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1769-1770, Thurlow and his adversary met in Hdye Park. On his way to the appointed place, the barrister stopped at a tavern near Hyde Park Corner, and "ate
enormous breakfast,” after which preparation for business, he hastened to the field of action. Accounts agree in saying that he behaved well upon the ground. Long after the bloodless rencontre, the Scotch agent, not a little proud of his 'affair' with a future Lord Chancellor, said, “Mr. Thurlow advanced and stood
up like an elephant." But the elephant and the mouse parted without hurting each other; the encounter being thus faithfully described in the 'Scots' Magazine: "On Sunday morning, January 14, the parties met with swords and pistols, in Hyde Park, one of them having for his second his brother, Colonel S—, and the other having for his Mr. L- member for a city in Kent. Having discharged pistols, at ten yards' distance, without effect, they drew their swords, but the seconds interposed, and put an end to the affair.”
One of the best Northern Circuit stories' pinned upon Lord Eldon relates to a challenge which an indignant suitor is said to have sent to Law and John Scott. In a trial at York that arose from a horse-race, it was stated' in evidence that one of the conditions of the race required that "each horse should be ridden by a gentleman.” The race having been run, the holders refused to pay the stakes to the winner on the ground that he was not a gentleman; whereupon the equestrian whose gentility was thus called in question brought an action for the money. After a very humorous inquiry, which terminated in a verdict for the defendants, the plaintiff was said to have challenged the defendants' counsel, Messrs. Scott and Law, for maintaining that he was no gentleman; to which invitation, it also averred, reply was made that the challengees “ could not think of
fighting one who had been found no gentleman by the solemn verdict of twelve of his countrymen.” Inquiry, however, bas deprived this delicious story of much of its piquancy. Eldon had no part in the offence; and Law, who was the sole utterer of the obnoxious words, received no invitation to fight.
as sent,” says a writer, supposed to be Lord Brougham, in the Law Magazine,' "and no attempt was made to provoke a breach of the peace.
It is very possible Lord Eldon may have said, and Lord Ellenborough too, that they were not bound to treat one in such a predicament as a gentleman, and hence the story has arisen in the lady's mind. The fact was as well known on the Northern Circuit as the answer of a witness to a question, whether the party had a right by his circumstances to keep a pack of fox-hounds; ‘No more right than I to keep a pack of archbishops.'
Curran is said to have received a call, before he left his bed one morning, from a gentleman whom he had cross-examined with needlees cruelty and unjustifiable insolence on the previous day. “Sir!" said this irate man, presenting himself in Curran's bed-room, and rousing the barrister from slumber to a consciousness that he was in a very awkward position, “I am the gintleman whom you insulted yesterday in His Majesty's court of justice, in the presence of the whole county, and I am here to thrash you soundly!” Thus speaking, the Herculean intruder waved a horsewhip over the recumbent lawyer. “You don't mean to strike a man when he is lying down ?" inquired Curran. “No, bedad; I'll just wait till you've got out of bed and then I'll give it to you sharp and fast.” Curran's eye twinkled mischievously as he rejoined: “If that's the case, by I'll lie here all day.” So tickled was the visitor with this humorous announcement, that he dropped his horsewhip, and dismissing anger with a hearty roar of laughter, asked the counsellor to shake hands with him.
In the December of 1663, Pepys was present at a trial in Guildhall concerning the fraud of a merchant-adventurer, who having insured his vessel for £2100 when, together with her cargo, she was worth no more than £500, had endeavored to wreck her off the French coast. From Pepys's record it appears that this was a novel piece of rascality at that time, and consequently created lively sensation in general society, as well as in legal and commercial coteries. “All the great counsel in the kingdom” were employed in the cause; and though maritime causes then, as now, usually involved much hard swearing, the case was notable for the prodigious amount of perjury which it elicited. For the most part the witnesses were sailors, who, besides swearing with stolid indifference to truth, caused much amusement by the incoherence of their statements and by their free use of nautical expressions, which were quite unintelligible to Chief Justice (Sir Robert) Hyde. "It was," says Pepys, “pleasant to see what mad sort of testimonys the seamen did give, and could not be got to speak in order; and then their terms such as the judge could not understand. and to hear how sillily the counsel and judge would speak as to the terms necessary in the matter, would make one laugh; and above all a Frenchman, that was forced to speak in French, and took an English oath he did not understand, and had an interpreter sworn to tell us what he said, which was the best testimony of all.” A century later Lord Mansfield was presiding at a trial consequent upon a collision of two ships at sea, when a common sailor, whilst giving testimony, said, “At the time I was standing abaft the binnacle;" whereupon his lordship, with a proper desire to master the facts of the case, observed, “Stay, stay a minute, witness: you say
that at the time in question you were standing abaft the binnacle; now tell me, where is abaft the binnacle ?” This was too much for the gravity of the salt,' who immediately before climbing into the witness-box had taken a copious draught of neat rum. Removing his eyes from the bench, and turning round upon the crowded court with an expression of intense amusement, he exclaimed at the top of his voice, "He's a pretty fellow for a judge! Bless my jolly old eyes !—[the reader may substitute a familiar form of 'imprecation on eye-sight']—you have got a pretty sort of a land-lubber for a judge! He wants me to tell him where abaft the binnacle is !” Not less amused than tậe witness, Lord Mansfield rejoined, “Well, my friend, you must fit me for my office by telling me where abaft the binnacle is; you've already shown me the meaning of half seas over.”
With less good-humor the same Chief Justice revenged himself on Dr. Brocklesby, who, whilst standing in the witness-box of the Court of King's Bench, incurred the Chief Justice's displeasure by referring to their private intercourse. Some accounts say that the medical witness merely nodded to the Chief Justice, as he might have done with propriety had they been taking seats at a convivial table; other accounts, with less appearance of probability, maintain that in a voice audible to the bar, he reminded the Chief Justice of certain jolly hours which they had spent together during the previous evening. Anyhow, Lord Mansfield was hurt, and showed his resentment in his “summing-up' by thus addressing the Jury: “The next witness is one Rocklesby, or Brocklesby-Brocklesby or Rocklesby, I am not sure which; and first, he swears that he is a physician."
On one occasion Lord Mansfield covered his retreat from an untenable position with a sparkling pleasantry.
An old witness named Elm having given his evidence with remarkable clearness, although he was more than eighty years of age, Lord Mansfield examined him as to his habitual mode of living, and found that he had throughout life been an early riser and a singularly temperate man. “Ay,” observed the Chief Justice, in a tone of approval, “I have always found that without temperance and early habits, longevity is never attained.” The next witness, the elder brother of this model of temperance, was then called, and he almost surpassed his brother as an intelligent and clear-headed utterer of evidence. “I suppose," observed Lord Mansfield, “that you also are an early riser.” “No, my lord," answered the veteran, stoutly ; “I like my bed at all hours, and special-lie I like it of a morning.” “Ah ; but, like your brother, you are a very temperate man?" quickly asked the judge, looking out anxiously for the safety of the more important 1 part of his theory. “My lord,” responded this ancient Elm, 'disdaining to plead guilty to a charge of habitual sobriety, “I am a very old man, and my memory is as clear as a bell, but I can't remember the night when I've gone to bed without being more or less drunk.” Lord Mansfield was silent. “Ah, my lord,” Mr. Dunning exclaimed, “this old man's case supports a theory upheld by many persons, that habitual intemperance is favorable to longevity." "No, no," replied the Chief Justice, with a smile, “this old man and his brother merely teach us what every carpenter knows—that Elm, whether it be wet or dry, is a very tough wood.” Another version of this excellent story makes Lord Mansfield inquire of the elder Elm, “Then how do you account for your prolonged tenure of existence?” to which question Elm is made to respond, more like a lawyer than a simple witness, “I account for it by the terms of the original lease.”
Few stories relating to witnesses are more laughable