He died of an apoplexy, at York House, on the 30th of April, [A. D. 1596.] there is 1596, and was buried in Westminster Abbey, where there is a monument erected to his memory.

Lord Keeper Puckering was a mere lawyer, having no intercourse with scholars or men of fashion, and mixing with statesmen only when, in the discharge of his official duties, he was drawn among them from the society of Judges, Benchers, and Readers, in which he delighted. No sonnet was ever addressed to him. He probably never read the "Faery Queen," or heard of WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE, who was now rising into fame. Hence no personal anecdotes of him have descended to us, and for his history we are obliged chiefly to resort to musty rolls and records. Nevertheless, there can be no doubt that he was much respected, and looked up to in his own time.*

The only charge ever brought against him was, that he sold his church patronage; and this was supposed to have arisen from the corrupt practices of some of his officers, which never came to his knowledge.†

Lord Koeper Puckering was the last of four individuals who successively died in the reign of Elizabeth holding the Great Seal. In spite of the foibles imputable to her, it is impossible not greatly to admire her enlightened and steady administration of the state. In the preceding and succeeding reigns we find frequent changes in the high offices under the Crown from the personal caprice of the Sovereign or the uncontrolled struggles of opposing factions; but she had the same prime minister for forty years, and she never

* Law_books_were dedicated to him in flattering phrase. CROMPTON, the author of "L'Authoritie et Jurisdiction des Courts de la Majestie de la Roygne," thus addresses him :

A Monseigneur,

Monseigneur Jehan Puckering, Chiv.

Gardien du Grand Sceau Dangleterre,
Et Conseillier d'estate a Sa Majesté.


M'estant retire aux champs et en ma maison, pour le soulagement de ma veeillesse, et aiant employé journellement quelque heure de loisir à composer ce petit recueil pour aider a l'industrie de ceux qui sans telles collections seroient aulcunes fois, peult estre, empeschés a passer de l'oeil tant et de si gros volumes, Jay trouves bon me confiant en vostre naifue bonte et courtoisie, de vous dedicr treshumblement ce mien petit ouvrage. Et cela dautant plus hardement, que Je sache ny estre contenue aulcune chose qui soit de ma propre invention, ou qui puisse pur sa nouveaulte estre desagreable ny a sa Majesté ni a vostre Seigneure, que tant Je honore et au quel Je souhaite le comble de tout honeur et felicité.

De vostre Seigneurie

Le tres humble et affectioné Serviteur,

This is a curious specimen of the dialect which English lawyers then used in their writings, and continued to use till the 18th century.

I Intra hunc annum (MDXCVI) nonnulli insignioris notæ et nobilitatis ex hujus vitæ statione evocati fuerunt; e quibus inprimis memorandus Joannes Puckeringus, Magni Angliæ Sigilli Custos, qui ob famulorum sordes et corruptelas in ecclesiasticis beneficiis nundinandis, ipse vir integer apud ecclesiasticos haud bene audivit."-Camden, vol. ii. p. 128.

took the Great Seal from any Keeper or Chancellor to whom she had intrusted it.

Puckering left behind him a large estate, acquired by his industry, without such royal grants as had swelled the possessions of his predecessors.--In the reign of Charles II. his family ended in a female.*



On the death of Sir John Puckering, Queen Elizabeth, according to her usual practice, was herself Chancellor;

but on this occasion only for a very short time, [APRIL 30, 1596.] having speedily made up her mind as to the mode in which the office was to be disposed of. On Saturday, the 1st of May, she sent Sir John Fortescue to York House for the "Clavis Regni," and he, having received it from the officers of the late Lord Keeper, brought it to her at Greenwich. At the palace there a sealing took place on the 3d of May, when Lord Cobham and Lord Buckhurst by her orders, and in her presence, and in her name, sealed all writs and processes ready to be issued, restoring the Seal to its silken purse, and leaving it with her Majesty, who kept it in her bed-chamber.f

Three days afterwards she delivered it, with the applause of the whole nation, to Sir THOMAS EGERTON, and he held it uninterruptedly for a period of twenty-one years.

It is refreshing now to have to contemplate the life of a man remarkable alike for talent, learning, and probity, who raised himself from obscurity by his own exertions, and who reached the highest honours without affixing any stain on his character, and with merit so acknowledged that he did not even excite the envy of rivals.

He was the natural son of Sir Richard Egerton, of an old

* This lady, whose name was Jane Puckering, when only sixteen years of age, while walking in Greenwich Park, on the 26th of September, 1649, was seized by several armed men, who put her on horseback and carried her to Erith. There she was introduced to one James Welsh, who pretended to have been long in love with her. Forcing her into a cutter he set sail for Flanders, and confined her many months in a nunnery there,-till at last she was induced through fear to marry him. As soon as she recovered her liberty she fled to England, and took legal means to invalidate the marriage. It was accordingly declared null by Chief Justice Rolle and other commissioners appointed by the parliament to adjudicate upon it. She afterwards intermarried with Sir John Bate of Carleton, in the county of Leicester, but died without issue-Stem in Coll. Arm. Clutterbuck's History of Herts. † Rot. Cl. 38 Eliz, p. 14.

knightly race in Cheshire, and was born in the parish of Doddlestone, in that county, in the year 1540. His mother's name was Sparks, from whom he is said to have inherited great beauty of countenance.* The tradition of the country is that he was nursed by a farmer's wife at Lower Kinnerton, in the neighbourhood, -and that being carried, while a child, to Doddlestone Hall, which he afterwards purchased when Chancellor, he expressed an eager desire to rise in the world, and to become the owner or it.-He appears to have been very tenderly and carefully reared, and to have been acknowledged and cherished by his father's family. From their kindness he had the advantage of a regular education. Every thing else he achieved for himself.

Having been well grounded in Latin and Greek under private tuition, in his sixteenth year he was entered of Brasen Nose College, Oxford. Here he remained three years, to the great contentment of his teachers; and, besides extending his knowledge of the classics, he particularly distinguished himself by his proficiency in the logic of Aristotle, which then constituted, and still constitutes, so important a branch of the studies of that University. He was destined to the profession of the law, for which it was well judged that, by his habits and turn of mind, he was apt; and having taken his bachelor's degree, he was removed to Lincoln's Inn. He now not only gave himself to the perusal of Bracton and Fleta, but he diligently attended the lectures of the Readers" and the "Mootings," to which students were admitted in his Inn i and he was present at all remarkable pleadings and trials which took place at Westminster. It is related that he first gave earnest of his future eminence by interposing as Amicus Curia, while yet a student, when a verdict was about to be pronounced which would have ruined a worthy old lady who kept a house of public entertainment in Smithfield. Three graziers had deposited a sum of money with her, to be returned to them on their joint application. One of them, fraudulently pretending that he had authority to receive it, induced her to give him the whole of the money, and absconded with it. The other two brought their action against her; and (as the story goes) were about to recover, when young Egerton begged permission to befriend the Court, by pointing out a fatal objection which had escaped her Counsel as well as my Lord Judge. Said he: "This money, by the contract, was to be returned to three, but two only sue;-where is the third? let him appear with the others; till then the money cannot be demanded from her." This turned the fortune of the day; the plaintiffs were nonsuited, and our young student was from that day considered to be of great mark and likelihood.†

* The place where his parents met is still pointed out to travellers under the name of Gallantry Banke."


This "traditionary story," although the law of it be unexceptionable, I consider an invention, as much as Miss Edgeworth's anecdote of the young barrister, who, being junior in a case at nisi prius to try the validity of a will of personal

He by no means confined himself, like Serjeant Puckering, to the learning of real actions, but made himself a general jurist; and although there was not then such a custom as has been established within the last forty years, for young gentlemen to prepare themselves for the Court of Chancery exclusively, by spending their whole time, while they are keeping terms, in drawing bills and answers, he paid more attention than perhaps any one before him had done to the nature, and extent, and history of the equitable jurisdiction of the Lord Chancellor; and he now laid the foundation of that knowledge which he afterwards displayed in his writings on this subject, and in his decrees when he himself held the Great Seal.*

Being called to the bar, he soon got into respectable practice, which steadily increased. In a few years, although he never took the degree of the coif, and therefore he could not practise in the Court of Common Pleas, there were few cases of importance in the Court of Queen's Bench, in the Chancery, or the Exchequer, in which he was not counsel.

It is well known that Queen Elizabeth took a lively interest in all suits in which her revenue, or any of her rights, were concerned, and personally exercised a superintendence over the manner in which they were conducted. It is related, that happening to be in Court when Mr. Egerton was pleading in a cause against the Crown, her Majesty exclaimed: "On my troth, he shall never plead against me again," and immediately made him one of her counsel; whereby he was entitled to wear a silk gown, and to have precedence over other barristers. But he continued not only to argue the cases of his clients in Court, but most laboriously to assist in advising upon the witnesses to be called and the evidence to be adduced;-rather mixing what we consider the distinct functions of the attorney and the counsel.†

property, when it came to his turn to address the jury, made his fortune by bringing out an objection which he had carefully concealed from his leader. But the fair writer had an undoubted right to dispense both with the forms of legal process, and with professional etiquette.

I take my anecdote from the Reverend Francis Egerton's Life of Lord Ellesmere," the worst piece of biography I have ever had the misfortune to be condemned to read.

[ocr errors]

* On an examination of the books of the Society of Lincoln's Inn, the only entries respecting him are one of 22 Eliz, when it was resolved that Mr. Egerton should be called to the bench next moot, and that he should have ancientie of Mr. Clerk and Mr. Owen;" and one of 29 Eliz., when, being Solicitor General, he was appointed Treasurer. He appears to have attended Councils regularly till 27th May, 35 Eliz., after which, his name is not to be found in the list of benchers present.

[ocr errors]

† I give as a specimen a letter from him to a country client, respecting the progress of a suit in Chancery. There can be little doubt of his perfect sincerity respecting the evidence of the entry to avoid the fine, but his language reminds me of an anecdote I have heard of the manner in which a similar difficulty was obviated in a case tried on the Oxford circuit. At a consultation the night before the trial, the plaintiff's attorney, whose name was Timothy Tickler, intimated that the defendant had discovered that there had been a fine levied, which was to be given

In the year 1581, there was a move in the law on the death of Sir William Cordwell, the Master of the Rolls, when Gerrard, the

in evidence next day.--Counsel. "That will be fatal, unless there has been an entry to avoid the fine."-Tickler. "What is the meaning of an entry to avoid a fine ?"--Counsel. "The party who claims the land, after the fine is levied goes upon the land and says, I enter to avoid all fines." The consultation broke up without a ray of hope. But next morning a supplemental brief was delivered,→


to prove that after the fine levied in this case, an entry was duly made by the plaintiff to avoid it,-call-TIMOTHY TICKLER."

"The right worshipp.11 Richard Brereton, esq., thes be delivered at Worsley."

"Your cause touchinge Pendleton Heye hath bene twyse hearde, upon Thursdaye last, and this Saterdaye, beinge the xvth of this October, and hath houlden the Court bothe the same dayes without dealinge in any other matter. Yt hath sythens fallen out very well, and this daye, when I expected an order for you, Mr. Sherrington dyd stande upon a release, which he supposeth to have bene made by your grandmother to Mr. Tyldesley, and a fyne with proclam. levyed by Mr. Tyldesley to Mr. Sherington, beyen selfe in the viijth yere of the quene's Maty raigne; which fyne as yt came unloked for, and for my parte was never hearde of before, so I affyrmed that you had made severall entries to avoyde the same and all such lyke incombrances; which, yf you can prove, the opynyon of the Court semeth to waye fullye with you, and so all your counsell thynke. The Courte, therefore, is desyrous to be satisfyed by some prooffe to be made by you touchinge that poynt: twoo wytnesses alone will suffyse. You maye at your choyse eyther sende them thes, or else have a commyssion returnable the next terme, wherin Mr. Sherington must then joyne with you. Wherfore, in myne opynion, the better waye bothe for spedye procedinge, and ease of charge, to sende up twoo by thes so soone as you I woulde you shoulde make choyse of twoo such as are of good credyte and understandinge, which can depose the fyrst entree which you made into Pelton Haye after your grandmother's death, which (as I thynke) was before you came to your full age: yf the same can also testyfye the other entrees which you made synce, it will be the better. I thynke Mr. Wyll, Leycester and James Russell have bene with you at all the entrees you have made. Such as you sende may brynge the notes which dyd sette downe of the tyme and manner of your entree into Pelton Heye, and also a copye of the offyce roule after the death of your grandmother, by which it may appere what daye and yere she dyed. I doe think that this course wyll be lesse charge then to have a commission, besydes the delaye, and as yet nothing is sayed of the fyne which was levyed for the assuring of your Aunt Dorothy's annuytye, which I feare more then all the rest, and which, by longe delaye, maye happelye come to lyght. Yf that fyne be not objected, I doubt not but before therde of this terme, upon prooffe of your entrees, you shall have such an order for Pelton Heye, as you shall have no cause to myslyke.


"For Swinton Moore this daye, at rysinge of the Court, the matter was a litle entred into, but for want of tyme, deferred untyll Thursdaye next, and is then to receyve order, for that I suspecte (as I have done alwayes) that you are lyke to be dismissed to the common lawe; but what maye be done shall, for now I begynne to learne to playe the Solyctor pretylye. Your witnesses are all charged with perjurye by Mr. Sherington, for it seemeth that he is perswaded that no man can speake true. Yf you shoulde deal with his wytnesses in lyke sorte, I thinke you shoulde but requyte him as he deserveth, but of that you may consyder, and lette me knowe your mynde before thende of the terme.



Thus, in hast, I take my leave, with my hartye commendations to you and your wyffe, and Mr. Wyall. Leycester, and all other my frendes: Lyncolne's Inne this Saturdaye, 15° Octobris, 1580.

"Your's assured, in all I can,


"After I had wrytten thus much, and so had fynished my letter, I had understandinge that Mr. Sherington meant to stande upon the former oulde tytle of

« VorigeDoorgaan »