Frank Leward: Memorials
Mr. Saunders to Bampton
Mr. Saunders to Bampton.
Woodbine Cottage, Rydal Water, Westmoreland.
My dear and learned Friend,—I saw your name a short time ago among those who had been called to the page 131Bar by the Hon. Society of the Inner Temple, and I now write to offer you my congratulations. Buried here in this quiet lovely spot, the only link between me and the outer world is the following the career, as far as I can, of those whom in early years I helped in a humble way to educate; and it cheers my solitude if any of them ever give me any sign that they have not quite forgotten poor old Saunders.
I need not tell you, my friend, how noble a profession that one you have entered on, I was going to say, is; I will modify that statement, and say, may be made, and often has been made, by those who follow it worthily. I need not remind you of the splendid names that adorn the roll of English advocates—Lord Bacon, Sir Matthew Hale, Somers, Holt, Mansfield, Erskine, and so many more of whom you know, I daresay, much more than I do, and of the part some of them played in "Baffling crowned and mitred tyrants of yore." Nor need I mention the names of those who disgraced their brethren; nor how and why they came to do so. You need not be told of the high sense of honour, the unswerving integrity necessary to make the worthy lawyer, nor the almost universal knowledge required to form the perfect jurist.
I saw in the same paper that you had taken some prize at your Inn of Court, and I was rejoiced to see you take an interest in your new studies; if you do that, you will be sure of success. In my younger days, I confess, I had myself an ambition to enter the forensic lists, but pecuniary circumstances at that time made me give up the idea. However, I have always taken an interest in page 132jurisprudence. As far as my little knowledge of the English system goes, it seems to me to be emphatically slipshod and unscientific; admirably adapted, perhaps, to meet the varying phases of modern society and commerce, but wanting in a recognised foundation on which to build. I imagine, speaking with great diffidence, that a student's principal studies, before he begins the practice of the law, should be a work such as Justinian's Institutes, if he is lazy; or the Pandects, if he is laborious, with some of the commentaries on them by either an Italian or Dutch civilian, of which, I believe, a great number exist. Of their respective value, I, of course, can give no opinion. Gibbon's forty-fourth chapter is the extent of my knowledge on the subject. If our judges and legislators had been trained in this way, or if such studies had formed only a small part of their training, it occurs to me that we might have had the science and precision of the French code broadened out, and strengthened and adapted to the vicissitudes of our rapid changing era, by the peculiar temperament of the English Judicature, an adaptation which is the only legitimate boast of our present system of law. Perhaps you will laugh at my crude notions of what law ought to be, just as you used to be amused at some of my fanciful Greek derivations; but come soon, as soon as your professional duties will allow, and talk over the matter.
I should like to talk, too, of another matter which lies very near and very heavily on my heart, of our old friend Frank. From such rumours as reach me here, I fear he has been greatly wronged. But how to page 133apply a remedy, or what remedy to apply? The fact that he thinks so little of monetary affairs should make his friends look to it that he is not imposed upon. I fear he has not only been imposed upon, but something very much like swindled out of that which was his own, and by his relatives. Such a possibility seems hardly credible. But it is no use sitting here and calling people names; I want to consult you as to what, if anything, can be done.
How he will take the other outrage on his affections and feelings I cannot tell I could not help writing to him, but I am not sure he will not be angry at my writing, and possibly he will take no notice of my letter. He will sit, I fear, and brood over his wrongs, which he will feel too much even to complain of. There are some griefs too deep for human sympathy; they can tell themselves only to the Christ. God grant his faith may let him find there that consolation I know he is in his solitary hut pitiably crying out for. It isn't to breed sheep and cattle, to grow corn and hay, that our dear boy has gone to New Zealand. It is to find some outlet for the energetic push which could find no escape here. He knew not what to do in his home with its surroundings. I believe he sought hard, with all his carelessness, some scope for employment, and he found none.
"Oh that indeed the arms were arrayed, oh joy of the onset! Sound thou trumpet of God, come forth, great Cause, to array us. King and leader appear; thy soldiers, sorrowing, seek Thee."
This is the cry of half the world, and the other half, if it hears it, heeds it not Does God hear it and heed page 134it? that is the question—Ecco it gran problema. These are the thoughts which storm, like thunder of Mount Sinai, round my head as I, almost bereft of faith, take my solitary walks amongst the everlasting hills of Westmoreland; and lo the Valleys, standing so thick with corn, they seem to laugh and sing, Grassmere and Rydal Water lying at my feet answer, Peace be with you—wait!
But Frank has been doubly wronged, for it has been done by those against whom he cannot complain, because of the very heinousness of their treason, because their nearness of kin would make any complaint against them rebound, as it were, against himself. This is indeed a stifling sorrow. You remember Dante, in the 33rd canto of the Inferno, imagines, as one of the greatest punishments in lowest depths of hell the misery of weeping, while the cold freezes the tears before they are shed, so that the condemned there weep inwardly; you remember, "Weeping itself permits not here to weep."
"Lo pianto stesso 1i pianger non lascia E 'I duol, che truovà 'n su gli occhi rintoppo, Si volve in entro a far crescer I'ambascia."
Now don't let this autumn pass without coming. A little rest after your labours at Westminster and on Circuit will do you good. A little unsophisticated innocent recreation may do you no harm after a London season. And if you wish it, I can offer you country walks in the purest mountain air, and even the companionship of some not unintellectual friends, if you want that, and if you do not despise us because we do not live in London, though when they do come to us page 135we expect London barristers to teach us something, and so repay (one of us at least) the lessons they learnt when we were able to teach them in years gone by. Your very affectionate friend
A. M. Saunders.July 3, 1845.