Page images

they could hire assassins, plan risings, hold interviews with fellow-conspirators, and nurse their nefarious projects into achievement. At periods of danger therefore spies were set to watch the gates of the hostels, and mark who entered them. Governments took great pains to ascertain the secret life of the collegians. A succession of royal directions for the discipline of the inns under the Tudors and Stuarts points to the jealousy and constant apprehensions with which the sovereigns of England long regarded those convenient lurking-places for restless spirits and dangerous adversaries. Just as the Studentquarter of Paris is still watched by a vigilant police, so the Inns of Court were closely watched by the agents of Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell, of Burleigh and Buckingham. During the troubles and contentions of Elizabeth's reign Lord Burleigh was regularly informed concerning the life of the inns, the number of students in and out of town, the parentage and demeanor of new members, the gossip of the halls, and the rumors of the cloisters. In proportion as the political temper and action of the lawyers were deemed matters of high importance, their political indiscretions and misdemeanors were promptly and sometimes ferociously punished. An idle joke over a pot of wine sometimes cost a witty barrister his social rank and his ears. To promote a wholesome fear of authority in the colleges, government every now and then flogged a student at the cart's tail in Holborn, or pilloried a sad apprentice of the law in Chancery Lane, or hung an ancient on a gibbet at the entrance of his inn.

The anecdote-books abound with good stories that illustrate the political excitability of the inns in past times, and the energy with which ministers were wont to repress the first manifestations of insubordination. Rushworth records the adventure of four young men of Lincoln's Inn

who threw aside prudence and sobriety in a tavern hard by their inn, and drank to "the confusion of the Archbishop of Canterbury." The next day, full of penitence and head-ache, the offenders were brought before the council, and called to account for their scandalous conduct; when they would have fared ill had not the Earl of Dorset done them good service, and privately instructed them to say in their defence, that they had not drunk confusion to the archbishop but to the archbishop's foes. On this ingenious representation, the council supposed that the drawer-on whose information the proceedings were taken-had failed to catch the last word of the toast; and consequently the young gentlemen were dismissed with a light admonition,' much to their own surprise and the informer's chagrin.

Of the political explosiveness of the inns in Charles II.'s time Narcissus Luttrell gives the following illustration in his diary, under date June 15 and 16, 1681:-"The 15th was a project sett on foot in Grayes Inn for the carrying on an addresse for thankes to his majestie for his late declaration; and was moved that day in the hall by some at dinner, and being (as is usual) sent to the barre messe to be by them recommended to the bench, but was rejected both by bench and barr; but the other side seeing they could doe no good this way, they gott about forty together and went to the tavern, and there subscribed the said addresse in the name of the truelye loyall gentlemen of Grayes Inn. The chief sticklers for the said addition `were Sir William Scroggs, Jun., Robert Fairebeard, Capt. Stowe, Capt. Radcliffe, one Yalden, with others, to the number of 40 or thereabouts; many of them sharpers about town, with clerks not out of their time, and young men newly come from the university. And some of them went the 17th to Windsor, and presented the said addresse to his majesty: who was pleasd to give them his thanks

and confer (it is said) knighthood on the said Mr. Fairebeard; this proves a mistake since. The 16th was much such another addresse carried on in the Middle Temple, where several Templars, meeting about one or two that afternoon in the hall for that purpose, they began to debate it, but they were opposed till the hall began to fill; and then the addressers called for Mr. Montague to take the chaire; on which a poll was demanded, but the addressers refused it, and carried Mr. Montague and sett him in the chaire, and the other part pulled him out, on which high words grew, and some blows were given; but the addressers seeing they could doe no good with it in the hall, adjourned to the Divill Tavern, and there signed the addresse; the other party kept in the hall, and fell to protesting against such illegall and arbitrary proceedings, subscribing their names to a greater number than the addressers were, and presented the same to the bench as a grievance."

Like the King's Head Tavern, which stood in Chancery Lane, the Devil Tavern, in Fleet Street, was a favorite house with the Caroline Lawyers. Its proximity to the Temple secured the special patronage of the templars, whereas the King's Head was more frequented by Lincoln's-Inn men; and in the tavern-haunting days of the seventeenth century those two places of entertainment saw many a wild and dissolute scene. Unlike Chattelin, who endeavored to satisfy his guests with delicate repasts and light wines, the hosts of the Devil and the King's Head provided the more substantial fare of old England, and laid themselves out to please roysterers who liked pots of ale in the morning, and were wont to drink brandy by the pint as the clocks struck midnight. Nando's, the house where Thurlow in his student-period used to hold nightly disputations with all comers of suitable social rank, was an orderly place in comparison with these more

venerable hostelries; and though the Mitre, Cock, and Rainbow have witnessed a good deal of deep drinking, it may be questioned if they, or any other ancient taverns of the legal quarter, encouraged a more boisterous and reckless revelry than that which constituted the ordinary course of business at the King's Head and the Devil.

In his notes for Jan. 1681-2, Mr. Narcissus Luttrell observes-The 13th, at night, some young gentlemen of the Temple went to the King's Head Tavern, Chancery Lane, committing strange outrages there, breaking windowes, &c., which the watch hearing of came to disperse them; but they sending for severall of the watermen with halberts that attend their comptroller of the revells, were engaged in a desperate riott, in which one of the watchmen was run into the body and lies very ill; but the watchmen secured one or two of the watermen." Eleven years later the diarist records: "Jan. 5. One Batsill, a young gentleman of the Temple, was committed to Newgate for wounding a captain at the Devil Tavern in Fleet Street on Saturday last." Such ebullitions of manly spirit-ebullitions pleasant enough to the humorist, but occasionally productive of very disagreeable and embarrassing consequences were not uncommon in the neighborhood of the Inns of Court whilst the Christmas revels were in progress.

A tempestuous, hot-blooded, irascible set were these gentlemen of the law-colleges, more zealous for their own honor than careful for the feelings of their neighbors. Alternately warring with sharp tongues, sharp pens, and sharp swords they went on losing their tempers, friends, and lives in the most gallant and picturesque manner imaginable. Here is a nice little row which occurred in the Middle Temple Hall during the days of good Queen Bess! "The records of the society," says Mr. Foss, "preserve an account of the expulsion of a member,

which is rendered peculiarly interesting in consequence of the eminence to which the delinquent afterwards attained as a statesman, a poet, and a lawyer. Whilst the masters of the bench and other members of the society were sitting quietly at dinner on February 9, 1597-8, John Davis came into the hall with his hat on his head, and attended by two persons armed with swords, and going up to the barrister's table, where Richard Martin was sitting, he pulled out from under his gown a cudgel 'quem vulgariter vocant a bastinado,' and struck him over the head repeatedly, and with so much violence that the bastinado was shivered into many pieces. Then retiring to the bottom of the hall, he drew one of his attendants' swords and flourished it over his head, turning his face towards Martin, and then turning away down the water steps of the Temple, threw himself into a boat. For this outrageous act he was immediately disbarred and expelled the house, and deprived for ever of all authority to speak or consult in law. After nearly four years' retirement he petitioned the benchers for his restoration, which they accorded on October 30, 1601, upon his making a public submission in the hall, and asking pardon of Mr. Martin, who at once generously forgave him." Both the principals in this scandalous outbreak and subsequent reconciliation became honorably known in their profession-Martin` rising to be a Recorder of London and a member of parliament; and Davies acting as Attorney General of Ireland and Speaker of the Irish parliament, and achieving such a status in politics and law that he was appointed to the Chief Justiceship of England, an office, however, which sudden death prevented him from filling.

Nor must it be imagined that gay manners and lax morals were less general amongst the veterans than amongst the youngsters of the bar., Judges and sergeants

« PreviousContinue »