Edinburgh Bookshelf

Kay's Originals Vol. 1


200 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. auditors on himself;” at the same time they were acute, argumentative, and to the purpose. Mr. Hay was, during the whole coiirse of his life, a staunch Whig of the old school. In 1806, on the death of David Smythe, Lord Methven, he was promoted by the Fox Administration to the bench, when he assumed the title of Lord Newton. This appointment was the only one which took place in the Court of Session during what was termed the reign of “the Talents,”-a circumstance on which it is said he always professed to set a high value. Whilst at the bar, the opinions of his lordship were probably never surpassed for their acuteness, discrimination, and solidity ; and as a judge he now showed that all this was the result of such a rapid and easy application of the principles of law, as appeared more like the effect of intuition than of study and laborious exertion. Perhaps in none of his predecessors or contemporaries were so happily blended those masculine energies of mind, so requisite to constitute the profound lawyer, with that good nature and unpresuming simplicity so endearing in private life. “ Those who saw him only on the bench were naturally led to think that his whole time and thoughts had for all his life been devoted to the laborious study of the law. Those, on the other hand, who knew him in the circle of his friends, when form and austerity were laid aside, could not easily conceive that he had not passed his life in the intercourse of society.’’ He possessed an extraordinary fund of good-humour, amounting almost to playfulness, and entirely devoid of vanity or affectation. There was, perhaps, a strong dash of eccentricity in his character ; but his peculiarities appeared in the company of so many estimable qualities that they only tended to render him more interesting to his friends. His Iordship was of a manly and firm mind, having almost no fear of personal danger. He possessed great bodily strength and activity till the latter years of his life, when he became excessively corpulent. No. LXXXIII. LORD NEWTON ON THE BENCH. LORDN EWTONe’xStr aordinary judicial talents and social eccentricities are the subjects of numerous anecdotes. On the bench he frequently indulged in a degree of lethargy not altogether in keeping with the dignity of the long robe, and which, to individuals unacquainted with his habits, might well seem to interfere with the proper discharge of his duties. On one occasion, while a very zealous but inexperienced counsel was pleading before him, his lordship had been dozing, as usual, for some time-till at last the young man, supposing him asleep, and confident of a favourable judgment in his case, stopped short
Volume 8 Page 281
  Enlarge Enlarge  
Volume 8 Page 282
  Enlarge Enlarge     Pictures Pictures