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lady who was an only daughter of an old usurer of Gray's Inn, supposed to be a good fortune in present, for her father was rich, but after his death to become worth nobody knew what. His lordship got a sight of the lady, and did not dislike her : thereupon he made the old man a visit, and a proposal of himself to marry his daughter. There appeared no symptoms of discouragement, but only the old gentleman asked him what estate his father intended to settle on him for present maintenance, jointure, and provision for children. This was an inauspicious question, for it was plain that the family had not estate enough for a lordship, and none could be to spare for him. Therefore, he said to his worship only “ That when he would be pleased to declare what portion he intended to give his daughter, he would write to his father, and make him acquainted with the answer.” And so they parted, and his lordship was glad of the escape, and resolved to give that affair a final discharge, and never to come near the terrible old fellow any more. His lordship had at that time a stout heart, and could not digest the being so slighted, as if in his present case a profitable profession and future hopes were of no avail. If he had had a real estate to settle, he should not have stooped so low as to match with his daughter, and thenceforward despised his alliance.
“ His lordship’s next amour was in all respects better grounded ; but, against all sense, reason, and obligation, proved unsuccessful. When Mr. Edward Palmer, his lordship's most intimate and dear friend, died, he left a flourishing widow, and very rich. The attorney-general and all his family had projected a match of their cousin North with this lady, who were no strangers to each other; nor were there wanting sufficient advices, or rather importunities of the whole family, for her to accept him ; against which she did not seem to reluct, but held herself very reserved. In the meantime his lordship was excited to make his application, which he had never done, or at least not persisted, so long as he did, but out of respect and compliance with the sense of that worthy family, which continually encouraged him to proceed. Never was lady more closely besieged with wooers. She had no less than five younger brothers sat down before her at one time ; and she held them in hand, as they say, giving no definitive answer to any of them, till she cut the thread; and, after a clancular proceeding and match with a jolly knight of a good estate, she dropped them all at once, and so did herself and them justice. There were many comical passages in this wooing, which his lordship without much pleasantry used to remember, and, however fit for a stage, would not muster well in an historical relation ; for which reason, as his lordship was dropped, I drop them. The unhappiness was, that he could never find out her resolution as to him ; for she stood in some awe of Sir Geoffrey Palmer's family, and would not break with them till she had provided for herself another interest; and his lordship would not slight their excessive kindness to him by deserting his post at which they had placed him ; so, between the one and the other, he was held at the long saw for above a month, doing his duty as well as he might, and that was but clumsily, for he neither dressed nor danced; when his rivals were adroit at both, and the lady used to shuffle her favours amongst them affectedly, and onpurpose to mortify his lordship, and at the same time be as civil to him, with like purpose to mortify them : and his lordship was not so mystified by his amour as not to discern these arts; and nothing but the respects I hinted could have held him in harness so long. For it was very grievous to him, that had his thoughts upon his clients' concerns, which came in thick upon him, to be held in a course of bo-peep play with a crafty widow. And I have heard him often say, that he never was in all his life more rejoiced than when he was told that madam was married, whereby he was escaped from a miserable confinement. And the fastidium upon this occasion contracted, and his increase of business, which gave him little time to think of any thing else, diverted
his mind from undertaking any more of such projects, and so he went on his way. • " Another proposition came to his lordship by a city broker from Sir John Lawrence, who had many daughters, and those reputed beauties, and the fortune was to be 60001. His lordship went and dined with the alderman, and liked the lady, who (as the way is) was dressed out for a muster. And coming to treat, the portion shrank to 50001.; and upon that his lordship parted, and was not gone far, before Mr. broker (following) came to him, and said, Sir John would give 5001. more at the birth of the first child ; but that would not do, for his lordship hated such screwing. Not long after this despatch, his lordship was made the king's solicitorgeneral, and then the broker came again with news, that Sir John would give 10,0001. No! his lordship said, after such usage he would not proceed if he might have 20,0001. So ended that affair, and his lordship’s mind was once more settled in tranquillity.
“ It is said that marriages are made in heaven, and if frequent and unforeseen accidents (often to be observed productive of them) are any argument, the proverb hath countenance ; for so it happened in his lordship's case, for out of a contingent interview, a proposition sprang pregnant with all advantages of honour, person, and fortune, more than which was not to be desired or expected. And it was for a match with the Lady Frances Pope, the middle daughter of three co-heirs of Thomas, Earl of Down, who lived at Wroxton, in Oxfordshire. The eldest was married to Mr. Soames, of Thurlow, in Suffolk, within four miles of Catledge, the seat of his lordship's father. And, as the use is, the grave Countess of Down, with her two younger daughters, attended the new-married couple to their habitation, and made some stay there ; during which the visits of joy came in, and amongst the rest the family from Catledge made their appearance; and the countess and her daughters in due time made their return, which happened to be at a time when his lordship was at Catledge. His mother laid her eyes upon the eldest unmarried daughter, and when they were gone, turned about and said, “ Upon my life this lady would make a good wife for my son Frank. And, in short, at the next visit, with his lordship’s fair consent, she moved it to the countess, who consented that his lordship might make his advances. His next business was to muster what sum of money he could, in order to make an honourable proposition, and with 6001. borrowed of a friend, he could compass but 60001. in all to join to her fortune, which was estimated at 14,0001. for making the jointure and settlement intended to be 10001. per annum. After this he ventured down with a decent equipage and attendance, and in less than a fortnight fixed his point with the lady, and appointed another time to come and finish what was so auspiciously begun. And then his lordship went with full attendance and some friends, and after the necessary meetings were sealed, the lovers were happily married in Wroxton church.”
While Sir Francis North held the office of solicitorgeneral, he was returned to parliament as member for Lynn; but he had neither the inclination nor the leisure to devote himself to parliamentary business. On the promotion of Sir Heneage Finch to the woolsack, Sir Francis succeeded him as attorney-general, and his practice, which had before been very considerable, now received a sensible increase.
“ His business increased, even while he was solicitor, to be so much as would have overwhelmed one less dexterous; but when he was made attorney-general, though his gains by his office were great, they were much greater by his practice, for that flowed upon him like an orage, enough to overset one that had not extraordinary rea diness in business. His skull-caps, which he wore when he had leisure to observe his constitution, as I touched before, were now destined to lie in a drawer to receive the money that came in by fees: one had the gold, another the crowns and half-crowns, and another the smaller
money. When these vessels were full, they were com. mitted to his friend (the Hon. Roger North), who was constantly near him, to tell out the cash and put it into bags according to the contents, and so they went to his treasurer's, Blanchard and Child, goldsmiths, Temple-bar.”
Even at this busy period of his life, Sir Francis North did not neglect his more liberal studies, and acquired a general knowledge of the modern languages, French, Italian, and Spanish, and even made some progress in the study of the Dutch.. In the pursuit of his professional knowledge he was as diligent as ever, noting down in “ his solemn common-place book” every matter of importance, and making a copious index of any valuable treatise in MS. which fell in his way. To preserve his knowledge of real property law, he was accustomed every Christmas to peruse Littelton's Tenures.
On the death of Sir John Vaughan, the chief justice of the common pleas, Sir Francis North was promoted to the vacanť dignity. The leisure and ease which this change procured him compensated for the pecuniary loss which he sustained by it, his profits as attorney-general being about 70001. per annum, while the office of chief justice produced only 40001. One of the first acts of the new chief justice was to introduce the clause of ac etiam into the process of the common pleas, in accordance with the alteration lately made in the king's bench, by which the practice of the former court was considerably increased. Upon another matter of practice he had the misfortune to offend the bar of his court; an incident which is thus related by his biographer : —
“ There was an incident that happened not long after his lordship came into the place of chief in that court, which, though in itself and in the end of it ridiculous, yet being an affront to the court, and in particular to the lord chief justice, and by the whole bar of serjeants, all in a lump together, ought to be related, as I shall do, really as it was acted by them. It hath been the usage of the king's bench, at the side bar below in the hall, and of the common pleas, in the chamber within the treasury, to