Page images

tutor;* and like Swithin, who still remains the pluvious saint of humid England, and unlike Wolsey, who just missed the glory of canonization, Becket became a widely venerated saint. But less kind to St. Thomas of Canterbury than to St. Swithin, the Reformation degraded Becket from the saintly rank by the decision which terminated the ridiculous legal proceedings instituted by Henry VIII. against the holy reputation of St. Thomas. After the saint's counsel had replied to the AttorneyGeneral, who, of course, conducted the cause for the crown, the court declared that Thomas, sometime Archbishop of Canterbury, had been guilty of contumacy, treason and rebellion; that his bones should be publicly burnt, to admonish the living of their duty by the punishment of the dead; and that the offerings made at his shrine should be forfeited to the crown."

[ocr errors]

After the conclusion of the suit for the saint's degradation-a suit which was an extravagant parody of the process for establishing at Rome a holy man's title to the honors of canonization-proclamation was made that "forasmuch as it now clearly appeared that Thomas Becket had been killed in a riot excited by his own obstinacy and intemperate language, and had been afterwards canonized by the Bishop of Rome as the champion of his usurped authority, the king's majesty thought it expedient to declare to his loving subjects that he was no saint,

*Swithin was tutor to Ethelwulf and Alfred. Becket was tutor to Henry II.'s eldest son. Wolsey-who took delight in discharging scholastic functions from the days when he birched schoolboys at Magdalen College, Oxford, till the time when in the plenitude of his grandeur he framed regulations for Dean Colet's school of St. Paul's and wrote an introduction to a Latin Grammar for the use of children-acted as educational director to the Princess Mary, and superintended the studies of Henry VIII.'s natural son, the Earl of Richmond. Amongst peda gogue-chancellors, by license of fancy, may be included the Earl of Clarendon, whose enemies used to charge him with 'playing the schoolmaster to his king,' and in their desire to bring him into disfavor at court used to announce his approach to Charles II. by saying, "Here comes your schoolmaster."

[ocr errors]

but rather a rebel and traitor to his prince, and therefore strictly charged and commanded that he should not be · esteemed or called a saint; that all images and pictures of him should be destroyed, the festivals in his honor be abolished, and his name and remembrance be erased out of all books, under pain of his majesty's indignation and imprisonment at his grace's pleasure."

But neither St. Swithin nor St Thomas of Canterbury, lawyers though they were, deigned to take the legal profession under especial protection, and to mediate with particular officiousness between the long robe and St. Peter. The peculiar saint of the profession was St. Evona, concerning whom Carr, in his 'Remarks of the Government of the Severall Parts of Germanie, Denmark, &c.,' has the following passage: "And now because I am speaking of Petty-foggers, give me leave to tell you a story I mett with when I lived in Rome. Goeing with a Romane to see some antiquityes, he showed me a chapell dedicated to St. Evona, a lawyer of Brittanie, who, he said, came to Rome to entreat the Pope to give the lawyers of Brittanie a patron, to which the Pope replied, that he knew of no saint but what was disposed to other professions. At which Evona was very sad, and earnestly begd of the Pope to think of one for him. At last the Pope proposed to St. Evona that he should go round the church of St. John de Latera blindfold, and after he had said so many Ave Marias, that the first saint he laid hold of should be his patron, which the good old lawyer willingly undertook, and at the end of his Ave Maryes he stopt at St. Michael's altar, where he layed hold of the Divell, under St. Michael's feet, and cry'd out, this is our saint, let him be our patron. So being unblindfolded, and seeing what a patron he had chosen, he went to his lodgings so dejected, that a few moneths after he died, and coming to heaven's gates knockt hard. Where

upon St. Peter asked who it was that knockt so bouldly. He replied that he was St. Evona the advocate. Away, away, said St. Peter, here is but one advocate in Heaven; here is no room for you lawyers. O but, said St. Evona, I am that honest lawyer who never tooke fees on both sides, or pleaded in a bad cause, nor did I ever set my Naibours together by the ears, or lived by the sins of the People. Well, then, said St. Peter, come in. This newes coming down to Rome, a witty poet wrote on St. Evona's tomb these words:

'St. Evona un Briton,

Advocat non Larron.


This story put me in mind of Ben Jonson goeing throw a church in Surrey, seeing poore people weeping over a grave, asked one of the women why they wept. Oh, said shee, we have lost our pretious lawyer, Justice Randall; he kept us all in peace, and always was so good as to keep us from goeing to law; the best man ever lived. Well, said Ben Jonson, I will send you an epitaph to write upon his tomb, which was—

'God works wonders now and then,

Here lies a lawyer an honest man.'

An important vestige of the close relations which formerly existed between the Law and the Church is still found in the ecclesiastical patronage of the Lord Chancellor; and many are the good stories told of interviews that took place between our more recent chancellors and clergymen suing for preferment. "Who sent you, sir?” Thurlow asked savagely of a country curate, who had boldly forced his way into the Chancellor's library in Great Ormond Street, in the hope of winning the presentation to a vacant living. “In whose name do you come, that you venture to pester me about your private

affairs? I say, sir-what great lords sent you to bother me in my house?" "My Lord," answered the applicant, with a happy combination of dignity and humor, “no great man supports my entreaty; but I may say with honesty, that I come to you in the name of the Lord of Hosts." Pleased by the spirit and wit of the reply, Thurlow exclaimed, "The Lord of Hosts! the Lord of Hosts! you are the first parson that ever applied to me in that Lord's name; and though his title can't be found in the Peerage, by you shall have the living." On another occasion the same Chancellor was less benign," but not less just to a clerical applicant. Sustained by Queen Charlotte's personal favor and intercession with Thurlow, the clergyman in question felt so sure of obtaining the valuable living which was the object of his ambition, that he regarded his interview with the Chancellor as a purely formal affair. "I have, sir,” observed Lord Thurlow, "received a letter from the curate of the parish to which it is my intention to prefer you, and on inquiry I find him to be a very worthy man. The father of a large family, and a priest who has labored zealously in the parish for many years, he has written to me-not asking for the living, but modestly entreating me to ask the new rector to retain him as curate. Now, sir, you would oblige me by promising me to employ the poor man in that capacity." "My lord," replied Queen Charlotte's pastor, "it would give me great pleasure to oblige your lordship in this matter, but unfortunately I have arranged to take a personal friend for my curate." His eyes flashing angrily, Thurlow answered, "Sir, I cannot force you to take this worthy man for your curate, but I can make him the rector; and by he shall have the living, and be in a position to offer you the curacy."

Of Lord Loughborough a reliable biographer records

a pleasant and singular story. Having pronounced a decision in the House of Lords, which deprived an excellent clergyman of a considerable estate and reduced him to actual indigence, the Chancellor, before quitting the woolsack, addressed the unfortunate suitor thus:—“ As a judge I have decided against you, whose virtues are not unknown to me; and in acknowledgment of those virtues I beg you to accept from me a presentation to a living now vacant, and worth £600 per annum."

Capital also are the best of many anecdotes concerning Eldon and his ecclesiastical patronage. Dating the letter from No. 2, Charlotte Street, Pimlico, the Chancellor's eldest son sent his father the following anonymous epistle:

"Hear, generous lawyer! hear my prayer,
Nor let my freedom make you stare,

In hailing you Jack Scott!

Tho' now upon the woolsack placed,

With wealth, with power, with title graced,
Once nearer was our lot.

"Say by what name the hapless bard
May best attract your kind regard-

Plain Jack?-Sir John?-or Eldon?
Give from your ample store of giving,
A starving priest some little living-

The world will cry out 'Well done.'

"In vain, without a patron's aid,

I've prayed and preached, and preached and prayed-
Applauded but ill-fed.

Such vain éclat let others share;

Alas, I cannot feed on air

I ask not praise, but bread."

Satisfactorily hoaxed by the rhymer, the Chancellor went to Pimlico in search of the clerical poetaster, and found him not.

Prettier and less comic is the story of Miss Bridge's

« PreviousContinue »