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poets. Neither doth it move us that these matters are left commonly to schoolboys and grammarians, and so are embased, that we should therefore make a slight judgment upon them : but contrariwise because it is clear that the writings which recite those fables, of all the writings of men, next to sacred writ, are the most ancient; and that the fables themselves are far more ancient than they (being they are alleged by those writers, not as excogitated by them, but as credited and recepted before) seem to be, like a thin rarefied air, which from the traditions of more ancient nations, felt into the flutes of the Grecians.”
This tract seems, in former times, to have been much valued, for the same reason, perhaps, which Bacon assigns for the currency of the Essays; "because they are like the late new halfpence, which, though the silver is good, yet the pieces are small.” Of this tract, Archbishop Tenison in his Baconiana, says, “ In the seventh place, I may reckon his book De Sapientia Veterum, written by him in Latin, and set forth a second time with enlargement;* and translated into English by Sir Arthur Georges : a book in which the sages of former times are rendered more wise than it may be they were by so dextrous an interpreter of their fables. It is this book which Mr. Sandys means, in those words which he hath put before his notes, on the Metamorphosis of Ovid.
Of modern writers, I have received the greatest light from Geraldus, Pontanus, Ficinus, Vives, Comes, Scaliger, Sabinus, Pierius, and the crown of the latter, the Viscount of St. Albans.'
“ It is true, the design of this book was instruction in natural and civil matters, either couched by the ancients under those fictions, or rather made to seem to be so by his lordship’s wit, in the opening and applying of them. But because the first ground of it is poetical story, therefore let it have this place till a fitter be found for it."
The author of Bacon's Life, in the Biographia Britannica, says, " that he might relieve himself a little from the severity of these studies, and as it were amuse himself with erecting a magnificent pavilion, while his great palace of philosophy was building, he composed and sent abroad in 1610, his celebrated treatise of the Wisdom of the Ancients, in which he showed that none had studied them more closely, was better acquainted with their beauties, or had pierced deeper into their meaning. There have been very few books published, either in this or in any other nation, which either deserved or met with more general applause than this, and scarce any that are like to retain it longer, for in this performance Sir Francis Bacon gave a singular proof of his capacity to please all parties in literature, as in his political conduct he stood fair with all the parties in the nation. The admirers of antiquity were charmed with this discourse, which seems expressly calculated to justify their admiration; and, on the other hand, their opposites were no less pleased with a piece, from which they thought they could demonstrate that the sagacity of a modern genius had found out much better meanings for the ancients than ever were meant by them."
And Mallet, in his Life of Bacon, says, “ In 1610 he published another treatise, entitled Of the Wisdom of the Ancients. This work bears the same stamp of an original and inventive genius with his other performances. Resolving not to tread in the steps of those who had gone before him, men, according to his own expression, not learned beyond certain common places, he strikes out a new tract for himself, and enters into the most secret recesses of this wild and shadowy region, so as to appear new on a known and beaten subject. Upon the whole, if we cannot bring ourselves readily to believe that there is all the physical, moral, and political meaning veiled under those fables of antiquity, which he has discovered in them, we must own that it required no common penetration to be mistaken with so great an appearance of probability on liis side. Though it still remains doubtful whether the ancients were so knowing as he attempts to shew they were, the variety and depth of his own knowledge are, in that very attempt, unquestionable.”
* In the year 1617, in Latin. It was published in Italian in 1618; in French, in 1819.
In the year 1619, this tract was translated by Sir Arthur Georges. Prefixed to the work are two letters ; the one to the Earl of Salisbury, the other to the University of Cambridge, which Georges omits, and dedicates his translation to the high and illustrious Princess the Lady Elizabeth of Great Britain, Duchess of Baviare, Countess Palatine of Rheine, and Chief Electress of the Empire.
This translation, it should be noted, was published during the life of Lord Bacon by a great admirer of his works.
The editions of this work with which I am acquainted are:
Year. Language. Printer. Place.
R. Barker ...... London
Ditto 1619.... English. Ditto
Ditto 1620. Ditto.
Ditto 1633. Latin.
Lug. Bat. 1634. Ditto
F. Kingston London 1638.. Latin
E. Griffin London 1691....... Ditto
H. Weston ....
Amsterdam 1804......, French H. Frantin Dijon ..
Size. 12mo. Ditto. Ditto. Ditto. Ditto. Ditto. Folio. 12mo. 8vo.
Proof of the increase of business in the Court of Chancery.
this uncontrolable extent.
First. Proof that the business of the court had increased. That the business of the court had, in the time of Lord Bacon, so increased as to require additional power to subdue it, appears ; 1st, from the consideration that the science of equity had been increasing for years ; 2ndly, from the complaints which, soon after were made in parliament, of which the following extract from the Journals of the Commons in 1620 will exhibit a specimen.
The parliament met on the 16th of Jan. 18 Jacobi, when various committees were appointed.
Sabbati, 17° Februarii, 189 Jacobi. Sir Edward Sackvyle reporteth from the committee for courts of justice, four heads: 1. Interfering of courts. Against protections. That an ordinary course in the court of Wards, where the principal dieth, his heir in ward, the surety protected ; so that the party that lent in great danger to lose his money. 2dly. Prosecutors for concealed wards, find an office in the remote parts of the country. A lease of lands gotten before the party knew it. A travers will cost 100 marks : instance in Dayrell and Newdigate's case.
2. The jurisdiction of courts, one pressing upon another. That at this time one committed in the court of Wards, for not obeying the decree there, where ordered against the ward : in the Chancery, ordered on the other part, and the person in prison there. Master of the Rolls' motion to have that determined by private conference, or to be ordered by the king ; not here, where properly not determinable.
3. For fees : so great, as more cost to get an hearing set down of his cause than the cause worth. That alleged, the fees not now much greater than forty years sithence; but many new officers in courts, who took much greater fees than heretofore.
4. For both the first grievances in the court of Wards ; a bill against the
protection, in the first case; and the prosecutors to be put into the bill against informers.
That offered from the Lord Chancellor, he would willingly consent that any man might speak freely any thing concerning his court.
Mr. Alford : To re-commit all these things, because not yet ripe.
To inform the lords, what liberties they have lost. 2dly. Of the luxuriant authority of the Chancery; and that it devoureth all that cometh into it.
16 March.—Length of causes : 23 his; some 30 years. Mulct in the civil law if a cause above three years. This power too much for any one man.
That the Masters in Chancery should be reduced from twelve to six, &c. &c.
3rdly. From the increased but unavailing exertion of the Chancellor to subdue the business,
Lord Egerton. In Lord Bacon's speech upon taking his seat, he says :-For it hath been a manner much used of late in my last lord's time, of whom I learn much to imitate, and somewhat to avoid ; that upon the solemn and full hearing of a cause nothing is pronounced in court, but breviates are required to be made ; which I do not dislike in itself in causes perplexed. For I confess I have somewhat of the cunctative; and I am of opinion, that whosoever is not wiser upon advice than upon the sudden, the same man was no wiser at fifty than he was at thirty. And it was my father's ordinary word, “You must give me time.” But yet I find when such breviates were taken, the cause was sometimes forgotten a term or two, and then set down for a new hearing, three or four terms after. And in the mean time the subject's pulse beats swift, though the Chancery pace be slow.
D’Aguesseau, The same anxiety was felt in France by Chancellor d'Aguesseau. Mr. Butler, in his Reminiscences says, " The only fault imputed to him was dilatoriness of decision. We should hear his own apology. The general feeling of the public on this head was once respectfully communicated to him by his son.
My child,' said the Chancellor, 'when you have read what I have read, seen what I have seen, and heard what I have heard, you will feel that if on any subject you know much, there may be also much that you do not know, and that something, even of what you know, may not at the moment be in your recollection. You will then too be sensible of the mischievous and often ruinous consequences of even a small error in a decision; and conscience, I trust, will then make you as doubtful, as timid, and consequently as dilatory as I am accused of being:
Sir Matthew Hale. So too of Sir Matthew Hale it is said, “He continued eleven years in that place; and it was observed by the whole nation how much he raised the reputation and practice of that court. The only complaint ever made against him
• that he did not dispatch matters quick enough,' but the causes that were tried before him were seldom if ever tried again.”
Lord Keeper North, The biographer of Lord Keeper North says, "I come now to his lordship's last and highest step of preferment in his profession, which was the custody of the great seal of England. And for conformity of language, I call this a preferment; but in truth (and as his lordship understood) it was the decadence of all the joy and comfort of his life, and instead of a felicity, as commonly reputed, it was a disease like a consumption, which rendered him heartless and dispirited. By his acceptance of the great seal, he became, as before of the law, so now of equity, a chief, or rather sole justice. And more than that, he must be a director of the English affairs at court as chief minister of state, with respect to legalities, for which he was thought responsible. So, what with equity, politics, and law, the cares and anxieties of his lordship's life were
exceedingly increased; for either of these provinces brought too much upon the shoulders of any one man (who cordially and conscientiously espouseth the duty required of him), to be easily borne. The greatest pain he endured, moved from a sense he had of the torment the suitors underwent by the excessive charges and delays of the court. And the truth is, a court, as that is, with officers and fees proper for a little business, such as the judiciary part anciently was, coming to possess almost all the justice of the nation, must needs appear troubled. The business of his office was too great for one, who thought he was bound to do it all well.”
Lord Eldon. It was my good fortune to practise in the court of Chancery when the venerable Lord Eldon presided in the court. He was a man of sound judgment; he was never diverted from the truth by immediate impression. “ I have made a covenant with myself," was his favourite maxim, “ not to decide hastily, when I am powerfully excited.” He decided with unbiassed impartiality, never suffering any passion to interfere with the love of truth and of justice. He was quick in forming his opinions, but slow in deciding. From his extensive and accurate knowledge of law he appeared to me immediately to see the whole merits of the case ; but, from his anxiety to be just, his habit was, diligently to discover, before he decided, everything which could be urged against the opinion he had formed. He was not tenacious in retaining any opinion. He was never ashained of being wiser to-day than he was yesterday. A more analytical and discriminating mind never existed; but he well knew where to stop: he never suffered himself to wander from the substance of the matter in judgment into useless subtlety and refinement. A more anxious judge never presided on earth. He was * patientissimus veri." A kinder heart never beat. His habit was the same as Lord Egerton's, and might be described in the same words as are used by Bacon : “ For it bath been a manner much used of late in my last lord's time, of whom I learn much to imitate, and somewhat to avoid, that upon the solemn hearing of a cause nothing is pronounced in court, but breviates are required to be made, which I do not dislike in causes perplexed. But yet I find that when such breviates were taken, the cause was sometimes forgotten a term or two, and then set down for a new hearing, three or four terms after. And in the mean time the subject's pulse beats swift, though the Chancery pace be slow.”.
In the year 1826 a commission was appointed to inquire into the delays of the court of Chancery. I was examined before this commission, and thus spoke respecting Lord Eldon : “ I cannot but think it most unjust to confound the court with the judge. There is a spirit of improvement now moving upon this country, which ought not, as it appears to me, to be impeded by personality. Permanent defects in a court may perhaps generally be traced to the constitu. tion of the court ; that is, not to the judge, but to society. The real causes of these delays, are (I conceive) because the business of the court has increased for centuries, until it has become too extensive. This was assumed by the legislature, when the Vice Chancellor's court was appointed; but since the appointment of the Vice Chancellor, the Lord Chancellor sits for a less time, and is, unless I am much mistaken, less able, when he does sit, to accelerate business. I consider the fact with respect to the delays in deciding to be indisputable. I am repeatedly urged to ask the Lord Chancellor for judgment, and I do again and again mention petitions to the Lord Chancellor; but, knowing the pressure of business upon him, I confess I always do it with considerable reluctance."
Having stated what appeared to me to be the different causes of these delays, I proceeded as follows: "The third cause appears to me to be, partly the constitution of the Chancellor's mind, and his anxiety to decide justly; as an instance of which I beg to mention the case of Ex parte Blackburn, which I have stated to have been in the paper last year, relating to transactions so many years back. I argued this case (I think I may say) iwo or three times, and I certaiuly never was in my life more satisfied with my own argument than I was
in that case.
I mentioned it again and again to the court, but I could not obtain judgment. At last the Lord Chancellor stated that he had been delibe. rating upon the case for many hours during the night, and that there was one point which had escaped me in my argument, to which he wished to direct my attention, and he was pleased to direct my attention to it, and to desire it to be re-argued ; and upon re-arguing it, I was satisfied that he was right, and I was wrong; and whatever may have been the cause of the delay, the consequence has been, that he has prevented the injustice which I should have persuaded him to have committed." I beg also to mention another case, (Ex parte Leigh), which will be found in Glyn and Jameson, 264, the case of a habeas corpus; where, to my knowledge, the prisoner was detained illegally, upon an affidavit upon detainers for debt by a Mr. Claughton, (I think for 10,0001). The court of King's Bench refused to discharge him. I presented a petition to the Chancellor on behalf of the bankrupt, being convinced that the decision of the court of King's Bench was erroneous; and, it being in the case of the liberty of a prisoner, the Chancellor heard it immediately, and took the trouble of applying to the Chief Justice of the court of King's Bench ; and, after deliberation, thought it his duty to reverse the judgment, and to order him to be discharged; and, but for this care and deliberation, I am satisfied he would have been in prison at this moment, as I know the hostility between these parties is continuing to this very day. There is a petition in the paper between them coming on at these sittings. I am so convinced of the Lord Chancellor's caution and sense of justice, that, notwithstanding some resistance, I have always insisted upon the right given to prisoners by the habeas corpus act to select their own judge, which I trust will never be diminished, and have selected the Lord Chancellor in preference to all the judges. With the pressure of business upon the Lord Chancellor, and his anxiety, it is (I conceive) very difficult for him to decide expeditiously; and if any part of the blame is to attach to the Lord Chancellor, 'it is (I conceive) only this anxiety (ultra anxiety if I may so say) to decide justly. I have no disposition to praise the Chancellor, or any man living, more than I ought. I am much mistaken if there are any two men in the country who differ more in their views of society than the Lord Chancellor and myself. I almost always thought and acted, and I am rejoiced at the recollection of it, with Sir Samuel Romilly : but, speaking of the Lord Chancellor as a judge, I should be most ungrateful if I did not feel his kindness to me for near twenty years, and (as I think) to the whole of his profession, during his long judicial life. I should think most ill of myself, if I did not look
up with the greatest respect to his extensive knowledge and extraordinary powers; dilating his sight so as to view the whole of every subject, and contracting it so as not to suffer the most minute object to escape him. I should be most unjust, if I did not acknowledge his patience to hear, his charity to hope, and his anxiety to do justice to every suitor of the court. I trust, therefore, that I shall be protected from the supposition that I wish to ascribe the faults of the court to the judge.”-Do not these permanent effects upon powerful minds say that the business of the court was beyond the reach of any one mind ?
Mark,” says Lord Bacon, “ whether the doubts that arise are only in cases not of ordinary experience, or which happen every day. If in the first, impute it to the frailty of man's foresight, that cannot reach by law all the cases; but, if in the latter, be assured that there is a fault in the law itself.”
Secondly. The Remedies. Assuming that the pressure upon the court had thus increased, the question is, how ought it to be met? The modes are two.
First, by increasing the number of the judges in the same or in different courts.
Secondly, by increased diligence on the part of the individual judge.
The tendency of society would be to adopt the latter mode. Lord Bacon, in his instances of pow in the Novum Organum, says,
“ It is one of the great obstacles to improvement that the mind has a tendency to suppose that nothing can be accomplished, unless the same means be employed with, perhaps, a