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A Book About Lawyers
by John Cordy Jeaffreson
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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 L1000. 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 tone of morals in the society. Anyhow the fact that Gray's Inn[1] was alone designated as a home for infamy—whilst the Inner Temple was pointed to as the hospice most popular with rich men, the Middle Temple as the society frequented by Templars of narrow means, and Lincoln's Inn as the abode of gentlemen—is, of itself, a proof that the pervading manners of the last three institutions were outwardly decorous. Under the least favorable circumstances, a barrister's wife living in chambers, within or near Lincoln's Inn, or the Temple, during Charles II.'s reign, fared as well in this respect as she would have done had Fortune made her a lady-in-waiting at Whitehall.

A good story is told of certain visits paid to William Murray's chambers at No. 5, King's Bench Walk Temple, in the year 1738. Born in 1705, Murray was still a young man when in 1738 he made his brilliant speech in behalf of Colonel Sloper, against whom Colley Cibber's rascally son had brought an action for crim. con. with his wife—the lovely actress who was the rival of Mrs. Clive. Amongst the many clients who were drawn to Murray by that speech, Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, was neither the least powerful nor the least distinguished. Her grace began by sending the rising advocate a general retainer, with a fee of a thousand guineas; of which sum he accepted only the two-hundredth part, explaining to the astonished duchess that "the professional fee, with a general retainer, could neither be less nor more than five guineas." If Murray had accepted the whole sum he would not have been overpaid for his trouble; for her grace persecuted him with calls at most unseasonable hours. On one occasion, returning to his chambers after "drinking champagne with the wits," he found the duchess's carriage and attendants on King's Bench Walk. A numerous crowd of footmen and link-bearers surrounded the coach; and when the barrister entered his chambers he encountered the mistress of that army of lackeys. "Young man," exclaimed the grand lady, eying the future Lord Mansfield with a look of warm displeasure, "if you mean to rise in the world, you must not sup out." On a subsequent night Sarah of Marlborough called without appointment at the same chambers, and waited till past midnight in the hope that she would see the lawyer ere she went to bed. But Murray being at an unusually late supper-party, did not return till her grace had departed in an over-powering rage. "I could not make out, sir, who she was," said Murray's clerk, describing her grace's appearance and manner, "for she would not tell me her name; but she swore so dreadfully that I am sure she must be a lady of quality."

Perhaps the Inns of Court may still shelter a few married ladies, who either from love of old-world ways, or from stern necessity, consent to dwell in their husbands' chambers. If such ladies can at the present time be found, the writer of this page would look for them in Gray's Inn—that straggling caravansary for the reception of money-lenders, Bohemians, and eccentric gentlemen—rather than in the other three Inns of Court, which have undoubtedly quite lost their old population of lady-residents. But from those three hospices the last of the ladies must have retreated at a comparatively recent date. Fifteen years since, when the writer of this book was a beardless undergraduate, he had the honor of knowing some married ladies, of good family and unblemished repute, who lived with their husbands in the Middle Temple. One of those ladies—the daughter of a country magistrate, the sister of a distinguished classic scholar—was the wife of a common law barrister who now holds a judicial appointment in one of our colonies. The women of her old home circle occasionally called on this young wife: but as they could not reach her quarters in Sycamore Court without attracting much unpleasant observation, their visits were not frequent. Living in a barrack of unwed men, that charming girl was surrounded by honest fellows who would have resented as an insult to themselves an impertinence offered to her. Still her life was abnormal, unnatural, deleterious; it was felt by all who cared for her that she ought not to be where she was; and when an appointment with a good income in a healthy and thriving colony was offered to her husband, all who knew her, and many who had never spoken to her, rejoiced at the intelligence. At the present time, in the far distant country which looks up to her as a personage of importance, this lady—not less exemplary as wife and mother than brilliant as a woman of society—takes pleasure in recalling the days when she was a prisoner in the Temple.

One of the last cases of married life in the Temple, that came before the public notice, was that of a barrister and his wife who incurred obloquy and punishment for their brutal conduct to a poor servant girl. No one would thank the writer for re-publishing the details of that nauseous illustration of the degradation to which it is possible for a gentleman and scholar to sink. But, however revolting, the case is not without interest for the reader who is curious about the social life of the Temple.

The portion of the Temple in which the old-world family life of the Inns held out the longest, is a clump of commodious houses lying between the Middle Temple Garden and Essex Street, Strand. Having their entrance-doors in Essex Street, these houses are, in fact, as private as the residences of any London quarter. The noise of the Strand reaches them, but their occupants are as secure from the impertinent gaze or unwelcome familiarities of law-students and barristers' clerks, as they would be if they lived at St. John's Wood. In Essex Street, on the eastern side, the legal families maintained their ground almost till yesterday. Fifteen years since the writer of this page used to be invited to dinners and dances in that street—dinners and dances which were attended by prosperous gentlefolk from the West End of the town. At that time he often waltzed in a drawing-room, the windows of which looked upon the spray of the fountain—at which Ruth Pinch loved to gaze when its jet resembled a wagoner's whip. How all old and precious things pass away! The dear old 'wagoner's whip' has been replaced by a pert, perky squirt that will never stir the heart or brain of a future Ruth.

[1] The scandalous state of Gray's Inn at this period is shown by the following passage in Dugdale's 'Origines:'—"In 23 Eliz. (30 Jan.) there was an order made that no laundress, nor women called victuallers, should thenceforth come into the gentlemen's chambers of this society, until they were full forty years of age, and not send their maid-servants, of what age soever, in the said gentlemen's chambers, upon penalty, for the first offence of him that should admit of any such, to be put out of Commons: and for the second, to be expelled the House." The stringency and severity of this order show a determination on the part of the authorities to cure the evil.



Chapter III.

YORK HOUSE AND POWIS HOUSE.

Whilst the great body of lawyers dwelt in or hard by the Inns, the dignitaries of the judicial bench, and the more eminent members of the bar, had suitable palaces or mansions at greater or less distances from the legal hostelries. The ecclesiastical Chancellors usually enjoyed episcopal or archiepiscopal rank, and lived in the London palaces attached to their sees or provinces. During his tenure of the seals, Morton, Bishop of Ely, years before he succeeded to the archbishopric of Canterbury, and received the honors of the Cardinalate, grew strawberries in his garden on Holborn Hill, and lived in the palace surrounded by that garden. As Archbishop of Canterbury, Chancellor Warham maintained at Lambeth Palace the imposing state commemorated by Erasmus.

When Wolsey made his first progress to the Court of Chancery in Westminster Hall, a progress already alluded to in these pages, he started from the archiepiscopal palace, York House or Place—an official residence sold by the cardinal to Henry VIII. some years later; and when the same superb ecclesiastic, towards the close of his career, went on the memorable embassy to France, he set out from his palace at Westminster, "passing through all London over London Bridge, having before him of gentlemen a great number, three in rank in black velvet livery coats, and the most of them with great chains of gold about their necks."

At later dates Gardyner, whilst he held the seals, kept his numerous household at Winchester House in Southwark; and Williams, the last clerical Lord Keeper, lived at the Deanery, Westminster.

The lay Chancellors also maintained costly and pompous establishments, apart from the Inns of Court. Sir Thomas More's house stood in the country, flanked by a garden and farm, in the cultivation of which ground the Chancellor found one of his chief sources of amusement. In Aldgate, Lord Chancellor Audley built his town mansion, on the site of the Priory of the Canons of the Holy Trinity of Christ Church. Wriothesley dwelt in Holborn at the height of his unsteady fortunes, and at the time of his death. The infamous but singularly lucky Rich lived in Great St. Bartholomew's, and from his mansion there wrote to the Duke of Northumberland, imploring that messengers might be sent to him to relieve him of the perilous trust of the Great Seal. Christopher Hatton wrested from the see of Ely the site of Holborn, whereon he built his magnificent palace. The reluctance with which the Bishop of Ely surrendered the ground, and the imperious letter by which Elizabeth compelled the prelate to comply with the wish of her favorite courtier, form one of the humorous episodes of that queen's reign. Hatton House rose over the soil which had yielded strawberries to Morton; and of that house—where the dancing Chancellor received Elizabeth as a visitor, and in which he died of "diabetes and grief of mind"—the memory is preserved by Hatton Garden, the name of the street where some of our wealthiest jewelers and gold assayers have places of business.

Public convenience had long suggested the expediency of establishing a permanent residence for the Chancellors of England, when either by successive expressions of the royal will, or by the individual choice of several successive holders of the Clavis Regni, a noble palace on the northern bank of the Thames came to be regarded as the proper domicile for the Great Seal. York House, memorable as the birthplace of Francis Bacon, and the scene of his brightest social splendor, demands a brief notice. Wolsey's 'York House' or Whitehall having passed from the province of York to the crown, Nicholas Heath, Archbishop of York, established himself in another York House on a site lying between the Strand and the river. In this palace (formerly leased to the see of Norwich as a bishop's Inn, and subsequently conferred on Charles Brandon by Henry VIII.) Heath resided during his Chancellorship; and when, in consequence of his refusal to take the oath of supremacy, Elizabeth deprived him of his archbishopric, York House passed into the hands of her new Lord Keeper, Sir Nicholas Bacon. On succeeding to the honors of the Marble Chair, Hatton did not move from Holborn to the Strand; but otherwise all the holders of the Great Seal, from Heath to Francis Bacon inclusive, seem to have occupied York House; Heath, of course, using it by right as Archbishop of York, and the others holding it under leases granted by successive archbishops of the northern province. So little is known of Bromley, apart from the course which he took towards Mary of Scotland, that the memory of old York House gains nothing of interest from him. Indeed it has been questioned whether he was one of its tenants. Puckering, Egerton, and Francis Bacon certainly inhabited it in succession. On Bacon's fall it was granted to Buckingham, whose desire to possess the picturesque palace was one of the motives which impelled him to blacken the great lawyer's reputation. Seized by the Long Parliament, it was granted to Lord Fairfax. In the following generation it passed into the hands of the second Duke of Buckingham, who sold house and precinct for building-ground. The bad memory of the man who thus for gold surrendered a spot of earth sacred to every scholarly Englishman is preserved in the names of George Street, Duke Street, Villiers Street, Buckingham Street.

The engravings commonly sold as pictures of the York House, in which Lord Bacon kept the seals, are likenesses of the building after it was pulled about, diminished, and modernized, and in no way whatever represent the architecture of the original edifice. Amongst the art-treasures of the University of Oxford, Mr. Hepworth Dixon fortunately found a rough sketch of the real house, from which sketch Mr. E.M. Ward drew the vignette that embellishes the title-page of 'The Story of Lord Bacon's Life.'

After the expulsion of the Great Seal from old York House, it wandered from house to house, manifesting, however, in its selections of London quarters, a preference for the grand line of thoroughfare between Charing Cross and the foot of Ludgate Hill. Escaping from the Westminster Deanery, where Williams kept it in a box, the Clavis Regni inhabited Durham House, Strand, whilst under Lord Keeper Coventry's care. Lord Keeper Littleton, until he made his famous ride from London to York, lived in Exeter House. Clarendon resided in Dorset House, Salisbury Court, Fleet Street, and subsequently in Worcester House, Strand, before he removed to the magnificent palace which aroused the indignation of the public in St. James's Street. The greater and happier part of his official life was passed in Worcester House. There he held councils in his bedroom when he was laid up with gout; there King Charles visited him familiarly, even condescending to be present to the bedside councils; and there he was established when the Great Fire of London caused him, in a panic, to send his most valuable furniture to his Villa at Twickenham. Thanet House, Aldersgate Street, is the residence with which Shaftesbury, the politician, is most generally associated; but whilst he was Lord Chancellor he occupied Exeter House, Strand, formerly the abode of Keeper Littleton. Lord Nottingham slept with the seals under his pillow in Great Queen Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields, the same street in which his successor, Lord Guildford, had the establishment so racily described by his brother, Roger North. And Lord Jeffreys moving westward, gave noisy dinners in Duke Street, Westminster, where he opened a court-house that was afterwards consecrated as a place of worship, and is still known as the Duke Street Chapel. Says Pennant, describing the Chancellor's residence, "It is easily known by a large flight of stone steps, which his royal master permitted to be made into the park adjacent for the accommodation of his lordship. These steps terminate above in a small court, on three sides of which stands the house." The steps still remain, but their history is unknown to many of the habitual frequenters of the chapel. After Jefferys' fall the spacious and imposing mansion, where the bon-vivants of the bar used to drink inordinately with the wits and buffoons of the London theatres, was occupied by Government; and there the Lords of the Admiralty had their offices until they moved to their quarters opposite Scotland Yard. Narcissus Luttrell's Diary contains the following entry:—"April 23, 1690. The late Lord Chancellor's house at Westminster is taken for the Lords of the Admiralty to keep the Admiralty Office at."

William III., wishing to fix the holders of the Great Seal in a permanent official home, selected Powis House (more generally known by the name of Newcastle House), in Lincoln's Inn Fields, as a residence for Somers and future Chancellors. The Treasury minute books preserve an entry of September 11, 1696, directing a Privy Seal to "discharge the process for the apprised value of the house, and to declare the king's pleasure that the Lord Keeper or Lord Chancellor for the time being should have and enjoy it for the accommodation of their offices." Soon after his appointment to the seals, Somers took possession of this mansion at the north-west corner of the Fields; and after him Lord Keeper Sir Nathan Wright, Lord Chancellor Cowper, and Lord Chancellor Harcourt used it as an official residence. But the arrangement was not acceptable to the legal dignitaries. They preferred to dwell in their private houses, from which they were not liable to be driven by a change of ministry or a grist of popular disfavor. In the year 1711 the mansion was therefore sold to John Holles, Duke of Newcastle, to whom it is indebted for the name which it still bears. This large, unsightly mansion is known to every one who lives in London, and has any knowledge of the political and social life of the earlier Georgian courtiers and statesmen.



CHAPTER IV.

LINCOLN'S INN FIELDS.

The annals of the legal profession show that the neighborhood of Guildhall was a favorite place of residence with the ancient lawyers, who either held judicial offices within the circle of the Lord Mayor's jurisdiction, or whose practice lay chiefly in the civic courts. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries there was quite a colony of jurists hard by the temple of Gogmagog and Cosineus—or Gog and Magog, as the grotesque giants are designated by the unlearned, who know not the history of the two famous effigies, which originally figured in an Elizabethan pageant, stirring the wonder of the illiterate, and reminding scholars of two mythical heroes about whom the curious reader of this paragraph may learn further particulars by referring to Michael Drayton's 'Polyolbion.'

In Milk Street, Cheapside, lived Sir John More, judge in the Court of King's Bench; and in Milk street, A.D. 1480, was born Sir John's famous son Thomas, the Chancellor, who was at the same time learned and simple, witty and pious, notable for gentle meekness and firm resolve, abounding with tenderness and hot with courage. Richard Rich—who beyond Scroggs or Jeffreys deserves to be remembered as the arch-scoundrel of the legal profession—was one of Thomas More's playmates and boon companions for several years of their boyhood and youth. Richard's father was an opulent mercer, and one of Sir John's near neighbors; so the youngsters were intimate until Master Dick, exhibiting at an early age his vicious propensities, came to be "esteemed very light of his tongue, a great dicer and gamester, and not of any commendable fame."

On marrying his first wife Sir Thomas More settled in a house in Bucklersbury, the City being the proper quarter for his residence, as he was an under-sheriff of the city of London, in which character he both sat in the Court of the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs, and presided over a separate court on the Thursday of each week. Whilst living in Bucklersbury he had chambers in Lincoln's Inn. On leaving Bucklersbury he took a house in Crosby Place, from which he moved, in 1523, to Chelsea, in which parish he built the house that was eventually pulled down by Sir Hans Sloane in the year 1740.

A generation later, Sir Nicholas Bacon was living in Noble Street, Foster Lane, where he had built the mansion known as Bacon House, in which he resided till, as Lord Keeper, he took possession of York House. Chief Justice Bramston lived, at different parts of his career, in Whitechapel; in Philip Lane, Aldermanbury; and (after his removal from Bosworth Court) in Warwick Lane, Sir John Bramston (the autobiographer) married into a house in Charterhouse Yard, where his father, the Chief Justice, resided with him for a short time.

But from an early date, and especially during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the more prosperous of the working lawyers either lived within the walls of the Inns, or in houses lying near the law colleges. Fleet Street, the Strand, Holborn, Chancery Lane, and the good streets leading into those thoroughfares, contained a numerous legal population in the times between Elizabeth's death and George III.'s first illness. Rich benchers and Judges wishing for more commodious quarters than they could obtain at any cost within college-walls, erected mansions in the immediate vicinity of their Inns; and their example was followed by less exalted and less opulent members of the bar and judicial bench. The great Lord Strafford first saw the light in Chancery Lane, in the house of his maternal grandfather, who was a bencher of Lincoln's Inn. Lincoln's Inn Fields was principally built for the accommodation of wealthy lawyers; and in Charles II.'s reign Queen Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields was in high repute with legal magnates. Sir Edward Coke lived alternately in chambers, and in Hatton House, Holborn, the palace that came to him by his second marriage. John Kelyng's house stood in Hatton Garden, and there he died in 1671. In his mansion in Lincoln's Inn Fields, Sir Harbottle Grimston, on June 25, 1660 (shortly before his appointment to the Mastership of the Rolls, for which place he is said to have given Clarendon L8000), entertained Charles II. and a grand gathering of noble company. After his marriage Francis North took his high-born bride into chambers, which they inhabited for a short time until a house in Chancery Lane, near Serjeants' Inn, was ready for their use. On Nov. 15, 1666,—the year of the fire of London, in which year Hyde had his town house in the Strand—Glyn died in his house, in Portugal Row, Lincoln's Inn Fields. On June 15, 1691, Henry Pollexfen, Chief Justice of Common Pleas, expired in his mansion in Lincoln's Inn Fields. These addresses—taken from a list of legal addresses lying before the writer—indicate with sufficient clearness the quarter of the town in which Charles II.'s lawyers mostly resided.

Under Charles II. the population of the Inns was such that barristers wishing to marry could not easily obtain commodious quarters within College-walls. Dugdale observes "that all but the benchers go two to a chamber: a bencher hath only the privilege of a chamber to himself." He adds—"if there be any one chamber consisting of two parts, and the one part exceeds the other in value, and he who hath the best part sells the same, yet the purchaser shall enter into the worst part; for it is a certain rule that the auntient in the chamber—viz., he who was therein first admitted, without respect to their antiquity in the house, hath his choice of either part." This custom of sharing chambers gave rise to the word 'chumming,' an abbreviation of 'chambering.' Barristers in the present time often share a chamber—i.e., set of rooms. In the seventeenth century an utter-barrister found the half of a set of rooms inconveniently narrow quarters for himself and wife. By arranging privately with a non-resident brother of the long robe, he sometimes obtained an entire "chamber," and had the space allotted to a bencher. When he could not make such an arrangement, he usually moved to a house outside the gate, but in the immediate vicinity of his inn, as soon as his lady presented him with children, if not sooner.

Of course working, as well as idle, members of the profession were found in other quarters. Some still lived in the City; others preferred more fashionable districts. Roger North, brother of the Lord Keeper and son of a peer, lived in the Piazza of Covent Garden, in the house formerly occupied Lely the painter. To this house Sir Dudley North moved from his costly and dark mansion in the City, and in it he shortly afterwards died, under the hands of Dr. Radcliffe and the prosperous apothecary, Mr. St. Amand. "He had removed," writes Roger, "from his great house in the City, and came to that in the Piazza which Sir Peter Lely formerly used, and I had lived in alone for divers years. We were so much together, and my incumbrances so small, that so large a house might hold us both." Roger was a practicing barrister and Recorder of Bristol.

During his latter years Sir John Bramston (the autobiographer) kept house in Greek Street, Soho.

In the time of Charles II. the wealthy lawyers often maintained suburban villas, where they enjoyed the air and pastimes of the country. When his wife's health failed, Francis North took a villa for her at Hammersmith, "for the advantage of better air, which he thought beneficial for her;" and whilst his household tarried there, he never slept at his chambers in town, "but always went home to his family, and was seldom an evening without company agreeable to him." In his latter years, Chief Justice Pemberton had a rural mansion in Highgate, where his death occurred on June 10, 1699, in the 74th year of his age. A pleasant chapter might be written on the suburban seats of our great lawyers from the Restoration down to the present time. Lord Mansfield's 'Kenwood' is dear to all who are curious in legal ana. Charles Yorke had a villa at Highgate, where he entertained his political and personal friends. Holland, the architect, built a villa at Dulwich for Lord Thurlow; and in consequence of a quarrel between the Chancellor and the builder, the former took such a dislike to the house, that after its completion he never slept a night in it, though he often passed his holidays in a small lodge standing in the grounds of the villa. "Lord Thurlow," asked a lady of him, as he was leaving the Queen's Drawing-room, "when are you going into your new house?" "Madam," answered the surly Chancellor, incensed by her curiosity, "the Queen has asked me that impudent question, and I would not answer her; I will not tell you." For years Loughborough and Erskine had houses in Hampstead. "In Lord Mansfield's time," Erskine once said to Lord Campbell, "although the King's Bench monopolized all the common-law business, the court often rose at one or two o'clock—the papers, special, crown, and peremptory, being cleared; and then I refreshed myself by a drive to my villa at Hampstead." It was on Hampstead Heath that Loughborough, meeting Erskine in the dusk, said, "Erskine, you must not take Paine's brief;" and received the prompt reply, "But I have been retained, and I will take it, by G-d!" Much of that which is most pleasant in Erskine's career occurred at his Hampstead villa. Of Lord Kenyon's weekly trips from his mansion in Lincoln's Inn Fields to his farm-house at Richmond notice has been taken in a previous chapter. The memory of Charles Abbott's Hendon villa is preserved in the name, style, and title of Lord Tenterden, of Hendon, in the county of Middlesex. Indeed, lawyers have for many generations manifested much fondness for fresh air; the impure atmosphere of their courts in past time apparently whetting their appetites for wholesome breezes.

Throughout the eighteenth century Lincoln's Inn Fields, an open though disorderly spot, was a great place for the residence of legal magnates. Somers, Nathan Wright, Cowper, Harcourt, successively inhabited Powis House. Chief Justice Parker (subsequently Lord Chancellor Macclesfield) lived there when he engaged Philip Yorke (then an attorney's articled clerk, but afterwards Lord Chancellor of England) to be his son's law tutor. On the south side of the square, Lord Chancellor Henley kept high state in the family mansion that descended to him on the death of his elder brother, and subsequently passed into the hands of the Surgeons, whose modest but convenient college stands upon its site. Wedderburn and Erskine had their mansions in Lincoln's Inn Fields, as well as their suburban villas. And between the lawyers of the Restoration and the judges of George III.'s reign, a large proportion of our most eminent jurists and advocates lived in that square and the adjoining streets; such as Queen Street on the west, Serle Street, Carey Street, Portugal Street, Chancery Lane, on the south and south-east. The reader, let it be observed, may not infer that this quarter was confined to legal residents. The lawyers were the most conspicuous and influential occupants; but they had for neighbors people of higher quality, who, attracted to the square by its openness, or the convenience of its site, or the proximity of the law colleges, made it their place of abode in London. Such names as those of the Earl of Lindsey and the Earl of Sandwich in the seventeenth, and of the Duke of Ancaster and the Duke of Newcastle in the eighteenth century, establish the patrician character of the quarter for many years. Moreover, from the books of popular antiquaries, a long list might be made of wits, men of science, and minor celebrities, who, though in no way personally connected with the law, lived during the same period under the shadow of Lincoln's Inn.

Whilst Lincoln's Inn Fields took rank amongst the most aristocratic quarters of the town, it was as disorderly a square as could be found in all London. Royal suggestions, the labors of a learned committee especially appointed by James I. to decide on a proper system of architecture, and Inigo Jones's magnificent but abortive scheme had but a poor result. In Queen Anne's reign, and for twenty years later, the open space of the fields was daily crowded with beggars, mountebanks, and noisy rabble; and it was the scene of constant uproar and frequent riots. As soon as a nobleman's coach drew up before one of the surrounding mansions, a mob of half-naked rascals swarmed about the equipage, asking for alms in alternate tones of entreaty and menace. Pugilistic encounters, and fights resembling the faction fights of an Irish row, were of daily occurrence there; and when the rabble decided on torturing a bull with dogs, the wretched beast was tied to a stake in the centre of the wide area, and there baited in the presence of a ferocious multitude, and to the diversion of fashionable ladies, who watched the scene from their drawing-room windows. The Sacheverell outrage was wildest in this chosen quarter of noblemen and blackguards; and in George II.'s reign, when Sir Joseph Jekyll, the Master of the Rolls, made himself odious to the lowest class by his Act for laying an excise upon gin, a mob assailed him in the middle of the fields, threw him to the ground, kicked him over and over, and savagely trampled upon him. It was a marvel that he escaped with his life; but with characteristic good humor, he soon made a joke of his ill-usage, saying that until the mob made him their football he had never been master of all the rolls. Soon after this outbreak of popular violence, the inhabitants enclosed the middle of the area with palisades, and turned the enclosure into an ornamental garden. Describing the Fields in 1736, the year in which the obnoxious Act concerning gin became law, James Ralph says, "Several of the original houses still remain, to be a reproach to the rest; and I wish the disadvantageous comparison had been a warning to others to have avoided a like mistake.... But this is not the only quarrel I have to Lincoln's Inn Fields. The area is capable of the highest improvement, might be made a credit to the whole city, and do honor to those who live round it; whereas at present no place can be more contemptible or forbidding; in short, it serves only as a nursery for beggars and thieves, and is a daily reflection on those who suffer it to be in its abandoned condition."

During the eighteenth century, a tendency to establish themselves in the western portion of the town was discernible amongst the great law lords. For instance, Lord Cowper, who during his tenure of the seals resided in Powis House, during his latter years occupied a mansion in Great George Street, Westminster—once a most fashionable locality, but now a street almost entirely given up to civil engineers, who have offices there, but usually live elsewhere. In like manner, Lord Harcourt, moving westwards from Lincoln's Inn Fields, established himself in Cavendish Square. Lord Henley, on retiring from the family mansion in Lincoln's Inn Fields, settled in Grosvenor Square. Lord Camden lived in Hill Street, Berkeley Square. On being entrusted with the sole custody of the seals, Lord Apsley (better known as Lord Chancellor Bathurst) made his first state-progress to Westminster Hall from his house in Dean Street, Soho; but afterwards moving farther west, he built Apsley House (familiar to every Englishman as the late Duke of Wellington's town mansion) upon the site of Squire Western's favorite inn—the 'Hercules' Pillars.'



CHAPTER V.

THE OLD LAW QUARTER.

Fifteen years since the writer of this page used to dine with a conveyancer—a lawyer of an old and almost obsolete school—who had a numerous household, and kept a hospitable table in Lincoln's Inn Fields; but the conveyancer was almost the last of his species. The householding legal resident of the Fields, like the domestic resident of the Temple, has become a feature of the past. Among the ordinary nocturnal population of the square called Lincoln's Inn Fields, may be found a few solicitors who sleep by night where they work by day, and a sprinkling of young barristers and law students who have residential chambers in grand houses that less than a century since were tenanted by members of a proud and splendid aristocracy; but the gentle families have by this time altogether disappeared from the mansions.

But long before this aristocratic secession, the lawyers took possession of a new quarter. The great charm of Lincoln's Inn Fields had been the freshness of the air which played over the open space. So also the recommendation of Great Queen Street had been the purity of its rural atmosphere. Built between 1630 and 1730, that thoroughfare—at present hemmed in by fetid courts and narrow passages—caught the keen breezes of Hampstead, and long maintained a character for salubrity as well as fashion. Of those fine squares and imposing streets which lie between High Holborn and Hampstead, not a stone had been laid when the ground covered by the present Freemason's Tavern was one of the most desirable sites of the metropolis. Indeed, the houses between Holborn and Great Queen Street were not erected till the mansions on the south side of the latter thoroughfare—built long before the northern side—had for years commanded an unbroken view of Holborn Fields. Notwithstanding many gloomy predictions of the evils that would necessarily follow from over-building, London steadily increased, and enterprising architects deprived Lincoln's Inn Fields and Great Queen Street of their rural qualities. Crossing Holborn, the lawyers settled on a virgin plain beyond the ugly houses which had sprung up on the north of Great Queen Street, and on the country side of Holborn. Speedily a new quarter arose, extending from Gray's Inn on the east to Southampton Row on the West, and lying between Holborn and the line of Ormond Street, Red Lion Street, Bedford Row, Great Ormond Street, Little Ormond Street, Great James Street, and Little James Street were amongst its best thoroughfares; in its centre was Red Lion Square, and in its northwestern corner lay Queen's Square. Steadily enlarging its boundaries, it comprised at later dates Guildford Street, John's Street, Doughty Street, Mecklenburgh Square, Brunswick Square, Bloomsbury Square, Russell Square, Bedford Square—indeed, all the region lying between Gray's Inn Lane (on the east), Tottenham Court Road (on the west), Holborn (on the south), and a line running along the north of the Foundling Hospital and 'the squares.' Of course this large residential district was more than the lawyers required for themselves. It became and long remained a favorite quarter with merchants, physicians,[2] and surgeons; and until a recent date it comprised the mansions of many leading members of the aristocracy. But from its first commencement it was so intimately associated with the legal profession that it was often called the 'law quarter;' and the writer of this page has often heard elderly ladies and gentlemen speak of it as the 'old law quarter.'

Although lawyers were the earliest householders in this new quarter, its chief architect encountered at first strong opposition from a section of the legal profession. Anxious to preserve the rural character of their neighborhood, the gentlemen of Gray's Inn were greatly displeased with the proposal to lay out Holborn Fields in streets and squares. Under date June 10, 1684, Narcissus Luttrell wrote in his diary—"Dr. Barebone, the great builder, having some time since bought the Red Lyon Fields, near Graie's Inn walks, to build on, and having for that purpose employed severall workmen to goe on with the same, the gentlemen of Graie's Inn took notice of it, and, thinking it an injury to them, went with a considerable body of 100 persons; upon which the workmen assaulted the gentlemen, and flung bricks at them, and the gentlemen at them again. So a sharp engagement ensued, but the gentlemen routed them at last, and brought away one or two of the workmen to Graie's Inn; in this skirmish one or two of the gentlemen and servants of the house were hurt, and severall of the workmen."

James Ralph's remarks on the principal localities of this district are interesting. "Bedford Row," he says, "is one of the most noble streets that London has to boast of, and yet there is not one house in it which deserves the least attention." He tells us that "Ormond Street is another place of pleasure, and that side of it next the Fields is, beyond question, one of the most charming situations about town." This 'place of pleasure' is now given up for the most part to hospitals and other charitable institutions, and to lodging-houses of an inferior sort. Passing on to Bloomsbury Square, and speaking of the Duke of Bedford's residence, which stood on the North side of the square, he says, "Then behind it has the advantage of most agreeable gardens, and a view of the country, which would make a retreat from the town almost unnecessary, besides the opportunity of exhibiting another prospect of the building, which would enrich the landscape and challenge new approbation." This was written in 1736. At that time the years of two generations were appointed to pass away ere the removal of Bedford House should make way for Lower Bedford Place, leading into Russell Square.

So late as the opening years of George III.'s reign, Queen's Square enjoyed an unbroken prospect in the direction of Highgate and Hampstead. 'The Foreigner's Guide: or a Necessary and Instructive Companion both to the Foreigner and Native, in their Tours through the Cities of London and Westminster' (1763), contains the following passage:—"Queen's Square, which is pleasantly situated at the extreme part of the town, has a fine open view of the country, and is handsomely built, as are likewise the neighboring streets—viz., Southampton Row, Ormond Street, &c. In this last is Powis House, so named from the Marquis of Powis, who built the present stately structure in the year 1713. It is now the town residence of the Earl of Hardwicke, late Lord Chancellor. The apartments are noble, and the whole edifice is commendable for its situation, and the fine prospect of the country. Not far from thence is Bloomsbury Square. This square is commendable for its situation and largeness. On the North side is the house of the Duke of Bedford. This building was erected from a design of Inigo Jones, and is very elegant and spacious." From the duke's house in Bloomsbury Square and his surrounding property, the political party, of which he was the Chief, obtained the nickname of the Bloomsbury Gang.

Chief Justice Holt died March 5, 1710, at his house[3] in Bedford Row. In Red Lion Square Chief Justice Raymond had the town mansion wherein he died on April 15, 1733; twelve years after Sir John Pratt, Lord Camden's father, died at his house in Ormond Street. On December 15, 1761, Chief Justice Willes died at his house in Bloomsbury Square. Chagrin at missing the seals through his own arrogance, when they had been actually offered to him, was supposed to be a principal cause of the Chief Justice's death. His friends represented that he died of a broken heart; to which assertion flippant enemies responded that no man ever had a heart after living seventy-four years. Murray for many years inhabited a handsome house in Lincoln's Inn Fields; but his name is more generally associated with Bloomsbury Square, where stood the house which was sacked and burnt by the Gordon rioters. In Bloomsbury Square our grandfathers used to lounge, watching the house of Edward Law, subsequently Lord Ellenborough, in the hope of seeing Mrs. Law, as she watered the flowers of her balcony. Mrs. Law's maiden name was Towry, and, as a beauty, she remained for years the rage of London. Even at this date there remain a few aged gentlemen whose eyes sparkle and whose checks flush when they recall the charms of the lovely creature who became the wife of ungainly Edward Law, after refusing him on three separate occasions.

On becoming Lord Ellenborough and Chief Justice, Edward Law moved to a great mansion in St. James's Square, the size of which he described to a friend by saying: "Sir, if you let off a piece of ordnance in the hall, the report is not heard in the bedrooms." In this house the Chief Justice expired, on December 13, 1818. Speaking of Lord Ellenborough's residence in St. James's Square, Lord Campbell says: "This was the first instance of a common law judge moving to the 'West End.' Hitherto all the common law judges had lived within a radius of half a mile from Lincoln's Inn; but they are now spread over the Regent's Park, Hyde Park Gardens, and Kensington Gore."

Lord Harwicke and Lord Thurlow have been more than once mentioned as inhabitants of Ormond Street.

Eldon's residences may be noticed with advantage in this place. On leaving Oxford and settling in London, he took a small house for himself and Mrs. Scott in Cursitor Street, Chancery Lane. About this dwelling he wrote to his brother Henry:—"I have got a house barely sufficient to hold my small family, which (so great is the demand for them here) will, in rent and taxes, cost me annually six pounds." To this house he used to point in the days of his prosperity, and, in allusion to the poverty which he never experienced, he would add, "There was my first perch. Many a time have I run down from Cursitor Street to Fleet Market and bought sixpenn'orth of sprats for our supper." After leaving Cursitor Street, he lived in Carey Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields, where also, in his later years, he believed himself to have endured such want of money that he and his wife were glad to fill themselves with sprats. When he fixed this anecdote upon Carey Street, the old Chancellor used to represent himself as buying the sprats in Clare Market instead of Fleet Market. After some successful years he moved his household from the vicinity of Lincoln's Inn, and took a house in the law quarter, selecting one of the roomy houses (No. 42) of Gower Street, where he lived when as Attorney General he conducted the futile prosecutions of Hardy, Horne Tooke, and Thelwall, in 1794.

On quitting Gower Street, Eldon took the house in Bedford Square, which witnessed so many strange scenes during his tenure of the seals, and also during his brief exclusion from office. In Bedford Square he played the part of chivalric protector to the Princess of Wales, and chuckled over the proof-sheets of that mysterious 'book' by the publication of which the injured wife and the lawyer hoped to take vengeance on their common enemy. There the Chancellor, feeling it well to protract his flirtation with the Princess of Wales, entertained her in the June of 1808, with a grand banquet, from which Lady Eldon was compelled by indisposition to be absent. And there, four years later, when he was satisfied that her Royal Highness's good opinion could be of no service to him, the crafty, self-seeking minister gave a still more splendid dinner to the husband whose vices he had professed to abhor, whose meanness of spirit he had declared the object of his contempt. "However," writes Lord Campbell, with much satiric humor, describing this alliance between the selfish voluptuary and the equally selfish lawyer, "he was much comforted by having the honor, at the prorogation, of entertaining at dinner his Royal Highness the Regent, with whom he was now a special favorite, and who, enjoying the splendid hospitality of Bedford Square, forgot that the Princess of Wales had sat in the same room; at the same table; on the same chair; had drunk of the same wine; out of the same cup; while the conversation had turned on her barbarous usage, and the best means of publishing to the world her wrongs and his misconduct."

Another of the Prince Regent's visits to Bedford Square is surrounded with comic circumstances and associations. In the April of 1815, a mastership of chancery became vacant by the death of Mr. Morris; and forthwith the Chancellor was assailed with entreaties from every direction for the vacant post. For two months Eldon, pursuing that policy of which he was a consummate master, delayed to appoint; but on June 23, he disgusted the bar and shocked the more intelligent section of London society, by conferring the post on Jekyll, the courtly bon vivant and witty descendant of Sir Joseph Jekyll, Master of the Rolls. Amiable, popular, and brilliant, Jekyll received the congratulations of his numerous personal friends; but beyond the circle of his private acquaintance the appointment created lively dissatisfaction—dissatisfaction which was heightened rather than diminished by the knowledge that the placeman's good fortune was entirely due to the personal importunity of the Prince Regent, who called at the Chancellor's house, and having forced his way into the bedroom, to which Eldon was confined by an attack of gout, refused to take his departure without a promise that his friend should have the vacant place. How this royal influence was applied to the Chancellor, is told in the 'Anecdote Book.'

Fortunately Jekyll was less incompetent for the post than his enemies had declared, and his friends admitted. He proved a respectable master, and held his post until age and sickness compelled him to resign it; and then, sustained in spirits by the usual retiring pension, he sauntered on right mirthfully into the valley of the shadow of death. On the day after his retirement, the jocose veteran, meeting Eldon in the street, observed:—"Yesterday, Lord Chancellor, I was your master; to-day I am my own."

From Bedford Square, Lord Eldon, for once following the fashion, moved to Hamilton Place, Piccadilly. With the purpose of annoying him the 'Queen's friends,' during the height of the 'Queen Caroline agitation,' proposed to buy the house adjoining the Chancellor's residence in Hamilton Place, and to fit it up for the habitation of that not altogether meritorious lady. Such an arrangement would have been an humiliating as well as exasperating insult to a lawyer who, as long as the excitement about the poor woman lasted, would have been liable to affront whenever he left his house or looked through the windows facing Hamilton Place. The same mob that delighted in hallooing round whatever house the Queen honored with her presence, would have varied their 'hurrahs' for the lady with groans for the lawyer who, after making her wrongs the stalking-horse of his ambition, had become one of her chief oppressors. Eldon determined to leave Hamilton Place on the day which should see the Queen enter it; and hearing that the Lords of the Treasury were about to assist her with money for the purchase of the house, he wrote to Lord Liverpool, protesting against an arrangement which would subject him to annoyance at home and to ridicule out of doors. "I should," he wrote, "be very unwilling to state anything offensively, but I cannot but express my confidence that Government will not aid a project which must remove the Chancellor from his house the next hour that it takes effect, and from his office at the same time." This decided attitude caused the Government to withdraw their countenance from the project; whereupon a public subscription was opened for its accomplishment. Sufficient funds were immediately proffered; and the owner of the mansion had verbally made terms with the patriots, when the Chancellor, outbidding them, bought the house himself. "I had no other means," he wrote to his daughter, "of preventing the destruction of my present house as a place in which I could live, or which anybody else would take. The purchase-money is large, but I have already had such offers, that I shall not, I think, lose by it."

Russell Square—where Lord Loughborough (who knows aught of the Earl of Rosslyn?) had his town house, after leaving Lincoln's Inn Fields, and where Charles Abbott (Lord Tenterden) established himself on leaving the house in Queen Square, into which he married during the summer of 1795—maintained a quasi-fashionable repute much later than the older and therefore more interesting parts of the 'old law quarter.' Theodore Hook's disdain for Bloomsbury is not rightly appreciated by those who fail to bear in mind that the Russell Square of Hook's time was tenanted by people who—though they were unknown to 'fashion,' in the sense given to the word by men of Brummel's habit and tone—had undeniable status amongst the aristocracy and gentry of England. With some justice the witty writer has been charged with snobbish vulgarity because he ridiculed humble Bloomsbury for being humble. His best defence is found in the fact that his extravagant scorn was not directed at helpless and altogether obscure persons so much as at an educated and well-born class who laughed at his caricatures, and gave dinners at which he was proud to be present. Though it fails to clear the novelist of the special charge, this apology has a certain amount of truth; and in so far as it palliates some of his offences against good taste and gentle feeling, by all means let him have the full benefit of it. Criticism can afford to be charitable to the clever, worthless man, now that no one admires or tries to respect him. Again, it may be advanced, in Hook's behalf, that political animosity—a less despicable, though not less hurtful passion than love of gentility—contributed to Hook's dislike of the quarter on the north side of Holborn. As a humorist he ridiculed, as a panderer to fashionable prejudices he sneered at, Bloomsbury; but as a tory he cherished a genuine antagonism to the district of town that was associated in the public mind with the wealth and ascendency of the house of Bedford. Anyhow, the Russell Square neighborhood—although it was no longer fashionable, as Belgravia and Mayfair are fashionable at the present day—remained the locality of many important families, at the time when Mr. Theodore Hook was pleased to assume that no one above the condition of a rich tradesman or second-rate attorney lived in it. Of the lawyers whose names are mournfully associated with the square itself are Sir Samuel Romilly and Sir Thomas Noon Talfourd. In 1818, the year of his destruction by his own hand, Sir Samuel Romilly lived there; and Talfourd had a house on the east side of the square up to the time of his lamented death in 1854.

That Theodore Hook's ridicule of Bloomsbury greatly lessened for a time the value of its houses there is abundant evidence. When he deluged the district with scornful satire, his voice was a social power, to which a considerable number of honest people paid servile respect. His clever words were repeated; and Bloomsbury having become a popular by-word for contempt, aristocratic families ceased to live, and were reluctant to invest money, in its well-built mansions. But Hook only accelerated a movement which had for years been steadily though silently making progress. Erskine knew Red Lion Square when every house was occupied by a lawyer of wealth and eminence, if not of titular rank; but before he quitted the stage, barristers had relinquished the ground in favor of opulent shopkeepers. When an ironmonger became the occupant of a house in Red Lion Square on the removal of a distinguished counsel, Erskine wrote the epigram—

"This house, where once a lawyer dwelt, Is now a smith's,—alas! How rapidly the iron age Succeeds the age of brass."

These lines point to a minor change in the social arrangements of London, which began with the century, and was still in progress when Erskine had for years been mouldering in his grave. In 1823, the year of Erskine's death, Chief Baron Richards expired in his town house, in Great Ormond Street. In the July of the following year Baron Wood—i.e., George Wood, the famous special pleader—died at his house in Bedford Square, about seventeen months after his resignation of his seat in the Court of Exchequer to John Hullock.

At the present time the legal fraternity has deserted Bloomsbury. The last of the Judges to depart was Chief Baron Pollock, who sold his great house in Queen Square at a quite recent date. With the disappearance of this venerable and universally respected judge, the legal history of the neighborhood may be said to have closed. Some wealthy solicitors still live in Russell Square and the adjoining streets; a few old-fashioned barristers still linger in Upper Bedford Place and Lower Bedford Place. Guilford Street and Doughty Street, and the adjacent thoroughfares of the same class, still number a sprinkling of rising juniors, literary barristers, and fairly prosperous attorneys. Perhaps the ancient aroma of the 'old law quarter'—Mesopotamia, us it is now disrespectfully termed—is still strong and pleasant enough to attract a few lawyers who cherish a sentimental fondness for the past. A survey of the Post Office Directory creates an impression that, compared with other neighborhoods, the district north and northeast of Bloomsbury Square still possesses more than an average number of legal residents; but it no longer remains the quarter of the lawyers.

There still resides in Mecklenburgh Square a learned Queen's Counsel, for whose preservation the prayers of the neighborhood constantly ascend. To his more scholarly and polite neighbors this gentleman is an object of intellectual interest and anxious affection. As the last of an extinct species, as a still animate Dodo, as a lordly Mohican who has outlived his tribe, this isolated counselor of her Gracious Majesty is watched by heedful eyes whenever he crosses his threshold. In the morning, as he paces from his dwelling to chambers, his way down Doughty Street and John Street, and through Gray's Inn Gardens, is guarded by men anxious for his safety. Shreds of orange-peel are whisked from the pavement on which he is about to tread; and when he crosses Holborn he walks between those who would imperil their lives to rescue him from danger. The gatekeeper in Doughty Street daily makes him low obeisance, knowing the historic value and interest of his courtly presence. Occasionally the inhabitants of Mecklenburgh Square whisper a fear that some sad morning their Q.C. may flit away without giving them a warning. Long may it be before the residents of the 'Old Law Quarter' shall wail over the fulfillment of this dismal anticipation!

[2] Dr. Clench lived in Brownlow Street, Holborn; and until his death, in 1831, John Abernethy occupied in Bedford Row the house which is still inhabited by an eminent surgeon, who was Abernethy's favorite pupil. Of Dr. Clench's death in January, 1691-2, Narcissus Luttrell gives the following account: "The 5th, last night, Dr. Clench, the physician, was strangled in a coach; two persons came to his house in Brownlow Street, Holborn, in a coach, and pretended to carry him to a patient's in the City; they drove backward and forward, and after some time stopt by Leadenhall, and sent the coachman to buy a couple of fowls for supper, who went accordingly; and in the meantime they slipt away, and the coachman when he returned found Dr. Clench with a handkerchief tyed about his neck, with a hard sea-coal twisted in it, and clapt against his windpipe; he had spirits applied to him and other means, but too late, he having been dead some time." Dr. Clench's murderer, one Mr. Harrison, a man of gentle condition, was apprehended, tried, found guilty, and hung in chains.

[3] Holt's country seat was Redgrave Hall, formerly the home of the Bacons. It was on his manor of Redgrave, that Sir Nicholas Bacon entertained Queen Elizabeth, when she remarked that her Lord Keeper's house was too small for him, and he answered—"Your Majesty has made me too great for my house."



PART II.

LOVES OF THE LAWYERS.



CHAPTER VI.

A LOTTERY.

"I would compare the multitude of women which are to be chosen for wives unto a bag full of snakes, having among them a single eel; now if a man should put his hand into this bag, he may chance to light on the eel; but it is an hundred to one he shall be stung by a snake."

These words were often heard from the lips of that honest judge, Sir John More, whose son Thomas stirred from brain to foot by the bright eyes, and snowy neck, and flowing locks of cara Elizabetha (the cara Elizabetha of a more recent Tom More was 'Bessie, my darling')—penned those warm and sweetly-flowing verses which delight scholars of the present generation, and of which the following lines are neither the least musical nor the least characteristic:—

"Jam subit illa dies quae ludentem obtulit olim Inter virgineos te mibi prima choros. Lactea cum flavi decuerunt colla capilli, Cum gena par nivibus visa, labella rosis: Cum tua perstringunt oculos duo sydera nostros Perque oculos intrant in mea corda meos."

The goddess of love played the poet more than one droll trick. Having approached her with musical flattery, he fled from her with fear and abhorrence. For a time the highest and holiest of human affections was to his darkened mind no more than a carnal appetite; and he strove to conquer the emotions which he feared would rouse within him a riot of impious passions. With fasting and cruel discipline he would fain have killed the devil that agitated him, whenever he passed a pretty girl in the street. As a lay Carthusian he wore a hair-shirt next his skin, disciplined his bare back with scourges, slept on the cold ground or a hard bench, and by a score other strong measures sought to preserve his spiritual by ruining his bodily health. But nature was too powerful for unwholesome doctrine and usage, and before he rashly took a celibatic vow, he knelt to fair Jane Colt—and rising, kissed her on the lips.

When spiritual counsel had removed his conscientious objections to matrimony, he could not condescend to marry for love, but must, forsooth, choose his wife in obedience to considerations of compassion and mercy. Loving her younger sister, he paid his addresses to Jane, because he shrunk from the injustice of putting the junior above the older of the two girls. "Sir Thomas having determined, by the advice and direction of his ghostly father, to be a married man, there was at that time a pleasant conceited gentleman of an ancient family in Essex, one Mr. John Colt, of New Hall, that invited him into his house, being much delighted in his company, proffering unto him the choice of any of his daughters, who were young gentlewomen of very good carriage, good complexions, and very religiously inclined; whose honest and sweet conversation and virtuous education enticed Sir Thomas not a little; and although his affection most served him to the second, for that he thought her the fairest and best favored, yet when he thought within himself that it would be a grief and some blemish to the eldest to have the younger sister preferred before her, he, out of a kind of compassion, settled his fancy upon the eldest, and soon after married her with all his friends' good liking."

The marriage was a fair happy union, but its duration was short. After giving birth to four children Jane died, leaving the young husband, who had instructed her sedulously, to mourn her sincerely. That his sorrow was poignant may be easily believed; for her death deprived him of a docile pupil, as well as a dutiful wife.

"Virginem duxit admodum puellam," Erasmus says of his friend, "claro genere natam, rudem adhuc utpote ruri inter parentes ac sorores semper habitam, quo magis illi liceret illam ad suos mores fingere. Hanc et literis instruendam curavit, et omni musices genere doctam reddidit." Here is another insight into the considerations which brought about the marriage. When he set out in search of a wife, he wished to capture a simple, unsophisticated, untaught country girl, whose ignorance of the world should incline her to rely on his superior knowledge, and the deficiencies of whose intellectual training should leave him an ample field for educational experiments. Seeking this he naturally turned his steps toward the eastern countries; and in Essex he found the young lady, who to the last learnt with intelligence and zeal the lessons which he set her.

More's second choice of a wife was less fortunate than his first. Wanting a woman to take care of his children and preside over his rather numerous establishment, he made an offer to a widow, named Alice Middleton. Plain and homely in appearance and taste, Mistress Alice would have been invaluable to Sir Thomas as a superior domestic servant, but his good judgment and taste deserted him when he decided to make her a closer companion. Bustling, keen, loquacious, tart, the good dame scolded servants and petty tradesmen with admirable effect; but even at this distance of time the sensitive ear is pained by her sharp, garrulous tongue, when its acerbity and virulence are turned against her pacific and scholarly husband. A smile follows the recollection that he endeavored to soften her manners and elevate her nature by a system of culture similar to that by which Jane Colt, 'admodum puella,' had been formed and raised into a polished gentlewoman. Past forty years of age, Mistress Alice was required to educate herself anew. Erasmus assures his readers that "though verging on old age, and not of a yielding temper," she was prevailed upon "to take lessons on the lute, the cithara, the viol, the monochord, and the flute, which she daily practised to him."

It has been the fashion with biographers to speak bitterly of this poor woman, and to pity More for his cruel fate in being united to a termagant. No one has any compassion for her. Sir Thomas is the victim; Mistress Alice the shrill virago. In those days, when every historic reprobate finds an apologist, is there no one to say a word in behalf of the Widow Middleton, whose lot in life and death seems to this writer very pitiable? She was quick in temper, slow in brain, domineering, awkward. To rouse sympathy for such a woman is no easy task; but if wretchedness is a title to compassion, Mistress Alice has a right to charity and gentle usage. It was not her fault that she could not sympathize with her grand husband, in his studies and tastes, his lofty life and voluntary death; it was her misfortune that his steps traversed plains high above her own moral and intellectual level. By social theory they were intimate companions; in reality, no man and woman in all England were wider apart. From his elevation he looked down on her with commiseration that was heightened by curiosity and amazement; and she daily writhed under his gracious condescension and passionless urbanity; under her own consciousness of inferiority and consequent self-scorn. He could no more sympathize with her petty aims, than she with the high views and ambitions; and conjugal sympathy was far more necessary to her than to him. His studious friends and clever children afforded him an abundance of human fellowship; his public cares and intellectual pursuits gave him constant diversion. He stood in such small need of her, that if some benevolent fairy had suddenly endowed her with grace, wisdom, and understanding, the sum of his satisfaction would not have been perceptibly altered. But apart from him she had no sufficient enjoyments. His genuine companionship was requisite for her happiness; but for this society nature had endowed her with no fitness. In the case of an unhappy marriage, where the unhappiness is not caused by actual misconduct, but is solely due to incongruity of tastes and capacities, it is cruel to assume that the superior person of the ill-assorted couple has the stronger claim to sympathy.

Finding his wife less tractable than he wished, More withheld his confidence from her, taking the most important steps of his life, without either asking for her advice, or even announcing the course which he was about to take. His resignation of the seals was announced to her on the day after his retirement from office, and in a manner which, notwithstanding its drollery, would greatly pain any woman of ordinary sensibility. The day following the date of his resignation was a holiday; and in accordance with his usage the ex-Chancellor, together with his household, attended service in Chelsea Church. On her way to church, Lady More returned the greetings of her friends with a stateliness not unseemly at that ceremonious time in one who was the lady of the Lord High Chancellor. At the conclusion of service, ere she left her pew, the intelligence was broken to her in a jest that she had lost her cherished dignity. "And whereas upon the holidays during his High Chancellorship one of his gentlemen, when the service of the church was done, ordinarily used to come to my lady his wife's pew-door, and say unto her 'Madam, my lord is gone,' he came into my lady his wife's pew himself, and making a low courtesy, said unto her, 'Madam, my lord is gone,' which she, imagining to be but one of his jests, as he used many unto her, he sadly affirmed unto her that it was true. This was the way he thought fittest to break the matter unto his wife, who was full of sorrow to hear it."

Equally humorous and pathetic was that memorable interview between More and his wife in the Tower, when she, regarding his position by the lights with which nature had endowed her, counseled him to yield even at that late moment to the king. "What the goodyear, Mr. More!" she cried, bustling up to the tranquil and courageous man. "I marvel that you, who have been hitherto always taken for a wise man, will now so play the fool as to lie here in this close, filthy prison, and be content to be shut up thus with mice and rats, when you might be abroad at your liberty, with the favor and good-will both of the king and his council, if you would but do as the bishops and best learned of his realm have done; and, seeing you have at Chelsea a right fair house, your library, your books, your gallery, and all other necessaries so handsome about you, where you might, in company with me, your wife, your children, and household, be merry, I muse what, in God's name, you mean, here thus fondly to tarry." Having heard her out—preserving his good-humor, he said to her, with a cheerful countenance, "I pray thee, good Mrs. Alice, tell me one thing!" "What is it?" saith she, "Is not this house as near heaven as my own?"

Sir Thomas More was looking towards heaven.

Mistress Alice had her eye upon the 'right fair house' at Chelsea.



CHAPTER VII.

GOOD QUEEN BESS.

Amongst the eminent men who are frequently mentioned as notorious suitors for the personal affection of Queen Elizabeth, a conspicuous place is awarded to Hatton, by the scandalous memoirs of his time and the romantic traditions of later ages. Historians of the present generation have accepted without suspicion the story that Hatton was Elizabeth's amorous courtier, that the fanciful letters of 'Lydds' were fervent solicitations for response to his passion; that he won her favor and his successive promotions by timely exhibition of personal grace and steady perseverance in flattery. Campbell speaks of the queen and her chancellor as 'lovers;' and the view of the historian has been upheld by novelists and dramatic writers.

The writer of this page ventures to reject a story which is not consistent with truth, and casts a dark suspicion on her who was not more powerful as a queen than virtuous as a woman.

For illustrations of lovers' pranks amongst the Elizabethan lawyers, the reader must pass to two great judges, the inferior of whom was a far greater man than Christopher Hatton. Rivals in law and politics, Bacon and Coke were also rivals in love. Having wooed the same proud, lovely, capricious, violent woman, the one was blessed with failure, and the other was cursed with success.

Until a revolution in the popular estimate of Bacon was effected by Mr. Hepworth Dixon's vindication of that great man, it was generally believed that love was no appreciable element in his nature. Delight in vain display occupied in his affections the place which should have been held by devotion to womanly beauty and goodness; he had sneered at love in an essay, and his cold heart never rebelled against the doctrine of his clever brain; he wooed his notorious cousin for the sake of power, and then married Alice Barnham for money. Such was the theory, the most solid foundation of which was a humorous treatise,[4] misread and misapplied.

The lady's wealth, rank, and personal attractions were in truth the only facts countenancing the suggestion that Francis Bacon proffered suit to his fair cousin from interested motives. Notwithstanding her defects of temper, no one denies that she was a woman qualified by nature to rouse the passion of man. A wit and beauty, she was mistress of the arts which heighten the powers of feminine tact and loveliness. The daughter of Sir Thomas Cecil, the grandchild of Lord Burleigh, she was Francis Bacon's near relation; and though the Cecils were not inclined to help him to fortune, he was nevertheless one of their connection, and consequently often found himself in familiar conversation with the bright and fascinating woman. Doubtless she played with him, persuading herself that she merely treated him with cousinly cordiality, when she was designedly making him her lover. The marvel was that she did not give him her hand; that he sought it is no occasion for surprise—or for insinuations that he coveted her wealth. Biography is by turns mischievously communicative and vexatiously silent. That Bacon loved Sir William Hatton's widow, and induced Essex to support his suit, and that rejecting him she gave herself to his enemy, we know; but history tells us nothing of the secret struggle which preceded the lady's resolution to become the wife of an unalluring, ungracious, peevish, middle-aged widower. She must have felt some tenderness for her cousin, whose comeliness spoke to every eye, whose wit was extolled by every lip. Perhaps she, like many others, had misread the essay 'Of Love,' and felt herself bound in honor to bring the philosopher to his knees at her feet. It is credible that from the outset of their sentimental intercourse, she intended to win and then to flout him. But coquetry cannot conquer the first laws of human feeling. To be a good flirt, a woman must have nerve and a sympathetic nature; and doubtless the flirt in this instance paid for her triumph with the smart of a lasting wound. Is it fanciful to argue that her subsequent violence and misconduct, her impatience of control and scandalous disrespect for her aged husband, may have been in some part due to the sacrifice of personal inclination which she made in accepting Coke at the entreaty of prudent and selfish relations—and to the contrast, perpetually haunting her, between what she was as Sir Edward's termagant partner, and what she might have been as Francis Bacon's wife?

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