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from the foregoing partial sketch, it is proper to regard him in connexion with the times in which he lived, and with the state of feeling and scale of principle which then prevailed. If in his public character Lord Guilford never rose above the prejudices and feelings of the age, he did not, like many of his contemporaries, sink without shame into those corrupt practices with which the higher ranks of society were infected. He was unstained by that loose prostitution in politics, and by that abandoned corruption which darkened the characters of Sunderland and Jefferies. Honest in his opinions, and in the expression of them, he refused upon more than one occasion to sacrifice them to his interests. But his character was altogether destitute of elevation. Possessing none of the elements of greatness, seldom in mind and never in feeling did he rise above mediocrity. He was thus led into meannesses, and sometimes into compliances, which men of loftier principles would have despised. Though not altogether free from the imputation of corruption in his judicial station, the accusation rests upon no substantial foundation, and his general character renders the justice of it improbable. Perhaps the most valuable quality which the lord keeper possessed was that discretion which in all the transactions of life is so sure a guide, and which enables a man of moderate powers to accomplish what the highest genius and talent, if misdirected, must fail to attain. As a lawyer, the name of the Lord Keeper Guilford has always maintained a respectable station ; but it does not occupy the foremost rank.
To his efforts to effect a reform both in the common pleas and in the court of chancery, the greatest credit is due. In private life, his character was certainly excellent. Under all the toils of office, and amid the distractions of political life, he sedulously maintained that affectionate intercourse with his own family, the loss of which is ill supplied by all that the most successful ambition can offer. The fervent attachment, the regard, approaching to reverence, which were felt for him by his brothers, and which are so
quaintly but beautifully expressed by his biographer, bear a striking testimony to the worth and goodness of his heart.
Some anecdotes of the lord keeper have been preserved by his brother, which are transcribed not only on account of the amusement they cannot fail to afford, but also as showing that he wanted that strength of character which prevents others from even attempting to render the possessor of it ridiculous.
Lord Sunderland, whose designs were generally opposed by the lord keeper, exerted all his wit to render him ridiculous. “ All the artillery of foul mouths,” says Roger North, were pointed at him; and the Earl of Sunderland marched at the head of them, who commonly gave out the signal. His lordship's virtuous course of life was a vile obstacle, and slanders on that head would not stick. But I shall show some snares laid to catch him: in the meantime, vilifications plenty; those were at their tongues' end. He was neither courtier nor lawyer: which his lordship hearing, he smiled, saying, “ that they might well make him a whoremaster, when they had dislawyered him.” And to show their intent of fixing some scandal and contempt on him, I shall allege a ridiculous instance or two. His lordship's brother-inlaw, more than once named in these papers, came to him seriously with advice; which was that he should keep a whore, and that if he did not, he would lose all his interest at court, for he understood from very great inen (the Earl of Sunderland and his gamesters, I suppose,) that he was ill-looked upon for want of his doing so, because he seemed continually to reprehend them for practising the like, as almost every one did, and, if his lordship pleased, he would help him to one. His lordship was in his mind full of scorn at this proffer, which the messenger did not penetrate; and it was enough to decline the counsel, and not accept of his assistance. And with his nearest friends he made wonderful merry with this state policy, especially the procuring part, and said, • That if he were to entertain a madam, it should be one
of his own choosing, and not one of their state trumpery.' But his lordship had deeper reflections; that, besides the sullying his character, if he had such a snake in his bed, they would find a way to come, by her, into his most retired intentions: for the courtiers knew the use that, in politics, might be made of the fair ladies, whom they could charm better than his lordship; and no spy like a female.
“ To show that his lordship’s court enemies, the Earl of Sunderland in particular, were hard put to it to find or invent something to report tending to the diminution of his character, I shall give an account of the most impudent buffoon-lie raised upon him, and with brazen affirmations of truth to it, dispersed from the court one morning, that ever came into fools' heads; and Satan himself would not have owned it for his legitimate issue. It fell out thus: A merchant of Sir Dudley North's acquaintance had brought over an enormous rhinoceros, to be sold to showmen for profit. It is a noble beast, wonderfully armed by nature for offence, but more for defence, being covered with impenetrable shields, which no weapon could make any impression upon; and a rarity so great that few men in our country have in their whole lives opportunity to see so singular an animal. This merchant told Sir Dudley North, that if he with a friend or two had a mind to see it, they might take the opportunity at his house, before it was sold. Hereupon Sir Dudley North proposed to his brother, the lord keeper, to go with him upon this expedition, which he did, and came away exceedingly satisfied with the curiosity he had seen. But whether he was dogged, to find out where he and his brother housed in the city, or flying fame carried an account of the voyage to court, I know not; but it is certain that the very next morning a bruit went from thence all over the town, and (as factious reports used to run) in a very short time, viz. that his lordship rode upon the rhinoceros; than which a more infantine exploit could not have been fastened upon him. And most people were struck with amazement at it, and divers ran here
and there to find out whether it was true or no; and soon after dinner some lords and others came to his lordship to know the truth from himself, for the setters of the lie affirmed it positively, as of their own knowledge. That did not give his lordship much disturbance, for he expected no better from his adversaries. But that his friends, intelligent persons, who must know him to be far from guilty of any childish levity, should believe it, was what roiled him extremely; and much more when they had the face to come to him to know if it were true. I never saw him in such a rage, and to lay about him with affronts (which he keenly bestowed upon the minor courtiers that came on that errand) as then; for he sent them away with fleas in their ear. And he was seriously angry with his own brother, Sir Dudley North, because he did not contradict the lie in sudden and direct terms, but laughed, as taking the question put to him for a banter, till by iterations he was brought to it. For some lords came, and because they seemed to attribute somewhat to the avowed positiveness of the reporters, he rather chose to send for his brother to attest, than to confirm his bare denial. And so it passed; and the noble earl, with Jefferies and others of that crew, made merry, and never blushed at the lie of their own making, but valued themselves upon it as a very good jest.”
GEORGE Jefferies, afterwards successively recorder of London, attorney-general, chief justice of the king's bench, and lord high chancellor of England, was born at Acton, near Wrexham, in the county of Denbigh, about the year 1648. [Note 41.] He was the sixth son of John Jefferies, Esq., of that place, by Margaret, daughter of Sir Thomas Ireland, Knight, of Bewsey, in the county of
Lancaster. His father was a gentleman of small estate; but his paternal grandfather had filled the office of a Welsh judge. Young Jefferies received his education successively at the free-school of Shrewsbury, at Saint Paul's free-school, and at Westminster school, under the celebrated Dr. Busby. Of the progress which he made in his studies, or of the motives which induced him to pursue the profession of the law, little is known. In consequence of the narrowness of his father's fortune, he was deprived of the benefit of an university education, and became at an early age a member of the Inner Temple, where, in a mean and obscure apartment, he for some time applied himself with diligence to his professional studies.* At this period he derived his principal support from his grandmother, who supplied him with an annuity of forty pounds, to which ten pounds were added by his father.
It has been asserted that Jefferies was never regularly called to the bart; and it appears that while yet a student, and only eighteen years of age, he assumed the gown of a barrister, and attended the Kingston assizes, during the prevalence of the plague in London; an irregularity which was probably overlooked in that season of calamity. In endeavouring to force himself into practice, Jefferies looked principally to the city, attending with diligence at Guildhall and Hicks's Hall. In compliance also with the temper of the citizens, he not only professed the political principles at that time favoured by them, but attempted to ingratiate himself with them by adopting all their convivial habits. Nor did he neglect other artifices, equally mean, to promote his interests. We are told by Roger North § that, “after he was called to the bar, he used to sit in coffee-houses, and order his man to come and tell him that company attended him at his chamber; at which he would huff and say, “let them stay a little, I will come presently,' and thus made a show of business.”
* Lives of the Chancellors, vol. i. p. 179.