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Lord Campbell has esecuted his task con amore—with a keener delight, probably, than any other article in the collection. The Scotchman who, though of noble birth, to which he himself always attached the highest importarce, owed his success as purely to his own talents and energies as any poor parson's or attorney's son among his predecessors—the illustrious advocate, the greatest master of forensic eloquence that Britain ever produced was also without spot or blemish as a Whig. His career could not be studied without the liveliest curiosity, or commented on without overflowing enthusiasm. His failure both in Parliament and on the Woolsack was too notorious not to be admitted ; and it was the same as to all the vanities, imprudences, and whimsical vagaries of his life and conversation. The character was trans. parent--and with whatever pain and wonder certain specks must be contemplated, it was as a whole a very loveable character. The task, for one who must have lived much in the same society with Lord Erskine's surviving family, could not be altogether an easy one: but the author has acquitted himself with skill. Per. haps he evades some of the most difficult steps-passi dolorosiby a rather too bold affectation of ignorance. “Let this pass. We cannot bear to dwell with any harshness of thought on the frank, chivalrous, kindhearted Erskine.
The most valuable novelties respect the early struggles with poverty. Perhaps the highest-born man in the whole series of Chancellors, we question if any one among them had that mischief to contend with in more humiliating and tormenting extremity. His father, the Earl, never had more than 2001. a-year from his deeply encumbered estate. To support himself, his lady, and his eldest son in the most frugal decency, and educate the second son, Henry, for the Edinburgh bar, completely exhausted his means. Thomas from childhood delighted in his book: he would fain have been sent to college, and, like Henry, followed some learned profession in his native kingdom-but there was no money to pay even the very modest charges of a Scotch university. Most tenderly feeling for his parents' difficulties, he suggested the army—but they had no interest, and could not buy a pair of colours; therefore, though with a particular dislike to the sea, he became a midshipman-and by and bye his delightful temperament reconciled itself to every circumstance of that existence in those rough days—except only the idleness in which most of it was wasted. He resumed his reading-spent every spare sixpence at the bookstalls of seaports—by degrees made himself a fair adept in English Belles Lettres. When the old Earl at last died in the richest odour of Lady.Huntingdonism, he received a small sum as bis patrimony, and he spent every shilling of it in the purchase of an ensigncy-for he had still been hankering after that, as he thought, less irksome and confined course of service.
But he was as poor as an ensign could be--and there was a very slight chance of promotion for him. He might have crept up by slow steps to command a battalion when his bair was grey. Luckily he had the gay audacity to fall in love with and espouse instantly a garrison-town beauty, who had not a farthing, but well deserved to be the heroine of a romance, with a genius for its hero. Then indeed his poverty becaine a serious matter. His fond young wise brought him child after child in the barrackrooin.
He literally could hardly feed and clothe them-his own red coat was the barest in the regiment. But he had still kept to his studies—he was now a very accomplished inan. One day the assizes were held in a neighbouring town; and he had a curiosity to witness the scene, especially because Mansfield presided. His great countryman invited him to dinner. The honourable subaltern delighted the Chief Justice. In the course of the evening he said it had struck him that he could make as fair a speech as any of that day's barristers--examine a witness, too, as adroitly. Lord Mansfield, struck with his buoyant spirit, bis neat and fluent language, and the easy abundance of his humorous illustrations, encouraged him. This was the turning point. Hence-after a few earnest, laborious years—the Advocate whom no jury could resist—he, whom, if he had never been more than an advocate, his biographer might have, with more justice than we can now concede to him, styled • Erskine the Great.'
One question naturally starts up—how did the Honourable Thomas contrive to find means for his however careful family expenditure during the years between his dropping of the epauleite and his participation in the profits of the bar? To this question we find no answer in Lord Campbell's book. We venture to say there never was any doubt that the needful assistance was derived from Henry Erskine, his immediately elder brother, who was rising by that time into considerable employment at the Edinburgh bar. This gentleman appeared in the House of Commons somewhat late in life as Lord Advocate, and did not in that sphere quite sustain the expectations drawn by the English public from his eminent northern success. But his failure in Parliament was, after all, by no means so marked as that of his younger brother-and, coming after his habitudes were fixed for another scene, it in nowise shook the opinion of adequate observers. He appears to have had very much of the fact in conducting a case which so distinguished Thomas, and, in fact, to hare rivalled him as a barrister, excepting only that he never did reach the very highest flight of his declamation. It might be said of Erskine the Great' that he never said or did a foolish thing for a client, very rarely a wise one in his own private capacity. The Lord Advocate seems to have escaped almost entirely the eccentricity of the blood.
This admirable expansion of Lord Brougham's miniature is followed by a careful kit-cat after Mr. Twiss's full-size portrait of Lord Eldon. Whatever additional wrinkles could be supplied by subsequent artists of inferior mark have been inserted—but these were not many; and the novelty is almost wholly in the colouring. Mr. Twiss made no attempt to disguise his own sympathy, except on one isolated question, with his venerable Tory. Lord Campbell has the old Whig pallet in his hand, and dashes in the requisite shadows with the fattest brush of his school. But as no Whig has ventured to complain of Twiss for an inaccurate feature, so no Tory student will be either perplexed or saddened by the gloomier tinges of the successor.
In the Preface to this Series he expresses much gratitude to Sir Robert Peel for the free use of the correspondence between Lord Eldon and himself while colleagues in the Liverpool cabinet, and we turned to the chapter with some expectation of new light—but not much. We have found no new lights at all. It was obvious from letters printed by Mr. Twiss, that during the latter years of that administration Lord Eldon found himself de trop among his colleagues ;-it was plain that Lord Liverpool, from the first a little jealous of his Chancellor, became more and more so, as the private Sunday dinners on liver and bacon at Carlton House grew into a custom ; and it could hardly fail to be surmised that as younger men rose into importance, they also gradually imbibed something of a similar feeling. The incurable old Tory was at all events their incubus. Fully conscious of the weight that his name lent them in the eye of the legal profession, of the Church, and of the real Tories of the aristocracy—they still felt more and more that his authoritative presence was a standing incumbrance. Even if there had been no Catholic Question, he must have been got rid of somehow, not much later than the break
of 1827. As to Sir Robert Peel individually, during many years he had necessarily been in very close personal connexion with Lord Eldon, as leading in the Commons that antiCatholic section of their party, of which the Chancellor was the chief within the Cabinet; and whenever the great judge was attacked by the Whig and Radical lawyerlings in the lower House, his cause was upheld by his young colleague with a
and a dexterity that could have left him nothing to desire. In his letters to his own daughter he more than once speaks on this head, much as an aged father might do of the exertions of a dutiful son. But the difference of years alone was such that strict intimacy could hardly be expected—and even in the letters antecedent by years to the death of Lord Liverpool, we never trace anything of the easy warmth of companionship. As the correspondence, at best stiff, approaches the catastrophe of the cause that originally united them, it is easy to detect the creep
ing on of additional constraint; and if there be somewhat of painful aigreur on the Chancellor's side, that may be pardonedwhile no one can fail to acknowledge and admire the indications of generous and regretful feeling on the other part. It is apparent that the rising chief, after long hesitation, had made up his mind for a complete submission to what seemed a necessity, and that a suspicion of this change had been growing in the old man's mind long before it was announced to him, or perhaps to any second person of any rank. In short, on the ultimate settlement (so called) of 1829, this correspondence, as here produced, leaves our information precisely where it was—that is to say, complete enough as respects George IV., but miserably deficient as to his coercers.
In Lord Campbell's Essay the only new things of the least consequence are three or four anecdotes from the table-talk of Holland House, where, notwithstanding life-long differences of politics, the Chancellor was an honoured guest-a few tolerable facetie from Lincoln's Inn and the Northern Circuit-and some corrections in the detail of the romantic chapter—the love and the elopement—such themes being in every case handled with special care and gusto by this biographer. His Lordship has nowhere indulged himself more largely in the shallow cant of his party than in his review of the great political trials, when Eldon was Attorney-General ; but the whole story of Queen Caroline and Bergami is handled in far better taste ;—the writer makes scarcely any pretence of doubt as to the grossness of the unfor, tunate lady's errors, and the Chancellor's conduct throughout the proceedings in the House of Lords is fairly admitted to have been admirable. As to the Eldonian career generally, he dwells at rather oppressive length on the old stories of underhand intrigue, tears, vows, doubts, and delays; but still shows the feeling of a thoroughbred lawyer in winding up his account of
the greatest lawyer and judge of recent times.' - Primus absque secundo!
Lord Campbell says: “On one occasion when his merits were discussed
among some lawyers, a warm partisan extolled him as a pillar of the Church. No,' retorted another, 'Old Bags may be a buttress, but certainly not a pillar, for he is never seen within its walls.' This is not laid at the right door. The joke, we believe, was made by a celebrated poet, philosopher, and sermon-writer of our time upon himself.
In enumerating the pictures of Lord Eldon he omits the excellent Lawrence in Sir Robert Peel's gallery, and he is in error when he says that the Chancellor was rarely caricatured-HB. had not as yet appeared. He was caricatured over and over by Gilray, and afterwards by George Cruikshank in that spirited
artist's inerriest period—and we are now writing with several HB.'s of him on the screen before us. One represents him walking down St. James's Street, arm-in-arm with H. R. H. the Duke of Cumberland, shortly after the passing of the Catholic Relief Bill --both most desolate, but the likenesses unimpeachable. Another exhibits the ex-Chancellor consoling himself in his private corner at Encombe with the proofs and tokens of Protestant approbation. He is cutting the first slice from a colossal cheese, the tribute of the Cheshire Pittites-and beside it on the board is a monster tumbler, given by the True-blue Glass-blowers' Association, and brimming with porter from some Glorious Memory club in Ire. land. This has the benignant repose of the fine old head in great perfection. We are pretty sure there were half-a-dozen more HB.'s. Punch,' as Lord Campbell truly observes, has been forced to content himself with other ex-Chancellors.
The last sentences of this work must not be omitted here. Lord Campbell evidently penned them after reading a certain clever paper, in a late number of the · Law Review, on the scheme of separating the judicial froin the political functions of the Chan. cellor. Every one knows to what great name it is that that Review owes most of its importance: hence the more to be adinired Lord Campbell's coolness in criticising the article now alluded w as a mere exposition of the views of · Benthamites.' At the same time we beg to say that we have no reason for connecting Lord Brougham in any way with that particular Essay, or the scheme it recommends. On the contrary, we hope and believe that Lord Brougham is, as to the Marble Chair, as sound a Conservative as Eldon, or Lyndhurst, or as Lord Campbell himself—whose obiter dictum touching institutions as old as the Monarchy we have special satisfaction in transcribing :
The new House of Lords has been adorned with an emblazonment of the armorial bearings of all the Lord Chancellors and Keepers of the Great Seal, who have presided on the woolsack since the end of the reign of Edward III. This is a proper compliment to an order which includes many great names, and through a long succession of ages has been the main support of the hereditary branch of our legislature.
• I hope that the line may be continued with increasing reputation to distant generations. In any speculations for abolishing or remodelling the office of Chancellor, I wish Benthamites to consider whether, as it has subsisted since the foundation of the monarchy, it can be safely dispensed with, or materially altered. To ensure the steady march of the Government there must be a great Jurist to guide the deliberations of the Peers, and to assist in the councils of the Sovereign; he cannot do so advantageously without the weight to be derived from a high judicial office, and his political functions are incompatible with the administration of the criminal law. The Clavis Regni must therefore be held by the first Equity or Appellate Judge.