vol II date / index
HILARY TERM begins.
St. Raymund of Pennafort, A.D. 1275. St. John the Almoner, A.D. 619. St. Emerentia, A.D. 304. St. Clement of Ancyra. St. Agathangelus. St. Ildefonsus A.D. 667. St. Eusebius, Abbot.
This being the first day of term, the judges of the different courts at Westminster, take their seats in Westminster-hall to commence business.
The engraving represents the interior of the hall at the time when the print from whence it is taken was engraved by C. Mosley. The drawing was by Gravelot, who died in 1773.
Westminster Hall, with its Shops
The shops within the hall are remarkably curious from their situation, and indeed the courts themselves are no less worthy of observation. It will be recollected that the court of Chancery and the court of King's Bench, at the upper end were, until the coronation, enclosed from sight and hearing; in the print they are open. This is the print alluded to in the volume on "Ancient Mysteries," p. 266, wherein is cited Ned Ward's remarks respecting the sempstresses, by whom some of these shops were occupied.
It is of ancient custom on the first day of term for the judges to breakfast with the lord chancellor in Lincoln's-inn-hall, and proceed with him in their respective carriages to Westminster-hall. Being arrived at the hall door in Palace-yard, and having alighted with their officers and train bearers, they formed a procession along the hall until they came opposite to the court of Common Pleas, before which stood the serjeants at law, who had previously arranged themselves in their full dress wigs and gowns, and awaited the coming of the judges, who were also in their full dress. Then the serjeants all bowed, and their obeisance being acknowledged by the judges in like manner, the lord chancellor, being first, approached the first serjeant in the rank, and shook hands with him, saying, "How d'ye do, brother? I wish you a good term;" whereupon the serjeant bowed and thanked his lordship, and the chancellor bowing to him, the serjeant again bowed; and the chancellor saluted and shook hands with the serjeant in like manner, and so he did with each serjeant present, and then proceeded with his officers to his court. The lord chief justice of England and each of the puisne judges of the court of King's Bench, saluting and shaking hands with each serjeant in the same manner, followed the chancellor and went into their court. In the same manner also did the chief justice and the puisne judges of the court of Common Pleas, and entered their court at the back of the serjeants. Lastly, the lord chief baron and the puisne barons of the Exchequer, having also so saluted the serjeants, returned back and entered the court of Exchequer, which is at the right hand immediately on entering the hall; the entrance to the court of Common Pleas being about midway on the same side of the hall, whither, on the barons having retired, the serjeants withdrew to commence business before the judges. The site of the court of Chancery is on the same side up the steps at the end of the hall, and that of the court of King's Bench level with it on the left-hand side. It is to be noted, that one judge does not salute the serjeants before the rest of the judges begin to salute them, but each follows the other. Thus whilst the chancellor is saluting the second serjeant the lord chief justice salutes the first, and he salutes the second while the chancellor salutes the third, the next judge of the King's Bench court saluting the first serjeant; and so the judges proceed successively, and close to each other, till all the serjeants have been saluted. It is further observable, that more extended greetings sometimes pass between the judges and serjeants who are intimate.
In 1825, the 23d of January, whereon Hilary term commences, happening on a Sunday, which is a dies non, or no day in law, the courts were opened on the 24th, when the judges refreshed themselves in Lincoln's-inn-hall with the lord chancellor, as usual, and departed at half-past twelve o'clock. On retiring, sir Charles Abbot, as lord chief justice took precedence of lord Gifford, the master of the rolls, though he ranks as a baron of the realm, and is deputy speaker of the house of lords. The court of Chancery in Westminster-hall being under reparation, the chancellor remained in Lincoln's-inn to keep his term there. For the same reason, the serjeants did not range themselves in the hall at Westminster, but awaited the arrival of the judges of the Common Pleas in their own court; the carriages of the judges of the King's Bench turned to the right at the top of Parliament-street, and proceeded to the new Sessions' house, where the judges sit until the new court of King's Bench in Westminster-hall shall be prepared.
It is further to be remarked, that the Side Bar in Westminster-hall stood, till very lately, within a short space of the wall, and at a few feet on the Palace-yard side of the court of Common Pleas' steps. Formerly, attorneys stood within this bar every morning during term, and moved the judges for the common rules, called side-bar rules, as they passed to their courts, and by whom they were granted them as of course. These motions have been long discontinued; the rules are applied for and obtained at the rule-office as rules of course; but each rule still ex presses that it has been granted upon a "side-bar" motion.
To recur to the engraving, which exhibits Westminster-hall at no distant period, in a state very dissimilar to its more late appearance. The original print by Mosley bears the following versified inscription:
When fools fall out, for ev'ry flaw,
They run horn mad to go to law,
A hedge awry, a wrong plac'd gate,
Will serve to spend a whole estate,
Your case the lawyer says is good,
And justice cannot be withstood;
By tedious process from above
From office they to office move;
Thro' pleas, demurrers, the dev'l and all,
At length they bring it to the hall;
The dreadful hall by Rufus rais'd,
For lofty Gothick arches prais'd.
The FIRST OF TERM, the fatal day,
Doth various images convey;
First from the courts with clam'rous bawl
The criers their attorneys call;
One of the gown, discreet and wise,
By proper means his witness tries;
From Wreathock's gang—not right or laws
H'assures his trembling client's cause;
This gnaws his handkerchief, whilst that
Gives the kind ogling nymph his hat;
Here one in love with choiristers
Minds singing more than law affairs.
A serjeant limping on behind
Shews justice lame, as well as blind.
To gain new clients some dispute,
Others protract an ancient suit,
Jargon and noise alone prevail,
While sense and reason's sure to fail;
At Babel thus law terms began,
And now at Westm——er go on.
The advocate, whose subornation of perjury is hinted at, is in the foremost group; he is offering money to one of "Wreathock's gang." The Wreathock was a villainous attorney, who received sentence of death for his criminal practices, and was ordered to be transported for life in 1736. It is a notorious fact, that many years ago wretches sold themselves to give any evidence, upon oath, that might be required; and some of these openly walked Westminster-hall with a straw in the shoe to signify that they wanted employment as witnesses; such was one of the customs of the "good old times," which some of regret we were not born in. The "choirister" in a surplice, bearing a torch, was probably one of the choir belonging to Westminster-abbey. To his right hand is the "limping serjeant" with a stick; his serjeantship being denoted by the coif, or cap, he wears; the coif is now diminished into a small circular piece of black silk at the top of the wig, instead of the cap represented in the engraving. The first shop, on the left, is occupied by a bookseller; the next by a mathematical instrument maker; then there is another bookseller; beyond him a dealer in articles of female consumption; beyond her a bookseller again; and, last on that side, a second female shopkeeper. Opposite to her, on the right of the hall, stands a clock, with the hands signifying it to be about one in the afternoon; the first shop, next from the clock, is a booksellers; then comes a female, who is a map and printseller; and, lastly, the girl who receives the barrister's hat into her care and whose line appears to sustain the "turnovers" worn by the beaus of those days with "ruffles," which, according to Ned Ward, the sempstresses of Westminster-hall nicely "pleated," to the satisfaction of the "young students" learned in the law.
Enough has, probably, been said of the engraving, to obtain regard to it as an object worth notice.
The first day of term is occupied, in the common law courts, by the examination of bail for persons who have been arrested, and whose opponents will not consent to the bail justifying before a judge at his chambers. A versified exemplification of this proceeding in the court of King's Bench, was written when lord Mansfield was chief, and Mr. Willes a justice of the court; a person named Hewitt was then cryer, Mr. Mingay, a celebrated counsel, still remembered, is represented as opposing the bail proposed by Mr. Baldwin, another counsel:
CHAP. 10. OF JUSTIFYING BAIL.
Baldwin. Hewitt, call Taylor s [sic] bail,—for I
Shall now proceed to justify.
Hewitt. Where's Taylor's bail?
1st Bail.————I can't get in.
Hewitt. Make way.
Lord Mansfield.———For heaven's sake begin.
Hewitt. But where's the other?
2d Bail.—————Here I stand.
Mingay. I must except to both. —Command
Silence, —and if your lordship crave it,
Austen shall read our affidavit.
Austen. Will. Priddle, late of Fleet-street, gent.
Makes oath and saith, that late he went
To Duke's-place, as he was directed
By notice, and he there expected
To find both bail—but none could tell
Where the first bail lived—
Mingay. ————Very well.
Austen. And this deponent further says,
That, asking who the second was,
He found he'd bankrupt been, and yet
Had ne'er obtained certificate.
When to his house deponent went,
He full four stories high was sent,
And found a lodging almost bare;
No furniture, but half a chair,
A table, bedstead, broken fiddle
And a bureau.
(Signed) William Priddle.
Sworn at my chambers.
Mingay. No affidavit can be fuller.
Well, friend, you've heard this affidavit,
What do you say?
2d Bail.———Sir, by your leave, it
Is all a lie.
Mingay. Sir, have a care,
What is your trade?
2d Bail. ——— A scavenger.
Mingay. And, pray, sir, were you never found
2d Bail. I'm worth a thousand pound.
Mingay. A thousand pound, friend, boldly said—
In what consisting?
2d Bail. ———Stock in trade.
Mingay. And, pray, friend, tell me, —do you know
What sum you're bail for?
2d Bail. ————— Truly no.
Mingay. My lords, you hear,—no oaths have check'd him:
I hope your lordships will—
Willes. ———— Reject him.
Mingay. Well, friend, now tell me where you dwell.
1st. Bail. Sir, I have liv'd in Clerkenwell
These ten years.
Mingay. —— Half-a-guinea dead. (Aside.)
My lords, if you've the notice read,
It says Duke's-place. So I desire
A little further time t' inquire.
Baldwin. Why. Mr. Mingay, all this vapour?
Willes. Take till to morrow.
Lord Mansfield. ———— Call the paper.
The preceding pleasantry came from the pen of the late John Baynes, Esq. a Yorkshire gentleman, who was born in April, 1758, educated for the law at Trinity college, Cambridge, obtained prizes for proficiency in philosophy and classical attainments, was admitted of Gray's-inn, practised in his profession, and would probably have risen to its first honours. Mr. Nichols says "his learning was extensive; his abilities great; his application unwearied; his integrity unimpeached. In religious principles he was an Unitarian Christian and Protestant; in political principles the friend of the civil liberties of mankind, and the genuine constitution of his country. He died August 4, 1787, and was buried on the 9th in Bunhill-fields' burying-ground, near to the grave of Dr. Jebb," his tutor at college: "the classical hand of Dr. Parr" commemorated him by an epitaph.
One of the best papers in Mr. Knight's late "Quarterly Magazine," of good articles, is so suitable to this day, legally considered, that any one sufficiently interested to sympathize with "the cares and the fears" of a young lawyer, or, indeed, any one who dares to admit that a lawyer may have bowels, as well as an appetite, will suffer the Confessions of a Barrister to be recorded here.
MY FIRST BRIEF
"A lawyer," says an old comedy which I once read at the British Museum, "is an odd sort of fruit—first rotten—then green—and then ripe." There is too much of truth in the homely figure. The first years of a young barrister are spent, or rather worn out, in anxious leisure. His talents rust, his temper is injured, his little patrimony wastes away, and not an attorney shows a sign of remorse. He endures term after term, and circuit after circuit, that greatest of all evils—a rank above his means of supporting it. He drives round the country in a post-chaise, and marvels what Johnson found so exhilarating in its motion—that is, if he paid for it himself. He eats venison, and drinks claret; but he loses the flavour of both when he reflects that his wife (for the fool is married, and married for love too!) has perhaps just dined for the third time on a cold neck of mutton, and has not tasted wine since their last party—an occurence beyond even legal memory. He leaves the festive board early, and takes a solitary walk—returns to his lodgings in the twilight, and sees on his table a large white rectangular body, which for a moment he supposes may be a brief—alas! it is only a napkin. He is vexed, and rings to have it removed, when up comes his clerk, who is drunk and insolent: he is about to kick him down stairs, but stays his foot on recollecting the arrears of the fellow's wages; and contents himself with wondering where the fellow finds the means of such extravagance.—Then in court many are the vexations of the briefless.—The attorney is a cruel person to them—as cruel as a rich coxcomb in a ball-room, who delights in exciting hopes only to disappoint them. Indeed I have often thought the communications between the solicitors and the bar have no slight resemblance to the flirtation between the sexes. Barristers, like ladies, must wait to be chosen. The slightest overture would be equally fatal to one gown as the other. The gentlemen of the bar sit round the table in dignified composure, thinking just as little of briefs as a young lady of marriage. An attorney enters—not an eye moves; but somehow or other, the fact is known to all. Calmly he draws from his pocket a brief: practice enables us to see at a glance that the tormentor has left a blank for the name of his counsel. He looks around the circle as if to choose his man; you cannot doubt but his eye rests on you; he writes a name, but you are too far off to read it, though you know every name on your circuit upside down. Now he counts out the fee, and wraps it up with slow and provoking formality. At length all being prepared, he looks towards you to catch (as you suppose) your eye. You nod, and the brief comes flying; you pick it up, and find on it the name of a man three years your junior, who is sitting next you: you curse the attorney's impudence, and ask yourself if he meant to insult you.—"Perhaps not," you say, "for the dog squints."— I received my maiden brief in London. How well do I recollect the minutest circumstances connected with that case! The rap at the door! I am a connoisseur in raps—there is not a dun in London who could deceive me: I know their tricks but too well; they have no medium between the rap servile, and the rap impudent. This was a cheerful touch; you felt that the operator knew he should meet a face of welcome. My clerk, who is not much under the influence of sweet sounds, seemed absolutely inspired, and answered the knock with astonishing velocity. I could hear from my inner room the murmur of inquiry and answer; and though I could not distinguish a word, the tones confirmed my hopes; —I was not long suffered to doubt—my client entered, and the roll of pure white paper tied round with the brilliant red tape, met my eye. He inquired respectfully, and with an appearance of anxiety, which marked him to my mind for a perfect Chesterfield, if I was already retained in ——— v.———? The rogue knew well enough that I had never had a retainer in my life. I took a moment to consider; after making him repeat the name of his case, I gravely assured him I was a perfect liberty to receive his brief. He then laid the papers and my fee upon the table; asked me if the time appointed for a consultation with the two gentlemen who were "with me" would be convenient; and finding that the state of my engagements would allow me to attend, made his bow and departed. That fee was sacred, and I put it to no vulgar use. Many years have now elapsed since that case was disposed of, and yet how fresh does it live in my memory! how perfectly do I recollect every authority to which he referred! how I read and re-read the leading cases that bore upon the question to be argued! One case I so bethumbed that the volume has opened at it ever since, as inevitably as the prayer-book of a lady's maid proffers the service of matrimony. My brief related to an argument before the judges of the King's Bench, and the place of consultation was Ayles's coffee-house, adjoining Westminster-hall. There was I before the clock had finished striking the hour; my brief I knew by heart. I had raised an army of objections to the points for which we were to contend, and had logically slain every one of them. I went prepared to discuss the question thoroughly; and I generously determined to give my leaders the benefit of my cogitations—though not without a slight struggle at the thought of how much reputation I should lose by my magnanimity. I had plenty of time to think of these things, for my leaders were engaged in court, and the attorney and I had the room to ourselves. After we had been waiting about an hour, the door flew open, and in strode one of my leaders, the second in command, less in haste (as it appeared to me) to meet his appointment, than to escape from the atmosphere of clients in which he had been just enveloped, during his passage from the court.— Having shaken off his termentors, Mr. —— walked up to the fire—said it was cold—nodded kindly to me—and had just asked what had been the last night's division in the house—when the powdered head of an usher was protruded through the half open door to announce that "Jones and Williams was called on." Down went the poker, and away flew ——— with streaming robes, leaving me to meditate on the loss which the case would sustain for want of his assistance at the expected discussion. Having waited some further space, I heard a rustling of silks, and the great ———, or commander in chief, sailed into the room. As he did not run foul of me, I think it possible I may not have been invisible to him; but he furnished me with no other evidence of the fact. He simply directed the attorney to provide certain additional affidavits, tacked about and sailed away. And thus ended the first consultation. I consoled myself with the thought that I had all my materials for myself, and that from having had so much more time for considering the subject than the others, I must infallibly make the best speech of the three. At length the fatal day came. I never shall forget the thrill with which I heard ——— open the case, and felt how soon it would be my turn to speak. O, how I did pray for a long speech! I lost all feeling of rivalry; and would gladly have given him every thing that I intended to use myself, only to defer the dreaded moment for one half-hour. His speech was frightfully short, yet, short as it was, it made sad havoc with my stock of matter. The next speaker's was even more concise, and yet my little stock suffered again severely. I then found how experience will stand in the place of study. These men could not, from the multiplicity of their engagements, have spent a tithe of the time upon the case which I had done: and yet they had seen much which had escaped my research. At length my turn came. I was sitting among the back rows in the old court of King's Bench. It was on the first day of Michaelmas term, and late in the evening. A sort of "darkness visible" had been produced by the aid of a few candles dispersed here and there. I arose, but I was not perceived by the judges, who had turned together to consult, supposing the argument finished. B——— was the first to see me, and I received from him a nod of kindness and encouragement which I hope I shall never forget. The court was crowded, for it was a question of some interest; it was a dreadful moment—the ushers stilled the audience into awful silence. I began, and at the sound of an unknown voice, every wig of the white inclined plane, at the upper end of which I was standing, turned round; and in an instant I had the eyes of seventy "learned friends" looking me full in the face! It is hardly to be conceived by those who have not gone through the ordeal, how terrific is this mute attention to the object of it. How grateful should I have been for any thing which would have relieved me from its oppressive weight—a buzz, a scraping of the shoes, or a fit of coughing, would have put me under infinite obligations to the kind disturber. What I said I know not; I knew not then; it is the only part of the transaction of which I am ignorant; it was a "phantasma, or hideous dream." They told me, however, to my great surprise, that I spoke in a loud voice; used violent gesture, and as I went along seemed to shake off my trepidation. Whether I made a long speech or a short one I cannot tell; for I had no power of measuring time. All I know is, that I should have made a much longer one, had I not felt my ideas, like Bob Acre's courage, oozing out of my fingers' ends. The court decided against us, erroneously as I of course thought, for the young advocate is always on the right side. The next morning I got up early to look at the newspapers, which I expected to see full of our case. In an obscure corner, and in a small type, I found a few words given as the speeches of my leaders: and I also read that "Mr. ——— followed on the same side."
It is affirmed of sir William Blackstone, that so often as he sat down to the composition of his Commentaries on the Laws of England, he always ordered a bottle of wine wherewith to moisten the dryness of his studies; and in proof that other professional men sometimes solace their cares by otherwise disporting themselves, there is a kind of catch, the words of which, having reference to their art or mystery, do so marvellously inspire them, that they chant it with more glee than gravity, to a right merry tune:—
A woman having settlement,
Married a man with none;
The question was, he being dead
If that she had was gone?
Quoth sir John Pratt, her settlement
Suspended did remain,
Living the husband—but, him dead,
It doth revive again.
CHORUS OF PUISNE JUDGES.
Living the husband—but, him dead,
It doth revive again.
Peziza. Peziza acetabulum.