Old and New London: Volume 1. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.
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THE TEMPLE (continued).
Fountain Court and the Temple Fountain—Ruth Pinch—L. E. L.'s Poem—Fig-tree Court—The Inner Temple Library—Paper Buildings—The Temple Gate—Guildford North and Jeffreys—Cowper, the Poet: his Melancholy and Attempted Suicide—A Tragedy in Tanfield Court— Lord Mansfield—"Mr. Murray" and his Client—Lamb's Pictures of the Temple—The Sun-dials—Porson and his Eccentricities—Rules of the Temple—Coke and his Labours—Temple Riots—Scuffles with the Alsatians—Temple Dinners—"Calling" to the Bar—The Temple Gardens—The Chrysanthemums—Sir Matthew Hale's Tree—Revenues of the Temple—Temple Celebrities.
Lives there a man with soul so dead as to write about the Temple without mentioning the little fountain in Fountain Court?—that pet and plaything of the Temple, that, like a little fairy, sings to beguile the cares of men oppressed with legal duties. It used to look like a wagoner's silver whip—now a modern writer cruelly calls it "a pert squirt." In Queen Anne's time Hatton describes it as forcing its stream "to a vast and almost incredible altitude"—it is now only ten feet high, no higher than a giant lord chancellor. Then it was fenced with palisades—now it is caged in iron; then it stood in a square—now it is in a round. But it still sparkles and glitters, and sprinkles and playfully splashes the jaunty sparrows that come to wash off the London dust in its variegated spray. It is quite careless now, however, of notice, for has it not been immortalised by the pen of Dickens, who has made it the centre of one of his most charming love scenes? It was in Fountain Court, our readers will like to remember, that Ruth Pinch —gentle, loving Ruth—met her lover, by the merest accident of course.
"There was," says Mr. Dickens, "a little plot between them that Tom should always come out of the Temple by one way, and that was past the fountain. Coming through Fountain Court, he was just to glance down the steps leading into Garden Court, and to look once all round him; and if Ruth had come to meet him, there he would see her—not sauntering, you understand (on account of the clerks), but coming briskly up, with the best little laugh upon her face that ever played in opposition to the fountain and beat it all to nothing. For, fifty to one, Tom had been looking for her in the wrong direction, and had quite given her up, while she had been tripping towards him from the first, jingling that little reticule of hers (with all the keys in it) to attract his wondering observation.
"Whether there was life enough left in the slow vegetation of Fountain Court for the smoky shrubs to have any consciousness of the brightest and purest-hearted little woman in the world, is a question for gardeners and those who are learned in the loves of plants. But that it was a good thing for that same paved yard to have such a delicate little figure flitting through it, that it passed like a smile from the grimy old houses and the worn flagstones, and left them duller, darker, sterner than before, there is no sort of doubt. The Temple fountain might have leaped up twenty feet to greet the spring of hopeful maidenhood that in her person stole on, sparkling, through the dry and dusty channels of the law; the chirping sparrows, bred in Temple chinks and crannies, might have held their peace to listen to imaginary skylarks as so fresh a little creature passed; the dingy boughs, unused to droop, otherwise than in their puny growth, might have bent down in a kindred gracefulness to shed their benedictions on her graceful head; old love-letters, shut up in iron boxes in the neighbouring offices, and made of no account among the heaps of family papers into which they had strayed, and of which in their degeneracy they formed a part, might have stirred and fluttered with a moment's recollection of their ancient tenderness, as she went lightly by. Anything might have happened that did not happen, and never will, for the love of Ruth. …
"Merrily the tiny fountain played, and merrily the dimples sparkled on its sunny face. John Westlock hurried after her. Softly the whispering water broke and fell, and roguishly the dimples twinkled as he stole upon her footsteps.
"L. E. L." (Miss Landon) has left a graceful
poem on this much-petted fountain, which begins,—
"The fountain's low singing is heard on the wind,
Like a melody, bringing sweet fancies to mind—
Some to grieve, some to gladden; around them they cast
The hopes of the morrow, the dreams of the past.
Away in the distance is heard the vast sound
From the streets of the city that compass it round,
Like the echo of fountains or ocean's deep call;
Yet that fountain's low singing is heard over all.'
Fig-tree Court derived its name from obvious sources. Next to the plane, that has the strange power of sloughing off its sooty bark, the fig seems the tree that best endures London's corrupted atmosphere. Thomas Fairchild, a Hoxton gardener, who wrote in 1722 (quoted by Mr. Peter Cunningham), alludes to figs ripening well in the Rolls Gardens, Chancery Lane, and to the tree thriving in close places about Bridewell. Who can say that some Templar pilgrim did not bring from the banks of "Abana or Pharpar, rivers of Damascus," the first leafy inhabitant of inky and dusty Figtree Court? Lord Thurlow was living here in 1758, the year he was called to the bar, and when, it was said, he had not money enough even to hire a horse to attend the circuit.
The Inner Temple Library stands on the terrace facing the river. The Parliament Chambers and Hall, in the Tudor style, were the work of Sidney Smirke, R.A., in 1835. The library, designed by Mr. Abrahams, is 96 feet long, 42 feet wide, and 63 feet high; it has a hammer-beam roof. One of the stained glass windows is blazoned with the arms of the Templars. Below the library are chambers. The cost of the whole was about £13,000. The north window is thought to too much resemble the great window at Westminster.
Paper Buildings, a name more suitable for the offices of some City companies, were first built in the reign of James I., by a Mr. Edward Hayward and others; and the learned Dugdale describes them as eighty-eight feet long, twenty feet broad, and four storeys high. This Hayward was Selden's chamber-fellow, and to him Selden dedicated his "Titles of Honour." Selden, according to Aubrey, had chambers in these pleasant riverside buildings, looking towards the gardens, and in the uppermost storey he had a little gallery, to pace in and meditate. The Great Fire swept away Selden's chambers, and their successors were destroyed by the fire which broke out in Mr. Maule's chambers. Coming home at night from a dinnerparty, that gentleman, it is said, put the lighted candle under his bed by mistake. The stately new buildings were designed by Mr. Sidney Smirke, A.R.A., in 1848. The red brick and stone harmonise pleasantly, and the overhanging oriels and angle turrets (Continental Tudor) are by no means ineffective.
The entrance to the Middle Temple from Fleet Street is a gatehouse of red brick pointed with stone, and is the work of Wren. It was erected in 1684, after the Great Fire, and is in the style of Inigo Jones—"not inelegant," says Ralph. It probably occupies the site of the gatehouse erected by order of Wolsey, at the expense of his prisoner, Sir Amyas Paulet. The frightened man covered the front with the cardinal's hat and arms, hoping to appease Wolsey's anger by gratifying his pride. The Inner Temple gateway was built in the fifth year of James I.
Elm Court was built in the sixth year of Charles I. Up one pair of stairs that successful courtier, Guildford North, whom Jeffreys so tormented by the rumour that he had been seen riding on a rhinoceros, then exhibiting in London, commenced the practicethat soon won him such high honours.
In 1752 the poet Cowper, on leaving a solicitor's office, had chambers in the Middle Temple, and in that solitude the horror of his future malady began to darken over him. He gave up the classics, which had been his previous delight, and read George Herbert's poems all day long. In 1759, after his father's death, he purchased another set of rooms for £250, in an airy situation in the Inner Temple. He belonged, at this time, to the "Nonsense Club," of which Bonnell Thornton, Colman junior, and Lloyd were members. Thurlow also was his friend. In 1763 his despondency deepened into insanity. An approaching appointment to the clerkship of the Journals of the House of Lords overwhelmed him with nervous fears. Dreading to appear in public, he resolved to destroy himself. He purchased laudanum, then threw it away. He packed up his portmanteau to go to France and enter a monastery. He went down to the Custom House Quay, to throw himself into the river. He tried to stab himself. At last the poor fellow actually hung himself, and was only saved by an accident. The following is his own relation:—
"Not one hesitating thought now remained, but I fell greedily to the execution of my purpose. My garter was made of a broad piece of scarlet binding, with a sliding buckle, being sewn together at the ends. By the help of the buckle I formed a noose, and fixed it about my neck, straining it so tight that I hardly left a passage for my breath, or for the blood to circulate. The tongue of the buckle held it fast. At each corner of the bed was placed a wreath of carved work fastened by an iron pin, which passed up through the midst of it; the other part of the garter, which made a loop, I slipped over one of them, and hung by it some seconds, drawing up my feet under me, that they might not touch the floor; but the iron bent, and the carved work slipped off, and the garter with it. I then fastened it to the frame of the tester, winding it round and tying it in a strong knot. The frame broke short, and let me down again.
"The third effort was more likely to succeed. I set the door open, which reached to within a foot of the ceiling. By the help of a chair I could command the top of it, and the loop being large enough to admit a large angle of the door, was easily fixed, so as not to slip off again. I pushed away the chair with my feet, and hung at my whole length. While I hung there I distinctly heard a voice say three times, 'Tis over!' Though I am sure of the fact, and was so at the time, yet it did not at all alarm me or affect my resolution. I hung so long that I lost all sense, all consciousness of existence.
"When I came to myself again I thought I was in hell; the sound of my own dreadful groans was all that I heard, and a feeling like that produced by a flash of lightning just beginning to seize upon me, passed over my whole body. In a few seconds I found myself fallen on my face to the floor. In about half a minute I recovered my feet, and reeling and struggling, stumbled into bed again.
"By the blessed providence of God, the garter which had held me till the bitterness of temporal death was past broke just before eternal death had taken place upon me. The stagnation of the blood under one eye in a broad crimson spot, and a red circle round my neck, showed plainly that I had been on the brink of eternity. The latter, indeed, might have been occasioned by the pressure of the garter, but the former was certainly the effect of strangulation, for it was not attended with the sensation of a bruise, as it must have been had I in my fall received one in so tender a part; and I rather think the circle round my neck was owing to the same cause, for the part was not excoriated, nor at all in pain.
"Soon after I got into bed I was surprised to hear a voice in the dining-room, where the laundress was lighting a fire. She had found the door unbolted, notwithstanding my design to fasten it, and must have passed the bed-chamber door while I was hanging on it, and yet never perceived me. She heard me fall, and presently came to ask me if I was well, adding, she feared I had been in a fit.
"I sent her to a friend, to whom I related the whole affair, and dispatched him to my kinsman at the coffee-house. As soon as the latter arrived I pointed to the broken garter which lay in the middle of the room, and apprised him also of the attempt I had been making. His words were, 'My dear Mr. Cowper, you terrify me! To be sure you cannot hold the office at this rate. Where is the deputation?' I gave him the key of the drawer where it was deposited, and his business requiring his immediate attendance, he took it away with him; and thus ended all my connection with the Parliament office."
In February, 1732, Tanfield Court, a quiet, dull nook on the east side of the Temple, to the south of that sombre Grecian temple where the Master resides, was the scene of a very horrible crime. Sarah Malcolm, a laundress, aged twenty-two, employed by a young barrister named Kerrol in the same court, gaining access to the rooms of an old lady named Duncomb, whom she knew to have money, strangled her and an old servant, and cut the throat of a young girl, whose bed she had probably shared. Some of her blood-stained linen, and a silver tankard of Mrs. Duncomb's, stained with blood, were found by Mr. Kerrol concealed in his chambers. Fifty-three pounds of the money were discovered at Newgate hidden in the prisoner's hair. She confessed to a share in the robbery, but laid the murder to two lads with whom she was acquainted. She was, however, found guilty, and hung opposite Mitre Court, Fleet Street. The crowd was so great that one woman crossed from near Serjeants' Inn to the other side of the way on the shoulders of the mob. Sarah Malcolm went to execution neatly dressed in a crape gown, held up her head in the cart with an air, and seemed to be painted. A copy of her confession was sold for twenty guineas. Two days before her execution she dressed in scarlet, and sat to Hogarth for a sketch, which Horace Walpole bought for £5. The portrait represents a cruel, thin-lipped woman, not uncomely, sitting at a table. The Duke of Roxburghe purchased a perfect impression of this print, Mr. Timbs says, for £8 5s. Its original price was sixpence. After her execution the corpse was taken to an undertaker's on Snow Hill, and there exhibited for money. Among the rest, a gentleman in deep mourning—perhaps her late master, Mr. Kerrol—stooped and kissed it, and gave the attendant half-a-crown. She was, by special favour (for superiority even in wickedness has its admirers), buried in St. Sepulchre's Churchyard, from which criminals had been excluded for a century and a half. The corpse of the murderess was disinterred, and her skeleton, in a glass case, is still to be seen at the Botanic Garden, Cambridge.
Not many recorded crimes have taken place in the Temple, for youth, however poor, is hopeful. It takes time to make a man despair, and when he despairs, the devil is soon at his elbow. Nevertheless, greed and madness have upset some Templars' brains. In October, 1573, a crazed, fanatical man of the Middle Temple, named Peter Burchet, mistaking John Hawkins (afterwards the naval hero) for Sir Christopher Hatton, flew at him in the Strand, and dangerously wounded him with a dagger. The queen was so furious that at first she wanted Burchet tried by camp law; but, being found to hold heretical opinions, he was committed to the Lollards' Tower (south front of St. Paul's), and afterwards sent to the Tower. Growing still madder there, Burchet slew one of his keepers with a billet from his fire, and was then condemned to death and hung in the Strand, close by where he had stabbed Hawkins, his right hand being first stricken off and nailed to the gibbet.
In 1738 Thomas Carr, an attorney, of Elm Court, and Elizabeth Adams, his accomplice, were executed for robbing a Mr. Quarrington in Shire Lane (see page 74); and in 1752 Henry Justice, of the Middle Temple, in spite of his well-omened name, was cruelly sentenced to death for stealing books from the library of Trinity College, Cambridge, but eventually he was only transported for life.
The celebrated Earl of Mansfield, when Mr.
Murray, had chambers at No. 5, King's Bench
Walk, apropos of which Pope wrote—
"To Number Five direct your doves,
There spread round Murray all your blooming loves."
(Pope "to Venus," from "Horace.")
A second compliment by Pope to this great man
occasioned a famous parody:—
"Graced as thou art by all the power of words,
So known, so honoured at the House of Lords"
(Pope, of Lord Mansfield);
which was thus cleverly parodied by Colley Cibber:
"Persuasion tips his tongue whene'er he talks,
"Persuasion tips his tongue whene'er he talks,
And he has chambers in the King's Bench Walks."
One of Mansfield's biographers tells us that "once he was surprised by a gentleman of Lincoln's Inn (who took the liberty of entering his room in the Temple without the ceremonious introduction of a servant), in the act of practising the graces of a speaker at a glass, while Pope sat by in the character of a friendly preceptor." Of the friendship of Pope and Murray, Warburton has said: "Mr. Pope had all the warmth of affection for this great lawyer; and, indeed, no man ever more deserved to have a poet for his friend, in the obtaining of which, as neither vanity, party, nor fear had a share, so he supported his title to it by all the offices of a generous and true friendship."
"A good story," says Mr. Jeaffreson, "is told of certain visits paid to William Murray's chambers at No. 5, King's Bench Walk, Temple, in the year 1738. Born in 1705, Murray was still a young man when, in 1738, he made his brilliant speech on behalf of Colonel Sloper, against whom Colley Cibber's rascally son had brought an action for immorality with his wife, the lovely actress, who on the stage was the rival of Mrs. Clive, and in private life was remarkable for immorality and fascinating manners. Amongst the many clients who were drawn to Murray by that speech, Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, was neither the least powerful nor the least distinguished. Her grace began by sending the rising advocate a general retainer, with a fee of a thousand guineas, of which sum he accepted only the two-hundredth part, explaining to the astonished duchess that 'the professional fee, with a general retainer, could not be less nor more than five guineas.' If Murray had accepted the whole sum he would not have been overpaid for his trouble, for her grace persecuted him with calls at most unseasonable hours. On one occasion, returning to his chambers after 'drinking champagne with the wits,' he found the duchess's carriage and attendants on King's Bench Walk. A numerous crowd of footmen and link-bearers surrounded the coach, and when the barrister entered his chambers he encountered the mistress of that army of lackeys. 'Young man,' exclaimed the grand lady, eyeing the future Lord Mansfield with a look of displeasure, 'if you mean to rise in the world, you must not sup out.' On a subsequent night Sarah of Marlborough called without appointment at the chambers, and waited till past midnight in the hope that she would see the lawyer ere she went to bed. But Murray, being at an unusually late supper-party, did not return till her grace had departed in an overpowering rage. 'I could not make out, sir, who she was,' said Murray's clerk, describing her grace's appearance and manner, 'for she would not tell me her name; but she swore so dreadfully that I am sure she must be a lady of quality.' "
Charles Lamb, who was born in Crown Office Row, in his exquisite way has sketched the benchers of the Temple whom he had seen pacing the terrace in his youth. Jekyll, with the roguish eye, and Thomas Coventry, of the elephantine step, the scarecrow of inferiors, the browbeater of equals, who made a solitude of children wherever he came, who took snuff by palmfuls, diving for it under the mighty flap of his old-fashioned red waistcoat. In the gentle Samuel Salt we discover a portrait of the employer of Lamb's father. Salt was a shy indolent, absent man, who never dressed for a dinner party but he forgot his sword. The day of Miss Blandy's execution he went to dine with a relative of the murderess, first carefully schooled by his clerk to avoid the disagreeable subject. However, during the pause for dinner, Salt went to the window, looked out, pulled down his ruffles, and observed, "It's a gloomy day; Miss Blandy must be hanged by this time, I suppose." Salt never laughed. He was a well-known toast with the ladies, having a fine figure and person. Coventry, on the other hand, was a man worth four or five hundred thousand, and lived in a gloomy house, like a strong box, opposite the pump in Serjeants' Inn, Fleet Street. Fond of money as he was, he gave away £30,000 at once to a charity for the blind, and kept a hospitable house. Salt was indolent and careless of money, and but for Lovel, his clerk, would have been universally robbed. This Lovel was a clever little fellow, with a face like Garrick, who could mould heads in clay, turn cribbage-boards, take a hand at a quadrille or bowls, and brew punch with any man of his degree in Europe. With Coventry and Salt, Peter Pierson often perambulated the terrace, with hands folded behind him. Contemporary with these was Daines Barrington, a burly, square man. Lamb also mentions Burton, "a jolly negation," who drew up the bills of fare for the parliament chamber, where the benchers dined; thin, fragile Wharry, who used to spitefully pinch his cat's ears when anything offended him; and Jackson, the musician, to whom the cook once applied for instructions how to write down "edge-bone of beef" in a bill of commons. Then there was Blustering Mingay, who had a grappling-hook in substitute for a hand he had lost, which Lamb, when a child, used to take for an emblem of power; and Baron Mascres, who retained the costume of the reign of George II.
In his "Essays," Lamb says:—" I was born
and passed the first seven years of my life in the
Temple. Its church, its halls, its gardens, its fountain, its river I had almost said—for in those young
years what was the king of rivers to me but a stream
that watered our pleasant places?—these are of
my oldest recollections. I repeat, to this day, no
verses to myself more frequently or with kindlier
emotion than those of Spenser where he speaks of
this spot. Indeed, it is the most elegant spot in
the metropolis. What a transition for a countryman visiting London for the first time—the passing
from the crowded Strand or Fleet Street, by unexpected avenues, into its magnificent, ample squares,
its classic green recesses! What a cheerful, liberal
look hath that portion of it which, from three sides,
overlooks the greater garden, that goodly pile
'Of buildings strong, albeit of paper hight,'
confronting with massy contrast, the lighter, older, more fantastically shrouded one named of Harcourt, with the cheerful Crown Office Row (place of my kindly engendure), right opposite the stately stream, which washes the garden foot with her yet scarcely trade-polluted waters, and seems but just weaned from Twickenham Naïades! A man would give something to have been born in such places. What a collegiate aspect has that fine Elizabethan hall, where the fountain plays, which I have made to rise and fall, how many times! to the astonishment of the young urchins, my contemporaries, who, not being able to guess at its recondite machinery, were almost tempted to hail the wondrous work as magic. . . . .
"So may the winged horse, your ancient badge and cognisance, still flourish! So may future Hookers and Seldens illustrate your church and chambers! So may the sparrows, in default of more melodious quiristers, imprisoned hop about your walks! So may the fresh-coloured and cleanly nursery-maid, who by leave airs her playful charge in your stately gardens, drop her prettiest blushing curtsey as ye pass, reductive of juvenescent emotion! So may the younkers of this generation eye you, pacing your stately terrace, with the same superstitious veneration with which the child Elia gazed on the old worthies that solemnised the parade before ye!"
Charles Lamb, in his "Essay" on the old benchers, speaks of many changes he had witnessed in the Temple—i.e., the Gothicising the entrance to the Inner Temple Hall and the Library front, to assimilate them to the hall, which they did not resemble; to the removal of the winged horse over the Temple Hall, and the frescoes of the Virtues which once Italianised it. He praises, too, the antique air of the "now almost effaced sun-dials," with their moral inscriptions, seeming almost coeval with the time which they measured, and taking their revelations immediately from heaven, holding correspondence with the fountain of light. Of these dials there still remain—one in Temple Lane, with the motto, "Pereunt et imputantur;" one in Essex Court, "Vestigia nulla retrorsum;" and one in Brick Court on which Goldsmith must often have gazed—the motto, "Time and tide tarry for no man." In Pump Court and Garden Court are two dials without mottoes; and in each Temple garden is a pillar dial—"the natural garden god of Christian gardens." On an old brick house at the east end of Inner Temple Terrace, removed in 1828, was a dial with the odd inscription, "Begone about your business," words with which an old bencher is said to have once dismissed a troublesome lad who had come from the dial-maker's for a motto, and who mistook his meaning. The one we have engraved at page 180 is in Pump Court. The date and the initials are renewed every time it is fresh painted.
There are many old Temple anecdotes relating to that learned disciple of Bacchus, Porson. Many a time (says Mr. Timbs), at early morn, did Porson stagger from his old haunt, the "Cider Cellars" in Maiden Lane, where he scarcely ever failed to pass some hours, after spending the evening elsewhere. It is related of him, upon better authority than most of the stories told to his discredit, that one night, or rather morning, Gurney (the Baron), who had chambers in Essex Court under Porson's, was awakened by a tremendous thump in the chamber above. Porson had just come home dead drunk, and had fallen on the floor. Having extinguished the candle in the fall, he presently staggered downstairs to re-light it, and Gurney heard him dodging and poking with the candle at the staircase lamp for about five minutes, and all the time very lustily cursing the nature of things.
We read also of Porson's shutting himself up in these chambers for three or four days together, admitting no visitor. One morning his friend Rogers went to call, having ascertained from the barber's hard by that Porson was at home, but had not been seen by any one for two days. Rogers proceeded to his chambers, and knocked at the door more than once; he would not open it, and Rogers came downstairs, but as he was crossing the court Porson opened the window and stopped him. He was then busy about the Grenville "Homer," for which he collated the Harleian MS. of the "Odyssey," and received for his labour but £50 and a large-paper copy. His chambers must have presented a strange scene, for he used books most cruelly, whether they were his own or belonged to others. He said that he possessed more bad copies of good books than any private gentleman in England.
Rogers, when a Templar, occasionally had some visitors who absorbed more of his time than was always agreeable; an instance of which he thus relates: "When I lived in the Temple, Mackintosh and Richard Sharp used to come to my chambers and stay there for hours, talking metaphysics. One day they were so intent on their 'first cause,' 'spirit,' and 'matter,' that they were unconscious of my having left them, paid a visit, and returned. I was a little angry at this; and to show my indifference about them, I sat down and wrote letters, without taking any notice of them. I never met a man with a fuller mind than Mackintosh—such readiness on all subjects, such a talker."
Before any person can be admitted a member of the Temple, he must furnish a statement in writing, describing his age, residence, and condition in life, and adding a certificate of his respectability and fitness, signed by himself and a bencher of the society, or two barristers. The Middle Temple requires the signatures of two barristers of that Inn and of a bencher, but in each of the three other Inns the signatures of barristers of any of the four Inns will suffice. No person is admitted without the approbation of a bencher, or of the benchers in council assembled.
The Middle Temple includes the universities of Durham and London. At the Inner Temple the candidate for admission who has taken the degree of B.A., or passed an examination at the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, or London, is required to pass an examination by a barrister, appointed by the Bench for that purpose, in the Greek and Latin languages, and history or literature in general. No person in priest's or deacon's orders can be called to the bar. In the Inner Temple, an attorney must have ceased to be on the rolls, and an articled clerk to be in articles for three years, before he can be called to the bar.
Legal students worked hard in the old times; Coke's career is an example. In 1572 he rose every morning at five o'clock, lighting his own fire; and then read Bracton, Littleton, and the ponderous folio abridgments of the law till the court met, at eight o'clock. He then took boat for Westminster, and heard cases argued till twelve o'clock, when the pleas ceased for dinner. After a meal in the Inner Temple Hall, he attended "readings" or lectures in the afternoon, and then resumed his private studies till supper-time at five. Next came the moots, after which he slammed his chamber-door, and set to work with his commonplace book to index all the law he had amassed during the day. At nine, the steady student went to bed, securing three good hours of sleep before midnight. It is said Coke never saw a play or read a play in his life—and that was Shakespeare's time! In the reign of James I. the Temple was often called "my Lord Coke's shop." He had become a great lawyer then, and lived to become Lord Chief Justice. Pity 'tis that we have to remember that he reviled Essex and insulted Raleigh. King James once said of Coke in misfortune that he was like a cat, he always fell on his feet.
History does not record many riots in the Temple, full of wild life as that quiet precinct has been. In different reigns, however, two outbreaks occurred. In both cases the Templars, though rather hot and prompt, seem to have been right. At the dinner of John Prideaux, reader of the Inner Temple, in 1553, the students took oftence at Sir John Lyon, the Lord Mayor, coming in state, with his sword up, and the sword was dragged down as he passed through the cloisters. The same sort of affray took place again in 1669, when Lord Mayor Peake came to Sir Christopher Goodfellow's feast, and the Lord Mayor had to be hidden in a bencher's chambers till, as Pepys relates, the fiery young sparks were decoyed away to dinner. The case was tried before Charles II., and Heneage Finch pleaded for the Temple, claiming immemorial exemption from City jurisdiction. The case was never decided. From that day to this (says Mr. Noble) a settlement appears never to have been made; hence it is that the Temples claim to be "extra parochial," closing nightly all their gates as the clock strikes ten, and keeping extra watch and ward when the parochial authorities "beat the bounds" upon Ascension Day. Many struggles have taken place to make the property rateable, and even of late the question has once more arisen; and it is hardly to be wondered at, for it would be a nice bit of business to assess the Templars upon the £32,866 which they have returned as the annual rental of their estates.
A third riot was with those ceaseless enemies of the Templars, the Alsatians, or lawless inhabitants of disreputable Whitefriars. In July, 1691, weary of their riotous and thievish neighbours, the benchers of the Inner Temple bricked up the gate (still existing in King's Bench Walk) leading into the high street of Whitefriars; but the Alsatians, swarming out, pulled down as fast as the bricklayers built up. The Templars hurried together, swords flew out, the Alsatians plied pokers and shovels, and many heads were broken. Ultimately, two men were killed, several wounded, and many hurried off to prison. Eventually, the ringleader of the Alsatians, Captain Francis White—a "copper captain," no doubt—was convicted of murder, in April, 1693. This riot eventually did good, for it led to the abolition of London sanctuaries, those dens of bullies, low gamblers, thieves, and courtesans.
As the Middle Temple has grown gradually poorer and more neglected, many curious customs of the old banquets have died out. The loving cup, once fragrant with sweetened sack, is now used to hold the almost superfluous toothpicks. Oysters are no longer brought in, in term, every Friday before dinner; nor when one bencher dines does he, on leaving the hall, invite the senior bar man to come and take wine with him in the parliament chamber (the accommodation-room of Oxford colleges). Yet the rich and epicurean Inner Temple still cherishes many worthy customs, affects recherché French dishes, and is curious in entremets; while the Middle Temple growls over its geological salad, that some hungry wit has compared to "eating a gravel walk, and meeting an occasional weed." A writer in Blackwood, quoting the old proverb, "The Inner Temple for the rich, the Middle for the poor," says few great men have come from the Middle Temple. How can acumen be derived from the scrag-end of a neck of mutton, or inspiration from griskins ? At a late dinner, says Mr. Timbs (1865), there were present only three benchers, seven barristers, and six students.
An Inner Temple banquet is a very grand thing. At five, or half-past five, the barristers and students in their gowns follow the benchers in procession to the dais; the steward strikes the table solemnly a mystic three times, grace is said by the treasurer, or senior bencher present, and the men of law fall to. In former times it was the custom to blow a horn in every court to announce the meal, but how long this ancient Templar practice has been discontinued we do not know. The benchers observe somewhat more style at their table than the other members do at theirs. The general repast is a tureen of soup, a joint of meat, a tart, and cheese, to each mess, consisting of four persons, and each mess is allowed a bottle of port wine. Dinner is served daily to the members of the Inn during term time; the masters of the Bench dining on the state, or dais, and the barristers and students at long tables extending down the hall. On grand days the judges are present, who dine in succession with each of the four Inns of Court. To the parliament chamber, adjoining the hall, the benchers repair after dinner. The loving cups used on certain grand occasions are huge silver goblets, which are passed down the table, filled with a delicious composition, immemorially termed "sack," consisting of sweetened and exquisitely-flavoured white wine. The butler attends the progress of the cup, to replenish it; and each student is by rule restricted to a sip; yet it is recorded that once, though the number present fell short of seventy, thirty-six quarts of the liquid were sipped away. At the Inner Temple, on May 29th, a gold cup of sack is handed to each member, who drinks to the happy restoration of Charles II.
The writer in Blackwood before referred to alludes to the strict silence enjoined at the Inner Temple dinners, the only intercourse between the several members of the mess being the usual social scowl vouchsafed by your true-born Englishman to persons who have not the honour of his acquaintance. You may, indeed, on an emergency, ask your neighbour for the salt; but then it is also perfectly understood that he is not obliged to notice your request.
The old term of "calling to the bar" seems to have originated in the custom of summoning students, that had attained a certain standing, to the bar that separated the benchers' dais from the hall, to take part in certain probationary mootings or discussions on points of law. The mere student sat farthest from the bar.
When these mootings were discontinued deponent sayeth not. In Coke's time (1543), that great lawyer, after supper at five o'clock, used to join the moots, when questions of law were proposed and discussed, when fine on the garden terrace, in rainy weather in the Temple cloisters. The dinner alone now remains; dining is now the only legal study of Temple students.
In the Middle Temple a three years' standing and twelve commons kept suffices to entitle a gentleman to be called to the bar, provided he is above twenty-three years of age. No person can be called to the bar at any of the Inns of Court before he is twenty-one years of age; and a standing of five years is understood to be required of every member before being called. The members of the several universities, &c., may, however, be called after three years' standing.
The Inner Temple Garden (three acres in extent) has probably been a garden from the time the white-mantled Templars first came from Holborn and settled by the river-side. This little paradise of nurserymaids and London children is entered from the terrace by an iron gate (date, 1730); and the winged horse that surmounts the portal has looked down on many a distinguished visitor. In the centre of the grass is such a sun-dial as Charles Lamb loved, with the date, 1770. A little to the east of this stands an old sycamore, which, fifteen years since, was railed in as the august mummy of that umbrageous tree under whose shade, as tradition says, Johnson and Goldsmith used to sit and converse. According to an engraving of 1671 there were formerly three trees; so that Shakespeare himself may have sat under them and meditated on the Wars of the Roses. The print shows a brick terrace faced with stone, with a flight of steps at the north. The old river wall of 1670 stood fifty or sixty yards farther north than the present; and when Paper Buildings were erected, part of this wall was dug up. The view given on this page, and taken from an old view in the Temple, shows a portion of the old wall, with the doorway opening upon the Temple Stairs.
The Temple Garden, half a century since, was famous for its white and red roses (the Old Provence, Cabbage, and the Maiden's Blush—Timbs); and the lime trees were delightful in the time of bloom. There were only two steamboats on the river then; but the steamers and factory smoke soon spoiled everything but the hardy chrysanthemums. However, since the Smoke Consuming Act has been enforced, the roses, stocks, and hawthorns have again taken heart, and blossom with grateful luxuriance. In 1864 Mr. Broome, the zealous gardener of the Inner Temple, exhibited at the Central Horticultural Society twenty-four trusses of roses grown under his care. In the flower-beds next the main walk he managed to secure four successive crops of flowers—the pompones were especially gaudy and beautiful; but his chief triumph were the chrysanthemums of the northern border. 'The trees, however, seem delicate, and suffering from the cold winds, dwindle as they approach the river. The planes, limes, and wych elms stand best. The Temple rooks—the wise birds Goldsmith delighted to watch—were originally brought by Sir William Northcote from Woodcote Green, Epsom, but they left in disgust, many years since. Mr. Timbs says that 200 families enjoy these gardens throughout the year, and about 10,000 of the outer world, chiefly children, who are always in search of the lost Eden, come here annually. The flowers and trees are rarely injured, thanks to the much-abused London public.
In the secluded Middle Temple Garden is an old catalpa tree, supposed to have been planted by that grave and just judge, Sir Matthew Hale. On the lawn is a large table sun-dial, elaborately gilt and embellished. From the library oriel the Thames and its bridges, Somerset House and the Houses of Parliament, form a grand coup d'æil.
The revenue of the Middle Temple alone is said to be £13,000 a year. With the savings we are, of course, entirely ignorant. The students' dinners are half paid for by themselves, the library is kept up on very little fodder, and altogether the system of auditing the Inns of Court accounts is as incomprehensible as the Sybilline oracles; but there can be no doubt it is all right, and very well managed.
In the seventeenth century (says Mr. Noble) a benevolent member of the Middle Temple conveyed to the benchers in fee several houses in the City, out of the rents of which to pay a stated salary to each of two referees, who were to meet on two days weekly, in term, from two to five, in the hall or other convenient place, and without fee on either side, to settle as best they could all disputes submitted to them. From that time the referees have been appointed, but there is no record of a single case being tried by them. The two gentlemen, finding their office a sinecure, have devoted their salaries to making periodical additions to the library. May we be allowed to ask, was this benevolent object ever made known to the public generally? We cannot but think, if it had been, that the two respected arbitrators would not have had to complain of the office as a sinecure.
He who can enumerate the wise and great men who have been educated in the Temple can count off the stars on his finger and measure the sands of the sea-shore by teacupsful. To cull a few, we may mention that the Inner Temple boasts among its eminent members—Audley, Chancellor to Henry VIII.; Nicholas Hare, of Hare Court celebrity; the great lawyer, Littleton (1481), and Coke, his commentator; Sir Christopher Hatton, the dancing Chancellor; Lord Buckhurst; Selden; Judge Jeffries; Beaumont, the poet; William Browne, the author of "Britannia's Pastorals" (so much praised by the Lamb and Hazlitt school); Cowper, the poet; and Sir William Follett.
From the Middle Temple have also sprung swarms of great lawyers. We may mention specially Plowden, the jurist, Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Thomas Overbury (who was poisoned in the Tower), John Ford (one of the latest of the great dramatists), Sir Edward Bramston (chamber-fellow to Mr. Hyde, afterwards Lord Clarendon), Bulstrode Whitelocke (one of Cromwell's Ministers), LordKeeper Guildford (Charles II.), Lord Chancellor Somers, Wycherley and Congreve (the dramatists), Shadwell and Southern (comedy writers), Sir William Blackstone, Edmund Burke, Sheridan, Dunning (Lord Ashburton), Lord Chancellor Eldon, Lord Stowell, as a few among a multitude.