Page images

being the most important of the English circuits. Its palmiest and most famous days belong to the times of Norton and Wallace, Jack Lee and John Scott, Edward Law and Robert Graham; but still amongst the wise white heads of the upper house may be seen at times the mobile features of an aged peer who, as Mr. Henry Brougham, surpassed in eloquence and intellectual brilliance the brightest and most celebrated of his precursors on the great northern round. But of all the great men whose names illustrate the annals of the circuit, Lord Eldon is the person most frequently remembered in connexion with the jovial ways of circuiteers in the old time. In his later years the port-loving earl delighted to recall the times when as Attorney General of the Circuit Grand Court he used to prosecute offenders 'against the peace of our Lord the Junior,' devise practical jokes for the diversion of the bar, and over bowls of punch at York, Lancaster, or Kirkby Lonsdale, argue perplexing questions about the morals of advocacy. Just as John Campbell, thirty years later, used to recount with glee how in the mock courts of the Oxford Circuit he used to officiate as crier, “holding a fire-shovel in his hand as the emblem of his office;" so did old Lord Eldon warm with mirth over recollections of his circuit revelries and escapades. Many of his stories were apocryphal, some of them unquestionably spurious; but the least truthful of them contained an element of pleasant reality. Of course Jemmy Boswell, a decent lawyer, though better biographer, was neither duped by the sham brief, nor induced to apply in court for the writ of 'quare adhæsit pavimento;' but it is quite credible that on the morning after his removal in a condition of vinous prostration from the Lancaster flagstones, his jocose friends concocted the brief, sent it to him with a bad guinea, and proclaimed the success of their device. When the chimney-sweeper's boy met his

[ocr errors]


death by falling from a high gallery to the floor of the court-house at the York Assizes, whilst Sir Thomas Davenport was speaking, it was John Scott whoarguing that the orator's dullness had sent the boy to sleep, and so caused his fatal fall-prosecuted Sir Thomas for murder in the High Court, alleging in the indictment that the death was produced by a certain blunt instrument of no value, called a long speech.The records of the Northern Circuit abound with testimony to the hearty zeal with which the future Chancellor took part in the proceedings of the Grand Court-paying fines and imposing them with equal readiness, now upholding with mock gravity the high and majestic character of the presiding judge, and at another time inveighing against the levity and indecorum of a learned brother who had maintained in conversation that “no man would be such a

fool as to go to a lawyer for advice who knew how to get on without it.” The monstrous offender against religion and propriety who gave uiterance to this execrable sentiment was Pepper Arden (subsequently Master of the Rolls and Lord Alvanley), and his punishment is thus recorded in the archives of the circuit:-"In this he was considered as doubly culpable, in the first place as having offended against the laws of Almighty God by his profane cursing; for which, however, he made a very sufficient atonement by paying a bottle of claret; and secondly, as having made use of an expression which, if it should become a prevailing opinion, might have the most alarming consequences to the profession, and was therefore deservedly considered in a far more hideous light. For the last offence he was fin'd 3 bottles. Pd.”

One of the most ridiculous circumstances over which the Northern Circuit men of the last generation delighted to laugh occurred at Newcastle, when Baron Grahamthe poor lawyer, but a singularly amiable and placid man,


of whom Jeckyll observed, “no one but his sempstress could ruffle him”-rode the circuit, and was immortalized as 'My Lord 'Size,' in Mr. John Shield's capital song

“The jailor, for trial had brought up a thief,

Whose looks seemed a passport for Botany Bay;
The lawyers, some with and some wanting a brief,

Around the green table were seated so gay;
Grave jurors and witnesses waiting a call;

Attorneys and clients, more angry than wise;
With strangers and town-people, throng'd the Guildhall,

All watching and gaping to see my Lord 'Size.

“Oft stretch'd were their necks, oft erected their ears,

Still fancying they heard of the trumpets the sound,
When tidings arriv'd, which dissolv'd them in tears,

my lord at the dead-house was then lying drown'd. Straight left tête-à-tête were the jailor and thief;

The horror-struck crowd to the dead-house quick hies; Ev'n the lawyers, forgetful of fee and of brief,

Set off helter-skelter to view my Lord 'Size.

“ And now the Sandhill with the sad tidings rings,

And the tubs of the taties are left to take care;
Fishwomen desert their crabs, lobster and lings,

And each to the dead-house now runs like a hare;
The glassmen, some naked, some clad, heard the news,

And off they ran, smoking like hot mutton pies;
Whilst Castle Garth tailors, like wild kangaroos,

Came tail-on-end jumping to see my Lord 'Size."

“ The dead-house they reach'd, where his lordship they found,

Pale, stretch'd on a plank, like themselves out of breath,
The coroner and jury were seated around,

Most gravely enquiring the cause of his death.
No haste did they seem in, their task to complete,

Aware that from hurry mistakes often rise;
Or wishful, perhaps, of prolonging the treat

Of thus sitting in judgment upon my Lord 'Size.
“Now the Mansion House butler, thus gravely deposed:-

*My lord on the terrace seem'd studying his charge

And when (as I thought) he had got it compos’d,

He went down the stairs and examined the barge; First the stem he survey'd, then inspected the stern,

Then handled the tiller, and looked mighty wise; But he made a false step when about to return,

And souse in the river straight tumbled Lord 'Size.'


•Now his narrative ended, the butler retir'd,

Whilst Betty Watt, muttering half drunk through her teeth, Declar'd in her breast great consarn it inspir'd,

That my lord should sae cullishly come by his death;' Next a keelman was called on, Bold Airchy by name,

Who the book as he kissed showed the whites of his eyes, Then he cut an odd caper attention to claim,

And this evidence gave them respecting Lord 'Size;

“ Aw was settin' the keel, wi' Dick Slavers an' Matt,

An' the Mansion House stairs we were just alongside, When we a' three see'd somethin', but didn't ken what,

That was splashin' and labberin', aboot i' the tide. 'It's a fluiker,' ki Dick; “No,' ki Matt, its owre big,

It luik'd mair like a skyet when aw furst seed it rise;' Kiv aw—for awd getten a gliff o' the wig


'Ods marcy! wey, marrows, becrike, it’s Lord 'Size


“«Sae aw huik'd him, an' haul'd him suin into the keel,

An' o' top o' the huddock aw rowl'd him aboot;
An' his belly aw rubb'd, an'aw skelp'd his back weel,

But the water he'd druck'n it wadn't run oot;
So aw brought him ashore here, an' doctor's, in vain,

Furst this way, then that, to recover him tries;
For ye see there he's lyin' as deed as a stane,

An' that's a' aw can tell ye aboot my Lord 'Size.'

“Now the jury for close consultation retir’d:

Some · Death Accidental' were willing to find; "God's Visitation' most eager requir'd;

And some were for • Fell in the River'inclin'd; But ere on their verdict they all were agreed,

My Lord gave a groan, and wide opened his eyes; Then the coach and the trumpeters came with great speed,

And back to the Mansion House carried Lord 'Size."

Amongst memorable Northern Circuit worthies was George Wood, the celebrated Special Pleader, in whose chambers Law, Erskine, Abbott and a mob of eminent lawyers acquired a knowledge of their profession. It is on record that whilst he and Mr. Holroyde were posting the Northern round, they were accosted on a lonely heath by a well-mounted horseman, who reining in his steed asked the barrister “What o'clock it was?” Favorably impressed by the stranger's appearance and tone of voice, Wood pulled out his valuable gold repeater, when the highwayman presenting a pistol, and putting it on the cock, said coolly, “As you have a watch, be kind enough to give it me, so that I may not have occasion to trouble you again about the time.” To demur was impossible; the lawyer, therefore, who had met his disaster by going to the country, meekly submitted to circumstances and surrendered the watch. For the loss of an excellent gold repeater he cared little, but he winced under the banter of his professional brethren, who long after the occurrence used to smile with malicious significance as they accosted him with—“What's the time, Wood ?"

Another of the memorable Northern circuiteers was John Hullock, who, like George Wood, became a baron of the Exchequer, and of whom the following story is told on good authority. In an important cause tried upon the Northern Circuit, he was instructed by the attorney who retained him as leader on one side not to produce a certain deed unless circumstances made him think that without its production his client would lose the suit. On perusing the deed entrusted to him with this remarkable injunction, Hullock saw that it established his client's case, and wishing to dispatch the business with all possible promptitude, he produced the parchment before its exhibition was demanded by necessity. Examination instantly detected the spurious character of the

« PreviousContinue »