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out.

At length, when the organ-builders had well-nigh ruined each other, and
the town had grown weary of the dispute, the Inner Temple yielded
somewhere about the beginning of 1688 - at an early date of which year
Smith received a sum of money in part payment for his organ. On May 27th
of the same year, Mr. Pigott was appointed organist. After its rejection
by the Temple, Renatus Harris divided his organ into two, and having
sent the one part to the cathedral of Christ's Church, Dublin, he set up
the other part in the church of St. Andrew, Holborn. Three years after
his disappointment, Renatus Harris was tried at the Old Bailey for a
political offence, the nature of which may be seen from the following
entry in Narcissus Luttrell's Diary: - "April, 1691. The Sessions have
been at the Old Bailey, where these persons, Renatus Harris, John Watts,
William Rutland, Henry Gandy, and Thomas Tysoe, were tried at the Old
Bailey for setting up policies of insurance that Dublin would be in the
hands of some other king than their present majesties by Christmas next:
the jury found them guilty of a misdemeanor." For this offence Renatus
Harris was fined £200, and was required to give security for his good
conduct until Christmas.

An erroneous tradition assigns to Lord Jeffreys the honor of bringing
the Battle of the Organs to a conclusion, and writers improving upon
this tradition, have represented that Jeffreys acted as sole umpire
between the contendants. In his 'History of Music,' Dr. Burney, to whom
the prevalence of this false impression is mainly due, observes - "At
length the decision was left to Lord Chief Justice Jeffries, afterwards
King James the Second's pliant Chancellor, who was of that society (the
Inner Temple), and he terminated the controversy in favor of Father
Smith; so that Harris's organ was taken away without loss of reputation,
having so long pleased and puzzled better judges than Jefferies."

Careful inquirers have ascertained that Harris's organ did not go to
Wolverhampton, but to Dublin and St. Andrew's Holborn, part of it being
sent to the one, and part to the other place. It is certain that Jeffrys
was not chosen to act as umpire in 1681, for the benchers did not make
their original proposal to the rival builders until February, 1682; and
years passed between that date and the termination of the squabble. When
Burney wrote: - "At length the decision was left to Lord Chief Justice
Jefferies, _afterwards King James II.'s pliant Chancellor_," the
musician was unaware that the squabble was still at white heat whilst
Jeffreys occupied the woolsack. On his return from the Western Campaign,
Jeffreys received the seals in September, 1685, whereas the dispute
about the organs did not terminate till the opening of 1688, or at
earliest till the close of 1687. There is no authentic record in the
archives of the Temples which supports, or in any way countenances, the
story that Jeffreys made choice of Smith's instrument; but it is highly
probable that the Lord Chancellor exerted his influence with the Inner
Temple (of which society he was a member), and induced the benchers, for
the sake of peace, to yield to the wishes of the Middle Temple. It is no
less probable that his fine musical taste enabled him to see that the
Middle Temple benchers were in the right, and gave especial weight to
his words when he spoke against Harris's instrument.

Though Jeffreys delighted in music, he does not seem to have held its
professors in high esteem. In the time of Charles II. musical artists of
the humbler grades liked to be styled 'musitioners;' and on a certain
occasion, when he was sitting as Recorder for the City of London, George
Jeffreys was greatly incensed by a witness who, in a pompous voice,
called himself a musitioner. With a sneer the Recorder interposed - "A
musitioner! I thought you were a fiddler!" "I am a musitioner," the
violinist answered, stoutly. "Oh, indeed," croaked Jeffreys. "That is
very important - highly important - extremely important! And pray, Mr.
Witness, what is the difference between a musitioner and a fiddler?"
With fortunate readiness the man answered, "As much, sir, as there is
between a pair of bag-pipes and a Recorder."




CHAPTER XXVII.

A THICKNESS IN THE THROAT.


The date is September, 1805, and the room before us is a drawing-room in
a pleasant house at Brighton. The hot sun is beating down on cliff and
terrace, beach and pier, on the downs behind the town and the sparkling
sea in front. The brightness of the blue sky is softened by white vapor
that here and there resembles a vast curtain of filmy gauze, but nowhere
has gathered into visible masses of hanging cloud. In the distance the
sea is murmuring audibly, and through the screened windows, together
with the drowsy hum of the languid waves, comes a light breeze that is
invigorating, notwithstanding its sensible warmth.

Besides ourselves there are but two people in the room: a gentlewoman
who has said farewell to youth, but not to feminine grade and delicacy;
and an old man, who is lying on a sofa near one of the open windows,
whilst his daughter plays passages of Handel's music on the piano-forte.

The old man wears the dress of an obsolete school of English gentlemen;
a large brown wig with three rows of curls, the lowest row resting on
the curve of his shoulders; a loose grey coat, notable for the size of
its cuffs and the bigness of its heavy buttons; ruffles at his wrists,
and frills of fine lace below his roomy cravat. These are the most
conspicuous articles of his costume, but not the most striking points of
his aspect. Over his huge, pallid, cadaverous, furrowed face there is an
air singularly expressive of exhaustion and power, of debility and
latent strength - an air that says to sensitive beholders, "This
prostrate veteran was once a giant amongst giants; his fires are dying
out; but the old magnificent courage and ability will never altogether
leave him until the beatings of his heart shall have quite ceased: touch
him with foolishness or disrespect, and his rage will be terrible."
Standing here we can see his prodigious bushy eyebrows, that are as
white as driven snow, and under them we can see the large black eyes,
beneath the angry fierceness of which hundreds of proud British peers,
assembled in their council-chamber, have trembled like so many whipped
schoolboys. There is no lustre in them now, and their habitual
expression is one of weariness and profound indifference to the world - a
look that is deeply pathetic and depressing, until some transient cause
of irritation or the words of a sprightly talker rouse him into
animation. But the most noticeable quality of his face is its look of
extreme age. Only yesterday a keen observer said of him, "Lord Thurlow
is, I believe, only seventy-four; and from his appearance I should think
him a hundred years old."

So quiet is the reclining form, that the pianist thinks her father must
be sleeping. Turning on the music-stool to get a view of his
countenance, and to satisfy herself as to his state, she makes a false
note, when, quick as the blunder, the brown wig turns upon the
pillow - the furrowed face is presented to her observation, and an
electric brightness fills the big black eyes, as the veteran, with deep
rolling tones, reproves her carelessness: - "What are you doing? - what
are you doing? I had almost forgotten the world. Play that piece again."

Twelve months more - and the lady will be playing Handel's music on that
same instrument; but the old man will not be a listener.

From Brighton, in 1805, let readers transport themselves to Canterbury
in 1776, and let them enter a barber's shop, hard by Canterbury
Cathedral. It is a primitive shop, with the red and white pole over the
door, and a modest display of wigs and puff-boxes in the window. A small
shop, but, notwithstanding its smallness, the best shop of its kind in
Canterbury; and its lean, stiff, exceedingly respectable master is a man
of good repute in the cathedral town. His hands have, ere now, powdered
the Archbishop's wig, and he is specially retained by the chief clergy
of the city and neighborhood to keep their false hair in order, and trim
the natural tresses of their children. Not only have the dignitaries of
the cathedral taken the worthy barber under their special protection,
but they have extended to his little boy Charles, a demure, prim lad,
who is at this present time a pupil in the King's School, to which
academy clerical interest gained him admission. The lad is in his
fourteenth year; and Dr. Osmund Beauvoir, the master of the school,
gives him so good a character for industry and dutiful demeanor, that
some of the cathedral ecclesiastics have resolved to make the little
fellow's fortune - by placing him in the office of a Chorister. There is
a vacant place in the cathedral choir; and the boy who is lucky enough
to receive the appointment will be provided for munificently. He will
forthwith have a maintenance, and in course of time his salary will be
£70 per annum.

During the last fortnight the barber has been in great and constant
excitement - hoping that his little boy will obtain this valuable piece
of preferment; persuading himself that the lad's thickness of voice,
concerning which the choir-master speaks with aggravating persistence,
is a matter of no real importance; fearing that the friends of another
contemporary boy, who is said by the choir-master to have an exceedingly
mellifluous voice, may defeat his paternal aspirations. The momentous
question agitates many humble homes in Canterbury; and whilst Mr.
Abbott, the barber, is encouraged to hope the best for his son, the
relatives and supporters of the contemporary boy are urging him not to
despair. Party spirit prevails on either side - Mr. Abbott's family
associates maintaining that the contemporary boy's higher notes resemble
those of a penny whistle; whilst the contemporary boy's father, with
much satire and some justice, murmurs that "old Abbott, who is the
gossip-monger of the parsons, wants to push his son into a place for
which there is a better candidate."

To-day is the eventful day when the election will be made. Even now,
whilst Abbott, the barber, is trimming a wig at his shop window, and
listening to the hopeful talk of an intimate neighbor, his son Charley
is chanting the Old Hundredth before the whole chapter. When Charley has
been put through his vocal paces, the contemporary boy is requested to
sing. Whereupon that clear-throated competitor, sustained by justifiable
self-confidence and a new-laid egg which he had sucked scarcely a minute
before he made his bow to their reverences, sings out with such richness
and compass that all the auditors recognize his great superiority.

Ere ten more minutes have passed Charley Abbot knows that he has lost
the election; and he hastens from the cathedral with quick steps.
Running into the shop he gives his father a look that tells the whole
story of - failure, and then the little fellow, unable to command his
grief, sits down upon the floor and sobs convulsively.

Failure is often the first step to eminence.

Had the boy gained the chorister's place, he would have a cathedral
servant all his days.

Having failed to get it, he returned to the King's School, went a poor
scholar to Oxford, and fought his way to honor. He became Chief Justice
of the King's Bench, and a peer of the realm. Towards the close of his
honorable career Lord Tenterden attended service in the Cathedral of
Canterbury, accompanied by Mr. Justice Richardson. When the ceremonial
was at an end the Chief Justice said to his friend - "Do you see that old
man there amongst the choristers? In him, brother Richardson, behold the
only being I ever envied: when at school in this town we were candidates
together for a chorister's place; he obtained it; and if I had gained my
wish he might have been accompanying you as Chief Justice, and pointing
me out as his old school-fellow, the singing man."




PART VI.

AMATEUR THEATRICALS.




CHAPTER XXVIII.

ACTORS AT THE BAR.


Some years since the late Sergeant Wilkins was haranguing a crowd of
enlightened electors from the hustings of a provincial borough, when a
stentorian voice exclaimed, "Go home, you rope-dancer!" Disdaining to
notice the interruption, the orator continued his speech for fifty
seconds, when the same voice again cried out, "Go home, you
rope-dancer!" A roar of laughter followed the reiteration of the insult;
and in less than two minutes thrice fifty unwashed blackguards were
roaring with all the force of their lungs, "Ah-h-h - Go home, you
rope-dancer!" Not slow to see the moaning of the words, the unabashed
lawyer, who in his life had been a dramatic actor, replied with his
accustomed readiness and effrontery. A young man unacquainted with mobs
would have descanted indignantly and with many theatrical flourishes on
the dignity and usefulness of the player's vocation; an ordinary
demagogue would have frankly admitted the discourteous impeachment, and
pleaded in mitigation that he had always acted in leading parts and for
high salaries. Sergeant Wilkins took neither of those courses, for he
knew his audience, and was aware that his connection with the stage was
an affair about which he had better say as little as possible. Instead
of appealing to their generosity, or boasting of his histrionic
eminence, he threw himself broadly on their sense of humor. Drawing
himself up to his full height, the big, burly man advanced to the marge
of the platform, and extending his right hand with an air of authority,
requested silence by the movement of his arm. The sign was instantly
obeyed; for having enjoyed their laugh, the multitude wished for the
rope-dancer's explanation. As soon as the silence was complete, he drew
back two paces, put himself in an oratorical _pose_, as though he were
about to speak, and then, disappointing the expectations of the
assembly, deliberately raised forwards and upwards the skirts of his
frock-coat. Having thus arranged his drapery he performed a slow
gyration - presenting his huge round shoulders and unwieldy legs to the
populace. When his back was turned to the crowd, he stooped and made a
low obeisance to his vacant chair, thereby giving the effect of
caricature to the outlines of his most protuberant and least honorable
part. This pantomime lasted scarcely a minute; and before the spectators
could collect themselves to resent so extraordinary an affront, the
sergeant once again faced them, and in a clear, rich, jovial tone
exclaimed, "_He_ called me a rope-dancer! - after what you have seen, do
you believe him?"

With the exception of the man who started the cry, every person in the
dense multitude was convulsed with laughter; and till the end of the
election no turbulent rascal ventured to repeat the allusion to the
sergeant's former occupation. At a moment of embarrassment, Mr.
Disraeli, in the course of one of his youthful candidatures, created a
diversion in his favor by telling a knot of unruly politicians that he
_stood on his head_. With less wit, and much less decency, but with
equal good fortune, Sergeant Wilkins took up his position on a baser
part of his frame.

The electors who respected Mr. Wilkins because he was a successful
barrister, whilst they reproached him with having been a stage-player,
were unaware how close an alliance exists between the art of the actor
and the art of the advocate. To lawyers of every grade and speciality
the histrionic faculty is a useful power; but to the advocate who wishes
to sway the minds of jurors it is a necessary endowment. Comprising
several distinct abilities, it not only enables the orator to rouse the
passions and to play on the prejudices of his hearers, but it preserves
him from the errors of judgment, tone, emphasis - in short, from manifold
blunders of indiscretion and tact by which verdicts are lost quite as
often as through defect of evidence and merit. Like the dramatic
performer, the court-speaker, especially at the common law bar, has to
assume various parts. Not only should he know the facts of his brief,
but he should thoroughly identify himself with the client for whom his
eloquence is displayed. On the theatrical stage mimetic business is cut
up into specialities, men in most cases filling the parts of men, whilst
actresses fill the parts of women; the young representing the
characteristics of youth, whilst actors with special endowments simulate
the qualities of old age; some confining themselves to light and trivial
characters, whilst others are never required to strut before the scenes
with hurried paces, or to speak in phrases that lack dignity and fine
sentiment. But the popular advocate must in turn fill every _rôle_. If
childish simplicity be his client's leading characteristic, his
intonations will express pliancy and foolish confidence; or if it is
desirable that the jury should appreciate his client's honesty of
purpose, he speaks with a voice of blunt, bluff, manly frankness.
Whatever quality the advocate may wish to represent as the client's
distinctive characteristic, it must be suggested to the jury by mimetic
artifice of the finest sort. Speaking of a famous counsel, an
enthusiastic juryman once said to this writer - "In my time I have heard
Sir Alexander in pretty nearly every part: I've heard him as an old man
and a young woman; I have heard him when he has been a ship run down at
sea, and when he has been an oil-factory in a state of conflagration;
once, when I was foreman of a jury, I saw him poison his intimate
friend, and another time he did the part of a pious bank director in a
fashion that would have skinned the eyelids of Exeter Hall: he ain't bad
as a desolate widow with nine children, of which the eldest is under
eight years of age; but if ever I have to listen to him again, I should
like to see him as a young lady of good connexions who has been seduced
by an officer of the Guards." In the days of his forensic triumphs Henry
Brougham was remarkable for the mimetic power which enabled him to
describe friend or foe by a few subtle turns of the voice. At a later
period, long after he had left the bar, in compliance with a request
that he would return thanks for the bridesmaids at a wedding breakfast,
he observed, that "doubtless he had been selected for the task in
consideration of his youth, beauty, and innocence." The laughter that
followed this sally was of the sort which in poetic phraseology is
called inextinguishable; and one of the wedding guests who heard the
joke and the laughter, assures this writer that the storm of mirthful
applause was chiefly due to the delicacy and sweetness of the
intonations by which the speaker's facile voice, with its old and once
familiar art, made the audience realize the charms of youth, beauty and
innocence - charms which, so far as the lawyer's wrinkled visage was
concerned, were conspicuous by their absence.

Eminent advocates have almost invariably possessed qualities that would
have made them successful mimics on the stage. For his mastery of
oratorical artifices Alexander Wedderburn was greatly indebted to
Sheridan, the lecturer on elocution, and to Macklin, the actor, from
both of whom he took lessons; and when he had dismissed his teachers and
become a leader of the English bar he adhered to their rules, and daily
practised before a looking-glass the facial tricks by which Macklin
taught him to simulate surprise or anger, indignation or triumph.
Erskine was a perfect master of dramatic effect, and much of his
richly-deserved success was due to the theatrical artifices with which
he played upon the passions of juries. At the conclusion of a long
oration he was accustomed to feign utter physical prostration, so that
the twelve gentlemen in the box, in their sympathy for his sufferings
and their admiration for his devotion to the interests of his client,
might be impelled by generous emotion to return a favorable verdict.
Thus when he defended Hardy, hoarseness and fatigue so overpowered him
towards the close of his speech, that during the last ten minutes he
could not speak above a whisper, and in order that his whispers might be
audible to the jury, the exhausted advocate advanced two steps nearer to
their box, and then extended his pale face to their eager eyes. The
effect of the artifice on the excited jury is said to have been great
and enduring, although they were speedily enlightened as to the real
nature of his apparent distress. No sooner had the advocate received the
first plaudits of his theatre on the determination of his harangue, than
the multitude outside the court, taking up the acclamations which were
heard within the building, expressed their feelings with such deafening
clamor, and with so many signs of riotous intention, that Erskine was
entreated to leave the court and soothe the passions of the mob with a
few words of exhortation. In compliance with this suggestion he left the
court, and forthwith addressed the dense out-door assembly in clear,
ringing tones that were audible in Ludgate Hill, at one end of the Old
Bailey, and to the billowy sea of human heads that surged round St.
Sepulchre's Church at the other extremity of the dismal thoroughfare.

At the subsequent trial of John Horne Tooke, Sir John Scott, unwilling
that Erskine should enjoy a monopoly of theatrical artifice, endeavored
to create a diversion in favor of the government by a display of those
lachrymose powers, which Byron ridiculed in the following century. "I
can endure anything but an attack on my good name," exclaimed the
Attorney General, in reply to a criticism directed against his mode of
conducting the prosecution; "my good name is the little patrimony I have
to leave to my children, and, with God's help, gentlemen of the jury, I
will leave it to them unimpaired." As he uttered these words tears
suffused the eyes which, at a later period of the lawyer's career, used
to moisten the woolsack in the House of Lords -

"Because the Catholics would not rise,
In spite of his prayers and his prophecies."

For a moment Horne Tooke, who persisted in regarding all the
circumstances of his perilous position as farcical, smiled at the
lawyer's outburst in silent amusement; but as soon as he saw a
sympathetic brightness in the eyes of one of the jury, the dexterous
demagogue with characteristic humor and effrontery accused Sir John
Mitford, the Solicitor General, of needless sympathy with the
sentimental disturbance of his colleague. "Do you know what Sir John
Mitford is crying about?" the prisoner inquired of the jury. "He is
thinking of the destitute condition of Sir John Scott's children, and
the _little patrimony_ they are likely to divide among them." The jury
and all present were not more tickled by the satire upon the Attorney
General than by the indignant surprise which enlivened the face of Sir
John Mitford, who was not at all prone to tears, and had certainly
manifested no pity for John Scott's forlorn condition.




CHAPTER XXIX.

"THE PLAY'S THE THING."


Following the example set by the nobility in their castles and civic
palaces, the Inns of Court set apart certain days of the year for
feasting and revelry, and amongst the diversions with which the lawyers
recreated themselves at these periods of rejoicing, the rude
Pre-Shakespearian dramas took a prominent place. So far back as A.D.
1431, the Masters of the Lincoln's Inn Bench restricted the number of
annual revels to four - "one at the feast of All-Hallown, another at the
feast of St. Erkenwald; the third at the feast of the Purification of
our Lady; and the 4th at Midsummer." The ceremonials of these holidays
were various; but the brief and sometimes unintelligible notices of the
chroniclers give us sufficiently vivid and minute pictures of the
boisterous jollity that marked the proceedings. Miracle plays and
moralities, dancing and music, fantastic processions and mad pranks,
spurred on the hours that were not devoted to heavy meals and deep
potations. In the merriments of the different Inns there was a pleasant
diversity - with regard to the duration and details of the
entertainments: and occasionally the members of the four societies acted
with so little concert that their festivals, falling at exactly the same
time, were productive of rivalry and disappointments. Dugdale thinks
that the Christmas revels were not regularly kept in Lincoln's Inn
during the reign of Henry VIII.; and draws attention to an order made by
the benchers of that house on 27 Nov., 22 H. VIII., the record of which



Online LibraryJohn Cordy JeaffresonA book about lawyers → online text (page 17 of 33)