« PreviousContinue »
puts his mind to yours.” Of Thurlow, when he had mounted the woolsack, Johnson also observed—“I would prepare myself for no man in England but Lord Thurlow. When I am to meet him, I would wish to know a day before.” From the many stories told of Thurlow and ebriosity, one may be here taken and brought under the reader's notice—not because it has wit or humor to recommend it, but because it presents the Chancellor in company with another port-loving lawyer, William Pitt, from whose fame, by-the-by, Lord Stanhope has recently removed the old disfiguring imputations of sottishness.
Returning,” says Sir Nathaniel Wraxall, a poor authority, but piquant gossip-monger, “by way of frolic, very late at night, on horseback, to Wimbledon, from Addiscombe, the seat of Mr. Jenkinson, near Croydon, where the party had dined, Lord Thurlow, the Chancellor, Pitt, and Dundas, found the turnpike gate, situate between Tooting and Streatham, thrown open. Being elevated above their usual prudence, and having no servant near them, they passed through the gate at a brisk pace, without stopping to pay the toll, regardless of the remonstrances and threats of the turnpike man, who running after them, and believing them to belong to some highwaymen who had recently committed some depredation on that road, discharged the contents of his blunderbuss at their backs. Happily he did no injury."
Throughout their long lives the brothers Scott were steady, and, according to the rules of the present day, inordinate drinkers of port wine. As a young barrister, John Scott could carry more port with decorum than any other man of his inn ; and in the days when he is generally supposed to have lived on sprats and table-beer, he seldom passed twenty-four hours without a bottle of his favorite wine. Prudence, however, made him careful to
avoid intoxication, and when he found that à friendship often betrayed him into what he thought excessive drinking, he withdrew from the dangerous connexion. “I see your friend Bowes very often,” he wrote in May, 1778, a time when Mr. Bowes was his most valuable client; “but I dare not dine with him above once in three months, as there is no getting away before midnight ; and, indeed, one is sure to be in a condition in which no man would wish to be in the streets at any other season.” Of the quantities imbibed at these three-monthly dinners, an estimate may be formed from the following story. Bringing from Oxford to London that fine sense of the merits of port wine which characterized the thorough Oxonion of a century since, William Scott made it for some years a rule to dine with his brother John on the first day of term at a tavern hard by the Temple ; and on these occasions the brothers used to make away with bottle after bottle not less to the astonishment than the approval of the waiters who served them. Before the decay of his faculties, Lord Stowell was recalling these terminal dinners to his son-in-law, Lord Sidmouth, when the latter observed, “ You drank some wine together, I dare say?" Lord Stowell, modestly, “ Yes, we drank some wine.” Son-inlaw, inquisitively, “ Two bottles ?” Lord Stowell, quickly putting away the imputation of such abstemiousness, “More than that.” Son-in-law, smiling, “What, three bottles?" Lord Stowell, “More.” Son-in-law, opening
? his eyes with astonishment, “By Jove, sir, you don't mean to say that
you took four bottles ?” Lord Stowell, beginning to feel ashamed of himself, “More; I mean to say we had more. Now don't ask any more questions.”
Whilst Lord Stowell, smarting under the domestic misery of which his foolish marriage with the Dowager Marchioness of Sligo was fruitful, sought comfort and forgetfulness in the cellar of the Middle Temple, Lord
Eldon drained magnums of Newcastle port at his own table. Populous with wealthy merchants, and surrounded by an opulent aristocracy, Newcastle had used the advantages given her by a large export trade with Portugal to draw to her cellars such superb port wine as could be found in no other town in the United Kingdom ; and to the last the Tory Chancellor used to get his port from the canny capital of Northumbria. Just three weeks before his death, the veteran lawyer, sitting in his easy-chair and recalling his early triumphs, preluded an account of the great leading case, “Akroyd v. Smithson,” by saying to his listener, "Come, Farrer, help yourself to a glass of Newcastle port, and help me to a little.” But though he asked for a little, the old earl, according to his wont, drank much before he was raised from his chair and led to his sleeping-room. It is on record, and is moreover supported by unexceptionable evidence, that in his extreme old age, whilst he was completely laid upon the shelf, and almost down to the day of his death, which occurred in his eighty-seventh year, Lord Eldon never drank less than three pints of port daily with or after his dinner.
Of eminent lawyers who were steady port-wine drinkers, Baron Platt—the amiable and popular judge who died in 1862, aged seventy-two years—may be regarded as one of the last. Of him it is recorded that in early manhood he was so completely prostrated by severe illness that beholders judged him to be actually dead. Standing over his silent body shortly before the arrival of the undertaker, two of his friends concurred in giving utterance to the sentiment: “ Ah, poor dear fellow, we shall never drink a glass of wine with him again ;" when, to their momentary alarm and subsequent delight, the dead man interposed with a faint assumption of jocularity, “But you will though, and a good many too, I hope."
When the undertaker called he was sent away a genuinely sorrowful man; and the young lawyer, who was 'not dead yet,' lived to old age and good purpose.
LAW AND LITERATURE.
T the present time, when three out of every five
journalists attached to our chief London newspapers are Inns-of-Court men; when many of our able and successful advocates are known to ply their pens in organs of periodical literature as regularly as they raise their voices in courts of justice; and when the young Templar, who has borne away the first honors of his university, deems himself the object of a compliment on receiving an invitation to contribute to the columns of a leading review or daily journal—it is difficult to believe that strong men are still amongst us who can remember the days when it was the fashion of the bar to disdain law-students who were suspected of 'writing for hire' and barristers who reported for the papers.' Throughout the opening years of the present century, and even much later, it was almost universally held on the circuits and in Westminster Hall, that Inns-of-Court men lowered the dignity of their order by following those literary avocations by which some of the brightest ornaments of the law supported themselves at the outset of their professional careers. Notwithstanding this prejudice, a few wearers of the long robe, daring by nature, or rendered bold by necessity, persisted in ‘maintaining a connexion with the press, whilst they sought briefs on the circuit,
or waited for clients in their chambers. Such men as Sergeant Spankie and Lord Campbell, as Master Stephen and Mr. Justice Talfourd, were reporters for the press whilst they kept terms; and no sooner had Henry Brougham's eloquence charmed the public, than it was whispered that for years his pen, no less ready than his tongue, had found constant employment in organs of political intelligence.
But though such men were known to exist, they were regarded as the 'black sheep' of the bar by a great majority of their profession. It is not improbable that this prejudice against gownsmen on the press was palliated by circumstances that no longer exist. When political writers were very generally regarded as dangerous members of society, and when conductors of respectable newspapers were harassed with vexaticus prosecutions and heavy punishments for acts of trivial inadvertence, or for purely imaginary offences, the average journalist was in many respects inferior to the average journalist working under the present more favorable circumstances. Men of culture, honest purpose, and fine feeling were slow to enrol themselves members of a despised and proscribed fraternity; and in the dearth of educated gentlemen ready to accept literary employment, the task of writing for the public papers too frequently devolved upon very unscrupulous persons, who rendered their calling as odious as themselves. A shackled and persecuted press is always a licentious and venal press; and before legislation endowed English journalism with a certain measure of freedom and security, it was seldom manly and was often corrupt. It is therefore probable that our grandfathers had some show of reason for their dislike of contributors to anonymous literature. At the bar men of unquestionable amiability and enlightenment were often the loudest to express this aversion for their