« ПредишнаНапред »
as a sort of penalty. But this was to be a trial of a title, which his client was advised he had to a discharge: therefore he moved, that the single value might be settled ; and if the cause went for the plaintiff, he should have that and his costs (which costs, it seems, did not go if the treble value was recovered,) and then they would proceed to their title.' The other side mutinied against this imposition of Mr. North, but the judge was for him, and they must be satisfied. Then did he open a long history of matters upon record, of bulls, monasteries, orders, greater and lesser houses, surrenders, patents, and a great deal more, very proper, if it had been true, while the counsel on the other side stared at him; and, having done, they bid him go to his evidence. He leaned back, as speaking to the attorney, and then, My lord, said he, we are very unhappy in this cause. The attorney tells me, they forgot to examine their copies with the originals at the Tower; and (so folding up his brief) My lord, said he, they must have the verdict, and we must come better prepared another time. So, notwithstanding all the mutiny the other side could make, the judge held them to it, and they were choused of the treble value. This was no iniquity, because it was not to defraud the duty, but to shift off the penalty. But the old gentleman told his cousin North, he had given away his cause. His lordship thought he had done him service enough; and could but just, (with the help of the beforesaid reason) satisfy himself that he had not done ill.”
There is nothing very worthy of remark in the private life of Mr. North, before the beginning of his speculations for a settlement by marriage. These are exceedingly curious, not for their romance, but the want of it. In the good old times, when our advocate flourished, the language of sentiment was not in fashion. Some doubtless there were, perhaps not fewer than in these poetical days, in whose souls Love held its “ high and hearted seat"--whose nice-attuned spirits trembled with every change of the intensest, yet most delicate of affections—whose whole existence was one fervent hope and one unbroken sigh. Since then, the breathings of their deep emotion--the words and phrases which imperfectly indicated that which was passing within them, as light and airy bubbles rise up from the lowest spring to the surface of tranquil waters—have become the current language of every transitory passion, and serve to garnish out every prudent match as a necessary part of the wedding finery. Things were not thus confounded by our heartier ancestors. Language was some indication of the difference of minds, as dress was of ranks. The choice spirits of the time had their prerogative of words and figures, as the ancient families had of their coats of arms. The greater part of mankind, who never feel love in its depth or its purity, were contented to marry and be given in marriage without the affectation of its language. Men avowedly looked for good portions, and women for suitable jointures—they made the contract for mutual support and domestic comfort in good faith, and did not often break it. They had their reward. They indulged no fairy dreams of happiness too etherial for earth, which, when dissipated, would render dreary the level path of existence. Of their open, plain-hearted course of entering into the matrimonial state, and of speaking about it, the Lord Keeper and his biographer are edifying examples. His lordship, as his fortune improved, felt the necessity of domestic comfort, and wisely thought his hours of leisure would be spent most happily in a family, “ which is never well settled without a mistress.” “ He fancied,” says his eulogist, “ he might pretend to as good a fortune in a match as many others had found, who had less reason to expect it; but, without some advantage that way, he was not disposed to engage himself.” His first attempt in this laudable pursuit was to obtain the daughter of an old usurer, which we will give in our author's words:
“There came to him a recommendation of a lady, who was an only daughter of an old usurer of Gray's-inn, supposed to be a good fortune in present, for her father was rich; but, after his death, to become worth nobody could tell what. His lordship got a sight of the lady, and did not dislike her; thereupon he made the old man a visit, and a proposal of himself to marry his daughter. There appeared no symptoms of discouragement; but only the old gentleman asked him what estate his father intended to settle upon him for present maintenance, jointure, and provision for children. This was an inauspicious question; for it was plain that the family had not estate enough for a lordship, and none would be to spare for him. Therefore he said to his worship only, That when he would be pleased to declare what portion he intended to give his daughter, he would write to his father, and make him acquainted with his answer. And so they parted, and his lordship was glad of his escape, and resolved to give that affair a final discharge, and never to come near the terrible old fellow any more. His lordship had, at that time, a stout heart, and could not digest the being so slighted; as if, in his present state, a profitable profession, and future hopes, were of no account. If he had had a real estate to settle, he should not have stooped so low as to match with his daughter: and thenceforward despised his alliance."
His next enterprise was directed to the “florishing widow" of Mr. Edward Palmer, who had been his most intimate friend. Her family favoured his addresses—the lady did not refuse him—but Airted, coquetted, and worried him, until he was heartily tired of being “ held in a course of bo-peep play by a crafty widow." Her friends still urged him to persevere, which he did to please them rather than himself, until she relieved him by marrying another of her suitors. His third exploit is thus amusingly related.
“ Another proposition came to his lordship, by a city broker, from Sir John Lawrence, who had many daughters, and those reputed beauties; and the fortune was to be 60001. His lordship went and dined with the alderman, and liked the lady, who (as the way is) was dressed out for a muster. And coming to treat, the portion shrank to 50001. and, upon that, his lordship parted, and was not gone far before Mr. Broker (following) came to him and said, Sir John would give 5001. more, at the birth of the first child; but that would not do, for his lordship hated such screwing. Not long after this dispatch, his lordship was made the king's solicitor general, and then the broker came again, with news that Sir John would give 10,0001. No; his lordship said, after such usage he would not proceed, if he might have 20,0001. So ended that affair; and his lordship's mind was once more settled in tranquillity.”
At last, after these repeated disappointments, his mother “ laid her eyes” on the Lady Frances Pope, one of three coheiresses, as a wife for her son—and with his consent made overtures on his behalf. After some little difficulties respecting his lordship’s fortune, this match was happily concluded, and is celebrated by his biographer as “ made in heaven.” The lady, however, died of a consumption, in the prime of her days. On this occasion, our author rejoices that “ his lordship's good stars” forced him to London about a fortnight before her death, because nearness to persons dying of consumptions is perilousand “ when she must expire, and probably in his arms, he might have received great damage in his health.” Her husband erected a monument to her memory, on which a tremendous Latin epitaph was engraven, commemorating her father, husband, children, and virtues. Our author here expresses his opinion, that the eulogistic part should be left out, “ because it is in the power of every cobler to do the like;" but that the account of families cannot be too far extended, because they may be useful as evidence of pedigree. This is a curious selfbetrayal, by a man of rank and family. The utility of monumental inscriptions, detailing the dignities of ancestry, is, indeed, urged—but it is easy to perceive the antithesis completed in the writer's mind-between all the virtues which a cobler might share, and the immunities of which the high-born alone are partakers.
Mean while, his lordship proceeded to honour and fortune. He was made Solicitor General, became a candidate for the borough of Lynn Regis; and, on a visit, with his accustomed prudence,“ regaled the corporation with a very handsome treat, which cost him above one hundred pounds.” He could not, however, be present at the election, but sent our author, and Mr. Matthew Johnson, “ to ride for him," with proper directions to economise their pecuniary resources. They did so;—“ took but one house, and there allowed scope for all taps to run;" and, as there was no opposition, all passed well, and “ the plenipos returned with their purchase, the return of the election, back to London.” His lordship, however, lost his seat by the vote of the House-despatched “his plenipos” once more to regain it, which they did, though with more difficulty than they first procured it; for Sir Simon Taylor, a wealthy merchant of wine, in that town, stood, and had procured a butt of cherry, which butt of cherry was a potent adversary.” Soon after, his lordship was made Attorney General, and some doubts arose as to his right to sit in parliament; which, however, he was able to remove.
In due time, Mr. North, wearied with the perpetual labours of extensive practice, not only in the courts of law but of equity, longed for and obtained the elevated repose of the cushion of the Court of Common Pleas. Here he sedulously endeavoured to resist the encroachments of the King's Bench, and shewed himself sufficiently versed in the arts by which each of the courts attempted to over-reach the other, and which would have done credit to the sagacity of a Solicitor at the Old Bailey. His biographer relates various instances of his skill in detecting falsehood, which do not quite entitle him to be regarded as a second Solomon-of his management of counsel, which we have seen excelled in no distant period—and of his repartees, which are the worst ever gravely told as good things by a devoted admirer. The story of “ the dumb day,” is, however, worth transcribing, especially as our author, though he speaks of himself as usual, in the third person, was the party on whose behalf the authority of the Chief Justice was exerted.
“ It hath been the usage of the King's Bench, at the side bar below in the hall, and of the Common Pleas, in the chamber within the treasury, to hear attornies, and young counsel, that came to move them about matters of form and practice. His lordship had a younger brother (Hon. Roger North) who was of the profession of the law. He was newly called to the bar, and had little to do in the King's Bench; but the attornies of the Common Pleas often retained him to move for them, in the treasury, such matters as were proper there, and what they might have moved themselves. But however agreeable this kind of practice was to a novitiate, it was not worthy the observation it had ; for once or twice a week was the utmost calculate of these motions. But the sergeants thought that method was, or might become, prejudicial to them, who had a monopoly of the bar, and would have no water go by their mill, and supposed it was high time to put a stop to such beginnings, for fear it might grow worse. But the doubt was, how they should signify their resentment, so as to be effectually remedial. At length they agreed, for one day, to make no motions at all; and opportunity would fall for shewing the reason how the court came to have no business. When the court (on this dumb day, as it was called) was sat, the chief justice gave the usual signal to the eldest sergeant to move. He bowed, and had nothing to move: so the next, and the next, from end to end of the bar. The chief, seeing this, said, brothers, I think we must rise; here is no business. Then an attorney steps forward, and called to a serjeant to make his motion; and, after that, turned to the court and said, that he had given the serjeant his fee, and instructions over night, to move for him, and desired he might do it. But profound silence still. The chief looked about, and asked, What was the matter? An attorney, that stood by, very modestly said, that he feared the sergeants took it ill that motions were made in the Treasury. Then the chief scented the whole matter; and, brothers, said he, I think a very great affront is offered to us, which we ought, for the dignity of the court, to resent. But that we may do nothing too suddenly, but take consideration at full leisure, and maturely, let us now rise, and to-morrow morning give order as becomes us. And do you attornies come all here to-morrow, and care shall be taken for your dispatch, and, rather than fail, we will hear you, or your clients, or the barristers at law, or any person that thinks fit to appear in business, that the law may have its course ; and so the court rose. This was like thunder to the serjeants, and they fell to quarrelling, one with another, about being the cause of this great evil they had brought upon themselves : for none of them imagined it would have had such a turn as this was, that shaked what was the palladium of the coif, the sole practice there. In the afternoon, they attended the chief, and the other judges of the court, and, in great humility, owned their fault, and begged pardon, and that no farther notice might be taken of it; and they would be careful not to give the like offence for the future. The chief told them, that the affront was in public, and in the face of the court, and they must make their recognitions there next morning, and in such a manner as the greatness of their offence demanded; and then they should hear what the court would say to them. Accordingly they did; and the chief first, and, then, the rest, in order, gave them a formal chiding with acrimony enough; all which, with dejected countenances, they were bound to hear. When this discipline was over, the chief pointed to one to move; which he did (as they said) more like one crying than speaking: and so ended the comedy, as it was acted in Westminster-hall, called the dumb day.'
His lordship used his travels on the circuit as the means of securing an interest in the country gentlemen; and with so much success, that Dr. Mew, Bishop of Winchester, who was called Patels, from a black plaister which he wore to cover a wound received in the civil war, termed him “deliciæ occidentis,” the darling of the West; and the western members of Parliament “ did so firmly ensconce him that his enemies could never get a clever stroke at him.” Once, indeed, he was taken in by a busy fanatic, who importuned the judges to sup with him, at his house near Exeter; and, having them fairly in his