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But know that ere your promised walls you build,
Reduced to grind the plates on which you feed.” When we look to the formal and gany, an anticipation which the mani. formidable manner in which this pro- fest consternation of the pious Æneas phecy originates, delivered by Jupiter and his respectable father tends stronghimself to Apollo, and repeated by the ly to confirm. The feelings, however, God of Oracles to the Queen of the both of lawyers and of laymen, are Harpyian Furies, for announcement utterly outraged by the actual denouea to the Trojans, it is impossible, in the ment; according to which, the Tro. first instance, not to believe that some- jans, having served up their dinner thing very dreadful is intended, and upon flour-scones, proceed to make that the unhappy wanderers are really for their short commons by a tug at destined to devour their own maho. their trenchers :
Heus ! etiam mensas consumimus, inquit Julus,
Æn. VII. 115.
See, we devour the plates on which we fed.'
Confessing fate with wonder in his eyes." Not to discuss the propriety of sus- to Pyrrhus, in the freedom of metrical pending the interest of an epic on so or idiomatic involution, that slender a hinge as this, I put it to
“ The son of Æacus the Romans would your readers, whether in ordinary
subdue;" business an evasion of this kind would have been tolerated in the poorest at- or assured some other embarrassed aptorney that ever played the pettifog- plicant “ that he would speedily be
If Virgil excuses himself by relieved from all his troubles,” the amappealing to the long prevalence of biguity was sufficient at once to flatter such a tradition in connexion with the the hopes of a sanguine enquirer, and Trojan adventure, the apology only to relieve the oracle from the charge the more clearly shows how very deep- of falsehood, whatever might be the seated a disease we have here to deal event. There was here, though in a with.
more complicated and cunning form, as The system, indeed, of ancient ora- much pitifulquibbling as ever a lawyer
, , cles and predictions, was to a great ex- was charged with. tent based upon the same foundation : though it further summoned to its aid
" The oracles are dumb,
No voice or hideous hum that important principle of our nature, which, out of the most ambiguous in
Runs through the arched roof in words dications or the most unmeaning
deceiving :" sounds, can extract the prediction that But man still finds in his own self, is most flattering to its desires. The flattery a power of deception beyond rule that the wish is father to the what sybil or sorceress ever wielded. thought, or that was the fool thinks In the department of prophetic prethe bell clinks," has had a wide influ- dictions, a stronger illustration of geence in human affairs, both before and quine hair-splitting than any we have since the days of Whittington, and mentioned, may be found nearer our often with a very different result from own door. I allude now to the reprewhat we are so pleased to meet with sentations made by the witches to Macin the case of that worthy citizen. beth in Shakspeare, an author whom When the Delphic priestess foretold I always assume to be equivalent to histo Cresus, on the eve of a military ex- tory. Those representations are charpedition, that he was marching to de- acterised by the worst possible faith, stroy a great army; or announced and would never, in a court either of
NO, CCXC. VOL. XLVI.
law or of equity, be held to be suffi. be considered to have the least comciently fulfilled. The prediction that munity of feeling with the vocation to “ none of woman born shall harm which I belong. I mean the military, Macbeth,” is a plain guarantee against who generally, as far as I can dis. injury, if not from any individual cover, affect to hold us in great conwhatever, at least from any son of a tempt, and towards whom there is a woman. We demur entirely to the pretty tolerable, though often a supdoctrine that a child brought into pressed feeling of hearty detestation the world by the Cæsarean opera- on our side. At least for myself I tion is not born of his mother; and can say that I am never in company have a strong notion that Macduff with these scarlet-robed gentlemen, would not have been so ready to dis- particularly in the presence of ladies, claim his being so “born,” if the without a most uncomfortable feeling question had arisen as to his right to of indignation, at witnessing their easy take the Thanedom of Fife, under a and successfulimpudence, and a strong destination to Margaret Macduff his wish, if prudence permitted, to transfix mother, and the eldest son lawfully them on the point of their own breadborn of her body. It is pretty plain toasters. Considering, therefore, the that no court of law would have sus- little love that is thus lost between us, tained any objection to his right of I think I cannot more effectually vin. inheritance, in respect of the mere dicate the men of law from the charge manner of his birth; and I doubt of a peculiar tendency to equivocawhether any practitioner at or around tion, than by showing the prevalence the bar, would be got to advance the of that passion among those whose plea. As the matter turned out, it business it is to fight with more subseems perfectly clear that Macbeth or stantial weapons. Itake my instances his representatives had a good action here chiefly from remoter scenes of against the witches for deceit. The history, as in later times the legal same may be said of the other security labours of Grotius and Puffendorff which was offered, that Macbeth should have been the means of introducing not be defeated “until great Birnam better faith into military transactions. wood to high Dunsinane bill shall Most of the instances are so flagrantly come against him.” Nothing can be hostile both to law and to justice, that more untenable than the attempted I shall give them without any commode of evading this solemn assu- ment. Excuse me, if they are not rance, by the mere marching of Mal- arranged in proper chronological or. colm's men with each a green bough der. before him. The merest tyro in an Cleomenes the Spartan, having attorney's office, would see that the made an armistice with the Argive separation of the branches from the army for seven days, fell upon them trees entirely destroyed their charac- during the third night, and killed and ter as a wood. From that moment captured a great number of them those branches ceased to be any part while they were fast asleep, in reliance of the real estate, and would have be- on the truce. When reproached with longed to the executors as personal- his perfidy, he urged in his justificaty. On the whole, it is manifest that tion, that he had made a truce for Macbeth was a most ill-used indivi.
seven days, but had not agreed for dual, and might well exclaim : the nights also. - And be these juggling fiends no more be- Temures promised the garrison of lieved,
Sebastia, that, if they would surrender, That palter with us in a double sense ; no blood should be shed. The garrison That keep the word of promise to our ear, surrendered, and Temures buried them And break it to our hope.”
all alive. He would have been differently treat- A promise to deliver prisoners, says ed if he had been dealing with the a lawyer, implies that they shall be legal profession.
delivered living ; not that they shall I return now to the subject of bar- be first put to death, and then degains or contracts, with which I began, livered, as was once done by the and from which a reference to Virgil Platæans. has led me away. I shall here give a Labeo, the Roman general, having few instances of verbal evasion, from overcome Antiochus, stipulated as a a class of men, who of all others may condition of peace, that he should be
entitled to carry away the one-half of appears, from the histories of magic, Antiochus' ships ; this having been
that the devil has often been outwitted agreed to, he cut each of the ships in in a similar way by other persons than two, and carrying off the one-half, de- lawyers. stroyed the king's whole navy.
Herodotus gives us an anecdote of A Roman officer, taken prisoner by
which Cervantes has since transferred Hannibal, was allowed to leave the the scene to Barataria, under the gocamp on a promise that he would vernment of Sancho. Archetimus of speedily return. Just after leaving, Just after leaving, Erythræa having made a journey to
a he returned on pretence of having Tenedos, availed himself there of the forgotten something, and again went hospitality of Cydias, with whom, for away. He then repaired to Rome, the sake of security, he deposited a maintaining that his original promise sum of money which he had with him. to return, having once been performed, Cydias, when requested to render up was no longer in force. The censors, his trust, declined to do so, finding it however, would not sustain his plea, more convenient to retain it. The but fixed a stigma on him for his parties went to law; and whether breach of engagement.
from the want of witnesses, or from Tacitus tells us a story of Rhada- the law of Tenedos resembling that of mistus in Asia Minor, who, having our own country, in allowing debts besieged his uncle Mithridates, pre- of this kind to be proved only scripto vailed on him to leave his fortifications, vel juramento, the case came to be by a promise that he would never referred to Cydias' oath. Cydias hurt him either with steel or poison, was too much of a knave to confess which was ratified by a very peculiar the truth, and too much of a coward method of lashing their thumbs_to- to tell a bold lie, and devised the congether till the blood came. This trivance of concealing the cash in the assurance Rhadamistus affected rigor- hollow of a walking-cane, which he ously to fulfil, but thought himself at put into Archetimus' hands before liberty to tumble a huge wardrobe taking the oath. He thereupon swore, of clothes on his unsuspecting uncle, that, although he had received the which fairly smothered him.
money in question, he had afterwards Aryandes, treating with the Bar- given it back. This was obviously cæans, brought their ambassadors to what your lawyers would call an inà place prepared for the purpose, trinsic quality, and, if the matter had where he swore to observe the treaty thus been allowed to rest, was suffias long as the earth on which they cient for Cydias' liberation. The fraud stood should continue firm. He had was detected, as Herodotus tells us, placed them on a pit having a trap- not by the ingenuity of the judge, or door covered with earth, which he lost any cross-questioning by the plaintiff, no time in removing ; and having thus,
for which there was ample room, but as he conceived, terminated the treaty, by the accident of Archetimus in his assailed his allies sword in hand, while rage throwing down the stick with wholly unprepared for an attack. such violence as to break it, and bring
In more modern times, a distin- at once the truth and the treasure to guished Spanish general, having light. The old historian imputes the bound himself by oath never to fight discovery to Divine Providence; and against the French army, whether on adds, that Cydias ultimately came to foot or on horseback, took the field an unhappy end, which it is to be against them at the battle of Rocroy hoped was the case. It is certain, that in a sedan-chair.
upon such a state of the facts being The same disposition to deception, established, under an indictment for by verbal cavilling in oaths and obli- perjury, any judge on the bench would gations, is to be found in other classes have charged the jury to convict. of men, wherever self-interest is the Many similar examples might be prompter. The celebrated magician cited of the propensity I am here conNostradamus, having, in return for sidering; and if in more recent times the gifts of magic, stipulated that the I were to resort to the writings of the devil should have him if he was bu- Jesuits, I should be able to show a ried either in the church or out of it, power of equivocation which would evaded the condition by having him. leave all other classes at an immeaself buried in a hole in the wall. It surable distance. Those gentlemen may be considered as having refined Many illustrations of this truth are on all previous refinements in this to be found in more ordinary scenes department of human knavery. So- than those I have hitherto noticed, licitous to reconcile in themselves and such as show that all flesh are and their adherents the literal ob. subject to the frailty. The narration servance of morality, with a liberal use of such Jesuitical escapes and evasions, of every vice that could gratify their is found to be the most popular food desires or advance their interests, they both for the great vulgar and the were at once bold and ingenious in small. You well remember, I dare their contrivances for this purpose. In say, the literal manner in which order to secure the benefits, and at the George Buchanan, the jester, is said same time avoid tlie sin of falsehood, to have obeyed the royal injunction they taught that it was lawful to use never again to show his face at court; ambiguous terms in transactions, so as and the current fictions of Leper the to understand them ourselves in a dif. Tailor, Lothian Tom, and others, ferent sense from what they led others which I see on your stalls in this counto adopt. If, however, at any time it try, are full of the same admirable was dillicult to find equivocal words to trickery. Even the simplicity of the serve the purpose, they had another juvenile mind does not escape the conexpedient which could always be easily tagion. I remember the case of a practised. This was the doctrine of little schoolboy, who, having been mental reservations, according to convicted of some offence, and senwhich, as Sanchez delivers it, it is law. tenced to the usual punishment, reful to deny that you have done any quested, as a favour, that its execution thing which you have actually done, should be postponed until he had got provided you accompany your asse- his evening meal of bread and miik. veration with an understanding in your This indulgence appearing reasonable, , own mind, that you say you did not do with the view of supporting him it on a particular day, or before you against the coming calamity, was forwere born, or with any similar mental mally granted to him, when the young qualification that may save from the delinquent declared that he did not perpetration of actual falsehood, al- mean to eat any bread and milk that though no indication of these addi- evening, and contended consequently, tions be given to the party addressed. that the promise made to him amount. Thus it was allowable, either in giving ed to a reprieve sine die. I am sorry testimony as a witness, or in taking a to add that the trap thus laid was not promissory oath, to deny or abjure successful, and had no other effect any particular fact in the most explicit than to bring down upon his head, or terms, and then to save yourselves other portion of his body, an additional from perjury by whispering in your visitation of magisterial vengeance. sleeve, “I mean that I did not see it The poets themselves are not free occur on the 31st of February," or from the vice I am condemning. " that I will not do it until I feel in- • At lovers' perjuries they say Jove clined,'' &c.
laughs," which it seems he was not in It is certainly, sir, a remarkable the habit of doing at other perjuries. feature in the human conscience, that, But to make matters surer, we generwith a full conviction of the turpitude ally find that even lovers seldom venof falsehood, it should thus lull itself ture to forswear themselves without asleep by the most fallacious opiates, some pretext or excuse, however flimsy and should think it innocent to de. -some loophole of retreat, however ceive wilfully by a treacherous equi- slender. Of this kind is the apology vocation, while it believes it criminal for inconstancy in thosé verses of to produce the same effect by an un- which the musicians have made so equivocal lie.
In whose sight it may pretty a canon :consider itself to be justified by such means, it is difficult to tell : but the
“ I loved thee beautiful and kind, prevalence of the self-deception is
And plighted an eternal vow;
So alter'd are thy face and mind, undoubted, and shows how much most men, whether lawyers or not, are ad
'Twere perjury to love thee now." dicted, even in matters of moral sen- Nothing can be more frivolous than sibility, to look to the form rather than this plea, wbich in Doctors' Commons to the substance of things.
would be treated with very little cere
mony. There is a similar excuse as- of the words, went the length of signed in Love's Labour Lost for a piercing the head of the statue on the change of mind of a different descrip- day appointed, when its structure was tion:
found to be of as thick and as worth“A woman I foreswore : but I will prove, less materials as the operator's own. Thou being a goddess, I foreswore not
One man, however, was led, after thee,
much meditation, to suspect a more Half of the epigrams that have ever
hidden meaning tinder the announcebeen written, and a pretty good pro- ment, and, upon the return of the deportion of poetical effüsions that aspire clared time, observed where the first to a higher character, owe their points rays of the sun threw the shadow of and prettinesses to verbal equivoca- the head of the statue on the ground. tions. The pun or paronomasia is a
In that place, he dug up the earth at strong instance of the same thing; immense treasure of gold. The epi
a private opportunity, and found an and Addison, a good judge of human nature, has told us that " the seeds of taph mentioned by Le Sage, “ Here punning are in the minds of all men;
lies the soul of the licentiate Garcia,” and, though they may be subdued by
was a quibble of a similar kind, and reason, reficction, and good sense,
attended with equally beneficial rethey will be very apt to shoot up in sults to the discoverer. the greatest genius that is not broken
The jest-books are full of many and cultivated by the rules of art.”
flagrant verbal sophisms, said to have When we ask a sportsman if that is been perpetrated by logicians, and more “his own hare or a wig?" or say, that particularly by university students
a door is not a door when it is newly initiated into the study of that a-jar ;" or that “ a nose is not a nose
necessary art. It cannot be denied when it is a little red-dish,” we push that the fallacia æquivocutionis, or amThe system of verbal equivocation to phiboliæ, as the logicians have called its extreme limit, and, by outdoing the them, are very extensively resorted to vilest quibbles of Old Bailey practice, by all sophistical reasoners, whether confirm the old adage, that “ He who
orators or philosophers ; and Dr makes a pun will pick a pocket.”
Whateley, iri bis Logic, has given us Enigmas and riddles of all kinds
a copious discussion upon the subject, have a strong flavour of the same in
with an appendix of ambiguous terms gredient. The old enquiry of the for the use of beginners. But these Sphynx, “ What animal that was
deceptions are no more the creation of which in the morning went on four logic than they are of law. They feet, at mid-day on two, and in the
are coogenital with us all: they acevening on three,” was founded on an
company us from the cradle to the unusual and deceptive application of grave, growing with our growth and the words employed, so as to lead peo- strengthening with our strength ; and ple away from the obvious characteris
no apter illustration can be furnished tics of human life in its progressive of the established maxim, that lanstages. Of the same character is the guage was given us not to express but
to conceal our sentiments. point in the old story which Petrarch tells in his Book of Memorable
I trust, sir, that after this exposiThings, and which, if we remem
tion, the legal profession will in fuber right, was adopted by Mr New
ture be held exempt from at least one berry, or his author, into the Nur- of the imputations to which it has sery Adventures of Tommy Two
hitherto been undeservedly subjected, slioes. Petrarch's narrative is to this
and which, at the utmost, it can only effect. - There was," he says, “ in
be said to share with the whole of the Sicily, a huge statue, on which this human species. I have the honour incription was engraved in very an.
to be, my dear sir, your faithful and cient letters: 'On May-day I shall obliged servant, wear a golden head.' Some persons
LEGULEIUS LECTOR. considered this statement as a jest; Mound Place, Edinburgh, while others, following the mere letter 12th Nov. 1839.