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The disappearance from the legal strongest who could be opposed to hemisphere of so bright a star as the him in forensic warfare? Where, late Sir William Follett, cast a gloom, alas, was Sir William Follett? His not yet dissipated, over the legal pro- eloquent lips were stilled in death, fession, and all classes of society ca- his remains were mouldering in the pable of appreciating great intellec- tomb-yes, almost within the very tual eminence. He died in his forty- walls of that sacred structure, halseventh year; filling the great office lowed with the recollections and asof her Majesty's Attorney-general; sociations of centuries, in which his the head and pride of the British Bar; surviving brethren were assembled for a bright ornament of the senate; in worship on Sunday the 2d day of Nothe prime of manhood, and the pleni- vember 1845—the commencement of tude of his extraordinary intellectual the present legal year—at that period vigour; in the full noontide of suc- of it when his was erewhile ever the cess, just as he had reached the most conspicuous and shining figure, dazzling pinnacle of professional and his exertions were the most interestofficial distinction. The tones of his ing, the most important, his success was low mellow voice were echoing sadly at once the most easy, decisive, and in the ears, his dignified and graceful dazzling. Yes, there were assembled figure and gesture were present to the his brethren, who, with saddened faces eyes, of the bench and bar-when, at and beating hearts, bad attended his the commencement of last Michaelmas solemn obsequies in that very temple term, they re-assembled, with re- where was "committed his body to cruited energies, in the ancient inns the ground, earth to earth, ashes to of court, for the purpose of resuming ashes, dust to dust,” where all, intheir laborious and responsible pro- cluding the greatest and noblest in fessional exertions in Westminster the land, acknowledged, humbly and Hall. It was impossible not to think, mournfully, at the mouth of his grave, at such a time, of Sir William Follett, that man walketh in a vain shawithout being conscious of having sus- dow, and disquieteth himself in vain ; tained a grievous, if not an irreparable, he heapeth up riches, and cannot tell loss. Where was he whose name was so who shall gather them! Surely these lately a tower of strength to suitors ; are solemnizing and instructive rewhose consummate logical skill flections; and many a heart will acwhose wonderful resources—taxed to knowledge them to be such, amidst the uttermost those of judicial intel- all the din, and glare, and bustle of lect, and bafiled and overthrew the worldly affairs, in the awful presence of Him who turneth man to destruc- vituperation of the dead !—by the untion, and sayeth, Come again, ye children gracious parties to whom brief referof men !
ence has just been made; and consists, Sir William Follett has now lain in in short, in the excessive eagerness to his grave for six months. During accumulate money, by which it was this interval, the excitement which alleged that the late Sir William Folhis death created amongst those who lett was characterised. This charge is had been in constant intercourse with certainly not without foundation ; but him for years, has subsided ; leaving while this frank admission is made, them better able to take a calm and an important consideration ought to candid view of his character, acquire- accompany it in guiding the judgment ments, and position, and form a sober of every person of just and generous estimate of the nature and extent of feeling; and will relieve the memory his reputation while living, and the of the departed from much of the disprobability of its permanently sur- credit sought to be attached to it. viving him.
The life of Sir William Follett When summoned from the scene of appears to have been, from the his splendid and successful exertions, first, of frail tenure. Could he he was unquestionably the brightest have foreseen the terrible tax upon ornament of the British bar. Imme- his scanty physical resources which diately afterwards the press teemed would be exacted by the profeswith tributes to his memory : some of sion which he was about to adopt, he them characterised by great acute- would probably have abandoned his ness and discrimination, several by intentions, justly conscious though he exaggerated eulogy, and one or two might have been of his superior menby a harsh disingenuousness amount- tal fitness for the Bar, and would have ing to misrepresentation and malevo- betaken himself to some more tranlence. Nothing excited more astonish. quil walk of life, which he might have ment among those who had thoroughly been at this moment brightly adorning. known Sir William Follett, than the He devoted himself, however, to the appearance of these attacks upon his law, with intense and undivided enermemory, and the bad taste and feel- gy; and, at a very early period of his ing which alone could have prompted professional career, was compelled to the perpetration of them, at a moment retire for a time from practice, by one when the hearts of his surviving rela. of the most serious mischances which tives and friends were quivering with can befall humanity—it is believed, the first agonies of their severe bereave- the bursting of a bloodvessel in the ment; when they had just lost one lungs. Was not this a very fearful who had been the pride of their family, occurrence-was it not almost concluthe pillar of their hopes,—and who was sive evidence of the unwise choice universally supposed to have left be- which be had made of a profession hind him not a single enemy-who had requiring special strength in that been distinguished for his courteous, organ—was it not justly calculated mild, and inoffensive character, and to alarm him for his future safety ? its unblemished purity in all the rela- And yet, what was he to have done ? tions of private life. Certain of the To have abandoned a profession for strictures here alluded to, were petty, which alone he had qualified himself coarse, and uncandid; and with this by years of profound and exclusive observation they are dismissed from thought and labour ? What Otlice further notice. Sir William Follett would, under such circumstances, have had undoubtedly his shortcomings, in insured the life of young Mr Follett, common with every one of his fellow who, with such a fatal flaw in his men; and, as a small set-off against constitution, was nevertheless followhis many excellences of temper and ing a profession which would hourly character, one or two must be glanced attack his most vulnerable part? at by any one essaying to present to Poor Follett! who can tell the apprethe public, however imperfectly, a hensions and agonies concerning his just account of this very eminent per- safety, to which he was doomed, from
The failing in question formed the moment of his first solemn sumthe chief subject of vituperation, mons to the grave, on the occasion
alluded to? What had happened, he cheered, from time to time, by reflecttoo well knew, might happen again ing upon the satisfactory provision at any moment, and hurry him out of which he was making—which he was lite, leaving, in that case, compara- daily augmenting—for those who were tively destitate those whom he ten- to survive him! Who can tell how derly loved—for whom he was bound much of the bitterness of death was to provide—his widow and children. assuaged by such considerations ! And for the widow and children of When his fading eyes bent their achsuch a man as he knew that he had ing glances upon those who wept become, he felt that he ought to make around his deathbed, the retrospect a suitable provision : that those who, of a life of labour and privation spent after he was gone, were to bear his in providing for their comfort, must distinguished name, might be enabled indeed have been sweet and consolato occupy the position in which he tory! Surely this is but fair towards had placed them with dignity and the distinguished dead. It is but just comfort. Was such an illegitimate towards the memory of the departed, source of anxiety to one so circum- to believe his conduct to have been stanced, and capable of Sir William principally influenced by such conFollett's superior aspirations ? Was siderations. All men have many it not abundantly justified by his faults—most men have grave faults. splendid qualifications and expecta- Is parsimony intrinsically more cultions? Why, then, should he not toil pable than prodigality? Have not severely-exert himself even despe- most of mankind a tendency towards rately—to provide against the direful one or the other ? for how few are contingency to which his life was sub- ennobled by the ability to steer evenly ject ? Alas! how many ambitious, between the two! And even granthonourable, high-minded, and fond ing that Sir William Follett had a husbands and fathers are echoing tendency towards the former failing, such questions with a sigh of agony! it was surely exhibited under circumPoor Follett ! 'twas for such reasons stances which warrant us in saying, that he lived with an honourable that “even his failings leaned to vireconomy, eschewing that extrava- tue's side." gance and ostentation which too often, Connected with and immediately to men in his dazzling position, prove dependent upon this imputation upon irresistible; it was for such reasons the late Sir William Follett, is anthat he rose up early, and went to bed other which cannot be overlooked. late, and ate the bread of carefulness. He is charged with having made a Had he been alone in the world— profit of his prodigious popularity and had he had none to provide for but reputation, by discreditably and unconhimself, and yet had manifested the scientiously receiving fees from clients same feverish eagerness to acquire for services which he well knew at the and accumulate money–had he loved time that he could not possibly render money for money's sake, and accu- to them; in short, with taking briefs in mulated it from the love of accumu- cases to which he had no reasonable lation, the case would have been hope of being able to attend. This is a totally different. He might then have very grave accusation, and requires a been justly despised, and character deliberate and honest examination. ized as being of the earth, earthy— It is a long-established rule of English incapable of high and generous senti- law, that barristers have nolegal means ments and aspirations—sordid, gro- of recovering their fees, even in cases velling, and utterly despicable. Sir of most arduous and successful exerWilliam Follett bad, during twenty tion, except in the very few instances years of intense and self-denying toil
, where a barrister may consider it consucceeded in acquiring an ample for- sistent with the dignity of his position tune, which he disposed of, at his to enter beforehand into an express death, justly and generously; and agreement with his client for the payhow many hours of exhaustion, both ment of his fees.* A barrister's fee of mind and body, must have been is regarded, in the eye of the law, as
* This has been recently the subject of a decision of the Court of Queen's VOL. LIX. NO. CCCLXIII.
quiddam honorarium ; and is usually them, at a severe sacrifice of time and ---and ought to be invariably-paid labour, after great anxiety and exerbeforehand, on the brief being de- tion have been bestowed, and successlivered. A fee thus paid, a rule at fully bestowed. The rule in question tie bar forbids being returned, ex- is rigidly adhered to, subject to these cept under very special circumstances; exceptions, by eminent counsel, on and the rule in question is a very rea- another ground; viz. for the protecsonable one. As counsel have no legal tion of junior counsel, who would be title to remuneration, however labo- subject to incessant importunities if rious their exertions, what would be contronted by the examples of their their position if they were expected seniors. Take, now, the case of a or required to return their fees at the counsel who has eclipsed most, if not instance of unreasonable and disap- every one, of his competitors, in repilpointed clients? Where ought the line tation, for the skill and success of his to be drawn? Who is to be the judge advocacy-who is acute, ready, dexin such a case? A client may have terous, sagacious, eloquent, and of acderived little or no benefit from his curate and profound legal knowledge : counsel's exertions, which may yet that is the man whose name instantly have been very great ; an accident, occurs to any one involved, or likely to an oversight may have intervened, and be involved, in litigation-such an prevented his completing those exer- one must be instantly secured-at all tions by attending at the trial cither at events, taken from the enemy-at any all, or during the whole of the trial ; cost. The pressure upon such a counhe may have become unable to pro- sel's time and energies then becomes vide an efficient substitute; through really enormous, and all but insupthe sudden pressure of other engage- portable. As it is of the last importments, he may be unable to bestow upon ance either to secure his splendid serthe case the deliberate and thorough vices, or deprive the enemy of them, consideration which it requires—an such a counsel-and such, it need unexpected and formidable difficulty hardly be said, was Sir William Folmay prove too great for his means of lett—is continually made the subject overcoming it, as might have been the of mere speculation by clients who case with men of superior skill and are content to take the chance of obexperience;-in these and many other taining his attendance, with the cerinstances wbich might be put, an tainty of securing his absence as an angry and defeated client would rarely opponent. When, however, the hour be without some pretext for requiring of battle has arrived, and, with a comthe return of his fees, and counsel pact array visible upon the opposite would be subject to a pressure per- side, the great captain is not where it fectly intolerable, most unreasonable, had been hoped—or thought possible most unfair to themselves, leading to that he might have been—when, results seriously prejudicial to the in- moreover, no adequate provision has terests of their clients; and a practice been made against such a serious conwould be introduced entailing great tingency-when the battle has been evils and inconveniences, affecting the fought and lost, and great interests are credit and honour of both branches of seriously compromised, or for ever sathe legal profession. The rule in ques- crificed-then the client is apt, in the tion rests upon the above, among first smarting agony of defeat, to forget many other valid reasons, and is gene- the chance which he had been content rally acted upon. No one, however, to run, and to persuade himself that can have any practical knowledge of he had from the first calculated as a the bar, without being aware of very matter of certainty on the great man's many instances of counsel disregard- attendance—and intense is that client's ing that rule, and evincing a noble chagrin, and loud are his complaints. disinterestedness in the matter of fees, Can it be supposed that this eminent either returning or declining to accept counsel is not sufficiently aware of the
Bench, in the case of Egan v. The Guardians of the Kensington Union, 3 Queen's Bench Reports, p. 935, note (a). The same rule applies to physicians. Veitch v. Russell, ib. 928.