Page images

than that which describes the arithmetical process by which Mr. Baron Perrot arrived at the value of certain conflicting evidence. “Gentlemen of the jury,” this judge is reported to have said, in summing up the evidence in a trial where the witnesses had sworn with noble tenacity of purpose, “there are fifteen witnesses who swear that the watercourse used to flow in a ditch on the north side of the hedge. On the other hand, gentlemen, there are nine witnesses who swear that the watercourse used to flow on the south side of the hedge. Now, gentlemen, if you subtract nine from fifteen, there remain six witnesses wholly uncontradicted ; and I recommend you to give your verdict for the party who called those six witnesses."

Whichever of the half-dozen ways in which it is told be accepted as the right one, the following story exemplifies the difficulty which occasionally arises in courts of justice, when witnesses use provincial terms with which the judge is not familiar. Mr. William Russell, in past days deputy-surveyor of 'canny Newcastle,' and a genuine Northumbrian in dialect, brogue, and shrewdness, was giving his evidence at an important trial in the Newcastle courthouse, when he said—“As I was going along the quay, I saw a bubbleshew coming out of a chare-foot." Not aware that on Tyne-side the word 'hubbleshew' meant'a concourse of riotous persons;' that the narrow alleys or lanes of Newcastle 'old town' were called by their inhabitants 'chares;' and that the lower end of each alley, where it opened upon quay-side, was termed a

chare-foot;' the judge, seeing only one part of the puzzle, inquired the meaning of the word 'hubbleshew.' “A crowd of disorderly persons,” answered the deputysurveyor. “And you mean to say," inquired the judge of assize, with a voice and look of surprise, “that you saw a crowd of people come out of a chair-foot ?” “I

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


do, my lord,” responded the witness. “Gentlemen of the jury, said his lordship, turning to the 'twelve good men in the box, “it must be needless for me to inform youthat this uitness is insane!

The report of a trial which occurred at Newcastle Assizes towards the close of the last century gives the following succession of questions and answers :- :- Barrister.

“What is your name?” Witness.—"Adam, sir-Adam Thompson.” Barrister.—“Where do you live ?” Witness. _“In Paradise.” Barrister (with facetious tone).And pray, Mr. Adam, how long have you dwelt in Paradise?” Witness." Ever since the food.” Paradise is the name of a village in the immediate vicinity of Newcastle ; and 'the flood' referred to by the witness was the inundation (memorable in local annals) of the Tyne, which in the year 1771 swept away the old Tyne Bridge.

[ocr errors]




XPOSED to some of the discomforts, if not all the

dangers, * of travel ; required to ride over black and cheerless tracts of moor and heath : now belated in marshy districts, and now exchanging shots with gentlemen of the road ; sleeping, as luck favored them, in way-side taverns, country mansions, or the superior hotels of provincial towns—the circuiteers of olden time found their advantage in cultivating social hilarity and establishing an etiquette that encouraged good-fellowship in their itinerant societies. At an early date they are found varying the monotony of cross-country rides with racingmatches and drinking bouts, cock-fights and fox-hunting; and enlivening assize towns and country houses with balls and plays, frolic and song. A prodigious amount of feasting was perpetrated on an ordinary circuit-round of the seventeenth century; and at circuit-messes, judges' dinners, and sheriffs' banquets, saucy juniors were allowed a license of speech to staid leaders and grave dignitaries that was altogether exceptional to the prevailing tone of manners.

* Lord Eldon, when he was handsome Jack Scott of the Northern Circuit, was about to make a short cut over the sands from Ulverstone to Lancaster at the flow of the tide, when he was restrained from acting on his rash resolve by the representations of an hotel keeper. “Danger, danger," asked Scott, impatiently-“have you ever lost anybody there?” Mine host answered slowly, “Nae, sir, nao. body has been lost on the sands, the puir bodies have been found at low water."

In the days when Chief Justice Hyde, Clarendon's cousin, used to ride the Norfolk Circuit, old Sergeant Earl was the leader, or, to use the slang of the period, 'cock of the round'. A keen, close-fisted, tough practitioner, this sergeant used to ride from town to town, chuckling over the knowledge that he was earning more and spending less than any other member of the circuit, One biscuit was all the refreshment which he permitted himself on the road from Cambridge to Norwich ; although he consented to dismount at the end of every ten miles to stretch his limbs. Sidling up to Sergeant Earl, as there was no greater man for him to toady, Francis North offered himself as the old man's travelling companion from the university to the manufacturing town; and when Earl with a grim smile accepted the , courteous suggestion, the young man congratulated himself. On the following morning, however, he had reason to question his good fortune when the sergeant's clerk brought him a cake, and remarked, significantly, “Put it in your pocket, sir; you'll want it ; for my master won't draw bit till he comes to Norwich.” It was a hard

[ocr errors]


day's work; but young Frank North was rewarded for his civility to the sergeant, who condescended to instruct his apt pupil in the tricks and chicaneries of their profession. Sir," inquired North at the close of the excursion, emboldened by the rich man's affability, "by what system do you keep your accounts, which must be very complex, as you have lands, securities, and great comings-in of all kinds ?” “Accounts ! boy," answered the grey-headed curmudgeon ; "I get as much as I can, and I spend as little as I can ; that's how I keep my accounts.”

When North had raised himself to the Chiefship of the Common Pleas he chose the Western Circuit, not for the common cause, it being a long circuit, and beneficial for the officers and servants, but because he knew the gentlemen to be loyal and conformable, and that he should have fair quarter amonst them;" and so much favor did he win amongst the loyal and conformable gentry that old Bishop Mew-the prelate of Winchester, popularly known as Bishop Patch, because he always wore a patch of black court-plaster over the scar of a wound which he received on one of his cheeks, whilst fighting as a trooper for Charles I.—used to term him the “Deliciæ occidentis, or Darling of the West.” On one occasion this Darling of the West was placed in a ludicrous position by the alacrity with which he accepted an invitation from “ busy fanatic,” a Devonshire gentleman, of good family, and estate, named Duke. This “busy fanatic” invited the judges on circuit and their officers to dine and sleep at his mansion on their way to Exeter, and subsequently scandalized his guests—all of them of course zealous defenders of the Established Church-by reading familyprayers before supper. “ The gentleman,” says the historian, “had not the manners to engage the parish minister to come and officiate with any part of the evening


service before supper : but he himself got behind the table in his hall, and read a chapter, and then a long-winded prayer, after the Presbyterian way.” Very displeased were the Chief Justice and the other Judge of Assize ; and their dissatisfaction was not diminished on the following day when on entering Exeter a rumor met them, that “the judges had been at a conventicle, and the grand jury intended to present them and all their retinue for it.”

Not many years elapsed before this Darling of the West was replaced by another Chief Justice who asserted the power of constituted authorities with an energy that roused more fear than gratitude in the breasts of local magistrates. That grim, ghastly, hideous progress, which Jeffreys made in the plenitude of civil and military power through the Western Counties, was not without its comic interludes; and of its less repulsive scenes none was more laughable than that which occurred in Bristol Court-house when the terrible Chief Justice upbraided the Bristol magistrates for taking part in a slave-trade of the most odious sort. The mode in which the authorities of the western port carried on their.iniquitous traffic deserves commemoration, for no student can understand the history of any period until he has acquainted himself with its prevailing morality. At a time when by the wealth of her merchants and the political influence of her inhabitants Bristol was the second city of England, her mayor and aldermen. used daily to sit in judgment on young men and growing boys, who were brought before them and charged with trivial offences. Some of the prisoners had actually broken the law: but in a large proportion of the cases the accusations were totally fictitious—the arrests having been made in accordance with the directions of the magistrates, on charges which the magistrates themselves knew to be utterly without foun

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »