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“Mr. Gregory Sharpe.”
“Very young, Sir,” taking a chair, for he had not invited me to sit down, so I invited myself.
“You are an attorney I believe, 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, 1 did not expect to see so young a man. You understand French, of course ? "
“I do, Sir.”
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 yourself to Sir Charles — How soon can you start ?”
“In an hour if you wish it."
“Very well; you will receive vour further instructions froin the Attorney-General, and you will write to us by every post. Good morning, Mr. Sharpe," and I was bowed ont 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 under the guidance of one so clear and so acute as Gifford; I was absent for five weeks, I was only five nights in bed, and received for my services exactly one hundred pounds!!! Had I known my men better, I might have had five times as much.
But the occasions are rare in which a solicitor can with propriety, or indeed with safety, make any ultra-professional stipulations on the subject of costs. Where, as in the case I nave just mentioned, the duty is out of the ordinary course of business, arduous and responsible in itself, and of a nature to carry the attorney away from his daily clients, it is not only competent to him, but usual to provide that he shall receive a specific sum for his services; and as he cannot tell whether by his absence he may not lose other business of the highest and most lucrative kind, he is warranted in demanding a sum equal to what he might have earned on the most liberal scale of costs allowed by the courts, or by practice: thus, had I been occupied in Parliamentary appeals during the five weeks I was abroad, I might have gained five guineas a day, and adding to this a similar fee for the nights which
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!"