« PreviousContinue »
IT is pleasant for the professional reader to turn aside
from the main current of denunciation to an eddy of song where the attorney receives only good humoured censure. This is in no less desirable a place than Goldsmith's “ Retaliation.” (1774.)
Mr. Hickey,——“ an eminent Irish attorney,” Professor Masson tells us,—is the capon of that excellent feast at which Garrick was the salad and Burke was “tongue with the garnish of brains." However eminent in his day, Mr. Hickey must be accounted fortunate in having acquired immortality in such goodly company. He was perhaps “ a mere ordinary man," without pretensions to genius; he wrote nothing save his briefs and cognovits, but he obtained by accident a wider fame than some more eminent contemporaries, because though not the rose he dwelt near it. His portrait stands at full length between those of Garrick and Reynolds.
Here Hickey reclines, a most blunt pleasant creature,
He cherished his friend, and he relished a bumper;
I answer, No, no ; for he always was wiser.
Too courteous, perhaps, or obligingly flat?
His very worst foe can’t accuse him of that.
Perhaps he confided in men as they go,
And so was too foolishly honest? Ah no!
Then what was his failing? come tell it, and burn ye,
The indictment is here perhaps less accurately expressed than in the other counts. To be a special attorney—to be appointed by a power of attorney to represent a friend——
might happen to any man ; but to be a general attorney, an attorney-at-law, is a graver offence, and it was this of which Hickey was guilty. Little else is known against him. Like all men who did not sufficiently revere Dr. Goldsmith, he incurred the displeasure of John Forster. Goldsmith’s excursion to Paris in I770, we are told, “ was not made more agreeable to Goldsmith by an unexpected addition to the party in the person of Mr. Hickey—whose habit of coarse raillery was apt to be indulged too freely at Goldsmith’s expense.“ But even Mr. Forster admits that once, at least, Mr. Hickey told the truth. “ Goldsmith sturdily maintained that a certain distance from one of the fountains at Versailles was within reach of a leap, and tumbled into the water in his attempt to establish that position.” \Vith that story Mr. Hickey passes from our view. He was fortunate in his friend.
The name of another attorney who stirred the muse has been mercifully withheld. From An Asylum for Fugitive Piecesfl we learn that
“David Garrick, Esq., some years ago, had occasion to file a Bill in the Court of Chancery against an Attorney at Hampton, to set aside an agreement surreptitiously obtained for the purchase of a House there; and while the late Edmund Hoskins, Esq., was preparing the Draft of the Bill, Mr. Garrick wrote him the following lines :—
“ To his Counsellor and Friend, Edmund Hoskins, Esq., Tom Fool sends greeting.
“ On your care must depend the success of my suit,
’ The Life and Time: of Oliver Goldsmith, 11., 220. i P. 65
One cannot be surprised at the vehemence of Garrick’s detestation. For a litigant to dislike his opponent’s attorney, at least as much as his opponent, is a common case; but when opponent and attorney are combined in one person, one must look for a breach of the peace and may be well content to escape with an epigram. That he should think the attorney whom he sued “the worst of his tribe” was natural; that he should think the best but 50-50 was a little I ungrateful to Sir John Hawkins, who had been at some
pains to secure his admission to the Club, and even inspired Garrick’s successful appeal to the Chancellor in this very matter. Garrick had happened to mention to Sir John the events by which he thought he saw himself deprived of opportunity to purchase a house he wanted, without hope or remedy. Sir John informed him of a similar case in which equity had interfered, looked up the report, and gave Garrick a note of it. This Garrick apparently mislaid, and on the eve of trial Sir John, again appealed to, obtained the volume containing the report, waited at the theatre and handed it to Garrick to give to his solicitor. And Garrick not only forgot in his rhymes what he owed to this friendly attorney, but omitted for months to let his friend know the result of the suit 1* But attorneys in the times of the Georges were a mark for all shafts. It is a little hard to see why; they were poor enough to be liked. Yet the Rev. Mr. Bramston in his Art of Politics notes with approval that,
Now wholesome laws young senators bring in,
Dr. Johnson in the perils of the City he loved, noted that “ here the fell attorney prowls for prey.” Erskine declared to Boswell that he loved him “more than attorneys love by cheats to thrive.” Churchill, writing ten years before Goldsmith devised his “ Retaliation,” congratulated
’ Hawkins’ Life of Yohnson, 2nd Edition, p. 437.
\Narburton, Bishop of Gloucester, on giving up thoughts of the law.
But you, my lord, renounced attorneyship
With better purpOSe and more noble aim,
And wisely played a more substantial game.
The “ game ” of the Church, the revenue of a bishopric, were indeed “ more substantial ” thanthe poor allowances to the attorneys which escaped the taxing master’s censure. But Churchill seems to have judged the class less severely than his contemporaries, and even recognised that they might suffer injustice. He praised Judge Reason (and by implication denounced other judges) because she had not
—basely to anticipate a cause,
The anonymous author of the “ Probationary Odes for the Laureateship ” went further and was willing to allow to one attorney, not indeed virtue, but grammar. Among the persons represented as candidates for the laurel on the death of Whitehead was Sir Cecil Wray, Fox’s opponent in the great \Vestminster Election of I784. But though the words of the ode were stated to be by Sir Cecil, it was announced that “ the spelling” was by Mr. Grojan, Attorney-at-Law. Mr. Grojan, a practitioner in Chancery Lane, was Deputy High Bailiff for Westminster; hence, doubtless, his association with the candidate, and his presence in the queer company which ranged from the Chancellor and the Archbishop of York to Michael Angelo Taylor and Dr. Pretyman. Mr. Pepper Arden, AttorneyGeneral, too, was of the party and sang :
Inditt, my Muse, inditcl subpoena’d is thy lyre.
But in revenge for the distinction allowed to Mr. Grojan, his Official principal, the High Bailiff, from whom Fox recovered swinging damages for his conduct in the scrutiny, is represented as unable to frame a sentence correctly.
With the beginning of the 19th century a more charitable view dawned upon mankind. Even in its worst days the profession must, somehow, have retained some respect, and now, bad as was its general character, there were exceptions admitted. To say that a man was an attorney was now only Primri facz'e evidence that he was a villain; in the time of Dr. Johnson, as declared by the witticism of which he was pleased to be reminded, it had been conclusive proof.
\Vhen Crabbe with fear and trembling described the profession in The Borough, his principal example was, indeed, an unfavourable specimen ; but there was a contrast afforded in honest Archer. Swallow was bad——“ a hard bad man who prey'd upon the weak.”
Lol that small office! there th' incautious guest
And peers about for fat intruding flies.
Swallow’s villainies consisted in recovering a house from his father on behalf of a client, inciting clients to litigation, after giving them a generous dinner (“his way to starve them was to make them eat ”) and lending money on expectant interests. This last practice, not criminal in itself, led on to worse courses. \Vith an hypocrisy doubtless natural in his profession, Swallow joined a Chapel, became treasurer, and declined to part with the funds he received on the ground that as some subscribers were dead, there was no one who could give him a valid discharge. And this sad course of conduct, the poet appeared to think, was the necessary consequence of legal training. The young attorney loses heart.
“ Law, law, alone for ever kept in view,
Since they live by law, they incite to litigation. \Vhen the client’s fierceness abates “ these artists blow, the dying