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THE HISTORY OF MODERN
El 'ROPE, from the Rise of ttie
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LL.D., and WILLIAM JONKS, Esq.
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1



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THE

L E T T E R S

OF THE

BRITISH SPY.

BY WILLIAM WIRT, ESQ.

TENTH EDITION, REVISED AND CORRECTED.
TO WHICH IS PREFIXED,

A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF THE AUTHOR.



NEW-YORK :
PRINTED AND PUBLISHED BY J. & J. HARPER,

NO. 82 CUFF-STREET,

AMD SOLD BY THE PRINCIPAL BOOKSELLERS THROUGHOUT
THE UNITED STATES.

1832.



[Entered according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1832, by J. <k J.
flarper, in the Office of the Clerk of the Southern District of New-
Fork.]



If-.



T



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
OP

WILLIAM WIRT.



IN[ reprinting a portion of the literary produc-
tions of Mr. Wirt, the publishers have thought
that a few particulars might not be unacceptable
to the reader, of an individual who has long
been familiar to the public in other positions
very different from that of the writer or mere
man of lettersi They are indebted, in great
part, for the opportunity of giving these details,
to materials collected by another hand, some time
since, and for another purpose. The present
occasion may excuse a sketch which other obvi-
ous considerations, however, may render some-
what meager. Biography has a delicate office
while her subjects are yet living, as she may be
accused of flattery on the one hand, and, on the
other, may be thought to misplace and mistime
the impartial censure which she, no less than
History, owes to truth, when, like the Egyptian
tribunal, she sits in judgment on the dead.



1179781



10 BIOGRAPHY OP

With regard to the subject himself, the mind
most conscious of integrity, and the most happy
in deserved success, may naturally shrink from
that scrupulous analysis which is necessary to
a full delineation of it. It is as naturally averse
to the relation of many things, trivial in them-
selves, but characteristic, and which on that
account are eagerly sought when the actors are
no more, though till then they may fail to excite
curiosity or interest in the public. Contempo-
rary actors have their sensibilities also ; a con-
sideration which, in tracing the competitions
and conflicts through which an individual has
wrought his way to honour and influence, may
require many sketches to be withheld, much of
the colouring softened, and much of what may
be called the material action suppressed.

It is not so much the brief memoir designed
in the following pages that leads to these sug-
gestions, as the observation how often they are
neglected in the license of the press and the rage
of anecdote. But even in this hasty sketch, it is
evident how many passages of a life somewhat
various and busy, and how many incidents col-
lected by his intimates, from an acute observer
and lively describer, must thus be excluded,
though at the expense of the vivacity of the



"WILLIAM WIRT. 11

whole picture. At some future day, and by
some happier hand, a more minute delineation
might be profitably exhibited of singular merit
gradually achieving its own reward ; a career
the more interesting as descriptive of a course of
fortune familiar, though not peculiar indeed, to
our happy country, where native talent has a
fair field, and where its acquisitions of honour
are more unquestionably the fruit of its own
intrinsic vigour.

In point of pecuniary circumstances and early
education, the subject of our memoir had what
may be reckoned middling advantages, consider-
ing the aspect of our country in both particulars
at that early day. His parents left him some
patrimony, small indeed, but which was suffi-
cient to procure him the usual instruction of the
grammar-school. He was born at Bladensburg,
in Maryland, on the 8th of November, 1772, and
was the youngest of six children of Jacob and
Henrietta Wirt. His father was a Swiss, his
mother a German ; the first died when he was
yet an infant, the latter when he was but eight
years old. An orphan at this tender age, he
passed into the family and guardianship of his
uncle, Jasper Wirt, who, as well as his wife, was
a Swiss by birth, and then resided near the same



12 BIOGRAPHY OP

village, not far, we think, from the Washington
road. Mr. Wirt retains very vivid impressions
of the character of his aunt, which are worth
preserving, both as an amiable picture of a pious
and constant temper, and as an evidence of early
observation in the relater. He has always spoken
of her as having a cast of character worthy of
the land of William Tell. She was tall and
rather large framed, with a fair complexion,. and
a face that must have been handsome in youth.
Her kindliness of temper seems to have made its
usual indelible impression on sensitive and lively


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