John Cordy Jeaffreson.

A book about lawyers online

. (page 14 of 33)
Online LibraryJohn Cordy JeaffresonA book about lawyers → online text (page 14 of 33)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Judges were by no means unanimous with regard to the adoption of wigs,
some of them obstinately refusing to disfigure themselves with false
tresses, and others displaying a foppish delight in the new decoration.
Sir Matthew Hale, who died in 1676, to the last steadily refused to
decorate himself with artificial locks. The likeness of the Chief
Justice that forms the frontispiece to Burnet's memoir of the lawyer,
represents him in his judicial robes, wearing his SS collar, and having
on his head a cap - not the coif-cap, but one of the close-fitting
skull-caps worn by judges in the seventeenth century. Such skull-caps,
it has been observed in a prior page of this work, were worn by
barristers under their wigs, and country gentlemen at home, during the
last century. Into such caps readers have seen Sir Francis North put his
fees. The portrait of Sir Cresswell Levinz (who returned to the bar on
dismissal from the bench in 1686) shows that he wore a full-bottomed wig
whilst he was a judge; whereas Sir Thomas Street, who remained a judge
till the close of James II.'s reign, wore his own hair and a coif-cap.

When Shaftesbury sat in court as Lord High Chancellor of England he wore
a hat, which Roger North is charitable enough to think might have been a
black hat. "His lordship," says the 'Examen,' "regarded censure so
little, that he did not concern himself to use a decent habit as became
a judge of his station; for he sat upon the bench in an ash-colored gown
silver-laced, and full-ribboned pantaloons displayed, without any black
at all in his garb, unless it were his hat, which, now, I cannot
positively say, though I saw him, was so."

Even so late as Queen Anne's reign, which witnessed the introduction of
three-cornered hats, a Lord Keeper wore his own hair in court instead
of a wig, until he received the sovereign's order to adopt the venerable
disguise of a full-bottomed wig. Lady Sarah Cowper recorded of her
father, 1705: - "The queen after this was persuaded to trust a Whigg
ministry, and in the year 1705, Octr., she made my father Ld. Keeper of
the Great Seal, in the 41st year of his age - 'tis said the youngest Lord
Keeper that ever had been. He looked very young, and wearing his own
hair made him appear yet more so, which the queen observing, obliged him
to cut it off, telling him the world would say she had given the seals
to a boy."

The young Lord Keeper of course obeyed; and when he appeared for the
first time at court in a wig, his aspect was so grave and reverend that
the queen had to look at him twice before she recognized him. More than
half a century later, George II. experienced a similar difficulty, when
Lord Hardwicke, after the close of his long period of official service,
showed himself at court in a plain suit of black velvet, with a bag and
sword. Familiar with the appearance of the Chancellor dressed in
full-bottomed wig and robes, the king failed to detect his old friend
and servant in the elderly gentleman who, in the garb of a private
person of quality, advanced and rendered due obeisance. "Sir, it is Lord
Hardwicke," whispered a lord in waiting who stood near His Majesty's
person, and saw the cause of the cold reception given to the
ex-Chancellor. But unfortunately the king was not more familiar with the
ex-Chancellor's title than his appearance, and in a disastrous endeavor
to be affable inquired, with an affectation of interest, "How long has
your lordship been in town?" The peer's surprise and chagrin were great
until the monarch, having received further instruction from the courtly
prompter at his elbow, frankly apologized in bad English and with noisy
laughter. "Had Lord Hardwicke," says Campbell, "worn such a uniform as
that invented by George IV. for ex-Chancellors (very much like a Field
Marshal's), he could not have been mistaken for a common man."

The judges who at the first introduction of wigs refused to adopt them
were prone to express their dissatisfaction with those coxcombical
contrivances when exhibited upon the heads of counsel; and for some
years prudent juniors, anxious to win the favorable opinion of anti-wig
justices, declined to obey the growing fashion. Chief Justice Hale, a
notable sloven, conspicuous amongst common law judges for the meanness
of his attire, just as Shaftesbury was conspicuous in the Court of
Chancery for foppishness, cherished lively animosity for two sorts of
legal practitioners - attorneys who wore swords, and young Templars who
adorned themselves with periwigs. Bishop Burnet says of Hale: "He was a
great encourager of all young persons that he saw followed their books
diligently, to whom he used to give directions concerning the method of
their study, with a humanity and sweetness that wrought much on all that
came near him; and in a smiling, pleasant way he would admonish them, if
he saw anything amiss in them; particularly if they went too fine in
their clothes, he would tell them it did not become their profession. He
was not pleased to see students wear long periwigs, or attorneys go with
swords, so that such men as would not be persuaded to part with those
vanities, when they went to him laid them aside and went as plain as
they could, to avoid the reproof which they knew they might otherwise
expect." In England, however, barristers almost universally wore wigs at
the close of the seventeenth century; but north of the Tweed advocates
wore cocked hats and powdered hair so late as the middle of the
eighteenth century. When Alexander Wedderburn joined the Scotch bar in
1754, wigs had not come into vogue with the members of his profession.

Many are the good stories told of judicial wigs, and amongst the best of
them, is the anecdote which that malicious talker Samuel Rogers
delighted to tell at Edward Law's expense. "Lord Ellenborough," says the
'Table-Talk,' "was once about to go on circuit, when Lady Ellenborough
said that she should like to accompany him. He replied that he had no
objection provided she did not encumber the carriage with bandboxes,
which were his utter abhorrence. During the first day's journey Lord
Ellenborough, happening to stretch his legs, struck his foot against
something below the seat; he discovered that it was a bandbox. Up went
the window, and out went the bandbox. The coachman stopped, and the
footman, thinking that the bandbox had tumbled out of the window by some
extraordinary chance, was going to pick it up, when Lord Ellenborough
furiously called out, 'Drive on!' The bandbox, accordingly, was left by
the ditch-side. Having reached the county town where he was to officiate
as judge, Lord Ellenborough proceeded to array himself for his
appearance in the court-house. 'Now,' said he, 'where's my wig? - where
_is_ my wig?' 'My lord,' replied his attendant, 'it was thrown out of
the carriage window!'"

Changing together with fashion, barristers ceased to wear their wigs in
society as soon as the gallants and bucks of the West End began to
appear with their natural tresses in theatres and ball rooms; but the
conservative genius of the law has hitherto triumphed over the attempts
of eminent advocates to throw the wig out of Westminster Hall. When Lord
Campbell argued the great Privilege case, he obtained permission to
appear without a wig; but this concession to a counsel - who, on that
occasion, spoke for sixteen hours - was accompanied with an intimation
that "it was not to be drawn into precedent."

Less wise or less fortunate than the bar, the judges of England wore
their wigs in society after advocates of all ranks and degrees had
agreed to lay aside the professional head-gear during hours of
relaxation. Lady Eldon's good taste and care for her husband's comfort,
induced Lord Eldon, soon after his elevation to the pillow of the Common
Pleas, to beg the king's permission that he might put off his judicial
wig on leaving the courts, in which as Chief Justice he would be
required to preside. The petition did not meet with a favorable
reception. For a minute George III. hesitated; whereupon Eldon supported
his prayer by observing, with the fervor of an old-fashioned Tory, that
the lawyer's wig was a detestable innovation - unknown in the days of
James I. and Charles the Martyr, the judges of which two monarchs would
have rejected as an insult any proposal that they should assume a
head-dress fit only for madmen at masquerades or mummers at country
wakes. "What! what!" cried the king, sharply; and then, smiling
mischievously, as he suddenly saw a good answer to the plausible
argument, he added - "True, my lord, Charles the First's judges wore no
wigs, but they wore beards. You may do the same, if you like. You may
please yourself about wearing or not wearing your wig; but mind, if you
please yourself by imitating the old judges, as to the head - you must
please me by imitating them as to the chin. You may lay aside your wig;
but if you do - you must wear a beard." Had he lived in these days, when
barristers occasionally wear beards in court, and judges are not less
conspicuous than the junior bar for magnitude of nose and whisker, Eldon
would have accepted the condition. But the last year of the last
century, was the very centre and core of that time which may be called
the period of close shavers; and John Scott, the decorous and
respectable, would have endured martyrdom rather than have grown a
beard, or have allowed his whiskers to exceed the limits of mutton-chop

As Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, and subsequently as Chancellor,
Eldon wore his wig whenever he appeared in general society; but in the
privacy of his own house he gratified Lady Eldon by laying aside the
official head-gear. That this was his usage, the gossips of the
law-courts knew well; and at Carlton House, when the Prince of Wales was
most indignant with the Chancellor, who subsequently became his familiar
friend, courtiers were wont to soothe the royal rage with diverting
anecdotes of the attention which the odious lawyer lavished on the
natural hair that gave his Bessie so much delight. On one occasion, when
Eldon was firmly supporting the cause of the Princess of Wales, 'the
first gentleman of Europe' forgot common decency so far, that he made a
jeering allusion to this instance of the Chancellor's domestic
amiability. "I am not the sort of person," growled the prince with an
outbreak of peevishness, "to let my hair grow under my wig to please my
wife." With becoming dignity Eldon answered - "Your Royal Highness
condescends to be personal. I beg leave to withdraw;" and suiting his
action to his words, the Chancellor made a low bow to the angry prince,
and retired. The prince sneaked out of the position by an untruth,
instead of an apology. On the following day he caused a written
assurance to be conveyed to the Chancellor, that the offensive speech
"was nothing personal, but simply a proverb - a proverbial way of saying
a man was governed by his wife." It is needless to say that the
expression was not proverbial, but distinctly and grossly personal. Lord
Malmesbury's comment on this affair is "Very absurd of Lord Eldon; but
explained by his having literally done what the prince said." Lord
Eldon's conduct absurd! What was the prince's?



Bands came into fashion with Englishmen many years before wigs, but like
wigs they were worn in general society before they became a recognized
and distinctive feature of professional costume. Ladies of rank dyed
their hair, and wore false tresses in Elizabethan England; but their
example was not extensively followed by the men of their time - although
the courtiers of the period sometimes donned 'periwinkes,' to the
extreme disgust of the multitude, and the less stormy disapprobation of
the polite. The frequency with which bands are mentioned in Elizabethan
literature, affords conclusive evidence that they were much worn toward
the close of the sixteenth century; and it is also matter of certainty
that they were known in England at a still earlier period. Henry VIII.
had "4 shirte bands of silver with ruffes to the same, whereof one was
perled with golde;" and in 1638 Peacham observed, "King Henry VIII. was
the first that ever wore a band about his neck, and that very plain,
without lace, and about an inch or two in depth. We may see how the case
is altered, he is not a gentleman, or in the fashion, whose band of
Italian cutwork standeth him not at the least in three or four pounds;
yea, a sempster in Holborn told me there are of threescore pound price
apiece." That the fops of Charles I.'s reign were spending money on a
fashion originally set by King Henry the Bluff, was the opinion also of
Taylor the Water Poet, who in 1630 wrote -

"Now up alofte I mount unto the ruffe,
Which into foolish mortals pride doth puffe;
Yet ruffes' antiquity is here but small -
Within this eighty years not one at all;
For the Eighth Henry (so I understand)
Was the first king that ever wore a _band_;
And but a _falling-band_, plaine with a hem;
All other people knew no use of them.
Yet imitation in small time began
To grow, that it the kingdom overran;
The little falling-bands encreased to ruffes,
Ruffes (growing great) were waited on by cuffes,
And though our frailties should awake our care,
We make our ruffes as careless as we are."

In regarding the falling-band as the germ of the ruff, the Water-Poet
differs from those writers who, with greater appearance of reason,
maintain that the ruff was the parent of the band. Into this question
concerning origin of species, there is no occasion to enter on the
present occasion. It is enough to state that in the earlier part of the
seventeenth century bands or collars - bands stiffened and standing at
the backward part, and bands falling upon the shoulder and breast - were
articles of costume upon which men of expensive and modish habits spent
large sums.

In the days of James I., when standing bands were still the fashion, and
falling-bands had not come in, the Inns of Court men were very
particular about the stiffness, cut, and texture of their collars.
Speaking of the Inns of Court men, Sir Thomas Overbury, (who was
poisoned in 1613), says: "He laughs at every man whose band sits not
well, or that hath not a fair shoe-type, and is ashamed to be in any
man's company who wears not his cloathes well."

If portraits may be trusted, the falling-band of Charles I.'s time, bore
considerable resemblance to the falling neck-frill, which twenty years
since was very generally worn by quite little boys, and is still sometimes
seen on urchins who are about six years of age. The bands worn by the
barristers and clergy of our own time are modifications of this antique
falling-band, and like the coif cap of the modern sergeant, they bear
only a faint likeness to their originals. But though bands - longer than
those still worn by clergymen - have come to be a distinctive feature of
legal costume, the bar was slow to adopt falling-collars - regarding them
as a strange and fanciful innovation. Whitelock's personal narrative
furnishes pleasant testimony that the younger gentry of Charles I.'s
England adopted the new collar before the working lawyers.

"At the Quarter-Sessions of Oxford," says Whitelock, speaking of the
year 1635, when he was only thirty years of age, "I was put into the
chair in court, though I was in colored clothes, a sword by my side, and
a falling-band, which was unusual for lawyers in those days, and in this
garb I gave the charge to the Grand Jury. I took occasion to enlarge on
the point of jurisdiction in the temporal courts in matters
ecclesiastical, and the antiquity thereof, which I did the rather
because the spiritual men began in those days to swell higher than
ordinary, and to take it as an injury to the Church that anything
savoring of the spirituality, should be within the cognisance of
ignorant laymen. The gentlemen and freeholders seemed well pleased with
my charge, and the management of the business of the sessions; and said
they perceived one might speak as good sense in a falling-band as in a
ruff." At this time Whitelock had been about seven years at the bar; but
at the Quarter-Sessions the young Templar was playing the part of
country squire, and as his words show, he was dressed in a fashion that
directly violated professional usage.

Whitelock's speech seems to have been made shortly before the bar
accepted the falling-band as an article of dress admissible in courts of
law. Towards the close of Charles's reign, such bands were very
generally worn in Westminster Hall by the gentlemen of the long robe;
and after the Restoration, a barrister would as soon have thought of
appearing at the King's Bench without his gown as without his band.
Unlike the bar-bands of the present time - which are lappets of fine
lawn, of simple make - the bands worn by Charles II.'s lawyers were
dainty and expensive articles, such as those which Peacham exclaimed
against in the preceding reign. At that date the Templar in prosperous
circumstances had his bands made entirely of point lace, or of fine lawn
edged with point lace; and as he wore them in society as well as in
court, he was constantly requiring a fresh supply of them. Few accidents
were more likely to ruffle a Templar's equanimity than a mishap to his
band occurring through his own inadvertence or carelessness on the part
of a servant. At table the pieces of delicate lace-work were exposed to
many dangers. Continually were they stained with wine or soiled with
gravy, and the young lawyer was deemed a marvel of amiability who could
see his point lace thus defiled and abstain from swearing. "I remember,"
observes Roger North, when he is showing the perfect control in which
his brother Francis kept his temper, at his table a stupid servant spilt
a glass of red wine upon his point band and clothes. "He only wiped his
face and clothes with the napkin, and 'Here,' said he, 'take this away;'
and no more."

In 'The London Spy,' Ned Ward shows that during Queen Anne's reign legal
practitioners of the lowest sort were particular to wear bands.
Describing the pettifogger, Ward says, "He always talks with as great
assurance as if he understood what he pretends to know; and always wears
a band, in which lies his gravity and wisdom." At the same period a
brisk trade was carried on in Westminster Hall by the sempstresses who
manufactured bands and cuffs, lace ruffles, and lawn kerchiefs for the
grave counsellors and young gallants of the Inns of Court. "From
thence," says the author of 'The London Spy', "we walked down by the
sempstresses, who were very nicely digitising and pleating turnsovers
and ruffles for the young students, and coaxing them with amorous looks,
obliging cant, and inviting gestures, to give so extravagant a price for
what they buy."

From collars of lace and lawn, let us turn to collars of precious metal.

Antiquarians have unanimously rejected the fanciful legend adopted by
Dugdale concerning the SS collar, as well as many not less ingenious
interpretations of the mystic letters; and at the present time it is
almost unanimously settled that the SS collar is the old Lancastrian
badge, corresponding to the Yorkist collar of Roses and Suns, and that
the S is either the initial of the sentimental word 'Souvenez,' or, as
Mr. Beltz maintains, the initial letter of the sentimental motto,
'Souvenez-vous de moi.' In Mr. Foss's valuable work, 'The Judges of
England,' at the commencement of the seventh volume, the curious reader
may find an excellent summary of all that has been or can be said about
the origin of this piece of feudal livery, which, having at one time
been very generally assumed by all gentle and fairly prosperous
partisans of the House of Lancaster, has for many generations been the
distinctive badge of a few official persons. In the second year of Henry
IV. an ordinance forbade knights and Esquires to wear the collar, save
in the king's presence; and in the reign of Henry VIII., the privilege
of wearing the collar was taken away from simple esquires by the 'Acte
for Reformacyon of Excesse in Apparayle,' 24 Henry VIII. c. 13, which
ordained "That no man oneless he be a knight ... weare any color of
Gold, named a color of S." Gradually knights and non-official persons
relinquished the decoration; and in our own day the right to bear it is
restricted to the two Chief Justices, the Chief Baron, the
sergeant-trumpetor, and all the officers of the Heralds' College,
pursuivants excepted; "unless," adds Mr. Foss, "the Lord Mayor of London
is to be included, whose collar is somewhat similar, and is composed of
twenty-eight SS, fourteen roses, thirteen knots; and measures sixty-four



On the stages of the Caroline theatres the lawyer is found with a green
bag in his hand; the same is the case in the literature of Queen Anne's
reign; and until a comparatively recent date green bags were generally
carried in Westminster Hall and in provincial courts by the great body
of legal practitioners. From Wycherley's 'Plain Dealer,' it appears that
in the time of Charles II. angry clients were accustomed to revile their
lawyers as 'green bag-carriers.' When the litigious Widow Blackacre
upbraids the barrister who declines to argue for her, she
exclaims - "Impertinent again, and ignorant to me! Gadsboddikins! you
puny upstart in the law, to use me so, you green-bag carrier, you
murderer of unfortunate causes, the clerk's ink is scarce off of your
fingers." In the same drama, making much play with the green bag,
Wycherley indicates the Widow Blackacre's quarrelsome disposition by
decorating her with an enormous green reticule, and makes her son the
law-student, stagger about the stage in a gown, and under a heavy burden
of green bags.

So also in the time of Queen Anne, to say that a man intended to carry a
green bag, was the same as saying that he meant to adopt the law as a
profession. In Dr. Arbuthnot's 'History of John Bull,' the prevalence of
the phrase is shown by the passage, "I am told, Cousin Diego, you are
one of those that have undertaken to manage me, and that you have said
you will carry a green bag yourself, rather than we shall make an end of
our lawsuit. I'll teach them and you too to manage." It must, however,
be borne in mind that in Queen Anne's time, green bags, like white
bands, were as generally adopted by solicitors and attorneys, as by
members of the bar. In his 'character of a pettifogger' the author of
'The London Spy' observes - "His learning is commonly as little as his
honesty, and his conscience much larger than his green bag."

Some years have elapsed since green bags altogether disappeared from our
courts of law; but the exact date of their disappearance has hitherto
escaped the vigilance and research of Colonel Landman, 'Causidicus,' and
other writers who in the pages of that useful and very entertaining
publication, _Notes and Queries_, have asked for information on that
point and kindred questions. Evidence sets aside the suggestion that the
color of the lawyer's bag was changed from green to red because the
proceedings at Queen Caroline's trial rendered green bags odious to the
public, and even dangerous to their bearers; for it is a matter of
certainty that the leaders of the Chancery and Common Law bars carried
red bags at a time considerably anterior to the inquiry into the queen's

In a letter addressed to the editor of _Notes and Queries_, a writer who
signs himself 'Causidicus,' observes - "When I entered the profession
(about fifty years ago) no junior barrister presumed to carry a bag in
the Court of Chancery, unless one had been presented to him by a King's
Counsel; who, when a junior was advancing in practice, took an
opportunity of complimenting him on his increase of business, and giving
him his own bag to carry home his papers. It was then a distinction to
carry a bag, and a proof that a junior was rising in his profession. I
do not know whether the custom prevailed in other courts." From this it
appears that fifty years since the bag was an honorable distinction at
the Chancery bar, giving its bearer some such professional status as
that which is conferred by 'silk' in these days when Queen's Counsel are

The same professional usage seems to have prevailed at the Common Law
bar more than eighty years ago; for in 1780, when Edward Law joined the
Northern Circuit, and forthwith received a large number of briefs, he
was complimented by Wallace on his success, and presented with a bag.

Online LibraryJohn Cordy JeaffresonA book about lawyers → online text (page 14 of 33)