GRAY’S INN

Beyond Lincoln’s Inn, across Holborn–the road which takes its name from
the burn that flowed through the hollow–lies Gray’s Inn, a great quiet
domain, quadrangle upon quadrangle, with a large space of greensward
enclosed within it.

‘Nothing else in London,’ so Nathaniel Hawthorne noted, ‘is so like the
effect of a spell as to pass under one of these archways and find
yourself transported from the jumble, rush, tumult, uproar, as of an age
of weekdays condensed into the present hour, into what seems an eternal
Sabbath. It is very strange to find so much of ancient quietude right in
the monster city’s very jaws–which yet the monster shall not eat
up–right in its very belly indeed, which yet in all these ages it shall
not digest and convert into the same substance as the rest of its
bustling streets.’

Yet the site of Gray’s Inn lies outside the City Boundary, and the
Chambers, where Francis Bacon wrote, were set in a quiet spot amidst
gardens, beyond which stretched Gray’s Inn Fields, intersected by the
country roads of Holborn and Gray’s Inn Lane. The latter lane took the
name of Theobald’s Road later, because it led to Theobalds in
Hertfordshire, which was the favourite hunting seat of King James I. In
these fields beyond Gray’s Inn Lord Berkeley’s hounds showed sport to
the Gentlemen of the Inns of Court in the reign of Queen Mary.

It is indeed difficult to realize and remember how small London was, how
comparatively tiny even the ‘Great Wen,’ which moved Cobbett’s wrath and
disgust, and how recent is the growth of that continuous monotony of
streets, which have spread over the fields where our grandfathers shot
snipe and partridges. Even at the beginning of the last century Gray’s
Inn was a ‘private place in the suburbs,’ suitable for study, removed
from the bustle of the City. ‘The moment the sun peeps out,’ wrote Sir
Samuel Romilly from his Chambers in 1780, ‘I am in the country, having
only one row of houses between me and Highgate and Hampstead.’

There is a popular legend that Gray’s Inn derives its name from the
Grey Friars, whose Church stood hard by. But this legend is not in any
way supported by the probabilities. Gray’s Inn, in fact, was the Inn,
_hospitium_, or dwelling-house of the Greys of Wilton. Its site was
included in the Manor of Portpool, the name of which survives in
Portpool Lane. The name of this Manor is derived from Port (= market or
gate), and pool, just as in West Smithfield there was a pool called
Horsepool.[59] The ‘market-pool’ in question may have been that in the
northern Courtyard of Staple Inn, or somewhere else on the property of
the De Greys.

A very large portion of the Hundred of Ossulston, in which Gray’s Inn
lies, appears to have belonged to the Bishop and Canons of St. Paul’s,
and from the Manor of Portpool an ancient prebend of St. Paul’s
Cathedral takes its name.

The exact date when the De Greys first came into possession of the Manor
of Portpool is not certain. But Reginald de Grey died in 1308, according
to an Inquisition taken after his death at ‘Purtpole,’ seized of a
messuage and certain lands there, which he held of the Dean and Chapter
of St. Paul, London, by rent, service, and suit.

This Reginald de Grey was Justiciar of Chester, whose work would often
bring him to the Capital. It is reasonable to suppose that his following
of clerks and lawyers would, as in the case of the Earl of Lincoln, be
resident in his London ‘Inn,’ and thus form the nucleus of what
afterwards developed into a School, Guild, or Society of Lawyers.

The Society of Gray’s Inn probably came into corporate existence some
time in the fourteenth century. The exact date cannot, indeed, be
determined. As in the case of the other Inns, the known surviving
records are scanty. And this, perhaps, is due to the same cause.

Fire wrought havoc in Gray’s Inn, as elsewhere, and the earliest
archives of this Inn, as of the Temple, were probably destroyed at the
end of the seventeenth century. In 1687 we learn that, ‘as they were in
the midst of their revels and masquerades, a violent fire broke out,
which destroyed most of the paper buildings that remained; several
records are also lost and burnt or blown up.’

Such early records as do exist of the Inn as a corporate institution in
its early days do not amount to convincing evidence, but they do point
to the existence of Gray’s Inn as an Inn of Court in the fourteenth
century. A list of the Readers of the Inn, with their Arms, from the
year 1359, compiled in the reign of Henry VIII. (Harleian MSS.), we may
take for what it is worth. It is said that William Skipwith, a
Serjeant-at-Law in 1355, belonged to Gray’s Inn, and was the first
Reader. Again, in 1589, Sir Christopher Yelverton, in resigning his
membership of Gray’s Inn, as it was compulsory for him to do on being
appointed a Serjeant-at-Law, made a farewell speech to his brother
members, stating that ‘I doe acknowledge myself deeplie and infinitely
indebted unto this House for the singular and exceeding favours that I
and myne ancestors have received in it … _for two hundred years agoe
at least_ some of them lived here.’ This statement, if accurate, would
prove the Inn to have been a corporate institution at least as early as
1389. Again, we gather from the ‘Paston Letters’ that Sir William
Byllyng, Chief Justice in 1464, told William Paston that he had been ‘a
felaw in Gray’s Inn,’ and also mentioned one Ledam as a ‘felaw’ there.
This is the first, and for many years the last, mention of any Fellows
in Gray’s Inn. It may either be considered to be a confirmation of the
view that the Lawyers’ Society was in possession in the fifteenth
century, or merely a proof that Byllyng himself and Ledam were
fellow-lodgers in some part of Lord Grey’s tenement. But there is, in
fact, no indubitable mention of the Lawyers’ settlement here until the
time of Henry VIII. However, the great-grandson of the Justiciar,
Reginald de Wilton, leased out the _hospitium_ in Pourtepole in 1343.
And in 1370 Lord Grey de Wilton let ‘a certain Inn in Portepole’ for 100
shillings. Stow, on the authority of one Master Saintlow Kniveton, says
that gentlemen and professors of the Common Law were Lord Grey’s
tenants. At any rate, before the end of the fourteenth century (1397)
the records show that the Lords de Grey had enfeoffed others–who
possibly represented the Society of the Inn–with the use of their
property. Then, in 1506, Edmund, Lord de Grey, decided to part with it
altogether. He was perhaps persuaded to adopt this course by the fact
that the suburban villa of the De Greys was by this time already being
swamped by the rising tide of houses that was flowing westward from the
City. He sold to Hugh Denys and others ‘the Manor of Portpoole,
otherwise called Gray’s Inn, four messuages, four gardens, the site of a
windmill, eight acres of land, ten shillings of free rent, and the
advowson of the Chantry of Portpoole aforesaid.’

The Manor presently escheated to the King, and licence was granted to
the previous tenants to alienate to the House of Jesus of Bethlehem at
Shene (_i.e._, Richmond) in Surrey, both the Manor of Portepoole and the
lands in the parish of St. Andrew of Holborn, and the advowson of the
chantry pertaining thereto, to be held to the annual value of ten marks
(£6 13s. 4d.). Then, in 1516, occurs the first distinct mention of a
Society of Lawyers settled in these four messuages, with their gardens,
windmill, and chapel. For an association consisting of two Serjeants and
four Barristers, representatives of a Society of Students of Law, took
out a lease in that year of the Manor of Portpool from the Prior and
Convent of Shene at a rent of £6 13s. 4d. This lease was renewed, at the
same rent, by Henry VIII. when, at the dissolution of the monasteries,
the Inn, together with the whole of the Priory of Shene, passed into the
hands of the Crown. The rent was commuted into a freehold by the
Commissioners of the Commonwealth in 1651, upon payment of a heavy fine.
It was resumed by Charles II., the sale being declared null and void,
and was sold to Sir Philip Matthews. Gray’s Inn thenceforth paid the old
rent to him and his heirs, until, in 1733, the Benchers bought the
freehold of the property from them. It is now the absolute legal
property of the Society of Gray’s Inn.

By the reign of Queen Elizabeth, Gray’s Inn had risen into great
popularity. The Inns of Court now formed one of the leading Universities
of England–‘the noblest nurseries of humanity and liberty in the
Kingdom,’ Ben Jonson declared. And chief among the Colleges of Law, with
almost double the number of students in any other Inn, stood Gray’s Inn.
The great Lord Burghley always refers to it with the deepest affection,
mentioning it as ‘the place where myself came forthe unto service.’

Its popularity, however, can hardly have been due to the luxuriousness
of its chambers, which, we are told, were ‘disagreeably incommodious.’

Dugdale remarks that there was ‘not much of beauty or uniformity’ in the
buildings, ‘the structure of the more ancient having been not only very
mean, but of so slender capacity that even the Ancients of this House
were necessitated to lodge double’–as, for instance, in Henry VIII.’s
day, Sir Thomas Nevile wrote to say that he would accept of Mr.
Attorney-General to be his bedfellow in his Chamber there.

In 1688, it appears, the Inn was divided into three Courts–Holborn,
Coney, and Middle or Chapel Court. Coney and Chapel Courts were
afterwards converted into Gray’s Inn Square–a title conferred upon them
in 1793.

Holborn Court must have included South Square and Field Court, the
latter so called from its being a passage into the Red Lion Fields,[60]
where a Bowling-Green was laid out in the seventeenth century. When, at
the close of that century, Dr. Barebone, the great builder, bought Red
Lion Fields and began to build upon that site, ‘the Gentlemen of Graies
Inn took notice of it, and thinking it an injury to them, went with a
considerable body of 100 persons, upon which the workmen assaulted the
gentlemen, and flung bricks at them, and the gentlemen at them again, so
a sharp engagement ensued, but the gentlemen routed them at last.’[61]

The principal entrance to Gray’s Inn was formerly from Gray’s Inn Lane.
It was not till the end of the sixteenth century that, as Stow puts it,
‘the Gentlemen of this House purchased a messuage and a curtillage
situate upon the south side of this House, and thereupon erected a fayre
gate and a gatehouse, for a more convenient and more honourable passage
into the High Street of Holborne, whereof this house stood in much
neede, for the former gates were rather posterns than gates.’

By Gray’s Inn Gate, Jacob Tonson, Pope’s publisher, kept his shop before
moving to Fleet Street. Soon after Holborn Gate was erected, the shop
underneath was taken by another bookseller, one Henry Tomes by name,
who, appropriately enough, published the first edition of Bacon’s
‘Advancement of Learning.’

The Entrance Gate from Holborn leads us from the throng and bustle of
the streets, the din and rush of the City, and the noisome fumes of
twopenny tubes and motor-buses, through a dull and narrow alley into
South Square–a large, irregular quadrangle of pleasing, harmonious
eighteenth-century houses. Opposite the entrance passage a detached
block faces us (No. 10), containing the Common Room, admirably rebuilt
in 1905. This is connected by an archway with the Hall, Chapel, and
Library.

The foundation of the Library has been

[Illustration: A DOORWAY IN SOUTH SQUARE, GRAY’S INN

IT is one of several classic entrances of this type in the Square, and
bears the date 1738.]

attributed to Francis Bacon, Lord Verulam. But references to it occur
before 1576, the year in which he became a Member of the Inn.[62] But it
was not till 1737 that the need was felt for the erection of a building
specially intended to house it. Then an Order was passed for building a
Library in Holborn Court, now known as South Square. A hundred years
later additions were made, and in 1883 a new Library building was added,
which is entered separately from the internal angle of South Square, and
which fronts externally upon the then newly-made Gray’s Inn Road. The
Library boasts a small but valuable collection of manuscripts, including
that of Bracton’s ‘De Legibus et Consuetudinibus Angliæ.’

The old Hall was rebuilt in 1556. It follows the usual plan of a
sixteenth-century Hall, having a raised dais and ‘high’ table at the
east end, and the characteristic Tudor bay window on the north side. A
very handsome oak screen, richly carved with Renaissance ornament, and
divided into round arched bays by Ionic columns, conceals the vestibule.
Above the enriched cartouche frieze of the Screen is an open and carved
balustrade, extremely handsome, though of later date, which forms a
front to the Minstrel Gallery. A glazed lantern in the centre of the
Hall indicates the ancient louvre. A very fine open timber roof of the
hammer-beam type covers this charming room, and harmonizes with the
eighteenth-century oak panelling, which lines the walls, and is
decorated with the arms of the Treasurers. A large traceried window over
the Minstrel Gallery, five mullioned and transomed windows on the south
side, and four similar windows, in addition to the large bay window, on
the north, adequately light the Hall. Many of the windows contain fine
heraldic glass, with escutcheons of famous members of the Society.[63]
On the walls of the Hall hang portraits of Kings Charles I. and II., and
James II., Sir Nicholas Bacon and Francis Bacon, Viscount St. Albans,
Baron Verulam, Lord Coke, Sir Christopher Yelverton (1602), Sir John
Turton (1689), Lord Raymond, Chief Justice (1725), Sir James Eyre
(1787), Sir John Hullock (1823), Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester,
etc. But the chief treasure is the portrait of Queen Elizabeth, hung
above the dais, which was presented to the Society by Henry Griffith,
one of the Masters of the Bench.

The exterior of the Hall was sadly ruined by the Goths, or Vandals, of
1826. The walls and gables of dark red brick, ornamented with brick
battlements, and relieved by labels and mullions of stone, were, like
those of the Chapel, rendered hideous by the stucco madness of the age;
mean modern battlements were added; slate was substituted for the warm
red tiles of the old roof; and a wooden lantern of new and feeble design
placed instead of the octangular wooden lantern, with a leaded cupola,
which rose from the centre of the roof. More recently the stucco
disfigurations have been removed, and the old red-brick buttresses and
walls with the stone labels have been happily revealed again.

There is a tradition in the Inn that the Screen which we have mentioned,
and also some of the dining-tables now used in the Hall, were given to
the Society by Queen Elizabeth. At dinner on Grand Day in each term ‘the
glorious, pious, and immortal memory of good Queen Bess’ is still
solemnly drunk in Hall. Certainly and happily this Hall, one of the most
venerable and most beautiful of all the Halls in London, remains very
much, as regards the interior, what it was in the days of the Virgin
Queen.

There is another legend which connects the name of good Queen Bess with
this Hall. It is said that Her Majesty was present at the performance in
Gray’s Inn Hall of the masque, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ under the
stage management of Shakespeare. There is no intrinsic improbability
about this. Though the Pension Book does not record any visit of
Elizabeth to Gray’s Inn, the nature of the entries is such that omission
therefrom cannot be said to prove the non-occurrence of an event.
Francis Bacon, who was made a Bencher in 1586, and was elected Treasurer
in 1590, was a _persona grata_ at Court, and not only took a delight in
the preparation of pageantries, but also knew Shakespeare well. It is,
therefore, quite likely that Queen Elizabeth visited the Inn on the
occasion of the production of a masque by Shakespeare.[64] It is at
least certain that in February, 1587, eight Members of Gray’s Inn,
acting apparently with the approval of the Bench, produced a play called
‘The Misfortunes of Arthur’ for the entertainment of Queen Elizaabeth
at Greenwich while Her Majesty was visiting the fair. It was apparently
in connection with this play that Bacon, being then Reader of Gray’s
Inn, wrote to Lord Burleigh as follows: ‘There are a dozen gentlemen of
Gray’s Inn that, out of the honour which they bear to your Lordship and
my Lord Chamberlain, to whom at their last masque they were so much
bounden, are ready to furnish a masque: wishing it were in their power
to perform it according to their minds.’[65]

The Benchers and Students of Gray’s Inn indulged in the Christmas
_Saturnalia_ of Masques and Revels with as great, or even greater, zest
than the other Societies of Lawyers. And Bacon, philosopher, statesman,
and courtier, was by no means backward in his enjoyment of ‘Masques and
Triumphs.’ ‘These things are but toys,’ he wrote, ‘but since Princes
will have such things, it is better they should be graced with elegancy
than daubed with cost.’ And accordingly he devoted some of his abundant
energy to superintending the festivities in his own Inn, and even to
assisting in the composition of some of the ‘Triumphs.’

As early as 1525 mention is made of a masque that was acted in the Hall
here, which was composed by John Roo, Serjeant at the Law, and ‘sore
displeased’ Cardinal Wolsey. George Gascoigne, the poet, a Member of the
Inn, translated plays from the Greek (Euripides’ ‘Jocasta’–the
‘Phœnissæ’?) and Italian for the students to act. And now, in 1594,
there were high festivities at Gray’s Inn, when an extravaganza was
produced bearing the significant title: ‘History of the High and Mighty
Prince Henry, Prince of Purpoole [Portpool], Archduke of Stapulia
[Staple’s Inn] and Bernarda [Barnard’s Inn], Duke of High and Nether
Holborn, Marquis of St. Giles and Tottenham, Great Lord of the Cantons
of Islington, Kentish Town, Paddington, and Knightsbridge, Knight of the
most Heroical Order of the Helmet and Sovereign of the same; who reigned
and died A.D. 1594.’ Owing to the Hall being overcrowded on the first
night, the students of the Inner and Middle Temples quitted the Hall in
dudgeon, and the performance of the main piece had to be adjourned. To
make up for the withdrawal of ‘The History of Prince Henry’ from the
playbill, it was thought ‘good not to offer anything of account saving
Dancing and Revelling with Gentlewomen…. To eke out the programme
Shakespeare’s “Comedy of Errors” was then played by the players.’

Thus Gray’s Inn Hall shares with the Hall of the Middle Temple the
distinction of being the only buildings now remaining in London in
which, so far as we know, any of the plays of Shakespeare were performed
in his own time.[66]

At Shrovetide the Prince of Purpoole and his company entertained Queen
Elizabeth at Greenwich. After the performance Her Majesty ‘willed the
Lord Chamberlain that the gentlemen should be invited on the next day,
which was done, and her Majesty gave them her hand to kiss with most
gracious words of commendation to them: particularly in respect of
Gray’s Inn, as an House that she was much beholden unto for that it did
always study for some Sports to present her with.’

The success of this Masque was no doubt largely due to the fact that it
was supposed to contain veiled allusions to many living persons of note,
and that these allusions, uttered by the mimic Councillors of the
Purpoole Court, were known to be written by the greatest of the sons of
Gray’s Inn, Bacon himself. ‘The speeches of the six Councillors,’ says
James Spedding, ‘carry his signature in every sentence.’[67] That they
were written by him, and by him alone, no one who is at all familiar
with his style, either of thought or expression, will for a moment
doubt.

The Masque prepared by Francis Beaumont, to celebrate the marriage of
the Count Palatine with the Princess Elizabeth, was performed before the
King and Royal Family in the Banqueting House at Whitehall (February 20,
1613), and Francis Bacon, it is recorded, then Solicitor-General,
‘spared no time in the setting forth, ordering, and furnishing’ of it.

On Twelfth Night, 1614, the ‘Maske of Flowers’ was presented ‘by the
Gentlemen of Graies Inn’ in the same Banqueting Hall upon the occasion
of the marriage of the Earl of Somerset. This Masque, when published,
was dedicated to Sir Francis Bacon, who apparently bore the whole
expense of the performance. In 1887 ‘The Masque of Flowers’ was revived,
being again performed with great success in Gray’s Inn Hall. Other
masques of this and later times are mentioned by Mr. Douthwaite (p. 234
_et seq._). Of the Masque performed by the Inns of Court before Charles
I., which has been already referred to, ‘The Triumph of Peace,’ James
Shirley, the dramatist, was the author. He had chambers in Gray’s Inn.

The form of self-government that obtained at Gray’s Inn was very similar
to that which the other Inns enjoyed.

The Officer named Treasurer at other Inns was at Gray’s Inn known as the
Pensioner. According to Sir Nicholas Bacon and some other Commissioners
who drew up a report upon the Houses of Court for the information of
Henry VIII., ‘a Pension, or, as some Houses call it, a Parliament,’ was
summoned every quarter, or more if need be, ‘for the good ordering of
the House, and the reformation of such things as seem meet to be
reformed.’ These Pensions or Parliaments were ‘nothing else but a
conference of Benchers and Utter Barristers only, and in some other
Houses an Assembly of Benchers and such of the Utter Barristers and
other ancient and wise men of the House as the Benchers have elected to
them before time, and these together are named the Sage Company.’ This
report does not mention the Ancients of Gray’s Inn. ‘The Grand Company
of Ancients’ consisted of three classes–Barristers called by seniority
to that degree; sons of Judges, who by right of inheritance were
admitted Ancients; and persons of distinction who, in the words of
Fortescue already quoted, were placed in the Inns of Court, not so much
to make the Laws their study as to form their manners and to preserve
them from the contagion of vice. The Constitution of the Inns, and the
correct relation between the Benchers and Junior Members, were not
arrived at without certain crises. The internal politics of the Houses
were occasionally lively. Thus at the Middle Temple the right of the
Benchers to regulate the affairs of the Inn, without reference to the
Parliaments of barristers and students to whom, apparently, the right of
self-government within certain limits was, by ancient custom, entrusted
in the Vacations, was a ground of hot dispute in the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries. The right to hold a Parliament at any time was
demanded. The Benchers replied that the Junior Members were only
entitled to deliberate and represent on matters occurring in
Vacation.[68]

The Chapel of Gray’s Inn Loftie describes with equal brevity and justice
as ‘ancient, but without interest.’

In 1315 John, Lord Grey, had given lands in

[Illustration: GRAYS INN SQUARE

THE Hall (on the right) was rebuilt in 1556, and the chapel, covered
with greenish stucco (in the centre), is ancient, but has suffered much
from wholesale restorations.]

the manor to the Canons of St. Bartholomew, to endow a Chaplain.
Chaplain and Chapel alike passed to the lawyers along with the Inn, and
it is likely enough that the present old Chapel, in spite of plaster and
bad stained glass, represents at heart the fourteenth-century Chapel of
the Greys.

The earliest mention of it in the existing records of the Society is in
the eleventh year of Elizabeth. It was ‘beautified and renewed’ at the
end of the seventeenth century, and received a blanket of stucco, a
fringe of silly battlements, and an ugly slate roof in the first
part of the nineteenth. Some armorial bearings, chiefly of the
seventeenth-century Bishops and Archbishops, survive in the Eastern
Window of five lights, but much of the painted glass mentioned by
Dugdale has disappeared or been removed to the Hall.

Beyond South Square stretches a delightful quadrangle of homogeneous
houses, which contains a large gravelled centre, bordered by a few
sickly plane-trees. This is Gray’s Inn Square, which, as we have seen,
took the place of Coney Court and Chapel Court. It was at No. 1, Coney
Court, burnt down in 1678, that Bacon, ‘the greatest, wisest, meanest of
mankind,’ is said to have lived. The site of his rooms is covered now by
No. 1, Gray’s Inn Square, part of the row of buildings erected in 1868
at the West end of this Court. In 1622 Bacon was granted chambers in the
Inn consisting of ‘certayne buildings in Graies Inne [of late called
Bacon’s Buildings] for the terme of fiftie years.’

Francis Bacon was entered by his father, the Lord Keeper, on June 27,
1576, together with his four brothers, Nicholas, Nathaniel, Edward, and
Anthony. This was that Sir Nicholas who founded the Cursitor’s Office or
Inn, from which Cursitor Street takes its name; Cursitor Street, with
its bitter memories of sponging-houses and bailiffs, which have been
improved away along with the lumbering machinery of the law that made
such things possible. Sir Nicholas had been Treasurer of the Inn in
1536. Francis Bacon, in the dedication quoted below, describes Gray’s
Inn as ‘the place whence my father was called to the highest place of
justice, and where myself have lived and had my proceedings, and
therefore few men are so bound to their Societies by obligation both
ancestral and personal as I am to yours.’ An Order in the following
year, 1577, directed that all the sons of Sir Nicholas Bacon should be
‘of the Grand Company and not be bound to any vacations.’ In the
twenty-eighth year of Elizabeth, Francis Bacon was advanced to the
Readers’ Table. He was elected Treasurer in 1608.[69] As
Solicitor-General he dedicated his ‘Arguments of Law’ to ‘my lovinge
friends and fellowes, the Readers, Ancients, Utter Barresters and
Students of Graies Inn,’ signing himself ‘your assured loving friend and
fellow, F. B.’

It was from Gray’s Inn that the procession of Earls, Barons, Knights and
Gentlemen started, which accompanied him to Westminster when he became
Lord Keeper. And it was to Gray’s Inn that he returned after his
impeachment and fall, coming ‘to lie at his old lodgings,’ and write
many of his Treatises and Essays. ‘Those noble studies,’ says Macaulay,
the brilliant historian, who himself occupied chambers at No. 8, South
Square, in a building that was destroyed to make room for the extension
of the Library–‘those noble studies, for which he had found leisure in
the midst of professional drudgery and of courtly intrigues, gave to
this last sad stage of his life a dignity beyond what power or titles
could bestow. Impeached, convicted, sentenced, driven with ignominy
from the presence of his Sovereign, shut out from the deliberations of
his fellow-nobles, loaded with debt, branded with dishonour, sinking
under the weight of years, sorrows and diseases, Bacon was Bacon still.’
He commenced a Digest of the Laws of England, a History of England under
the Tudors, a body of Natural History, a Philosophical Romance. ‘He made
extensive and valuable additions to his Essays. He published the
inestimable treatise, “De Augmentis Scientiarum.” The very trifles with
which he amused himself in hours of pain and languor bore the marks of
his mind. The best collection of jests in the world is that which he
dictated from memory, without referring to any book, on a day on which
illness had rendered him incapable of serious study.’ It is the brain
and personality of such a genius that haunts this spacious, quiet square
of Gray’s Inn. And presently we shall see how upon the Inn itself and
its pleasaunces this many-sided mind impressed itself to our advantage.

Through an arch in the far angle of the Square we pass to a narrow,
oblong building of the crudest early nineteenth-century type, looking
across an ugly wall upon the noisy Gray’s Inn Road. This is the ugly
line of Verulam Buildings (1811), which Charles Lamb justly called
‘accursed,’ for they encroached upon the gardens, ‘cutting out delicate
crankles, and shouldering away one or two of the stately alcoves of the
terrace.’ A postern-gate at the far corner leads out to the junction of
Gray’s Inn Road with Theobald’s Road, a dismal thoroughfare, which is
bounded by a railing, through which a delightful vista of green trees
and turf gladdens the sight of the passer-by–turf and green trees which
form the gracious playground of the children for whom the gates are
opened each summer evening.

Another Gateway by ‘Jockey Fields,’ in Theobald’s Road, leads past
Raymond Buildings, the same kind of ugly, unabashed, stock-brick
barracks as Verulam Buildings, and dating from the same period. Crude
and unpleasing as these dull blocks are to behold, they have the great
advantage of being very pleasant to live in, for they line and look out
upon the Gardens which the great Philosopher laid out. Raymond Buildings
end in Field Court, which in turn adjoins South Square. One side of
Field Court is formed by the iron railings and fine iron Gateway (1723)
which terminate the Gardens. Square stone gate-posts carry the Griffin
of the Inn. For the device of Gray’s Inn is a Griffin, or, in a field
sable. Within this Gate a broad avenue of plane-trees, flanked by grassy
lawns and terraces, leads to a green earth-work terrace at the northern
end of the gardens. This terrace was probably constructed with the
intention of shutting out the view of the squalid houses that had begun
to spring up in that direction.

James Spedding records that Raleigh, just before his last disastrous
voyage to the New World, had a long conversation with Bacon in those
Gardens. And it is said that Bacon planted here a ‘catalpa tree,’ very
likely brought home by Raleigh, which still survives, and is certainly
one of the oldest in England. This is the sprawling, senile tree,
tottering to its grave with the aid of a dozen propping sticks, which
forms a striking feature upon the left-hand side of the path, looking
from the Gateway.

Bacon’s love of gardening is breathed in every line of his delightful
Essay upon Gardens. ‘God Almighty first planted a garden. And indeed it
is the purest of human pleasures. It is the greatest refreshment to the
spirits of man, without which buildings and palaces are but gross
handyworks.’ And it appears probable that the Gardens of Gray’s Inn were
laid out under his direction in 1597 and the following years. For in
1597 the Society ordered ‘that the summe of £7 15s. 4d., due to Mr.
Bacon for planting of trees in the walkes, be paid next terme.’ In the
following year a further supply was ordered ‘of more yonge elme trees in
the places of such as are decayed, and that a new Rayle and quicksett
hedge bee set uppon the upper walke at the good discretion of Mr. Bacon
and Mr. Wilbraham, soe that the charges thereof do not exceed the sum of
seventy pounds.’ And, this limit having apparently been carefully
observed, in 1600, £60 6s. 8d. was paid to Mr. Bacon ‘for money
disbursed about the Garnishing of the Walkes.’

There is also record of a Summer-house erected by Bacon ‘upon a small
mount’ in the Gardens, which bore a Latin inscription to the effect that
Francis Bacon erected it in memory of Jeremy Bettenham, formerly Rector
of the Inn, in the year 1609. It was destroyed in the eighteenth
century.

The rooks which nest in the trees of Gray’s Inn Gardens, and which fare
sumptuously upon the fragments of food daily offered to them by the
residents in the Chambers of Gray’s Inn, made their first appearance
when the elms on the Chesterfield property in May Fair were felled.
They appear to have driven out a pair of carrion crows which had built
here time out of mind, and whose ancestors may well have looked down
upon the author of the ‘Novum Organum,’ as he walked in those quiet
alleys with his friend, or mused as he rested on the seat which was so
callously destroyed a century and a half ago.[70]

The principal entrance to the Gardens was from Fullwood’s Rents, and,
when coffee-drinking first came into vogue, Coffee-Houses sprang up
here, and reaped a rich harvest from the crowds who made of Gray’s Inn
Gardens a fashionable and popular promenade.

For Gray’s Inn Walks became as fashionable a resort in the seventeenth
century as Merton Gardens at Oxford in the eighteenth, and when Pepys’
wife was ‘making some clothes,’ he took her here to observe the
fashions. And Sir Roger de Coverley loved to pace the green terrace of
Gray’s Inn.

The figure of the great Philosopher overshadows all others at Gray’s
Inn, but the Society can boast a long line of members distinguished in
Politics, the Law and Literature. Sir Philip Sidney was a Member of this
Inn; so were John Hampden and John Pym, and Thomas Cromwell became an
Ancient in 1534.

Sir William Gascoigne, Chief Justice 1400, is claimed by both Gray’s Inn
and the Middle Temple. The former can at any rate point to Gascoigne’s
arms in the bay-window of the Hall.

George Gascoigne, the poet, William Camden, and William Dugdale, the
great and learned antiquaries, were all members of Gray’s Inn. Among the
poets who resided here are George Chapman, Samuel Butler, John
Cleveland, Oliver Goldsmith, and Robert Southey, who entered the Inn in
1797. Cobbett dwelt here for a season, and another ‘Rymer’ in the author
of the ‘Fœdera.’ Dr. Kenealy, who defended ‘the Claimant,’ was the
last barrister to have business Chambers here, the tide of legal
business having flowed down Chancery Lane. Gray’s Inn can boast a Royal
Bencher in the person of H.R.H. the Duke of Connaught, who, by a
‘Special Pension’ in 1881, was admitted a Member, called to the Bar, and
elected a Bencher in one day.

Such, in brief outline, is the history of the Four Inns of Court, in
which is vested the monopoly of calling to the Bar of England such
students as have kept terms at the Inn, and have commended themselves
to the approval of the Benchers. Starting as independent voluntary
associations of students and practisers of the law, either in connection
with the Court of some great Justiciar, or merely in hostels, where the
apprentices might find board and lodging during their years of learning,
they developed into Societies, nobly housed, which controlled their
students after a collegiate fashion.

Without charters, endowments, or title-deeds, they developed on the
lines of self-governing Guilds, subject only to a certain ill-defined
control by the Judges, whilst their property was vested in a
self-elected Committee of Benchers for the time being. It is under the
guidance of these Committees that the Inns of Court have gained and
maintained their position through the centuries, training the successive
generations of barristers in the high traditions of honour and ability
characteristic of the English Bar, and imparting to their youthful
apprentices at the law, through the social system of ‘keeping terms,’
the unwritten rules of right conduct in the legal profession.

It remains now to glance at the Inns which started level in the race
with the Inns of Court, but whose history and development have been so
different.