Page images

ness or solidity beyond his age. His desire was rather. not to be seen at all, than to be marked by his dress. In these things to the extreme was his aim; that is, not to be censured for a careless sloven, rather than to be commended for being well dressed. But as to his appearing in public, the composition of his temper was extraordinary, for he had wit, learning, and elocution, and knew it, and was not sensible of any notable failings wherewith to accuse himself, and yet was modest even to a weakness. I believe, a more shame-faced creature than he was never came into the world; he could scarce bear the being seen in any public places. I have heard him say, that when he was a student, and ate in the Temple hall, if he saw any company there, he could not walk in till other company came, behind whom, as he entered, he might be shaded from the view of the rest. And he used to stand dodging at the screen till such opportunity arrived, for it was death to him to walk up alone in open view.

“ His loose entertainments in this stage were, as usual with gentlemen cadets of noble families in the country, sporting on horseback, for which there was opportunity enough at his grandfather's house, where was a very large and well-stocked deer-park, and at least twice a week in the season there was killing of deer. The method then was for the keeper with a large crossbow and arrow to wound the deer, and two or three disciplined hounds pursued till he dropped. There was most of the country sports used there for diverting a large family, as setting, coursing, bowling, and he was in it all ; and within doors, backgammon and cards, with his fraternity and others, wherein his parts did not fail him, for he was an expert gamester. He used to please himself with raillery, as he found any that by minority of age or majority of folly and self-conceit were exposed to be so practised upon. I could give instances enough of this sort, and not unpleasant, if such trifles were to be indulged in a design such as mine is.

His most solemn entertainment was music, in which he was not only

[ocr errors]

master but doctor. This for the country, where, to make good his exhibition, he was contented (though, in truth, forced) to pass the greater part of his time. But in town he had his select of friends and acquaintance, and with them he passed his time merrily and profitably, for he was as brisk at every diversion as the best. Even after his

purse flowed sufficiently, a petit supper and a bottle always pleased him. But he fell into no course of excess or vice, and whenever he was a little overtaken, it was a warning to take better care afterwards; and against women his modesty was an effectual guard, though he was 'as much inclined as any man, which made him desirous to marry.

On the 28th of June, 1661, Mr. North was called to the bar, and applied himself diligently to practice. His income at this period consisted only of 601., allowed by his father, and afterwards reduced to 501., and 201. from his grandfather. He attended the courts with assiduity, and being much noticed and encouraged by the attorney-general, Sir Geoffrey Palmer [Note 38.), he soon began to find himself engaged in practice. He was employed by Palmer to search the authorities for him, ana as he sometimes appeared for him when the attorney was prevented by illness, he was addressed by Jones (afterwards Sir William Jones) by the title of Mr. Deputy-Attorney.

The first opportunity which Mr. North enjoyed of distinguishing himself in public was in arguing the writ of error, brought on the conviction of Hollis and the other five members, in the reign of Charles I. His argument on this occasion at the bar of the lords, though unsuccessful, was so highly regarded by the court, that, notwithstanding his youth, it was resolved to confer upon him the rank of king's counsel. Jealous of the distinction thus conferred upon so young a man, the benchers of the Middle Temple refused to call him to the bench of the society, in consequence of which Mr. North after some delay thought fit to complain to the judges, who, upon the appearance of some of the benchers

in court, administered a severe rebuke to them, upon which he was elected a bencher on the 5th of June 1668.

The circuit selected by Mr. North was the Norfolk ; and, although at first he did not receive much encouragement,

“ his resolution was to persevere, knowing success in circuit business to be a cardinal ingredient in a lawyer's good fortune.” He displayed that discretion by which he was distinguished, in being “exceeding careful to keep fair with the cocks of the circuit, and particularly with Serjeant Earl, who had almost a monopoly.”

-“ If he was concerned as counsel, he stood in great awe of the chief practisers; for they, having the conduct of the cause, take it ill if a young man blurts out any thing, though possibly to the purpose, because it seems to top them ; and, sometimes, if it do not take with the court, throw up, saying, the cause was given away ; which almost blasts a young man. Therefore, when he thought he had a significant point to offer, he first acquainted the foreman with it, which was commonly well taken ; and he in return would say, move it yourself, and then he seconded it.” Some appointments which he received shortly after he was called to the bar contributed to extend his reputation. He was put into the commission for draining the fens; constituted judge of Ely; and made one of the king's counsel before the justices in eyre. His practice now rapidly increased, and he became one of the most rising men in Westminster Hall. His mode of life at this period is thus sketched by his biographer :

“ His lordship's course of life, while he was in great business, was most philosophical, till he was solicitorgeneral and married, and then he kept house, and at meals scarce ever failed his family ; but before, he used the commons in the hall at dinner personally, and at night in his chamber. And when he was out of commons, the cook usually provided his meals; but at night he desired the company of some known and ingenious friends, to join in a costelet and a salad at Chattelin's, where a bottle of wine sufficed, and the company dressed

their own feast, that consisted in friendly and agreeable conversation. But in terms, and while business was stirring, he kept his chamber, because in order to next day's work) the attornies and agents came in at all hours ; and then he desired the company of a friend or two, that, in the intervals of taking instructions, he might come out and solace with them a little, and return when he was summoned. And the repast among us all was only his commons and a single bottle : but what is that to the feast I mentioned, which was never wanting ? When his practice was but little, and for the most part when he was a student, he made it a rule not to leave his chamber before eight at night; and if he had no appointed company, he hath often taken me to walk about in the gardens with him till bed-time ; for he never loved at such times to be alone, but having any company he could discharge his thoughts by discourse. After he was of the king's counsel he kept a coach, and at leisure times used to air himself in that, but with a friend to receive his discourse and give handles for more. But while I was with him, which was first while Sir Geoffrey Palmer was but just alive, I cannot say I ever knew him to have been twice at any tavern.”

On the death of Sir Geoffrey Palmer, the attorneygeneral, and the promotion of the solicitor-general, considerable interest was made by Mr. North's friends to procure for him the vacant office. On the other hand, the Duke of Buckingham solicited the place for Jones (afterwards the attorney-general); but the king “could not be brought to dash cold water in Mr. North's face" by the appointment of Jones, and the office was conferred upon Sir Edward Turner. A few months afterwards, Sir Edward being made chief baron, Mr. North was appointed to succeed him as solicitor-general; and, according to custom, received the honour of knighthood. In his new capacity Sir Francis North was frequently obliged to appear in the court of chancery, and ultimately he relinquished his practice in the king's bench, and confined himself to the former court.

His success in his profession, and the consequent increase of his fortune, now led the thoughts of Sir Francis to the subject of matrimony. “ After he was called to the bar,” says his brother, “he applied himself closely to the attendance and operations of the law, and wanted refreshment such as was reasonable to be enjoyed at vacant times; and he was weary of being at the loose hand as to company, which he could not have at all times to his mind. He was no clubster, listed among good fellows; and often passed his evenings in walking, or solitary (if it may be so termed when he had only me with him), rather than join in any promiscuous society, or of such as were not either in his friendship or distinguished by some notable talents that recommended them. And he thought it would be an ease to his mind to know continually, after his business done, what was to be come of him ; and that he thought best provided for by a family and housekeeping, which is never well settled without a mistress as well as a master of a family. These considerations inclined him to look out for a suitable match. And, to say truth, his constitution required it as much as any man's whatsoever ; but being excessive modest, and by resolution virtuous, he was solicitous and ardent in the pursuit of it, and not a little encouraged by a manifest feeling he had of success in his profession, which dismissed all fears of the lean wolf. And not being insensible of a fair character in general, which together with some quality and happy relation that fell to his share, he fancied he might pretend to as good a fortune in a match, as many others had found who had less reason to expect it ; but without some advancement in that way he was not disposed to engage himself.

“ That which sat hardest upon his spirits was, how he should give a fair answer to the question, "What jointure and settlement ?' He used to own but one rood of ground in the world that yielded him any profit, which was Westminster hall; a meagre particular, unless he might have added, as Finch did, his bar-gown 20,0001. There came to him a recommendation of a

« PreviousContinue »