Page images
PDF
EPUB

his bedside at any cost. Of course, such a prodigious fee-demanded by the surgeon in the hope that the demand would be declined, and paid under altogether exceptional circumstances is a solitary and strangely abnormal incident that may scarcely be used as an example of the remunerations of "the faculty." Even in the annals of medicine and surgery it must remain a thing of humour and surprise. Pointing to some of the conditions which give the followers of physic so greatly the advantage over the followers of the law, the occurrence points also to incidents that may not be expected to arise from the comparatively unemotional relations of counsel and client.

[ocr errors]

A curious example of the payment of counsel by a lordly client in the fourteenth century is found in the page of the "Baronage "where Dugdale describes William de Beauchamp's insolent demeanour to Robert Charlton, William Pinchbek, William Branchesley, and John Catesby, when he consulted those learned lawyers at his house in Paternoster Row on the validity of his claim to the late Earl of Pembroke's estates, in opposition to the claim by Edward Hastings, the earl's heir-male of the half-blood. On his way, in angry mood, out of chapel, the nobleman threw each of the lawyers a gold piece, saying, "Sirs, I desire you forthwith to tell me whether I have any right or title to Hastings's lordship and lands." Standing forth as spokesman of the party, William Pinchbek gave their clear opinion in these few words: "No man here, nor in England, dare say that you have any right in them, except Hastings do quit his claim therein; and should he do it, being now under age, it would be of no validitie; an answer that cannot be supposed to have mitigated the overbearing Beauchamp's wrathful temper. That the single gold-piece to each lawyer was a lordly fee for an opinion on a case appears from the much smaller sums that were paid for the same service to eminent counsel even to the close of the fifteenth century. In Edward IV's time Roger Fylpot received only 3s. 8d. (with his dinner, for 4d.) for an opinion to the parishioners of St. Margaret's, Westminster, the smaller fee of 35. 4d. (without dinner) being paid to each of three serjeants by the Corporation of Canterbury for advice on municipal matters in 1500. The curious indenture (dated 18th July, 16 Henry VII) whereby Serjeant John Yaxley undertook, for payment of forty marks, to act as Sir Robert Plompton's counsel at the next assizes at York, Nottingham, and Derby, in all actions in which his services may be required by Sir Robert, shows it was usual for lawyers to make general and inclusive contracts with clients for service and payment. This indenture is the more ncteworthy because Serjeant Yaxley covenanted to be content with only £20 of the forty marks should there be no need for him to go on from Nottingham and Derby to York, because it was stipulated that Sir Robert Plompton should pay the charges of his lawyer at all or any of the three towns, and yet more particularly because £5 of the forty marks was paid beforehand to the serjeant-a prepayment pointing to the origin of retaining fees.

Something more than two centuries later (1738), when Sarah, the notorious Duchess of Marl borough, sent William Murray (afterwards Lord Mansfield) a general retainer with a fee of a thousand guineas, the young lawyer returned nine hundred and ninety-five of the guineas on the ground that the fee with a general retainer might not exceed five guineas. Could he have kept all the money he would have been paid none too well for his services to the great lady, who used to visit him and bother him at the most unseasonable hours. On returning one night from "champagne with the wits" to his chambers in King's Bench Walk, the young barrister to enter his rooms had to pass her grace's coach and push his way through the link-bearers and lacqueys who surrounded it. "Young man," exclaimed the duchess, angry at being kept waiting, as soon as the barrister had entered his room and her presence, "if you mean to rise in the world you must not sup out!" a subsequent occasion, instead of awaiting the return of the supper-loving lawyer, her grace went off in high dudgeon, after addressing his clerk in terms that caused him half an hour later to say to his master, "I could not make out, sir, who she was, for she would not tell me her name; but she swore so dreadfully that I am sure she must be a lady of quality!"

On

Though the 20s. fee was occasionally paid to counsel in the days of the earlier, and oftener in the days of the later Tudors for an important opinion or other considerable service, the ios. fee remained the ordinary payment for another hundred years. Throughout the seventeenth century it was a common saying in Westminster Hall that a barrister resembled Balaam's ass because he spoke at the sight of "an angel." Smaller sums were also paid by clients to counsel, and also by barristers to barristers for such professional assistance as would now fall under the denomination of "devilling." Junior barristers were still glad to get the three old fees of 3s. 4d., 3s. 6d., and 3s. 8d. When he was a youngster, Whitelock took, with a smiling face and courteous bow, the eleven groats which Attorney-General Noy gave him for advice on a point touching a patent. The money which flowed to Sir Francis North's skull-caps when he was Solicitor-General, and also when he was Attorney-General, came to them in all the varieties of the gold and silver coinages. When Englishmen wore wigs it was usual for them to wear skullcaps under their artificial locks if they had occasion to go forth in the raw air without the protection of their beavers, and Sir Francis North was not singular amongst the leaders of his profession for using his old skull-caps as receptacles for money given him by his clients. "His skull-caps,' Roger North says in his memoir of the most famous of his historic brothers, "which he wore when he had leisure to observe his constitution, as I touched before, were now destined to lie in a drawer to receive the money that came in by fees. One had the gold, another the crowns and half-crowns, and another the smaller money. When these vessels were full they were committed to his friend (the Hon. Roger North), who was constantly near him to tell out the cash and put it

into the bags according to the contents; and so they went to his treasurers, Blanchard and Child, goldsmiths, Temple Bar." Whilst Sir Francis North put his old skull-caps to this convenient use, it was the wont of barristers to display gold and silver pieces on their tables as a hint to clients that legal opinions should be paid for in ready money. In "Hudibras" (Part iii, canto iii) the lawyer is seen thus sitting to receive his clients, with money as well as books before him :

"To this brave man the knight repairs
For counsel in his law affairs,

And found him mounted in his pew,
With books and money placed for show,
Like nest-eggs, to make clients lay,
And for his false opinion pay:

To whom the knight, with comely grace,
Put off his hat to put his case,
Which he as proudly entertained,
As the other courteously strained;
And to assure him 'twas not that

He looked for, bid him put on's hat."

To the lawyer's honour, it is recorded by Bishop Burnet that in his singular freedom from the greed which too often animated the lawyers of his period, Chief Justice Hale, so long as he practised at the Bar, persisted in charging only the angel in ordinary matters, when it was usual for barristers of his eminence to look for the double fee-the "whole piece." "When those who came to ask his counsel gave him a piece," says Burnet," he used to give back the half, and to make ten shillings his fee in ordinary matters which did not require much time or study." On another point the bishop speaks to the lawyer's credit in a tone of surprise that may well raise a smile at the average morality of English gentlemen of the seventeenth century. "Another remarkable instance of his justice and goodness," says Burnet, "was that when he found ill-money had been put into his hands he would never suffer it to be vented again, for he thought it no excuse for him to put false money in other people's hands because some had been put into his. A great heap of this he had gathered together, for many had so abused his goodness as to mix base money among the fees that were given him." In other words, this exemplary lawyer was of opinion that he should not be justified in cheating A because he had himself been cheated by B. That a writer of Burnet's enlightenment and rightreverend quality commended the judge for being barely honest, and commended him for it with a show of astonishment at such extraordinary virtue, points with curious significance to a general tolerance of what would nowadays be deemed intolerable knavishness, and indicates one particular in which Victorian England compares advantageously with the England of two centuries

since.

But if the leading lawyers of Tudor and Stuart England were content with moderate fees they made far larger incomes than is ordinarily supposed. Though the salary of his chief office was only £81 65. 8d., Sir Edward Coke made

£7,000 a year during his tenure of the Attorney's place. Francis Bacon made £6,000 a year as James I's Attorney-General; receiving at the same time £1,600 a year from his office in the Star Chamber. "I shall now," he wrote to the king, "again make oblation to your Majesty, first of my heart, then of my service; thirdly, of my place of Attorney, which I think is honestly worth £6,000 per annum; and fourthly, of my place in the Star Chamber, which is worth £1,600 per annum, and with the favour and countenance of a Chancellor much more." The lawyer with £7,600 a year, when gold was worth from five to six times as much as gold in Victorian England, had twice the average income of the extremely fortunate lawyer who has recently retired from his Lincoln's Inn chambers. Moreover, in comparing the fortunes of nineteenth and seventeenth century lawyers, the reader must remember the fewness of the inordinately wealthy individuals of the earlier period, and bear in mind how the dignity of wealth diminishes with its commonness.

That a barrister making a thousand a year in the courts was rated with the more successful members of his profession in Charles II's London appears from one of the many compliments that were paid to young Sam Pepys (the diarist whom people persist in styling "old Pepys ") on the success of the speech which he delivered on March 5, 1668, in defence of the Admiralty, at the Bar of the House of Commons, under the cheering influence of the half-pint of mulled sack which he drank at "The Dog," and the dram of brandy which he tossed down his throat in Mrs. Hewlet's drink-shop under the roof of Westminster Hall. Whilst Heneage Finch (the Solicitor-General with the silver tongue) declared the speech one of the best ever made in England, another flatterer averred that the eloquent Admiralty clerk "would not get less than 1,000 a year if he would put on a gown and plead at the Chancery Bar." But though Macaulay, with this incident in his mind, was justified in saying "a thousand a year was thought a large income for a barrister," he went something too far in asserting that "two thousand a year was hardly to be made in the Court of King's Bench, except by Crown lawyers," and was wildly wrong in leading his readers to imagine that 2,000 a year (equal to £10,000 a year of Victorian money) was an insignificant revenue in comparison with incomes made in Westminster Hall by barristers of recent time without the aid of Crown employment. At the Common Law Bar there were exceptionally fortunate leaders in the second Charles's time, who made at Westminster and on circuit considerably more than £3,000 a year without king's business. At the Chancery Bar there was at least one supremely successful advocate whose receipts were nearer five than four thousand a year. Towards the close of Charles r's time Serjeant Maynard took £700 from a single tour of the Western Circuit, which," says Whitelock, "I believe was more than any of our profession got before." The fee book, preserved in the library of Stanford Court, Worcestershire, shows that in 1671-2 Sir Francis Winnington, without Crown business, made

66

£1,791, without taking into account his earnings on the Oxford Circuit and during vacations; that in 1672-3 he earned £3,371; that in 1673-4 he took £3,560 in fees; and that in 1674-5, the first year of his tenure of the Solicitor's office, his professional income rose to £4,066, an income little if at all inferior to the average of the incomes made by Mr. Benjamin since he took silk. Like Coke in the time of James 1, Francis North under Charles II made, during his occupancy of the Attorney's place, a round income of £7,000£35,000 of Victorian money; a far larger income than Mr. Benjamin's largest income. Dying after a brief and unlooked-for illness in 1677, Sir John King received during his last year of practice at the Chancery Bar £4,700, or £23,500 at the present value of gold, his receipts on each of the last four days of his professional activity being between £40 and £50, or about two hundred guineas a day in modern money.

Throughout the eighteenth century, barristers of the highest eminence and most brilliant success seem to have earned incomes comparable with the largest incomes made at the Bar in the previous century if no account is taken of the steady depreciation of the most precious metal, but inferior to them when due allowance is made for the depreciation. From Michaelmas Term 1719 to Michaelmas Term 1725, Sir John Cheshire, the King's Serjeant, made an average annual income of £3,241, and in the six subsequent years (when he limited his practice to the Common Pleas) an average income of £1,320 per annum. In later time of the eighteenth century Charles Yorke (who, according to Horace Walpole, was said to have taken 100,000 guineas in fees) earned £3,400 in 1757 when he was Solicitor-General, and £7,322 during the last year of his tenure of the Attorney-General's place, little more than what Sir Francis North and Sir Edward Coke used to make out of the same office.

John Scott's (Eldon's) earnings during his busiest years at the Bar were-6,833 75. (in 1786), £7,600 75. (in 1787), £8,419 145. (in 1788), £9,559 10s. (in 1789), £9,684 155. (in 1790), £10,213 13s. 6d. (in 1791), £9,080 9s. (in 1792), 10,330 Is. 4d. (in 1793), 11,592 (in 1794), £11,149 155. 4d. (in 1795), 12, 140 15s. 8d. (in (1796), 10,861 5s. 8d. (in 1797), and 10,557 175. (in 1798), the last six of these years being years when he was Attorney-General, and the preceding four years being those of his occupancy of the Solicitor-General's office. Regard being had to difference in value of money, John Scott's yearly earnings at the Bar in his busiest and most affluent time may be computed at nearly the same as the annual winnings of Mr. Benjamin, though the incomes of the latter rose to handsomer accounts of thousands. Though none of them surpassed or even equalled Eldon in the faculty of earning money, several of the great Chancellor's legal contemporaries made incomes that would endure comparison with the largest incomes made at the Bar in the present reign. Ineffectual with juries

for want of oratorical address, Charles Abbott (Lord Tenterden) was so successful as a draughtsman and case-lawyer that he returned his professional income in 1807 at £8,000.

66

Kenyon was another lawyer of the Eldonian period who made a fine income by chamber practice, without possessing the special genius and tact of the popular advocate. Making as much as £3,000 a year by answering cases, this shrewdest and stingiest of lawyers knew how to make the most of every guinea that came to his fingers. Drell stories are still told of his parsimony in dress, diversions, and domestic economy. Saving was an art Taffy Kenyon mastered in the days when he used to dine at a Chancery Lane eatinghouse, with Horne Tooke and Dunning, for 7d. 'Dunning and myself," Tooke remarked boastfully, in later time, "were generous, for we gave the girl who waited on us a penny a-piece, but Kenyon, who always knew the value of money, rewarded her with a halfpenny, and sometimes with a promise." Of the stately and guestless mansion inhabited by the wealthy lawyer after he had risen to be Chief Justice, it was observed by a caustic prattler, "In the kitchen the fire is dull, but the spits are bright!" a remark that pricked "Master" Jekyll to exclaim testily, "Spits! In the name of common sense don't mention them, for nothing turns on them." On hearing that the money-grubbing, money-loving judge was on the point of death, Edward Law (Lord Ellenborough) observed incredulously, "Kenyon dying? No, no!

What should he get by that?" And a few days later, on being told that the undertaker had painted "Mors Janua Vita" on the hatchment over the late Chief Justice's door, the successor to Kenyon's vacant seat exclaimed, "Bless you, there was no mistake; Kenyon's will ordered it to be 'vita,' so as to save the expense of a diphthong!"

It was not in Edward Law's scarcely generous nature to dismiss in a moment his resentment of the many insults he had received from the judge of sordid spirit and surly temper. Not that Kenyon was incapable of sympathy and admiration for advocates of fluent speech and brilliant parts. Morose to Law, the judge overflowed with courtesy and kindliness to Erskine, the advocate who, in his palmiest time, used to have as many as twelve special retainers every year, with 300 guineas on each brief, and is said to have originated the department of practice that gave him the greater part of his fame, as well as 3,600 guineas of his annual earnings.

[ocr errors]

Content with payments trivial in comparison. with the separate sums that flowed to Erskine, Serjeant Hill stood out for his rightful dues. On receiving a case "marked for a guinea, the great black-letter lawyer returned it with a note that "he saw more difficulty in the case than, under all the circumstances, he could well solve," a delicate hint that caused the attorney to mark the case "2 guas." Still dissatisfied, Hill again returned the paper with an indorsement that "he saw no reason to change his opinion." On the offer of a third guinea, however, Mistress Medlycott's eccentric husband saw no further difficulty in the matter, and gave good counsel for the sufficient consideration.

The equally general and erroneous notion that the barristers of to-day make larger incomes than

the barristers of former time is due in some degree to the comparative insignificance of the fees given to lawyers in causes of the highest historic moment. For his memorable services in the trial of the seven bishops Pemberton had only a retaining fee of five guineas, twenty guineas with his brief, and three guineas for consultations. The fullest allowance having been made for difference in values of money, Egerton's charges for his pains and services in the trials of the Babington conspirators and Mary Queen of Scots are staggeringly moderate. One of the many curious documents preserved in the Raffles MSS.-the collection of autographs formed by the still famous Nonconformist minister, Dr. Raffles, of Liverpool, and now in the possession of Mr. Raffles, the stipendiary magistrate of the same northern borough-is the following Treasury warrant for the payment of the Solicitor-General's bill:

"Secundo die Januarii Anno Regni Domine nostre Elizabethe Regine vicesimo-nono (2 Jan., 29 Elizabeth). Allowed unto Thomas Egerton esquier her Majestes Sollicitor generall by way of reward for his trauell out of the country and for his charges and attendaunce from the fourthe of August untill the Nynth of October last paste, at London and at the Courts and for his paynes in and about the Examynacyons Indictementes and Tryalles of Ballarde, Babington, and the rest of that conspyracie

"And for his travaill charges and paynes taken in the matter of the Queene of Scottes at Fotheringhaye.

"And for his attendaunce trauaill and paynes taken in the draught of the Commyssion and Sentence and in other the proceedinges against the same Queene of Scottes in the terme and vacacioun tyme

"And for his contynuall attendaunce from the beginninge unto the ende of this last Parlia

ment

for all these pieces C li. (100 libræ)

"Thies are to woll and requere......allow and pay unto

the said Mr.......in considerationn of his travayles......in the services aforesaid. "W. Burghley, "Wlt. Mildmay.

"Mr. Tressorer, pray you make payment of the hundrethe poundes Warraunt allowed. "Robert Peke."

Taken by itself, and regarded apart from the thousand other evidences touching the remunerations of lawyers in the sixteenth century, this curious and extremely interesting document (transcribed to the present page from the Sixth Report of her Majesty's Commissioners on Historical MSS., 1877) might well result in the inference that it was impossible for Crown lawyers to become wealthy when they were rewarded so parsimoniously for their strenuous and especially onerous labours in the most important affairs. The Solicitor-General's little bill (of £100, some six or seven hundred pounds of modern money) for bringing a queen to the scaffold, and consigning a knot of inferior conspirators to a more infamous and repulsive doom, contrasts strongly and strangely with the amount it cost the country to put Arthur Orton under penal discipline for fourteen years.

But it would be a great mistake to imagine that the lawyers of the olden time could not thrive and fatten when so little came to them from the greatest causes. Trials were not allowed to hang on hand for weeks and months together in the sixteenth century, and having disposed in a few hours of matters that would nowadays linger in tedious suspense from moon to moon, the Crown lawyer of Elizabethan England was at liberty to deal with other business, which he dispatched with similar expedition. Doing well for the country, Egerton did even better for himself. The needy and base-born son of a rural knight, a lawyer who fought his way to greatness from the ranks, he sustained the costly dignities of office, and left his descendants a landed estate worth £8,000 a year.

THE

WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT.

HE "Life of William Cullen Bryant," by his son-in-law, Parke Godwin, has recently been published.* In the "Leisure Hour" for 1873 will be found a memoir and portrait, with specimens of his poems. It is more than fifty years since his first volume of poetry appeared, about the same time that our Tennyson gave his earliest poems to the world. Compared with the length of his life, the poetical works of the American have been few, but they nevertheless amount

* "Life and Letters of William Cullen Bryant." By Parke Godwin. 2 vols. Appleton & Co., New York.

in the whole to a large collection, to be published in companion form. The greater part of his life was passed in busy work as editor of the "New York Evening Post," and few public men have wielded wider and better influence in their time. He lived to be an honoured patriarch among poets and journalists. Others may have obtained wider popularity, but Bryant's fame will increase as well as endure, and not a few now speak of him as the chief American poet. He holds at least a place corresponding to that which Wordsworth' has among the English poets of later periods of our literature.

In all that relates to the literary and public life of Mr. Bryant, the biography is all that could be desired. But we are indebted to Dr. Irenæus Prime, the veteran editor of the "New York Observer," a warm friend and admirer of his brother journalist, for pointing out a strange omission in the biography. Mr. Bryant, it is known, was in early life brought up among Unitarians, who in those days were the principal religionists of New England. The biographer is apparently of the same denomination, which may account for the omission thus referred to by Dr. Prime.

We have the tender story of Mr. Bryant's baptism at Naples, and his partaking of the Lord's Supper there for the first time; and of his subsequently taking a lively interest in a single service. in his barn at Cummington, conducted by Mr. Waterston, the same (Unitarian) minister by whom he was baptized. But Mr. Godwin does not tell us anything of his years of religious life in Roslyn, where he worshipped in the Presbyterian church and regularly communed under the ministry of Dr. Ely, whose name is not mentioned in the book. But more surprising to us, and unaccountable, is the omission of the last work of Mr. Bryant's life, and which may be called his dying testimony. We venture to say there is not a more important, interesting, and impressive page in these two luminous and attractive volumes than the record of Mr. Bryant's last writing would have made. The facts are these: The Rev. Dr. Joseph Alden, now resident in New York, a distinguished college professor and president, enjoyed Mr. Bryant's friendship, and having written a short treatise on "The Religious Life" submitted it in manuscript to Mr. Byrant, and asked of him an introduction to the volume. The kind and venerable man, burdened with many labours, cheerfully complied with the request. But he did not think when he put his pen to the task that it would be the crown of his eighty years of work, and the last. When he fell, a few moments after making a public address in the Central Park, and was taken home to die, there was found on his desk an unfinished manuscript, the first part of his Introduction to Dr. Alden's work on the Religious Life. The brightest page of all these bright pages would have been the one which might have been radiant with these words by Mr. Bryant, written just before he was released from earth to put on immortality. He

wrote:

"This character, of which Christ was the perfect model, is in itself so attractive, so 'altogether lovely,' that I cannot describe in language the admiration with which I regard it; nor can I express the gratitude I feel for the dispensation which bestowed that example on mankind, for the truths which He taught and the sufferings He endured for our sakes. I tremble to think what the world would be without Him. Take away the blessing of the advent of His life and the blessings purchased by His death in what an abyss of guilt

would man have been left! It would seem to be blotting the sun out of the heavens-to leave our system of worlds in chaos, frost, and darkness.

"In my view of the life, the teachings, the labours, and the sufferings of the blessed Jesus, there can be no admiration too profound, no love of which the human heart is capable too warm, no gratitude too earnest and deep, of which He is justly the object. It is with sorrow that my love for Him is so cold, and my gratitude so inadequate. It is with sorrow that I see any attempt to put aside His teachings as a delusion, to turn men's eyes from His example, to meet with doubt and denial the story of His life. For my part, if I thought that the religion of scepticism were to gather strength and prevail and become the dominant view of mankind, I should despair of the fate of mankind in the years that are yet to come."

In the morning of his career, while not yet out of his teens, Mr. Bryant composed his "Thanatopsis, a View of Death." It is solemn, awful in its solemnity, cheered by no ray of immortal hope; death, all death, death of all; sublime but dreadful. He grows in years and wisdom; his mind expands with knowledge of truth; his heart is touched with the love of God and His Son Jesus Christ. He asked to be baptized, and to be permitted to receive the emblems of "the sufferings He endured for our sakes." No longer is the future black with thanatopsis, a view of death: but the western horizon, toward which his eyes now turn, is all aglow with the rosy dawn of immortality. The sun is setting in golden glory to rise in tenfold splendour on the world beyond; and the noble old bard, his vision filled with the image of one like unto the Son of God, exclaims, There can be no admiration too profound, no love of which the human heart is capable too warm, no gratitude too earnest and deep, of which He is justly the object. It is with sorrow that my love for Him is so cold, and my gratitude so inadequate."

[ocr errors]

This was the written testimony of Mr. Bryant, written for publication; and a biography of him, though like this as nearly perfect as literary skill and filial affection can make it, without this testimony is incomplete.

The reverence and piety of the man all through life we know, and his is the honour as a poet of never having written a line "which dying he should wish to blot." But we agree with the friendly critic of this biography in regretting the absence of what would have been the brightest tribute to his memory, and the most fragrant chaplet on his tomb. Those who remember the touching story of the last days of Dr. Johnson, and the epitaph written by the poet Cowper on reading it, will understand how of William Cullen Bryant it might also be said,

"Who many a noble gift from heaven possessed,
And faith at last, alone worth all the rest."

« PreviousContinue »