« PreviousContinue »
“Qul modus tibi fuit frumentiaestimandi’ authonararii?”—Cic.
A MAN constantly on the look-out, can hardly fail of finding something to do. Though my success in Boyle's affair got me very little money, it acquired me some credit for capability. A public inquiry of great national importance was in progress; an insulated matter connected with it, required professional investigation, and many solicitors of ten times my experience having declined the duty, not only because it was unpopular in itself, but attended, as was supposed, with some little personal risk, I was invited to undertake it. I was so very green at this time, that I was unconscious of the favorable position in which I stood, and the advantage it gave me in fixing my own terms, for time pressed; I was to embark
within four-and-twenty hours of receiving my instructions, and as I have noticed, nearly a dozen attorneys having already refused the office, the government was so driven into a corner, that I might have named what compensation I pleased; it would have been promptly given. The same insouciance about the position of my employers, misled me here. I was summoned to the Foreign Office. At the end of a long apartment, busily occupied in papers from which he seemed unwilling to take his eye, sat a young man scarcely older than myself, and dressed in the extreme of fashion, with whiskers and moustaches of no common dimensions; they were at that period much less than at present; his heels were decorated with gilt spurs of extraordinary length; his trousers braided en militaire, and in fact his whole costume partook of the style of military undress. It was not Lord Lyndhurst, then Sir John Copley, though the very next day I recollect meeting this learned Solicitor-General, in consultation with his yet more learned colleague, in precisely the same equipment. It was not till long after, that I found out the title of my dandy instructor; on this occasion I knew not whether he was lord or commoner, patrician or plebeian, beyond what the locality argued. I had been standing some five minutes or more, when he first looked up, eyeing me with a stare compounded of hauteur, scrutiny, and surprise. I thought to myself even then, and very frequently on similar occasions since, how vastly ignorant these great folks are of everything and everybody, beyond the circle of their own little world ! or would it never enter into their imaginations to conceive that even the most juvenile attorney on the roll would be abashed for a single moment by a supercilious official stare: we should indeed have labored in vain at judge’s chambers, and the master’s office, if such petty courtesies of life did not at once secure our self-possession. I never meet with a rude man, especially one who is condesendingly rude, but I immediately vote him.
*** * * * * ~ *
vulgar; and vulgar men are below the level of gentility, let their birth or station be what it may, and therefore below mine! By this little -** syllogism, I can always recall my self-compla: cency, whatever may be the offense. I recommend it strongly to the adoption of my professional brethren.
“What may be your name, Sir?”
“Mr. Gregory Sharpe.” “(Hem.) You are young, Mr. Sharpe.” “Very young, Sir,” taking a chair, for he had not invited me to sit down, so I invited myself. “You are an attorney Ibelieve, Mr. Sharpe?” “I am, Sir.” “Where were you educated ?” I did not choose to understand him, as I thought the catechism verging on the impertinent, so I replied, with a well-founded conviction that it would check his aristocratic condescension; “I am a Cambridge man, Sir.” This little academical sally changed his tone, as I anticipated. “You misunderstand me, Mr. Sharpe, I was alluding to your professional education; pray draw a little nearer, Sir, (I had been sitting near the door :) this is a very important matter, and though you have been strongly recommended to us, I did not expect to see so young a man. You understand French, of course?” “I do, Sir.” “Have you traveled abroad?” “Not on the continent.” An expression of surprise again crossed his features, but it was transient this time.
“Well, Sir, this is a delicate affair; you will I am sure act with prudence and caution; in case of unforeseen difficulty, you will address How soon can
yourself to Sir Charles you start?” “In an hour if you wish it.” “Very well; you will receive vour further instructions from the Attorney-General, and you will write to us by every post. Good morning, Mr. Sharpe,” and I was bowed out accordingly. Extraordinary to say, I was afterwards informed, by good authority too, that I had “made a favorable impression on Lord Cl—!” The Attorney-General was carefully minute in the delivery of his instructions. Sir John Copley lounged into the room for five minutes, examined me with his glass as though I had been a kangaroo, adjusted his black stock before the mirror, played about his spurs with a spruce jockey-whip elegantly mounted with gold, and then lounged out again, with the grace and foppery of a French dancing-master! but I suppose this was in keeping with the saloons of Carlton House. I proceeded on my journey, and succeeded in my mission; it would have been difficult to fail