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I am what Sydney Smith called that
favourite animal of Whig governments, a
barrister of seven years standing. If I were to say
of seventeen years standing, I should not go
beyond the mark; if I were even to say of
seven-and-twenty, I might not go beyond the
mark. But, I am not bound to commit
myself, and therefore on this point I say no

Of course I, as a barrister of the rightful
amount of standing, mourn over the decline
of the profession. How have I seen it wither
and decay! Within my time, John Doe and
Richard Roe themselves, have fallen victims
to the prejudice and ignorance of mere
laymen. In my time, the cheerful evening
sittings at the Old Bailey in the city of
London have been discontinued; those merry
meetings, after dinners where I do not
hesitate to say I have seen more wine drunk
in two or three hours, and have heard better
things said, than at any other convivial
assemblies of which it has been my good
fortune to make one. Lord bless me! When
I think of the jolly Ordinary mixing his
famous salads, the Judges discussing vintages
with the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs, the
leading humorists of the Old Bailey bar
delighting the Aldermen and visitors, and
the whole party going socially back again
into court, to try a fellow creature, perhaps
for his or her life, in the genial glow
produced by such an entertainmentI say
when I think of these departed glories, and
the commonplace stupidity into which we
have fallen, I do not, and I cannot, wonder
that England is going to ruin.

As my name is not appended to this
paper, and therefore I can hardly be
suspected by the public of egotism, I will
remark that I have always had a pretty turn
for humour. I have a keen enjoyment of a
joke. Like those excellent witnesses, the
officers of the forty-sixth regiment (better
witnesses I never saw, even in a horse-
dealer's case,—yet the public, in these
degenerate days, has no sympathy with
them), I don't at all object to its being
practical. I like a joke to be legal or
equitable, because my tastes are in that
direction; but I like it none the worse for
being practical. And indeed the best legal
and equitable jokes remaining, are all of a
practical nature.

I use the word remaining, inasmuch as
the levelling spirit of the times has destroyed
some of the finest practical jokes connected
with the profession. I look upon the
examination of the parties in a cause, for instance,
as a death-blow given to humour. Nothing
can be more humorous than to make a solemn
pretence of inquiring into th truth, and
exclude the two people who in nine cases
out of ten know most about it. Yet this is
now a custom of the past, and so are a
hundred other whimsical drolleries in which the
fathers and grandfathers of the bar delighted.

But, I am going on to present within a short
compass a little collection of existing practical
jokesmere samples of many others happily
still left us in law and equity for our innocent
amusement. As I never (though I set up
for a humorist) tell another man's story as
my own, I will name my authority before I

The great expense of the simplest suit in
equity, and the droll laws which force all
English subjects into a court of equity for
their sole redress, in an immense number of
cases, lead, at this present day, to a very
entertaining class of practical joke. I mean
that ludicrous class in which the joke consists
of a man's taking and keeping possession
of money or other property to which he
even pretends to have no shadow of right,
but which he seizes because he knows that
the whole will be swallowed up in costs if
the rightful owner should seek to assert his
claim. I will relate a few stories of this


A wag, being left trustee under a will by
which the testator left a small freehold
property to be sold for charitable purposes,
sold it, and discovered the trust to be illegal.
As the fund was too small in amount to bear
a suit in equity (being not above sixty
pounds), he laughed very heartily at the
next of kin, pocketed it himself, spent it, and


A country surgeon got a maundering old
lady to appoint him sole executor of her will,
by which she left the bulk of her small

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