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O'connell And A Snarling Attorney

Irish Humour Home

O'Connell could be seen to greatest advantage in an Irish court of
justice. There he displayed every quality of the lawyer and the
advocate. He showed perfect mastery of his profession, and he exhibited
his own great and innate qualities. Who that ever beheld him on the
Munster circuit, when he was in the height of his fame, but must have
admired his prodigious versatility of formidable powers. His pathos was
often admirable--his humor flowed without effort or art. What jokes he
uttered!--what sarcasms! How well he worked his case, never throwing
away a chance, never relaxing his untiring energies. How he disposed of
a pugnacious attorney may be gathered from the following:--

For a round volley of abusive epithets nobody could surpass him. One of
his droll comic sentences was often worth a speech of an hour in putting
down an opponent, or in gaining supporters to his side. At Nisi Prius,
he turned his mingled talent for abuse and drollery to great effect. He
covered a witness with ridicule, or made a cause so ludicrous, that the
real grounds of complaint became invested with absurdity.

One of the best things he ever said was in an assize-town on the
Munster circuit. The attorney of the side opposite to that on which
O'Connell was retained, was a gentleman remarkable for his combative
qualities; delighted in being in a fight, and was foremost in many of
the political scenes of excitement in his native town. His person was
indicative of his disposition. His face was bold, menacing, and scornful
in its expression. He had stamped on him the defiance and resolution of
a pugilist. Upon either temple there stood erect a lock of hair, which
no brush could smooth down. These locks looked like horns, and added to
the combative expression of his countenance. He was fiery in his nature,
excessively spirited, and ejaculated, rather than spoke to an audience;
his speeches consisting of a series of short, hissing, spluttering
sentences, by no means devoid of talent of a certain kind. Add to all
this, that the gentleman was an Irish Attorney, and an Orangeman, and
the reader may easily suppose that he was 'a character!'

Upon the occasion referred to, this gentleman gave repeated annoyance to
O'Connell--by interrupting him in the progress of the cause--by speaking
to the witnesses--and by interfering in a manner altogether improper,
and unwarranted by legal custom. But it was no easy matter to make the
combative attorney hold his peace--he, too, was an agitator in his own
fashion. In vain did the counsel engaged with O'Connell in the cause
sternly rebuke him; in vain did the judge admonish him to remain quiet;
up he would jump, interrupting the proceedings, hissing out his angry
remarks and vociferations with vehemence. While O'Connell was in the act
of pressing a most important question he jumped up again, undismayed,
solely for the purpose of interruption. O'Connell, losing all patience,
suddenly turned round, and, scowling at the disturber, shouted in a
voice of thunder--'Sit down, you audacious, snarling, pugnacious
ram-cat.' Scarcely had the words fallen from his lips, when roars of
laughter rang through the court. The judge himself laughed outright at
the happy and humorous description of the combative attorney, who, pale
with passion, gasped in inarticulate rage. The name of ram-cat struck
to him through all his life.

Next: His Encounter With Biddy Moriarty

Previous: A Young Judge Done

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