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Frank Leward: Memorials

Bampton to Frank

Bampton to Frank.

Garden Court, Temple, May 25, 1846.

Dear old Frank,—What a long time it is since you wrote! I suppose you are so busy now with your oxen and your sheep, your corn, and all your pastoral pursuits, that you have no time to trace words on paper with black fluid. "Happy the man whose constant care," &c. How free your life must be in your splendid climate! How different to mine cooped up here in London breathing the impure air of close Westminster law courts all day, poring over miserable books at night, or wasting strength page 148and pampering appetite in London dinners and ballrooms! What would I not sometimes give to spend a few bright days amid the pine forests and refreshing breezes of New Zealand I I have, however, discovered the most charming place in London, and here, as I must for the present live in London, I have settled down. Garden Court sounds pretty and it is as nice as it sounds. My windows look out on Middle Temple Hall. At the side of them there plays a delicious fountain, in front of me and right down to the river is Middle Temple Garden. There is the old tree where Queen Bess rested. Not far off my window must have grown the roses which Shakespeare says were there plucked long before great Eliza was thought of.

"And here I prophesy this brawl to-day Grown to this faction in the Temple Garden, Shall send, between the red rose and the white, A thousand souls to death and deadly night."

Close by in our own garden is an old tree somewhat shaky grown and propped up by many a kindly crutch, under whose shade on pleasant summer evenings ere London grew so smoky good Samuel Johnson used to sit and talk to his gay plain-looking smartly dressed Goldy. The old Doctor lies not far off in S. Paul's. Goldy is buried outside the Temple Church, where I generally go on Sunday afternoons. "Here lies Oliver Goldsmith" is the simple inscription on his tomb.

I have just come back from Quarter Sessions in Yorkshire and there I really did get a brief. Awful moment when, at my hotel in the evening, the waiter roused me page 149from a somewhat somnolent reverie and said a gentleman wanted to see me and in walked the clerk to my uncle's solicitor, who is also clerk to the Petty Sessions in those parts, and handed me a brief. I was very polite felt quite a friendly feeling towards the clerk and his master and more affectionate than ever towards my uncle. All my hard work was now to be rewarded, an opening had at last come. I retired to my bedroom with the brief for fear I should be disturbed in my careful study of its contents. I locked the door. I put it on my bed and drew a chair up to it. I gazed at it, it was tied with red tape. "Easter Sessions, North Riding of Yorkshire. Felony. Regina v. Bowlby. Brief for the prosecution. Mr. Bampton 2 guas." Then came the solicitor's name at the bottom.

I knew what the two guas meant for the clerk had put the sum of two pounds four shillings and sixpence into my hand when he handed me the brief,—my first fee. Years of toil at school, expenses at Oxford, fees at the Temple, 100 guineas to special pleader, 100 guineas to conveyancer with whom I afterwards read, fees on being called, £200 already spent on going circuit, more than £100 for law books, what's that? Two pounds four shillings and sixpence actually earned! But who is Bowlby; what's he done against our sovereign Lady the Queen her crown and dignity that she so gracious should have to prosecute him for felony. I conjured up all manner of the most awful crimes secretly hoping his might be one of them before which Catiline's offences would appear harmless amusements. I was rather sorry when I remembered page 150none of these could be tried at Quarter Sessions. I untied the tape slowly. I opened out the ample sheets upon my bed. "Case." It was in a few succinct lines. I was disgusted to find Bowlby was a woman. Crime, theft of … a leg of mutton. Oh dear! The proofs only the prosecutor a butcher, and the constable. How short a time it will take I sighed. But I must do my duty. My republican sentiments were forgotten. An advocate knows of none other than his client; my client was the Queen. Property must be respected. A telling sentence for my speech against socialism and equality occurred to me. But first to think what the defence might be. An advocate should always be prepared to meet and parry the sophistries of the other side. What had been Bowlby's defence before the justices. "The prisoner when asked what she had to say in her defence, said—Nothing." Evidently a most hardened villain. She had learnt from long experience how to spring some artful defence suddenly before the jury. She wouldn't let the prosecution see her hand. I read the proofs over and over again. I got them pretty well by heart, I could examine the two witnesses without looking at the brief. I looked up the law as to larceny. I went to bed and dreamt of Bowlby, who appeared in my dream as a witch riding away on a broomstick, surrounded by legs of mutton, laughing at me hideously as she rode off pursued by butchers and policemen. Then I dreamt of an immense court, something like one of Martin's pictures, with hundreds of judges tiers upon tiers of judges tiers upon tiers of jurymen endless page 151rows of wigs before me and around me, and I standing in the middle of them vainly attempting to speak, not a word would come while Bowlby the witch was all the time laughing hideously at me from the dock, and I woke. I could get no more sleep. In a feverish way I made up the most polished oration contra Bowlby, most of which I afterwards forgot. I pointed out to the jury how offences though small apparently in themselves must if not immediately and firmly prevented soon and inevitably lead to more atrocious crimes till the social compact would be disregarded and become a thing of nought. I made quotations from Vattel Blackstone and Pothier to the jury. How much better one can speak in bed under warm coverings and all alone than when confronted with the cold reality of everyday life and unsympathising audiences.

At length I got up, read the brief once more, put on my wig and gown and rehearsed my speech before the looking-glass made a few more notes dressed and waited till breakfast was ready. I could eat nothing, the little piece of dry toast I attempted to swallow stuck in my mouth and would not go down. So I went early to court and forgot my brief after all, and had to come tearing back for it. I got to the court at last, my robes had not come though I had given them to the boots more than half an hour before I started with strict orders to take them at once. Stupid man there I was in my anxiety lest they should not come in time forgetting all my speech and getting hot and restless. At length he came. I robed with care still thinking of my speech trying to recollect it and must I confess it with one or page 152two glances at the small robing-room looking-glass to see how I looked.

Then other men came in, noisy and careless. They had no briefs, and were jealous, "B. old fellow got a brief?" said one. "How on earth did you manage it?" said another. "Uncle's a beak" said a third; "what's the good of having an uncle a beak if he don't commit some one for you." "Ah," said a fourth, "that unfortunate prisoner wouldn't have been sent for trial if his uncle hadn't known Bam was coming." A miserable envious fellow growled out "That's the way the public money's wasted."

It all seemed very foolish and flippant to me and I tried to look as if I didn't care and as good-natured as I could. All this time these briefless sarcastic people were carefully eying the door at every knock that came hoping if perchance some good fortune similar to mine might happen to them, but every knock was an attorney's clerk with another brief for the leader of our sessions, a fat clean-shaved snuffy old man with very high collars and large white cravat who had already got his bag full of them. Then we were summoned into court, we went according to seniority—I almost last. I tried not to look nervous and to remember my speech. The grand jury came in with one bill. The clerk of the court looked at it and said "Gentlemen of the grand jury to a bill of indictment against Ann Bowlby you say a true bill." My heart gave a great thump. Mine was the first case. "Place Ann Bowlby in the dock" said the clerk of the court.

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I called on all the powers that had so often aided me. I reminded myself I had been president of the greatest debating society in the greatest University in the world, and of msy orations at Cogers' Hall, and all my successes there. This was a new arena, it seemed so different, and I caught sight of my uncle's face among the magistrates on the bench looking anxiously at me and it made me nervous. "Tell them you're for the prosecution" shouted out half-a-dozen of my learned friends, these briefless men are always giving advice when it's not wanted. "I know how to conduct my own case" I said getting angry and feeling I was rather pale. Still I did get up and informed the chairman I was for the prosecution. He looked at me, as though he meant to convey to me and every one else that he didn't much care whether I was or wasn't. "Allow me to take the prisoner's plea" said the clerk of the court, so I sat down again feeling rather confused. "Don't be afraid old man" said Byng the wag of our Sessions bar "she can't get at you she's got two peelers to hold her." I looked at him angrily and tried to smile. "You are indicted for that," began the clerk, and read the indictment. "How say you; are you guilty or not guilty?" "Guilty if you please my lord" said Bowlby. All my hopes were gone. Where was now my opportunity of showing how I could go to a jury? The chairman was going to sentence her right off when the prosecutor, the butcher, came forward with his thumbs stuck up somewhere at the top of his waistcoat and asked to be allowed to say a few words. The chairman not very graciously con- page 154sented. The butcher said he wished to recommend the prisoner to mercy. From what he said in a jerky manner I gathered that during the evening after his property had disappeared from his shop he got indubitable evidence that Bowlby was the thief, so with the constable he went to a solitary room the poor thing occupied, and where he found five starving little Bowlbys eagerly devouring the smoking mutton while Bowlby herself looked on so pleased at the unaccustomed sight she forgot to partake of the feast though, as the butcher said, he didn't think she had seen roast meat for many a day.

The scene had affected the heart of the good butcher, in whom all tenderness had not been quite destroyed by his business of slaughtering of calves and lambs and sucking pigs, and he begged she might be leniently dealt with and stated he had heard her husband, unable to keep his ever-increasing family any longer on fifteen shillings a week or to get higher wages, had emigrated to New Zealand there I suppose to find a home where at least he need not see Ms children starve before his eyes.

This pitiful tale touched all of us I think except the chairman who spoke sternly to the prisoner on the crime she had committed and gave her the short sentence of six months on account of the recommendation to mercy, and told her if she came there again she would be transported. So Bowlby retired between the policemen weeping bitterly thinking no doubt of her five small unfed urchins at home. I confess a misty sensation came before my eyes and not mine alone I expect. And page 155this was the Catiline against whom a more than Ciceronian eloquence had been about to fulminate.

Then the grand jury came in again with other bills, and other cases were called on, but I had lost all interest for a time in them. I couldn't help thinking of Bowlby. When I went out to lunch I met the butcher, still with his thumbs at the top of his waistcoat, on his way to spend his pay as a witness at the nearest public and I asked him to look after the little Bowlbys in the absence of their mother and I gave him to his great surprise as a subscription towards that charity exactly the sum of two pounds four shillings and sixpence. So ended my first and perhaps my last case and that's what became of my first fee.

It is very late, early in the morning in fact, so dear old man I conclude. Do write to me if you can spare the time if it's only a few lines to say how you are doing and how your new governor gets on. Charles Buller wants to know particularly.—Yours, my dear Frank,

C. Augustin B.