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temper which distinguished and disgraced him at the bar seems to have been softened down in his maturer years; and we find no instance, while he sat on the bench, of grossness or intemperance of language, or of any want of courtesy either to the suitors or the practisers in his court [Note 10.] As a lawyer, Coke has, perhaps, never been equalled in the copious extent and variety of his information. No legal question could arise which he was unable to illustrate out of the superabundant stores of his learning. His mind, naturally fertile, was cultivated with unceasing care and diligence. In reporting the arguments of counsel, and the judgments of the court, which were at that time remarkable for their learning and fulness, he has frequently added, from the inexhaustible sources of his own information, a mass of legal matter, which has now become equally valuable with the decisions themselves. The chief fault of his powerful intellect appears to have been the absence of that admirable faculty of distribution and arrangement, which, like discipline in an army, gives irresistible power to those forces, which without it would be oppressed and rendered useless by their very extent. The mind of Coke had also suffered from its devotion to the logic of his profession. In his reverence for legal principles and legal maxims, he sometimes forgot the higher dictates of reason and good sense. As an antiquarian lawyer, he was not deeply learned, and was surpassed by Selden, and, perhaps, by Hale. Yet even with these defects he stood the acknowledged and unrivalled head of his profession, at a period fruitful in eminent men, and when the ambition of Bacon led him to devote his high genius to the same pursuits.
It will not, perhaps, be altogether useless to compare the characters and fortunes of these two celebrated men. With powers of mind which have probably never been equalled; with philosophy to unravel the errors of ages, and to link with the highest of human sciences his own immortal name; with an intellect so subtle and searching, as not only to traverse the world of matter, but to pierce into the unexplored realms of mind; with sagacity to read,
and with ingenuity to govern, the characters of others; with a bland and copious tongue; and with an obedient and powerful pen ; above all, with the richest of human gifts, the capacity of taking the most enlarged views of man's true happiness : with all these countless blessings showered lavishly upon him, Bacon has left a name which, in despite of its immortality, every honest and honourable man would scorn to bear; a name debased by the most mean and groveling ambition, by thorough want of principle, and by the profligate abandonment of high and honourable feeling. Nor did he fail to reap his due reward in the insolence and ingratitude of those whom he had helped to raise and to flatter, and in the contempt of all to whom such debasement was odious.
Far inferior in intellectual capacity, with none of the science, and with little of the literature of Bacon (Note 11.), Sir Edward Coke, in all the essentials of a truly noble character, was immeasurably his superior. Unimpeached in his integrity, consistent, honest, and firm in his political principles, he exhibited an admirable example of the most difficult of all virtues - virtue in public life. The dignified self-respect with which he conducted himself in his contests with the court, forms a striking contrast to the abject submission of Bacon, whenever he discovered that he had offended the king or his favourite. Nor is the conclusion of the lives of these great men less instructive. They had both been dismissed from their high stations; they had both been disgraced at court: but Coke retired with the enlivening consciousness of his honest and honourable life; Bacon, “ with wasted spirits and an oppressed mind,” and with bitter reflections on his shattered fortunes.
The most celebrated of the works of Sir Edward Coke is the Comment on Littleton; a wonderful monument of the extraordinary extent and profundity of his learning, and of which it has been observed by the most competent judge, that “ Neither England nor the continent can produce any contemporaneous work of equal or even ap
proximating merit. It may be regarded as a complete corpus of our elder jurisprudence, and as such will never cease to be diligently studied by all who are desirous of forming an intimate acquaintance with the principles of the common law.
The very copious and valuable collection of reports which were prepared and published by Sir Edward Coke are unequalled in that branch of legal literature. Calvin's case t he has stated the method which he used in reporting, from which we may understand the nature of the labour to which he subjected himself. “ And now that I have taken upon me to make a report of their arguments, I ought to do the same as fully, truly, and sincerely as possibly I can; howbeit, seeing that almost every judge had, in the course of his argument, a particular method, and I must only hold myself to one, I shall give no just offence to any if I challenge that which of right is due to every reporter, that is, to reduce the sum and effect of all to such a method as, upon consideration had of all the arguments, the reporter himself thinketh to be fittest and clearest for the right understanding of the true reasons and causes of the judgment and resolution of the case in question.” Of the reports, Bacon himself has left the following opinion: “ To give every man his due, had it not been for Sir Edward Coke's reports, which, though they have many errors, and some peremptory and extrajudicial resolutions more than are warranted, yet they contain infinite good decisions and rulings over of cases ; the law by this time had been like a ship without ballast, for that the cases of modern experience are fled from those that are adjudged and ruled in former time.” It may be observed, that the 12th and 13th Reports were not published until after the chief justice's death; but that these are genuine there cannot be the least doubt. They contain the numerous political cases in which Coke was engaged or consulted; and are invaluable, not merely to the constitutional lawyer, but to the historian. The * Butler's Reminis., vol i. p. 115.
+ 8 Rep. 4, a,
publication of these cases was, in all probability, forbidden by the king. *
The remaining works of Sir Edward Coke consist of the Second Institute, containing commentaries on various ancient statutes; the Third Institute, on Criminal Law; the Fourth Institute, on the Jurisdiction of Courts; a volume of Entries, or Forms of Pleading, and three tracts; on Bail and Mainprize ; The complete Copyholder ; and a Reading on Fines, which were published in one volume by Serjeant Hawkins in 1764.
Sir Edward Coke may be considered as the founder of the invaluable library of MSS. at Holkham. A number of those manuscripts bear his autograph name, and several volumes appear to be wholly written by his own hand. There are eight copies in MS. of the Registrum brevium, several volumes of the Statutes, and some treatises which do not appear to have been published.
In the very first rank of our antiquarian lawyers stands the name of John Selden. The profundity of his learning, and the extent of his researches, render a critical examination of his writings, or even a familiar acquaintance with them, a task which few persons have either the power or the resolution to undertake. The following pages will be confined to an attempt to trace the principal incidents of the life of this learned and celebrated person. (Note 12.]
John Selden was born on the 16th December, 1584, at Salvington, near Tering, in Sussex. His father was a person of inconsiderable rank; his mother a member of the knightly family of Baker, in Kent. He received his early education at the free-school of Chichester; and at the age of fourteen was admitted of Hart-hall, in the
* See Thomlinson's case, 12 Rep. 104.
university of Oxford. With regard to the course of his early studies little is known. At the age of eighteen he be, came a resident in London and a member of Clifford's Inn, it being customary at that time for students at law to enter themselves at one of the minor inns of court before they became members of the greater societies. In May, 1604, he was admitted of the Inner Temple, and in due time was called to the bar. His practice in court was very inconsiderable. “ He seldom or never,” says Wood, “ appeared at the bar; but sometimes gave chamber counsel, and was good at conveyancing.” The leisure which he derived from this mode of life was devoted to subjects more congenial to his taste than the practical details of his profession. Having formed an acquaintance with Spelman, Cotton, and Camden, he was led at an early period to the study of our national antiquities; and before he had attained the age of twenty-three, he had compiled a volume of collections on the early history of England, under the title of Analectan Anglo-Britannican libri duo. This work was, several years afterwards, printed at Frankfort, in a very incorrect manner; and though it has been censured by Bishop Nicholson, it was regarded by its author, at a more mature age, as a performance not discreditable to his youth. Pursuing the same line of study, Selden, in 1610, published two tracts relative to early English history, under the title of England's Epinomis, and Jani Anglorum facies altera. In the same year he gave to the world a short but learned piece, entitled the Duello, or single combat; in which he investigates the origin and method of the judicial combat, as practised amongst our Norman ancestors. The reputation which Selden had acquired by these smaller essays of his learning and industry, was greatly enhanced by the publication, in 1614, of a work in which he displayed his profound acquaintance with the antiquities both of his own and other nations. In this treatise on Titles of Honour [Note 13.), a mass of legal and constitutional learning is accumulated, which renders it one of the most valuable works in the English historical library. A second edition,