Edinburgh Bookshelf

Kay's Originals Vol. 1


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 393 He was, in short, the very last specimen (Lord Balgay perhaps excepted) of the old race of Scottish advocates. He was universally allowed to be a “ capital lawyer ;” and, notwithstanding his hasty demeanour on the bench, and the incautious sarcasms in which he occasionally indulged at the expense of the advooates before him, he was a great favourite with the younger portion of the bar, who loved him the more for the peculiarities of his manner. He was himself enthusiastic in the recollection of bygone days, and scorned the cold and stiff formality which the decorum of modern times has thrown over the legal character. Of the warmth of his feelings in this respect, a very characteristic instance is related in Peter’s Letters to his Kinsfolk ;-“ When Guy Mannering came out, the Judge was so much delighted with the picture of the life of the old Scottish lawyers in that most charming novel, that he could talk of nothing else but Pleydell, Dandie, and the high-jinks for many weeks. He usually carried one volume of the book about with him ; and one morning, on the bench, his love for it so completely got the better of him, that he lugged in the subject head and shoulders, into the midst of a speech about some most dry point of law ; nay, getting warmer every moment he spoke of it, he at last fairly plucked the volume from his pocket, and, in spite of all the remonstrances of all his brethren, insisted upon reading aloud the whole passage for their edification. He went through the task with his wonted vivacity, gave great effect to every speech, and most appropriate expression to every joke. During the whole scene Sir walter Scott was present, seated, indeed, in his official capacity, close under the Judge,” Latterly his lordship sometimes made strange mistakes. A somewhat amusing instance of his forgetfulness occurred during one of the circuit trials. A point of law having been started, the counsel on either side cited their authorities. The prisoner’s counsel founded on the opinion expressed by Mr. Burnet in his treatise on Criminal Law ; whilst the Crown counsel appealed to Mr. Baron Hume’s authority, which happened to be the other way. Lord Hermand heard the former very patiently ; but, when the name of Hume was mentioned, he interrupted the barrister, saying, that during the course of a long life he had heard many strange things, but certainly, this was the first time he had ever heard a novel-writer quoted as a law authority. Accordingly, without farther ceremony, to the amazement of all present, he decided the point against the Crown. In the evening some one of the young men present at the circuit dinner ventured to ask his lordship, who was in admirable humour, for an explanation, when it turned out that the venerable Judge, being accustomed to see Baron Hume and Sir Walter Scott sitting together for a series of years at the Clerk’s table in the First Division of the Court, had, by some unaccountable, mental process, confounded the one with the other; and the fictions of the latter being always present in his mind, the valuable legal treatise of the former had entirely escaped his memory. The following assumed speech by Lord Hermand, in a supposed divorce case 3E
Volume 8 Page 548
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