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Anecdotes Home






There were two barristers at the Irish bar who formed a
singular contrast in their statures. Ninian Mahaffy, Esq., was as much
above the middle size as Mr. Collis was below it. When Lord Redesdale was
Lord Chancellor of Ireland, these two gentlemen chanced to be retained in
the same cause, a short time after his lordship's elevation, and before he
was personally acquainted with the Irish bar. Mr. Collis was opening the
motion, when the lord chancellor observed, "Mr. Collis, when a barrister
addresses the court, he must stand." "I am standing on the bench, my lord,"
said Collis. "I beg a thousand pardons," said his lordship, somewhat
confused. "Sit down, Mr. Mahaffy." "I am sitting, my lord," was the reply
to the confounded chancellor.


The Scotch bar had once to boast in Mr. Erskine, of Cardross, of a pleader
quite as diminutive as Mr. Collis. He had usually a stool brought to him to
stand upon when addressing the court, which gave occasion for a witty
rival once to observe, that "that was one way of rising at the bar."


Lord Kaimes used to relate a story of a man who claimed the honour of his
acquaintance on rather singular grounds. His lordship, when one of the
justiciary judges, returning from the north circuit to Perth, happened one
night to sleep at Dunkeld. The next morning, walking towards the ferry, but
apprehending he had missed his way, he asked a man whom he met to conduct
him. The other answered, with much cordiality, "That I will do with all my
heart, my lord. Does not your lordship remember me? My name's John ----, I
have had the _honour_ to be before your lordship for stealing sheep!" "Oh,
John! I remember you well; and how is your wife? She had the honour to be
before me too, for receiving them, knowing them to be stolen." "At your
lordship's service. We were very lucky; we got off for want of evidence;
and I am still going on in the butcher trade." "Then," replied his
lordship, "we may have the _honour_ of meeting again."


Sergeant Hill, who was much celebrated as a lawyer, and eminently qualified
to find out a case in point on any disputed question, was somewhat
remarkable for absence of mind, the result of that earnestness with which
he devoted himself to his professional duties. On the very day when he was
married, he had an intricate case in his mind, and forgot his engagement,
until reminded of his waiting bride, and that the legal time of performing
the ceremony had nearly elapsed. Being once on circuit, and having occasion
to refer to a law authority, he had recourse as usual to his bag; but, to
the astonishment of the court, instead of a volume of Viner's abridgment,
he took out a specimen candlestick, the property of a Birmingham traveller,
whose bag the learned sergeant had brought into court by mistake.


During the long vacation, the sergeant usually retired to his country seat
at Rowell in Northamptonshire. It happened, during one autumn, that some of
the neighbouring sportsmen, among whom was the present Earl Spencer, being
in pursuit of a fox, Reynard, who was hard pressed, took refuge in the
court-yard of this venerable sage. At this moment the sergeant was reading
a _case in point_, which decided that in a trespass of this kind the owners
of the ground had a right to inflict the punishment of death. Mr. Hill
accordingly gave orders for punishing the fox, as an original trespasser,
which was done instantly. The hunters now arrived with the hounds in full
cry, and the foremost horseman, who anticipated the glory of possessing the
brush, was the first to behold his victim stretched lifeless on the ground,
pinioned to the earth by plebeian pitchforks. The hunters were very anxious
to discover the daring culprit who had presumed to deprive the field and
the pack of their prey; when the venerable sergeant made his appearance,
with his book in his hand, and offered to convince them that execution had
taken place according to legal authority. The sportsmen got outrageous, but
the learned sergeant was not intimidated; he knew the force of his
authorities, and gravely invited the attention of his auditory to a case
from one of the old reporters, that would have puzzled a whole bar of
modern practitioners to controvert. The effect was ludicrous; the
extraordinary appearance of the worthy sergeant, not in his bargown, but in
what these adventurous mortals called a mere bedgown; the quaintness of his
manner, the singularity of the occurrence, and the novelty of the incident,
threw them completely out.







Budaeus, a very learned man, librarian to Francis the First of France, was
one day engaged in deep study, when his servant came running to him in a
great fright, to tell him that the house was on fire. "Go," said he, with
perfect calmness, and hardly raising his eyes from his book, "and inform
your mistress, 'tis her concern, you know I never interfere in domestic
matters."





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