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A BOOK ABOUT LAWYERS.

by

JOHN CORDY JEAFFRESON,

Barrister-at-Law
Author of
"A Book About Doctors,"
Etc., Etc.

Reprinted from the London Edition.

Two Volumes in One.







New York:
_Carleton, Publisher, Madison Square._
London: S. Low, Son & Co.,
M DCCC LXXV.

Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1807, by
G.W. Carleton & Co.,
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the
Southern District of New York.

John F. Trow & Son, Printers,
205-213 East 12th St., New York.




CONTENTS.


PART I. HOUSES AND HOUSEHOLDERS.

CHAPTER PAGE

I. LADIES IN LAW COLLEGES 7

II. THE LAST OF THE LADIES 13

III. YORK HOUSE AND POWIS HOUSE 22

IV. LINCOLN'S INN FIELDS 27

V. THE OLD LAW QUARTER 36


PART II. LOVES OF THE LAWYERS.

VI. A LOTTERY 49

VII. GOOD QUEEN BESS 55

VIII. REJECTED ADDRESSES 62

IX. "CICERO" UPON HIS TRIAL 71

X. BROTHERS IN TROUBLE 75

XI. EARLY MARRIAGES 86


PART III. MONEY.

XII. FEES TO COUNSEL 97

XIII. RETAINERS, GENERAL AND SPECIAL 113

XIV. JUDICIAL CORRUPTION 122

XV. GIFTS AND SALES 136

XVI. A ROD PICKLED BY WILLIAM COLE 143

XVII. CHIEF JUSTICE POPHAM 149

XVIII. JUDICIAL SALARIES 153


PART IV. COSTUME AND TOILET.

XIX. BRIGHT AND SAD 163

XX. MILLINERY 169

XXI. WIGS 171

XXII. BANDS AND COLLARS 182

XXIII. BAGS AND GOWNS 187

XXIV. HATS 195


PART V. MUSIC.

XXV. THE PIANO IN CHAMBERS 206

XXVI. THE BATTLE OF THE ORGANS 208

XXVII. THE THICKNESS IN THE THROAT 219


PART VI. AMATEUR THEATRICALS.

XXVIII. ACTORS AT THE BAR 224

XXIX. "THE PLAY'S THE THING" 230

XXX. THE RIVER AND THE STRAND BY TORCHLIGHT 238

XXXI. ANTI-PRYNNE 243

XXXII. AN EMPTY GRATE 251


PART VII. LEGAL EDUCATION

XXXIII. INNS OF COURT AND INNS OF CHANCERY 258

XXXIV. LAWYERS AND GENTLEMEN 265

XXXV. LAW-FRENCH AND LAW-LATIN 277

XXXVI. STUDENT LIFE IN OLD TIME 287

XXXVII. READERS AND MOOTMEN 298

XXXVIII. PUPILS IN CHAMBERS 307


PART VIII. MIRTH.

XXXIX. WIT OF LAWYERS 316

XL. HUMOROUS STORIES 334

XLI. WITS IN 'SILK' AND PUNSTERS IN 'ERMINE' 349

XLII. WITNESSES 365

XLIII. CIRCUITEERS 376

XLIV. LAWYERS AND SAINTS 390


PART IX. AT HOME: IN COURT: AND IN SOCIETY.

XLV. LAWYERS AT THEIR OWN TABLES 402

XLVI. WINE 413

XLVII. LAW AND LITERATURE 423




PART I.

HOUSES AND HOUSEHOLDERS.




CHAPTER I.

LADIES IN LAW COLLEGES.


A law-student of the present day finds it difficult to realize the
brightness and domestic decency which characterized the Inns of Court in
the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. Under existing
circumstances, women of character and social position avoid the gardens
and terraces of Gray's Inn and the Temple.

Attended by men, or protected by circumstances that guard them from
impertinence and scandal, gentlewomen can without discomfort pass and
repass the walls of our legal colleges; but in most cases a lady enters
them under conditions that announce even to casual passers the object of
her visit. In her carriage, during the later hours of the day, a
barrister's wife may drive down the Middle Temple Lane, or through the
gate of Lincoln's Inn, and wait in King's Bench Walk or New Square,
until her husband, putting aside clients and papers, joins her for the
homeward drive. But even thus placed, sitting in her carriage and
guarded by servants, she usually prefers to fence off inquisitive eyes
by a bonnet-veil, or the blinds of her carriage-windows. On Sunday, the
wives and daughters of gentle families brighten the dingy passages of
the Temple, and the sombre courts of Lincoln's Inn: for the musical
services of the grand church and little chapel, are amongst the
religious entertainments of the town. To those choral celebrations
ladies go, just as they are accustomed to enter any metropolitan church;
and after service they can take a turn in the gardens of either Society,
without drawing upon themselves unpleasant attention. So also,
unattended by men, ladies are permitted to inspect the floral
exhibitions with which Mr. Broome, the Temple gardener, annually
entertains London sightseers.

But, save on these and a few similar occasions and conditions,
gentlewomen avoid an Inn of Court as they would a barrack-yard, unless
they have secured the special attendance of at least one member of the
society. The escort of a barrister or student, alters the case. What
barrister, young or old, cannot recall mirthful eyes that, with quick
shyness, have turned away from his momentary notice, as in answer to the
rustling of silk, or stirred by sympathetic consciousness of women's
noiseless presence, he has raised his face from a volume of reports, and
seen two or three timorous girls peering through the golden haze of a
London morning, into the library of his Inn? What man, thus drawn away
for thirty seconds from prosaic toil, has not in that half minute
remembered the faces of happy rural homes, - has not recalled old days
when his young pulses beat cordial welcome to similar intruders upon the
stillness of the Bodleian, or the tranquil seclusion of Trinity library?
What occupant of dreary chambers in the Temple, reading this page,
cannot look back to a bright day, when young, beautiful, and pure as
sanctity, Lilian, or Kate, or Olive, entered his room radiant with
smiles, delicate in attire, and musical with gleesome gossip about
country neighbors, and the life of a joyous home?

Seldom does a Templar of the present generation receive so fair and
innocent a visitor. To him the presence of a gentlewoman in his court,
is an occasion for ingenious conjecture; encountered on his staircase
she is a cause of lively astonishment. His guests are men, more or less
addicted to tobacco; his business callers are solicitors and their
clerks; in his vestibule the masculine emissaries of tradesmen may
sometimes be found - head-waiters from neighboring taverns, pot-boys from
the 'Cock' and the 'Rainbow.' A printer's devil may from time to time
knock at his door. But of women - such women as he would care to mention
to his mother and sisters - he sees literally nothing in his dusty,
ill-ordered, but not comfortless rooms. He has a laundress, one of a
class on whom contemporary satire has been rather too severe.

Feminine life of another sort lurks in the hidden places of the law
colleges, shunning the gaze of strangers by daylight; and even when it
creeps about under cover of night, trembling with a sense of its own
incurable shame. But of this sad life, the bare thought of which sends a
shivering through the frame of every man whom God has blessed with a
peaceful home and wholesome associations, nothing shall be said in this
page.

In past time the life of law-colleges was very different in this
respect. When they ceased to be ecclesiastics, and fixed themselves in
the hospices which soon after the reception of the gowned tenants, were
styled Inns of Courts; our lawyers took unto themselves wives, who were
both fair and discreet. And having so made women flesh of their flesh
and bone of their bone, they brought them to homes within the immediate
vicinity of their collegiate walls, and sometimes within the walls
themselves. Those who would appreciate the life of the Inns in past
centuries, and indeed in times within the memory of living men, should
bear this in mind. When he was not on circuit, many a counsellor learned
in the law, found the pleasures not less than the business of his
existence within the bounds of his 'honorable society.' In the fullest
sense of the words, he took his ease in his Inn; besides being his
workshop, where clients flocked to him for advice, it was his club, his
place of pastime, and the shrine of his domestic affections. In this
generation a successful Chancery barrister, or Equity draftsman, looks
upon Lincoln's Inn merely as a place of business, where at a prodigious
rent he holds a set of rooms in which he labors over cases, and
satisfies the demands of clients and pupils. A century or two centuries
since the case was often widely different. The rising barrister brought
his bride in triumph to his 'chambers,' and in them she received the
friends who hurried to congratulate her on her new honors. In those
rooms she dispensed graceful hospitality, and watched her husband's
toils. The elder of her children first saw the light in those narrow
quarters; and frequently the lawyer, over his papers, was disturbed by
the uproar of his heir in an adjoining room.

Young wives, the mistresses of roomy houses in the western quarters of
town, shudder as they imagine the discomforts which these young wives of
other days must have endured. "What! live in chambers?" they exclaim
with astonishment and horror, recalling the smallness and cheerless
aspect of their husbands' business chambers. But past usages must not be
hastily condemned, - allowance must be made for the fact that our
ancestors set no very high price on the luxuries of elbow-room and
breathing-room. Families in opulent circumstances were wont to dwell
happily, and receive whole regiments of jovial visitors in little houses
nigh the Strand and Fleet Street, Ludgate Hill and Cheapside; - houses
hidden in narrow passages and sombre courts - houses, compared with
which the lowliest residences in a "genteel suburb" of our own time
would appear capacious mansions. Moreover, it must be borne in mind that
the married barrister, living a century since with his wife in
chambers - either within or hard-by an Inn or Court - was, at a
comparatively low rent, the occupant of far more ample quarters than
those for which a working barrister now-a-days pays a preposterous sum.
Such a man was tenant of a 'set of rooms' (several rooms, although
called 'a chamber') which, under the present system, accommodates a
small colony of industrious 'juniors' with one office and a clerk's room
attached. Married ladies, who have lived in Paris or Vienna, in the 'old
town' of Edinburgh, or Victoria Street, Westminster, need no assurance
that life 'on a flat' is not an altogether deplorable state of
existence. The young couple in chambers had six rooms at their
disposal, - a chamber for business, a parlor, not unfrequently a
drawing-room, and a trim, compact little kitchen. Sometimes they had two
'sets of rooms,' one above another; in which case the young wife could
have her bridesmaids to stay with her, or could offer a bed to a friend
from the country. Occasionally during the last fifty years of the last
century, they were so fortunate as to get possession of a small detached
house, originally built by a nervous bencher, who disliked the sound of
footsteps on the stairs outside his door. Time was when the Inns
comprised numerous detached houses, some of them snug dwellings, and
others imposing mansions, wherein great dignitaries lived with proper
ostentation. Most of them have bean pulled down, and their sites covered
with collegiate 'buildings;' but a few of them still remain, the grand
piles having long since been partitioned off into chambers, and the
little houses striking the eye as quaint, misplaced, insignificant
blocks of human habitation. Under the trees of Gray's Inn gardens may
be seen two modest tenements, each of them comprising some six or eight
rooms and a vestibule. At the present time they are occupied as offices
by legal practitioners, and many a day has passed since womanly taste
decorated their windows with flowers and muslin curtains; but a certain
venerable gentleman, to whom the writer of this page is indebted for
much information about the lawyers of the last century, can remember
when each of those cottages was inhabited by a barrister, his young
wife, and three or four lovely children. Into some such a house near
Lincoln's Inn, a young lawyer who was destined to hold the seals for
many years, and be also the father of a Lord Chancellor, married in the
year of our Lord, 1718. His name was Philip Yorke: and though he was of
humble birth, he had made such a figure in his profession that great
men's doors, were open to him. He was asked to dinner by learned judges,
and invited to balls by their ladies. In Chancery Lane, at the house of
Sir Joseph Jekyll, Master of the Rolls, he met Mrs. Lygon, a beauteous
and wealthy widow, whose father was a country squire, and whose mother
was the sister of the great Lord Somers. In fact, she was a lady of such
birth, position, and jointure, that the young lawyer - rising man though
he was - seemed a poor match for her. The lady's family thought so; and
if Sir Joseph Jekyll had not cordially supported the suitor with a
letter of recommendation, her father would have rejected him as a man
too humble in rank and fortune. Having won the lady and married her, Mr.
Philip Yorke brought her home to a 'very small house' near Lincoln's
Inn; and in that lowly dwelling, the ground-floor of which was the
barrister's office, they spent the first years of their wedded life.
What would be said of the rising barrister who, now-a-days, on his
marriage with a rich squire's rich daughter and a peer's niece, should
propose to set up his household gods in a tiny crip just outside
Lincoln's Inn gate, and to use the parlor of the 'very small house' for
professional purposes? Far from being guilty of unseemly parsimony in
this arrangement, Philip Yorke paid proper consideration to his wife's
social advantages, in taking her to a separate house. His contemporaries
amongst the junior bar would have felt no astonishment if he had fitted
up a set of chambers for his wealthy and well-descended bride. Not
merely in his day, but for long years afterward, lawyers of gentle birth
and comfortable means, who married women scarcely if at all inferior to
Mrs. Yorke in social condition, lived upon the flats of Lincoln's Inn
and the Temple.




CHAPTER II.

THE LAST OF THE LADIES.


Whatever its drawbacks, the system which encouraged the young barrister
to marry on a modest income, and make his wife 'happy in chambers,' must
have had special advantages. In their Inn the husband was near every
source of diversion for which he greatly cared, and the wife was
surrounded by the friends of either sex in whose society she took most
pleasure - friends who, like herself, 'lived in the Inn,' or in one of
the immediately adjacent streets. In 'hall' he dined and drank wine with
his professional compeers and the wits of the bar: the 'library'
supplied him not only with law books, but with poems and dramas, with
merry trifles written for the stage, and satires fresh from the Row;
'the chapel' - or if he were a Templer, 'the church' - was his habitual
place of worship, where there were sittings for his wife and children
as well as for himself; on the walks and under the shady trees of 'the
garden' he sauntered with his own, or, better still, a friend's wife,
criticising the passers, describing the new comedy, or talking over the
last ball given by a judge's lady. At times those gardens were pervaded
by the calm of collegiate seclusion, but on 'open days' they were brisk
with life. The women and children of the legal colony walked in them
daily; the ladies attired in their newest fashions, and the children
running with musical riot over lawns and paths. Nor were the grounds
mere places of resort for lawyers and their families. Taking rank
amongst the pleasant places of the metropolis, they attracted, on 'open
days,' crowds from every quarter of the town - ladies and gallants from
Soho Square and St. James's Street, from Whitehall and Westminster;
sightseers from the country and gorgeous alderwomic dowagers from
Cheapside. From the days of Elizabeth till the middle, indeed till the
close, of the eighteenth century the ornamental grounds of the four
great Inns were places of fashionable promenade, where the rank and
talent and beauty of the town assembled for display and exercise, even
as in our own time they assemble (less universally) in Hyde Park and
Kensington Gardens.

When ladies and children had withdrawn, the quietude of the gardens
lured from their chambers scholars and poets, who under murmuring
branches pondered the results of past study, or planned new works. Ben
Jonson was accustomed to saunter beneath the elms of Lincoln's Inn; and
Steele - alike on 'open' and 'close' days - used to frequent the gardens
of the same society. "I went," he writes in May, 1809, "into Lincoln's
Inn Walks, and having taking a round or two, I sat down, according to
the allowed familiarity of these places, on a bench." In the following
November he alludes to the privilege that he enjoyed of walking there
as "a favor that is indulged me by several of the benchers, who are very
intimate friends, and grown in the neighborhood."

But though on certain days, and under fixed regulations, the outside
public were admitted to the college gardens, the assemblages were always
pervaded by the tone and humor of the law. The courtiers and grand
ladies from 'the west' felt themselves the guests of the lawyers; and
the humbler folk, who by special grant had acquired the privilege of
entry, or whose decent attire and aspect satisfied the janitors of their
respectability, moved about with watchfulness and gravity, surveying the
counsellors and their ladies with admiring eyes, and extolling the
benchers whose benevolence permitted simple tradespeople to take the air
side by side with 'the quality.' In 1736, James Ralph, in his 'New
Critical Review of the Publick Buildings,' wrote about the square and
gardens of Lincoln's Inn in a manner which testifies to the respectful
gratitude of the public for the liberality which permitted all outwardly
decent persons to walk in the grounds. "I may safely add," he says,
"that no area anywhere is kept in better order, either for cleanliness
and beauty by day, or illumination by night; the fountain in the middle
is a very pretty decoration, and if it was still kept playing, as it was
some years ago, 'twould preserve its name with more propriety." In his
remarks on the chapel the guide observes, "The raising this chapel on
pillars affords a pleasing, melancholy walk underneath, and by night,
particularly, when illuminated by the lamps, it has an effect that may
be felt, but not described." Of the gardens Mr. Ralph could not speak in
high praise, for they were ill-arranged and not so carefully kept as the
square; but he observes, "they are convenient; and considering their
situation cannot be esteemed to much. There is something hospitable in
laying them open to public use; and while we share in their pleasures,
we have no title to arraign their taste."

The chief attraction of Lincoln's Inn gardens, apart from its beautiful
trees, was for many years the terrace overlooking 'the Fields,' which
was made _temp._ Car. II. at the cost of nearly £1000. Dugdale, speaking
of the recent improvements of the Inn, says, "And the last was the
enlargement of their garden, beautifying with a large tarras walk on the
west side thereof, and raising the wall higher towards Lincoln's Inne
Fields, which was done in An. 1663 (15 Car. II.), the charge thereof
amounting to a little less than a thousand pounds, by reason that the
levelling of most part of the ground, and raising the tarras, required
such great labor." A portion of this terrace, and some of the old trees,
were destroyed to make room for the new dining-hall.

The old system supplied the barrister with other sources of recreation.
Within a stone's throw of his residence was the hotel where his club had
its weekly meeting. Either in hall, or with his family, or at a tavern
near 'the courts,' it was his use, until a comparatively recent date, to
dine in the middle of the day, and work again after the meal. Courts sat
after dinner as well as before; and it was observable that counsellors
spoke far better when they were full of wine and venison than when they
stated the case in the earlier part of the day. But in the evening the
system told especially in the barrister's favor. All his many friends
lying within a small circle, he had an abundance of congenial society.
Brother-circuiteers came to his wife's drawing-room for tea and chat,
coffee and cards. There was a substantial supper at half-past eight or
nine for such guests (supper cooked in my lady's little kitchen, or
supplied by the 'Society's cook'); and the smoking dishes were
accompanied by foaming tankards of ale or porter, and followed by
superb and richly aromatic bowls of punch. On occasions when the learned
man worked hard and shut out visitors by sporting his oak, he enjoyed
privacy as unbroken and complete as that of any library in Kensington or
Tyburnia. If friends stayed away, and he wished for diversion, he could
run into the chambers of old college-chums, or with his wife's gracious
permission could spend an hour at Chatelin's or Nando's, or any other
coffeehouse in vogue with members of his profession. During festive
seasons, when the judges' and leaders' ladies gave their grand balls,
the young couple needed no carriage for visiting purposes. From Gray's
Inn to the Temple they walked - if the weather was fine. When it rained
they hailed a hackney-coach, or my lady was popped into a sedan and
carried by running bearers to the frolic of the hour.

Of course the notes of the preceding paragraphs of this chapter are but
suggestions as to the mode in which the artistic reader must call up the
life of the old lawyers. Encouraging him to realize the manners and
usages of several centuries, not of a single generation, they do not
attempt to entertain the student with details. It is needless to say
that the young couple did not use hackney-coaches in times prior to the
introduction of those serviceable vehicles, and that until sedans were
invented my lady never used them.

It is possible, indeed it is certain, that married ladies living in
chambers occasionally had for neighbors on the same staircase women whom
they regarded with abhorrence. Sometimes it happened that a dissolute
barrister introduced to his rooms a woman more beautiful than virtuous,
whom he had not married, though he called her his wife. People can no
more choose their neighbors in a house broken up into sets of chambers,
than they can choose them in the street. But the cases where ladies
were daily liable to meet an offensive neighbor on their common
staircase were comparatively rare; and when the annoyance actually
occurred, the discipline of the Inn afforded a remedy.

Uncleanness too often lurked within the camp, but it veiled its face;
and though in rare cases the error and sin of a powerful lawyer may have
been notorious, the preccant man was careful to surround himself with
such an appearance of respectability that society should easily feign
ignorance of his offence. An Elizabethan distich - familiar to all
barristers, but too rudely worded for insertion in this page - informs us
that in the sixteenth century Gray's Inn had an unenviable notoriety
amongst legal hospices for the shamelessness of its female inmates. But
the pungent lines must be regarded as a satire aimed at certain
exceptional members, rather than as a vivacious picture of the general



Online LibraryJohn Cordy JeaffresonA book about lawyers → online text (page 1 of 33)