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This article was written by Theodore Martin and was published in 1887.
John Singleton Copley the younger, Lord Lyndhurst, was Lord Chancellor. He was the son of John Singleton Copley the elder , and of his wife, Mary Farnum Clarke; he was born in Boston, U.S., on 21 May 1772. He was brought over to England by his mother in June 1775, along with two sisters. His father had come to Europe in 1774. His uncle, Mr. Clarke, having become obnoxious to his fellow-citizens from his attachment to the English government, had been compelled to fly for safety to Canada. The position of Copley's wife and children in Boston had become so unpleasant, and the prospects of Copley himself as an artist, should he return to America, were so doubtful, that Mrs. Copley decided on removing to London, where friends and relatives were already settled, and a career as an artist awaited her husband on his return from abroad.
The family first lived in a house in Leicester Fields, from the windows of which Lord Lyndhurst remembered to have seen the Gordon riots in June 1780. A few years afterwards they removed to 25 George Street, Hanover Square, where the elder Copley resided till his death in 1815, where also his widow died at the ripe age of ninety-one in 1836, and where Lord Lyndhurst, except for a short interval, lived till his death in 1863.
Young Copley, according to family tradition, was full of vivacity and humour — qualities which he carried into his future life. When friends from America, to which his eldest sister returned on her marriage, carried back to him in his old age the tales they had heard of his boyish pranks, which used to provoke his father into saying, ‘You'll be a boy, Jack, all your life!’ the aged ex-chancellor would answer with a smile, ‘Well, I believe my father was right there.’
He was of a sweet, loving temper, and his pleasant way of looking at things was a welcome element in contrast with the anxious and meditative cast of his father's mind, and the somewhat serious temperament of his mother. ‘I am naturally a friend to gaiety,’ he writes in 1791; ‘I love to see what is to be seen’ — a characteristic which coloured all his life. He was devoted to his parents, and in their happy and well-regulated home he acquired the simplicity of tastes and the habit of strong family attachment for which he was conspicuous through life.
His education was begun at the private school in Chiswick of Dr. Horne, of whom Lord Lyndhurst in his ninety-first year recorded that he was ‘a good classical scholar, and infused into his pupils a fair proportion of Latin and Greek.’ Dr. Horne thought highly of his pupil, writing of him on 23 November 1789, as ‘a prodigiously improved young man.’ Early he acquired the habit, for which he was celebrated in after life, of thoroughly mastering and fixing with precision in his memory whatever engaged his attention, whether in science or in literature. When repeating his lessons in the classics to his sister, he used to say, ‘No matter whether you understand the text or not, be sure I make no mistake in a single word, or even in an accent.’ For mathematics, and also for mechanical science, he early showed a marked aptitude. He had no gift for the painter's art, but living as he did in the midst of artists, and delighting in the results of their labours, he gladly availed himself of his opportunities of attending the lectures on art of Sir Joshua Reynolds, Barry, and others. He used to tell of being present at one of Reynolds's lectures, when, an alarm having arisen that the floor was about to give way, Burke, who was there, appealed to the audience to be calm, and not to accelerate the catastrophe by a rush.
In these early days he took a keen interest in the progress of art and in the prosperity of the Royal Academy. How thoroughly conversant he was with its early history and what it had done for art, and how this had been retained in his memory through more than fifty years, was shown when, speaking in the House of Lords on 4 March 1859, on the proposed removal of the Academy from the National Gallery to Burlington House, he brought forward all the circumstances attending its establishment with as much freshness and fluency as if they were of recent occurrence. His wish in youth was to be an architect, but of this his father would not hear. He had formed a high estimate of his son's abilities; and, as these seemed especially fitted to win distinction at the bar, young Copley was sent to be educated, with a view to the legal profession, to Cambridge, where he was entered as a pensioner at Trinity College on 8 July 1790.
He had every motive to make the best use of his time at the university. His father was not rich, and was dependent on a precarious profession. With an intellect so keen and a memory of unusual tenacity, it was comparatively easy for young Copley to cover a wide field of study, not only in literature, but also in mathematics, physics, and mechanical science. In the mathematical tripos of 1794 he took his degree as second wrangler, being beaten by the senior wrangler of the year, George Butler, afterwards headmaster of Harrow and dean of Peterborough. A failure in health alone prevented him from coming out as senior wrangler. ‘My health,’ he writes to his father on 17 January 1794, in announcing this fact, ‘was my only enemy. I am the more pleased at my place, as this study (mathematics) has only been adopted by me within these nine months, whereas several of my opponents have been labouring for years. As I predicted, I am first in my own college.’ He also took the King William prize in the Michaelmas term 1794. On 19 May of the same year he was admitted a member of the Hon. Society of Lincoln's Inn, and kept the Easter term there. Returning to the university, he obtained, on 10 August 1795, the appointment of travelling bachelor, with a grant of £100 a year for three years, and in the following month was elected a fellow of his college. At the end of 1795 he sailed for America, where, since the peace of 1784, friendly relations with England had been established. He was warmly welcomed in his native city of Boston, where his father's reputation as an artist stood very high.
The chief object of his visit was, if possible, to recover a valuable property on Beacon Hill there which belonged to his father. It had been sold by Mr. Copley's agent in his absence without due authority, and the price never accounted for. Young Copley soon found that the transaction could not be annulled, and he was glad to compromise with the purchasers, who had bought the property in good faith, and who now agreed to pay £4,000 to Copley to have their title confirmed. Had things turned out otherwise, Copley would undoubtedly have returned to America, and his son would probably have carried out an intention he for some time entertained of settling there as a farmer. Young Copley made a tour through the United States, with Volney, the French author, for a travelling companion during a portion of his travels. In admirable Latin letters, addressed to Dr. Bellward, the vice-chancellor of the university of Cambridge, he recorded the more important details of what he had seen, and so fulfilled his duty as a travelling bachelor. On his return to England he went back to Cambridge for a short period, and took the M.A. degree on 5 July 1796. He then devoted himself to the study of the law.
His first practice was as a special pleader, his scanty briefs being mainly supplemented by the allowance attached to his fellowship, which he enjoyed up to 1804. His first chambers were in Essex Court, Temple, where he was installed in 1800, in which year his eldest and favourite sister was married to Mr. Gardiner Greene, a merchant of Boston, U.S. To Mr. Greene young Copley owed the funds which enabled him to be called to the bar. His prospects up to 1804 were so gloomy, that he thought seriously of forsaking the bar for the church. Of this his father would not hear, and wrote to Mr. Greene for assistance. It came promptly, and in acknowledging it (30 May 1804) young Copley writes to Mr. Greene: ‘Assisted by your friendship, I am about to launch my bark into a wider sea; I am not insensible to the dangers with which it abounds. But while to some it proves disastrous and fatal, to others it affords a passage to wealth, or, what is of more value than wealth, to reputation and honours.’
On 18 June 1804 he was called to the bar and joined the midland circuit. His great abilities were by this time recognised by his brethren at the bar. He worked hard, and was assiduous in attendance on the courts. Briefs came in, he continued to rise, but even in 1806, we are told, ‘the profits increase very, very slowly.’ During 1807 the progress grew more rapid — the work harder, and, though he was a brilliant talker, and enjoyed dances, he renounced society, finding it incompatible with the pressure of business. By this time, his mother writes, ‘his prospects are satisfactory, and remove our anxious concern on that score. He has made a great advance, and says he must style himself, as others do, “a lucky dog.”’ Meanwhile he had removed his chambers to Crown Office Row, and these he retained until he left the bar. Out of his increasing income he was able to assist his father, whose art had ceased to be profitable; but down to 1812 it did no more than meet the immediate wants of his parents and himself.
In the March of that year Copley got his first great start in his profession by his defence at the Nottingham assizes of John Ingham, one of the leading Luddites, who was charged with what was then the capital offence of rioting and the destruction of machinery. By an ingenious objection to the indictment he got his client off scot-free. The sympathies of the mob were all with Ingham, and Copley had difficulty in preventing them from carrying himself to his hotel upon their shoulders. Just before this he had resolved to give up the circuit, finding it did not pay; but he never afterwards wanted briefs when he came to Nottingham. The turn in his affairs had come which ‘led on to fortune.’ In 1813 he was raised to the dignity of serjeant-at-law. During the next two years his success enabled him to increase the comforts of his father, but it was not such as to enable him to fulfil his mother's wish that he should marry. His father's death in September 1815 threw the whole burden of his family upon him. It was cheerfully accepted by ‘the best of sons and the best of brothers,’ as he was called by his father. Old Copley left heavy debts; his son assumed them all, and paid them out of his hard-won earnings to the last penny. Years had only drawn closer the bonds of affection between his mother and sister and himself. Mr. and Mrs. Greene tried hard to get them to make a home with them at Boston, but they refused. ‘It would be distressing indeed,’ Mrs. Copley writes, ‘to break up my son's only domestic scene for comfort and resort from his arduous attention to business. His kind and feeling heart you know, and it has had a large scope for action.’ In the action of Boville v. Moore and others for infringement of a patent, tried in March 1816 before Chief-justice Gibbs, Copley gained great distinction by the masterly way in which he explained the intricate machinery of the bobbin-net frame, which, according to Dr. Ure, is ‘as much beyond the most curious chronometer as that is beyond a roasting-jack,’ illustrating his exposition as he went along by working a model of the machine with what seemed the dexterity of a practised hand. He had made himself master of the subject by running down to Nottingham two days before, studying the machine at his client's works, and turning out with his own hands an unexceptionable specimen of bobbin-net lace. Copley succeeded in proving that the plaintiff's machine was only an improvement on the spinning-jenny invented some years before by Mr. Heathcot, and in so doing not only secured a verdict for his clients, but enabled Heathcot to take measures, which he did forthwith, to reap the solid fruits of his invention. From this time fees poured in upon Copley so largely, that he was able by degrees to pay off his father's debts, and to place his family in greater comfort than they had known for years.
He now became the acknowledged leader of his circuit, and was recognised by his professional brethren as marked for distinction. This opinion was confirmed by the brilliant appearances which he made in two celebrated trials for treason in 1817. The first of these was that of Dr. Watson and Thistlewood, afterwards the head of the Cato Street conspiracy. Copley's speech is said by Lord Campbell, who heard it, to have been ‘one of the ablest and most effective ever delivered in a court of justice.’ It was marked by that ‘luminous energy’ which characterised all his speeches. Not a superfluous sentence, no patches of rhetoric, the points chosen with unfaltering judgment, and driven home with convincing force, all indicating a mind which, as Sir Samuel Shepherd once said of Copley, ‘had no rubbish in it.’ Mainly through Copley's eloquence a verdict of acquittal was obtained. The exceptional ability shown by Copley determined the government to secure his services at the next state trial. This was that of Brandreth, Turner and others for riot at a special assize in Derby in October 1817, when effective use was made by Mr. Denman of the fact that his clients, the accused, were in this way deprived of ‘that bulwark which they would otherwise have found in Copley's talents, zeal, eloquence, and useful experience.’ Less scrupulous politicians accused Copley of deserting his principles, assuming that he had shared the opinions of the Luddites and others whom he had defended, simply because he had done his duty as their counsel to the best of his ability.
Soon after this trial Lord Liverpool was the means of bringing Copley into parliament, but without ‘pledge, promise, or condition of any sort,’ which he certainly would not have done, unless he had felt sure that Copley's political opinions were such that his support of the general policy of the government might be relied on. Copley took his seat in March 1818 as member for Yarmouth in the Isle of Wight. During this session he spoke only twice, but his position is denoted by the fact that on the first occasion he was selected to answer Sir Samuel Romilly, and on the second his speech brought up Sir James Mackintosh to reply.
In the following session Copley sat for the borough of Ashburton, and in 1818 he received his first step towards judicial promotion in being appointed king's serjeant and chief justice of Chester, in which capacity he gave proofs of the high judicial qualities for which he was afterwards pre-eminently distinguished. His first labours as a judge were soon ended, for in June 1819 he was appointed solicitor-general on Sir Robert (afterwards Lord) Gifford becoming attorney-general, and was knighted.
In March 1819 he married Sarah Garay, daughter of Charles Brunsden, and widow of Lieutenant-colonel Charles Thomas of the Coldstream guards, a beautiful and brilliant woman, between twenty and thirty years of age. By this time he had established his reputation as a great lawyer, with a mind of unusual subtlety, while distinguished as a speaker by terseness and luminous vigour of expression. ‘He is more than a lawyer,’ says Mr. J. P. Collier in his Criticisms of the Bar, published in 1819, ‘and apparently well read not only in the historians, but also in the poets of his country, so that at nisi prius he shines with peculiar brightness.’ These qualities were enhanced by a singularly handsome presence and a fine voice, as well as by perfect courtesy to both bar and bench, which, Lord Campbell says, ‘made him popular with all branches of the profession of the law.’ In the House of Commons the charm of these characteristics was heightened by dignity of bearing and frank courage in debate, his bearing ‘always erect, his eye sparkling, and his smile proclaiming his readiness for a jest.’
While in office as solicitor-general Copley added greatly to his reputation both as a debater and as a leading counsel. His appearance in the trial of Thistlewood and others for high treason, and in the proceedings in the House of Lords against Queen Caroline, both in 1820, will always be a model of the dignity, the moderation, the mastery of essential details, the skill in cross-examination, the scrupulous accuracy, and the tempered glow of eloquence, which make the triumphs of the great advocate. In 1824 Copley became attorney-general, and held the office till the death of Lord Gifford in September 1826, when he was appointed master of the rolls, retaining his seat, upon re-election, for Cambridge university, which he had secured the previous June. He was also appointed, in succession to Lord Gifford, recorder of Bristol, by the unanimous vote of the town council.
This office and that of master of the rolls, which, like Lord Gifford, he held along with it, he retained for only eight months, having by the wish of the king, on the refusal of Lord Eldon to continue in office, been nominated as chancellor in the following April, and raised to the peerage as Baron Lyndhurst. When Canning's brief administration was closed by his death on 8 August following, Lord Lyndhurst was continued in the office of chancellor by Lord Goderich. On power passing, or rather being forced, from that nobleman's feeble hands in the ensuing December, the Duke of Wellington at once requested Lyndhurst to retain his seat on the woolsack, which he did until the fall of the Wellington administration in 1830.
During this period the duke and Sir Robert Peel leaned so greatly upon his advice and assistance, that, next to theirs, his was the most potential voice in the cabinet. In debate his services were of the highest value. He spoke rarely, and only on great occasions, when he made his powers so strongly felt by his political adversaries that he became the mark, as a dreaded enemy in those days was sure to become, for envenomed slanders in their journals. These he treated with contempt, except when they impugned his integrity as a public man. At last he was driven to put two of his libellers to proof of their charges that he had used the patronage of his office to put money in his pocket, and obtained triumphant verdicts against them. The charge was never more misapplied, his rule on all such matters being detur digniori, and this, as appointments given by him to such sturdy political opponents as Mr. (afterwards Lord) Macaulay and the Rev. Sydney Smith proved, without reference to party considerations.
Lord Lyndhurst's practice had been confined to the common law bar, he was for some time at a disadvantage as the head of the court of equity. But this disadvantage he set himself to conquer, and with the success which might have been expected from an intellect so acute, and so accustomed to refer all questions to governing principles. Although in the question of parliamentary reform, on which the Wellington administration fell in November 1830, to be succeeded by that of Earl Grey, he did not share the extreme views of his leader, he was too much attached to him, and too little in sympathy with the views of Earl Grey, to have accepted office under him. It was creditable to Lord Grey, and to his chancellor, Lord Brougham, that on the retirement of Sir William Alexander in December 1830 from the office of chief baron, they proposed to Lyndhurst to take his place, thus securing to the state the benefit of his fine judicial powers, and doing a kindness to an honoured friend, though redoubtable political opponent. With the full concurrence of the Duke of Wellington, Sir Robert Peel, and Lord Aberdeen, whom he consulted, Lyndhurst accepted the appointment, the emoluments of which, £7,000 a year, were of moment to him; and in the four years during which he held it he raised the reputation of his court to the highest point. So sound were his judgments that they were very rarely carried to appeal. The operation of taking notes was so irksome to him that he left the task to his chief clerk. But such was the tenacity of his memory, and his skill in arranging the details of evidence during the progress of the case, that his summings-up were masterpieces of accuracy as well as terseness, helping the jury when mere reading of the evidence in the ordinary way would probably have bewildered them. The most signal instance of his marvellous power of digesting masses of evidence, reducing them into order, and retaining them in his memory, was his judgment in the case of Small v. Attwood. The hearing of the case began 21 November 1831, and occupied twenty-one days in reading the depositions and hearing the arguments of counsel. On 1 November 1832 Lyndhurst delivered a judgment ‘by all accounts,’ says Lord Campbell, ‘the most wonderful ever heard in Westminster Hall. It was entirely oral, and without even referring to any notes, he employed a long day in stating complicated facts, in entering into complex calculations, and in correcting the misrepresentations of counsel on both sides. Never once did he falter or hesitate, and never once was he mistaken in a name, a figure, or a date.’ He had to defend this judgment some years afterwards on an appeal to the House of Lords in a speech which, Lord Campbell says, ‘again astounded all who heard it.’
His judgment was reversed, wrongly, as is now admitted by the soundest lawyers. In the discussions in the House of Lords in 1831 Lyndhurst took a leading part, and his speeches, read by the light of what has since happened, while they prove him to have had the prophetic intuitions of the statesman, are worthy to be read no less for political instruction than for that best eloquence which, having important things to say, says them in the clearest and most emphatic and tersest language. On 7 May 1832 he succeeded in carrying a motion for postponing consideration of the clauses for disfranchisement, and, the ministry having resigned, he was at once sent for by William IV, who, upon his advice, authorised him to ascertain the views of the leaders of the opposition as to taking office. The Duke of Wellington was prepared to have done so; Sir Robert Peel, however, was not. Lord Grey resumed office, and the Reform Bill passed without further opposition. Unlike his great rival and friend Brougham, Lyndhurst never rose to speak in the House of Lords unless he felt that his silence might be misconstrued or injure a good cause. He was always eagerly listened to. His speeches were never prepared, except in this, that the subject was thought over and over. ‘With the exception of certain phrases,’ he told the Rev. Whitwell Elwin, ‘which necessarily grow out of the process of thinking, I am obliged to leave the wording of my argument to the moment of delivery.’ But here he seemed to be never at a loss. His mind as he spoke worked with an energy that completely took possession of his hearers. In delivering his judgments also this was eminently conspicuous. He so stated the facts that those who listened saw things with the same clearness as himself, and so were led insensibly up to his own conclusions. He was well described by a writer in 1833: ‘You can hear a pin fall when he is addressing the house; you may imagine yourself listening to — looking at — Cicero. His person, gesture, countenance, and voice are alike dignified, forcible, and persuasive. ... He stands steadily, however vehement and impassioned in what he is delivering, never suffering himself to “overstep the modesty of nature,” to be betrayed into ungainly gesticulations.’
On the fall of Lord Melbourne's administration in November 1834, Lyndhurst again became chancellor during the short administration of Sir Robert Peel, which terminated in the following April. Being free from constant work as a judge, he now took a more active part in the discussions of the House of Lords. He led the opposition (1835) in the debates on the Municipal Reform Bill, in the face of a very determined and angry opposition, carrying several important amendments which he believed, and which have been found to be, improvements on the measure as introduced. To the principle of the Irish Municipal Reform Bill (1836) he set up a determined resistance, which was fatal to the measure, and drew down upon him the envenomed attack of the whigs, as well as of O'Connell and others, for having spoken of the Irish as ‘aliens in blood, in language, and in religion,’ a phrase which he proved, when the bill came back with the commons' amendments, that he had never used, demonstrating at the same time, from the language of Irish agitators themselves, that it had been made their boast that their countrymen were what Lyndhurst was accused of having called them.
In this session he was the means of carrying the valuable bill for authorising the defence by counsel of prisoners in criminal trials. A singular fatality had this year befallen most of the government measures, a fact of which the most was made by Lyndhurst in a review of the session on 18 August, the first of a series of similar assaults on Lord Melbourne's administration, which helped materially to shake it by the skill of analysis and the vigour of their invective.
This was a busy year with Lyndhurst, for besides playing a prominent part in politics, he attended closely to appeals in the House of Lords as well as to the business of the privy council. In 1837 his attention was chiefly directed to judicial business. But, in concert with Lord Brougham, he rendered important service in bringing into shape several bills for the reform of the criminal law, introduced by Sir John Campbell, then attorney-general. The Irish Municipal Corporations Reform Bill, again introduced in much the same terms as the previous year, was again defeated, the house refusing by a majority of eighty-six to let it go into committee. In two successive sessions the bill shared the same fate, and it only passed in 1840 with material modifications in the direction indicated by Lord Lyndhurst. In January 1834 Lady Lyndhurst, to whom he was warmly attached, had died after a short illness. Four years afterwards, in August 1837, he married Georgiana, daughter of Lewis Goldsmith, a union the happiness of which was unbroken to his death.
His skill as lawyer and legislator was shown in the session of 1838 by his amendments on the bill for the abolition of imprisonment for debt, and also on the Juvenile Offenders Bill. In 1840 he was elected, in opposition to Lord Lyttelton, by a majority of 485, to the office of high steward of the university of Cambridge, an honour which he prized as one of the chief distinctions of his career, especially as men of all shades of opinion had combined to confer it. ‘His reception in the senate house,’ writes one who was present, ‘was a striking and strange exhibition of reverential uproar, such as I never witnessed except in the same place five years before, when the great duke was presented as “Doctor” Wellington.’ When Sir Robert Peel was called, in August 1841, to form a ministry on the defeat of the Melbourne administration, he at once named as his chancellor Lord Lyndhurst, with whom he had for years ‘been on the most confidential intercourse on political matters,’ and on whom, to use his own words, ‘he could confidently rely when real difficulties were to be encountered.’ Lyndhurst was now in his sixty-ninth year, but he was strong, and proved himself quite equal to the heavy work of his office. During his tenure of it he displayed in a pre-eminent degree the judicial aptitude, the desire to arrive at truth, and the splendid power of statement for which he had previously made a great reputation. His speeches in the House of Lords were confined almost exclusively to questions of legal reform raised by himself or others. Despite the pressure of advancing years and the threatened loss of eyesight, he forbore to retire, as he wished to do, when his leader became involved in difficulty with his party by the pressure of the question of free trade in 1844-5, and remained to fight and fall with him upon that question.
With heartfelt delight he retired from office, and retreated to a country house at Turville, which he had taken on lease some years before, and where he was happy with his family, his books, his friends, and the occupations of a farm. In 1846 he made, with the approval of the Duke of Wellington, an unsuccessful attempt to reunite the broken ranks of the conservative party, under the leadership of Lord Stanley. But all hope of healing the breach failed owing to the resistance of Lord George Bentinck, the leader for the time of the protectionists. On this Lyndhurst was glad to retire for a time from active participation in the debates of the House of Lords, but he continued to keep up intimate relations with Lord Stanley and other leading men of his party. For the next two years he appeared little in public life. The blindness with which he had been for some time threatened had become so great that for the greater part of 1849 he could neither read nor write. But his family made this deprivation comparatively light for him by reading to him whatever he wished, and his remarkable tenacity of memory came to his aid by retaining every fact and figure of importance. In June 1849 he created surprise by rising to speak in the House of Lords against the royal assent being given to an act of the Canadian legislature, under which he contended that compensation for loss in the Canadian rebellion might be given to those who had abetted it. Frail and feeble physically as he obviously was, it was apparent that nothing but a strong sense of duty could have induced him to appear; but it was soon seen that he had lost nothing of his old intellectual vigour, as for more than an hour he rivetted the attention of the house. There was something singularly pathetic in his words, when, apologising for having addressed their lordships at all, he said, ‘Perhaps it is the last time I shall ever do so.’ It was, happily, very far from being so; for although now verging on his eightieth year, his eyes were on two several occasions successfully operated upon, and for nearly ten years more the voice of ‘the old man eloquent’ was heard with perhaps greater effect than at any previous period of his career.
His spirit retained something of the buoyancy of youth. He was happy in his home and in his friends, felt a keen interest not only in the political movements, but also in the literature and scientific discoveries of the day. The bitterness of his political adversaries was subdued by the commanding powers and unmistakable patriotism by which every speech he made was distinguished. Even so late as 1851 Lord Derby was anxious for him to become lord chancellor for the fourth time. He was quite equal to the fatigue of office, but he could not afford its expenses; and he was at an age, and had long been of a temper, which prefers to speak on public questions unfettered by the ties of party. After a successful operation for cataract in July 1852 he was present in the House of Lords at all important debates, and his speeches excited universal admiration by their ripe sagacity, their play of humour and invective, the glow of genuine feeling, and the marvellous command of all historical and other facts bearing upon his argument. Thus of his speech against the proposal to create life peerages on 7 February 1856, Lord Campbell, who did not love the man, says that it was ‘the most wonderful ever heard. It would have been admirable for a man of thirty-five, and for a man of eighty-four it was miraculous.’ Even more remarkable were his speeches in 1859 and 1860 on the national defences, passages in which will always be of priceless value as warnings how alone England can maintain the pre-eminence and the empire she has won. His last speech was spoken on 7 May 1861, on a bill for establishing the validity of wills of personal estate. It showed no decline in the strong reason and masculine eloquence with which he had long fascinated the peers; but, though he frequently attended the house afterwards, he was no more heard in debate.
The remaining years of his life were happy, if life can be made happy by ‘love, honour, troops of friends,’ and by carrying into the enforced quiet of extreme age the keen appreciation of all that is best in literature and art and human nature, and a living hope of a better life to come. All these Lord Lyndhurst had in an eminent degree. After a brief illness he passed gently and tranquilly away on 12 October 1863, being then in his ninety-second year. Of the many panegyrics which appeared after his death perhaps none is at once more true and striking than that by Lord Brougham:
Lyndhurst was so immeasurably superior to his contemporaries, and indeed to almost all who had gone before him, that he might well be pardoned for looking down rather than praising. Nevertheless he was tolerably fair in the estimate he formed of character, and being perfectly free from all jealousy or petty spite, he was always ready to admit merit where it existed. Whatever he may have thought or said of his contemporaries, whether in politics or at the bar, I do not think his manners were ever offensive to anybody, for he was kind and genial. His good nature was perfect, and he had neither nonsense nor cant any more than he had littleness or spite in his composition.
The life of Lyndhurst in the volume of Lord Campbell's Lives of the Chancellors published after Lord Campbell's death, while containing some interesting facts, is so full of misstatements and malignant innuendo as to be worthless as an authority. Written apparently to blast the good name of a great lawyer and statesman, it has only proved damaging to the reputation of its author for accuracy, candour, and honourable feeling.
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