Imágenes de páginas

from ball or even slugs. Nevertheless, as men are but men, just as dogs are but dogs, we should, in such a case, have advised the jury to give moderate damages-say twenty pounds. Let us now turn from the notes to the preface:


"To me, sitting in my chambers, and revolving in my mind the advantages and inconveniences of the legal profession, doubts are wont to occur, whether there be more quaintness or error-in the well-known complaint of Sir Edward Coke-that while the husbandman and mechanic could con. sole their labours with the accompaniment of song, and their work be even prospered by some self-pleasing tune, the law admits of no such assistance or diversion, but requires application of the whole faculties both of body and mind, excluding every expression of cheerfulness or refreshment. question this remark I was first moved, by the frequent perusal of that great laywer's Commentary upon Littleton's Tenures, done into English metre; the charms of which have been ever grateful to an ear, not adverse in leisure moments to the lighter recreations of the muse, nor insensible to the peculiar melody of our earlier versification. And what student, indeed, has not felt the gra vity of the Poor Laws enlivened, and the sterility of settlement cases agreeably refreshed at that flower of poesy, thrown by Sir Jas. Burrows into his report of Shadwell v. St John's, Wapping:

"A woman, having a settlement

Married a man with none;
The question was-he being dead,
If that she had was gone?
Quoth Sir John Pratt-Her settlement
Suspended did remain,
Living the husband-but, him dead,
It doth revive again.'

Chorus of Puisne Judges.
Living the husband-but, him dead,
It doth revive again.'

"The indelible impressions made by those verses on the memory, the pleasing accordance of their rhythm and metre with a grave and useful question of sessions' law, and the picturesque description of unanimity, which so happily prevailed on the bench at that decision, seem to evince, that, by further pursuing the same device, similar assistance and recreation might be extended to other points, and other divisions, of learning.

"Indeed, the advantages of verse for instruction upon all subjects appear to have been too little regarded in modern education; and the peculiar facility with which rhythm and rote may be enlisted into legal studies, is now made little available, even in

elementary learning, though it was thus that the youth of Rome acquired the laws of the twelve tables-relics of which may prove, not only the antiquity of verse, and even rhyme, but also their peculiar adaptation to jurisprudence.

"Neither in this, nor in any other respect, can the civil law claim superiority to our own. Many of our ancient, and not a few modern, and even some living, writers in the profession have sufficiently shown, that their own genius, as well as their subject, possessed all other qualities of poetry in so eminent a degree, that the absence of verse has not concealed them from the closer observation of a kindred mind. What, for instance, can be more reverend or majestical than Sir Edward Coke's impersonation of the two grand pronouns, Meum and Tuum; antagonists, never effete, as the Pope and Pagan, giants of Bunyan, but like the good and evil Principles, still mingling with and perplexing all the actions and passions of man? What can be more beautiful than his tracing the secret affinities of our law with the divine inspirations of the great Latin poet? The many classical citations and allusions of that eminent lawyer, his splendid illustrations, his comparisons, his imagery, his ingenuity in derivations and definitions, and that fervour and vigour of conception and expression, peculiar to the Elizabethan age,-suffice to show, that the compliment of" How sweet an Ovid was in Murray lost"-has been merited by more than one of the profession. For my own part, if I dared say it, I am often struck with the palpable resemblance of the poetry of Comyn's Digest to the works of some authors, whom it would be invidious here to mention-but for admission into whose class I avow me to be here offering my humble pretensions ;-partly encouraged by, and partly dissenting from, the example set by several of my learned friends, who have transferred to law literature poetical lucubrations, which, there is every reason to regret, were not, like my own, employed in illustrating the doubts, and describing the contests, of Meum and Tuum.

"The pure poetry of our whole system of pleading has long been a subject of frequent remark, and is scarcely to be accounted for but by the belief that pleas were originally the actual speeches of counsel, while proceedings were ore tenus; and being preserved as the choicest specimens of ancient eloquence, became, by no unnatural excess of admiration in after days, the very models of exact imitation, and finally of literal repetition. This will explain that very touching appeal to the passions, which forms the peroration of the ordinary counts in trespass and assumpsit, and which, though often more diffusely, is seldom more moving

ly, put in the modern addresses of advocates to the jury. This too will explain—(according to the difference of style and character, which may well be supposed to have existed in the serjeant or apprentice by whom such an action was first conceived or perfected to its present form)—the peculiarly business-like view which our pleadings take of the actions for crim. con. and seduction. The conversion of these injuries into a species of property, the value of which is to be ascertained and compensated in the common measure of all prices, is, perhaps, a distinctive characteristic of the most commercial of nations: but the exquisite and refined dissimulation with which the property alleged to have been injured is described-in order to give its appreciation the requisite certainty and uniformity-exhibits the most splendid instance of a continuous figure in obliquity and indirection, which, perhaps, no poetry has ever equalled. Were

ever fictions more beautiful or more amiable than those on which are founded the actions of ejectment and of trover? In the former of which the injury done and suffered is entirely transferred to ideal personages; and in the latter, as also is so justly said of the institution of marriage, the law has improved and interpreted for the better the commonest instinct of human nature. What could better exemplify the strong affinity of our laws for poetry, than the fond discretion with which all this and the like imagery has been preserved in the unsparing cutting away of other matters less useful and brilliant? Indeed, the very name given in common to the whole of these proceedingsForms-(in the civil law, carmina)—sufficiently indicates the faculty of the mind to whose exercise their origin is due, and with whose literary productions their use is to be classed.

"In further illustration of these resources of the law, it may be expected that I should refer to a sometime popular treatise, called the Pleader's Guide: but that work, in my opinion, has not always treated its subjects with the gravity they deserve; and tends rather to estrange pupils from the science; upon which, however, the book otherwise must be allowed to contain much profitable instruction. But some of the richest mines of legal poetry remain still to be explored. The strong analogy of criminal trials to tragedy has been ingeniously remarked by my learned friend and competitor, Mr Jardine : and the resemblance of many nisi prius cases to comedy can have hardly escaped the most superficial observer; and something of it is curiously preserved by the Reports, for the benefit of posterity. The action of replevin, indeed, has already engaged the labours of both painters and dramatists; under the name of The Rent Day,' it has drawn


tears from thousands at our national theatres; and the pencil of a Wilkie has proved a common-law or statutable distress may become of all others the most pathetic. though, in both those works, the declaration and avowry are admirably delineated, there can be no doubt that the whole of the pleas in bar would be bad on a general demurrer. Succeeding artists may avoid this fault :and the design give rise to an emulation no less noble than that of Timanthes and Parrhasius to delineate the trial of the controversy for the arms of Achilles."

You see that we are introducing to you no common man-a quaint and acute prose writer-and you already anticipate good, perhaps great things in his verse. He goes on to ask, that if the art of painting succeeds so well in judicial subjects, can they prove less congenial to poetry? And where else is the real character, both of individuals and of their age, either better observed than in the proceedings, or better preserved than in the records of a court of justice?

"And, at the same time, what scene is more august, or-except only man's public endeavours to propitiate and commune with his Maker-what action is more exalted—— what more worthy of poetic description, than human labours to supply, what Heaven seems to have omitted, a form of civil government-or than human efforts to execute what the Deity undoubtedly wills, the dis tinction and retribution of right and wrong -or than human daring to usurp, perhaps, a prerogative which God himself forbears, the solemn adjudication and infliction of the punishment of death?

"But, in order to embellish the commentary, and extend also the sphere of its application, it was difficult to forbear occasional citations from those kindred volumes, which, ever forming part of a lawyer's library, serve to attest and perpetuate the intimate association of classical and professional literature, feeling, and character. This is an association, however, which the severe taste and rigid style of judicial eloquence among us tends unfortunately to obscure. In this respect the House of Commons is more favourably disposed. How is it, that quotations, which are thought so reverend and graceful in the senate, must appear so puerile and pedantic at the bar? Or by what singularity of factitious taste does it happen that, even in Parliament, citations, though little restricted in length, are in selection to be confined to a single dead language, and commonly to a few of its principal authors? The overwhelming effect of Sheridan's addition to a Greek quotation

can apparently never be extended beyond that tongue, which the House seems since to have abandoned in despair. But the public require to be undeceived in an opinion, long traditionary, and formerly perhaps correct, but, though lately inculcated by some very popular publications, altogether at variance with the universal advancement of the age, the opinion, that your special pleader is a creature without imagination, refinement, or sensibility; whom no arts delight, no muse illumines, no grace can inspire; who, by the sterility of an intricate and ungrateful profession, that always exhausts and never enriches the intellect, has

been placed beyond the pale, alike of polite society and of elegant literature; and being therefore condemned to either an affectation of what he never can attain, or a sullen contempt for what he does not understand, finds a life of study has filled his mind with only a species of learning, which, out of the limits of his own country, or the sphere of his own business and associates, is every where either utterly rubbish, or valuable for the most sordid motive alone.

Such is by no means the classic pleader of the present moment. The themes of his

reflection and discourse will be found to

[ocr errors]

zling to our young Templar, is that which regards the personal identity of the ingenious author. His name, he says, is Nicholas Thirning Moile, and his habitat is 11, Crown Office Row, Temple. Our friend, wishing to make his acquaintance-with a view, no doubt, to the crack article-proceeded, one rainy day, to call at No. 11; but, after an hour's hunting, gave it up in despair. He ought not to be dismayed; for how seldom has it happened to any man that he found the desired number on the first day's voyage of discovery, either in the most regular of squares, or the simplest of streets? That 11, Crown Office Row, Temple, exists, why in unmanly despondency disbelieve? See the immediate consequence of such scepticism-that there is no Nicholas Thirning Moile. That gentleman, of whose existence we have no more doubt than our own, attributes the chief authorship of the State Trials to a pupil of his now dead. The poor youth was drowned, we are told, on his passage from the Isle of Man, having first duly made and published his last will and testament, by which I was appointed his executor; an office, for once, of no great trouble, as his assets were small, and his debts less. document, together with the keys of On receiving this his chambers, I found in his library a row of large quartos, ranged under Wentworth's Pleadings, and lettered on the back Precedents.' Within, instead of Pleas, I found it entitled 'State Trials;' nor had I read far before I discovered it was written in metre and rhyme. What was this but my own design of combining the learning of the law with the melody of verse; a design I had before communicated to my late pupil in frequent conversations? It was evident he had been working upon my ideas, which I considered no less my own property than even my very books themselves. Let it not be supposed that these things are now mentioned in any spirit of complaint, or to intimate the charge of plagiarism in my poor friend. He, I doubt not, either always intended to contribute his assistance to my work, or may even have been utterly unconscious of any such trespass; indeed, he has too much mistaken the object, or departed from the conduct of the original design, to leave me any The part of the Preface most puz- regret, but that I can derive so little

blend whatever is subtlest in the learning of his profession, or choicest in its phrases, with all that is polite in music, painting, travel, literature, and science; and with all that is elegant in amusements, sports, and fashion,-even to the nicest appreciation of an opera ballet. And I am free to confess, that the older I grow the more do I appreciate that most graceful and refined spectacle, which the youth, beauty, and gaiety of human kind can ever exhibit;-that vague and elegant expression of the relations of the sexes, their desire to please, and pride to display their charms;-that imitation of sentiments, abstracted indeed from their ordinary modes, and impersonated in new phases and combinations, of measured motions, musical attitudes and harmonious positions, -adorned with all that fancy in costume, taste in grouping, cheerfulness in features, health, love, and festivity, can add to the fairest of human forms. The appreciation of this is undoubtedly the more peculiar property of the learned profession, and by traditionary right; as the ballet is evidently borrowed from the ancient revels of the Inns of Court, in whose stately dances perhaps the art-now lost-was then practiced, of representing by solemn gestures and measures, and with their feet in walking, the intricacies of lawsuits, and the reasonableness of their decision."


aid from labours which might have been turned to some account, could I have directed their pursuits." There is an air of truth and sincerity in all this which must satisfy, one might think, every not over-incredulous mind. But our friend is not satisfied, and mentions in his letter another cause of disquiet. Mr Moile having spoken of his poor pupil's chambers, says, in a note: Now vacant, consisting of three rooms and a dark closet, up four pair of stairs, at a reduced rent-ninety-two guineas and a half. Apply at Danby's, hair-dresser, Cloisters. Danby's our friend repaired-thinking the chambers would suit his purse and love of privacy-when, to his astonishment, Danby declared that he knew of no such chambers! Many applications, he added, had been made to him about them, within the last six months; and he did indeed most earnestly desire to know where they were situatedand if any body could give any information about Mr Moile. Further, our friend has received letters, he tells us, from the gentlemen respectively inhabiting Nos. 10 and 12, Crown Office Row, Temple, demanding if he be the person who has been perpetually disturbing their doors since the summer of 1833 with enquiries about a Mr Moile and threatening legal proceedings against the individual guilty of the nuisance. We can only repeat our advice in one word-Persevere.*

So much for Notes and Prefacenow for the State Trials themselvesreported in verse. They are three in number-Trial of Anne Ayliffe for heresy of Sir William Stanley for high treason and of Mary Queen of Scots. They may be called Poemsand three fine ones; and that we may do ample justice to the mind that produced them, we shall give as many long extracts as possible from the first and perhaps the finest-assisting you all-kind friends-to comprehend and feel the spirit of the whole, by means of such connecting links as our own few words may supply. After all, such articles are the most delightful of —and it may prove more difficult to imitate than to depreciate them, to any moonstruck transcendentalist who may come down from his clouds, somewhat fretful on account of the cold,


[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

But the brethren move out towards long order"-vergers, monks, canons, the South-in procession-" paired in pr lates


Stern Arundel, their sovereign, following all,"

and enter the chapter-house, in which remains to be done the chief business of the day.

But before we proceed to that "stern assize," let us listen to some of the loftier strains in the preparatory sermon. The Clerk does not preach from any specific text, nor does his discourse consist of many separate heads, terminating with "" practical conclusions."

It is, in truth, the Poet himself who breaks forth into an impassioned address to the surrounding sanctities,

"Before an altar crown'd with every worth;

The gate of Heaven to suppliants on earth; Where all the arts reflect their Author's

[blocks in formation]

* We have just heard that Mr Moile resides--not at 11-but at 111, Crown Office Row, Temple.

[blocks in formation]

"For him, ye columns, rear your brows on high!
Lift up your heads, great portals of the sky!
What fairer dome, save that which heaven expands,
What worthier seat of temples made with hands,
Than builders sage here pillar'd for his throne?
For nature's God a work like Nature's own:
Or where unlike the form her hands produce,
Still like in grace, magnificence, and use.
In new designs her fair proportions shown;
Her likeness traced in structures not her own;
Her measure follow'd, harmonies bestow'd
On strange materials, in an unknown mode;
And half her influence o'er the mind imprest
By different means, and thence with livelier zest;
And half her charms to fascinate the heart.
Oh, noblest work of imitative art!

To pile columnar trunks from marble mines,
Embower their boughs and interlace with vines;
Pile higher still, and arch a vault on high,
To shield the storm, and emulate the sky;
Cross aisles to vistas of her sylvan bower;
Rear for the sun in heaven a lantern tower;
Adapt each limb with various height and length,
And bind the whole in unity and strength;
Copying, abstracted, in a different plan,
The grace and order of the world and man:
And scarce with rapture less, and awe, confound
And lift to God the wight who gazes round,
Than who beneath a cliff sees capes and bays
Far tinged with sunset's red and yellowy rays;
Or nightly wandering hears the hills accord,
And heavens declare the glory of the Lord-
When winds and waves through shadowy woods intone,
And ghastly moonlight chills the glimmering zone.'

What would they in the dust? Ap-
pease offended Heaven. And by what

"Blood must atone; A SAVIOUR intercedes!"

Away with fruits and fatlings! BEHOLD THE HOST! Have faith-do penance-believe in the intercession

of the Saints-and your souls shall live. Thus it shall be till the end of time-thus it has been through every clime and age. Behold this grand truth darkly shadowed "in all religions, liturgies, and codes"-here only brought to light!

"Hark from on high THE WORD again hath spoken-
This is my body, which for you was broken!'

This is my blood! the miracle is done :

The mystery closed: Hosannah to the Son!

« AnteriorContinuar »