Junius Revealed!

Ken Cust

A 243-year-old mystery has been solved: Thomas Paine was the author of the Letters of Junius.

Someone wrote sixty-nine letters that were published in a British newspaper between 1769 and 1772. The writer signed his name as “Junius," and while various commentators have identified twenty-eight different people as the author of these letters, there remains no scholarly consensus as to who Junius may have been.1 Surely there is no mystery as to why Junius would want to conceal his identity. To publish controversial writing, especially about political and religious matters, was extremely dangerous in this era. One would be confronting some of the most powerful men in one’s country. Concealing one’s identity by the use of a pseudonym was common. The choice of pseudonym generally illustrated one’s knowledge of classical literature; consequently, classical names were often adopted. In short, writers of this era took seriously Thomas Gray’s admonition that “where ignorance is bliss/’Tis folly to be wise."

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