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CONFESSIONS OF A JUNIOR BARRISTER.*
My father was agent to an extensive absentee property in the south of Ireland. He was a Protestant, and respectably connected. It was even understood in the country that a kind of Irish relationship existed between him and the distant.proprietor whose rents he collected. Of this, however, I have some doubts; for, generally speaking, our aristocracy are extremely averse to trusting their money in the hands of a poor relation. Besides this, I was more than once invited to dine with a leading member of the family when I was at the Temple, which would hardly have been the case, had he suspected on my part any dormant claim of kindred. Being an eldest son, I was destined from my birth for the Bar. This, about thirty years ago, was almost a matter of course with our secondary gentry. Among such persons it was, at that time, an ohject of great ambition to have “a young counsellor” in the fainily. In itself it was a respectable thing for, who could tell what the “young counsellor” might not one day be? Then it kept off vexatious claims, and produced a general
* This amusing sketch, of which it may be said, " Se non è vero, è ben trovalo," was prefaced with the following notice :-"Mr. Editor: The author of the Irish Bar Sketches seems of late to have suspended his labors: and should he resume them, I question whether it forms any part of his plan to take un the subject upon which I now propose to trouble the public. I trust, therefore, that he will not consider it an act of undue interference with his exclusive rights, if pending liis present silence, I solicit the attention of your readers to the following sketch of myself. It may be vanity on my part, but it does strike my humble judgment that the details I am about to submit, and I shall be candid even against mysilf, have an interest of their own, which will excuse their publication.”The suspension spoken of here was imaginary, as one of the Sketches had appeared in May, ind this was published in July, 1825.--M.
THE DREAMS OF YOUTH.
interested civility in the neighborhood, under the expectation that, whenever any little point of law might arise, the young counsellor's opinion might be had for nothing Times have somewhat changed in this respect. Yet, to this day, the young counsellor who passes the law-vacations among his country friends finds (at least I have found it so) that the old feeling of reverence for the name is not yet extinct, and that his dicta upon the law of trespass and distress for rent are generally deferred to in his own county, unless when it happens to be the assizes’-time.
I passed through my school and college studies with great éclat. At the latter place, particularly toward the close of the course, I dedicated myself to all sorts of composition. I was also a constant speaker in the Historical Society, where I discovered, with no slight satisfaction, that popular eloquence was decidedly my forte. In the cultivation of this noble art, I adhered to no settled plan. Sometimes, in imitation of the ancients, I composed my address with great care, and delivered it from memory : at others, I trusted for words (for I am naturally fluent) to the occasion; but, whether my speech was extemporaneous or prepared, I always spoke on the side of freedom. At this period, and for the two or three years that followed, my mind was filled with almost inconceivable enthusiasm for my future profession. I was about to enter it (I can call my own conscience to witness) from no sordid motives. As to money matters, I was independent; for my father, who was now no more, had left me a profit-rent of three hundred pounds a-year.
No; but I had formed to my youthful fancy an idea of the honors and duties of an advocate's career, founded upon the purest models of ancient and modern times. I pictured to myself the glorious occasions it would present of redressing private wrongs, of exposing and confounding the artful machiriations of injustice; and should the political condition of my country require it, as in all probability it would, of emulating the illustrious men whose eloquence and courage liad so often shielded the intended victim against the unconstitutional age gressions of the state. It was with these views, and not from
a love of “paltry goll,” that I was ambitious to assume the robe. With the confidence of youth, and of a temperament not prone to despair, I felt au instinctive conviction that I was not assuming a task above my strength ; but, notwithstanding my reliance upon my natural powers, I was indefatigable in aiding them, by exercise and study, against the occasions that were to render me famous in my generation. Deferring for: the present (I was now at the Temple)* a regular course of legal reading, I applied myself with great ardor to the acquirement of general knowledge. To enlarge my views, I went through the standard works on the theory of government and legislation. To familiarize my understanding with subtle disquisitious, I plunged into metaphysics; for, as Ben Jonson somewhere says, “le that can not contract the sight of his mind, as well as dilate and disperse it, wanteth a great faculty;" and, lest an exclusive adherence to such pursuits should have the effect of damping my popular sympathies, I duly relieved them by the most celebrated productions of imagination in prose and verse. Oratory was, of course, not neglected. I plied at Cicero and Demosthenes. I devoured every treatise on the art of rhetoric that fell in my way. When alone in my lodgings, I declaimed to myself so often and so loudly, that my landlady and her daughters, who sometimes listened through the keyhole, suspected, as I afterward discovered, that I had lost my wits; but, as I paid my bills regularly and appeared tolerably rational in other matters, they thought it most prudent to connive at my extravagances. During the last winter of my stay at the Temple, I took an active part, as Gale Jones,t to his cost, sometimes found, in the debates of
* Lrish barristers are compelled to “study" at the Temple, or some other Inn of Court, in London, besides eating half their term dinners at the Queen's Inn, Dublin. If an Irislı barrister wish to practise at the English bar, he must first pass two years at a London Inn of Court, and pay the heavy stamp-duties and other charges--thongh lie had already paid them in Dublin.- M.
$ John Gale Jones was a notoriety ~ in his way. He was born in 1771, and before lie had reached the years of manhood, had declared himself enamored of French republican principles, Thence, until his death, in 1838, he was one of the boldest, ablest, and most constant speakers at political meetings in Lon, don. In 1810, he had arraigned the ilouse of Commons at the bar of publir
the British Forum, which had just been opened for the final settlement of all disputed points in politics and morals."
Such were the views and qualifications with which I came to the Irish Bar. It may appear somewhat singular, but so it was, that previous to the day of my call, I was never inside an Irish Court of Justice. When at the Temple, I had occasionally attended the proceedings at Westminster Hall, where a common topic of remark among my fellow-students was the vast superiority of our Bar in grace of manner and classical propriety of diction. I had, therefore, no sooner received the congratulations of my friends on my admission, than I turned into one of the Courts to enjoy a first specimen of the forensic oratory of which I had heard so much. A young barrister of about twelve years' standing was on his legs, and vehemently appealing to the court in the following words : “ Your Lordships perceive that we stand here as our grandmother's administratrix de bonis non; and really, my Lords, it does bumbly strike me that it would be a monstrous thing to say that a party can now come in, in the very teethi of an Act of Parliament, and actually turn us round under color of hanging us up on the foot of a contract made behind our backs.” The Court opinion, and the Commons, instigated by the Government, committed him to Newgate, where he remained until the prorogation of Parliament, wlien he was liberated as a matter of course — neither branch of the Legislature having the power of awarding imprisonment beyond its own Session. He was tried, at Warwick, for sedition, and acquitted through the efforts of his counsel, Sir Samuel Romilly. I heard him speak in 1830, when he was sixty years’old, and even then, though his health was rather broken, he displayed much of the boldness, fluency, and eloquence, which had distinguished him in his prime. Al the ti;ne I heard him, and until his death, his chief means of subsistence were what he obtained by speaking for payment in the political and other discussions which took place at the Rotunda in Blackfriars Road, the Cicernian Coffee House, and other debating societies in London. I remember that on one occasion, when I had ventured to present some matters of fact and figures of aritha mietic against his beautiful flowers of rhetoric, Gale Jones condescended to ad. mit tha: he had been mistaken, and to invite me from the body of the Rotunda, where 1 sat, as a spectator, to the platform where he and the other orator's were placed, On my declining the invitation (thinking that the “post of honor is the private station," in such cases), he requested that I would drink his health, and sint round his own particular" pewier pot,"' out of which he begged that I wo:ld make the friendly libation !-M
admitted that the force of the observation was unanswerable, and granted his motion with costs. On inquiry, I found that the counsel was among the most rising men of the Junior Bar.
For the first three or four years, little worth recording occurred. I continued my former studies, read, but without much care, a few elementary law-books, picked up a stray scrap of technical learning in the courts and the hall, and was now and then employed by the young attorneys from my own county as conducting counsel in a motion of course. At the outset I was rather mortified at the scantiness of my business, for I had calculated upon starting into immediate notice; but being easy in my circumstances, and finding so many others equally unemployed, I ceased to be impatient. With regard to my fame, lowever, it was otherwise. I had brought a fair stock of general reputation for ability and acquirement to the bar; but, having done nothing to increase it, I perceived, or fancied I perceived, that the estimation I had been hield in was rapidly subsiding. This I could not endure; and as no widows or orphans seemed disposed to claim my protection, I determined upon giving the public a first proof of my powers as the advocate of a still nobler cause. An aggregate meeting of the Catholics of Ireland was announced, and I prepared a speech to be delivered on their behalf. I communicated my design to no one, not even to O'Connell, who had often urged me to declare myself; but, on the appointed day, I attended at the place of meeting, Clarendon-street Chapel,
The spectacle was imposing. Upon a platform erected before the altar, stood O'Comell and his staff. The chair which they surrounded had just been taken by the venerable Lord Fingal, whose presence alone would have conferred dig. nity upon any assembly. The galleries were thronged with Catholic beauties, looking so softly patriotic, that even Lord Liverpool would have forgiven in them the sin of a divided allegiance. The floor of the chapel was filled almost to suffocation with a miscellaneous populace, breathing from their looks a deep sense of rights with eld, and standing on tiptoe and with ears erect to catch the sounds of comfort or hope which their leaders had to administer. Finding it impracti