« ПредишнаНапред »
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 bad 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 "flourishing widow" of Mr. Edward Palmer, who had been his most intimate friend. Her family favoured his addresses—the lady did not refuse him—but flirted, 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 £6000. 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 £5000, and, upon that, his lordship parted, and was not gone far before Mr. Broker (following) came to him and said, Sir John would give £500 more, at the birth of the first child; but that would not do, for his lordship hated such screwing. Not long after this despatch, his lordship was made the king's solicitor general, and then the broker came again, with news that Sir John would give £10,000. No; his lordship said, after such usage he would not proceed, if he might have £20,000. 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 co-heiresses, 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 perilous—and "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 cobbler 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 self-betrayal, 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 cobbler might share, and the immunities of which the high-born alone are partakers.
Mean while, his lordship proceeded to honour arid 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 about 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 economize 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 ^at 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 sherry, which butt of sherry 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 showed 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 attorneys, 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 attorneys 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 showing 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, J think we must rise; here is no business. Then an attorney steps forward, and called to a sergeant to make his motion; and, after that, turned to the court and said, that he had given the sergeant 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, / 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, lei us now rise, and tomorrow morning give order as becomes us. And do you attorneys come all here to-morrow, and care shall be taken for your despatch, 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 sergeants, 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 Westminsterhall, 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 plaster which he wore to cover a wound received in the civil war, termed him "delicia? 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 power, inflicted on them a long extemporaneous prayer, " after the presbyterian way," which gave occasion to much merriment at the expense of their lordships, who were said to have been at a conventicle, and in danger of being presented with all their retinue for that offence by the grand jury. He also narrowly escaped being made the dupe or tool of the infamous Bedloe, who sent for him under pretence of making a confession. Excepting in so far as an excessive timidity influenced him, he appears to have acted in his high office with exemplary justice and wisdom. He was, indeed, a most faint-hearted judge, which his biographer, as in duty bound, discloses to his honour. He dreaded the trying of a witch, because he disbelieved the crime; and yet feared to offend the superstitious vulgar. On this nice subject, our author observes—
"It is seldom that a poor old wretch is brought to trial upon that account, but there is, at the heels of her, a popular rage that does little less than demand her to be put to death: and, if a judge is so clear and open as to declare against that impious vulgar opinion, that the devil himself has power to torment and kill innocent children, or that he is pleased to divert himself with the good people's cheese, butter, pigs, and geese, and the like errors of the ignorant and foolish rabble; the countrymen (the triers) cry this judge hath no religion,