at the trouble which he took in looking into everything,
though it was quite a trifling matter/
' There was no man like him for taking pains ; he
never spared himself,' says a solicitor who knew him from
the beginning of his career at the Bar.
' What a fool I am,' he was once heard to say on
entering the robing-room, flushed with his exertions in
Court, ' knocking myself to pieces about a twopenny-
halfpenny dispute.' But he could not help 'knocking
Mr. 38-40] < THOROUGH'
himself to pieces ' whatever was the character of the
'dispute.' It was his nature. On one occasion he used
' unparliamentary language ' to a solicitor. ' I do not
mind your swearing at me, Mr. Russell,' said the solicitor,
' so long as you don't do it in the presence of the client.'
Russell laughed and said, ' It is my anxiety about the
client that makes me swear at all.'
His early cases in Liverpool were chiefly commercial
cases. For their conduct, a knowledge of the customs
and terms of trade was as important as a knowledge of
law. Russell made himself master of these customs and
terms. He would sit late into the night or morning with
some expert friend generally the son of John Yates to
be ' coached ' in commercial routine ; and when he came
to examine and to cross-examine witnesses he showed an
intimacy with the details of business which astonished the
initiated particularly the initiated who were under cross-
examination. Russell's motto was ' Thorough ! ' He
believed profoundly in the maxim, ' Whatever is worth
doing, is worth doing well.' In all that came to his hand
he spared neither himself nor those associated with him
to secure success.
One day on Circuit a barrister went into the library.
He saw a man working up some cases. ' What are you
doing?' he asked. 'Working up cases for Russell,' was
the answer. He went round the library, and found that
there were not less than six men ' working up cases for
Russell.' ' Why,' said he, ' the whole library seems to
be working for Russell.' ' Yes,' said the sixth man,
' there are six of us doing the work of one man, in order
that one man may do the work of six.' It has been said
that Russell 'devilled ' everything. He certainly reduced
LORD RUSSELL OF KILLOWEN [1870-72
'devilling' to an exact science. He had a wonderful
faculty for using the brains and knowledge of other men
a faculty which may be regarded as the very highest
acquisition of the advocate. You might know the facts,
you might possess a knowledge of the subject far in excess
of Russell, but he could turn those facts to account ; he
could make that knowledge valuable in a way altogether
unexpected and unique.
It was an intellectual treat to work with him. To
have one's mind drawn through Russell's was as bracing
and healthful an operation as any person might desire.
'To work with you,' I once said to him, 'is as good (or
as bad) as to go through a course of Austin's " Juris-
prudence." ' I like to be exact,' was the rejoinder. ' (So-
and-so),' he would say, 'has a perfect genius for inaccu-
racy. He is always in the air.' Inaccuracy and being
' in the air ' were the things which Russell hated most.
The things he loved best were accuracy, lucidity, brevity,
and keeping to the point. So long as you kept these four
things in mind you might agree or disagree with him,
you might be conciliatory or aggressive, but he listened
to you with attention, and treated your arguments and
views with respect. He was only intolerant of stupidity,
folly, verbosity, and affectation. Upon one occasion he
asked a pretentious coxcomb, ' Have you ever read
" The Newcomes " ? ' ' Yes,' drawled the coxcomb.
' Well,' said Russell, ' you are very like Barnes New-
A man who had a ' grievance ' the result, in no small
degree, of his own folly plagued Russell with his story,
as they walked together from Charing Cross to Oxford
Circus. ' Now, Russell,' said the man, when they got to the
JEr. 38-40] LEADERS ON CIRCUIT
Circus, ' I have told you my whole story, and I would
like to know what you think ! ' 'I think you are a great
fool,' said Russell as he turned off to Harley Street.
Russell never assumed knowledge ; on the contrary,
he assumed ignorance. In consultation he sought infor-
mation from every one, asked questions of every one,
argued with every one, tested every one, and, it must be
added, put every one on his mettle. ' Russell,' says a
solicitor, ' was not an over-confident man ; quite the
reverse. He was anxious to consult with every one
of intelligence ; to get help and advice all round. But
then, when he had made up his mind finally, he had the
faculty of impressing you with the conviction that he had
immense confidence in himself and in his case.'
' The difference,' says a distinguished lawyer, ' between
Russell and ' (naming another Q.C.) 'was this.
In consultation Russell appeared to know nothing,
and listened eagerly to everything you had to say.
appeared to know everything, and brushed your
suggestions aside contemptuously. When Russell came
into Court, he knew everything. When came into
Court, he knew nothing.'
When Russell had, so to say, pulled out of the ' ruck,'
the leaders on the Northern Circuit were Edward James
(Attorney-General for the County Palatine), Brett,
Milward, Mellish, Quain, Manisty, Butt, Aspinall,
Temple ; the leading juniors being Holker, R. G.
Williams, Russell, Compton, Gully, Herschell, Pope.
In 1872, James, Brett, Mellish, Quain, Manisty, had
left the Circuit, 1 and the leaders now were Holker,
Russell, Herschell, Benjamin, Pope, Aspinall, Butt,
1 Brett, Mellish, and Quain had become judges.
LORD RUSSELL OF KILLOWEN [1872
Temple, and Joseph Kay. Gully, though standing well
to the front, had not yet taken silk, and among the coming
men was Richard Henn Collins. Holker a man of rare
powers was Russell's most formidable antagonist.
Indeed, it has been said that he was the ' greater advo-
cate,' though Russell was the ' greater man.' I have
heard them compared : Holker massive, immovable,
impenetrable to a ' rock,' Russell eager, hot, im-
petuous to the 'sea' fiercely dashing against it. In the
end the ' rock ' was worn slowly away, and the ' sea' over-
flowed everywhere. Russell became par excellence the
leader of the Circuit. Next to Holker, Russell himself
regarded Herschell and Pope as the ablest men on the
Circuit. He once said tome, ' My chief contemporaries
on circuit were Pope, Herschell, Holker. Holker was a
formidable opponent, so was Herschell ; Pope was a very
able man, but not a lawyer in the same sense as Herschell
and myself. I do not think Pope was suited for Nisi
Prius business. He was better suited for Parliamentary
business. He was certainly suited for politics. Had
he gone in for politics, he would have been a greater suc-
cess in the House of Commons than either Herschell
or myself: had Herschell and I been different men, the
work on the Northern Circuit would not have gone so
smoothly or so quickly as it did. We were both quick ;
we lost no time in coming to the point, and we kept to it.
We understood and trusted each other.'
' When,' it has been said, ' Disraeli described " the
legal mind as chiefly displaying itself in illustrating the
obvious, explaining the evident, and expatiating on the
commonplace," he dealt it a shrewd knock under which
it still staggers ; and it was no part of his duty to point
JET. 40] AN 'ELEMENTAL FORCE'
out how disastrous it would be if great advocates and
strong judges were to conduct the legal business of the
country without regard to the obvious, the evident and the
commonplace, which, however boring they may be in
private life or in the House of Commons, are the sheet
anchors of liberty and justice in courts of law, and cannot
be illustrated, explained, or even expatiated upon too
Russell was well content to confine himself to the
obvious and the evident. His was not a subtle mind,
nor was it stored with the fruit of great reading. His
genius, however, saved him from expatiating at too great
length upon the commonplace. He made his points
with clearness and drove them home with force, but he
knew when his task was done. A great orator he was
not, and except on occasions he was hardly an eloquent
speaker. In the early days of his career words did
not come to him at will ; and he had to take great pains
to attain the measure of fluency he possessed. When
all this has been said, the fact remains that without these
natural endowments Russell accomplished the end they
are supposed to serve. In truth he was more than a
great orator ; he was a great personality.
His roughness of demeanour and dominating manner
did not make enemies. Bowen well described him as an
' elemental force,' and elemental forces are occasionally
very disagreeable. The judges who found him difficult
to manage, opposing counsel who resented his manner,
were none the less glad to have him in the case. It made
it interesting and important. Russell was one of those
men whose coming in and going out of a room made a
difference. The moment he came into Court, the jury at
LORD RUSSELL OF KILLOWEN [1872
all events pretended to take an interest and even notes ;
and yet Russell was delightfully free from a self-conscious
swagger. He was not in the least degree an egoist.
Prosperity did him good ; and it is a good man who is
softened and mellowed by good fortune. As a rule very
prosperous people are best avoided ; their prosperity is
likely to have knocked the humanity out of their hearts.
But Russell grew gentler and more considerate of others
the longer he lived.
Though not a great orator, he had all the instincts
of the advocate. He knew the points to seize, he
watched every turn of the jury, he could see at a glance
what was telling with them ; nothing escaped him, every
accident, everything that arose in the progress of the
case, he knew how to use to the best advantage. This
is the fleur of the advocate. In ordinary cases, the
junior concentrates his whole attention on the leader at
the other side ; that is the man you have got to watch.
But Russell's junior had to concentrate his attention on
his own leader. You could not think of anything nor
of any one else. You watched him with interest and
alarm ; never knew what he might do next or what he
might want. In ordinary cases, the defence or attack,
as the case may be, is planned out in consultation. In
Court, you follow the lines there laid down. But
Russell would, in the presence of the enemy, and in the
twinkling of an eye, change the whole line of battle, and
if you did not wheel round as rapidly as he
One day a junior was taking a note in the orthodox
fashion, and this note-taking sometimes degenerates into
a mere mechanical operation. Russell was taking no
note, but he was thoroughly on the alert, glancing about
JEr. 40] A MAN OF ACTION
the Court, sometimes at the judge, sometimes at the
jury, sometimes at the witness or the counsel on the
other side. Suddenly he turned to the junior and said,
'What are you doing?' 'Taking a note/ was the
answer. ' What the devil do you mean by saying you
are taking a note ? Why don't you watch the case ?' he
burst out. He had been ' watching ' the case. Some-
thing had happened to make a change of front neces-
sary, and he wheeled his colleagues round almost before
they had time to grasp the new situation. Russell would
have made a great general. Indeed, some one said it
was a pity he ever went to the Bar ; that he was meant
to be a man of action.
He was no respecter of persons. He feared no one.
His blows fell indiscriminately on leaders and juniors,
and even, when the occasion warranted it, on judges.
The young men liked him : in fact they were proud of
him. There was a bigness about the man that all
appreciated. He sometimes gave offence without in-
tending it, and when the fact was pointed out to him he
could make the amende in a very generous way. He
would make it to barrister or judge as the case might be,
and always in a style that gave satisfaction. He was
always big : that was his great characteristic.
' What the devil do you mean by saying you are taking
a note ? Why don't you watch the case ? ' I told this story
to a barrister who knew Russell. He said, ' How like
Russell ! It was just the same in playing cards with him.
He used sometimes to insist on my playing whist, and,
worse still, on my being his partner. I knew very little
about whist. Whenever a card was played I used to look
at my hand to see what I had got. Russell would get
LORD RUSSELL OF KILLOWEN [1872
very impatient at this. He would rap the table and say,
"Why are you looking at your cards; why don't you
watch the game ? The game is on the table." He did
not want to look at his cards. He had examined them
carefully beforehand ; they were all at the back of his
head. He was only interested in finding out what the
others had, and " watched the game " for that purpose.
So it was in law. The game was on the table there too.
He knew all that could be known about his case before
he came into Court. In Court he watched the other
side, and "played" on the instant without "looking at
his hand" '
An illustration may be given of the quickness with
which he would seize a point which told in his favour.
There was an action brought by the relatives of ,
who had given a large fortune to members of one of the
orders of Plymouth Brethren, to recover what remained
of that fortune. Russell read, in his opening speech, a
letter which had been written by one of the defendants,
beginning in these terms :
' We have decided that we cannot maintain a position
antagonistic to the relatives of our late dear friend and live
upon Christian (Matthew v.) as well as other grounds.
Under these circumstances we write to say that we are
prepared to give you any satisfaction in our power,' &c.
Then Russell quoted as the verse from the 5th chapter
of St. Matthew, verse 25 : ' Agree with thine adversary
quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him ; lest at any
time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge
deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.'
Whereupon the opposing counsel pointed out that no
individual verse was given in the letter, and Russell asked,
JEr. 40] CROSS-EXAMINATION
4 What do you say is the verse ? ' His adversary quoted
verse 40, 'If any man will sue thee at the law, and take
away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.' And Russell
rejoined, ' We do not want the gentleman's coat at all.
We want some one else's coat or cloak, which he has been
It has been said that Russell's success in cross-
examination, like his success in everything, was due to
force of character. Others were as skilful, some had
more finish, but none possessed the striking personality
of the late Chief. Some great advocates trip up wit-
nesses, lead them into traps, circumvent them. In
Russell's case, to skill and adroitness were added strength
of will, and the overwhelming influence of an irresistible
individuality. ' Some men,' says a barrister who often
saw Russell in action, ' get in a bit of the nail, and there
they leave it hanging loosely about until the judge or
some one else pulls it out. But when Russell got in a
bit of the nail, he never stopped until he drove it home.
No man ever pulled that nail out again.'
Once I had a chat with Russell about cross-examina-
tion, and particularly about his method. I said that the
three greatest cross-examiners I had ever heard were Ser-
jeant Sullivan ' the little Serjeant,' as he was popularly
called of the Irish Bar (afterwards Master of the Rolls
in Ireland), Serjeant Armstrong the 'big Serjeant'
also of the Irish Bar, and himself. Of the three, I
added that the 'little Serjeant,' in dexterity and skill,
was perhaps the greatest. The methods of the two
Serjeants were different from his. Sullivan approached
the witness quite in a friendly way, seemed to be an im-
partial inquirer seeking information, looked surprised at
99 H 2
LORD RUSSELL OF KILLOWEN [1871
what the witness said, appeared even grateful for the ad-
ditional light thrown on the case. ' Ah, indeed ! ' ' Well,
as you have said so much, perhaps you can help us a
little further.' ' Well, really, my Lord, this is a very in-
telligent man.' So, playing the witness with caution and
skill, drawing him stealthily on, keeping him completely
in the dark about the real point of attack, the 'little
Serjeant ' waited until the man was in the meshes, and
then flew at him and shook him as a terrier would a rat.
The ' big Serjeant ' had more humour and more power,
but less dexterity and resource. His great weapon was
ridicule. He laughed at the witness, and made every-
body else laugh. The witness got confused and lost
his temper, and then Armstrong pounded him like a
champion of the ring. 1
I said to Russell, ' Your methods are altogether
different, you don't as a rule manoeuvre, you go straight at
the witness. I have heard it said that you don't even
much care whether the witness sees the point for which
you are making. You take him by the throat and drag
him there.' He said, ' In dealing with an English jury it
1 He once cross-examined an ' expert ' in handwriting, when the following
scene occurred :
Armstrong : ' What about the dog ? '
Witness (confused) : ' I do not understand.'
Armstrong (slowly and deliberately) : ' What about the dog ? '
Witness (yet more perplexed) : ' My Lord, I do not understand what the
The Judge : ' Neither do I.'
Armstrong (taking not the least notice of either witness or judge, but
repeating the question yet more slowly and deliberately) : ' What about
the dog ? '
Witness (losing all patience and bursting out angrily) : ' What dog ? '
The Serjeant : ' The dog that Chief Baron Pigott said he would not hang
on your evidence.'
Mr. 40] CROSS-EXAMINATION
is better to go straight to the point ; the less finesse the
better. It is different with an Irish jury. An Irish jury
enjoys the trial. They can follow every turn of the game.
They understand the points of skill ; the play between
an Irish witness and an Irish counsel is good fun, and
they like the fun, and they don't mind the loss of time.
They get as good value out of a trial as they would out
of the theatre. With an English jury it is different. They
are busy men and they want to get away quickly. The
great thing in dealing with an English jury is not to lose
time. Mere finesse they don't appreciate ; go straight at
the witness and at the point ; throw your cards on the table.
It is a simple method, and I think it is a good method.'
Talking with characteristic simplicity and modesty,
he did not seem to recognise that it was only a man
of great strength who could practise this method with
success, who could play the game with his ' cards on the
table.' It was a fine sight to see him rise to cross-
examine. His very appearance must have been a
shock to the witness the manly, defiant bearing, the
noble brow, the haughty look, the remorseless mouth,
those deep-set eyes, widely opened, and that searching
glance which pierced the very soul. ' Russell,' said a
member of the Northern Circuit, ' produced the same
effect on a witness that a cobra produces on a rabbit.' In
a certain case he appeared on the wrong side. Thirty-
two witnesses were called, thirty-one on the wrong side
and one on the right side. Not one of the thirty-one
was broken down in cross-examination ; but the one on
the right side was utterly annihilated. ' How is Russell
getting on ? ' a friend asked one of the judges of the
Parnell Commission, during the days of Pigott's cross-
LORD RUSSELL OF KILLOWEN [1872
examination. ' Master Charlie is bowling very straight/
was the answer. ' Master Charlie ' always bowled ' very
straight,' and the man at the wicket generally came quickly
to grief. I have myself seen him approach a witness with
great gentleness the gentleness of a lion reconnoitring
his prey. I have also seen him fly at a witness with the
fierceness of a tiger. But, gentle or fierce, he must have
always looked a very ugly object to the man who had
come into the box to lie.
As a speaker, as in everything, Russell was simple,
strenuous, direct, straightforward. His method may be
described in a sentence a clear statement driven home
with the hammer of Thor. ' Clearness, force, and earn-
estness,' he tells us himself, quoting Daniel Webster,
' are the qualities which produce conviction.' In address-
ing the jury, as in cross-examining the witnesses, it was
Russell's personality that really told.
' I once,' says a barrister, ' had an opportunity of
realising the effect which Russell must have always pro-
duced on juries. I came into Court just as he was about
to speak in some great case the particulars of which I
now forget. I got near the jury box, and had a good
view of him could see every expression, every gesture,
every glance. I then realised for the first time what a
splendid man he was, what an impressive personality. I
forget what he said. I could not tell you whether the
speech was good or bad. But I don't forget Russell ; he
appears before me now as vividly as when I saw him on
that day. He seemed to me to be quite irresistible, not
for anything he said, but for the whole appearance and
demeanour of the man.' This is a true description. Elo-
quent only on occasions ; as a rule, lacking literary form
40] < ADVOCATE OF THE CENTURY '
and rhetorical finish, deficient in humour, and devoid
of wit, he possessed few of the qualities with which one
generally associates the idea of oratory. And yet Charles
Russell, sitting quietly in Court, taking no note, looking
calmly around, and occasionally tapping the lid of the
ever-present snuff-box, dominated every person who
came within the sphere of his influence. ' To what do
you ascribe Russell's great success ? ' a friend said to Lord
Coleridge ; * he does not seem to me to possess more re-
markable qualities than other eminent men, to be a better
speaker, to have more intellectual power ; how does he
do it ? ' 'He imposes himself upon the jury and the
Court,' was the answer : and his Lordship added, ' He is
the biggest advocate of the century.' 'Ordinarily,' says
a shrewd observer, ' the judge dominates the jury, the
counsel the public he is the central figure of the
piece. But when Russell is there, the judge isn't in it
Russell dominates every one.'
' It is a pity,' said some one, ' that Russell is not a little
more tolerant of the judge.'
At an Assize dinner at Bristol in August, 1880,
Coleridge said loud enough for all to hear : ' Charles
Russell is far the ablest man not only of the party, but
the best man in Westminster Hall so good all round.'
'When you go,' Coleridge wrote to him in 1883, ' it
will take four men at least to replace you.'
It has been asserted that Russell was not a lawyer.
Perhaps all that can be said upon that point has been
said with characteristic discrimination by Lord Bowen :
' Russell may not know law, but no man can argue a law
point better.' ' Russell knew more law than he got
credit for,' says an eminent judge : ' he did not know
LORD RUSSELL OF KILLOWEN [1872
cases, he knew principles. His knowledge of principles
and his common sense were enough. The cases were
got up for him.' ' Some of us,' Lord Bo wen said to
myself, ' may know more law, some of us may have
what is called more culture, but Russell differs from us
all at the Bar or on the Bench in this he has genius.'
Russell was one of the most loyal as well as one of
the most courageous of colleagues. On one occasion
he determined to use certain letters in cross-examination.
His junior did not approve of this course. Russell was
obliged to leave the court before the witness was called.
He said to his junior, ' I must now go, but if is
called in my absence, you must put these letters to him
in cross-examination.' The junior said, ' Certainly, if you
wish it ; but I am sorry that you will not be here to deal
with the matter. It will raise a storm which you can
face better than I.' ' I am sorry, too,' said Russell, 'but
I must go ; I will, however, do my best to get back in
time ; but if I fail, you must put in the letters.' An hour
or so later the witness was called. The junior rose to
cross-examine. He had scarcely begun when he heard
a bustle at the end of the Court, and Russell appeared
shouldering his way through the crowd, and pulling on