18 DECEMBER 1847, Page 14



The Lives of the Lord•Chancellors and Keepers of the Great Seal of England, from the Earliest Times till the Reign of King George IV. By John Lord Campbell, LL.D., F.R.S.E. [Third Series, from the Birth of Lord Chancellor Loughborough, In 1733, to the death of Lord Chancellor Eldon. in 1838.] Volumes VI. and VII. FICTION, Ifurray. Savinitroog ; or the Queen of the Jungle. By Captain Rafter, late of the 95th Regiment, MISCELLANEOUS LITERATURE, .Longman and Co. Notes from Life ; in Six Essays. By Henry Taylor, Author of "Philip Van Artevelde."



Tars large undertaking closes with the lives of Lords Loughborough, Erskine, and Eldon ; neither the least nor the least interesting persons in the long roll of great men and unscrupulous adventurers who have filled the office of Chancellor. Lord Loughborough was singular as the first Scotchman* who quitted the Edinburgh for the English bar, con- quered the Northern accent after he had reached manhood, and at- tained the honours of the bench and the woolsack. But though remark- able for successful enterprise and industry, he was still more remarkable as a Parliamentary lawyer ; of which unprincipled class he was perhaps the first, and certainly the greatest. Not wanting in resentment when in- jured or insulted, he kept his malice under the control of his judgment, and still more of his interest; so that his vituperation was always cool and measured, and bottled up or suppressed if needs be. Possessing a keen, logical, and highly practical mind, he thoroughly comprehended the errors in conduct of his party for the time being, and during the American war freely commented on them in his private correspondence : but of truth as a thing to struggle for, or suffer for, he had not an idea. His own per- sonal interest was his sole motive of action ; his "acute and flexible logic could support with equal address, and [certainly] with equal in- difference, the adverse sides of every possible question " ; and he changed from side to side in Parliament, with the disregard to consistency and in- sensibility to shame that smaller men continually display in the courts. But the "wary Wedderburn" was a man of the world and a courtier : he never needlessly made a foe, and perhaps, after the maxim of some philosophers of antiquity, always "lived with a friend as if he might be- come an enemy." His manners were polished; his style of living was liberal to the full extent of his means ; and if he had not any real regard for literature, he patronized literary men. Although known as an unscru- pulous adventurer, he seems to have been both popular and trusted, not merely by individuals—as Gibbon and Clive, but by party leaders—as Burke, Fox, and Pitt ; the last two of whom, by the by, he deceived or betrayed. Yet, with all his power and craft, it is instructive to see how he failed at last, the artificer perishing by his own art. The great object of his ambition was the Seals : when he had gained them he felt the un- certainty of ill-gotten place. Upon Pitt's projecting the repeal of the Roman Catholic disabilities after the Irish Union, Lord Loughborough flat- tered and fostered the Protestant prejudices of George the Third, thinking to become the King's Chancellor. But he was playing with a greater craftsman than himself. George the Third thoroughly understood Lord Loughborough; and when Pitt resigned, the Seals were transferred to El- don. The Chancellor, however, was dismissed civilly with an earldom; and he seems to have fancied himself such a personal favourite that he beset the Court. He followed it in the summer to Weymouth; he took an inconvenient villa near Windsor ; he punctually paid his de- voirs on the Terrace, and played the courtier whenever he was invited to join the Royal party. The new Earl of Rosslyn appears to have for- gotten the days when Mr. Wedderburn traded upon "Wilkes and Li- berty." George the Third had a better memory. The Ex-Chancellor died very suddenly : the King carefully examined the messenger, to be sure that he was dead; and then his Majesty was pleased to speak the self-constituted fitvourite's epitaph—" He has not left a greater knave behind him in all my dominions."

Of Erskine as a Chancellor there is nothing good to be said ; 'his eminence as a Parliamentary orator was not striking, though perhaps he owed his want of success in the Senate to the expectations raised by his forensic reputation, as much as to any absolute deficiency ; as a states- man he was " nowhere "; but as an advocate lie stands without a rival at the English bar. He had a mind which could seize the principles df jurisprudence and discriminate between them when they conflicted ; buy reading and practice he had picked up law enough to keep him from mistakes, and enable him to acquire such leading views upon any par- ticular question as would suffice for the jury and the public; he had intellectual comprehension to give largeness and unity to a case, with an elevation which though in reading it may often look like a "counterfeit presentment " of poetry or philosophy, passed as the genuine thing to a Nisi Prius audience. These qualities, however, would not alone have made him the successful advocate he was, without a power and a charm of voice and eye ; a genial spirit, that addressed his audience as fellow men; a knowledge, if not of the human heart, of jury nature; and an in- stinctive appreciation of the characters of the jury, with a perception that noted the changes of their minds from opposition or indifference to implicit assent. The egotism which rendered him ludicrous to a more cultivated and critical class, might find favour from persons inferior to himself, especially as there was nothing offensive in the vanity of " Baron Ego of Eye " ; and the incessant panegyrics upon " trial by jury," which at last disturbed the gravity of the Peerage, were not likely to excite dissatisfaction in jurymen. To the bar Erskine stands forth as the sun of a system, both as an orator and a man, or rather both in court and chambers. But critically speaking, his oratory must be judged of rather by its effects than by its present appearance; for in print his taste seems equivocal—lowered to that of his judges; and though never small or empty, he was often turgid. From the mercenary meannesses of • Lord Mansfield, though born in Scotland, was carried to England at the age of three years, and educated at Oxford.

the profession he was free ; but not untainted by its dishonest subtlety. lie did not scruple to confound the distinctions between right and wrong to obtain a verdict ; or (which if less mischievous was personally more disreputable) to deceive by implied falsehood, and once at least by the in- vention of untruths, for whose accuracy he did not scruple to vouch. In Erskine, however, this was vanity, not any baser motive : he could not brook to be beaten. One defeat on a special retainer rankled till his dying day.

Of Eldon we have already spoken at large, when Mr. Twiss's valuable and elaborate volumes first appeared.f There is nothing new to be said of him; except that the lately published Life of Lord Sidtnouth is skilfully used by Lord Campbell to bring out Lord Eldon's treachery to Addington, when he acted as go-between to the King and Pitt, in order to oust the Premier whose Chancellor he was. Lord Campbell has also obtained some additional matter from several quarters, especially from Peel. Sir Robert has placed in his hands the whole of the correspondence that passed between Eldon and himself when he was Secretary of State. This, however, is not so valuable or interesting as might have been expected. The matter is chiefly of a business kind, with an under- current of double finesse. Still, the life of Eldon by Lord Campbell is an interesting book ; cleverly following Twigs; selecting from his pages, and from Dr. Pellew, Mr. Townsend, and Lord Brougham, the more striking and characteristic matter, and working it up into a fair Whig view, with an occasional quiet deepening of the shadows when he comes to them. To our knowledge little is added; but what the pub- lic know, or might readily learn, is put in other and newer forms, like a "reargued case." The whole, too, is animated by the spirit of a man who feels a living interest in what he is telling, from his knowledge of the ground marched over, and his having actually mingled in many of the frays.

With the latter part of Erskine's career Lord Campbell was equally a contemporary, though much of it was after the great advocate had sunk Into a peer. But he remembers the close of Erskine's advocacy and his Chancellorship ; he can fall back upon the reminiscences of those who remembered Erskine in the days of his glory, and were full of the great barrister, when " plain John Campbell" first entered the profession ; and he has some further advantages besides. Lord Campbell's father was a schoolfellow of Erskine, and the biographer has received assistance from the surviving family of Lord Erskine. Independently of its necessity to the completion of the plan, Lord Campbell's life of Erskine is the best that has been produced.

Of Lord Loughborough Mr. Campbell knew nothing ; but he has been put in the way of evolving Mr. Wedderburn's early life in Edinburgh, when he figured an Elder of the Kirk in the General Assembly, and began his career of broad advocacy by shielding David Hume and Lord Karnes from the sentence of "the greater excommunication" for their in- fidel publications. In this part of his biography Lord Campbell has derived much help from traditional knowledge; but his gieat advantage in the life of Lord Loughborough arises from the family papers having been placed at his disposal by the present Earl of Rosalyn. These possess great interest for the middle period of George the Third's reign, daring the American war, the contention about the Regency in 1788, the tuxes• sion of the Portland Whigs to Pitt's Ministry in 1792, and Pitt's re- signation in 1801. Lords Auckland and Melville have also furnished letters ; and the author has received some information from Miss Cotea, a niece by marriage, of the subject of the biography. When Alexander Wedderburn first came to London in search of for- tune, (in 1757,) George the Second was still living : when Lord Eldon departed full of years and honours, her present Majesty bad ascended the throne. Brought together, these different times indicate wide extremes; and the intervening period is full of great events, with a large portion of which, one or other or each of the subjects was connected. In going over their story, we go over the civil history of eighty years (1767-1838). The leading incidents and characters of this long period are continually touched upon, and many are inextricably connected with the Chancellor. All of these are handled by Lord Campbell fairly in the main, though with a Whig bias : upon some a fuller if not a newer light is thrown. But into such matters we cannot now enter, and must be satisfied with gathering a few arts from the volumes.


He was set down at the Bull and Mouth Ian, behind St. Paula; and he remained quartered there for a few days, till he was lucky enough to be able to hire on mo-

derate terms a small set of chambers in the Temple. • • To his great delight, he found that Sheridan, in whose tam-ti-tom he still placed entire confidence, was in London, negotiating an engagement on the stage, and superintending the publication of his "Lectures on Elocution." The old gentle- man was much flattered by the homage he received from the Scotch advocate, whom he had seen holding such a high position at Edinburgh; and, in considera- tion of this, rather than of the pecuniary compensation offered to him, agreed to take him as a pupil, and to give up to him the greatest portion of his time. She- ridan came daily to the Temple at an early hour in the morning; and, with a short interval for breakfast, they continued talking, reading, reciting, and declaiming together, during the greater part of the day. It being now the depth of the long vacation, they were in little danger of disturbing any student by their loudest tones. in the evenings, when left alone, Wedderburn would open Blackstone and Lord Coke; but such studies excited little interest comparatively in his mind. * • In the middle of October, Sheridan was obliged too over to Ireland on some theatrical business; and his place was supplied by Marlin. This great actor and dramatist, had not yet distinguished himself by his abuse of the Scottish nation; and he professed himself much taken by the sprightly manners and conversation of Wedderburn, to whom he had been introduced by Smollett. He was too much occupied to devote so much time to him as Sheridan had done; but he was more useful in modelling cadences and regulating action. Under these two instructors Wedderburn continued to practise alternately, and sometimes under both on the same day, for many mouths; till by degrees a great change was worked upon

his accent and delivery. ••• • • • •

It is said that in the decline of life Wedderburn's Scotticisms and vernacular tones returned; showing that all the while his "English" was the effect of con- stant effort, which could not continue when his attention was relaxed and his powers were enfeebled. f Spectator, 81st July 1844.


Although hardly any of LordLoughborough's judgments were reversed, it must be confessed that their authority hhaass not been considered very high among lawyers. When Lord Ellenborough was dining at a plus. ne Judge's—having been long engaged in a discussion with him in the druwingroom, the lady of the house stepped up and said, "Come, my Lord; do give us some of your conversation—

you have been talking law long enough." " ," said the Lord Chief Justice, " I beg your pardon: we have not been talking law, or anything like law; we have been talking of one of the decisions of Lord Long1;borough ! "


When the great Lord Chatham was to appear in public, he took much pales about his dress, and latterly he arranged his flannels in graceful folds. It need not then detract from our respect for Erskine, that on all occasions he desired to look smart, and that when he went down into the country on s • retainers he anxiously had recourse to all manner of innocent little artifices to aid his purposes. He examined the court the night before the trial, in order to select the most advantageous place for addressing the jury. On the cause being called, the crowded audience were perhaps kept waiting a few minutes before the cele- brated stranger made his appearance; and when, at length, he gratified their impatient curiosity, a particularly nice wig and a pair of new yellow gloves die- tinguished and embellished his person beyond the ordinary costume of the bar- rister of the circuit.


Being entirely unacquainted with the law of real property, which is so pecu- liarly essential in a court of .equity, he did purchase a copy of the most popular digest upon this subject; and, being caught with a volume of it under his arm, he said, " he was taking a little from his Cruise daily, without any prospect of coming to the end of it." But I cannot find that he made any systematic or vigorous effort to initiate himself in the doctrines of equity; and on the contrary, I have been told, that, finding he got on more smoothly in the Court of Chancery than he expected, he undervalued the difficulties of his situation, and was not much dissatisfied with his own qualifications and his own performances. Gratifying Hargrave with a silk gown, he got this deep though dull lawyer to work oat the authorities for him; and with such assistance, he thought himself equal to most of his predecessors.

The first of the following anecdotes, told by Lord Eldon, and commu- nicated to Lord Campbell by a friend of the Chancellor, has, we believe, a good deal of truth : we suspect George the Third had more ability than the world gives him credit for. The others are very characteristic of madness, and of the men who could transact business with a monarch in such a state of mind.

" He, Lord Eldon, often declared, upon his honour, that he thought his old Mas- ter had more wisdom than all his Ministers conjointly; an opinion which I have heard him support, by declaring that he could not remember having taken to him any state paper of importance which he did not alter, nor one which he did not alter for the -better. But it ought to be added, that this opinion of the superior wisdom of George III. was qualified by the addition Not that I mean to assert that be would have been more wise if his opportunities of gaining knowledge had not been greater than that of any of his servants. But what is the experience of the oldest of them in comparison of his? And though his manner of stating the re- mit of that experience is calculated to mislead casual observers, yet these who will divest his matter of his manner must come to the conviction that it has been gathered by long and laborious application of powers of no ordinary strength.' "After the King's mind had become a wreck, and when its native strength could be traced only by the 'method of madness,' Lord E. would sometimes describe it, after he had been at the Queen's Council. The following is an instance of this; of which I retain a perfectly clear recollection. It was agreed, he related, that if any strong feature of the King's malady appeared during the presence of the Council, Sir H. Raiford should, on receiving a signal from me, endeavour to recall him from his aberrations: and accordingly, when his Majesty appeared to be ad- dressing himself to two of the persons whom he most favoured in his early life, long dead, Sir IL observed, Your Majesty has, I believe, forgotten that —and — both died many years ago." True,' was the reply, died to you, and to the world in general; but not to me. Yon, Sir IL, are forgetting that I have the:power of holding intercourse with those whom you call dead. Yes, Sir IL H., con- tinued he, assuming a lighter manner, 'It is in -vain, as far as I am concerned, that you kill your patients. Yes, Dr. Bailey r-but Bailey—Bailey,' pursued he with assumed gravity, don't know. He is an anatomist—he dissects his patients; and then it would not be a resuscitation only, but a re-creation; and that, I think, is beyond my power.' "After his Majesty had, in 1807, changed the Ministry which was so un*a- table to him, I reappearing as Chancellor, in my former official attire, the King asked, in a whisper, My Lord, is not that the old wig ? ' and receiving the reply, It is, Sir, the old wig;—the-rejoinder was, 'I say, Lord C., why did you keep an old wig? '" The following refers to the period of Canning's accession to the Pre- miership, in 1827. It is a trait of Eldon's acuteness' and an answer to those who -taunt Peel -with late Liberalism; the fact being that ho was doing while others were only talking. " He [Eldon] was dreadfully shocked by the valedictory harangue of Mr. Peel.; which,' he said, ' might have come from the mouth of the vilest Whig." The fact is undeniable,' boasted the retiring Secretary, that when I first entered upon the duties of the Horne Department, there were laws in existence which imposed upon the subjects of this realm unusual and galling restrictions; the fact is un- deniable that those laws have been effaced. I have the further satisfaction of knowing that there is not a single legislative measure connected with my name which has not had for its object some mitigation of the severity of the criminal law, some prevention of abuse in the exercise of it, or some security for its im- partial administration. I may also recollect, with pleasure, that during the seve- rest trials to -which the manufacturing interests have ever been exposed, during the two last years, I have preserved internal tranquillity without applying to Par- liament for any measures of extraordinary severity.' So much was Lord Eldon Corpus Act, Coercion Bills, and the Mitigation of the Criminal Code, that he alarmed by such latitudinarian sentiments respecting Suspensions of the to an old friend, You and I may not live to see it, but the day will come when Mr. Peel will-place himself at the head of the Democracy of England, and will over- throw the Church.'"

We will close our extracts with the last historical theme of the book--- Lord Eldon at the two second readings of the two Reform Bills.


As a Meml■Pr of the House of Commons, I was myself present on the steps if the Throne during this memorable debate, and heard Lord Eldon's impressive speech, which was listened to with the most profound attention on all sides. • • His countenance brightened up when, upon taking the votes of the Peers pre- sent, the rejection of the bill was secure. He was evidently in a state of great delight when the ceremony of " calling proxies" was gone through to increase the majority; and when the Clerk said, " John, Earl of Eldon, bath the proxy of William Lord Stowell," he exclaimed, " Not content I" with much emphasis and exultation. After the fatigue of live night& debate, and his own great effort, he VIM hardly able to support himself when he rose to return home; but Le was con- ducted to his carriage by his friends, who seemed to be congratulating him 02 his share of the great triumph which had been achieved. On reaching Palace Yard, the circumstance to which he refers in his letter to his brother was very striking:—that the mob had entirely dispersed, their patriot- ism being cooled by a long drizzling October night; and, although it was now broad day, no sound was to be heard except the rolling of the carriages of the Peers, who, whether Reformers or Conservatives, passed along Parliament Street SS quietly as if they had come from disposing of a road bill.


After an admirable reply from Earl Grey, which was not concluded till after six in the morning, the House divided. The anxiety was now intense, for it was uncertain which side would have the majority; and this was little abated, when of the Peers present there were 128 content, and 126 not content. Proxies were then called, and Lord Eldon gave a tremulous and desponding " Not content " for Lord Stowell, as, before his name was called, it had been ascertained that the proxies increased the majority from two to nine. I was again present at this division. The victory was borne with great mode- ration by the Reformers within the House; but a very different spectacle presented itself in Palace Yard, from what had been witnessed there in the dawn of the 8th of October preceding. It was a beautiful spring morning, and the sun, already high above the horizon, shone upon immense masses who had all night been in- quiring news as to the different speakers in the House, and the probable result. When the event was_known, they rent the air with their acclamations: however, they were all in good humour; and while Lord Grey was rapturously cheered, I saw Lord Eldon led to his carriage, and drive off, looking more dead than alive, but without receiving insult or annoyance.

In taking leave of the Lives of the Chancellors, we are bound in justice to mark the merit and the luck both of the conception and the execution. The critical defects of the work are indeed numerous and grave. The mind of the author is lawyerlike, not literary. He exhibits great industry in inquiring after and selecting his materials ; considerable acuteness and judgment in arranging them ; sufficient skill and cleverness in presenting them to the reader. But there is little of research, nothing of "exhausting thought." No slow and searching criticism has been applied to the matter. When it has been "perused and settled," the authority is dismissed like an evidence that has been given or a document that is done with. The execution has traits of the same character. It is workmanlike and clearly arranged; the passages marked for use have been judiciously chosen ; they are well introduced, and may be either read or skipped. But it is rather a case well got up than a thoroughly digested biography. There has been so much of " getting through business," with so little of recurrent revision, that some of the best matter is put into foot-notes, and the writer has given so little of preliminary study to his subjects, that he is often dependent on the single authority he may happen to follow ; while in smaller matters, not actually within his own knowledge, it is an even chance whether he is accurate or not : see, for example, his incorrect re- presentation of the repute and status in England of Hume Campbell,—who, by the by, preceded Loughborough in his career of adventure. The bio- grapher is also apt to let his fancy run away with him, and to represent conclusions as truths, though he has no authority for his statements. But the great blemish of the book is a laxity of matter, which occasions needless diffuseness. Lord Campbell sadly wants the "labor lima:." If the Lives of the Chancellors were put into the crucible, a good deal could be driven off, with great advantage to the essential matter. These faults will tell upon the permanent popular attraction of the book : but if they were greater than they are, they could not diminish the happiness of that conception which embraced the entire series of Chancellors in one work ; the judgment which measured the length of the treatment in pretty exact proportion to the reader's interest in the subjects ; the skill which has thrown such a mass of matter into an attractive form; and the un- tiring vigour which throughout sustains and animates so vast an under- taking.