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PREFACE

TO

THE THIRD EDITION.

In preparing a New Edition of the Lives OF THE CHANCELLORS, I have availed myself of the numerous obliging communications which I have recently received suggesting corrections and additions ;-and from the careful revision which the work has undergone, I hope it may now be found not unworthy of the public patronage with which it has been honoured.

Stratheden House,
April 10, 1848.

PREFACE

TO

THE FIRST EDITION.

а

а

WHEN suddenly freed, in the autumn of 1841, from professional and official occupations, I revelled for a while in the resumption of my classical studies, and in the miscellaneous perusal of modern authors. By degrees I began to perceive the want of a definite object : I recollected what Lord Coke and Lord Bacon say of the debt due from every successful lawyer to his profession ; and I felt within me a revival of the aspiration after literary fame, which, in my most busy days, I was never able entirely to extinguish. Having amused myself with revising for the press "a Selection of my Speeches at the Bar and in the House of Commons," I resolved to write “ THE LIVES OF THE CHANCELLORS."

It is for others to judge how this work is executed, but I am more and more convinced that the subject is happily chosen. “ HISTORIES,” says Lord Bacon, “ do rather set forth the pomp of business than the true and inward resorts thereof. But LIVES, if they be well written, propounding to themselves a person to represent, in whom actions both greater and smaller, public and private, have a commixture, must of necessity contain a more true, native, and lively representation."* In writing the lives of those who have successively filled a great office there is unity of design as well as variety of character and incident, and there is no office in the history of any nation that has been filled with such

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* Advancement of Learning.

a long succession of distinguished and interesting men as the office of Lord Chancellor or Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England. It has existed from the foundation of the monarchy; and although mediocrity has sometimes been the recommendation for it,-generally speaking, the most eminent men of the age, if not the most virtuous, have been selected to adorn it. To an English statesman as well as an English lawyer the narrative ought to be particularly instructive, for the history of the holders of the Great Seal is the history of our constitution as well as of our jurisprudence. There is even sort of romance belonging to the true tale of many of those who are to be delineated, and the strange vicissitudes of their career are not exceeded by the fictions of novelists or dramatists.

I foresaw the difficulties that would beset me sometimes from the want, and sometimes from the superfluity of materials. Struggling with these, I have attempted to present to the reader a clear and authentic account of all who have held the Great Seal of England from the earliest times—adapting the scale of my narrative to the varying importance of what is to be told, and try. ing as I proceed to give a glimpse of the most important historical events, and of the manners of the age.

If I have failed, it will not have been for the want of generous assistance. I wish to speak with the most heartfelt gratitude of the kindness which I have experienced. I have been treated like a shipwrecked mariner cast on a friendly shore—every one eagerly desirous to comfort and to cherish him. In not one single instance since I entered on the undertaking, when I have applied for assistance, have I met with a rebuff; on the contrary, the most eager and disinterested disposition has been evinced to oblige me. Such good offices I have to boast of, not less from political opponents than from political associates, and my thanks are peculiarly due to many clergymen of the Church of England to whom I was personally unknown, and who have devoted much time and trouble in furnishing me with extracts from parish registers, copies of epitaphs, and other local information.

I must be allowed publicly to express my thanks by name to ord Langdale, for the use of bis valuable collection of Extracts

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