The Reminiscences Of Sir Henry Hawkins (Baron Brampton)
by Henry Hawkins Brampton
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As a preface I wish to say only a very few words—namely, that but for the great pressure put upon me I should not have ventured to write, or allowed to be published, any reminiscences of mine, being very conscious that I could not offer to the public any words of my own that would be worth the time it would occupy to read them; but the whole merit of this volume is due to my very old friend Richard Harris, K.C., who has already shown, by his skill and marvellously attractive composition in reproducing my efforts in the Tichborne case, what interest may be imparted to an otherwise very dry subject. In that work[A] he has done me much more than justice, and for this I thank him, with many good wishes for the success of this his new work, and with many thanks to those of the public who may take and feel an interest in such of my imperfect reminiscences as are here recorded.


HARROGATE, August 17, 1904.

[Footnote A: "Illustrations in Advocacy" (fourth edition, Stevens and Haynes).]


This volume is the outcome of many conversations with Lord Brampton and of innumerable manuscript notes from his pen. I have endeavoured, as far as possible, to present them to the public in such a manner that, although chronological order has not been strictly adhered to, it has been, nevertheless, considering the innumerable events of Lord Brampton's career, carefully observed.

Apocryphal stories are always told of celebrated men, and of no one more than of Sir Henry Hawkins during his career on the Bench and at the Bar; but I venture to say that there is no doubtful story in this volume, and, further, that there is not one which has ever been told exactly in the same form before. Good stories, like good coin, lose by circulation. If there should be one or two in these reminiscences which have lost their image and superscription by much handling, I hope that the recasting which they have undergone will give them, not only the brightness of the original mint, but a wider circulation than they have ever known.

The distinguishing characteristics by which Lord Brampton's stories may be known I have long been familiar with, and have no hesitation in saying that one or other, some or all, may be found in every anecdote that bears the genuine stamp. They are


My claims in the production of this volume are confined to its defects, although Lord Brampton has been generous enough to attribute to me a share in its merits.




October 6, 1904.

























































* * * * *



My father was a solicitor at Hitchin, and much esteemed in the county of Hertford. He was also agent for many of the county families, with whom he was in friendly intercourse. My mother was the daughter of the respected Clerk of the Peace for Bedfordshire, a position of good influence, which might be, and is occasionally, of great assistance to a young man commencing his career at the Bar. To me it was of no importance whatever.

My father had a large family, sons and daughters, of whom only two are living. I mention this as an explanation of my early position when straitened circumstances compelled a most rigid economy. During no part of my educational career, either at school or in the Inn of Court to which I belonged, had I anything but a small allowance from my father. My life at home is as little worth telling as that of any other in the same social position, and I pass it by, merely stating that, after proper preparation, I was packed off to Bedford School for a few years.

My life there would have been an uninteresting blank but for a little circumstance which will presently be related. It was the custom then at this very excellent foundation to give mainly a classical education, and doubtless I attained a very fair proficiency in my studies. Had I cultivated them, however, with the same assiduity as I did many of my pursuits in after-life, I might have attained some eminence as a professor of the dead languages, and arrived at the dignity of one of the masters of Bedford.

However, if I had any ambition at that time, it was not to become a professor of dead languages, but to see what I could make of my own. It is of no interest to any one that I had great numbers of peg-tops and marbles, or learnt to be a pretty good swimmer in the Ouse. There was a greater swim prepared for me in after-life, and that is the only reason for my referring to it.

In the year 1830 Bedford Schoolhouse occupied the whole of one side of St. Paul's Square, which faced the High Street. From that part of the building you commanded a view of the square and the beautiful country around. The sleepy old bridge spanned the still more sleepy river, over which lay the quiet road leading to the little village of Willshampstead, and it came along through the old square where the schoolhouse was.

It was market day in Bedford, and there was the usual concourse of buyers and sellers, tramps and country people in their Sunday gear; farmers and their wives, with itinerant venders of every saleable and unsaleable article from far and near.

I was in the upper schoolroom with another boy, and, looking out of the window, had an opportunity of watching all that took place for a considerable space. There was a good deal of merriment to divert our attention, for there were clowns and merry-andrews passing along the highroad, with singlestick players, Punch and Judy shows, and other public amusers. Every one knows that the smallest event in the country will cause a good deal of excitement, even if it be so small an occurrence as a runaway horse.

There was, however, no runaway horse to-day; but suddenly a great silence came over the people, and a sullen gloom that made a great despondency in my mind without my knowing why. Public solemnity affects even the youngest of us. At all events, it affected me.

Presently—and deeply is the event impressed on my mind after seventy years of a busy life, full of almost every conceivable event—I saw, emerging from a bystreet that led from Bedford Jail, and coming along through the square and near the window where I was standing, a common farm cart, drawn by a horse which was led by a labouring man. As I was above the crowd on the first floor I could see there was a layer of straw in the cart at the bottom, and above it, tumbled into a rough heap, as though carelessly thrown in, a quantity of the same; and I could see also from all the surrounding circumstances, especially the pallid faces of the crowd, that there was something sad about it all. The horse moved slowly along, at almost a snail's pace, while behind walked a poor, sad couple with their heads bowed down, and each with a hand on the tail-board of the cart. They were evidently overwhelmed with grief.

Happily we have no such processions now; even Justice itself has been humanized to some extent, and the law's cruel severity mitigated. The cart contained the rude shell into which had been laid the body of this poor man and woman's only son, a youth of seventeen, hanged that morning at Bedford Jail for setting fire to a stack of corn!

He was now being conveyed to the village of Willshampstead, six miles from Bedford, there to be laid in the little churchyard where in his childhood he had played. He was the son of very respectable labouring people of Willshampstead; had been misled into committing what was more a boyish freak than a crime, and was hanged. That was all the authorities could do for him, and they did it. This is the remotest and the saddest reminiscence of my life, and the only sad one I mean to relate, if I can avoid it.

But years afterwards, when I became a judge, this picture, photographed on my mind as it was, gave me many a lesson which I believe was turned to good account on the judicial bench. It was mainly useful in impressing on my mind the great consideration of the surrounding circumstances of every crime, the degree of guilt in the criminal, and the difference in the degrees of the same kind of offence. About this I shall say something hereafter.

I remained at this school until I had acquired all the learning my father thought necessary for my future position, as he intended it to be, and much more than I thought necessary, unless I was to get my living by teaching Latin and Greek.

In due course I was articled to my worthy uncle, the Clerk of the Peace, and, had I possessed my present experience, should have known that it was a diplomatic move of the most profound policy to enable me, if anything happened to him, to succeed to that important dignity.

Had I been ambitious of wealth, there were other offices which my uncle held, to the great satisfaction of the county as well as his own. These would naturally descend to me, and I should have been in a position of great prominence in the county, with a very respectable income.

But I hated the drudgery of an attorney's office. In six months I saw enough of its documentary evidence to convince me that I hated it from my heart, and that nothing on earth would induce me to become a solicitor. I took good care, meek as I was, to show this determination to my friends. It was my only chance of escape. But while remaining there it was my duty to work, however hateful the task, and I did so.

Even this, to me, most odious business had its advantages in after-life. I attended one morning with my uncle the Petty Sessions of Hertford, where, no doubt, I was supposed to enlarge my knowledge of sessions practice; it certainly did so, for I knew nothing, and received a lesson, which is not only my earliest recollection, but my first experience in Advocacy.

At this Hertford Petty Sessional Division the chairman was a somewhat pompous clergyman, but very devoted to his duties. He was strict in his application of the law when he knew it, but it was fortunate for some delinquents, although unfortunate for others, that he did not always possess sufficient knowledge to act independently of his clerk's opinion, while the clerk's opinion did not always depend upon his knowledge of law.

An impudent vagabond was brought up before this clergyman charged with a violent and unprovoked assault on a man in a public-house. He was said to have gone into the room where the prosecutor was, and to have taken up his jug of ale and appropriated the contents to his own use without the owner's consent. The prosecutor, annoyed at the outrage, rose, and was immediately knocked down by the interloper, and in falling cut his head.

There was to my untutored mind no defence, but the accused was a man of remarkable cunning and not a little ingenuity. He knew the magistrate well, and his special weakness, which was vanity. By his knowledge the man completely outwitted his adversary, and shifted the charge from himself on to the prosecutor's shoulders. The curious thing was he cross-examined the reverend chairman instead of the witness, which I thought a master-stroke of policy, if not advocacy.

"You know this public-house, sir?" he asked.

The reverend gentleman nodded.

"I put it to yourself, sir, as a gentleman: how would you have liked it if another man had come to your house and drunk your beer?"

There was no necessity to give an answer to this question. It answered itself. The reverend gentleman would not have liked it, and, seeing this, the accused continued,—

"Well, your honour, this here man comes and takes my beer.

"'Halloa, Jack!' I ses, 'no more o' that.'

"'No,' he says, 'there's no more; it's all gone.'

"'Stop a bit," says I; 'that wun't do, nuther.'

"'That wun't do?' he says. 'Wool that do?' and he ups with the jug and hits me a smack in the mouth, and down I goes clean on the floor; he then falls atop of me and right on the pot he held in his hand, which broke with his fall, bein' a earthenware jug, and cuts his head, and 'Sarve him right,' I hopes your honour'll say; and the proof of which statement is, sir, that there's the cut o' that jug on his forehead plainly visible for anybody to see at this present moment. Now, sir, what next? for there's summat else.

"'Jack,' says I, 'I'll summon you for this assault.'

"'Yes,' he says, 'and so'll I; I'll have ee afore his Worship Mr. Knox.'

"'Afore his Worship Mr. Knox?' says I. 'And why not afore his Worship the Rev. Mr. Hull? He's the gentleman for my money—a real gentleman as'll hear reason, and do justice atween man and man.'

"'What!' says Jack, with an oath that I ain't going to repeat afore a clergyman—'what!' he says, 'a d—d old dromedary like that!'

"'Dromedary, sir,' meaning your worship! Did anybody ever hear such wile words against a clergyman, let alone a magistrate, sir? And he then has the cheek to come here and ask you to believe him. 'Old dromedary!' says he—' a d—d old dromedary.'"

Mr. Hull, the reverend chairman, was naturally very indignant, not that he minded on his own account, as he said—that was of no consequence—but a man who could use such foul language was not to be believed on his oath. He therefore dismissed the summons, and ordered the prosecutor to pay the costs.

I think both my father and uncle still nursed the idea that I was to become the good old-fashioned county attorney, for they perpetually rang in my ears the praises of "our Bench" and "our chairman," out Bench being by far the biggest thing in Hertfordshire, except when a couple of notables came down to contest the heavy-weight championship or some other noble prize.

For myself, I can truly say I had no ambition at this time beyond earning my bread, for I pretty well knew I had to trust entirely to my own exertions. The fortunate have many friends, and it is just the fortunate who are best without them. I had none, and desired none, if they were to advise me against my inclinations. My term being now expired, for I loyally pursued my studies to the bitter end, my mind was made up, ambition or no ambition, for the Bar or the Stage.

Like most young men, I loved acting, and quite believed I would succeed. My passion for the stage was encouraged by an old schoolfellow of my father's when he was at Rugby, for whom I had, as a boy, a great admiration. I forget whether in after-life I retained it, for we drifted apart, and our divergent ways continued their course without our meeting again.

Any worse decision, so far as my friends were concerned, could not be conceived. They both remonstrated solemnly, and were deeply touched with what they saw was my impending ruin, especially the ruin of their hopes. In vain, however, did they attempt to persuade me; my mind was as fixed as the mind of two-and-twenty can be. Having warned me in terms of severity, they now addressed me in the language of affection, and asked how I could be so headstrong and foolish as to attempt the Bar, at which it was clear that I could only succeed after working about twenty years as a special pleader.

They next set before me, as a terrible warning, my uncle, another brother of my father's, who had gone to the Bar, and I will not say never had any practice, for I believe he practised a good deal on the Norfolk Broads, and once had a brief at sessions concerning the irremovability of a pauper, which he conducted much to the satisfaction of the pauper, although I believe the solicitor never gave him another brief.

However, our family trio could not go on for ever quarrelling, and at last they made a compromise with me, much to my satisfaction. My father undertook to allow me a hundred a year for five years, and after that time it was to cease automatically, whether I sank or swam, with this solemn proviso, however, for the soothing of his conscience: that if I sank my fate was to be upon my own head! I agreed also to that part of the business, and accepting the terms, started for London.



I ought to mention, in speaking of my ancestors, that I had a very worthy godfather who was half-brother to my father. He was connected with a family of great respectability at Royston, in Cambridgeshire, and inherited from them a moderate-sized landed estate. A portion of this property was a little farm situate at Brampton, in Huntingdonshire, from which village I took the title I now enjoy.

The farm was left, however, to my aunt for life, who lived to a good old age, as most life-tenants do whom you expect to succeed, and I got nothing until it was of no use to me. When I came into possession I was making a very fair income at the Bar, and the probability is my aunt did me, unconsciously, the greatest kindness she could in keeping me out of it so long.

So much for my ancestors. About the rest of them I know nothing, except an anecdote or two.

There was one more event in my boyhood which I will mention, because it is historic. I assisted my father, on my little pony, in proclaiming William IV. on his accession to the throne, and I mention it with the more pride because, having been created a Peer of the Realm by her late gracious Majesty Queen Victoria, I was qualified to assist as a member of the Privy Council at the accession of his present most gracious Majesty, and had the honour to hear him announce himself as King Edward of England by the title of Edward the Seventh!

Arrived in London, full of good advice and abundance of warnings as to the fate that awaited me, I entered as a pupil the chambers of a famous special pleader of that time, whose name was Frederick Thompson. This was in the year 1841.

I have the right to say I worked very hard there for several months, and studied with all my might; nor was the study distasteful. I was learning something which would be useful to me in after-life. Moreover, being endowed with pluck and energy, I wanted to show that my uncles—for the godfather warned me as well—and my father were false prophets. So I gave myself up entirely to the acquisition of knowledge, this being absolutely necessary if I was to make anything of my future career. "Sink or swim," my father said, was the alternative, so I was resolved to keep my head above water if possible.

After being at Thompson's my allotted period, I next went to Mr. George Butt, a very able and learned man, who afterwards became a Queen's Counsel, but never an advocate. I acquired while with him a good deal of knowledge that was invaluable, became his favourite pupil, and was in due course entrusted with papers of great responsibility, so that in time it came to pass that Mr. Butt would send off my opinions without any correction.

These are small things to talk of now, but they were great then, and the foundation of what, to me, were great things to come, although I little suspected any of them at that time; and as I look back over that long stretch of years, I have the satisfaction of feeling that I did not enter upon my precarious career without doing my utmost to fit myself for it.

In those early days of the century prize-fights were very common in England. The noble art of self-defence was patronized by the greatest in the land. Society loved a prize-fight, and always went to see it, as Society went to any other fashionable function. Magistrates went, and even clerical members of that august body. As magistrates it may have been their duty to discountenance, but as county gentlemen it was their privilege to support, the noble champions of the art, especially when they had their money on the event.

The magistrates, if their presence was ever discovered, said they went to prevent a breach of the peace, but if they were unable to effect this laudable object, they looked on quietly so as to prevent any one committing a breach of the peace on themselves. Their individual heads were worth something.

It was to one of these exhibitions of valour, between Owen Swift and Brighton Bill, that a reverend and sporting magistrate took my brother John, a nice good schoolboy, in a tall hat. He thought it was the right thing that the boy should see the world. I thought also that what was good for John, as prescribed by his clerical adviser, would not be bad for me, so I went as well.

There was a great crowd, of course, but I kept my eye on John's tall chimney-pot hat, knowing that while I saw that I should not lose John.

Presently there was a stir, for Brighton Bill had landed a tremendous blow on the cheek of Owen Swift, and while we were applauding, as is the custom at prize-fights and public dinners, a cunning pickpocket standing immediately behind John pushed the tall chimney-pot hat tightly down over the boy's eyes.

His little hands, which had been in his pockets, went up in a moment to raise his hat, so that he might see the world, the big object he had come to see; and immediately in went two other hands, and out came the savings of John's life—two precious half-crowns, which he had shown to me with great pride that very morning! When he saw the world again the rogue had disappeared.

The famous place for these pugilistic encounters, or one of the famous places, was a spot called Noon's Folly, which was within a very few miles of Royston, where the counties of Cambridge, Suffolk, Essex, and Hertfordshire meet, or most of them. That was the scene of many a stiff encounter; and although, of course, there were both magisterial and police interference when the knowledge reached them that a fight was about to take place within their particular jurisdiction, by some singular misadventure the knowledge never reached them until their worships were returning from the battle. All was over before any official communication was made.

* * * * *

I was entered of the Middle Temple on April 16, 1839, and remained with Mr. Butt until I had kept sufficient terms to qualify me to take out a licence to plead on my own account, which I did at the earliest possible date. This was a great step in my career, although, of course, the licence did not enable me to plead in court, as I was not called to the Bar.

If work came I should now be in a fair way to attain independence. But the prospect was by no means flattering; it was, in fact, all but hopeless while the position of a special pleader was not my ambition. The lookout, in fact, was anything but encouraging from the fifth floor of No. 3 Elm Court—I mean prospectively. It was a region not inaccessible, of course, but it looked on to a landscape of chimney-pots, not one of which was likely to attract attorneys; it was cheap and lonely, dull and miserable—a melancholy altitude beyond the world and its companionship. Had I been of a melancholy disposition I might have gone mad, for hope surely never came to a fifth floor. But there I sat day by day, week by week, and month by month, waiting for the knock that never came, hoping for the business that might never come.

Hundreds of times did I listen with vain expectations to the footsteps on the stairs below—footsteps of attorneys and clerks, messengers and office-boys. I knew them all, and that was all I knew of them. Down below at the bottom flight they tramped, and there they mostly stopped. The ground floor was evidently the best for business; but some came higher, to the first floor. That was a good position; there were plenty of footsteps, and I could tell they were the footsteps of clients. A few came a little higher still, and then my hopes rose with the footsteps. Now some one had come up to the third floor: he stopped! Alas! there was the knock, one single hard knock: it was a junior clerk. The sound came all too soon for me, and I turned from my own door to my little den and looked out of my window up into the sky, from whence it seemed I might just as well expect a brief as from the regions below.

This was not quite true. On another occasion some bold adventurer ascended with asthmatical energy to the fourth floor, and I thought as I heard him wheeze he would never have breath enough to get down again, and wondered if the good-natured attorneys kept these wheezy old gentlemen out of charity. But it was rare indeed that the climber, unless it was the rent collector, reached that floor.

The fifth landing was too remote for the postman, for I never got a letter—at least so it seemed; and no squirrel watching from the topmost bough of the tallest pine could be more lonely than I.

At last I thought a step had passed even the fourth landing, and was approaching mine; but I would not think too fast, and damped my hopes a little on purpose lest they should burn too brightly and too fast. I was not mistaken: there was a footstep on my landing, and I listened for the one heavy knock. It seemed to me I waited about an hour and a half, judging by the palpitations of my heart, and wished the man had knocked as vigorously. But I was rewarded: the knocker fell, and as my boy was away with the toothache, I opened the door myself. He was the same wheezy man I had heard below some time before; and I really seem to have liked asthmatical people ever since—except when I became a judge and they disturbed me in court.


That is enough to say to any one who understands the situation. You may be sure I gave them my best attention, that they were finished promptly, and, as I hoped, in the best style. If I had required any additional incentive to keep me to my daily task of watching, this would have been sufficient; but I wanted none. I knew that my whole future depended upon it, and there I was from ten in the morning till ten at night.

My first fee was small, but it was the biggest fee I ever had. It was 10s. 6d. I was only a special pleader, and with some papers our fees were even less; we only had to draw pleadings, not to open them in court—that comes after you are called to the Bar. Drawing them means really drawing the points of the case for counsel, and opening them means a gabbling epitome of them to the jury, which no jury in this world ever yet understood or ever will.

This little matter was the forerunner of others, and by little and little I steadily went on, earning a few shillings now and a few shillings then, but, best of all, becoming known little by little here and there.

I was aware that some knowledge of the world would be necessary for me when I once got into it by way of business as an advocate, so I came to the conclusion that it would be well to commence that branch of study as soon as I closed the other for the day—or rather for the night.

I had not far to go to school, only to the Haymarket and its delightful purlieus; and there were the best teachers to be found in the world, and the most recondite studies. For all these I kept, as the great politicians say, an open mind, and learned a great deal which stood me in good stead in after-life.

It is not necessary, I suppose, in writing these reminiscences, to describe all I saw—at least I hope not. Manners have so changed since that time that people who have no imagination would not believe me, and those who have would imagine I was exaggerating. So I must skip this portion of my youthful studies, merely saying that I saw nearly, if not quite, all the life which was to be seen in London; and I am sure I am not exaggerating when I say that that would nearly fill an octavo volume of itself. There is so much to be seen in London, as a dear old lady I used to drink tea with once told me.

But she did not know more than I, for she had never seen the night-houses, gambling hells, and other places of amusement that at that time were open all night long, nor had she seen the ghastly faces of the morning. I attribute my escaping the consequences of all these allurements to the beautiful influence which my mother in early life exercised over me, as I attribute my knowledge of them to the removal of the restraint with which my earlier years had been curbed.

My mother died before I came to London, but undoubtedly her influence was with me, although I broke loose, as a matter of course, from all paternal control.

But I was never a "man about town." To be that you must have plenty of money or none at all, and in either case you are an object to avoid. I had, nevertheless, a great many pleasures that a young man from the country can enjoy. I loved horse-racing, cricket, and the prize-ring. It was not because pugilism was a fashionable amusement in those days that I attended a "set-to" occasionally; I went on my own account, not to ape people in the fashionable world, and enjoyed it on my own account, not because they liked it, but because I did.

My rent at this time of my entrance into the fashionable world was L12 a year; my laundress, perhaps, a little less. She earned it by coming up the stairs; but she was a good old soul. I remembered her long years after, and always with gratitude for her many kindnesses in those gloomy days. Her name was Hannem.

Of course, I had to buy the necessary books for my professional use, coals, and other things, and after paying all these I had to live on the narrow margin of my L100 a year.

This recollection is very pleasing. I never got into debt, and never wanted; but I had to be frugal and avoid every unnecessary expense.

But the time at last came when I was no longer to rest on my lonely perch at the top of Elm Court. I had kept my terms, and was duly called to the Bar of the Middle Temple on May 3, 1843.

Just fifty years after, when I was a judge, and almost the Senior Bencher of my Inn, our illustrious Sovereign, then Prince of Wales, who is also a Bencher of the Middle Temple, favoured us with his presence at dinner, and did me the honour to propose my health in a gracious speech. On returning thanks for this kindness, I told the crowded audience of my jubilee, and pointed out the spot where fifty years before I had held my call party.



In my second year I made fifty pounds, the sweetest fifty pounds I ever made. I had no longer any weary waiting, for there was no weariness in it, and I confess at this time my sole idea, and I may add my only ambition, was to relieve myself of all obligations to my father. If I could accomplish this, I should have vindicated the step I had taken, and my father would have no further right, whatever reason he might think he had, to complain.

My third year came, and then, to my great joy, finding that I was earning more than the hundred pounds he allowed me, I wrote and informed him, with all proper expressions of gratitude, that I should no longer need his assistance, and from that time I never had a single farthing that I did not earn.

I am sure I was prouder of that than of my peerage, for I experienced for the first time the joyous pride of independence. There is no fruit of labour so sweet as that.

But I no sooner began to obtain a little success than my rivals and others tried to deprive me of the merit of it, if merit there was—"Oh, of course his father and uncle are both solicitors in the county;" while one of the local newspapers years after was good enough to publish a paragraph which stated that I owed all my success to my father's office.

This, of course, does not need contradiction. An occasional small brief from Hitchin was the beginning and the end of my father's influence, while sessions practice was not the practice I hoped to finish my career with, although I had little hopes of eminence. Certainly if I had I should have known that eminence could not come from Hitchin.

I chose the Home Circuit, and did not leave it till I was made a judge. It is impossible to forget the kindness I received from its members throughout my whole career. There was a brotherly feeling amongst us, which made life very pleasant.

There were several celebrated men on the Home Circuit when I joined. Amongst them were Thesiger and Platt.

This was long before the former became Attorney-General, which took place in 1858. He afterwards was Lord Chancellor, and took his title from the little county town where probably he obtained his start in the career which ended so brilliantly.

Platt became a Baron of the Exchequer.

Thesiger was a first-rate advocate, and, I need not say, was at all times scrupulously fair. He had a high sense of honour, and was replete with a quiet, subtle humour, which seemed to come upon you unawares, and, like all true humour, derived no little of its pleasure from its surprise. In addition to his abilities, Thesiger was ever kind-hearted and gentle, especially in his manner towards juniors. I know that he sympathized with them, and helped them whenever he had an opportunity. It did not fall to my lot to hold many briefs with him, but I am glad to say that I had some, because I shall not forget the kindness and instruction I received from him.

Platt was an advocate of a different stamp. He also was kind, and in every way worthy of grateful remembrance. He loved to amuse especially the junior Bar, and more particularly in court. He was a good natural punster, and endowed with a lively wit. The circuit was never dull when Platt was present; but there was one trait in his character as an advocate that judges always profess to disapprove of—he loved popular applause, and his singularly bold and curious mode of cross-examination sometimes brought him both rebuke and hearty laughter from the most austere of judges.

He dealt with a witness as though the witness was putty, moulding him into any grotesque form that suited his humour. No evidence could preserve its original shape after Platt had done with it. He had a coaxing manner, so much so that a witness would often be led to say what he never intended, and what afterwards he could not believe he had uttered.

Thesiger, who was his constant opponent, was sometimes irritated with Platt's manner, and on the occasion I am about to mention fairly lost his temper.

It was in an action for nuisance before Tindal, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, at Croydon Assizes.

Thesiger was for the plaintiff, who complained of a nuisance caused by the bad smells that emanated from a certain tank on the defendant's premises, and called a very respectable but ignorant labouring man to prove his case.

The witness gave a description of the tank, not picturesque, but doubtless true, and into this tank all kinds of refuse seem to have been thrown, so that the vilest of foul stenches were emitted.

Platt began his cross-examination of poor Hodge by asking him in his most coaxing manner to describe the character and nature of the various stenches. Had Hodge been scientific, or if he had had a little common sense, he would have simply answered "bad character and ill-nature;" but he improved on this simplicity, and said,—

"Some on 'em smells summat like paint."

This was quite sufficient for Platt.

"Come now," said he, "that's a very sensible answer. You are aware, as a man of undoubted intelligence, that there are various colours of paint. Had this smell any particular colour, think you?"

"Wall, I dunnow, sir."

"Don't answer hurriedly; take your time. We only want to get at the truth. Now, what colour do you say this smell belonged to?"

"Wall, I don't raightly know, sir."

"I see. But what do you say to yellow? Had it a yellow smell, think you?"

"Wall, sir, I doan't think ur wus yaller, nuther. No, sir, not quite yaller; I think it was moore of a blue like."

"A blue smell. We all know a blue smell when we see it."

Of course, I need not say the laughter was going on in peals, much to Platt's delight. Tindal was simply in an ecstasy, but did all he could to suppress his enjoyment of the scene.

Then Platt resumed,—

"You think it was more of a blue smell like? Now, let me ask you, there are many kinds of blue smells, from the smell of a Blue Peter, which is salt, to that of the sky, which depends upon the weather. Was it dark, or—"

"A kind of sky-blue, sir."

"More like your scarf?"

Up went Hodge's hand to see if he could feel the colour.

"Yes," said he, "that's more like—"

"Zummut like your scarf?"

"Yes, sir."

Then he was asked as to a variety of solids and liquids; and the man shook his head, intimating that he could go a deuce of a way, but that there were bounds even to human knowledge.

Then Platt questioned him on less abstruse topics, and to all of his questions he kept answering,—

"Yes, my lord."

"Were fish remnants," asked Platt, "sometimes thrown into this reservoir of filth, such as old cods' heads with goggle eyes?"

"Yes, my lord."

"Rari nantes in gurgite vasto?"

"Yes, my lord."

Thesiger could stand it no longer. He had been writhing while the court had been roaring with laughter, which all the ushers in the universe could not suppress.

"My lord, my lord, there must be some limit even to cross-examination by my friend. Does your lordship think it is fair to suggest a classical quotation to a respectable but illiterate labourer?"

Tindal, who could not keep his countenance—and no man who witnessed the scene could—said,—

"It all depends, Mr. Thesiger, whether this man understands Latin." Whereupon Platt immediately turned to the witness and said,—

"Now, my man, attend: Rari nantes in gurgite vasto. You understand that, do you not?"

"Yes, my lord," answered the witness, stroking his chin.

Tindal, trying all he could to suppress his laughter, said:

"Mr. Thesiger, the witness says he understands the quotation, and as you have no evidence to the contrary, I do not see how I can help you." Of course, there was a renewal of the general laughter, but Thesiger, in his reply, turned it on Platt.

This was my first appearance on circuit, and my first lesson from a great advocate in the art of caricature.

* * * * *

No man at the Bar can forget the joy of his first brief—that wonderful oblong packet of white papers, tied with the mysterious pink tape, which his fourth share of the diminutive clerk brings him, marked with the important "I gua."

I speak not to stall-fed juniors who have not to wait till their merits are discovered, and who know that whosoever may watch and wait and hope or despair, they shall have enough. All blessings go with them; I never envied them their heritage. They are born to briefs as the sparks fly upwards. I tell my experience to those who will understand and appreciate every word I say—to men who have to make their way in the world by their own exertions, and live on their own labour or die of disappointment. There is one consolation even for the wretched waiters on solicitors' favours, and that is, that the men who have never had to work their way seldom rise to eminence or to any position but respectable mediocrity. They never knew hope, and will never know what it is to despair, or to nibble the short herbage of the common where poorer creatures browse.

A father never looked on his firstborn with more pleasure than a barrister on his first brief. If the Tower guns were announcing the birth of an heir to the Throne, he would not look up to ask, "What is that?"

It was the turning-point of my life, for had there been no first brief pretty soon, I should have thought my kind relations' predictions were about to be verified. But I should never have returned home; there was still the Stage left, on which I hoped to act my part.

Strange to say, my first brief, like almost everything in my life, had a little touch of humour in it.

I was instructed to defend a man at Hertford Sessions for stealing a wheelbarrow, and unfortunately the wheelbarrow was found on him; more unfortunate still—for I might have made a good speech on the subject of the animus furandi—the man not only told the policeman he stole it, but pleaded "Guilty" before the magistrates. I was therefore in the miserable condition of one doomed to failure, take what line I pleased. There was nothing to be said by way of defence, but I learnt a lesson never to be forgotten.

Being a little too conscientious, I told my client, the attorney, that in the circumstances I must return the brief, inasmuch as there was no defence for the unhappy prisoner.

The attorney seemed to admire my principle, and instead of taking offence, smiled in a good-natured manner, and said it was no doubt a difficult task he had imposed on me, and he would exchange the brief for another. He kept his word, and by-and-by returned with a much easier case—a prosecution where the man pleaded "Guilty." It was a grand triumph, and I was much pleased.

Those were early days to begin picking and choosing briefs, for no man can do that unless he is much more wanted by clients than in want of them; but I learned the secret in after life of a great deal of its success.

I was, however, a little chagrined when I saw the mistake I had made. Rodwell was leader of the sessions, and ought to have been far above a guinea brief; judge then of my surprise when I saw that same brief a few minutes after accepted by that great man—the brief I had refused because there was nothing to be said on the prisoner's behalf. My curiosity was excited to see what Rodwell would do with it, and what defence he would set up. It was soon gratified. He simply admitted the prisoner's guilt, and hoped the chairman, who was Lord Salisbury, would deal leniently with him.

I could have done that quite as well myself, and pocketed the guinea. From that moment I resolved never to turn a case away because it was hopeless.

I subjoin a copy of my first brief for the prosecution.

It must be remembered that in those days the gallows was a very popular institution. They punished severely even trivial offences, and this case would have been considered a very serious one; while a sentence of seven years' transportation was almost as good as an acquittal.

Herts. No. 10. Michaelmas Sessions, 1844. Regina v. Elizabeth Norman. Brief for the Prosecution. Mr. Hawkins. I Gua. H. Hawkins. Plea—Guilty. H.H. Oct. 14, 1844. Transported for 7 years. H.H. Cobliam. Ware.

These are my notes:—

Sep. 20. Mr. Page. Silk shawl. Apprehension.

Various accounts. Exam. before J—— J——. Propy found. Mrs. Stevens,} Mr. Johnson, } Witnesses.

I made a rule throughout my professional life to note my cases with the greatest care.



It is a vast space to look back over sixty years of labour, and yet there seems hardly a scene or an event of any consequence, that is not reproduced in my mind with a vividness that astonishes me.

In my earlier visits to her Majesty's Courts of Justice my principal business was to study the Queen's Counsel and Serjeants, and they were worthy the attention I bestowed on them. They all belonged to different schools of advocacy, and some knew very little about it.

I went to the Old Bailey, a den of infamy in those times not conceivable now, and I verily believe that no future time will produce its like—at least I hope not. Its associations were enough to strike a chill of horror into you. It was the very cesspool for the offscourings of humanity. I had no taste for criminal practice in those days, except as a means of learning the art of advocacy. In these cases, presided over by a judge who knows his work, the rules of evidence are strictly observed, and you will learn more in six months of practical advocacy than in ten years elsewhere. The Criminal Court was the best school in which to learn your work of cross-examination and examination-in-chief, while the Courts of Equity were probably the worst. But I shall not dwell on my struggles in connection with the Old Bailey at that early period of my life. What will be more interesting, perhaps, are some curious arrangements which they had for the conduct of business and the entertainment of the Judges.

These are a too much neglected part of our history, and when referred to in reminiscences are generally referred to as matters for jocularity. They exercised, however, a serious influence on the minds and feelings of the people, as well as their manners; more so than a hundred subjects with which the historian or the novelist sometimes deals.

In all cases of unusual gravity three Judges sat together. Offences that would now be treated as not even deserving of a day's imprisonment in many cases were then invariably punished with death. It was not, therefore, so much the nature of the offence as the importance of it in the eyes of the Judges that caused three of them to sit together and try the criminals.

They sat till five o'clock right through, and then went to a sumptuous dinner provided by the Lord Mayor and Aldermen. They drank everybody's health but their own, thoroughly relieved their minds from the horrors of the court, and, having indulged in much festive wit, sometimes at an alderman's expense, and often at their own, returned into court in solemn procession, their gravity undisturbed by anything that had previously taken place, and looking the picture of contentment and virtue.

Another dinner was provided by the Sheriffs; this was for the Recorder, Common Serjeant, and others, who took their seats when their lordships had arisen.

I ought to mention one important dignitary—namely, the chaplain of Newgate—whose fortunate position gave him the advantage over most persons: for he dined at both these dinners, and assisted in the circulation of the wit from one party to another; so that what my Lord Chief Justice had made the table roar with at five o'clock, the Recorder and the Common Serjeant roared with at six, and were able to retail at their family tables at a later period of the evening. It was in that way so many good things have come down to the present day.

The reverend gentleman alluded to of course attended the court in robes, and his only, but solemn, function was to say "Amen" when the sentence of death was pronounced by the Judge.

There were curious old stories, too, about my lords and old port at that time which are not of my own reminiscences, and therefore I shall do no more than mention them in order to pass on to what I heard and saw myself.

The first thing that struck me in the after-dinner trials was the extreme rapidity with which the proceedings were conducted. As judges and counsel were exhilarated, the business was proportionately accelerated. But of all the men I had the pleasure of meeting on these occasions, the one who gave me the best idea of rapidity in an after-dinner case was Mirehouse.

Let me illustrate it by a trial which I heard. Jones was the name of the prisoner. His offence was that of picking pockets, entailing, of course, a punishment corresponding in severity with the barbarity of the times. It was not a plea of "Guilty," when perhaps a little more inquiry might have been necessary; it was a case in which the prisoner solemnly declared he was "Not Guilty," and therefore had a right to be tried.

The accused having "held up his hand," and the jury having solemnly sworn to hearken to the evidence, and "to well and truly try, and true deliverance make," etc., the witness for the prosecution climbs into the box, which was like a pulpit, and before he has time to look round and see where the voice comes from, he is examined as follows by the prosecuting counsel:—

"I think you were walking up Ludgate Hill on Thursday, 25th, about half-past two in the afternoon, and suddenly felt a tug at your pocket and missed your handkerchief, which the constable now produces. Is that it?"

"Yes, sir."

"I suppose you have nothing to ask him?" says the judge. "Next witness."

Constable stands up.

"Were you following the prosecutor on the occasion when he was robbed on Ludgate Hill? and did you see the prisoner put his hand into the prosecutor's pocket and take this handkerchief out of it?"

"Yes, sir."

Judge to prisoner: "Nothing to say, I suppose?" Then to the jury: "Gentlemen, I suppose you have no doubt? I have none."

Jury: "Guilty, my lord," as though to oblige his lordship.

Judge to prisoner: "Jones, we have met before—we shall not meet again for some time—seven years' transportation. Next case."

Time: two minutes fifty-three seconds.

Perhaps this case was a high example of expedition, because it was not always that a learned counsel could put his questions so neatly; but it may be taken that these after-dinner trials did not occupy on the average more than four minutes each.



Of course, in those days there were judges of the utmost strictness as there are now, who insisted that the rules of evidence should be rigidly adhered to. I may mention, one, whose abilities were of a remarkable order, and whose memory is still fresh in the minds of many of my contemporaries—I mean Mr. Justice Maule. His asthmatic cough was the most interesting and amusing cough I ever heard, especially when he was saying anything more than usually humorous, which was not infrequently. He was a man of great wit, sound sense, and a curious humour such as I never heard in any other man. He possessed, too, a particularly keen apprehension. To those who had any real ability he was the most pleasant of Judges, but he had little love for mediocrities. No man ever was endowed with a greater abhorrence of hypocrisy. I learnt a great deal in watching him and noting his observations. One day a very sad case was being tried. It was that of a man for killing an infant, and it was proposed by the prosecution to call as a witness a little brother of the murdered child.

The boy's capacity to give evidence, however, was somewhat doubted by the counsel for the Crown, John Clark, and it did honour to his sense of fairness. Having asked the little boy a question or two as to the meaning of an oath, he said he had some doubt as to whether the witness should be admitted to give evidence, as he did not seem to understand the nature of an oath, and the boy was otherwise deficient in religious knowledge.

He was asked the usual sensible questions which St. Thomas Aquinas himself would have been puzzled to answer; and being a mere child of seven—or at most eight—years of age, without any kind of education, was unable to state what the exact nature of an oath was.

Having failed in this, he was next asked what, when they died, became of people who told lies.

"If he knows that, it's a good deal more than I do," said Maule.

"Attend to me," said the Crown counsel. "Do you know that it's wicked to tell lies?"

"Yes, sir," the boy answered.

"I don't think," said the counsel for the prosecution, "it would be safe to swear him, my lord; he does not seem to know anything about religion at all.—You can stand down."

"Stop a minute, my boy," says Maule; "let me ask you a question or two. You have been asked about a future state—at least I presume that was at the bottom of the gentleman's question. I should like to know what you have been taught to believe. What will become of you, my little boy, when you die, if you are so wicked as to tell a lie?"

"Hell fire," answered the boy with great promptitude and boldness.

"Right," said Maule. "Now let us go a little further. Do you mean to say, boy, that you would go to hell fire for telling any lie?"

"Hell fire, sir," said the boy emphatically, as though it were something to look forward to rather than shun.

"Take time, my boy," said Maule; "don't answer hurriedly; think it over. Suppose, now, you were accused of stealing an apple; how would that be in the next world, think you?"

"Hell fire, my lord!"

"Very good indeed. Now let us suppose that you were disobedient to your parents, or to one of them; what would happen in that case?"

"Hell fire, my lord!"

"Exactly; very good indeed. Now let me take another instance, and suppose that you were sent for the milk in the morning, and took just a little sip while you were carrying it home; how would that be as regards your future state?"

"Hell fire!" repeated the boy.

Upon this Clark suggested that the lad's absolute ignorance of the nature of an oath and Divine things rendered it imprudent to call him.

"I don't know about that," said Maule; "he seems to me to be very sound, and most divines will tell you he is right."

"He does not seem to be competent," said the counsel.

"I beg your pardon," returned the judge, "I think he is a very good little boy. He thinks that for every wilful fault he will go to hell fire; and he is very likely while he believes that doctrine to be most strict in his observance of truth. If you and I believed that such would be the penalty for every act of misconduct we committed, we should be better men than we are. Let the boy be sworn."

On one occasion, before Maule, I had to defend a man for murder. It was a terribly difficult case, because there was no defence except the usual one of insanity.

The court adjourned for lunch, and Woollet (who was my junior) and I went to consultation. I was oppressed with the difficulty of my task, and asked Woollet what he thought I could do.

"Oh," said he in his sanguine way, "make a hell of a speech. You'll pull him through all right. Let 'em have it."

"I'll give them as much burning eloquence as I can manage," said I, in my youthful ardour; "but what's the use of words against facts? We must really stand by the defence of insanity; it is all that's left."

"Call the clergyman," said Woollet; "he'll help us all he can."

With that resolution we returned to court. I made my speech for the defence, following Woollet's advice as nearly as practicable, and really blazed away. I think the jury believed there was a good deal in what I said, for they seemed a very discerning body and a good deal inclined to logic, especially as there was a mixture of passion in it.

We then called the clergyman of the village where the prisoner lived. He said he had been Vicar for thirty-four years, and that up to very recently, a few days before the murder, the prisoner had been a regular attendant at his church. He was a married man with a wife and two little children, one seven and the other nine.

"Did the wife attend your ministrations, too?" asked Maule.

"Not so regularly. Suddenly," continued the Vicar, after suppressing his emotion, "without any apparent cause, the man became a Sabbath-breaker, and absented himself from church."

This evidence rather puzzled me, for I could not understand its purport. Maule in the meantime was watching it with the keenest interest and no little curiosity. He was not a great believer in the defence of insanity—except, occasionally, that of the solicitor who set it up—and consequently watched the Vicar with scrutinizing intensity.

"Have you finished with your witness, Mr. Woollet?" his lordship inquired.

"Yes, my lord."

Maule then took him in hand, and after looking at him steadfastly for about a minute, said,—

"You say, sir, that you have been Vicar of this parish for four-and-thirty years?"

"Yes, my lord."

"And during that time I dare say you have regularly performed the services of the Church?"

"Yes, my lord."

"Did you have week-day services as well?"

"Every Tuesday, my lord."

"And did you preach your own sermons?"

"With an occasional homily of the Church."

"Your own sermon or discourse, with an occasional homily? And was this poor man a regular attendant at all your services during the whole time you have been Vicar?"

"Until he killed his wife, my lord."

"That follows—I mean up to the time of this Sabbath-breaking you spoke of he regularly attended your ministrations, and then killed his wife?"

"Exactly, my lord."

"Never missed the sermon, discourse, or homily of the Church, Sunday or week-day?"

"That is so, my lord."

"Did you write your own sermons, may I ask?"

"Oh yes, my lord."

Maule carefully wrote down all that our witness said, and I began to think the defence of insanity stood on very fair grounds, especially when I perceived that Maule was making some arithmetical calculations. But you never could tell by his manner which way he was going, and therefore we had to wait for his next observation, which was to this effect:—

"You have given yourself, sir, a very excellent character, and doubtless, by your long service in the village, have richly deserved it. You have, no doubt, also won the affection of all your parishioners, probably that of the Bishop of your diocese, by your incomparable devotion to your parochial duties. The result, however, of your indefatigable exertions, so far as this unhappy man is concerned, comes to this—"

His lordship then turned and addressed his observations on the result to me.

"This gentleman, Mr. Hawkins, has written with his own pen and preached or read with his own voice to this unhappy prisoner about one hundred and four Sunday sermons or discourses, with an occasional homily, every year."

There was an irresistible sense of the ludicrous as Maule uttered, or rather growled, these words in a slow enunciation and an asthmatical tone. He paused as if wondering at the magnitude of his calculations, and then commenced again more slowly and solemnly than before.

"These," said he, "added to the week-day services—make—exactly one hundred and fifty-six sermons, discourses, and homilies for the year." (Then he stared at me, asking with his eyes what I thought of it.) "These, again, being continued over a space of time, comprising, as the reverend gentleman tells us, no less than thirty-four years, give us a grand total of five thousand three hundred and four sermons, discourses, or homilies during this unhappy man's life."

Maule's eyes were now riveted on the clergyman as though he were an accessory to the murder.

"Five thousand three hundred and four," he repeated, "by the same person, however respectable and beloved as a pastor he might be, was what few of us could have gone through unless we were endowed with as much strength of mind as power of endurance. I was going to ask you, sir, did the idea ever strike you when you talked of this unhappy being suddenly leaving your ministrations and turning Sabbath-breaker, that after thirty-four years he might want a little change? Would it not be reasonable to suppose that the man might think he had had enough of it?"

"It might, my lord."

"And would not that in your judgment, instead of showing that he was insane, prove that he was a very sensible man?"

The Vicar did not quite assent to this, and as he would not dissent from the learned Judge, said nothing.

"And," continued Maule, "that he was perfectly sane, although he murdered his wife?"

All this was very clever, not to say facetious, on the part of the learned Judge; but as I had yet to address the jury, I was resolved to take the other view of the effect of the Vicar's sermons, and I did so. I worked Maule's quarry, I think, with some little effect: for after all his most strenuous exertions to secure a conviction, the jury believed, probably, that no man's mind could stand the ordeal; and, further, that any doubt they might have, after seeing the two children of the prisoner in court dressed in little black frocks, and sobbing bitterly while I was addressing them, would be given in the prisoner's favour, which it was.

This incident in my life is not finished. On the same evening I was dining at the country house of a Mr. Hardcastle, and near me sat an old inhabitant of the village where the tragedy had been committed.

"You made a touching speech, Mr. Hawkins," said the old inhabitant.

"Well," I answered, "it was the best thing I could do in the circumstances."

"Yes," he said; "but I don't think you would have painted the little home in such glowing colours if you had seen what I saw last week when I was driving past the cottage. No, no; I think you'd have toned down a bit."

"What was it?" I asked.

"Why," said the old inhabitant, "the little children who sobbed so violently in court this morning, and to whom you made such pathetic reference, were playing on an ash-heap near their cottage; and they had a poor cat with a string round its neck, swinging backwards and forwards, and as they did so they sang,—

This is the way poor daddy will go! This is the way poor daddy will go!'

Such, Mr. Hawkins, was their excessive grief!"

Yes, but it got the verdict.



My first visit to Newmarket Heath had one or two little incidents which may be interesting, although of no great importance. The Newmarket of to-day is not quite the same Newmarket that it was then: many things connected with it have changed, and, above all, its frequenters have changed; and if "things are not what they seem," they do not seem to me, at all events, to be what they were "in my day."

Sixty years is a long space of time to traverse, but I do so with a very vivid recollection of my old friend Charley Wright.

It was on a bright October morning when we set out, and glad enough was I to leave the courts at Westminster and the courts of the Temple—glad enough to break loose from the thraldom of nothing to do and get away into the beautiful country.

Charley and I were always great friends; we had seen so much together, especially of what is called "the world," which I use in a different sense from that in which we were now to seek adventures. We had seen so much of its good and evil, its lights and shades, and had so many memories in common, that they formed the groundwork of a lasting friendship.

He was the only son of an almost too indulgent father, who was the very best example of an old English gentleman of his day you could ever meet. He also had seen a good deal of life, and was not unfamiliar with any of its varied aspects. He was intellectual and genial, and dispensed his hospitality with the most winning courtesy. To me he was all kindness, and I have a grateful feeling of delight in being able in these few words to record my affectionate reverence for his memory. It was at his house in Pall Mall that I met John Leech and Percival Leigh.

But I digress as my mind goes back to these early dates, and unless I break away, Charley and I will not reach Newmarket in time for the first race. It happened that when we made this memorable visit I had an uncle living at The Priory at Royston, which was some five-and-twenty miles from Newmarket, where the big handicap, I think the Cesarewitch, was to be run the following day, or the next—I forget which.

But an interesting episode interrupted our journey to the Heath. To our surprise, and no little to our delight, there was to be an important meeting of the "Fancy" to witness a great prize-fight between Jack Brassy and Ben Caunt.

Ben Caunt was the greatest prize-fighter, both in stature and bulk, as well as in strength, I ever saw. He looked what he was—then or soon after—the champion of the world.

Brassy, too, was well made, and seemed every whit the man to meet Caunt. The two, indeed, were equally well made in form and shape, and as smooth cut as marble statues when they stripped for action.

The advertisements had announced that the contest was to come off at, "or as near thereto as circumstances permitted" (circumstances here meaning the police), the village of Little Bury, near Saffron Walden.

At the little inn of the village some of the magnates of the Ring were to assemble on the morning of the fight for an early breakfast, to which Charley and I had the good fortune to be invited by Jack Brassy's second, Peter Crawley, another noted pugilist of his day.

It was different weather from that we enjoyed in the early morning, for the rain was now pouring down in torrents, and we had a drive of no less than fifteen miles before us to the scene of action. Vehicles were few, and horses fewer. Nothing was to be had for love or money, as it seemed. But there was at last found one man who, if he had little love for the prize-ring, had much reverence for the golden coin that supported it. He was a Quaker. He had an old gig, and, I think, a still older horse, both of which I hired for the journey—the Quaker, of course, pretending that he had no idea of any meeting of the "Fancy" whatever. Nor do I suppose he would know what that term implied.

If ever any man in the world did what young men are always told by good people to do—namely, to persevere—I am sure we did, Charley and I, with the Quaker's horse. Whether he suspected the mission on which we were bent, or was considering the danger of such a scene to his morals, I could not ascertain, but never did any animal show a greater reluctance to go anywhere except to his quiet home.

Your happiness at these great gatherings depended entirely upon the distance or proximity of the police. If they were pretty near, the landlord of the inn would hesitate about serving you, and if he did, would charge a far higher price in consequence of the supposed increased risk. He would never encourage a breach of the peace in defiance of the county magistrates, who were the authority to renew his licence at Brewster Sessions. So much, then, if the officers of justice were near.

If they happened to be absent—which, as I have said, occasionally occurred when a big thing was to come off—there was then a dominant feeling of social equality which you could never see manifested so strongly in any other place. A gentleman would think nothing of putting his fingers into your pockets and abstracting your money, and if you had the hardihood to resent the intrusion, would think less of putting his fist into your eyes.

We were by no means certain, as I learned, that our fight would come off after all, for it appeared the magistrates had given strict and specific instructions to the police that no combat was to take place in the county of Essex. Consequently the parties whose duty it was to make preparations had fled from that respectable county and gone away towards Six Mile Bottom, just in one of the corners of Cambridgeshire, as if the intention was that the dons of the University should have a look in. Constables slept more soundly in Cambridgeshire than in Essex. Moreover, the Essex magistrates would themselves have a moral right to witness the fight if it did not take place in their county.

Thus we set out for the rendezvous. Charley soon discovered that our steed was not accustomed to the whip, for instead of urging him forward it produced the contrary effect. However, we got along by slow degrees, and when we came up with the crowd—oh!

Such a scene I had never witnessed in my life, nor could have conceived it possible anywhere on this earth or anywhere out of that abyss the full description of which you will find in "Paradise Lost."

It was a procession of the blackguardism of all ages and of all countries under heaven. The sexes were apparently in equal numbers and in equal degrees of ugliness and ferocity. There were faces flat for want of noses, and mouths ghastly for want of teeth; faces scarred, bruised, battered into every shape but what might be called human. There were fighting-men of every species and variety—men whose profession it was to fight, and others whose brutal nature it was; there were women fighters, too, more deadly and dangerous than the men, because they added cruelty to their ferocity. Innumerable women there were who had lost the very nature of womanhood, and whose mouths were the mere outlet of oaths and filthy language. Their shrill clamours deafened our ears and subdued the deep voices of the men, whom they chaffed, reviled, shrieked at, yelled at, and swore at by way of fun.

Amidst this turbulent rabble rode several members of the peerage, and even Ministerial supporters of the "noble art," exchanging with the low wretches I have mentioned a word or two of chaff or an occasional laugh at the grotesque wit and humour which are never absent from an English crowd.

As we approached the famous scene, to which every one was looking with the most intense anticipation, the crowd grew almost frenzied with expectancy, and yet the utmost good-humour prevailed. In this spirit we arrived at Bourne Bridge, and thence to the place of encounter was no great distance. It was a little field behind a public-house.

Every face was now white with excitement, except the faces of the combatants. They were firm set as iron itself. Trained to physical endurance, they were equally so in nerve and coolness of temperament, and could not have seemed more excited than if they were going to dinner instead of to one of the most terrible encounters I ever witnessed.

To those who have never seen an exhibition of this kind it was quite amazing to observe with what rapidity the ropes were fixed and the ring formed; nor were the men less prompt. Into the ring they stepped with their supporters, or seconds, and in almost an instant the principals had shaken hands, and were facing each other in what well might be deadly conflict. There were illustrious members of all classes assembled there, members probably of all professions, men who afterwards, as I know, became great in history, politics, law, literature, and religion; for it was a very great fight, and attracted all sorts and conditions from all places and positions. Nothing since that fight, except Tom Sayers and the "Benicia Boy," has attracted so goodly and so fashionable an audience and so fierce an assembly of blackguards.

But in the time of the latter battle the decadence of the Ring was manifest, and was the outcome of what is doubtless an increasing civilization. At the time of which I am now speaking the Prize Ring was one of our fashionable sports, supported by the wealthy of all classes, and was supposed to contribute to the manliness of our race; consequently our distinguished warriors, as well as the members of our most gentle professions, loved a good old-fashioned English "set-to," and nobody, as a rule, was the worse for it, although my poor brother Jack never recovered his half-crowns.

We had been advised to take our cushions from the gig to sit upon, because the straw round the ring was soddened with the heavy rains, and I need not say we found it was a very wise precaution. The straw had been placed round the ring for the benefit of the elite, who occupied front seats.

The fight now began, and, I must repeat, I never saw anything like it. Both pugilists were of the heaviest fighting weights. Caunt was a real giant, ugly as could be by the frequent batterings he had received in the face. His head was like a bull-dog's, and so was his courage, whilst his strength must have been that of a very Samson; but if it was, it did not reside in his hair, for that was short and close as a mouse's back.

At first I thought Brassy had the best of it; he was more active, being less ponderous, and landed some very ugly ones, cutting right into the flesh, although Caunt did not appear to mind it in the least. Brassy, however, did not follow up his advantage as I thought he ought to have done, and in my opinion dreaded the enormous power and force of his opponent in the event of his "getting home."

With the usual fluctuations of a great battle, the contest went on until nearly a hundred rounds were fought, lasting as many minutes, but no decisive effect was as yet observable. After this, however, Brassy could not come up to time. The event, therefore, was declared in Caunt's favour, and his opponent was carried off the field on a hurdle into the public-house, where I afterwards saw him in bed.

Thus terminated the great fight of the day, but not thus my day's adventures.

The sport was all that the most enthusiastic supporters of the Ring could desire. It no doubt had its barbarous aspects, regarded from a humanitarian point of view, but it was not so demoralizing as the spectacle of some poor creature risking his neck in a performance for which the spectator pays his sixpence, and the whole excitement consists in the knowledge that the actor may be dashed to pieces before his eyes.

It was time now to leave the scene, so Charley and I went to look for our gig (evidence of gentility from the time of Thurtell and Hunt's trial for the murder of Mr. Weare).

Alas! our respectability was gone—I mean the gig.

In vindication of the wisdom and foresight of Charley and myself, I should like to mention that we had entrusted that valuable evidence of our status to the keeping of a worthy stranger dressed in an old red jacket and a pair of corduroy trousers fastened with a wisp of hay below the knees.

When we arrived at the spot where he promised to wait our coming, he was gone, the horse and gig too; nor could any inquiries ascertain their whereabouts.

Whether this incident was a judgment on the Quaker, as Wright suggested, or one of the inevitable incidents attendant on a prize-fight, I am not in a position to say; but we thought it served the Quaker right for letting us a horse that would not go until the gentleman in the red jacket relieved us of any further trouble on that account.

Mistakes are so common amongst thieves that one can never tell how the horse got away; but if I were put on my oath, knowing the proclivities of the animal, I should say that he was backed out of the field.

We were now, as it seemed, the most deplorable objects in creation: without friends and without a gig, wet through, shelterless, amidst a crowd of drunken, loathsome outcasts of society, with only one solitary comfort between us—a pipe, which Charley enjoyed and I loathed. Drink is always quarrelsome or affectionate, generally the one first and the other after. When the tears dry, oaths begin, and we soon found that the quarrelsome stage of the company had been reached.

Amidst all this excitement we had not forgotten that this little matter of the prize-fight was but an incident on our journey to Newmarket. We knew full well that our present appearance would have found no recognition in the Mall. But we cared nothing for the Mall, as we were not known by the fashion in the racing world; and as for the others, we should like to avoid them in any world.

You will wonder in these circumstances what we did. We waited where we were through the whole of that wet afternoon, and then, on a couple of hacks—how we obtained them I don't know; I never asked Charley, and nothing of any importance turns upon them—we arrived at our comfortable Royston quarters about eight o'clock, tired to death.

We were received with a hearty welcome by my uncle, who was much entertained with our day's adventures. He liked my description of the fight, especially when I told him how Brassy "drew Caunt's claret," and showed such other knowledge of the scientific practice that no one could possibly have learnt had he not read up carefully Bell's Life for the current week.

I am sure my uncle thought I was one of the best of nephews, and I considered him in reality "my only uncle." Long, thought I, may he prove to be; and yet I never borrowed a penny from him in my life.

On the next day, fully equipped, and with all that was necessary for our distinguished position, we set out for Newmarket Heath, even now the glory of the racing world, not forgetting Goodwood, which is more or less a private business and fashionable picnic.

I shall not attempt to describe Newmarket. No one can describe, the indescribable. I will only say it was not the Newmarket which our later generation knows. It was then in its crude state of original simplicity. There were no stands save "the Duke's," at the top of the town, and one other, somewhat smaller and nearer to the present grand stand. Those who could afford to do so rode on horseback about the Heath; those who could not walked if they felt disposed, or sat down on the turf—the best enjoyment of all if you are tired. We did all three: we rode, walked, and sat down. At last, after a thoroughly enjoyable outing, such as the Bar knows nothing of in these respectable times, we returned to our business quarters in the Temple.



Hearsay is not, as a rule, evidence in a court of justice. There are one or two exceptions which I need not mention. If you want, therefore, to say what Smith said, you cannot say it, but must call Smith himself, and probably he will swear he never said anything of the sort.

The Marquis of Salisbury, in the early days that I speak of, was a kind-hearted chairman, and would never allow the quibble of the lawyer to stand in the way of justice to the prisoner. In those days at sessions they were not so nice in the observances of mere forms as they are now, and you could sometimes get in something that was not exactly evidence, strictly speaking, in favour of a prisoner by a side-wind, as it were, although it was not the correct thing to do.

It happened that I was instructed to defend a man who had been committed to Hertford Quarter Sessions on a charge of felony. The committing magistrates having refused to let the man out on bail, an application was made at Judges' Chambers before Mr. Baron Martin to reverse that decision, which he did.

"Not a rag of evidence," said the attorney's clerk when he delivered the little brief—"not a shadder of evidence, Mr. 'Awkins. It's a walk-over, sir."

I knew that meant a nominal fee, but wondered how many more similes he was going to deliver instead of the money. But to the honour of the solicitor, I am bound to say that point was soon cleared up, and the practice of magistrates, supposed to be in their right minds, committing people for trial with no "shadder" of evidence against them, it now became my duty to inquire into. I asked how he knew there was no evidence, and whether the man bore a respectable character.

"Oh, I was up before the Baron," he answered. ("Yes," I thought, "but you must wake very early if you are up too soon for Baron Martin.") "And the Baron said, as to grantin' bail, 'Certainly he should; the magistrates had no business to commit him for trial, for there was not a rag of a case against the man.' So you see, sir, it's a easy case, Mr. 'Awkins; and as the man's a poor man, we can't mark much of a fee."

The usual complaint with quarter sessions solicitors.

Such were my instructions. I was young in practice at that time, and took a great deal more in—I mean in the way of credulity—than I did in after life. Nor was I very learned in the ways of solicitors' clerks. I knew that hearsay evidence, even in the case of a Judge's observation, was inadmissible, and therefore what the Baron said could not strictly be given; but I did not know how far you might go in the country, nor what the Marquis's opinion might be of the Baron. I therefore mentioned it to Rodwell, who, of course, was instructed for the prosecution; he was in everything on one side or the other—never, I believe, on both.

This stickler for etiquette was absolutely shocked; he held up his hands, began a declamation on the rules of evidence, and uttered so many Pharisaical platitudes that I only escaped annihilation by a hair's-breadth. He was always furious on etiquette.

Much annoyed at his bumptious manner, I was resolved now, come what would, to pay him off. I wanted to show him he was not everybody, even at Hertford Sessions. So when the case came on and the policeman was in the box, I rose to cross-examine him, which I did very quietly.

"Now, policeman, I am going to ask you a question; but pray don't answer it till you are told to do so, because my learned friend may object to it."

Rodwell sprang to his feet and objected at once.

"What is the question?" asked the Marquis. "We must hear what the question is before I can rule as to your objection, Mr. Rodwell."

This was a good one for Mr. Rodwell, and made him colour up to his eyebrows, especially as I looked at him and smiled.

"The question, my lord," said I, "is a very simple one: Did not Mr. Baron Martin say, when applied to for bail, that there was not a rag of a case against the prisoner?"

"This is monstrous!" said the learned stickler for forms and ceremonies—"monstrous! Never heard of such a thing!"

It might have been monstrous, but it gave me an excellent grievance with the jury, even if the Marquis did not see his way to allow the question; and a grievance is worth something, if you have no defence.

The Marquis paid great attention to the case, especially after that observation of the Baron's. Although he regretted that it could not be got in as evidence, he was good enough to say I should get the benefit of it with the jury.

All this time there was a continuous growl from my learned friend of "Monstrous! monstrous!"—so much so that for days after that word kept ringing in my ears, as monotonously as a muffin bell on a Sunday afternoon.

But I believe he was more irritated by my subsequent conduct, for I played round the question like one longing for forbidden fruit, and emphasized the objection of my learned friend now and again: all very wrong, I know now, but in the heyday of youthful ardour how many faults we commit!"

"Just tell me," I said to the policeman, "did the learned Judge—I mean Mr. Baron Martin—seem to know what he was about when he let this man out on bail?"

"O yes, sir," said the witness, "he knowed what he was about, right enough," stroking his chin.

"You may rely on that," said the Marquis. "You may take that for granted, Mr. Hawkins."

"I thought so, my lord; there is not a judge on the Bench who can see through a case quicker than the Baron."

The grumbling still continued.

"Now, then, don't answer this."

"You have already ruled, my lord," said Rodwell.

"This is another one," said I; "but if it's regular to keep objecting before the prisoner's counsel has a chance of putting his question, I sit down, my lord. I shall be allowed, probably, to address the jury—that is, if Mr. Rodwell does not object."

The noble Marquis, on seeing my distress, said,—

"Mr. Hawkins, the question needs no answer from the policeman; you will get the benefit of it for what it is worth. The jury will draw their own conclusions from Mr. Rodwell's objections."

As they did upon the whole case, for they acquitted, much to Mr. Rodwell's annoyance.

"Now," said the Marquis, "let the officer stand back. I want to ask what the Baron really did say when he let this man out on bail."

"My lord," answered the witness, "his lordship said as how he looked upon the whole lot as a gang of thieves."

"You've got it now," said Rodwell.

"And so have you," said I. "You should not have objected, and then you would have got the answer he has just given."



I had been to Paris in the summer of 18— for a little holiday, and was returning in the evening after some races had taken place near that city. I had not attended them, and was, in fact, not aware that they were being held; but I soon discovered the fact from finding myself in the midst of the motley Crowds which always throng railway stations on such occasions, only on this particular day they were a little worse than usual. The race meeting had brought together the roughs of all nations, and especially from England. As it seemed to me, my fellow-countrymen always took the lead in this kind of competition.

I was endeavouring to get to the booking-office amongst the rest of the crowd, and there was far more pushing and struggling than was at all necessary for that purpose. Presently a burly ruffian, with a low East End face of the slum pattern and complexion, rolled out a volley of oaths at me. He asked where the —— I was pushing and what game I was up to, as though I were a professional pickpocket like himself. He had the advantage of me in being surrounded by a gang of the most loathsome blackguards you could imagine, while I was without a friend. I spoke, therefore, very civilly, and said the crowd was pushing behind and forcing me forward. The brute was annoyed at my coolness, and irritated all the more.

Hitherto his language had not been strong enough to frighten me, so he improved its strength by some tremendous epithets, considerably above proof. I think he must have enjoyed the exclusive copyright, for I never knew his superlatives imitated. He finished the harangue by saying that he would knock my head off if I said another word.

To this I replied, with a look stronger than all his language, "No, you won't."

My look must have been strong, because the countenances of the bystanders were subdued.

"Why won't I, muster?" he asked.

"For two reasons," I said: "first, because you won't try; and secondly, because you could not if you did."

He was somewhat tamed, and then I lifted my hat, so that he could see my close-cropped hair, which was as short as his own, only not for the same reason. "You don't seem to know who I am," I added, hoping he would now take me for a member of the prize-ring. But my appearance did not frighten him. I had nothing but my short-cropped hair to rely on; so in self-defence I had to devise another stratagem. To frighten him one must look the ruffian in the face, or look the ruffian that he was. He continued to abuse me as we passed on our way to the booking-office window, and I have no doubt he and his gang were determined to rob me. One thing was common between us—we had no regard for one another. I now assumed as bold a manner as I could and a rough East End accent. "Look-ee 'ere," said I: "I know you don't keer for me no more 'an I keers for you. I ain't afraid o' no man, and I'll tell you what it is: it's your ignorance of who I am that makes you bold. I know you ain't a bad un with the maulers. Let's have no more nonsense about it here. I'll fight you on Monday week, say, for a hundred a side in the Butts, and we'll post the money at Peter Crawley's next Saturday. What d'ye say to that?"

Peter Crawley, whom I have already mentioned as inviting me to breakfast, was like a thunderclap to him. I must be somebody if I knew Peter Crawley, and now he doubtless bethought him of my short hair.

I must confess if the fellow had taken me at my word I should have been in as great a funk as he was, but he did not. My challenge was declined.

* * * * *

A curious incident happened once in the rural district of Saffron Walden. It is a borough no doubt, but it always seemed to me to be too small for any grown-up thing, and its name sounded more like a little flower-bed than anything else. On the occasion of which I speak there was great excitement in the place because they had got a prisoner—an event which baffled the experience of the oldest inhabitant.

The Recorder was an elderly barrister, full of pomp and dignity; and, like many of his brother Recorders, had very seldom a prisoner to try. You may therefore imagine with what stupendous importance he was invested when he found that the rural magistrates had committed a little boy for trial for stealing a ball of twine. Think of the grand jury filing in to be "charged" by this judicial dignitary. Imagine his charge, his well-chosen sentences in anticipation of the one to come at the end of the sitting. Think of his eloquent disquisition on the law of larceny! It was all there!

After the usual proclamation against vice and immorality had been read, and after the grand jury had duly found a true bill, the next thing was to find the prisoner and bring him up for trial.

We may not be sentimental, or I might have cried, "God save the child!" as the usher said, "God save the Queen!" But "Suffer little children to come unto Me" would not have applied to our jails in those miserable and inhuman times. Mercy and sympathy were out of the question when you had law and order to maintain, as well as all the functionaries who had to contribute to their preservation.

"Put up the prisoner!" said the Recorder in solemn and commanding tones.

Down into the jaws of the cavern below the dock descended the jailer of six feet two—the only big thing about the place. He was a resolute-looking man in full uniform, and I can almost feel the breathless silence that pervaded the court during his absence.

Time passed and no one appeared. When a sufficient interval had elapsed for the stalwart jailer to have eaten his prisoner, had he been so minded, the Recorder, looking up from behind the Times, which he appeared to be reading, asked in a very stern voice why the prisoner was not "put up."

They did not put up the boy, but the jailer, with a blood-forsaken face, put himself up through the hole, like a policeman coming through a trap-door in a pantomime.

"I beg your honour's pardon, my lord, but they have forgot to bring him."

"Forgot to bring him! What do you mean? Where is he?"

"They've left him at Chelmsford, your honour."

It seemed there was no jail at Saffron Walden, because, to the honour of the borough be it said, they had no one to put into it; and this small child had been committed for safe custody to Chelmsford to wait his trial at sessions, and had been there so long that he was actually forgotten when the day of trial came. I never heard anything more of him; but hope his small offence was forgotten as well as himself.



I have been often asked whether I ever owned a racer. In point of fact, I never did, although I went as near to that honour as any man who never arrived at it—a racer, too, who afterwards carried its owner's colours triumphantly past the winning-post.

The reader may have been shocked at the story I told of those poor ill-brought-up children whose mother was murdered, from the natural feeling that if pure innocence is not to be found in childhood, where are we to seek it?

I will indicate the spot in three words—on the Turf.

True, you will find fraud, cunning, knavery, and robbery, but you will find also the most unsophisticated innocence.

I went as a spectator, a lover of sport, and a lover of horses; and took more delight in it than I ever could in any haunt of fashionable idleness.

I amused myself by watching the proceedings of the betting-ring, where there is a good deal more honesty than in many places dignified by the name of "marts."

But if there was no innocence on the turf, rogues could not live; they are not cannibals—not, at all events, while they can obtain tenderer food. And are there not commercial circles also which could not exist without their equally innocent supporters?

Experience may be a dear school, but its lessons are never forgotten. A very little should go a long way, and the wisest make it go farthest. If any one wants a picture of innocence on the turf, let me give one of my own drawing, taken from nature.

All my life I have loved animals, especially horses and dogs; and all field sports, especially hunting and racing. But I went on the turf with as much simplicity as a girl possesses at her first ball, knowing nothing about public form or the way to calculate odds, to hedge, or do anything but wonder at the number of fools there were in the world. I did not know "a thing or two," like the knowing ones who lose all they possess. Who could believe that men go about philanthropically to inform the innocent how to "put their money on," while they carefully avoid putting on their own? Tipsters, in short, were no part of my racing creed. I was not so ignorant as that. I believed in a good horse quite as much as Lord Rosebery does, and much more than I believed in a good rider. But there were even then honest jockeys, as well as unimpeachable owners. All you can say is, honesty is honesty everywhere, and you will find a good deal of it on the turf, if you know where to look for it; and its value is in proportion to its quantity. The moment you depart a hair's-breadth from its immaculate principle there is no medium state between that and roguery.

However, be that as it may, I was once the owner of a pedigree thoroughbred called Dreadnought, which was presented to me when a colt. Dreadnought's dam Collingwood was by Muley Moloch out of Barbelle. Dreadnought was good for nothing as a racer, and had broken down in training. As a castaway he was offered to me, and I gladly accepted the present.

As he was too young to work, I sent him down to —— Park, to be kept till he was fit for use. He was there for a considerable time, and was then sent back in a neglected and miserable condition.

I rode him for some time, until one day he took me to Richmond Park, and on going up the hill fell and cut both his knees to pieces and mine as well. This was a sad mishap, and, of course, I could have no further confidence in poor Dreadnought, fond of him as I was; so he was placed under the care of a skilful veterinary surgeon, who gave him every attention. His bill was by no means heavy, and he brought him quite round again.

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