« AnteriorContinuar »
of his wit and humour, but likewise delighted in drawing a smile even from the gravity of the Bench itself.
He was exceedingly sarcastic, and, with all his learn. ing and eloquence, (like many of the fraternity of the bar,) too often indulged, in the latitude of cross-examination, in the low vice of punning upon the names and occupations of witnesses and others; as if he had had no other means of ensuring respect and fame, than by endeavouring to raise them on the diffidence, the weakness, or the modesty of persons, who, perhaps, never entered a court of law before. For this hateful practice, however, he received several severe rubs from his brother counsellors, and even from the witnesses themselves.
One morning, he was telling Mr. Solicitor-General, (the famous Jack Lee,) that he had just bought several good manors in Devonshire, near his native village, Ashburton.
“I wish, then,” said Jack, “that you would bring some of them (manners) into Westminster Hall; for, by heaven ! you often deserve to be kicked for your impertinence."
In a case of crim. con., a good-looking young woman was interrogated by Dunning in a very rude manner. He made her take off her bonnet, as he said, "to have a view of her countenance, in order to see whether the truth came from her lips.”” but in reality to confuse her in her evidence, which he knew was conclusive against his client-Having asked her many questions, in the hope that she would contradict her former statement, he inquired, whether her mistress (the adulteress) had communicated the secret of her amour to her?
“No, Sir," said the witness, “she certainly never did."
“And how, then, can you swear to her infidelity ?" 6 Because I saw the defendant in bed with her.” " Indeed !” said Dunning. “ Yes, indeed, Sir," replied the girl.
“But are you sure—upon your oath, remember that it was the defendant ?-How do you know it wasn't
your master that was in bed with her ?” “ Because I saw the defendant's face, and my master was not in the room."
“Now, pray, my good woman,” said Dunning, thinking to silence her at once, “did your masterfor I see you are very handsome-did your master, I say, in return for his wife's infidelity, go to bed with
“ That trial,” replied the spirited girl, “ does not come on to-day, Mr. Slabber-chops.” This answer produced a roar of laughter throughout the Court, in which Lord Mansfield, who presided, joined most heartily ; for he was at all times glad to see Dunning receive a Roland for his Oliver.--He asked him whether he had any more questions to put ?
“No, my Lord,” said the chap-fallen inquisitor, settling his wig and sitting down; "I have done : the witness may retire.”
One day, whilst cross-examining and endeavouring to bother an old woman, in a case of assault, he asked her, in reference to the identity of the defendant, whether he was a tall man ?
“Not very tall,” said she ; “much about the size of your worship’s honour.” “Was he good-looking ?”
“Quite the contrary; much like your honour, but a handsomer nose.
“ Did he squint?”
“A little, your worship; but not so much as your honour, by a great deal.”—Dunning asked her no more questions.
Excepting in his cross-examinations, Dunning was very tenacious of supporting his dignity as a barrister in the Court; and he at all times contrived to keep Lord Mansfield in check, whenever he tried to browbeat or to overlook him as an advocate. On several occasions, when his Lordship, who had great quickness and tact in finding out the nice point of a cause, took up a newspaper, by way of amusing himself on the bench, whilst Dunning was speaking, the latter made a dead stop—This would rouse Mansfield to say, “Pray, go on, brother Dunning."
“No, my Lord,” invariably answered the barrister, 6 not till your Lordship has finished.”
He had a happy knack of illustrating his arguments by anecdotes, &c., parallel to the cases which were under the consideration of the jury. Pleading one day, to set aside the will of a superstitious old dotard, who had left the whole of his property for building a chapel, and for the extravagant maintenance of the preacher of a sect to which he had belonged, -to the utter disinheritance of his own daughter, who had displeased him by marrying out of the congregation,Mr. Dunning concluded his address to the jurors in these words :
6 But why need I expatiate, gentlemen, on the enormity and folly of this bigoted parent? I shall not in:sult your understandings by saying another word on
that disgusting subject. But, that you may be perfectly satisfied,-however much these selfish people may think themselves wronged by non-compliance with the terms of the will—that the testator's child, only, has a natural, a moral, and a legal right to the whole of his estate ; need I bring any other proof than that of the legitimacy of her birth? Surely not !-I shall not detain you longer, therefore, than by relating a little Spanish fable, which I shall leave you to apply as your own consciences may dictate. — A monkey once stole a gentleman's hat and feather, which he put upon his own head. A dispute arose between the parties. The monkey called a number of his fellows to prove that the hat belonged to him. The appeal was made to the elephant, as he did not belong to either of the species of men or of monkeys. The gentleman also, on his part, called a few witnesses to prove that the hat was his property. There is no reason,' said the elephant, to waste time in the examination of witnesses: the hat and feather belong to the gentleman.'”—The patrimony was awarded to the young lady.
In a case of demur at the excessive charges of a fashionable tailor, the following story, related by Mr. Dunning, had considerable weight with the jury, in reducing the bill :-“An officer of the regiment of Artois, in France, who had visited London, was on his way from thence to Paris, and spent a night at the Hotel D'Angleterre, at Calais. On examining his bill the next morning, he found that he was charged a guinea for his supper, which had consisted only of cold meat and a bottle of vin du pays.
“Enraged at so gross an imposition, he summoned
the host, and insisted on a considerable abatement. Milord !' said the landlord, 'I cannot disgrace an Englishman of your rank, by charging him a less price.'
“Sirrah !' replied the officer, “I am not an Englishman, nor a man of quality, but a poor lieutenant in the service of the Grande Monarque.'
"• Morbleu ! rejoined the landlord, 'I confess I have made an egregious blunder. I hope your excellency's honour will forgive me, if I reduce my demand to half-a-crown!""
Notwithstanding his great eminence as a Juris-consult, he had no great inclination ever to enter into a lawsuit himself; a precaution, by the by, peculiar to all great lawyers. * One evening, on his return to his house at Fulham, bis steward came in to tell him that a neighbouring farmer had cut down two great trees on his premises. “Well,” said he, “and what did you say to him ?”
“Say to him!” replied the man, " why I told him we should trounce him famously with a lawsuit."
* One day, after Counsellor Marriott had retired from pràctice, he happened to be in a company where the uncertainty of the law became the topic of conversation; and he, of course, was applied to for his opinion, which he gave in the following laconic style :“If any man was to claim the coat upon my back, and threaten me with a lawsuit if I refused to give it him, he should certainly have it; lest, in defending my coat, I should too late find to my cost, that I was deprived of my waistcoat also.”
According to the newspapers, an action of ejectment being tried at Durbam a few months ago, in which a point of law raised by Mr. Pollock was overruled by Baron Hullock, his Lordship observed that the point must be decided elsewhere; saying, “Your only remedy is in a Court of Equity, and I, for one, would not ad. vise you to go there."