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I was thinking of my steak in the other.” The appearance of their favourite soon pacified the audience, and Garrick went through the character with more vivacity than ever.
It is well known that Wilkes did not intend his obnoxious Essay on Woman for publication. It came into the hands of Lord Halifax, then Secretary of State, in consequence of the general seizure of all Wilkes's papers, by virtue of a general warrant ; and the House of Lords proceeded against it as a breach of privilege, part of it being a satirical attack upon Warburton, Bishop of Gloucester. Wilkes, having privately printed it for circulation among his friends, presented a copy of it to the Beef Steaks. To his great surprise, however, the grossness of its language, and the unblushing blasphemy that pervaded it, excited the disgust of every member, and it was unanimously rejected. Wilkes did not visit the Club afterwards ; but, when he left the kingdom, he was made an honorary member, as a compliment justly due to the wit, spirit, and humour which had so long delighted the table.
Arthur Murphy gave me sketches of several characters who flourished at the Beef-Steaks about that period; some of them were most -amusing originals. There was a Serjeant Prime, who furnished an unfailing flow of merriment. Several ludicrous adventures, which, if they did not actually happen, were at least ascribed to the little lawyer, were sure to find at the Beef-Steaks some waggish historian to recount them. To one incident Murphy pledged his own veracity. The Serjeant had arranged with another lawyer, who was also of a very diminutive size, to travel together on horseback the ensuing spring circuit. This lawyer generally went by the name of Frog Morgan, from his having so repeatedly cited in an argument before the King's Bench, Croke Elizabeth, Croke James, Croke Charles,* that the whole bar were convulsed with laughter. Another anecdote of him was current in Westminster Hall. Before he was much known at the bar, he had commenced an argument, but Lord Mansfield, not aware of his stature, called
* This reporter lived in those three reigns; and his reports are always cited with the names of the reign when the decisions took place.
repeatedly "to get up,” conceiving that he was not addressing the court standing.
My Lord; I am up;" screamed out Frog Morgan, “ and I have been up this ten minutes.” But to my anecdote : Serjeant Prime, having hired a steady animal, set out on the Norfolk circuit with his friend Morgan ; and, for the first week, the horse performed his part of the contract with a gravity not unbecoming the coif. But the stablekeeper had provided the Serjeant with a steed of a certain description, a circumstance of which Prime had no suspicion; and Frog Morgan, being mounted on a mare, the Serjeant's charger, one fine spring morning, lost sight of his decorum, and approached his companion with a familiarity that surprised and alarmed the two horsemen, equally unconscious of the sex of their respective horses. The point, however, was put out of doubt by an assault, which threw off poor Prime, and almost terminated in the annihilation of little Morgan, who had no power to dismount. Wilkes took a malicious pleasure in relating this adventure at the Beef-Steaks. When the Serjeant perceived that Wilkes was about to tell it, he exclaimed, For God's sake, Mr. Alderman, leave off your horseplay raillery.”
Arthur Murphy, when he recounted to me these and many other anecdotes of the BeefSteaks, was residing at Hammersmith, and living upon a small income, chiefly derived from the profits of a commission of bankrupts, and from the copy-right of his translation of Tacitus. He was originally at the bar, but the law, a jealous mistress, that will endure no rival, had forsaken him as soon as he devoted himself to dramatic literature. He was then old, but his memory was singularly retentive. No man had a more ample knowledge of the world, or abounded more agreeably in the chit-chat, which a knowledge of the world supplies. He went the same circuit with this Serjeant Prime, and nothing, Murphy assured me, could be more distressing than the length and drowsiness of the little man's speeches. Bench, bar, jurors, attornies, all felt their soporific effect ;—even the javelin-men were observed nodding. A counsel, getting up to reply to him,
began, Gentlemen, the long speech of the learned Serjeant”—“ I beg your pardon, Sir,” interrupted Mr. Justice Nares, "you might say the long soliloquy of the learned Serjeant, for my brother Prime has been talking an hour to himself.”
At the circuit-table, there is sometimes held a court for the trial of professional irregularities; and conviction is generally followed by a fine, which is spent in wine for the benefit of the mess. It was resolved to try Prime for the length and drowsiness of his speeches; and a somewhat serious accident furnished an apt occasion for the joke. An ejectment cause at Huntingford had lasted the whole day; and being a matter of much expectation, the court was exceedingly hot and crowded. In the middle of a three hours' speech, in which Prime was then addressing the jury, a poor lad, who had seated himself on a beam that went across the roof, fell fast asleep, and came tumbling down among the crowd below. He escaped with a few bruises, but several persons were much hurt. This circumstance was pressed