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SKETCHES OF THE IRISH BAR.
AN IRISH CIRCUIT.
If any one, tired with the monotonous regularity of a more civilized existence, should desire to plunge at once into another scene, and take refuge from ennui in that stirring complexity of feeling produced by a series of images, solemn, pathetic, ludicrous, and loathsome, each crossing each in rapid and endless succession, I would recommend to him to attend one of the periodical progresses of Irish law through the interior of that anomalous country; and more particularly through one of the southern districts, which, out of deference to Captain Rock, I have selected as the scene of the present sketch.
Going circuit in Ireland, though of great importance to the health of the bar-they would die of stagnation else—is at the outset but a dreary piece of business.* When the time ap
* In Great Britain and Ireland, the Judges go on circuit" twice a year, for the trial of criminal cases and of civil or Nisi Prius suits. Each circuit consists of a certain number of counties, and most of the barristers derive a considerable portion of their incomes from their labors, as advocates, on the circuit. A barrister may change his circuit once-but even this is rare-and the ordinary practice is, having once commenced in one district (usually including the locality of his own relatives and friends), always to continue in it. When a lawyer is called out of his own to plead for plaintiff or defendant in another circuit, it is said that he is "engaged specially," and receives a large fee or honorarium accordingly. The largest "special" fee ever received in England was by one of the present ex-Chancellors, Lord Truro (then Sir Thomas Wilde),
proaches, one can generally perceive, by the faces in the Hall,❤ that it is felt as such. There are, of course, exceptions. A prosperous man, certain of a rich harvest of record-briefs, a crown prosecutor with the prospect of a bumper" in every jail, a sanguine junior confiding in the promise of the defence in a heavy murder case or two to bring him forward-the spirits of these may be as brisk, and their eyes shine as bright, as ever; but, for the most part, the presentiment of useless expense, and discomfort in a thousand forms, predominates. The travelling arrangements are made with a heavy heart; the accustomed number of law-books, each carefully lapped up in its circuit-binding, and never perhaps to be opened till its return, are transferred with a sigh from the shelf to the portmanteau; and the morning of departure from the metropolis, no matter how gay the sunshine or refreshing the breeze, is to many to more than will dare confess it—the most melancholy of the year.
It certainly requires some stoutness of sensibility to face the south of Ireland. I have often heard the metropolis described as an effort of Irish ostentation. The truth of this bursts upon you at every step as you advance into the interior. With the exception of the roads, the best perhaps in Europe, the general aspect of the country proclaims that civilization and happiness are sadly in arrear. Here and there the eye may find a momentary relief in the commodious mansion and tasteful demesne of some opulent proprietor; but the rest of the scene is dismal and dispiriting. To those accustomed to English objects, the most fertile tracts look bare and barren. It is the country, but it has nothing rural about it: no luxuriant hedgerows, no shaded pathways, no cottages announcing by the who had nine thousand guineas, or $46,800, for going out of his circuit to plead in some great property cause. His brief (so called, like lucus a non lucendo, because of the prolixity of such documents) extended to over two thousand pages. From one to five hundred pounds sterling is the usual amount of special" fee. A record-brief means a brief in a civil suit, and takes its name from the action being entered or placed on record in the minutes of the Court, before it can be tried.-M.
* Of "the Four Courts," the Westminster hall of Dublin, and the subject of a subsequent sketch.-M.
TRAVELLING AS IT WAS.
neatness without, that cleanliness and comfort are to be found within; but one undiversified continuity of cheerless stonefences and roadside hovels, with their typhus-beds piled up in front, and volumes of murky smoke forth issuing from the interior, where men and women, pigs* and children, are enjoying the blessings of our glorious constitution.
I travelled in a public conveyance. We were four insidemyself, a barrister, an attorney,† and a middle-aged, low-spirited Connaught gentleman, whom at first, from his despondency, I took to be a recent insolvent, but he turned out to be only the defendant in an impending ejectment-case, which had already been three times decided in his favor. The roof of the coach was covered (besides other luggage) with attorneys' clerks, policemen, witnesses, reporters, &c., &c., all more or less put in motion by the periodical transfer of litigation from town to country. Before our first breakfast was concluded, I had known the names and destination of almost all of them, and from themselves; for it is a trait of Irish character to be on singularly confidential terms with the public. This is sometimes troublesome, for they expect a return in kind; but it is often amusing, and anything is better than the deadly taciturnity of an English traveller. How often have I been whisked
* An Irish peasant being asked why he permitted his pig to take up its quarters with his family, made an answer abounding with satirical naïveté, “ Why not? Doesn't the place afford every convenience that a pig can require ?"
+ In England, during the seventy or eighty years immediately antecedent to railwayism, and formerly in Ireland, the etiquette of the bar prohibited a barrister from sharing a post-chaise with an attorney. The principle involved was that he who had briefs to receive should not be on familiar terms with him who had them to give-such being the relative positions of the respective "limbs of the law" in question. When a barrister was intimate with an attorney, he became liable to the imputation of playing at hugger-mugger, or cherishing him for interested purposes. At one time it was considered scarcely correct for a barrister to dine with an attorney-altogether a practitioner of a lower but very money-making class. All this has passed away. As for travelling, the rule which allowed barrister and attorney to go together in a mail or stage coach, because that was not necessarily tête-à-tête, as necessarily would be in a post-chaise which carried only two persons, extends to railway-carriages, in which all members of the profession, including the Judges themselves, are unavoidably mingled.-M.
along for miles and hundreds of miles with one of the latter species, without a single interchange of thought to enliven the way, with no return to any overture of sociality but defensive hems and predetermined monosyllables!
There is no stout-gentleman-like mystery upon the Irish roads. The well-dressed young man, for example, who sits beside you at the public breakfast-table, after troubling you for the sugar-bowl, and observing that the eggs are musty, will proceed, without further introduction, to tell you, "how his father, a magistrate of the county, lives within three miles and a half of the Cove of Cork,* and what fine shooting there is upon his father's estate, and what a fine double-barrelled gun he (the son) has, and how he has been up to Dublin to attend his college examinations, and how he is now on his way down again to be ready for the grouse"-to the dapper, pimpled-faced personage at the other side of the table, who, while his third cup of tea is pouring out, reveals pro bono publico that he fills a confidential office in the bank of Messrs. and Co., and that his establishment has no less than five prosecutions for forgery at the assizes, and that he is going down to prove
the forgery in them all, et sic de ceteris.
Upon the present occasion, however, there was one exception. Among the outside passengers there were two that sat and breakfasted apart (though there was no want of space at the public table) in a recess, or rather a kind of inner room. One of them, a robust, decent-looking man, if alone, would have excited no particular observation; but the appearance and deportment of his companion, and a strange sort of impression which I could perceive that his presence occasioned, arrested my attention. He was about thirty years of age; had a long, sunken, sallow visage, with vulgar features; coarse, bushy, neglected black hair; shaggy, overhanging brows; and a dark, deep-seated, sulky, ferocious eye. But though his as
* The Cove of Cork, one of the finest harbors in the British dominions, has ceased to be called by that name. A few years ago, on the first visit of Queen Victoria to the south of Ireland, the authorities of Cork, in the toadying and sycophantic spirit which often disgraces municipalities as well as individuals, petitioned the Crown that Cove should be called Queen's-Town. prayer the Queen was graciously pleased to consent. - M.
It consisted of a new
pect was vulgar, his dress was not so. blue coat and trowsers, a showy waistcoat, Wellington boots,* and a gaudy-colored silk neckcloth. Little or no conversation passed between him and his companion, who never separated from him, and seemed assiduous in his care that the best fare the inn afforded should be placed before him. He, however, seemed untouched by the attentions bestowed upon him, either rejecting them gruffly, or accepting them with a hardened, thankless air. His manner was altogether so extraordinary, and the contrast between his haggard, forbidding countenance and his respectable attire so striking, that my curiosity was not a little raised, more especially as I could see that several of the company eyed him with suspicion and dislike, while the waiters approached him with signs of aversion which they took no trouble to conceal. Their meal being concluded, his companion, after paying the bill for both, motioned to him, with a certain air of command, to rise and follow him. He obeyed, and retired in the same sullen, apathetic manner that had marked the rest of his demeanor. From these appearances, my first conjecture was that this must be some unfortunate person of imperfect understanding, who was travelling under the care of a keeper.
Upon resuming my place in the coach, I inquired who he was from one of my fellow-passengers (the barrister), and was undeceived. He was an informer, or, more technically speaking, an approver, one of a party who a year before had perpe
Apropos des bottes! The duke of Wellington, during his earliest popularity, was made sponsor to two articles of wearing apparel. While he was in the Peninsula, they were immortalized in the shape of an epitaph:
"Here lies the duke of Wellington,
Once famed for battles others won;
Who, after making, spending riches,
Bequeathed a name to- -boots and breeches !"-M.
+ The reader may recollect part of the song-writer's description of an Irishman all in his glory" at Donnybrook Fair, with
"A new Barcelona tied round his nate neck."
With many other things, better and worse, Donnybrook Fair, which was held close to Dublin, has passed away. It has been " put down" (like Bartholomew Fair, in London) by the sovereign power of the Lord-Mayor.-M.