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students there. Accordingly certain propositions were made by the Judges for the reviving of the Readings, and at Lincoln's Inn Mr. Thomas Weld was appointed Reader, but he never read. After the Restoration a long struggle took place between the Judges and the more Conservative members of the Bench on the one side, who wished to restore the Readings, and an active and probably younger party on the other side, who regarded the Readings as unduly troublesome, extravagantly expensive, and of little practical value. Heavy fines were imposed time after time on benchers who refused to read. The result of this was that many leading members of the bar when called to the Bench refused the invitation. The state of things appears from an entry in the Black Book of Lincoln's Inn, of the 15th May, 1677, in which it is recited that :
“In regard severall Barristers of this Society of antient standing have refused to come to the Bench, and considering how few there are likely to succeede those that lately came upp, it is thought very expedient and for the service of this Society, that there be but one Reading from henceforth in every yeare, and likewise but one Reader chosen in each yeare, for this Society. Which is ordered accordingly."
In fact, after this order of 1677, not only one but both readings were discontinued. In October, 1677, Mr. James Stedman was thanked for his reading in the Autumn vacation, but he was the last of the Readers of Lincoln's Inn. The Benchers in 1680 declared their resolution to read in their turns when there should be Readings at the other Inns of Court. Apparently there were no more readings at the other Inns. Roger North says that the last Reading at the Middle Temple was Sir Francis North's in the autumn of 1672, when he was Solicitor-General. His account of it is so realistic that I may be excused for quoting it at length.
“ During his solicitorship his lordship kept his public Reading in the Temple Hall, in the autumnal vacation, in the year 1672. He took for his subject the statute of fines, and under that found means to exhaust all his learning upon that branch of the law which concerned titles and the transferring them, and the arguers against him did their parts also, who were the best lawyers of the Society at that time. As for the feasting part, it was sumptuous and in three or four days' time cost one thousand pounds at least. The grandees of the Court dined there, and of the quality (as they call it) enough; for his diffused relation, general acquaintance and station, as well as prospect of his advancing in the king's service, made a great rendezvous of all the better sort then in town at his feasts.
“He sent out the officers with white staves (for so the way was) and a long list to invite; but he went himself to wait upon the archbishop of Canterbury, Sheldon; for so also the ceremony required. The archbishop received him very honourably, and would not part with him at the stairs' head, as usually had been done; but, telling him he was no ordinary Reader, went down and did not part till he saw him pass at his outward gate. I cannot much commend the extravagance of the feasting used at these Readings; and that of his lordship's was so terrible an example, that I think none hath ventured since to read publicly; but the exercise is turned into a revenue and a composition is paid into the treasury of the society. Therefore one may say, as was said of Cleomenes, that in this respect his lordship was ultimus heroum, the last of the heroes. And the profusion of the best provisions and wine was to the worst of purposes, debauchery, disorder, tumult and waste. I will give but one instance: Upon the grand day, as it was called, a banquet was provided to be set upon the table composed of pyramids and smaller
services in form. The first pyramid was at least four feet high, with stages one above another. The conveying this up to the table, through a crowd that were in full purpose to overturn it, was no small work; but, with the friendly assistance of the gentlemen, it was set whole upon the table. But after it was looked upon a little all went hand over head among the rout in the hall, and for the more part was trod under foot. The entertainment the nobility had out of this, was, after they had tossed away the dishes, a view of the crowd in confusion wallowing one over another, and contending for a dirty share in it.”
Readers are still appointed annually at the Inner and Middle Temple. At the Middle Temple there is a Lent Reader and an Autumn Reader, and each Reader has a feast, to the cost of which he contributes by paying a fee. But there are no Readings.
Roger North survived his brother, Lord Guildford, and lived well into the 18th century. In his old age, he wrote a Discourse on the Study of the Laws, which was not published until 1824. It contains much wise advice to students, expressed in an excellent, if somewhat quaint style. He discusses the course of study and training to which a student for the bar should apply himself, under five heads :-(1) Reading ; (2) Common-placing ; (3) Conversing ; (4) Reporting ; and (5) Practising. Roger North died in the year 1734, about eight years only before Lord Mansfield became Solicitor-General. But the learning to which Roger North directs the student appears to us almost mediæval. It is somewhat surprising to read in a book, which is in many respects so modern, his eulogy of law French. “Some may think,” he says, “that because the law French is no better than the old Norman corrupted and now a deformed hotch-potch of the English and Latin mixed together, it is not fit for a polite spark to foul himself with; but this nicely is so desperate a mistake, that
lawyer and law French are coincident; one will not stand without the other. . For really the law is scarce expressible properly in English, and when it is done, it must be Francoise, or very uncouth.” It is plain from Roger North's Discourse that at the beginning of the 18th century the student for the bar received no training or preparation for the practice of his profession except such as was afforded by private study and attendance at the courts. His only reference to the Inns of Court is in the opening sentences of his discourse, in which he says that :
“Of all the professions in the world, that pretend to book learning, none is so destitute of institution as that of the Common Law. Academick studies, which take in that of the civil law, have tutors and professors to aid them, and the students are entertained in colleges, under a discipline, in the midst of societies, that are, or should be, devoted to study; which encourages, as well as demonstrates, such methods in general as everyone may easily apply to his own particular use. But for the Common Law, however, there are societies which have the outward show or pretence of collegiate institution; yet in reality, nothing of that sort is now to be found in them; and whereas in more ancient times there were exercises used in the Hall, they were more for probation than institution ; now even those are shrunk into mere form, and that preserved only for conformity to rules, that gentlemen by tale of appearances in exercises rather than by any sort of performances, might be entitled to be called to the Bar.”
The form of exercises was maintained until recent times. At Lincoln's Inn they were given up in January, 1856. These “Exercises" were performed in Hall before 32 barristers. The form is described by Lord Brougham in his evidence given before the Select Committee on Legal Education in 1846. “A paper is put into the hands of the
student containing a proposition in law; he maintained that the widow was entitled to her dower, for instance, in certain cases. This is a paper consisting of about seven or eight lines put into his hand by the steward before he goes up, tu what is called, “keep his exercise;" he then comes before one of the benchers and begins and as soon as he has uttered the first words, “I say that the widow shall have her dower," the bencher bows and the student retires and he has kept his “exercise.” Anything therefore more entirely nugatory and more of a mockery as a test of legal acquirement cannot possibly be imagined, though it is certainly a remnant of a practice which in former times must have existed of a real and actual examination.” It was no doubt a relic of the old moots.
According to Lord Campbell, who gave evidence before the same select committee, it was in the early part of the 18th century that it became the practice for students to go into attorneys' offices, and towards the middle of the century the system was established by which it became the almost universal rule for the student to become a pupil for from one to three years in the chambers of a Conveyancer, Equity Draftsman, or Special Pleader. No serious attempt, however, was made to revive the academic teaching of English law until Sir William Blackstone delivered his famous lectures at Oxford, in 1754, and persuaded Mr. Viner, who died in 1755, to endow the Oxford professorship which bears his name. The Inns of Court did not awake to a sense of their responsibility in connection with legal education until about fifty years ago. The attorneys and solicitors had already, in 1831, established their great Society which has done so much to maintain a high standard of education, efficiency and honourabie conduct in their branch of the profession in England. In 1852 the Benchers of the four Inns of Court established the Council of Legal Education, and with the creation of this Council,