Page images
[ocr errors]

moned his Secretary, that the secretary forthwith made out the presentation to Bessie's lover, and that having given the Chancellor a kiss of gratitude, Bessie made good speed back to Herefordshire, hugging the precious document the whole way home?

A bad but eager sportsman, Lord Eldon used to blaze away at his partridges and pheasants with such uniform want of success that Lord Stowell had truth as well as humor on his side when he observed, "My brother has done much execution this shooting season; with his gun he has killed a great deal of time.” Having ineffectually discharged two barrels at a covey of partridges, the Chancellor was slowly walking to the gate of one of his Encome turnip-fields when a stranger of clerical garb and aspect hailed him from a distance, asking, “Where is Lord Eldon ?” Not anxious to declare himself to the witness of his ludicrously bad shot, the Chancellor answered evasively, and with scant courtesy, “Not far off.” Displeased with the tone of this curt reply, the clergyman rejoined, “I wish you'd use your tongue to better purpose than you do your gun, and tell me civily where I can find the Chancellor.” “Well,” responded the sportsman, when he had slowly approached his questioner, "here you see the Chancellor-I am Lord Eldon,” It was an untoward introduction to the Chancellor for the strange clergyman who had traveled from the North of Lancashire to ask for the presentation to a vacant living. Partly out of humorous compassion for the applicant who had offered rudeness, if not insult to the person whom he was most anxious to propitiate; partly because on inquiry he ascertained the respectability of the applicant; and partly because he wished to seal by kindness the lips of a man who could report on the authority of his own eyes that the best lawyer was also the worst shot in all England, Eldon gave the petitioner the desired preferment.

for game.

“But now," the old Chancellor used to add in conclusion, whenever he told the story, "see the ingratitude of mankind. It was not long before a large present of game reached me, with a letter from my new-made rector, purporting that he had sent it to me, because from what he had seen of my shooting he supposed I must be badly off

Think of turning upon me in this way, and wounding me in my tenderest point.”

Amongst Eldon's humorous answers to applications for preferment should be remembered his letter to Dr. Fisher of the Charterhouse : on one side of a sheet of paper, “Dear Fisher, I cannot, to-day, give you the preferment for which you ask.—I remain your sincere friend, ELDON.

Turn over;" and on the other side, “I gave it to you yesterday.” This note reminds us of Erskine's reply to Sir John Sinclair's solicitation for a subscription to the testimonial which Sir John invited the nation to present to himself. On the one side of a sheet of paper it ran,

My dear Sir John, I am certain there are few in this kingdom who set a higher value on your services than myself, and I have the honor to subscribe," and on the other side it concluded, “myself your obedient faithful servant, ERSKINE.”







LONG list, indeed, might be made of abstemious

lawyers; but their temperance is almost invariably mentioned by biographers as matter for regret and apology, and is even made an occasion for reproach in cases where it has not been palliated by habits of munificent hospitality. In the catalogue of Chancellor Warham's virtues and laudable usages, Erasmus takes care to mention that the primate was accustomed to entertain his friends, to the number of two hundred at a time : and when the man of letters notices the archbishop's moderation with respect to wines and dishes- -a moderation that caused his grace to eschew suppers, and never to sit more than an hour at dinner-he does not omit to observe that though the great man "made it a rule to abstain entirely from supper, yet if his friends were assembled at that meal he would sit down along with them and promote their conviviality."

Splendid in all things, Wolsey astounded envious no

bles by the magnificence of his banquets, and the lavish expenses of his kitchens, wherein his master-cooks wore raiment of richest materials—the chef of his private kitchen daily arraying himself in a damask-satin or velvet, and wearing on his neck a chain of gold. Of a far other kind were the tastes of Wolsey's successor, who, in the warmest sunshine of his power, preferred a quiet dinner with Erasmus to the pompous display of state banquets, and who wore a gleeful light in his countenance when, after his fall, he called his children and grand-children about him, and said : “I have been brought up at Oxford, at an Inn of Chancery, at Lincoln's Inn, and in the King's Court—from the lowest degree to the highest, and yet have I in yearly revenues at this present, little left me above a hundred pounds by the year ; so that now, if we wish to live together, you must be content to be contributaries together. But my counsel is that we fall not to the lowest fare first ; we will not, therefore, descend to Oxford fare, nor to the fare of New Inn, but we will begin with Lincoln's Inn diet, where many right worshipful men of great account and good years do live full well ; which if we find ourselves the first year not able to maintain, then will we in the next year come down to Oxford fare, where many great, learned, and ancient fathers and doetors are continually conversant; which if our purses stretch not to maintain neither, then may we after, with bag and wallet, go a-begging together, hoping that for pity some good folks will give us their charity and at every man's door to sing a Salve Regina, whereby we shall keep company and be merry together.”

Students recalling the social life of England should bear in mind the hours kept by our ancestors in the fourteenth and two following centuries. Under the Plantagenets noblemen used to sup at five P. M., and dine somewhere about the breakfast hour of Mayfair in a modern London season. Gradually hours became later ; but under the Tudors the ordinary dinner hour for gentlepeople was somewhere about eleven A. m., and their usual time for supping was between five P. M. and six P. M., tradesmen, merchants and farmers dining and supping at later hours than their social superiors. “ With us,” says

Hall the chronicler," the nobility, gentry, and students, do ordinarily go to dinner at eleven before noon, and to supper at five, or between five and six, at afternoon. The merchants dine and sup seldom before twelve at noon and six at night. The husbandmen also dine at high noon as they call it, and sup at seven or eight; but out of term in our universities the scholars dine at ten.” Thus whilst the idlers of society made haste to eat and drink, the workers postponed the pleasures of the table until they had made a good morning's work. In the days of morning dinners and afternoon suppers, the law-courts used to be at the height of their daily business at an hour when Templars of the present generation have seldom risen from bed. Chancellors were accustomed to commence their daily sittings in Westminster at seven A. M. in summer, and at eight a. M. in winter months. Lord Keeper Williams, who endeavored to atone for want of law by extraordinarily assiduous attention to the duties of his office, used indeed to open his winter sittings by candlelight between six and seven o'clock.

Many were the costly banquets of which successive Chancellors invited the nobility, the judges, and the bar, to partake at old York House ; but of all the holders of the Great Seal who exercised pompous hospitality in that picturesque palace, Francis Bacon was the most liberal, gracious, and delightful entertainer. Where is the student of English history who has not often endeavored to imagine the scene when Ben Jonson sat amongst the honored guests of

« PreviousContinue »