altogether of so trumpery a nature, from the insignificant
character of the libels, that we should not report the case, except for the sake
of some passages in the speeches of the two leading counsel.

Mr. BROUGHAM stated, that the defendants in this action were the proprietors of
the Cumberland Packet, a paper which he recollected ever since he could
recollect any thing. It had formerly been a very inoffensive and very dull
journal; but it had recently become very offensive without ceasing to be very
dull. The motto of the paper, which inculcated temperance and moderation, would
not serve the defendants as an antidote to the libel, which they had
disseminated throughout the country. On the contrary, it would only prove the
dulness and aggravate the malice of those who had written it. It was contained
in one line of poetry, which in point of length and magnitude was superior to
any that he had ever met with in the course of his studies. His learned friend
(Mr. SCARLETT) and himself were not so conversant with poetry as a gentleman
whom he now had the pleasure of seeing in Court, (Mr. WORDSWORTH) - a poet, who
had cast new glory over the county in which he was born, and whose works would
be remembered when he and those whom he were addressing were consigned to one
common corruption. He thought, however, that even that great poet had never met
with a line which drew after it so long a train of measured syllables. The line
ran thus: - "Where moderation dwells, the soul admits distinct ideas, and
matured debate, an eye impartial and an even scale, hence wisdom sound and
unrepenting choice." That was such a line as he had never heard of, except at
the end of a fishing rod (a laugh); and he should not be surprised if there we
found dangling at the end of it that which was sometimes said to be dangling at
the other end of the fishing-rod from that to which the line was attached. (A
laugh.) They would, however, learn from this enormous line what it was upon
which this newspaper particularly piqued itself. It was moderation, distinct
ideas, and matured debate; and not only that, but an impartial eye, an even
scale, sound wisdom, and unrepenting choice. (A laugh.) Now, a motto to a
newspaper was like a sign to a public-house; it portended the cheer that was to
be found within it. The jury would therefore expect particularly cautious
conduct from those who dealt in such large professions as those which he had
just detailed to them. He would, however, give them a specimen of the manner in
which they carried their professions into practice. The learned gentleman then
read the first libel, commenting on it at great length, and contending that
though it was insufferably stupid, yet it was not the less malignant. It was, he
said, an advertisement to all mankind, or at least to all mankind to whom the
Cumberland Pacquet was sent, not to employ such a man as Mr. WHEATLEY for their
attorney inasmuch as he was destitute of all those qualities of discretion and
conduct which it was essential for an attorney, to possess. Such was the first
libel of which his client complained. He then read and commented on the second
libel; and added, that the jury would now see the way in which things were
conducted by the polluted part of the press. It was proceedings like these which
brought the public press into disrepute, and rendered those who were its best
friends almost doubtful of the benefits of unfettered and unrestricted
discussion. He condemned in the strongest language the warfare which the public
press had recently carried on against private individuals. If a public man
displeased those who conducted that mighty engine, he was straightways attacked
in his private character; falsehoods were disseminated with the most active
industry, not only against himself, but against his wife, his children, his
female relations - nay, against the whole circle of his friends and relations.
He was sorry to find that this practice had crept from the metropolis into the
country. He was sorry to find that if for private pique, any skulking villain
thought fit to put into the slight slit in the window of Messrs. PEILE and
GIBSON, any anonymous slander, those gentlemen were ready to print it after the
manner, he would not say of their betters, but of those elsewhere, whom they
professed to imitate. If those gentlemen chose, for the lucre of gain, to print
the anonymous slander which was deposited in the lion's head in their window,
they must be made answerable for it, as if they had written it of their own free
will and imagination. For his own part, he would say that he had a worse opinion
of the printer than of the writer of anonymous calumny. And why? Because the
former gave eagle-wings to the slander which the latter fabricated, and so
enabled that which without them but "be born and die," to fly abroad in every
direction. He asked whether calumnies, such as the defendants had disseminated
against the plaintiff, could be tolerated with impunity? The plaintiff said that
they were utterly false, and dared the defendant to justify them. His assertion
was confirmed by the conduct of the defendants. They had pleaded no
justification; and yet, if any part of their story had been true, it would have
been useful to plead it, as it would have gone far in mitigation of damages; but
it was all false and unfounded, and they therefore knew better than to attempt
to justify it, since a failure in such a course would have had no other effect
than to aggravate the damages given against them. The purse of the defendants
was strong and heavy. Mr. PEILE, besides being the proprietor of this newspaper,
was employed as the coal-agent to a nobleman of great influence in that county.
Mr. GIBSON was only the printer and publisher of the paper; but if the two
defendants were taken together, he had no doubt that it would be found that they
had a purse strong enough to meet any damages which they might give to his
client, in reparation for his injured character.

The learned Counsel then called witnesses to prove his case, among whom was
William WORDSWORTH, Esq., the author of "The Excursion." He was examined by Mr.
BROUGHAM. I am head distributor of stamps in the whole of the county of
Westmorland, and in the district of Cumberland in which the Cumberland Packet is
printed. I produce an affidavit from the Stamp-office; also two numbers of the
paper - that of the 29th of March, and that of the 5th of April last.

Cross-examined by Mr. SCARLETT. - My learned friend, Mr. BROUGHAM, has alluded
to you, I believe, Mr. WORDSWORTH, as a gentleman more conversant in poetry than
either himself or me - may I ask you, have you read the poetical line taken by
this paper for its motto, of which my learned friend gave so flourishing a
description? - I have many a time when I was a boy forty years ago.

When you and I were at Cambridge, together, Mr. WORDSWORTH, should we not, from
the rhythm of the syllables, have divided this enormous line into four verses? -
In my younger days it used to be printed in four lines.

In the course of your poetical studies, did you ever meet with a line containing
so many syllables? - I did not know that it was printed as one line till I heard
Mr. BROUGHAM say so. I never met so long a verse in my life.

The papers containing the paragraphs charged as libellous were handed in, and
the paragraphs read by the usual officer.