Page images
PDF
EPUB

request he frequently contributed to the Book of Beauty; for example, the verses on Mrs. Lane Fox and Mrs. Verschoyle. He was also in the habit of sending her occasional epigrams, complimentary scraps of verse, or punning notes, like the following:

“The newspapers tell us that your new carriage is very highly varnished. This, I presume, means your wheeled carriage. The merit of your personal carriage has always been to my mind its absence from all varnish. The question requires that a jury should be impannelled.

Or this“Dear Lady Blessington,

“ When you next see your American friend, have the goodness to accost him as follows:

“ In England rivers all are males

For instance, father Thames;
Whoever in Columbia sails,

Finds them ma'mselles or dames.

Yes, there the softer sex presides,

Aquatic I assure ye,
And Mrs. Sippy rolls her tides,

Responsive to Miss Souri.

“ Your ladyship's faithful and

« Devoted servant,

" James Smith."

His bachelorship is thus attested in his niece's album:

6. Should I seek Hymen's tie,
As a poet I die,

Ye Benedicts mourn my distresses !
For what little fame
Is annexed to my name,

Is derived from Rejected Addresses.

His solitary state, however, certainly proceeded rather from too discursive than too limited an admiration of the sex, for to the latest hour of his life he gave a marked pre

quit."

ference to their society, and disliked a dinner-party composed exclusively of males.

The two following are amongst the best of his good things. A gentlemen with the same christian and sir-name took lodgings in the same house. The consequence was, eternal confusion of calls and letters. Indeed the postman had no alternative but to share the letters equally between the two. “This is intolerable, sir,” said our friend, "and you must

“Why am I to quit more than you?” “Because you are James the Second-and must abdicate.

Mr. Bentley proposed to establish a periodical publication, to be called The Wit's Miscellany. Smith objected that the title promised too much. Shortly afterwards the publisher came to tell him that he had profited by the hint, and resolved on calling it Bentley's Miscellany. “Isn't that going a little too far the other way," was the remark.

A capital pun has been very generally attributed to him. An actor named Priest was playing at one of the principal theatres. Some one remarked at the Garrick Club that there were a great many men in the pit. “Probably clerks who have taken Priest's orders.” The pun is perfect, but the real proprietor is Mr. Poole, one of the best punsters as well as one of the cleverest comic writers and finest satirists of the day. We remember hearing James Smith remark, that he clearly preceded Mr. Dickens in the line which first acquired the Pickwick Papers their popularity.

As lawyers, we are glad to be able to add that he had an unfeigned respect for the profession, and would often regret the manner in which it was losing its individual character by becoming blended with the world. He would fain have brought back the times when it was as much a matter of course for a judge to reside in Bloomsbury as for a barrister to have chambers in an inn of court, and we have heard him frequently state that, when lord Ellenborough set the present fashion by moving to St. James's Square, the circum

ness.

stance gave general dissatisfaction, and was a prominent topic in the newspapers for a week.

In those days, it was customary on emergencies for the judges to swear affidavits at their dwelling-houses. Smith was desired by his father to attend a judge's chambers for that purpose, but being engaged to dine in Russell Square at the next house to Mr. Justice Holroyd's, he thought he might as well save himself the disagreeable necessity of leaving the party at eight by despatching his business at once: so a few minutes before six, he boldly knocked at the judge's, and requested to speak to him on particular busi

The judge was at dinner, but came down without delay, swore the affidavit, and then gravely asked what was the pressing necessity that induced our friend to disturb him at that hour. As Smith told the story, he raked his invention for a lie, but finding none fit for the purpose, he blurted out the truth :

“The fact is, my lord, I am engaged to dine at the next house -and-and

6. And, sir, you thought you might as well save your own dinner by spoiling mine?

"Exactly so, my lord, but-
“Sir, I wish you a good evening.'”

Though he brazened the matter out, he said he never was more frightened; for he had a prescriptive reverence for legal dignitaries, and we doubt whether an invitation from one of the royal family would have given him more gratification than an invitation from a judge. We well remember the pleasure with which he dwelt upon a dinner at baron Gurney's, where he met lord Denman; and his attachment to lord Abinger was based full as much on that distinguished person's unrivalled forensic reputation, as on his general acquirements, literary taste, polished manners and sociability.

He was rather fond of a joke on his own branch of the

[ocr errors]

profession; he always gave a peculiar emphasis to the line in his song on the contradictions in names :

“ Mr. Makepeace was bread an attorney." and would frequently quote Goldsmith's lines on Hickey, the associate of Burke and other distinguished cotemporaries:

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

“ He cherished his friend, and he relished a bumper;

Yet one fault he had, and that was a thumper.
Then, what was his failing ? come, tell it, and burn ye:
He was, could he help it? a special attorney."

[ocr errors]

The following playful colloquy in verse took place at a dinner-table between sir George Rose and himself, in allusion to Craven Street, Strand, where he resided :

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

" J.S.- At the top of my street the attorneys abound,

And down at the bottom the barges are found :
Fly, Honesty, fly to some safer retreat,
For there's craft in the river, and craft in the street.'

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

6 Sir G. R. Why should Honesty fly to some safer retreat,

From attorneys and barges, od rot 'em?
For the lawyers are just at the top of the street,
And the barges are just at the bottom.'

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

He had a proper, unaffected, philosophical respect for rank, but he had formed too true and precise an estimate of his own position to be ever otherwise than at his ease, and no one knew better that the great charm of society is the entire absence of pretension and subserviency--the thorough, practical, operating conviction in the minds of all present that they are placed for the time on a perfect footing of equality.

He had a keen relish for life, but he spoke calmly and indifferently about dying—as in the verses on revisiting Chigwell :

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

“I fear not, Fate, thy pendant shears :
There are who pray for length of years,

To them, not me, allot 'em

the

Life's cup is nectar at the brink,
Midway, a palatable drink,

And wormwood at the bottom."

This is not quite reconcileable with a remark he once made to the writer, that if he could go back to any former period of his life, he would prefer going back to forty. He was about that age when he first came into celebrity.

On the occasion of another visit to Chigwell he wrote thus :

“ World, in thy ever busy mart,
I've acted no unnoticed part-

Would I resume it?-Oh, no-
Four acts are done—the jest grows stale,
The waning lamps burn dim and pale,

And reason asks-cui bono."

We are informed by his friend and physician, Dr. Paris, by whose skill and attention his life was more than once unexpectedly prolonged, that he did not suffer much during his last illness. He died on the 24th December, 1839, and was buried in the vaults under St. Martin's Church. The funeral, by his own desire, was strictly private.

ART. III.-CODIFICATION AND REFORM OF THE LAW,-NO. 9.

THERE are certain maxims of the common law which have been deemed fundamental, and therefore adhered to with great constancy by the courts, but which the law-makers have sometimes thought proper to abrogate or modify. Of these are the rule in Shelley's case, and the rule that a limitation after a dying without issue shall be construed to intend an indefinite failure of issue.

In the state of Virginia it has been provided by statute,

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »