Henry Hawkins Brampton.

The reminiscences of Sir Henry Hawkins, baron Brampton (Volume 1) online

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myself and to know myself to be impartial ; I want
the poor wretch I try to believe and know it too.'
However, I am speaking of his father, before whom I
had a defence on behalf of a poor servant girl, who
was accused of murdering her illegitimate child.

I had prepared my arguments most elaborately, and
hoped to distinguish myself in this first case of
murder. Alas ! when the prisoner was arraigned
she was only indicted for concealment of birth, and
the ground was cut from under my feet. My disap-
pointment, no doubt, was great, for I was pretty
certain as to what would be the result of my eiforts
in the more serious case. At that time I had had no
experience to enable me to change my tactics, and
set up another line of defence on the spur of the
moment. I must defend for murder or nothing. I
therefore delivered my oration in its original form.
This was a blunder, but did not warrant Gurney in
making a sneering attack on my juvenile efforts as
he did. In summing up the case to the jury, instead
of making a kind and good-natured excuse for its
inapplicability, he spoke with cutting bitterness. It
was so ill-natured that I remember his words to this
hour, and can hear the sarcastic tone in which he
uttered them.

' Gentlemen/ he said, ' the speech that has just
been delivered to you was evidently prepared by the
young gentleman for another occasion.'


Denman was a different kind of man, almost too
dignified for small occasions, and too stern for trifling
foibles. His manner was not encouraging to young
counsel, but he never wilfully discomfited them, or
prevented them from freely discharging their duty
to their clients. This is the first thing a Judge should
consider in his relations with counsel. He was neither
a great lawyer nor an orator, but knew enough law
to make his arguments powerful, and spoke with
sufficient solemnity to make them respected. He was
not an express train that moved with rapidity, but
a slow luggage that carried weight.

At this time I was in considerable practice as a
' devil,' and when I held a brief always endeavoured
to make the most of it. To show how we learn by
steady and persistent study of the art of advocacy,
I laid it down very early in my career that
an advocate should never have too many points.
Concentration is the art of argument. If you are
diffuse you will be cut up in detail ; if you advance
with compactness and precision you will be irre-
sistible. The case I was next entrusted with was for
the purpose of quashing a conviction against which I,
believing it to be wrong, raised no less than two-and-
twenty nice points of law, any one of which, had it
been sound, would have been sufficient to acquit the
prisoner. In laying down the rule that the fewer
points you take the better, so that they be sound, I
ought to say I am repeating the advice Denman once
gave me, and which I proved by my own experience,
and especially in the present case, to be right.

'Remember also,' he said, 'to put forth your
best points first, for the weak ones are very likely

VOL. i. 4


to prejudice the good ones if they take the lead. It
would be better advice to say never bring them
forward at all, because they are useless.'

I argued ten of my points with great persistency,
and they seemed conclusive. The court listened,
I must say, with exemplary patience, and then, with-
out the slightest compunction, overruled them all
at one fell stroke, and with almost one word.

The next ten I took with persevering energy, and
the court bestowed no attention on them. They
shared the fate of their predecessors.

I had now my remaining two, kept till the last
because I thought they were substantial. Alas ! when
I put them before the court not one of the Judges
listened to me. They talked quietly to one another,
bestowing on me an occasional glance, and then,
Denman, who had given me such good advice, now
gave judgement against me in these simple words :

' There is nothing in any of Mr. Hawkins' argu-
ments ;' and the Judge smiled. A smile from Denman
made great amends for his adverse judgment ; he
was a man who never smiled except as a matter of

At this part of my eventful career I look back
with mixed feelings of pleasure and discomfort ; the
pleasure being that I overcame many difficulties, the
discomfort that I was always pulling against the
collar. The ordeal was great, and I always seemed to
get hold of the wrong cases. They taught me lessons,
however, that I could never have learnt in any other
form of advocacy. Had I always had good cases, I
could never have learnt how to win a bad one, and
when I got a good case I knew how to let it win itself;


like a rider on the best mount in the field if the horse
cannot win, the jockey cannot.

There is a little story with the title ' Perry
and the Burglary ' which crosses my mind at this
moment. It was a curious case in many of its circum-
stances. A man was tried for participation in a
burglary at the house of one whose name was
Nehemiah Perry, a farmer, who had married in early
life a gipsy girl a real gipsy, with flaming eyes and
black hair. After a time, whether from her wild
Bohemian disposition or some other cause I know not,
she had ceased to live with her husband, and had been
absent from him for some years. Nor do I think
he had ever seen her since their separation.

For some reason or other, perhaps without reason,
he was under the apprehension that an attack would
be made upon his house. He lived with a brother in a
lonely farm in Essex. His house was provided with all
necessary bolts and bars, and he always had a loaded
gun by his bedside. Such precautions he deemed
necessary for his safety.

His apprehensions were verified. One night a
burglarious attack was made, whether by professionals
or amateurs or those he had suspected, I cannot say,
nor was it ever ascertained.

On hearing a noise in the dead of night immediately
underneath his room, Nehemiah seized his gun and
proceeded to the top of the stairs. Peering down
through the gloom, he discerned a man in a mask
stealthily coming along the passage and holding a
light in his hand. The moment he appeared Perry
levelled his gun, fired, and killed him on the spot.

Perry kept his position, knowing there were others



in the neighbourhood. Nehemiah's brother slept on
the opposite side of the landing, and was aroused by
the report of the gun. On going to the spot, he was
saluted with the exclamation, ' Tom, I've snuffed his
candle out !'

The brothers talked matters over, without any
proposition to investigate the matter, left the dead
burglar lying in the passage, and went to their
respective rooms, where each of them fell into a sound
sleep as if nothing had happened.

After some time, and while it was yet night, they
were awakened once more by a sound of foot-
steps, as if some persons were dragging the dead body
along the passage. This continued for some time, and
then all was still except for an occasional whisper.
They sat up, and having listened for a considerable
time, heard the front-door closed, and then slept
quietly till the morning.

When the farm servants arrived, they were horrified
to find the corpse outside the door. It was presumed
by the police that the persons who came to drag it
away did so to prevent identification, and found it
too difficult a task. However, be that as it may,
they left it in the garden near a hedge.

Perry, who never seemed to lose his presence of
mind, and acted with the greatest coolness, in order
to preserve evidence of identity, caused the body
to be removed to his little study, a cold room on the
east side of the house, and, it being winter and frosty,
thought it pretty safe.

Why he did not communicate immediately with
the police I never learnt, but, nevertheless, in a few
days a man was arrested and taken to the farm-


house. There he was confronted with his dead com-
panion, and confessed that he had been engaged with
him in the act of burglary when the deceased was shot.

He afterwards admitted that he and several others
of the gang had dragged his body down the passage
with a view to removal so as to prevent identification,
but the task being too difficult, they resolved to
carry it to an outhouse where they had previously
lain concealed ; that they intended to place it next
to the wooden partition of the chaff-house, and then set
fire to the range of buildings so as to burn and consume
the body. Some noise I believe the barking of the
house-dog alarmed them, and prevented this from
being carried out.

The prisoner was convicted before Lord Chief Baron
Pollock, who gave him merely a short imprisonment,
observing, as he passed sentence, that he ' thought
there was a little hard-headedness in the way in which
the body had been used for the purpose of identifica-

But the singular part of this story is to come. The
solicitors for the prosecution told me that the body
was packed up in a hamper by the Perry s and conveyed
as a Christmas present to a young friend of Nehemiah's,
who was a student at Addenbrook Hospital at Cam-
bridge, for the purpose of dissection.

Not to conclude the chapter with so gruesome
a story, I will mention a little compensation case
in which I was engaged. A claimant for damages
charged, as part of his expenses attendant upon his
loss, twenty shillings a week for the feed of a poor old
horse, which looked, and undoubtedly was, nearly


I did not believe the plaintiff's story, and feeling for
the poor animal very sincerely, I said, with some
degree of warmth :

* Oh, gentlemen, it makes me sad to think of that
poor horse, who from his very heart must wish his
master was speaking the truth !'



MY first visit to Newmarket Heath had one or two
little incidents which may be interesting, although
of no great importance. The Newmarket of to-day is not
quite the same Newmarket that it was then ; many
things connected with it have changed, and, above all,
its frequenters have changed ; and if ' things are not
what they seem,' they do not seem to me, at all events,
to be what they were ' in my day.'

Sixty years is a long space of time to traverse, but I
do so with a very vivid recollection of my old friend
Charley Wright.

Many of us can remember Hermit winning the Derby,
with his colours indistinguishable in the snowstorm ;
but I am going back a long way beyond Hermit's year ;
beyond the Flying Dutchman and Voltigeur, and other
famous winners of the blue riband of the Turf.

It was on a bright October morning when we set out,
and glad enough was I to leave the courts at West-
minster and the courts of the Temple, especially my
native den, for I seemed to have been born at the top
of Elm Court, where I sat like a bird moping in its
cage for so many years glad enough to break loose



from the thraldom of nothing to do and get away into
the beautiful country.

Charley and I were always great friends ; we had
seen so much together, especially of what is called
' the world,' which I use in a different sense from that
in which we were now to seek adventures. We had
seen so much of its good and evil, its lights and shades,
and had so many memories in common, that they
formed the groundwork of a lasting friendship.

He was the only son of an almost too indulgent
father, who was the very best example of an old
English gentleman of his day you could ever meet.
He also had seen a good deal of life, and was not
unfamiliar with any of its varied aspects. He was
intellectual and genial, and dispensed his hospitality
with the most winning courtesy. To me he was all
kindness, and I have a grateful feeling of delight in
being able in these few words to record my affectionate
reverence for his memory.

Tt was at his house in Pall Mall where I met John
Leach and Percival Leigh. Mr. Wright called me
his Lord Chancellor when I was in their company, with
the best of fellowship and good feeling. Indeed, you
experienced nothing else amongst the bright geniuses
of those days men who met under the hospitable roofs
of those who appreciated their talents.

But I digress as my mind goes back to these early
dates, like one ' looking up ' something in an encyclo-
paedia, and unless I break away, Charley and I will not
reach Newmarket in time for the race. It happened
that when we made this memorable visit I had an
uncle living at The Priory at Royston, which was some
five-and-twenty miles from Newmarket, where the big


handicap, I think the Cesarewitch, was to be run the
following day, or the next I forget which.

But an interesting episode interrupted our journey
to the Heath. To our surprise, and no little to our
delight, there was to be an important meeting of the
' Fancy ' to witness a great prize-fight between Jack
Brassy and Ben Gaunt.

Ben Gaunt was the greatest prize-fighter, both in
stature and bulk, as well as in strength, I ever saw.
He looked what he was then or soon after the
champion of the world.

Brassy, too, was well made, and seemed every whit
the man to meet Gaunt. The two, indeed, were equally
well made in form and shape, and as smooth cut as
marble statues when they stripped for action.

The advertisements had announced that the contest
was to come off at, ' or as near thereto as circumstances
permitted ' (circumstances here meaning the police),
the village of Little Bury, near Saffron Walden.

At the little inn of the village some of the magnates
of the Ring were to assemble on the morning of the
fight for an early breakfast, to which Charley and I
had the good fortune to be invited by Jack Brassy's
second, Peter Crawley, another noted pugilist of his

It was different weather from that we enjoyed
in the morning, for the rain was pouring down in
torrents, and we had a drive of no less than fifteen
miles before us to the scene of action. Vehicles were
few, and horses fewer. Nothing was to be had for
love or money, as it seemed. But there was at last
found one man who, if he had little love for the prize-
ring, had much reverence for the golden coin that


supported it. He was a Quaker. He had an old gig,
and, I think, a still older horse, both of which I hired
for the journey, the Quaker, of course, pretending that
he had no idea of any meeting of the ' Fancy ' what-
ever. Nor do I suppose he would know what that
term implied.

If ever any man in the world did what young men
are always told by good people to do namely, to
persevere I am sure we did, Charley and I, with the
Quaker's horse. Whether he suspected the mission on
which we were bent, or was considering the danger of
such a scene to his morals, I could not ascertain, but
never did any animal show a greater reluctance to go
anywhere except to his quiet home.

Charley plied the whip while I tugged the reins.
Then he jumped out and patted the animal, tried to
coax him with soft words, and then felt himself pulled
along as the creature went backwards, I all the while
exercising my utmost patience, for otherwise nothing
could have prevented me from swearing.

However, I leave that part of my description to
sketch another phase or two of the great scene.

Your happiness at these great gatherings depended
entirely upon the distance or proximity of the police.
If they were pretty near, the landlord of the inn would
hesitate about serving you, and if he did, would charge
a far higher price in consequence of the supposed
increased risk. He would never encourage a breach
of the peace in defiance of the county magistrates, who
were the authority to renew his license at Brewster
Sessions. So much, then, if the officers of justice were

If they happened to be absent, which, as I have


said, occasionally occurred when a big thing was to
come off, there was then a dominant feeling of social
equality which you could never see manifested so
strongly in any other place. A gentleman would think
nothing of putting his fingers into your pockets and
abstracting your money, and if you had the hardihood
to resent the intrusion, would think less of putting his
fist into your eyes.

Here met the high-souled noble and low-browed
villain from the foul slums of Whitechapel ; the
thimble-rig who showed you where the little pea was,
and the gentleman who pointed out which was the
' loop in the garter ' that ' held ' the wire you were
asked to insert, at the odds of two sovereigns to one,
that you could not find it. They could safely have
laid a hundred to one. We were by no means certain,
as I learned, that our fight would come off after all, for
it appeared the magistrates had given strict and
specific instructions to the police that no combat was
to take place in the county of Essex. Consequently
the parties, whose duty it was to make preparations,
had fied from that respectable county and gone away
towards Six Mile Bottom, just in one of the corners of
Cambridgeshire, as if the intention was that the dons
of the University should have a look in. Constables
slept more soundly in Cambridgeshire than in Essex.
Moreover, the Essex magistrates would themselves
have a moral right to witness the fight if it did not
take place in their county.

Thus, breakfastless since five o'clock, we turned our
horses' heads towards this celebrated rendezvous, and
I must say our four-footed Quaker seemed better
pleased with this part of the journey, as it was more


in the direction of his home. Charley had discovered
by this time that he was not accustomed to the whip,
for instead of urging him forward it produced the con-
trary effect. He planted his fore-legs firmly in the
mud, and flashed his hind ones in the air. However,
we got along by slow degrees towards the honoured
spot, and when we came up with the crowd oh !

Such a scene I had never witnessed in my life,
nor could have conceived it possible on this earth or
anywhere out of that abyss, the full description of
which you will find in * Paradise Lost.'

It was a procession of the blackguardism of all ages
and of all countries under heaven. The sexes were
apparently in equal numbers and in equal degrees of
ugliness and ferocity. There were faces flat for want
of noses, and mouths ghastly for want of teeth ; faces
scarred, bruised, battered into every shape but what
might be called human. There were fighting-men of
every species and variety men whose profession it was
to fight, and others whose brutal nature it was ; there
were women fighters, too, more deadly and dangerous
than the men, because they added cruelty to their
ferocity. Innumerable women there were who had
lost the very nature of womanhood, and whose mouths
were the mere outlet of oaths and filthy language.
Their shrill clamours deafened our ears and subdued
the deeper voices of the men, whom they chaffed,
reviled, shrieked at, yelled at, and swore at by way
of fun.

Amidst this turbulent rabble rode several members
of the peerage, and even Ministerial supporters of the
' noble art,' exchanging with the low wretches I have
mentioned a word or two of chaff or an occasional


laugh at the grotesque wit and humour which are
never absent from an English crowd.

As we approached the famous scene, to which
everyone was looking with the most intense anticipa-
tion, the crowd grew almost frenzied with expectancy,
and yet the utmost good-humour prevailed. In this
spirit we arrived at Bourne Bridge, and thence to the
place of encounter was no great distance. It was a
little field behind a public-house.

Every face was now white with excitement, except
the faces of the combatants. They were firm set as
iron itself. Trained to physical endurance, they were
equally so in nerve and coolness of temperament, and
could not have seemed more excited than if they were
going to dinner instead of to one of the most terrible
encounters I ever witnessed.

To those who have never seen an exhibition of this
kind it was quite amazing to observe with what
rapidity the ropes were fixed and the ring formed ;
nor were the men less prompt. Into the ring they
stepped with their supporters, or seconds, and in
almost an instant the principals had shaken hands and
were facing each other in what well might be deadly
conflict. There were illustrious members of all classes
assembled there, members probably of all professions,
men who afterwards, as I know, became great in history,
politics, law, literature, and religion, for it was a very
great fight, and attracted all sorts and conditions from
all places and positions. Nothing since that fight,
except Tom Sayers and the ' Benicia Boy,' has attracted
so goodly and so fashionable an audience and so fierce
an assembly of blackguards.

But in the time of the latter battle the decadence of


the Ring was manifest, and was the outcome of what
is doubtless an increasing civilization. At the time
of which I am now speaking the Prize Ring was
one of our fashionable sports, supported by the wealthy
of all classes, and was supposed to contribute to the
manliness of our race ; consequently our distinguished
warriors, as well as the members of our most gentle
professions, loved a good old-fashioned English ' set-to/
and nobody, as a rule, was the worse for it, although
my poor brother Jack never recovered his half-crowns.

We had been advised to take our cushions from the
gig to sit upon, because the straw round the ring was
soddened with the heavy rains, and I need not say we
found it was a very wise precaution. The straw had
been placed round the ring for the benefit of the elite,
who occupied front seats.

The fight now began, and, I must repeat, I never saw
anything like it. Both pugilists were of the heaviest
fighting weights. Gaunt was a real giant, ugly as
could be by the frequent batterings he had received
in the face. His head was like a bull-dog's, and so was
his courage, whilst his strength must have been that
of a very Samson ; but if it was, it did not reside in
his hair, for that was short and close as a mouse's

At first I thought Brassy had the best of it ; he
was more active, being less ponderous, and landed
some very ugly ones, cutting right into the flesh,
although Gaunt did not appear to mind it in the least.
Brassy, however, did not follow up his advantage as
I thought he ought to have done, and in my opinion
dreaded the enormous power and force of his opponent
in the event of his ' getting home.'


With the usual fluctuations of a great battle, the
contest went on until nearly a hundred rounds were
fought, lasting as many minutes, but no decisive effect
was as yet observable. After this, however, Brassy
could not come up to time. The event, therefore, was
declared in Caunt's favour, and his opponent was
carried off the field on a hurdle into the public-house,
where I afterwards saw him in bed.

Thus terminated the great fight of the day, but not
thus my day's adventures.

The sport was all that the most enthusiastic sup-
porters of the Ring could desire. It no doubt had
its barbarous aspects, regarded from a humanitarian
point of view, but it was not so demoralizing as
the spectacle of some poor creature risking his neck in
a performance for which the spectator pays his six-
pence, and the whole excitement consists in the know-
ledge that the actor may be dashed to pieces before
his eyes.

It was time now to leave the scene, so Charley and
I went to look for our gig (evidence of gentility from
the time of Thurtell and Hunt's trial for the murder
of Mr. Weare).

Alas ! our respectability was gone I mean the gig.

In vindication of the wisdom and foresight of
Charley and myself, I should like to mention that we
had entrusted that valuable evidence of our status to
the keeping of a worthy stranger dressed in an old red
jacket and a pair of corduroy trousers fastened with a
wisp of hay below the knees.

When we arrived at the spot where he promised to
wait our coming, he was gone, the horse and gig too ;
nor could any inquiries ascertain their whereabouts.


Whether this incident was a judgment on the
Quaker, as Wright suggested, or one of the inevit-
able incidents attendant on a prize-fight, I am not in
a position to say ; but we thought it served the Quaker
right for letting us a horse that would not go until

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