Page images
PDF
EPUB

exclaimed, peevishly, to Lady Manners, “I wish I had not given her the secret of my salad." In no culinary product did Lord Ellenborough find greater delight than lobster-sauce; and he gave expression to his high regard for that soothing and delicate compound when he decided that persons engaged in lobster-fishery were exempt from legal liability to impressment. “Then is not,” inquired his lordship, with solemn pathos, “the lobster-fishery a fishery, and a most important fishery, of this kingdom, though carried on in shallow water? The framers of the law well knew that the produce of the deep sea, without the produce of the shallow water, would be of comparatively small value, and intended that turbot, when placed upon our tables, should be flanked by good lobster-sauce.” Eldon's singular passion for fried 'liver and bacon' was amongst his most notorious and least pleasant peculiarities. Even the Prince Regent condescended to humor this remarkable taste by ordering a dish of liver and bacon to be placed on the table when the Chancellor dined with him at Brighton. Sir John Leach, Master of the Rolls, was however less ready to pander to a depraved appetite. Lord Eldon said, "It will give me great pleasure to dine with you, and since you are good enough to ask me to order a dish that shall test your new chef's powers—I wish you'd tell your Frenchman to fry some liver and bacon for me." “Are you laughing at me or my cook?" asked Sir John Leach, stiffly, thinking that the Chancellor was bent on ridiculing his luxurious mode of living. “At neither," answered Eldon, with equal simplicity and truth ; "I was only ordering the dish which I enjoy beyond all other dishes."

Although Eldon's penuriousness was grossly exaggerated by his detractors, it cannot be questioned that either through indolence, or love of money, or some other kind! of selfishness, he was very neglectful of his hospitable duties to the bench and the bar. “Verily he is working off the arrears of the Lord Chancellor," said Romilly, when Sir Thomas Plummer, the Master of the Rolls, gave a succession of dinners to the bar; and such a remark would not have escaped the lips of the decorous and amiable Romilly had not circumstances fully justified it. Still it is unquestionable that Eldon's Cabinet dinners were suitably expensive; and that he never grudged his choicest port to the old attorneys and subordinate placemen who were his obsequious companions towards the close of his career. For the charges of sordid parsimony so frequently preferred against Kenyon it is to be feared there were better grounds. Under the steadily strengthening spell of avarice he ceased to invite even old friends to his table; and it was rumored that in course of time his domestic servants complained with reason that they were required to consume the same fare as their master deemed sufficient for himself. “In Lord Kenyon's house," a wit exclaimed, “all the year through it is Lent in the kitchen, and Passion Week in the Parlor.” Another caustic quidnunc remarked, “In his lordship’s kitchen the fire is dull, but the spits are always bright;" whereupon Jekyll interposed with an assumption of testiness, “Spits ! in the name of common sense I order you not to talk about his spits, for nothing turns upon them.

Very different was the temper of Erskine, who spent money faster than Kenyon saved it, and who died in indigence after holding the Great Seal of England, and making for many years a finer income at the bar than any

of his contemporaries not enjoying crown patronage. Many are the bright pictures preserved to us of his hospitality to politicians and lawyers, wits, and people of fashion ; but none of the scenes is more characteristic than the dinner described by Sir Samuel Romilly, when

a

that good man met at Erskine's Hampstead villa the chiefs of the opposition and Mr. Pinkney, the American Minister. “Among the light, trifling topics of conversation after dinner,” says Sir Samuel Romilly, “it may be worth while to mention one, as it strongly characterizes Lord Erskine. He has always expressed and felt a strong sympathy with animals. He has talked for years of a bill he was to bring into parliament to prevent cruelty towards them. He has always had some favorite animals to whom he has been much attached, and of whom all his acquaintance have a number of anecdotes to relate; a favorite dog which he used to bring, when he was at the bar, to all his consultations; another favorite dog, which, at the time when he was Lord Chancellor, he himself rescued in the street from some boys who were about to kill it under the pretence of its being mad; a favorite goose, which followed him wherever he walked about his grounds; a favorite macaw,

and other dumb favorites without number. He told us now that he had got two favorite leeches. He had been blooded by them last autumn when he had been taken dangerously ill at Portsmouth; they had saved his life, and he had brought them with him to town, had ever since kept them in a glass, had himself every day given them fresh water, and had formed a friendship for them. He said he was sure they both knew him and were grateful to him. He had given them different names, 'Home' and 'Cline' (the names of two celebrated surgeons), their dispositions being quite different. After a good deal of conversation about them, he went himself, brought them out of his library, and placed them in their glass upon the table. It is impossible, however, without the vivacity, the tones, the details, and the gestures of Lord Erskine, to give an adequate idea of this singular scene." Amongst the listeners to Erskine, whilst he spoke eloquently and with

fervor of the virtues of his two leeches, were the Duke of Norfolk, Lord Grenville, Lord Grey, Lord Holland, Lord Ellenborough, Lord Lauderdale, Lord Henry Petty, and Thomas Grenville.

CHAPTER XLVI.

WINE.

F

ROM the time when Francis Bacon attributed a sharp

attack of gout to his removal from Gray's Inn Fields to the river side, to a time not many years distant when Sir Herbert Jenner Fust* used to be brought into his court in Doctors' Commons and placed in the judicial seat by two liveried porters, lawyers were not remarkable for abstinence from the pleasures to which our ancestors were indebted for the joint-fixing, picturesque gout that has already become an affair of the past. Throughout the long period that lies between Charles II.'s restoration and George III.'s death, an English judge without a symptom of gout was so exceptional a character that people talked of him as an interesting social curiosity. The Merry Monarch made Clarendon's bedroom his council-chamber when the Chancellor was confined to his couch by podagra. Lord Nottingham was so disabled by gout, and what the old physicians were pleased to call a 'perversity of the humors,' that his duties in the House of Lords were often discharged by Francis North, then Chief Justice of the Common Pleas; and though he persevered in attending to the business of his court, a man of less resolution would have altogether succumbed to the agony of his disease and the burden of his infirmities. “I have known him," says Roger North, "sit to hear petitions in great pain, and say that his servants had let him out, though he was fitter for his chamber.” Prudence saved Lord Guildford from excessive intemperance; but he lived with a freedom that would be remarkable in the present age. Chief Justice Saunders was a confirmed sot, taking nips of brandy with his breakfast, and seldom appearing in public “without a pot of ale at his nose or near him.” Sir Robert Wright was notoriously addicted to wine; and George Jeffreys drank, as he swore, like a trooper. “My lord,” said King Charles, in a significant tone, when he gave Jeffreys the blood-stone ring, as it is a hot summer, and you are going the circuit, I desire you will not drink too much.”

* In old Sir Herbert's later days it was a mere pleasantry, or bold figure of speech to say that his court had risen, for he used to be lifted from his chair and carried bodily from the chamber of justice by two brawny footmen. Of course, as soon as the judge was about to be elevated by his bearers, the bar rose; and also as a matter of course the bar continued to stand until the strong porters had conveyed their weighty and venerable burden along the platform behind one of the rows of advocates and out of sight. As the trio worked their laborious way along the platform, there seemed to be some danger that they might blunder and fall through one of the windows into the space behind the court; and at a time when Sir Herbert and Dr. -- were at open variance, that waspish advocate had on one occasion the bad taste to keep his seat at the rising of the court, and with characteristic malevolence of expression to say to the footmen, “Mind, my men, and take care of that judge of yours—or, by Jove, you'll pitch him out of the window.” It is needless to say that this brutal speech did not raise the speaker in the opinion of the hearers.

Amongst the reeling judges of the Restoration, however, there moved one venerable lawyer, who, in an age when moralists hesitated to call drunkenness a vice, was remarkable for sobriety. In his youth, whilst he was irr dulging with natural ardor in youthful pleasures, Chief Justice Hale was so struck with horror at seeing an intimate friend drop senseless, and apparently lifeless, at a student's drinking-bout, that he made a sudden but enduring resolution to conquer his ebrious propensities, and withdraw himself from the dangerous allurements of ungodly company. Falling upon his knees he prayed the

a

a

a

« PreviousContinue »