Thursday, July 15, 2010

Great Replies: John Wilkes

John Montagu (1718 – 1792), the 4th Earl of Sandwich, after whom the Sandwich Islands were named, had a political career that included First Lord of the Admiralty. He is best known for having the sandwich also named after him, from a 24 hour stint at the gambling tables when he told a servant to simply put roast beef between bread for a meal.

John Wilkes (1727 -1797) pictured above, was an English radical, journalist and politician.

Both were members of the Hellfire Club, a club of notable men of the day that met for debauchery. As a result of a prank played at the Hellfire Club by Wilkes, in one account described as introducing a dressed baboon wearing a cape, Montagu is said to have been embarrassed, giving rise to hostility towards Wilkes and a long time rivalry. Who knows, perhaps Montagu made a pass at the baboon thinking it was a person.

In one heated argument in Parliament, Montague said scornfully and derisively to Wilkes "Upon my soul, Wilkes, I don't know whether you'll die upon the gallows, or of the pox.”

Wilkes replied: "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles, or your mistress."


  1. Actually, misattributed --,_4th_Earl_of_Sandwich

    In a famous exchange with the actor Samuel Foote, Sandwich declared, "Foote, I have often wondered what catastrophe would bring you to your end; but I think, that you must either die of the pox, or the halter." "My lord", replied Foote instantaneously, "that will depend upon one of two contingencies; -- whether I embrace your lordship's mistress, or your lordship's principles."[18] This retort is often misattributed to John Wilkes.


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