Old and New London: Volume 1. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.
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FLEET STREETS (NORTHERN TRIBUTARIES—CHANCERY LANE).
The Asylum for Jewish Converts—The Rolls Chapel—Ancient Monuments—A Speaker Expelled for Bribery—"Remember Cæsar"—Trampling on a Master of the Rolls—Sir William Grant's Oddities—Sir John Leach—Funeral of Lord Gilfford—Mrs Clark and the Duke of York—Wolsey in his Pomp—Strafford—"Honest Isaak"—The Lord Keeper—Lady Fanshawe—Jack Randal—Serjeants' Inn—An Evening with Hazlitt at the "Southampton"—Charles Lamb—Sheridan—The Sponging Houses—The Law Institute—A Tragical Story.
Chancery, or Chancellor's, Lane, as it was first called, must have been a mere quagmire, or carttrack, in the reign of Edward I., for Strype tells us that at that period it had become so impassable to knight, monk, and citizen, that John Breton, Custos of London, had it barred up, to "hinder any harm," and the Bishop of Chichester, whose house was there (now Chichester Rents), kept up the bar ten years; at the end of that time, on an inquisition of the annoyances of London, the bishop was proscribed at an inquest for setting up two staples and a bar, "whereby men with carts and other carriages could not pass." The bishop pleaded John Breton's order, and the sheriff was then commanded to remove the annoyance, and the hooded men with their carts once more cracked their whips and whistled to their horses up and down the long disused lane.
Half-way up on the east side of Chancery Lane a dull archway, through which can be caught glimpses of the door of an old chapel, leads to the Rolls Court. On the site of that chapel, in the year 1233, history tells us that Henry III. erected a Carthusian house of maintenance for converted Jews, who there lived under a Christian governor. At a time when Norman barons were not unaccustomed to pull out a Jew's teeth, or to fry him on gridirons till he paid handsomely for his release, conversion, which secured safety from such rough practices, may not have been unfrequent. However, the converts decreasing when Edward I., after hanging 280 Jews for clipping coin, banished the rest from the realm, half the property of the Jews who were hung stern Edward gave to the preachers who tried to convert the obstinate and stiff-necked generation, and half to the Domus Conversorum, in Chancellor's Lane. In 1278 we find the converts calling themselves, in a letter sent to the king by John the Convert, "Pauperes Cœlicolæ Christi." In the reign of Richard II. a certain converted Jew received twopence a day for life; and in the reign of Henry IV. we find the daughter of a rabbi paid by the keepers of the house of converts a penny a day for life, by special patent.
Edward III., in 1377, broke up the Jewish almshouse in Chancellor's Lane, and annexed the house and chapel to the newly-created office of Custos Rotulorum, or Keeper of the Rolls. Some of the stones the old gaberdines have rubbed against are no doubt incorporated in the present chapel, which, however, has been so often altered, that, like the Highlandman's gun, it is "new stock and new barrel." The first Master of the Rolls, in 1377, was William Burstal; but till Thomas Cromwell, in 1534, the Masters of the Rolls were generally priests, and often king's chaplains.
The Rolls Chapel was built, says Pennant, by
Inigo Jones, in 1617, at a cost of £2,000. Dr. Donne,
the poet, preached the consecration sermon. One
of the monuments belonging to the earlier chapel
is that of Dr. John Yonge, Master of the Rolls in
the reign of Henry VIII. Vertue and Walpole
attribute the tomb to Torregiano, Michael Angelo's
contemporary and the sculptor of the tomb of
Henry VII. at Westminster. The master is represented by the artist (who starved himself to death
at Seville) in effigy on an altar-tomb, in a red gown
and deep square cap; his hands are crossed, his
face wears an expression of calm resignation and
profound devotion. In a recess at the back is a
head of Christ, and an angel's head appears on either
side in high relief. Another monument of interest
in this quiet, legal chapel is that of Sir Edward
Bruce, created by James I. Baron of Kinloss. He
was one of the crafty ambassadors sent by wily
James to openly congratulate Elizabeth on the
failure of the revolt of Essex, but secretly to commence a correspondence with Cecil. The place of
Master of the Rolls was Bruce's reward for this useful
service. The ex-master lies with his head resting on
his hand, in the "toothache" attitude ridiculed by
the old dramatists. His hair is short, his beard
long, and he wears a long furred robe. Before him
kneels a man in armour, possibly his son, Lord
Kinloss, who, three years after his father's death,
perished in a most savage duel with Sir Edward
Sackville, ancestor to the Earls of Elgin and
Aylesbury. Another fine monument is that of Sir
Richard Allington, of Horseheath, Cambridgeshire,
brother-in law of Sir William Cordall, a former
Master of the Rolls, who died in 1561. Clad in
armour, Sir Richard Kneels,—
"As for past sins he would atone,
By saying endless prayers in stone."
His wife faces him, and beneath on a tablet kneel
their three daughters. Sir Richard's charitable
widow lived after his death in Holborn, in a house
long known as Allington Place. Many of the past
masters sleep within these walls, and amongst them
Sir John Trevor, who died in 1717 (George I.),
and Sir John Strange; but the latter has not had
inscribed over his bones, as Pennant remarks, the
old punning epitaph,—
"Here lies an honest lawyer—that is Strange!"
The above-mentioned Sir John Trevor, while Speaker of the House of Commons, being denounced for bribery, was compelled himself to preside over the subsequent debate—an unparalleled disgrace. The indictment ran:—
"That Sir John Trevor, Speaker of the House, receiving a gratuity of 1,000 guineas from the City of London, after the passing of the Orphans' Bill, is guilty of high crime and misdemeanour." Trevor was himself, as Speaker, compelled to put this resolution from the chair. The "Ayes" were not met by a single "No," and the culprit was required to officially announce that, in the unanimous opinion of the House over which he presided, he stood convicted of a high crime. "His expulsion from the House," says Mr. Jeaffreson, in his "Book about Lawyers," "followed in due course. One is inclined to think that in these days no English gentleman could outlive such humiliation for fourand-twenty hours. Sir John Trevor not only survived the humiliation, but remained a personage of importance in London society. Convicted of bribery, he was not called upon to refund the bribe; and expelled from the House of Commons, he was not driven from his judicial office. He continued to be the Master of the Rolls till his death, which took place on May 20, 1717, in his official mansion in Chancery Lane. His retention of office is easily accounted for. Having acted as a vile negotiator between the two great political parties, they were equally afraid of him. Neither the Whigs nor the Tories dared to demand his expulsion from office, fearing that in revenge he would make revelations alike disgraceful to all parties concerned."
The arms of Sir Robert Cecil and Sir Harbottle Grimstone gleam in the chapel windows. Swift's detestation, Bishop Burnet, the historian and friend of William of Orange, was preacher here for nine years, and here delivered his celebrated sermon, "Save me from the lion's mouth: thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorn." Burnet was appointed by Sir Harbottle, who was Master of the Rolls; and in his "Own Times" he has inserted a warm eulogy of Sir Harbottle as a worthy and pious man. Atterbury, the Jacobite Bishop of Rochester, was also preacher here; nor can we forget that amiable man and great theologian, Bishop Butler, the author of the "Analogy of Religion." Butler, the son of a Dissenting tradesman at Wantage, was for a long time lost in a small country living, a loss to the Church which Archbishop Blackburne lamented to Queen Caroline. "Why, I thought he had been dead!" exclaimed the queen. "No, madam," replied the archbishop; "he is only buried." In 1718 Butler was appointed preacher at the Rolls by the Sir Joseph Jekyll. This excellent man afterwards became Bishop of Bristol, and died Bishop of Durham.
A few anecdotes about past dignitaries at the Rolls. Of Sir Julius Cæsar, Master of the Rolls in the reign of Charles I., Lord Clarendon, in his "History of the Rebellion," tells a story too good to be passed by. This Sir Julius, having by right of office the power of appointing the six clerks, designed one of the profitable posts for his son, Robert Cæsar. One of the clerks dying before Sir Julius could appoint his son, the imperious treasurer, Sir Richard Weston, promised his place to a dependant of his, who gave him for it £6,000 down. The vexation of old Sir Julius at this arbitrary step so moved his friends, that King Charles was induced to promise Robert Cæsar the next post in the clerks' office that should fall vacant, and the Lord Treasurer was bound by this promise. One day the Earl of Tullibardine, passionately pressing the treasurer about his business, was told by Sir Richard that he had quite forgotten the matter, but begged for a memorandum, that he might remind the king that very afternoon. The earl then wrote on a small-bit of paper the words, "Remember Cæsar!" and Sir Richard, without reading it, placed it carefully in a little pocket, where he said he kept all the memorials first to be transacted. Many days passed, and the ambitious treasurer forgot all about Cæsar. At length one night, changing his clothes, his servant brought him the notes and papers from his pocket, which he looked over according to his custom. Among these he found the little billet with merely the words "Remember Cæsar!" and on the sight of this the arrogant yet timid courtier was utterly confounded. Turning pale, he sent for his bosom friends, showed them the paper, and held a solemn deliberation over it. It was decided that it must have been dropped into his hand by some secret friend, as he was on his way to the priory lodgings. Every one agreed that some conspiracy was planned against his life by his many and mighty enemies, and that Cæsar's fate might soon be his unless great precautions were taken. The friends therefore persuaded him to be at once indisposed, and not venture forth in that neighbourhood, nor to admit to an audience any but persons of undoubted affection. At night the gates were shut and barred early, and the porter solemnly enjoined not to open them to any one, or to venture on even a moment's sleep. Some servants were sent to watch, with him, and the friends sat up all night to await the event. "Such houses," says Clarendon, who did not like the treasurer, "are always in the morning haunted by early suitors;" but it was very late before any one could now get admittance into the house, the porter having tasted some of the arrears of sleep which he owed to himself for his night watching, which he accounted for to his acquaintance by whispering to them "that his lord should have been killed that night, which had kept all the house from going to bed." Shortly afterwards, however, the Earl of Tullibardine asking the treasurer whether he had remembered Cæsar, the treasurer quickly recollected the ground of his perturbation, could not forbear imparting it to his friends, and so the whole jest came to be discovered.
Sir Joseph Jekyll, the Master of the Rolls in the reign of George I., was an ancestor of that witty Jekyll, the friend and adviser of George IV. Sir Joseph was very active in introducing a Bill for increasing the duty on gin, in consequence of which he became so odious to the mob that they one day hustled and trampled on him in a riot in Lincoln's Inn Fields. Hogarth, who painted his "Gin Lane" to express his alarm and disgust at the growing intemperance of the London poor, has in one of his extraordinary pictures represented a low fellow writing J. J. under a gibbet.
Sir William Grant, who succeeded Lord Alvanley, was the last Master but one that resided in the Rolls. He had practised at the Canadian bar, and on returning to England attracted the attention of Lord Thurlow, then chancellor. He was an admirable speaker in the House, and even Fox is said to have girded himself tighter for an encounter with such an adversary. "He used," says Mr. Cyrus Jay, in his amusing book, "The Law," "to sit from five o'clock till one, and seldom spoke during that time. He dined before going into court, his allowance being a bottle of Madeira at dinner and a bottle of port after. He dined alone, and the unfortunate servant was expected to anticipate his master's wishes by intuition. Sir William never spoke if he could help it. On one occasion when the favourite dish of a leg of pork was on the table, the servant saw by Sir William's face that something was wrong, but he could not tell what. Suddenly a thought flashed upon him—the Madeira was not on the table. He at once placed the decanter before Sir William, who immediately flung it into the grate, exclaiming, "Mustard, you fool!"
Sir John Leach, another Master of the Rolls, was the son of a tradesman at Bedford, afterwards a merchant's clerk and an embryo architect. Mr. Canning appointed him Master of the Rolls, an office previously, it has been said, offered to Mr. Brougham. Leach was fond, says Mr. Jay, of saying sharp, bitter things in a bland and courtly voice. "No submission could ameliorate his temper, no opposition lend asperity to his voice.' In court two large fan shades were always placed in a way to shade him from the light, and to render Sir John entirely invisible. "After the counsel who was addressing the court had finished, and resumed his seat, there would be an awful pause for a minute or two, when at length out of the darkness which surrounded the chair of justice would come a voice, distinct, awful, solemn, but with the solemnity of suppressed anger—'the bill is dismissed with costs." No explanations, no long series of arguments were advanced to support the conclusion. The decision was given with the air of a man who knew he was right, and that only folly or villainy could doubt the propriety of his judgments. Sir John was the Prince Regent's great adviser during Queen Caroline's trial, and assisted in getting up the evidence. "How often," says Mr. Jay, "have I seen him, when walking through the Green Park between four and five o'clock in the afternoon, knock at the private door of Carlton Palace. I have seen him go in four or five days following."
Gifford was another eminent Master of the Rolls, though he did not hold the office long. He first attracted attention when a lawyer's clerk by his clever observations on a case in which he was consulted by his employers, in the presence of an important client. The high opinion which Lord Ellenborough formed of his talents induced Lord Liverpool to appoint him Solicitor-General. While in the House he had frequently to encounter Sir Samuel Romilly. Mr. Cyrus Jay has an interesting anecdote about the funeral of Lord Gifford, who was buried in the Rolls Chapel. "I was," he says, "in the little gallery when the procession came into the chapel, and Lord Eldon and Lord Chief Justice Abbott were placed in a pew by themselves. I could observe everything that took place in the pew, it being a small chapel, and noted that Lord Eldon was very shaky, and during the most solemn part of the service saw him touch the Chief Justice. I have no doubt he asked for his snuffbox, for the snuff-box was produced, and he took a large pinch of snuff. The Chief Justice was a very great snuff-taker, but he only took it up one nostril. I kept my eye on the pinch of snuff, and saw that Lord Eldon, the moment he had taken it from the box, threw it away. I was sorry at the time, and was astonished at the deception practised by so great a man, with the grave yawning before him."
When Sir Thomas Plumer was Master of the Rolls, and gave a succession of dinners to the Bar, Romilly, alluding to Lord Eldon's stinginess, said, "Verily he is working off the arrears of the Lord Chancellor."
At the back of the Rolls Chapel, in BowlingPin Alley, Bream's Buildings (No. 28, Chancery Lane), there once lived, according to party calumny, a journeyman labourer, named Thompson, whose clever and pretty daughter, the wife of Clark, a bricklayer, became the mischievous mistress of the good-natured but weak Duke of York. After making great scandal about the sale of commissions obtained by her influence, the shrewd woman wrote some memoirs, 10,000 copies of which, Mr. Timbs records, were, the year after, burnt at a printer's in Salisbury Square, upon condition of her debts being paid, and an annuity of £400 granted her.
Wilberforce's unscrupulous party statement, that Mrs. Clark was a low, vulgar, and extravagant woman, was entirely untrue. Mrs. Clark, however imprudent and devoid of virtue, was no more the daughter of a journeyman bricklayer than she was the daughter of Pope Pius. She was really, as Mr. Cyrus Redding, who knew most of the political secrets of his day, has proved, the unfortunate granddaughter of that unfortunate man, Theodore, King of Corsica, and daughter of even a more unhappy man, Colonel Frederick, a brave, well-read gentleman, who, under the pressure of a temporary monetary difficulty, occasioned by the dishonourable conduct of a friend, blew out his brains in the churchyard of St. Margaret's, Westminster. In 1798 a poem, written, we believe, by Mrs., then Miss Clark, called "Ianthe," was published by subscription at Hookham's, in New Bond Street, for the benefit of Colonel Frederick's daughter and children, and dedicated to the Prince of Wales. The girl married an Excise officer, much older than herself, and became the mistress of the Duke of York, to whom probably she had applied for assistance, or subscriptions to her poem. The fact is, the duke's vices were turned, as vices frequently are, into scourges for his own back. He was a jovial, good-natured, affable, selfish man, an incessant and reckless gambler, quite devoid of all conscience about debts, and, indeed, of moral principle in general. When he got tired of Mrs. Clark, he meanly and heartlessly left her, with a promised annuity which he never paid, and with debts mutually incurred at their house in Gloucester Place, which he shamefully allowed to fall upon her. In despair and revengeful rage the discarded mistress sought the eager enemies whom the duke's careless neglect had sown round him, and the scandal broke forth. The Prince of Wales, who was as fond of his brother as he could be of any one, was greatly vexed at the exposure, and sent Lord Moira to buy up the correspondence from the Radical bookseller, Sir Richard Phillips, who had advanced money upon it, and was glorying in the escapade.
Mr. Timbs informs us that Sir Richard Phillips, used to narrate the strange and mysterious story of the real secret cause of the Duke of York scandal. The exposure originated in the resentment of one M'Callum against Sir Thomas Picton, who, as Governor of Trinidad, had, among other arbitrary acts, imprisoned M'Callum in an underground dungeon. On getting to England he sought justice; but, finding himself baffled, he first published his travels in Trinidad, to expose Picton; then ferreted out charges against the War Office, and at last, through Colonel Wardle, brought forward the notorious great-coat contract. This being negatived by a Ministerial majority, he then traced Mrs. Clark, and arranged the whole of the exposure for Wardle and others. To effect this in the teeth of power, though destitute of resources, he wrought night and day for months. He lodged in a garret in Hungerford Market, and often did not taste food for twenty-four hours. He lived to see the Duke of York dismissed from office, had time to publish a short narrative, then died of exhaustion and want.
An eye-witness of Mrs. Clark's behaviour at the bar of the House of Commons pronounced her replies as full of sharpness against the more insolent of her adversaries, but her bearing is described as being "full of grace." Mr. Redding, who had read twenty or thirty of this lady's letters, tells us that they showed a good education in the writer.
A writer who was present during her examination before the House of Commons, has pleasantly described the singular scene. "I was," he says, "in the House of Commons when Mary Anne Clark first made her appearance at the bar, dressed in her light-blue pelisse, light muff and tippet. She was a pretty woman, rather of a slender make. It was debated whether she should have a chair; this occasioned a hubbub, and she was asked, who the person with her deeply veiled was. She replied that she was her friend. The lady was instantly ordered to withdraw, then a chair was ordered for Mrs. Clark, and she seemed to pluck up courage, for when she was asked about the particulars of an annuity promised to be settled on her by the Duke of York, she said, pointing with her hand, 'You may ask Mr. William Adam there, as he known all about it.' She was asked if she was quite certain that General Clavering ever was at any of her parties; she replied, So certain, that I always told him he need not use any ceremony, but come in his boots.' It will be remembered that General C. was sent to Newgate for prevarication on that account, not having recollected in time this circumstance.
"Perceval fought the battle manfully. The Duke of York could not be justified for some of his acts—for instance, giving a footboy of Mrs. Clark's a commission in the army, and allowing an improper influence to be exerted over him in his thoughtless moments; but that the trial originated in pique and party spirit, there can be no doubt; and, as he justly merited, Colonel Wardle, the prosecutor in the case, sunk into utter oblivion, whilst the Duke of York, the soldier's friend and the beloved of the army, was, after a short period (having been superseded by Sir David Dundas), replaced as commander-in-chief, and died deeply regretted and fully meriting the colossal statue erected to him, with his hand pointing to the Horse Guards."
Cardinal Wolsey lived, at some period of his extraordinary career, in a house in Chancery Lane, at the Holborn end, and on the east side, opposite the Six Clerks' Office. We do not know what rank the proud favourite held at this time, whether he was almoner to the king, privy councillor, Canon of Windsor, Bishop of Lincoln, Archbishop of York, or Cardinal of the Cecilia. We like to think that down that dingy legal lane he rode on his way to Westminster Hall, with all that magnificence described by his faithful gentleman usher, Cavendish. He would come out of his chamber, we read, about eight o'clock in his cardinal's robes of scarlet taffeta and crimson satin, with a black velvet tippet edged with sable round his neck, holding in his hand an orange filled with a sponge containing aromatic vinegar, in case the crowd of suitors should in commode him. Before him was borne the broad seal of England, and the scarlet cardinal's hat. A sergeant-at-arms preceded him bearing a great mace of silver, and two gentlemen carrying silver plates. At the hall-door he mounted his mule, trapped with crimson and having a saddle covered with crimson velvet, while the gentlemen ushers, bareheaded, cried,—"On, masters, before, and make room for my lord cardinal." When Wolsey was mounted he was preceded by his two cross-bearers and his two pillow-bearers, all upon horses trapped in scarlet; and four footmen with pole-axes guarded the cardinal till he came to Westminster. And every Sunday, when he repaired to the king's court at Greenwich, he landed at the Three Cranes, in the Vintrey, and took water again at Billingsgate. "He had," says Cavendish, "a long season, ruling all things in the realm appertaining to the king, by his wisdom, and all other matters of foreign regions with whom the king had any occasion to meddle, and then he fell like Lucifer, never to rise again. Here," says Cavendish, "is the end and fall of pride; for I assure you he was in his time the proudest man alive, having more regard to the honour of his person than to his spiritual functions, wherein he should have expressed more meekness and humility."
One of the greatest names connected with Chancery Lane is that of the unfortunate Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, who, after leading his master, Charles I., on the path to the scaffold, was the first to lay his head upon the block. Wentworth, the son of a Yorkshire gentleman, was born in 1593 in Chancery Lane, at the house of Mr. Atkinson, his maternal grandfather, a bencher of Lincoln's Inn. At first an enemy of Buckingham, the king's favourite, and opposed to the Court, he was won over by a peerage and the counsels of his friend Lord Treasurer Weston. He soon became a headlong and unscrupulous advocate of arbitrary power, and, as Lord Deputy of Ireland, did his best to raise an army for the king and to earn his Court name of "Thorough." Impeached for high treason, and accused by Sir Henry Vane of a design to subdue England by force, he was forsaken by the weak king and condemned to the block. "Put not your trust in princes," he said, when he heard of the king's consent to the execution of so faithful a servant, "nor in any child of man, for in them is no salvation." He died on Tower Hill, with calm and undaunted courage, expressing his devotion to the Church of England, his loyalty to the king, and his earnest desire for the peace and welfare of the kingdom.
Of this steadfast and dangerous man Clarendon has left one of those Titianesque portraits in which he excelled. "He was a man," says the historian, "of great parts and extraordinary endowment of nature, and of great observation and a piercing judgment both into things and persons; but his too good skill in persons made him judge the worse of things, and so that upon the matter he wholly relied upon himself; and discerning many defects in most men, he too much neglected what they said or did. Of all his passions his pride was most predominant, which a moderate exercise of ill fortune might have corrected and reformed; and which was by the hand of Heaven strangely punished by bringing his destruction on him by two things that he most despised—the people and Sir Harry Vane. In a word, the epitaph which Plutarch records that Sylla wrote for himself may not be unfitly applied to him—'that no man did ever pass him either in doing good to his friends or in doing harm to his enemies.' "
Izaak Walton, that amiable old angler, lived for
some years (1627 to 1644) of his happy and contented life in a house (No. 120) on the west side of
Chancery Lane (Fleet Street end). This was many
years before he published his "Complete Angler,"
which did not, indeed, appear till the year before
the Restoration. Yet we imagine that at this time
the honest citizen often sallied forth to the Lea
banks with his friends, the Roes, on those fine
cool May mornings upon which he expatiates so
pleasantly. A quiet man and a lover of peace was
old Izaak; and we may be sure no jingle of money
ever hurried him back from the green fields where
the lark, singing as she ascended higher and higher
into the air, and nearer to the heavens, excelled, as
he says, in her simple piety "all those little nimble
musicians of the air (her fellows) who warble forth
their various ditties with which Nature has furnished them, to the shame of art." Refreshed and
exhilarated by the pure country air, we can fancy
Walton returning homeward to his Chancery Lane
shop, humming to himself that fine old song of
Marlowe's which the milkmaid sung to him as he sat
under the honeysuckle-hedge out of the shower,—
"Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That valleys, groves, or hills, or field,
Or woods, or steepy mountain, yield."
How Byron had the heart to call a man who loved such simple pleasures, and was so guileless and pure hearted as Walton, "a cruel old coxcomb," and to wish that in his gullet he had a hook, and "a strong trout to pull it," we never could understand; but Byron was no angler, and we suppose he thought Walton's advice about sewing up frogs' mouths, &c., somewhat hard-hearted.
North, in his life of that faithful courtier of Charles II., Lord Keeper Guildford, mentions that his lordship "settled himself in the great brick house in Serjeants' Inn, near Chancery Lane, which was formerly the Lord Chief Justice Hyde's, and that he held it till he had the Great Seal, and some time after. When his lordship lived in this house, before his lady began to want her health, he was in the height of all the felicity his nature was capable of. He had a seat in St. Dunstan's Church appropriated to him, and constantly kept the church in the mornings, and so his house was to his mind; and having, with leave, a door into Serjeants' Inn garden, he passed daily with ease to his chambers, dedicated to business and study. His friends he enjoyed at home, and politic ones often found him out at his chambers." He rebuilt Serjeants' Inn Hall, which had become poor and ruinous, and improved all the dwellings in Chancery Lane from Jackanapes Alley down to Fleet Street. He also drained the street for the first time, and had a rate levied on the unwilling inhabitants, after which his at first reluctant neighbours thanked him warmly. This same Lord Keeper, a time-server and friend of arbitrary power, according to Burnet, seems to have been a learned and studious man, for he encouraged the sale of barometers and wrote a philosophical essay on music. It was this timid courtier that unscrupulous Jeffreys vexed by spreading a report that he had been seen riding on a rhinoceros, then one of the great sights of London. Jeffreys was at the time hoping to supersede the Lord Keeper in office, and was anxious to cover him with ridicule.
Besides the Cæsars, Cecils, Throckmortons, Lincolns, Sir John Franklin, and Edward Reeve, who, according to Mr. Noble, all resided in Chancery Lane, when it was a fashionable legal quarter, we must not forget that on the site of No. 115 lived Sir Richard Fanshawe, the ambassador sent by Charles II. to arrange his marriage with the Portuguese princess. This accomplished man, who translated Guarini's "Pastor Fido," and the "Lusiad" of Camoens, died at Madrid in 1666. His brave yet gentle wife, who wrote some interesting memoirs, gives a graphic account of herself and her husband taking leave of his royal master, Charles I., at Hampton Court. At parting, the king saluted her, and she prayed God to preserve his majesty with long life and happy years. The king stroked her on the cheek, and said, "Child, if God pleaseth, it shall be so; but both you and I must submit to God's will, for you know whose hands I am in." Then turning to Sir Richard, Charles said, "Be sure, Dick, to tell my son all that I have said, and deliver these letters to my wife. Pray God bless her; and I hope I shall do well." Then, embracing Sir Richard, the King added, "Thou hast ever been an honest man, and I hope God will bless thee, and make thee a happy servant to my son, whom I have charged in my letter to continue his love and trust to you; and I do promise you, if I am ever restored to my dignity, I will bountifully reward you both for your services and sufferings." "Thus," says the noble Royalist lady, enthusiastically, "did we part from that glorious sun that within a few months after was extinguished, to the grief of all Christians who are not forsaken of their God."
No. 45 (east side) is the "Hole in the Wall" Tavern, kept early in the century by Jack Randal, alias "Nonpareil," a fighting man, whom Tom Moore visited, says Mr. Noble, to get materials for his "Tom Cribb's Memorial to Congress," "Randal's Diary," and other satirical poems. Hazlitt, when living in Southampton Buildings, describes going to this haunt of the fancy the night before the great fight between Neate, the Bristol butcher, and Hickman, the gas-man, to find out where the encounter was to take place, although Randal had once rather too forcibly expelled him for some trifling complaint about a chop. Hazlitt went down to the fight with Thurtell, the betting man, who afterwards murdered Mr. Weare, a gambler and bill-discounter of Lyon's Inn. In Byron's early days taverns like Randal's were frequented by all the men about town, who considered that to wear bird's-eye handkerchiefs and heavy-caped box coats was the height of manliness and fashion.
Chichester Rents, a sorry place now, preserves a memory of the site of the town-house of the Bishops of Chichester. It was originally built in a garden belonging to one John Herberton, granted the bishops by Henry III., who excepted it out of the charter of the Jew converts' house, now the Rolls Chapel.
Serjeants' Inn, originally designed for serjeants alone, is now open to all students, though it still more especially affects the Freres Serjens, or Fratres Servientes, who derived their name originally from being the lower grade or servitors of the Knights Templars. Serjeants still address each other as "brother," and indeed, as far as Cain and Abel go, the brotherhood of lawyers cannot be disputed. The old formula at Westminster, when a new serjeant approached the judges, was, "I think I see a brother."
One of Chaucer's Canterbury pilgrims was a "serjeant of law." This inn dates back as early as the reign of Henry IV., when it was held under a lease from the Bishop of Ely. In 1442 a William Antrobus, citizen and taylor of London, held it at the rent of ten marks a year. In the hall windows are emblazoned the arms of Lord Keeper Guildford (1684). The inn was rebuilt, all but the old dining-hall, by Sir Robert Smirke, in the years 1837–38.
"In 1820 a ray of light strikes the Buildings, for one of the least popular, but by no means the least remarkable, of the Charles Lamb set came to lodge at No. 9. half-way down on the right-hand side as you come from Holborn. There for four years lived, taught, wrote, and suffered that admirable essayist, fine-art and theatrical critic, thoughtful metaphysician, and miserable man, William Hazlitt. He lodged at the house of Mr. Walker, a tailor, who was blessed with, two fair daughters, with one of whom (Sarah) Hazlitt, then a married man, fell madly in love. He declared she was like the Madonna (she seems really to have been a cold, calculating flirt, rather afraid of her wild lover). To his 'Liber Amoris,' a most stultifying series of dialogues between himself and the lodging-house keeper's daughter, the author appended a drawing of an antique gem (Lucretia), which he declared to be the very image of the obdurate tailor's daughter. This untoward but remarkably gifted man, whom Lamb admired, if he did not love, and whom Leigh Hunt regarded as a spirit highly endowed, usually spent his evenings at the 'Southampton;' as we take it, that coffee-house on the left hand, next the Patent Office, as you enter the Buildings from Chancery Lane. It is an unpretending public-house now, with, the quiet, baldlooking coffee-room altered, but still one likes to wander past the place and think that Hazlitt, his hand still warm with the grip of Lamb's, has entered it often. In an essay on 'Coffee-House Politicians,' in the second volume of his 'Table Talk,' Hazlitt has sketched the coterie at the 'Southampton,' in a manner not unworthy of Steele. The picture wants Sir Richard's mellow, Jan Steen colour, but it possesses much of Wilkie's dainty touch and keen appreciation of character. Let us call up, he says, the old customers at the 'Southampton' from the dead, and take a glass with them. First of all comes Mr. George Kirkpatrick, who was admired by William, the sleek, neat waiter (who had a music-master to teach him the flageolet two hours every morning before the maids were up), for his temper in managing an argument. Mr. Kirkpatrick was one or those bland, simpering, self-complacent men, who, unshakable from the high tower of their own self-satisfaction, look down upon your arguments from their magnificent elevation. 'I will explain,' was his condescending phrase. If you corrected the intolerable magnifico, he corrected your correction; if you hinted at an obvious blunder, he was always aware what your mistaken objection would be. He and his clique would spend a whole evening on a wager as to whether the first edition of Dr. Johnson's 'Dictionary' was quarto or folio. The confident assertions, the cautious ventures, the length of time demanded to ascertain the fact, the precise terms of the forfeit, the provisoes for getting out of paying it at last, led to a long and inextricable discussion. Kirkpatrick's vanity, however, one night led him into a terrible pitfall. He recklessly ventured money on the fact that The Mourning Bride was written by Shakespeare; headlong he fell, and ruefully he partook of the bowl of punch for which he had to pay. As a rule his nightly outlay seldom exceeded sevenpence. Four hours' good conversation for sevenpence made the 'Southampton' the cheapest of London clubs.
"Kirkpatrick's brother Roger was the Mercutio to his Shallow. Roger was a rare fellow, 'of the driest humour and the nicest tact, of infinite sleights and evasions, of a picked phraseology, and the very soul of mimicry.' He had the mind of a harlequin; his wit was acrobatic, and threw somersaults. He took in a character at a glance, and threw a pun at you as dexterously as a fly-fisher casts his fly over a trout's nose. 'How finely,' says Hazlitt, in his best and heartiest mood; 'how finely, how truly, how gaily he took off the company at the "Southampton!" Poor and faint are my sketches compared to his! It was like looking into a camera-obscura—you saw faces shining and speaking. The smoke curled, the lights dazzled, the oak wainscoting took a higher polish. There was old S., tall and gaunt, with his couplet from Pope and case at Nisi Prius; Mudford, eyeing the ventilator and lying perdu for a moral; and H. and A. taking another friendly finishing glass. These and many more windfalls of character he gave us in thought, word, and action. I remember his once describing three different persons together to myself and Martin Burney [a bibulous nephew of Madame d'Arblay's and a great friend of Charles Lamb's], namely, the manager of a country theatre, a tragic and a comic performer, till we were ready to tumble on the floor with laughing at the oddity of their humours, and at Roger's extraordinary powers of ventriloquism, bodily and mental; and Burney said (such was the vividness of the scene) that when he awoke the next morning he wondered what three amusing characters he had been in company with the evening before.' He was fond also of imitating old Mudford, of the Courier, a fat, pert, dull man, who had left the Morning Chronicle in 1814, just as Hazlitt joined it, and was renowned for having written a reply to 'Cælebs.' He would enter a room, fold up his great-coat, take out a little pocket volume, lay it down to think, rubbing all the time the fleshy calf of his leg with dull gravity and intense and stolid self-complacency, and start out of his reveries when addressed with the same inimitable vapid exclamation of 'Eh!' Dr. Whittle, a large, plain-faced Moravian preacher, who had turned physician, was another of his chosen impersonations. Roger represented the honest, vain, empty man purchasing an ounce of tea by stratagem to astonish a favoured guest; he portrayed him on the summit of a narrow, winding, and very steep staircase, contemplating in airy security the imaginary approach of duns. This worthy doctor on one occasion, when watching Sarratt, the great chess-player, turned suddenly to Hazlitt, and said, 'I think I could dance. I'm sure I could; aye, I could dance like Vestris.' Such were the odd people Roger caricatured on the memorable night he pulled off his coat to eat beef-steaks on equal terms with Martin Burney.
"Then there was C., who, from his slender neck, shrillness of voice, and his ever-ready quibble and laugh at himself, was for some time taken for a lawyer, with which folk the Buildings were then, as now, much infested. But on careful inquiry he turned out to be a patent-medicine seller, who at leisure moments had studied Blackstone and the statutes at large from mere sympathy with the neighbourhood. E. came next, a rich tradesman, Tory in grain, and an everlasting babbler on the strong side of politics; querulous, dictatorial, and with a peevish whine in his voice like a beaten schoolboy. He was a stout advocate for the Bourbons and the National Debt, and was duly disliked by Hazlitt, we may feel assured. The Bourbons he affirmed to be the choice of the French people, the Debt necessary to the salvation of these kingdoms. To a little inoffensive man, 'of a saturnine aspect but simple conceptions,' Hazlitt once heard him say grandly, 'I will tell you, sir. I will make my proposition so clear that you will be convinced of the truth of my observation in a moment. Consider, sir, the number of trades that would be thrown out of employ if the Debt were done away with. What would become of the porcelain manufacture without it?' He would then show the company a flower, the production of his own garden, calling it a unique and curious exotic, and hold forth on his carnations, his country-house, and his old English hospitality, though he never invited a friend to come down to a Sunday's dinner. Mean and ostentatious, insolent and servile, he did not know whether to treat those he conversed with as if they were his porters or his customers. The 'prentice boy was not yet ground out of him, and his imagination hovered between his grand new country mansion and the workhouse. Opposed to him and every one else was K., a Radical reformer and tedious logician, who wanted to make short work of the taxes and National Debt, reconstruct the Government from first principles, and shatter the Holy Alliance at a blow. He was for crushing out the future prospects of society as with a machine, and for starting where the French Revolution had begun five-and-twenty years before. He was a born disturber, and never agreed to more than half a proposition at a time. Being very stingy, he generally brought a bunch of radishes with him for economy, and would give a penny to a band of musicians at the door, observing that he liked their performance better than all the opera-squalling. His objections to the National Debt arose from motives of personal economy; and he objected to Mr. Canning's pension because it took a farthing a year out of his own pocket.
"Another great sachem at the 'Southampton' was Mr. George Mouncey, of the firm of Mouncey & Gray, solicitors, Staple's Inn. 'He was,' says Hazlitt, 'the oldest frequenter of the place and the latest sitter-up; well-informed, unobtrusive, and that sturdy old English character, a lover of truth and justice. Mouncey never approved of anything unfair or illiberal, and, though good-natured and gentleman-like, never let an absurd or unjust proposition pass him without expressing dissent.' He was much liked by Hazlitt, for they had mutual friends, and Mouncey had been intimate with most of the wits and men about town for twenty years before. 'He had in his time known Tobin, Wordsworth, Porson, Wilson, Paley, and Erskine. He would speak of Paley's pleasantry and unassuming manners, and describe Porson's deep potations and long quotations at the "Cider Cellars." Warming with his theme, Hazlitt goes on in his essay to etch one memorable evening at the 'Southampton.' A few only were left, 'like stars at break of day,' the discourse and the ale were growing sweeter; but Mouncey, Hazlitt, and a man named Wells, alone remained. The conversation turned on the frail beauties of Charles II.'s Court, and from thence passed to Count Grammont, their gallant, gay, and not over-scrupulous historian. Each one cited his favourite passage in turn; from Jacob Hall, the rope-dancer, they progressed by pleasant stages of talk to pale Miss Churchill and her fortunate fall from her horse. Wells then spoke of 'Apuleius and his Golden Ass,' 'Cupid and Psyche,' and the romance of 'Heliodorus, Theogenes, and Chariclea,' which, as he affirmed, opened with a pastoral landscape equal to one of Claude's. 'The night waned,' says the delightful essayist, 'but our glasses brightened, enriched with the pearls of Grecian story. Our cup-bearer slept in a corner of the room, like another Endymion, in the pale rays of a half-extinguished lamp, and, starting up at a fresh summons for a further supply, he swore it was too late, and was inexorable to entreaty. Mouncey sat with his hat on and a hectic flush in his face while any hope remained, but as soon as we rose to go, he dashed out of the room as quick as lightning, determined not to be the last. I said some time after to the waiter that "Mr. Mouncey was no flincher." "Oh, sir!" says he, "you should have known him formerly. Now he is quite another man: he seldom stays later than one or two; then he used to help sing catches, and all sorts." '
"It was at the 'Southampton' that George Cruikshank, Hazlitt, and Hone used to often meet, to discuss subjects for Hone's squibs on the Queen's trial (1820). Cruikshank would sometimes dip his finger in ale and sketch a suggestion on the table.
"While living in that state of half-assumed love frenzy at No. 9, Southampton Buildings, Hazlitt produced some of his best work. His noble lectures on the age of Elizabeth had just been delivered, and he was writing for the Edinburgh Review, the New Monthly, and the London Maga zine, in conjunction with Charles Lamb, Reynolds, Barry Cornwall, De Quincey, and Wainwright ('Janus Weathercock') the poisoner. In 1821 he published his volume of 'Dramatic Criticisms,' and his subtle 'Table Talk;' in 1823, his foolish 'Liber Amoris;' and in 1824, his fine 'Sketches of the Principal English Picture Galleries.'
"Hazlitt, who was born in 1778 and died in 1830, was the son of a Unitarian minister of Irish descent. Hazlitt was at first intended for an artist, but, coming to London, soon drifted into literature. He became a parliamentary reporter to the Morning Chronicle in 1813, and in that wearing occupation injured his naturally weak digestion. In 1814 he succeeded Mudford as theatrical critic on Perry's paper. In 1815 he joined the Champion, and in 1818 wrote for the Yellow Dwarf. Hazlitt's habits at No. 9 were enough to have killed a rhinoceros. He sat up half the night, and rose about one or two. He then remained drinking the strongest black tea, nibbling a roll, and reading (no appetite, of course) till about five p.m. At supper at the 'Southampton,' his jaded stomach then rousing, he ate a heavy meal of steak or game, frequently drinking during his long and suicidal vigils three or four quarts of water. Wine and spirits he latterly never touched. Morbidly self-conscious, touchy, morose, he believed that his aspect and manner were strange and disagreeable to his friends, and that every one was perpetually insulting him. He had a magnificent forehead, regular features, pale as marble, and a profusion of curly black hair, but his eyes were shy and suspicious. His manner when not at his ease Mr. P. G. Patmore describes as worthy of Apemantus himself. He would enter a room as if he had been brought in in custody. He shuffled sidelong to the nearest chair, sat down on the extreme corner of it, dropped his hat on the floor, buried his chin in his stock, vented his usual pet phrase on such occasions, 'It's a fine day,' and resigned himself moodily to social misery. If the talk did not suit him, he bore it a certain time, silent, self-absorbed, as a man condemned to death, then suddenly, with a brusque 'Well, good morning,' shuffled to the door and blundered his way out, audibly cursing himself for his folly in voluntarily making himself the laughing-stock of an idiot's critical servants. It must have been hard to bear with such a man, whatever might be his talent; and yet his dying words were, 'I've led a happy life.'"
That delightful humorist, Lamb, lived in Southampton Buildings, in 1800, coming from Pentonville, and moving to Mitre Court Buildings, Fleet Street. Here, then, must have taken place some of those enjoyable evenings which have been so pleasantly sketched by Hazlitt, one of the most favoured of Lamb's guests:—
"At Lamb's we used to have lively skirmishes, at the Thursday evening parties. I doubt whether the small-coal man's musical parties could exceed them. Oh, for the pen of John Buncle to consecrate a petit souvenir to their memory! There was Lamb himself, the most delightful, the most provoking, the most witty, and the most sensible of men. He always made the best pun and the best remark in the course of the evening. His serious conversation, like his serious writing, is the best. No one ever stammered out such fine, piquant, deep, eloquent things, in half-a-dozen sentences, as he does. His jests scald like tears, and he probes a question with a play upon words. What a keenlaughing, hair-brained vein of home-felt truth! What choice venom! How often did we cut into the haunch of letters! how we skimmed the cream of criticism! How we picked out the marrow of authors! Need I go over the names? They were but the old, everlasting set—Milton and Shakespeare, Pope and Dryden, Steele and Addison, Swift and Gay, Fielding, Smollet, Sterne, Richardson, Hogarth's prints, Claude's landscapes, the Cartoons at Hampton Court, and all those things that, having once been, must ever be. The Scotch novels had not then been heard of, so we said nothing about them. In general we were hard upon the moderns. The author of the Rambler was only tolerated in Boswell's life of him; and it was as much as anyone could do to edge in a word for Junius. Lamb could not bear 'Gil Blas;' this was a fault. I remember the greatest triumph I ever had was in persuading him, after some years' difficulty, that Fielding was better than Smollett. On one occasion he was for making out a list of persons famous in history that one would wish to see again, at the head of whom were Pontius Pilate, Sir Thomas Browne, and Dr. Faustus; but we black-balled most of his list. But with what a gusto he would describe his favourite authors, Donne or Sir Philip Sidney, and call their most crabbed passages delicious. He tried them on his palate, as epicures taste olives, and his observations had a smack in them like a roughness on the tongue. With what discrimination he hinted a defect in what he admired most, as in saying the display of the sumptuous banquet in 'Paradise Regained' was not in true keeping, as the simplest fare was all that was necessary to tempt the extremity of hunger, and stating that Adam and Eve, in 'Paradise Lost,' were too much like married people. He has furnished many a text for Coleridge to preach upon. There was no fuss or cant about him; nor were his sweets or sours ever diluted with one particle of affectation."
Towards the unhappy close of Sheridan's life, when weighed down by illness and debt (he had just lost the election at Stafford, and felt clouds and darkness gathering closer round him), he was thrown for several days (about 1814) into a sponginghouse in Tooke's Court, Cursitor Street, Chancery Lane. Tom Moore describes meeting him shortly before with Lord Byron, at the table of Rogers, and some days after Sheridan burst into tears on hearing that Byron had said that he (Sheridan) had written the best comedy, the best operetta, the best farce, the best address, and delivered the best oration ever produced in England. Sheridan's books and pictures had been sold; and from his sordid prison he wrote a piteous letter to his kind but severely business-like friend, Whitbread, the brewer. "I have done everything," he says, "to obtain my release, but in vain; and, Whitbread, putting all false professions of friendship and feeling out of the question, you have no right to keep me here, for it is in truth your act; if you had not forcibly withheld from me the £12,000, in consequence of a letter from a miserable swindler, whose claim you in particular know to be a lie, I should at least have been out of the reach of this miserable insult; for that, and that only, lost me my seat in Parliament."
Even in the depths of this den, however, Sheridan still remained sanguine; and when Whitbread came to release him, he found him confidently calculating on the representation of Westminster, then about to become vacant by the unjust disgrace of Lord Cochrane. On his return home to his wife, fortified perhaps by wine, Sheridan burst into a long and passionate fit of weeping, at the profanation, as he termed it, which his person had suffered.
In Lord Eldon's youth, when he was simply plain John Scott, of the Northern Circuit, he lived with the pretty little wife with whom he had run away, in very frugal and humble lodgings in Cursitor Street, just opposite No. 2, the chained and barred door of Sloman's sponging-house (now the Imperial Club). Here, in after life he used to boast, although his struggles had really been very few, that he used to run out into Clare Market for sixpennyworth of sprats.
"In pursuance of this suggestion, Captain Armine was ushered into the best drawing-room with barred windows and treated in the most aristocratic manner. It was evidently the chamber reserved only for unfortunate gentlemen of the utmost distinction; it was simply furnished with a mirror, a loo-table, and a very hard sofa. The walls were hung with old-fashioned caricatures by Bunbury; the fire-irons were of polished brass; over the mantelpiece was the portrait of the master of the house, which was evidently a speaking likeness, and in which Captain Armine fancied he traced no slight resemblance to his friend Mr. Levison; and there were also some sources of literary amusement in the room, in the shape of a Hebrew Bible and the Racing Calendar.
"After walking up and down the room for an hour, meditating over the past—for it seemed hopeless to trouble himself any further with the future—Ferdinand began to feel very faint, for it may be recollected that he had not even breakfasted. So, pulling the bell-rope with such force that it fell to the ground, a funny little waiter immediately appeared, awed by the sovereign ring, and having indeed received private intelligence from the bailiff that the gentleman in the drawing-room was a regular nob.
"And here, perhaps, I should remind the reader that of all the great distinctions in life none, perhaps, is more important than that which divides mankind into the two great sections of nobs and snobs. It might seem at the first glance that if there were a place in the world which should level all distinctions, it would be a debtors' prison; but this would be quite an error. Almost at the very moment that Captain Armine arrived at his sorrowful hotel, a poor devil of a tradesman, who had been arrested for fifty pounds and torn from his wife and family, had been forced to retire to the same asylum. He was introduced into what is styled the coffee-room, being a long, low, unfurnished, sanded chamber, with a table and benches; and being very anxious to communicate with some friend, in order, if possible, to effect his release, and prevent himself from being a bankrupt, he had continued meekly to ring at intervals for the last half-hour, in order that he might write and forward his letter. The waiter heard the coffee-room bell ring, but never dreamed of noticing it; though the moment the signal of the private room sounded, and sounded with so much emphasis, he rushed upstairs three steps at a time, and instantly appeared before our hero; and all this difference was occasioned by the simple circumstance that Captain Armine was a nob, and the poor tradesman a snob.
" 'Gentleman in best drawing-room wants breakfast. Gentleman in best drawing-room wants change for a ten-pound note. Breakfast immediately for gentleman in best drawing-room. Tea, coffee, toast, ham, tongue, and a devil. A regular nob!' "
Sloman's has been sketched both by Mr. Disraeli and Mr. Thackeray. In "Vanity Fair" we find it described as the temporary abode of the impecunious Colonel Crawley, and Moss describes his uncomfortable past and present guests in a manner worthy of Fielding himself. There is the "Honourable Capting Famish, of the Fiftieth Dragoons, whose 'mar' had just taken him out after a fortnight, jest to punish him, who punished the champagne, and had a party every night of regular tip-top swells down from the clubs at the West End; and Capting Ragg and the Honourable Deuceace, who lived, when at home, in the Temple. There's a doctor of divinity upstairs, and five gents in the coffee-room who know a good glass of wine when they see it There is a tably d'hote at half-past five in the front parlour, and cards and music afterwards." Moss's house of durance the great novelist describes as splendid with dirty huge old gilt cornices, dingy yellow satin hangings, while the barred-up windows contrasted with "vast and oddly-gilt picture-frames surrounding pieces sporting and sacred, all of which works were by the greatest masters, and fetched the greatest prices, too, in the bill transactions, in the course of which they were sold and bought over and over again. A quick-eyed Jew boy locks and unlocks the door for visitors, and a dark-eyed maid in curling-papers brings in the tea."
The Law Institute, that Grecian temple that has wedged itself into the south-west end of Chancery Lane, was built in the stormy year of 1830. On the Lord Mayor's day that year there was a riot; the Reform Bill was still pending, and it was feared might not pass, for the Lords were foaming at the mouth. The Iron Duke was detested as an opposer of all change, good or bad; the new police were distasteful to the people; above all, there was no Lord Mayor's show, and no man in brass armour to look at. The rioters assembled outside No. 62, Fleet Street, were there harangued by some dirty-faced demagogue, and then marched westward. At Temple Bar the zealous new "Peelers" slammed the old muddy gates, to stop the threatening mob; but the City Marshal, red in the face at this breach of City privilege, re-opened them, and the mob roared approval from a thousand distorted mouths. The more pugnacious reformers now broke the scaffolding at the Law Institute into dangerous cudgels, and some 300 of the unwashed patriots dashed through the Bar towards Somerset House, full of vague notions of riot, and perhaps (delicious thought!) plunder. But at St. Mary's, Commissioner Mayne and his men in the blue tail-coats received the roughs in battle array, and at the first charge the coward mob broke and fled.
In 1815, No. 68, Chancery Lane, not far from the north-east corner, was the scene of an event which terminated in the legal murder of a young and innocent girl. It was here, at Olibar Turner's, a law stationer's, that Eliza Fenning lived, whom we have already mentioned when we entered Hone's shop, in Fleet Street. This poor girl, on the eve of a happy marriage, was hanged at Newgate, on the 26th of July, 1815, for attempting to poison her master and mistress. The trial took place at the Old Bailey on April 11th of the same year, and Mr. Gurney conducted the prosecution before that rough, violent, unfeeling man, Sir John Sylvester (alias Black Jack), Recorder of London, who, it is said, used to call the calendar "a bill of fare." The arsenic for rats, kept in a drawer by Mr. Turner, had been mixed with the dough of some yeast dumplings, of which all the family, including the poor servant, freely partook. There was no evidence of malice, no suspicion of any ill-will, except that Mrs. Turner had once scolded the girl for being free with one of the clerks. It was, moreover, remembered that the girl had particularly pressed her mistress to let her make some yeast dumplings on the day in question. The defence was shamefully conducted. No one pressed the fact of the girl having left the dough in the kitchen for some time untended; nor was weight laid on the fact of Eliza Fenning's own danger and sufferings. All the poor, half-paralysed, Irish girl could say was, "I am truly innocent of the whole charge—indeed I am. I liked my place. I was very comfortable." And there was pathos in those simple, stammering words, more than in half the self-conscious diffuseness of tragic poetry. In her white bridal dress (the cap she had joyfully worked for herself) she went to her cruel death, still repeating the words, "I am innocent." The funeral, at St. George the Martyr, was attended by 10,000 people. Curran used to declaim eloquently on her unhappy fate, and Mr. Charles Phillips wrote a glowing rhapsody on this victim of legal dulness. But such mistakes not even Justice herself can correct. A city mourned over her early grave; but the life was taken, and there was no redress. Gadsden, the clerk, whom she had warned not to eat any dumpling, as it was heavy (this was thought suspicious), afterwards became a wealthy solicitor in Bedford Row.