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to the discretion of certain of the most ancient of the house, which are in Commons at the time of the offence done.*
The picture thus drawn by Nicholas Bacon represents the Inns of Court in the middle of the sixteenth century, when their collegiate spirit had attained its most perfect and vigorous development. The life led by barristers and students during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, their religious observances, their methods of education, their amusements, their government, their disorders, and their discipline, are richly illustrated in the Black Books of Lincoln's Inn and the Calendar of Inner Temple Records, recently published by order of the Benchers of those Inns. It is impossible, within the limits of this paper, to dwell upon the many topics of great interest which are suggested by a perusal of these Records. But a glance through their pages is indispensable if we wish to realize what the life of a law student was like in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. I propose, therefore, even at the risk of becoming tedious, to make a few extracts from the Black Books of Lincoln's Inn, the principle of selection being simply to take the names of certain Fellows of the Inn between 1450 and 1550, and to trace out the ca as it is briefly recorded in the books of the Society. Many famous names occur in these Records, and amongst them no
* This report was evidently used by Stow in his account of the Inns of Court. The two Reports made by Bacon, Cary, and Denton, are printed verbatim by Waterhouse in his Fortescutus Illustratus. London, 1663, pp. 539-546. He got them from Sir Thomas Witherington. Apparently the originals were formerly in the possession of W. Pierpoint (Burnet, Hist. of Reformation. Oxford, 1829, vol. i. p. 539), whose manuscripts were destroyed in a great fire at Thoresby about 1745 (Notes and Queries, Ist series, vol. xi. p. 495). For these references and other assistance I am indebted to the Librarian and assistant Librarians of Lincoln's Inn.
† Records of Lincoln's Inn. The Black Books, 1422 to 1660, with prefaces by I. Douglas Walker, Q.C. ; Calendar of Inner Temple Records, edited by F. A. Inderwick, Q.C.
name more venerated than that of Sir Thomas More. Under the date Michaelmas, 49 Hen. VI., 1470, there appears the following entry :
“Robert, Abbat of Mussenden, in the County of Buckingham, was admitted and pardoned his vacations, and was allowed to be at repasts; for these liberties he granted to the Society a ‘hoggeshed' of red wine yearly at Christmas as long as he lived."
“ John More was admitted, and pardoned his vacations, and allowed to be at repasts, and to have a clerk in commons for 14d. a week, because as Butler and Steward, which offices he had long held, he had faithfully borne himself and would take no wages for the time when he filled the office of Steward. He was assigned to the chamber late Thomas Ripplyngham's."
This entry is an interesting example of honorary admissions to the Society. The Abbot and the Butler alike are admitted as honorary Fellows, and in each case attendance at the exercises during the learning vacations is excused. The Butler and Steward thus honourably admitted to the fellowship of the House was the grandfather of Sir Thomas More. This is one of several recorded instances in which a faithful servant was rewarded by being admitted as a Fellow of the Inn. John More the younger, son of John More the Butler, and father of Sir Thomas More, became a student of the Inn at some date before 1476, in which year he was elected Master of the Revels, an office held by a student or Inner Barrister. In Michaelmas Term, 1482, he was appointed Butler for the Christmas Revels, and from this it would appear that he had then become an Utter Barrister. The date of his call to the Bench is not recorded, but it must have been before 1488, for in the Christmas vacation of that year he served as Marshal, an officer who was always a Bencher, and whose duty was to maintain order during the merry-making of Christmas-tide. In 1490 he was the Autumn Reader, and in
Michaelmas Term of that year was elected a Governor of the Society. I may note in passing that during the Christmas vacation following there was a great pestilence in London, and it was ordered by the Bench that all Fellows who ought to have kept that vacation (6 Hen. VII.) should be pardoned, but on condition that they should keep another in place of it.
Five years later, in Michaelmas Term, 1494, John More's learning and ability were recognized by his election as Lent Reader, which raised him to the dignity and imposed upon him the considerable labour of a “double-reader.” It may be noted that by order of the Bench this same Michaelmas Term, nine barristers were put out of commons and each fined 40d. “for not providing and preparing for the Moot in Hall, in consequence whereof the Benchers and the rest of the Society had to do without. Ordered that in future every barrister committing the like offence shall pay a fine of 6s. 8d."
It is on the 12th of February, 1496, that the third generation of the More family first appears on the Records of the Inn, in the person of its most illustrious member Thomas More. The entry is as follows: “Feb. 12, 1496. Thomas More was admitted Feb. 12, and pardoned four vacations at the instance of John More, his father.” It appears to have been usual on the admission of a student to remit a certain number of vacations, and thus shorten the necessary period of study before call; but it must not be assumed that the student's preparation necessarily commenced on his admission to an Inn of Court. It seems clear that in very many cases—indeed, it may perhaps be said to have been the rule—the course of legal training began at one of the Inns of Chancery, from which in due course the student passed to an Inn of Court.* Thus Thomas More was at
* Certain Inns of Chancery were dependent on particular Inns of Court. New Inn was attached to the Middle Temple; Clement's Inn, Clifford's Inn, and Lyon's Inn to the Inner Temple ; Thavy's Inn and Furnival's Inn to Lincoln's Inn ; Barnard's Inn and Staple Inn were attached to Gray's Inn,
New Inn before he became a Fellow of Lincoln's Inn. It must, morcover, be remembered that the course of tiaining continued as of obligation for some years after call, and before the barrister was allowed to practice. The date of Thomas More's call does not appear, but it must have been before Michaelmas Term, 1507, when he was elected Butler for the Christmas Vacation. This office must not be confounded with that of Butler of the Inn, which had, as we have seen, been held by Thomas More's grandfather. The Butler for the Christmas revels was elected in the Michaelmas Term of each year, and was an Utter Barrister. His duty was to take charge of the wine and assist the Marshal in keeping order at Christmas-tide. It does not appear in the Records, but Foss says that More was appointed reader at Furnival's Inn, and that this appointment was renewed for three successive years. The readings at Furnival's Inn and Thavy's Inn were always provided by Utter Barristers of Lincoln's Inn, but their names are not usually recorded.
In 1510, however, More was elected to the more important office of Autumn Reader at Lincoln's Inn. By this time his father, John More, had been elevated to the rank of Sergeantat-Law, as appears from an order which is entered in the Black Book under the date November 14, 1510. It is interesting, as illustrating the kind of duty imposed upon the Benchers in connection with the educational work of the Society. It is as follows: "Ordered by Robert Reed, Knight, Chief Justice of the King's Bench, John Boteler, a Justice of the same, John Aleyn, Baron of the Exchequer, John More, Sergeant-at-Law, John Nuport and John Nudegate, Sergeants-at-Law elect, and the Governors and others of the Bench of Lincoln's Inn, in order to preserve and continue the learning within the Inn as hitherto, that every one called to the Bench shall keep all vacations at Autumn and Lent from the time of his call until his first Reading, under a penalty of 20s. for each vacation not kept; after his
first Reading, he shall keep five vacations during the next three years, under a penalty of 5 marks for each vacation not kept." It appears from this and other entries in the Records that at this time, Benchers who had been promoted to the rank of Sergeant-at-Law and to the Judicial Bench, continued, nevertheless, to take part in the government of the Inn. Returning to the story of Thomas More, we find that he, like his father, served as a "double-reader," having been elected, on the Feast of All Saints, 6 Hen. VIII, 1514, Lent Reader for the following year.
His father, John More, was made a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas a year or two later. Thomas More published his Utopia about 1516, and his story passes from Lincoln's Inn and its domestic annals into a larger, sterner, and more pitiless world and takes its place in the history of England. Let me pause to point out again the one striking fact which we gather from these Records, how the traditions of the common law, the old learning and the new, were handed down, at these great societies of the English Bar, from generation to generation by the gratuitous labour of the best men of their time. We have now reached the second decade of the sixteenth century; and to carry on our rapid survey of the Black Books to the time when Nicholas Bacon published his report I have looked for a name more obscure than that of Thomas More, and for that reason, perhaps, more representative; and by mere chance I have taken one Robert Townsend (the spelling varies from year to year), of whom I suppose nothing is known, save what is set down in the Records of Lincoln's Inn. The first entry in which his name occurs is on All Saints' Day, 10 Hen. VIII., 1518, and is as follows :
"Ordered that every Utter Barrister who is called or shall hereafter be called to the Bar in Lincoln's Inn shall keep four vacations next after his call, namely, two Lents and two Autumns, to maintain the learning there, under a penalty of 1os. for cach vacation not kept.