Графични страници
PDF файл

the strictness of those times; for, though he was an old man before his father died, he never sat or was covered in his presence unbidden. He sent his son, at an early age, to school, but was not very fortunate in his selection, for the master was a rigid presbyterian, and his wife a furious independent, who used " to instruct her babes in the gift of praying by the spirit, making them kneel by a bed-side and pray;" but as "this petit spark was too small for that posture, he was set upon the bed to kneel with his face to the pillow." This absurd treatment seems to have given the child an early disgust for those who were esteemed the fanatics, which never left him. He finished his scholastic education under a "cavalier master," with credit . After he left school, he became a fellow-commoner of St. John's College, Cambridge, where he improved greatly in solid learning, and acquired a knowledge of music, which he afterwards used as a frequent solace amidst the toils of his profession.

He next became a member of the Middle Temple, and occupied "a moiety of a petit chamber, which his father bought for him." Here he "used constantly commons in the hall at noons and nights," studied closely, and derived much benefit from the practice of putting cases, which was followed in the old temple cloisters by the students, and for the convenience of which they were rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren in their present form. He, also, diligently common-placed the substance of his reading, having acquired a very small but legible hand—" for," as his biographer observes, "where contracting is the main business, it is not well to write, as the fashion then was, uncial or. semi-uncial letters to look like pigs' ribs." In his studies, he was wont by turns to read the reports and institutes; "as, after a fullness of the reports in a morning, about noon, to take a repast in Stamford, Crompton, or the Lord Coke's Pleas of the Crown, and Jurisdiction of Courts, Manwood of the Forest Law, and Fitzherbert's Natura Brevium." He, also, "despatched the greatest part" of the year-books, beginning with the book, termed Henry the Seventh, from whence he regarded the common law derived "as from a copious fountain." While thus engaged, he did not altogether refuse recreation, but delighted in a small supper and a temperate glass with his friends in chambers, sometimes fancied "to go about town and see trade-work, which is a very diverting and instructive entertainment," and visited every thing extraordinary in town, "as engines, shows, lectures, and even so low as to hear Hugh Peters preach!" The only obstacle to his legal success was his excessive bashfulness, which so oppressed him, that when he dined or supped in the hall of the Middle Temple, he would not walk in alone, but " used to stand dogging at the skreen till other company came, behind whom he might enter."

At the bar, he derived great advantage from the favour of Sir Jeofry Palmer, the attorney-general, who gave him many opportunities of showing his dexterity and knowledge of law, by procuring him to perform some of his own public duties, when he was himself disabled by sickness. Through the good offices of this zealous friend, Mr. North was appointed to argue for the king in the House of Lords, on the writ of error in the famous case of the King v. Hollis and others, which was brought by order of the House of Commons to reverse a judgment obtained in the time of Charles the First, against five of their members, who had been prosecuted for holding down the speaker in his chair, and other riotous proceedings. In consequence of the ability which he displayed on this occasion, though the commons succeeded, he was, on the recommendation of the Duke of York, appointed one of his majesty's counsel. Thus, having precedence, the favour of the court, great assiduity, and knowledge in law, he soon considerably extended his practice. To this, indeed, his great wariness and prudence, trenching on the boundaries of meanness, did not contribute a little. "He was exceedingly careful to keep fair with the cocks of the circuit," especially Serjeant Earl, who was a miser, and with whom he was contented to travel, when no other would starve with him on his journies. If he discovered a point which his leader had omitted, he would not excite dislike by moving it himself, but suggest it to his senior, and thus conciliate his regard. He was, also, to use the words of his biographer, "a wonderful artist in nicking a judge's tendency to serve his turn, and yet never failed to pay the greatest regard and deference to his opinion." He never contested a point with a judge when he despaired to convince him, but resigned it, even when confident in its goodness, that he might not weaken his credit for the future. On the other hand, when the judge was wrongly on his side, and he knew it, he did not fail to echo "aye, my lord" to the great annoyance of his rivals. Thus gifted by knowledge and pliancy, he soon "from a humble beginner rejoicing at a cause that came to him, became cock of the circuit; and every one that had a trial rejoiced to have him on his side." One piece of artifice which he used on behalf of a relative is so curious, that we will insert it in the words of our author.

"His lordship had a relation, one Mr. Whitmore, of Balms, near London, an humoursome old gentleman, but very famous for the mere eating and drinking part of house-keeping. He was owner of Waterbeach, near Cambridge, and took a fancy that his estate ought not to pay tithes, and ordered his tenents expressly to pay none, with promise to defend them. The parson had no more to do but to go to law, and by advice brought an action of debt, for treble damages upon the statute against subtraction of tithes. The tenants got the whole demand to be put in one action; and that stood for trial at the assizes. Then he consults his cousin North, and retains him to defend this cause; but shows him no manner of title to a discharge. So he could but tell him he would Jee routed, and pay treble value of the tithes, and that he must make an end. This signified nothing to one that was abandoned to his own testy humour. The cause came on, and his lordship's utmost endeavour was to fetch him off with the single value and costs; and that point he managed very artificially: for first, he considered that Archer was the judge, and it was always agreeable to him to stave off a long cause. After the cause was opened, his lordship for the defendant, stepped forwards, and told the judge that'this would be a long and intricate cause, being a title to a discharge of tithes, which would require the reading a long series of records and ancient writings. That his client was no quaker, to deny payments of tithes were due, in which case the treble value was by the law intended 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 before said 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, plainhearted 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 necessiiy 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,

« ПредишнаНапред »