Page images


“Non nostrum inter vos tantas componere lites.”—ECL. III.

It was my destiny, for a long time, to fall in with most unmanageable clients. I have no doubt that every solicitor who has to make his own connexion, as it is called, meets with the same adventures, more or less; but I cannot help thinking that I have had more than my fair share. There are two classes of clients that I have always found especially fickle and difficult to please; and yet in the first instance, they are always the most confiding and apparently the most docile. Docility is a great point in a client: some attorneys will laud ductility as a better virtue, and very near akin to it; I will not dispute this, when the client has the other properties of gold; but by docility, I mean something between ductility, pliability, and capability: whereas clients of the classes I am about to mention have very seldom any of either of these good qualities after their first or second interview.

Whatever wears a petticoat, whether ladies or clergymen, is an absolute nuisance in an attorney's office. I have given a specimen of both, but not exactly in the character to which I now allude.

One day when I was meditating gravely on the past, and speculating anxiously on the future, each foot on the hob, and leaning back in my office chair, which began now to exhibit a little of the professional dignity of fading morocco, a portly gentleman, with a rosy face that confessed to a daily bottle of port for at least forty summers, was announced as “the Venerable the Archdeacon Tithestraw.” I rose, and bowed, and offered him the professional throne on which I had been myself seated, not, I protest, from any obsequious deference, though I own to certain pleasurable anticipations of an exchequer suit, but simply because my mind misgave me as to the sufficiency of any other chair in the room, adequate to his safe reception, in point of strength and capacity.

“ You are a Cambridge man, Mr. Sharpe?”

“I have that honor, Sir.”
“May I ask what college?”

So many Cantabrigian sins rushed to my conscience, though it had slumbered over them for years in peace, that I was awe-struck by the interrogatory, not less than by the pom. posity of his tone, and the inflated dignity of his manner.

“Certainly, Sir; but excuse me for first inquiring why you ask?”

“Sir, I am unfortunately compelled, by conscientious principles, to erabark in a controversy of the most painful nature with one of my parishioners; and as mine is a peculiar, indeed I may say a very uncommon case, I would fain avail myself of the assistance of a legal adviser whose sympathies, not less than his professional zeal, would be enlisted in my behalf. I heard in our combination-room, that you and I, Sir, were both children of the same Alma Mater, and hence I inquired your college to assure myself of your identity."

This long-winded enunciation of himself and his business, did not by any means prepossess me in favor of my visitor: however, six and cight-pence is worth having, come from what pocket it may, so I declared my col. lege, and satisfied his doubts: he then proceeded.


“It is most painful, Sir, to any man who feels the due importance of the pastoral relation, to be involved in a controversy with a parishioner about the temporalities of the church; but we owe a duty to our successors, which is too frequently opposed to our natural inclination to yield, rather than assert by law, our most undoubted rights.”

The sentiment was awfully impressive, and might possibly be sincere. I bowed, and hemmed acquiescence.

"I need not remind you, Sir, that though in the present day, and for some centuries past, that revolution that occurred in our ecclesiastical polity in the days of the eighth Henry, completely secularized all property in tithes, and subjected them to the manifold incidents of a lay-fee, yet on the acknowledged principles of our common law, spiritual persons alone are entitled to receive them.”

The Archdeacon now became awfully learned! I again bowed and hemmed, but with somewhat nuore of the hem critical, than the hem acquiescent: he advanced in his syllogism.

“I, Sir, am a spiritual person, as my card has doubtless assured you. I am the vicar of Dumbleton cum Quagland, in the county of Lincoln; and by virtue of the endowment, I claim, as of indisputable right, all the tithes of hay, wool, agistment, sheep, calves, poultry, and garden stuff, and all oblations, mortuaries, and dues thereto belonging, or in any way appurtenant to the same.”

It admitted of no question; on my part it would have been downright folly to doubt it: my assent to the position was this time most cordial.

“Easter offerings, Sir, are, as you of course well know, dues of common right.”

IIe paused, as if for a professional confirmation of the dogma, but I knew nothing about it, though I was afraid to say so. My policy. was to parry the thrust by a simple

“Well, Sir?'

“I may be wrong, Sir; I do not pretend to be an authority in such matters, but the slight research which my clerical duties have allowed me to make into them, has taught me to consider this as an axiom in law; for I find it 80 laid down by my Lord Coke, and also


« PreviousContinue »