Page images
PDF
EPUB

the bar; but his silk gown came to him with a patent of precedence, giving him the status without the title of a King's Counsel.

Bar mourning is no longer a feature of legal costume in England. On the death of Charles II:members of the bar donned gowns indicative of their grief for the national loss, and they continued, either universally or in a large number of cases, to wear these woful habiliments till 1697, when Chief Justice Holt ordered all barristers practising in his court to appear“ in their proper gowns and not in mourning ones”-an order which, according to Narcissus Luttrell, compelled the bar to spend £15 per man. From this it may be inferred that (regard being had to change in value of money) a bar-gown at the close of the seventeenth century cost about ten times as much as it does at the present time.

[ocr errors]

CHAPTER

XXIV.

HATS.

N

OT less famous in history than Bradshaw's broad

jaunty beaver, nor less memorable than the sailor's tarpaulin, under cover of which Jeffreys slunk into the Red Cow, Wapping, nor less striking than the black cap still worn by Justice in her sternest mood, nor less fanciful than the cocked hat which covered Wedderburn's powdered hair when he daily paced the High Street of Edinburgh with his hands in a muff-was the white hat which an illustrious Templar invented at an early date of the eighteenth century. Beau Brummel's original mind taught the human species to starch their white cravats;

a

Richard Nash, having surmounted the invidious bar of plebeian birth and raised himself upon opposing circumstances to the throne of Bath, produced a white hat. To which of these great men society owes the heavier debt of gratitude thoughtful historians cannot agree ; but even envious detraction admits that they deserve high rank amongst the benefactors of mankind. Brummel was a soldier; but Law proudly claims as her own the parent of the pale and spotless chapeau.

About lawyers' cocked hats a capital volume might be written, that should contain no better story than the one which is told of Ned Thurlow's discomfiture in 1788, when he was playing a trickster's game with his friends and foes. Windsor Castle just then contained three distinct centres of public interest—the mad king in the hands of his keepers ; on the one side of the impotent monarch the Prince of Wales waiting impatiently for the Regency ; on the other side, the queen with equal impatience longing for her husband's recovery. The prince and his mother both had apartments in the castle, her majesty's quarters being the place of meeting for the Tory ministers, whilst the prince's apartments were thrown open to the select leaders of the Whig expectants. Of course the two coteries kept jealously apart; but Thurlow, who wished to be still Lord Chancellor, “whatever king might reign," was in private communication with the prince's friends. With furtive steps he passed from the queen's room (where he had a minute before been assuring the ministers that he would be faithful to the king's adherents), and made clandestine way to the apartment where Sheridan and Payne were meditating on the advantages of a regency without restriction. On leaving the prince, the wary lawyer used to steal into the king's chamber, and seek guidance or encouragement from the madman's restless eyes. Was the malady curable? If curable, how long a time would elapse before the return of reason? These were the questions which the Chancellor put to himself, as he debated whether he should break with the Tories and go over to the Whigs. Through the action of the patient's disease, the most delicate part of the lawyer's occupation was gone; and having no longer a king's conscience to keep, he did not care, by way of diversion—to keep his own.

For many days ere they received clear demonstration of the Chancellor's deceit, the other members of the cabinet suspected that he was acting disingenuously, and when his double-dealing was brought to their sure knowledge, their indignation was not even qualified with surprise. The story of his exposure is told in various ways; but all versions concur in attributing his detection to an accident. Like the gallant of the French court, whose clandestine intercourse with a great lady was discovered because, in his hurried preparations for flight from her chamber, he appropriated one of her stockings, Thurlow, according to one account, was convicted of perfidy by the prince's hat, which he bore under his arm on entering the closet where the ministers awaited his coming. Another version says that Thurlow had taken his seat at the council-table, when his hat was brought to him by a page, with an explanation that he had left it in the prince's private room. A third, and more probable representation of the affair, instead of laying the scene in the councilchamber, makes the exposure occur in a more public part of the castle. " When a council was to be held at Windsor," said the Right Honorable Thomas Grenville, in his old age recounting the particulars of the mishap, “to determine the course which ministers should pursue, Thurlow had been there some time before any of his colleagues arrived. He was to be brought back to London by one of them, and the moment of departure being come, the Chancellor's hat was nowhere to be found. After a fruitless search in the apartment where the council had been held, a page came with the hat in his hand, saying aloud, and with great naïveté, ‘My lord, I found it in the closet of his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.' The other Ministers were still in the Hall, and Thurlow's confusion corroborated the inference which they drew.” Cannot an artist be found to place upon canvas this scene, which furnishes the student of human nature with an instructive instance of

“ That combination strange—a lawyer and a blush ?"

a

For some days Thurlow's embarrassment and chagrim were very painful. But a change in the state of the king's health caused a renewal of the lawyer's attachment to Tory principles and to his sovereign.

The lawyers of what may be termed the cocked hat period seldom maintained the happy mean between too little and too great care for personal appearance. For the most part they were either slovenly or foppish. From the days when as a student he used to slip into Nando's in a costume that raised the supercilious astonishment of his contemporaries, Thurlow to the last erred on the side of neglect. Camden roused the satire of an earlier generation by the miserable condition of the tiewig which he wore on the bench of Chancery, and by an undignified and provoking habit of "gartering up his stockings while counsel were the most strenuous in their eloquence.” On the other hand Joseph Yates—the puisne judge whom Mansfield's jeers and merciless oppressions drove from the King's Bench to the Common Pleas, where he died within four months of his retreatwas the finest of fine gentlemen. Before he, had demonstrated his professional capacity, the habitual costliness and delicacy of his attire roused the distrust of at

a

torneys, and on more than one occasion wrought him injury. An awkward, crusty, hard-featured attorney entered the foppish barrister's chambers with a bundle of papers, and on seeing the young man in a superb and elaborate evening dress, is said to have inquired, “ Can you say, sir, when Mr. Yates will return ?” “Return, my good sir!" answered the barrister, with an air of surprise, “I am Mr. Yates, and it will give me the greatest pleasure to talk with you about those papers.” Having taken a deliberate survey of the young Templar, and made a mental inventory of all the fantastic articles of his apparel, the honest attorney gave an ominous grunt, replaced the papers in one of the deep pockets of his longskirted coat, twice nodded his head with contemptuous significance, and then, without another word-walked out of the room. It was his first visit to those chambers, and his last. Joseph Yates lost his client, before he could even learn his name; but in no way influenced by the occurrence he maintained his reputation for faultless taste in dress, and when he had raised himself to the bench, he was amongst the judges of his day all that Revell Reynolds was amongst the London physicians of a later date.

Living in the midst of the fierce contentions which distracted Ireland in the days of our grandfathers, John Toler, first Earl of Norbury, would not have escaped odium and evil repute, had he been a merciful man and a. scrupulous judge; but in consequence of failings and wicked propensities, which gave countenance to the slanders of his enemies and at the same time earned for him the distrust and aversion of his political coadjutors, he has found countless accusers and not a single vindicator. Resembling George Jeffreys in temper and mental capacity, he resembled him also in posthumous fame. A shrewd, selfish, overbearing man, possessing wit which was exercised with equal promptitude upon friends

« PreviousContinue »