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chancellor, being very obnoxious, disguised himself in order to go beyond sea. He was in a seaman's garb, and drinking a pot in a cellar. This scrivener came into the cellar after some of his clients; and his eye caught that face, which made him start; and the chancellor seeing himself eyed, feigned a cough, and turned to the wall with his pot in his hand. But Mr. Trimmer went out, and gave notice that he was there; whereupon the mob flowed in, and he was in extreme hazard of his life; but the lord mayor saved him, and lost himself. For the chancellor being hurried with such crowd and noise before him, and appearing so dismally, not only disguised, but disordered; and there having been an amity between them, as also a veneration on the lord mayor's part, he had not spirits to sustain the shock, but fell down in a swoon; and, in not many hours after, died. But this Lord Jeffries came to the seal without any concern at the weight of duty incumbent upon him; for, at the first, being merry over a bottle with some of his old friends, one of them told him that he would find the business heavy. No, said he, I'll make it light. But, to conclude with a strange inconsistency, he would drink and be merry, kiss and slaver, with these bon companions over night, as the way of such is, and, the next day fall upon them, ranting and scolding with a virulence unsufferable.”
But the richest portion of these volumes is the character of the Lord Chief Justice Saunders, the author of the Reports which Mr. Serjeant Williams has rendered popular by clustering about them the products of his learned industry. He has a better immortality in the Memoir. What a picture is exhibited of the stoutest industry, joined with the most luxurious spirit of enjoyment—of the most intense acquaintance with nice technicalities and the most bounteous humour–of more distressing infirmities and scarcely less wit than those of Falstaff! What a singular being is here—what a laborious, acute, happy, and affectionate spirit in a loathsome frame !—But, we forget;-we are indulging ourselves, when we ought to gratify our readers.
“The Lord Chief Justice Saunders succeeded in the room of Pemberton. His character, and his beginning, were
equally strange. He was at first no better than a poor beggar boy, if not a parish foundling, without known parents or relations. He had found a way to live by obsequiousmess (in Clement's-Inn, as I remember) and courting the attorney's clerks for scraps. The extraordinary observance and diligence of the boy made the society willing to do him good. He appeared very ambitious to learn to write; and one of the attorney's got a board knocked up at a window on the top of a staircase; and that was his desk, where he sat and wrote after copies of court and other hands the clerks gave him. He made himself so expert a writer that he took in business, and earned some pence by hackney writing. And thus, by degrees, he pushed his faculties, and fell to forms, and, by books that were lent him, became an exquisite entering clerk; and by the same course of improvement of himself, an able counsel, first in special pleading, then, at large. And, after he was called to the bar, had practice, in the King's Bench court, equal with any there. As to his person, he was very corpulent and beastly; a mere lump of morbid flesh. He used to say, by his troggs, (such a humorous way of talking he affected) none could say he wanted issue of his body, for he had nine in his back. He was a fetid mass that offended his neighbours at the bar in the sharpest degree. Those, whose ill fortune it was to stand near him, were confessors, and, in summer-time, almost martyrs. This hateful decay of his carcass came upon him by continued sottishness; for, to say nothing of brandy, he was seldom without a pot of ale at his nose, or near him. That exercise was all he used; the rest of his life was sitting at his desk, or piping at home; and that home was a tailor's house in Butcher-Row, called his lodging, and the man's wife was his nurse, or worse; but by virtue of his money, of which he made little account, though he got a great deal, he soon became master of the family; and, being no changeling, he never removed, but was true to his friends, and they to him, to the last hour of his life. So much for his person and education. As for his parts, none had them more lively than he. Wit and repartee, in an affected rusticity, was natural to him. He was ever ready, and never at a loss; and none came so near as he to be a match for Serjeant Maynard. His great dexterity was in the art of special pleading, and he would lay snares that often caught his superiors, who were not aware of his traps. And he was so fond of success for his clients that, rather than fail, he would set the court hard with a trick; for which he met sometimes with a reprimand, which he would wittily ward off, so that no one was much offended with him. But Hales could not bear his irregularity of life; and for that, and suspicion of his tricks, used to bear hard upon him in the court. But no ill usage from the bench was too hard for his hold of business, being such as scarce any could do but himself. With all this, he had a goodness of nature and disposition in so great a degree that he may be deservedly styled a philanthrope. He was a very Silenus to the boys, as, in this place, I may term the students of the law, to make them merry whenever they had a mind to it. He had nothing of rigid or austere in him. If any, near him at the bar, grumbled at his stench, he ever converted the complaint into content and laughing with the abundance of his wit. As to his ordinary dealing, he was as honest as the driven snow was white; and why not, having no regard for money, nor desire to be rich! And, for good nature and condescension, there was not his fellow. I have seen him, for hours and half hours together, before the court sat, stand at the bar, with an audience of students over against him, putting of cases, and debating so as suited their capacities, and encouraging their industry. And so in the Temple, he seldom moved without a parcel of youths hanging about him, and he merry and jesting with them. It will be readily conceived that this man was never cut out to be a presbyter, or any thing that is severe and crabbed. In no time did he lean to faction, but did his business without offence to any. He put off officious talk of government or politics, with jests, and so made his wit a catholicon, or shield, to cover all his weak places and infirmities. When the court fell into a steady course of using the law against all kinds of offenders, this man was taken into the king's business; and had the part of drawing and perusal of almost all indictments and informations that were then to be prosecuted, with the pleadings thereon if any were special; and he had the settling of the large pleadings it the quo warranto against London. His lordship had no sort of conversation
with him, but in the way of business, and at the bar; but once after he was in the king's business, he dined with his lordship, and no more. And there he showed another qualification he had acquired, and that was to play jigs upon a harpsichord; having taught himself with the opportunity of an old virginal of his landlady's; but in such a manner, not for defect but figure, as to see him were a jest. The king, observing him to be of a free disposition, loyal, friendly, and without greediness or guile, thought of him to be the chief justice of the King's Bench at that nicetime. And the ministry could not but approve of it. So great a weight was then at stake, as could not be trusted to men of doubtful principles, or such as any thing might tempt to desert them. While he sat in the Court of King's Bench, he gave the rule to the general satisfaction of the lawyers. But his course of life was so different from what it had been, his business incessant, and, withal, crabbed ; and his diet and exercise changed, that the constitution of his body, or head rather, could not sustain it, and he fell into an apoplexy and palsy, which numbed his parts; and he never recovered the strength of them. He out-lived the judgment in the quo warranto; but was not present otherwise than by sending his opinion, by one of the judges, to be for the king, who, at the pronouncing of the judgment, declared it to be the court accordingly, which is frequently done in like cases.”
Although we have been able to give but a few of the choice peculiarities of these volumes, our readers will be able to gather, from our extracts, that the profession of the law was a very different thing in the reign of Charles the second, from what it is in the present era. There was something in it more robust and hearty than there is now. Lawyers treated on the dryest subjects, in a “full and heightened style,” which now would receive merited ridicule, because it is natural no longer. When Lord Coke “wanders in the wilderness of the laws of the forest,”—or stops to “recreate himself with a view of Dido's deer,”—or looks on his own fourth institute, as “the high and honourable building of the jurisdiction of the courts,”—we feel that he uses the language of metaphor, merely because he thinks in it. Modern improvement has introduced a division of labour among the faculties. The regions of imagination and of reality are separated by stricter and more definite limits, than in the days of old. Our poems and orations are more wild and extravagant, and our ordinary duties more dry and laborious. Men have learned to refine on their own feelings—to analyze all their sensations—to class all their powers, feelings, and fantasies, as in a museum; and to mark and label them so that they may never be applied, except to appropriate uses. The imagination is only cultivated as a kind of exotic luxury. No one unconsciously writes in a picturesque style, or suffers the colour of his thoughts to suffuse itself over his disquisitions, without caring for the effect on the reader. The rich conceit is either suppressed, or carefully reserved to adorn some cold oration where it may be duly applauded. Our ancestors permitted the wall-flower, when it would, to spread out its sweets from the massive battlement, without thinking there was any thing extraordinary in its growth, or desiring to transplant it to a garden, where it would add little fragrance, to the perfume of other flowers. The study of the law has sunk of late years. Formerly the path of those by whom it was chosen, though steep and rugged, was clear and open before them. Destitute of adventitious aids, they were compelled to salutary and hopeful toils. They were forced to trace back every doctrine to the principle which was its germ, and to search for their precedents amidst the remotest grandeur of our history. Patient labour was required of them, but their reward was certain. In the most barren and difficult parts of their ascent, they found at least in the masses which they surmounted the stains and colourings of a humanizing antiquity to soften and to dignify their labours. But abridgments, commentaries, and digests without number, have precluded the necessity of these liberal researches, while the vast accumulation of statutes and decisions have rendered them almost hopeless. Instead of a difficult mountain to ascend, there is a briery labyrynth to penetrate. Wearied out with vain attempts, the student accepts such temporary helps as he can procure, and despairs of reducing the ever-increasing multitude of decisions to any fixed and intelligible principles. Thus his labours are not directed to a visible goal—nor