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I steadily devoted to the pressing duty, my re muneration should have amounted to nearly three times the sum that I actually received. But the extraordinary and urgent nature of the duty would have justified me in expecting still further inducement, and under the circumstances, £500 would not have been thought an unreasonable fee by any man acquainted with the profession. Few things are more difficult, than to answer the important preliminary inquiry, “What will the costs be?” Of late years my reply has always been plainly, that I cannot tell; but it was long before experience convinced me, that this is the only safe answer to give. Connected with the subject matter of the last affair, was another in which I lost my client, owing, I believe, to this common error of predicting the amount of costs, whereby five times out of six we mislead our clients, and cramp our own exertions. Mr. Bedworth was an oratorical tradesman of strong politics, and had made himself conspicuous by his ill-judged and ostentatious violence on many occasions. He became obnoxious to the public press, and was libelled and abused as virulently as the fondest lover of notoriety could desire: he applied to me for counsel.
“I am a very ill-used man, Mr. Sharpe.”
“I think you are, Sir, but I thought you were the last man to complain of hard usage in the good cause.”
“That is very true, and I don’t complain; but these detestable papers must be put down. It is a foul shame that this licentious ribaldry —this tyrannical despotism of the press should be tolerated: to a man of less iron nerve than myself, such unmerited calumny would be fatal; to a man more open to suspicion than myself, it would be ruin.” I was not then aware that Mr. Bedworth had been twice a bankrupt, three times insolvent, and, in a word, “on the town’’ for the last five years. “I am bound by principle, Mr. Sharpe, I am impelled by the imperious dictates of honor and conscience, to stand forward on this occasion, and vindicate my fellow-countrymen from a base thraldom, more cruel than the sway of Nero. What will be said of me, what will be thought of me,” laying a fond emphasis on the pronoun, “if I flinch from the patriotic duty!”
My humble opinion was that he would have run a better chance of getting credit for common sense than he ever did before; but that was no affair of mine; men never consult their attorneys to be complimented on their good sense. I remained dumb, while the orator proceeded.
“These are fine days, indeed, Mr. Sharpe, when a man like myself—and I pretend to be nobody, I assure you, though they are pleased to compliment the little talent of public speaking, which nature has blessed me with, but let that pass: I am but a humble individual, exerting myself in my sphere for the public good; I have no higher ambition, I assure you, Sir; and if a seat were offered me tomorrow, (I was invited to stand for the borough where I was born, at the last election; though on public principle, I was obliged to decline, for the deputation could not guarantee me against expense: but this in confidence, Mr. Sharpe—only by the bye—you understand?) I say, Sir, that if I were seated to-morrow, and offered place the next day, I would decline it: I would indeed, Sir, unless conscientiously assured that I could serve my country with credit (as indeed some folks say that I could be very useful): but I am only a humble individual, however kindly my friends may be pleased to think of me; and I repeat, that matters are come to a fine pass indeed, if such a humble and unpretending man as myself cannot take his proper share in the public duty without being scurrilously libelled, and mercilessly and falsely abused l’’ “Really, it is too bad, Mr. Bedworth; I am not surprised at your temper being a little ruffled by it.” “Pardon me, Sir, there you are wrong—quite wrong: I have lived too much before the world to allow my temper to be ruffled by any provocation: no man is fit for public life, who allows his temper to be ruffled. I never was ruffled in my life, Sir; never!” I saw I was in danger, and speedily retreated. “I beg your pardon, Mr. Bedworth. I judged of you by myself; my patience never could have brooked so much contumely and insult; but I was not born for public life.” “True, Mr. Sharpe; very few men are; it was long before I discovered my own peculiar fitness for it; but you are losing sight of the immediate question.” The orator himself had lost sight of it, like many other modern orators; but we must humour our clients a little. “I have indeed, Mr. Bedworth: you quite carried away my feelings, and that I confess, is a great fault in one of my profession; but what course do you intend to take 7” He was flattered by this deferential appeal to his superior sagacity. “Certainly, Mr. Sharpe; I well thought over the subject before I called on you; in fact I gave to it all the powers of my mind: under your correction, Sir, I think that a criminal information is the course.” “That is scarcely usual in cases of private libel, unless the libel is intended to provoke a challenge.” “Private libel, Mr. Sharpel private libel, do you call it, where a base and cowardly attack is made on a public man 7” I was again in imminent peril. “Doubtless, Sir, it is your public character that has induced the libel; but it is nevertheless a libel peculiarly of a private character, to