THE MIDDLE TEMPLE

The passage I have quoted from Thackeray at the end of the last chapter
shadows forth eloquently enough something of the feeling of respect and
awe which the young barrister–and even those who are not young
barristers–may naturally feel for the precincts within which the great
English Lawyers lived and worked–the Inns of Court, where the splendid
fabric of English Law was gradually built up, ‘not without dust and
heat.’

But for most laymen the Temple and its sister Inns have other and
perhaps more obvious charms. For as we pass by unexpected avenues into
‘the magnificent ample squares and classic green recesses’ of the
Temple, they seem to be bathed in the rich afterglow of suns that have
set, the light which never was on sea or land, shed by the glorious
associations connected with some of the greatest names in English
literature. Here, we remember, by fond tradition Geoffrey Chaucer is
reputed to have lived. Here Oliver Goldsmith worked and died, and here
his mortal remains were laid to rest. Here, within hail of his beloved
Fleet Street, Dr. Johnson dwelt, and Blackstone wrote his famous
‘Commentaries.’ Here the gentle Elia was born. Hither possibly came
Shakespeare to superintend the production of ‘Twelfth Night.’ Here, in
the Inner Temple Hall, was acted the first English tragedy, ‘Gorboduc;
or Ferrex and Porrex,’ a bloodthirsty play, by Thomas Sackville, Lord
High Treasurer of England, and Thomas Norton, both members of the Inner
Temple. And hither, to witness these or other performances, came the
Virgin Queen.

The main entrance to the Middle Temple is the gateway from Fleet Street,
scene of many a bonfire lit of yore by Inns of Court men on occasions of
public rejoicing.[29] This characteristic building, of red brick and
Portland stone, with a classical pediment, was designed by Sir
Christopher Wren, and built, as an inscription records, in 1684. An old
iron gas-lamp hangs above the arch, beneath the sign of the Middle
Temple Lamb.

Wren’s noble gate-house replaced a Tudor building, erected, according to
tradition, by Sir Amias Paulet, who, being forbidden–so Cavendish[30]
tells the story–to leave London without license by Cardinal Wolsey,
‘lodged in this Gate-house, which he re-edified and sumptuously
beautified on the outside with the Cardinal’s Arms, Hat, Cognisance,
Badges, and other devices, in a glorious manner,’ to appease him. The
fact seems to be that this old Gateway was built in the ordinary way
when one Sir Amisius Pawlett was Treasurer.[31]

Adjoining this Gateway is Child’s Bank, where King Charles himself once
banked, and Nell Gwynne and Prince Rupert, whose jewels were disposed of
in a lottery by the firm. Part of this building covers the site of the
famous Devil’s Tavern, which boasted the sign of St. Dunstan–patron of
the Church so near at hand–tweaking the devil’s nose. Here Ben Jonson
drank the floods of Canary that inspired his plays; hither to the sanded
floor of the Apollo club-room came those boon companions of his who
desired to be ‘sealed of the tribe of Ben,’ and here, in after-years,
Dr. Johnson loved to foregather, and Swift with Addison, Steele with
Bickerstaff.

Immediately within the Gateway, on the left, is

[Illustration: THE MIDDLE TEMPLE GATEHOUSE IN FLEET STREET

IT stands on the south side close to the site of Temple Bar, was
designed by Sir Christopher Wren, and built in 1684.]

an old and very picturesque stationer’s shop, belonging to the firm of
Abram and Sons, in whose family it has been since 1774. It is much more
than a stationer’s shop, for Messrs. Abram have accumulated in the
course of years a very valuable and interesting collection of old deeds
and documents and prints. The overhanging stories of the house rest upon
a row of slender iron pillars–pillars which Dr. Johnson used to touch
with superstitious reverence each time he passed, in unconscious
continuation of that ancient pillar-worship of which many traces linger,
for those who have eyes to see, about the Temple and St. Paul’s. We are
now in Middle Temple Lane, the narrow street down which the citizens of
London were wont to hurry in order to take boat to Westminster from the
Temple Stairs, in the days when the River was the highway between the
City and the Court, between London and Westminster, the counting-houses
of the merchants and the palace and abbey of the King. Of late years the
introduction of tramways and of motor traffic on the Embankment has
tended largely to revive the popularity of the old route, though not all
the thousands of pounds squandered by the London County Council upon an
ill-considered scheme of steamboats could induce the Londoner to adopt
again the water-way, which the bend of the River and the tide must make
slow. Next below us on the left is the group of chambers called Hare
Court, a plain to ugly, red-brick to stock-brick barracks, through which
one can reach the Temple Church. Beyond, on the right, we come to what
remains of Brick Court. This is a most charming specimen of the Queen
Anne style. An inscription over the doorway of No. 3, _Phœnicis
instar revivisco_, informs us that it rose like the Phœnix from its
ashes in 1704. But in this present year of Grace (1909), an old brick
building has been removed, which fronted the Hall and the Lane, and
which claimed to be the oldest building left in the Temple, the first
constructed of brick, erected there in Elizabeth’s reign, and referred
to by Spenser in the lines of his ‘Prothalamion’:–

‘Those bricky towres,
The which on Themmes brode aged backe doe ryde,
Where now the studious lawyers have their bowers,
There whylome wont the Templar Knights to byde,
Till they decayed thro’ pride.’

There is nothing, however, to prove that Spenser was referring to Brick
Court. The ‘Prothalamion’ was published in 1596; and I would suggest
that the phrase ‘bricky towres’ might apply most naturally to the Middle
Temple Hall.

Of all the Chambers in the Inns of Court rich in reminiscences of famous
men, none are so redolent of literary fame as No. 2, Brick Court. We
cannot, as Thackeray[32] wrote, who himself, like Winthrop Mackworth
Praed, had chambers here, pass without emotion ‘the staircase which
Johnson, Burke, and Reynolds trod to see their friend, their kind
Goldsmith–the stair on which the poor women sat weeping bitterly when
they heard that the greatest and most generous of all men was dead
within the black oak door.’

Not the Temple, but No. 6, Wine Office Court, nearly opposite the
Cheshire Cheese, was the scene of Dr. Johnson’s famous rescue of the
author of ‘The Vicar of Wakefield,’ who had been arrested by his
landlady for his rent, and sent for his friend in great distress. ‘I
sent him a guinea,’ says Johnson, ‘and promised to come to him
directly…. I perceived that he had already changed my guinea, and had
a bottle of Madeira and a glass before him. I put the cork into the
bottle, desired he would be calm, and began to talk to him of the means
by which he might be extricated. He then told me that he had a novel
ready for the press. I looked into it, and saw its merit; told the
landlady I should soon return, and, having gone to a bookseller, sold it
for sixty pounds.’

Goldsmith left Wine Office Court and lodged for a while in Gray’s Inn,
and thence migrated to some humble Chambers upon the site of No. 2,
Garden Court, Middle Temple (1764). These buildings have disappeared.
But the success of his play, ‘The Good-Natured Man,’ for which he
received £500, enabled him to launch forth into more splendid
apartments. He purchased the lease of No. 2, Brick Court, which still
stands as he left it, for £400. He furnished his rooms with mahogany and
Wilton carpets, and, bedecking himself in a suit of ‘Tyrian bloom satin
grain,’ prepared to entertain his most aristocratic acquaintances.
Johnson, Percy, Reynolds, Bickerstaff, and a host of other friends of
either sex, climbed those stairs to the rooms on the second floor on the
right-hand side (‘two pair right’), were entertained to dinners and
suppers, much to the discomposure of the studious Blackstone, who,
painfully compiling his great ‘Commentaries’ in the chambers below,
found good cause to grumble at the racket made by ‘his revelling
neighbour.’[33] And some years later the staircase that led to the rooms
of that most lovable of geniuses was crowded by friends, ‘mourners of
all ranks and conditions of life, conspicuous among them being the
outcasts of both sexes, who loved and wept for him because of the
goodness he had done.’[34] For from these rooms, one April afternoon,
the mortal remains of Oliver Goldsmith were borne forth, to be buried
somewhere on the north side of the Temple Church. The exact spot is not
known, but as near to it as can be ascertained a plain gravestone now
bears the inscription (1860): ‘Here lies Oliver Goldsmith.’ The
Goldsmith Buildings, that run parallel to the north side of the Church,
belong, like Lamb Buildings, somewhat unexpectedly to the Middle Temple,
but they have no immediate connection with Oliver Goldsmith.

The bedroom in Goldsmith’s Chambers Thackeray describes as a mere
closet, but he commented upon the excellence of the carved woodwork in
the rooms. The windows looked upon a rookery, which for long flourished
in the elm-trees, since cut down, which gave their name to Elm Court.
Gazing upon this colony, Goldsmith, in the intervals of composing his
‘Traveller’ or ‘Deserted Village,’ would note their ways, and so
recorded them in his ‘Animated Nature’:[35] ‘The rook builds in the
neighbourhood of man, and sometimes makes choice of groves in the very
midst of cities for the place of its retreat and security. In these it
establishes a kind of legal constitution, by which all intruders are
excluded from coming to live among them, and none suffered to build but
acknowledged natives of the place. I have often amused myself with
observing their plan of policy from my window in the Temple, that looks
upon a grove where they have made a colony in the midst of the City….’

In recent years many of the brightest ornaments of the English Bar have
had Chambers in Brick Court, including Lord Coleridge, Lord Bowen, Lord
Russell, and Sir William Anson. There is a sundial in this Court–one of
the many for which the Inn is famous–from which Goldsmith may often
have taken the hour. It warns us that Time and Tide tarry for no man,
and took the place (1704) of one that bore the motto, ‘Begone about your
business,’ of which the story goes that it was a Bencher’s curt
dismissal of a Mason who asked him for the motto to be engraved thereon.

The Buildings in the Inns grew up in haphazard fashion. They were
erected by individual members or Benchers at their own cost, and
interspersed with stalls and shops, with the sanction of the Benchers.
The builders were granted the right of calling their blocks of chambers
after their own names, if they chose, and of nominating a certain number
of successors from among members of the Society, who might become
tenants without paying rent to the Inn.

To this haphazard method of building, and to the influence of numerous
fires, is due the devious labyrinth of little Courts, the inextricable
maze of blocks of Chambers, which lie upon our left as we descend Middle
Temple Lane, and which lend so peculiar a character to the Temple Inns.
Pump Court, Elm Court, Fig-Tree Court, which fill the spaces between the
Lane and Wren’s Cloisters and the Inner Temple Hall, owe their irregular
shape to these causes, and their titles to the chief features of the
plots about which they were built.

First comes Pump Court, where Henry Fielding, the novelist, and Cowper,
the poet, once had chambers. Upon its old brick walls is a sundial with
its warning motto: ‘Shadows we are, and like shadows depart.’[36] The
great fire of 1679, which damaged the Middle Temple far more than the
Fire of London, broke out at midnight in Pump Court. It raged for twelve
hours. The Thames was frozen, and barrels of ale, so tradition runs,
were broached to feed the pumping engines in lieu of water. Pump Court,
Elm-Tree Court, Vine Court, the Cloisters, and part of Brick Court were
consumed. The Church and Middle Temple Hall were only saved by the
timely use of gunpowder, a device that had been found effective in the
Great Fire of 1666.

Elm Court Buildings, as they now are, date from 1880. They are built of
good red brick and stone, but marred by feeble Renaissance ornament.
They boast a sundial, facing the Lane, which proclaims that the years
pass and are reckoned–_pereunt et imputantur_. The Middle Temple Lane
ends in the atrocities of the nineteenth century: between the walls of
the feeble Harcourt Buildings, the stock-brick ugliness of Plowden
Buildings, which have rather less architectural charm than a
soap-factory, and in the dreadful Temple Gardens and the Gateway which
opens upon the Embankment, a gross abomination of florid ugliness.

On the right, below Brick Court, beneath a gas-lamp raised upon a
graceful iron arch, some steps

[Illustration: FOUNTAIN COURT AND MIDDLE TEMPLE HALL]

lead us to a raised pavement, dotted with a few plane-trees, beyond
which lies the Fountain. This pavement is the forecourt of the Middle
Temple Hall, a building which, in spite of restorations and recasings
and counter-restorations, remains of unique and unsurpassed interest.
For now that Crosby Hall is to be translated, it is the only building
left _in situ_ in London which can be directly and certainly connected
with William Shakespeare. The Middle Temples had an ancient Hall between
Pump Court and Elm Court, the west end of which abutted upon Middle
Temple Lane. This was superseded in 1572 by the present famous building.

‘Gray’s Inn for walks,
Lincoln’s Inn for a wall,
The Inner Temple for a garden,
And the Middle for a Hall.’

The old doggerel lines fairly sum up the features of the Inns. And this
lovely Hall of the Middle Temple, whose proportions are so fair–it is
100 feet by 42 feet by 47 feet high–produces a delightful impression of
space and lightness. A magnificent timber roof with Elizabethan
hammer-beams harmonizes with the rich panelling, on which are painted
the arms of ‘Readers,’ and the gorgeous carving of the Renaissance
Screen, which was erected in 1574, some fourteen years before the date
of the Spanish Armada, from the spoils of which fond tradition says it
was constructed.

The Hall is very rich in heraldry, and has some interesting portraits,
chiefly of royal personages. Above the Bench Table hangs Van Dyck’s
portrait of Charles I. The windows illustrate the survival of Gothic
detail long after other details had passed into the Italian style. The
points are very slight, but contrast sharply enough with the Renaissance
curves and pendent roof. There is some modern stained glass, tolerable
in colour, but incongruous in style.

Parliament Chamber and the Benchers’ rooms are approached through old
carved oak doors, relics of the old Hall in Pump Court.

The Entrance Tower was designed by Savage (1831): the Louvre was
restored by Hakewill. An oil-painting, attributed to Hogarth, of the
Hall Court, with the Entrance Tower of the Hall in its ancient state, is
to be seen in the Benchers’ Committee Room of the Inner Temple.

One of the most splendid Refectories in England, comparable to the Hall
of Christ Church at Oxford, this noble room adds to the charm of its
beauty the charm of a literary memorial. For from this stage the
exquisite poetry and gentle fun of Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’ first
fell upon the ears of the listening lawyers upon occasion of a Christmas
Revel three hundred years ago. Here Shakespeare himself, we must
believe, has trodden; those rafters rang once with the poet’s voice. For
even if he did not act himself in his play that night of wonderful
Post-Revels–and that, in spite of tradition, is indeed scarcely
probable, for the dramas performed on these occasions were, as we have
seen, acted by members of the Inn–yet it is more than probable that he
would be employed as Stage-Manager for the occasion, and would take his
natural part in rehearsing the play.

It so happens that one John Manningham–a fellow-student, by the way, of
John Pym–kept a diary of his residence in the Temple from 1601 to 1603.
That diary has been preserved among the Harleian Manuscripts now in the
British Museum. And on February, 160½, he made a note which will cause
his name to live for ever. ‘At our feast,’ he wrote, ‘Wee had a play
called “Twelve Night, or What you will,” much like the “Commedy of
Errores,” or “Menechmi” in Plautus, but most like and neere to that in
Italian called “Inganni.”[37]

And to this stately Hall, we may be sure, came Elizabeth, surrounded by
a brilliant group of statesmen, lawyers, sailors, to witness such plays,
or perchance to lead the dance with some comely courtier like Sir
Christopher Hatton. The connection of the Middle Temple with the great
Elizabethan Admirals and Adventurers is indeed noteworthy.

Sir Francis Drake was honourably received by the Benchers in this Hall
after his victories in the West Indies (1586), and in the Hall, below
the daïs, is a serving-table made out of the timber of his ship, the
_Golden Hind_. He had been admitted, _honoris causa_, to the Society of
the Inner Temple four years earlier. Other famous Elizabethan seamen
were admitted at the Middle Temple in the persons of Sir Martin
Frobisher, Admiral Norris, Sir Francis Vere (all in 1592), and Sir John
Hawkins (1594). Taken in conjunction with the fact that Richard Hakluyt,
the elder, was a Bencher of the Middle Temple; that Sir Walter Raleigh,
who had been admitted to membership of the Inn in 1575, placed the
expedition he sent out in 1602 under the command of Bartholomew Gosnold,
another Middle Templar; that the records show that several members of
the Middle Temple were interested in the early development of Virginia;
and that the Inn possesses the only existing copy of the ‘Molyneux
Globes,’ this and other indications seem to justify Mr. Bedwell’s
contention[38] that ‘the colonizing enterprises of the closing years of
the sixteenth century were closely associated with the Middle Temple,’
and that on both sides of the Atlantic members of that Inn took a
prominent part in the ‘birth of the American Nation.’

This connection with the Colonies, natural, necessary and profitable
both to those new countries, which thus obtained the services of
educated men–Governors trained in knowledge of affairs, and
Attorney-Generals imbued with the high traditions of English Law–and to
the Inns themselves, which were thus kept in touch with the New World,
is illustrated by the fact that the Middle Temple is represented by no
less than five of the signatories to the Declaration of Independence. Of
these, Thomas McKean is said to have written the Constitution of
Delaware in a single night. And of the other four, Edward Rutledge,
Thomas Lynch, Thomas Heyward, and Arthur Midleton–all Representatives
of South Carolina–the first is believed to have drafted the greater
part of the Constitution of that State, and was afterwards Chairman of
the Committee of Five who drafted the first Constitution of the United
States.

Meanwhile the literary and dramatic tradition of the Middle Temple was
continued by such members of the Society as Congreve, Wycherley, Ford,
Sir Thomas Overbury, and Shadwell, King William’s Poet Laureate, who
lives in Dryden’s Satire. Later, that tradition was continued by
Sheridan, Thomas Moore, Thomas de Quincey, and Henry Hallam, the
historian of the Middle Ages.

Since 1688, when a change was made in the oath of supremacy, which, by a
statute of 1563, all Utter Barristers were required to take, the names
of the members of the Inns of Court who are entitled to practise in the
Courts have been preserved in the Barristers’ Roll. Since 1868
barristers have been excused the oath, but the Roll must still be signed
after call to the Bar. The lists are kept in the Public Record Office.

The names of eminence inscribed upon this wonderful Roll can only be
hinted at here. The Middle Temple can boast such great lawyers as Edmund
Plowden and Blackstone, and Lord Chancellors in Clarendon, Jeffreys (who
was a student here, but called to the Bar at the Inner Temple), Somers,
Cowper, and Eldon; whilst Mansfield, C.J., Lord Ashburton, Robert
Gifford, Lord Stowell, Lord Campbell, Cockburn, the Norths, and the
Pollocks, were men and lawyers of no less eminence. Nor must we omit to
mention one whose undying fame was earned, not in the Courts, but in the
Camp; for Sir Henry Havelock, the hero of Cawnpore and Lucknow, figured
among the Templars ere he went to India. Of another kind of eminence was
Elias Ashmole, the Antiquary, whose name lives at Oxford. In the
destructive fire of 1678 he lost in his rooms at the Middle Temple his
papers, books, and rich collection of coins and medals. His friend, John
Evelyn, the diarist, also had rooms in the Middle Temple, in Essex
Court, just over against the Hall Court (1640).

The north wing of Essex Court, which forms part of Brick Court, was
rebuilt in 1883;[39] the remainder of these charming brick buildings,
with the Wigmaker’s shop, belong to the second half of the seventeenth
century.

Though the Gateway which leads to Middle Temple Lane is the grander,
there is another entrance by ‘the little Gate,’ which is still more
charming and characteristic. Screened by the tortuous ways of Devereux
Court, an old wrought-iron gate opens onto an ancient and spacious
quadrangle.

As we stand beneath the old brick buildings of this ‘New Court’–so
‘new’ that it was built by Sir Christopher Wren (1677)–the whole charm
of the Temple scenery unfolds before our eyes, and we understand at once
the ‘cheerful, liberal look of it’ which Charles Lamb loved.

For below us lies the most unique and one of the loveliest views in
London, a city of beautiful vistas. A flight of steps, framed by ancient
iron standards bearing the sign of the Lamb, leads down to a Fountain in
the centre of a broad paved terrace. And through the trees that shade it
we catch glimpses of green lawns and flower-beds hedged about by Hall
and Library and Chambers. Here still, beneath the shady trees–though
Goldsmith’s rooks no longer caw in them–sparkles the water of the
Temple Fountain, though the Fountain itself is not that which provoked
Lamb’s wit, nor that which Dickens loved. It was through the smoky
shrubs of Fountain Court that the delicate figure of Ruth Pinch flitted,
in fulfilment of her little plot of assignation with Tom, who was always
to come out of the Temple past the Fountain and look for her ‘down the
steps leading into Garden Court,’ to be greeted ‘with the best little
laugh upon her face that ever played in opposition to the Fountain, and
beat it all to nothing. The Temple Fountain might have leaped twenty
feet to greet the spring of hopeful maidenhood that in her person stole
on, sparkling, through the dry and dusty channels of the Law; the
chirping sparrows, bred in Temple chinks and crannies, might have held
their peace to listen to imaginary skylarks, as so fresh a little
creature passed; the dingy boughs, unused to droop, otherwise than in
their puny growth, might have bent down in a kindred gracefulness, to
shed their benedictions on her graceful head; old love letters, shut up
in iron boxes in the neighbouring offices, and made of no account among
the heaps of family papers into which they had strayed, and of which, in
their degeneracy, they formed a part, might have stirred and fluttered
with a moment’s recollection of their ancient tenderness, as she went
lightly by.’[40]

From the Fountain Terrace we look down upon a terraced garden framed by
various blocks of buildings, which, if they do not group and harmonize
so as to form a perfect whole, yet produce an effect which is quite
singular and has a charm of its own. Beneath the Terrace, on the left
the west end of the Hall abuts upon a green lawn; on the right a flight
of steps leads down to a path which skirts the not unpleasing gabled
façade, in red brick and stone, of the Garden Court (1883). Facing us
now, are the steps which lead up to the embattled Lobby of the Library,
beneath which an archway leads to the Library Chambers facing Milford
Lane. Hence a private gate leads out into the Lane, where are the steps
to Essex Street, remains of the old Water Gate of Essex House. The
left-hand side of the green parallelogram of garden is formed by those
ugly Plowden Buildings, for which the only hope is that they may soon be
buried in the decent obscurity of Virginia Creeper, which can cover a
multitude of architectural sins, and the still uglier Temple Gardens,
and the Gateway, for which there is no hope at all.

In Dugdale’s time the Middle Temple Library, owing to the fact that it
always stood open, had been completely despoiled of books. The present

[Illustration: MIDDLE TEMPLE LIBRARY

ON the left are the buttresses of Middle Temple Hall.]

building, in the Gothic style by H. R. Abraham, is ugly in itself, its
proportions, especially when viewed from the Embankment, being painfully
bad. Its height is far too great for its length and breadth, and this is
due to the fact that two stories of offices and chambers are beneath the
Library Room, which is approached by a charming outside staircase. The
Library itself, which is 86 feet long, is a beautiful room with a fine
open hammer-beam roof. It was opened on October 31, 1861, by King Edward
VII., then Prince of Wales, who was called to the Bar and admitted as a
Bencher of the Middle Temple on the same day.

Mr. Loftie very justly observes of the Middle Temple that ‘Its Lawn
seems wider, its trees are higher, its Hall is older, its Courts are
quainter, than those of the other member of this inseparable pair.’ The
Middle Temple has, indeed, been unkindly compared to a beautiful woman
with a plain husband. This comparison, however, is far from just. For
though its beauty is perhaps less obvious and has been much impaired by
the ravages of modern builders, yet the Inner Temple remains a _locus
classicus_ for the fine beauty of the Jacobean and Queen Anne styles,
and across its green lawn the view of the Embankment, the River, and
Surrey Hills–too often, alas! shrouded in smoke–is extremely
delightful. Moreover, the heart of the Inner Temple presents the
engaging completeness of a Collegiate Building. The Church and Master’s
House on the North; the Cloisters on the West; the Buttery,
Refectories, Hall, and Library on the South; the Master’s Garden, the
Graveyard and Garden of the Inn on the East, form just such a Court or
Quadrangle as delights the eye at Oxford or Cambridge.

I have spoken of the Inner Temple Gateway. In King’s Bench Walk–once
known as Benchers’ Walk–the Inner Temple can boast a row of typical
Jacobean mansions, with handsome doorways,[41] which look upon a broad
and classic avenue of trees. Nor can an Inn, which records the names of
Sir Edward Coke and of John Selden amongst its members, and which was
the home of Dr. Johnson and Charles Lamb, be reckoned inferior to any in
the fame and interest of its _alumni_.

Dr. Johnson moved from Staple Inn to Gray’s Inn, and from Gray’s Inn to
No. 1, Inner Temple Lane (1760). Here, in a spot so favourable for
retirement and meditation, as Boswell calls it, in a house whose site is
indicated by the ugly block of Johnson’s Buildings (1851), were those
rooms which have been so vividly described by the great man’s admirers.
Here, in two garrets over his chambers, his library was stored, ‘good
books, but very dusty and in great confusion.’ Here was housed an
apparatus for the chemical experiments in which he delighted, whilst the
floor was strewn with his manuscripts for Boswell to scan ‘with a degree
of veneration, supposing they might perhaps contain portions of the
“Rambler” or of “Rasselas.”’ It was in his chambers here on the first
floor, furnished like an old counting-house, that the uncouth genius
received Madame de Boufflers–received her, no doubt, clad, as usual, in
a rusty brown suit, discoloured with snuff, an old black wig too small
for his head, his shirt collar and sleeves unbuttoned, his black worsted
stockings slipping down to his feet, which were thrust into a pair of
unbuckled shoes. And then, when he began to talk, ‘with all the
correctness of a second edition,’ all thought of his slovenly appearance
and his uncouth gestures vanished; the knowledge and the racy wit of the
man triumphed. We see the lady, fascinated by the great man’s
conversation, bowed out of those dirty old rooms, whilst the ponderous
scholar rolls back to his books. Then her escort hears ‘all at once a
noise like thunder.’ It has occurred to Johnson that he ought to have
done the honours of his literary residence to a foreign lady of
quality.

Eager to show himself a man of gallantry, he hurries down the stairs in
violent agitation. ‘He overtook us,’ says Beauclerc, ‘before we reached
the Temple Gate, and, brushing in between me and Madame de Boufflers,
seized her hand and conducted her to the coach.’ To the bottom of Inner
Temple Lane came the devoted Boswell, and took chambers in Farrar’s
Buildings–now rebuilt (1876)–in order to be near to the object of his
biographical enthusiasm. Another name famous in Literature the Inner
Temple can boast. Francis Beaumont, the dramatist, was a Member of this
Inn, and in 1612 he wrote the Masques performed by this Inn and Gray’s
Inn before King James at Whitehall, in honour of the marriage of
Princess Elizabeth and the Count Palatine of the Rhine. This Masque he
dedicated to Sir Francis Bacon, who represented Gray’s Inn in its
preparation.

The grey walls of Paper Buildings; the plain yellow brick of Crown
Office Row; the stock-brick of Mitre Court, the Goldsmith Buildings that
have supplanted the dingy attic of No. 4, Inner Temple Lane, which
looked through the trees upon the (now vanished) pump in Hare Court, are
none of them buildings which in themselves can stir any emotion but
repulsion, but they have a lasting charm and interest, for they are the
sites of the homes of Elia; they are haunted by the ‘old familiar faces’
of Charles Lamb and his friends.

Charles Lamb first saw the light in No. 2, Crown Office Row, ‘right
opposite the stately stream which washes the garden-foot,’ and there
passed the first seven years of his life. ‘Its church, its halls, its
gardens, its fountain, its river, I had almost said, for in those young
years what was this king of rivers to me but a stream that watered our
pleasant places?–these are of my earliest recollections.’

The name of these buildings was derived naturally enough, because, at
least from the days of Henry VII., the Clerk of the Crown occupied the
Crown Office in this Inn until its removal to the Courts of Justice in
1882. The eastern yellow brick half of the row, Nos. 1, 2, and 3, was
built in 1737, the western half, Nos. 4, 5, and 6, of stone in the
Italian style, in 1864, by Sydney Smirke. The Row no longer extends to
No. 10, where Thackeray had chambers, sharing them possibly with Tom
Taylor, before he migrated to No. 2, Brick Court.

Of his old Chambers here Taylor wrote with affectionate regret when he
heard of the ‘bringing low of those old chambers, dear old friend, at
Ten, Crown Office Row.’

‘They were fusty, they were musty, they were grimy, dull, and dim,
The paint scaled off the panelling, the stairs were all untrim;
The flooring creaked, the windows gaped, the doorposts stood awry,
The wind whipt round the corner with a wild and wailing cry.
In a dingier set of chambers no man need wish to stow,
Than those, old friend, wherein we denned at Ten, Crown Office Row.’

The present Mitre Court Buildings date from 1830. At No. 16, in the old
block, Charles Lamb once lived (1800), preferring ‘the attic story for
the air.’ ‘Bring your glass,’ he writes to a friend, ‘and I will show
you the Surrey Hills. My bed faces the river, so as by perking upon my
haunches and supporting my carcass upon my elbows, without much wrying
my neck, I can see the white sails glide by the bottom of King’s Bench
Walk, as I lie in my bed.’ In Fuller’s Rents, now replaced by Nos. 1 and
2, Mitre Court Buildings, the Earl of Leicester, Elizabeth’s favourite,
and Sir Edward Coke, the great Chief Justice, once had chambers (1588
_ff._).[42]

Coke was a Bencher before he became Chief Justice and wrote upon
Lyttleton. Sir Thomas Lyttleton (author of the famous ‘Treatise on
Tenures’) is the first name upon the list of the Benchers of the Inner
Temple.

A heavy iron gate, shut at night, marks the entry to Mitre Court and
what was formerly Ram Alley. Between the North side of Mitre Court
Buildings and the entrance to Serjeants’ Inn are the remains of a small
garden, marked by a few sickly trees. Beyond, is a passage leading into
Serjeants’ Inn, which is approached by a flight of steps, and is shut
off from Mitre Court by a door, which at the present day is seldom, if
ever, closed. Through this private way of his, the lines of which can
still be traced, the compact and wiry figure of the great Lord Chief
Justice, Coke, might often have been seen passing between the two
Inns.[43]

From 1809 to 1817 Charles Lamb lived at No. 4, Inner Temple Lane, a
house that has been replaced by part of the ugly Johnson’s Buildings.
‘It looks out,’ he says, ‘upon a gloomy churchyard-like Court, called
Hare Court, with three trees and a pump in it. I was born near it, and
used to drink at that pump, when I was a Rechabite of six years old.’

‘That goodly pile of building strong, albeit of Paper hight,’ as Lamb
facetiously calls it, succeeded Heyward’s Buildings, where Selden
laboured. Paper Buildings were burnt down in 1838, thanks to the
carelessness of Sir John Maule, the eccentric Judge, who left a candle
burning by his bedside. Both he and Campbell, afterwards Chancellor,
lost everything in the flames.

In Paper Buildings George Canning, the Statesman, and Samuel Rogers, the
poet, had chambers, and Lord Ellenborough also (No. 6). The present
block, by Smirke, contains the chambers of another Prime Minister in Mr.
Asquith. The Inner Temple can boast yet another Premier in George
Grenville, who became Prime Minister (1763) in the same year as he was
elected Bencher.

The name of Edward Thurlow, the rough-tongued, overbearing Lord
Chancellor, is unhappily connected, like that of Grenville, with the
policy which resulted in the loss of our American Colonies.

Thurlow had chambers in Fig-Tree Court, the smallest and most dismal of
these legal warrens in the Temple. He died in 1806, and was buried in
the Temple Church.

Amongst other great lawyers who had chambers in Paper Buildings, Stephen
Lushington, Edward Hall Alderson, and Sir Frank Lockwood must be named.

Paper Buildings form the Western boundary of the ‘Great Garden,’ which,
indeed, before the erection of buildings here, used to extend to King’s
Bench Walk. It stretched from Whitefriars to Harcourt Buildings and
Middle Temple Lane, and from the Hall to the river wall, and if it has
been narrowed by Paper Buildings, it has been elongated by the
successive embankments of the River. Always carefully cultivated and
planted with shrubs and roses, it remains, little altered by the passing
centuries, one of the sweetest and most grateful of things–a trim
garden in the midst of a grimy town. This is the scene chosen for that
great and growing Flower Show, which is one of the most popular and
pleasing of the social functions of the London season. The great
wrought-iron gate opposite Crown Office Row is a magnificent specimen of
eighteenth-century craftsmanship. It will be noticed that it bears, in
addition to the winged Horse, the arms of

[Illustration: HALL AND LIBRARY, INNER TEMPLE

CROWN OFFICE ROW is on the left, Paper Buildings on the right. The
Gardens run right down to the Thames Embankment, and are the scene of
the Temple Flower Show.]

Gray’s Inn–a compliment to the ancient ally of this Inn, which was
returned upon the gateway of Gray’s Inn Gardens, and over the arch of
the Gatehouse leading to Gray’s Inn Road. It was upon the neighbouring
terrace that the Old Benchers, of whom Lamb wrote so pleasingly, used to
pace. Immediately within the railings is a sundial, which dates from the
beginning of the eighteenth century. Of these ‘garden gods of Christian
gardens, these primitive clocks, the horologes of the first world, there
is a delightful profusion in the Temple. Best known of all of them,
perhaps, is that which is borne by a kneeling black figure in a corner
of the garden near the foot of King’s Bench Walk. It was brought here
from Clement’s Inn. The oft-quoted epigram, which was one day found
attached to this Blackamoor, is feeble enough:

‘In vain, poor sable son of woe,
Thou seek’st the tender tear;
From thee in vain with pangs they flow,
For mercy dwells not here.
From cannibals thou fled’st in vain;
Lawyers less quarter give–
The first won’t eat you till you’re slain,
The last will do’t alive.’

Occasionally as I pass these many sundials, shrouded in the yellow haze
of London fog, or scarce visible through the murk upon the dark walls
of narrow Courts, I find myself repeating Edward Fitzgerald’s mot, when,
after a wet week spent with James Spedding at Mirehouse, he gazed
reflectively upon the sundial in the garden there, and observed: ‘It
_must_ have an easy time of it.’

Fires, frequent and disastrous, have destroyed nearly all the old
buildings in the Inner Temple. Only the Church and a fragment of the
Hall survive from medieval days. The Great Fire (1666), which left the
Middle Temple almost unscathed, wrought devastation in the Inner. The
Inn was then rebuilt with great rapidity, the erection of Chambers being
left to the enterprise of Members, as before, whilst the Society as a
whole devoted itself to the construction of the Library and Moot-Chamber
beneath. In the fire of 1678 the old Library was blown up with gunpowder
in order to save the Hall.

The present Inner Temple Hall is a crude, pseudo-Gothic structure, which
was designed by Sydney Smirke, and was opened by the Princess Louise in
1870. It supplanted the restored and tinkered remains of the old Hall.
For the ancient Refectory of the Knights Templars stood in the time of
Henry VII. on the same site as this Hall, and does, indeed, form the
nucleus of it.[44] The Clock Tower, at the East end of the Library,
which forms one side of the nondescript Tanfield Court, perpetuates an
ancient tower, which was surmounted by a turret built of chalk, rubble,
and ragstone, like the Church, and carried a bell under a wooden cupola.
It stood near to this spot, and was attached to the Treasurer’s house.
The feeble architecture of the exterior is agreeably at variance with
the fine interior of the Hall, with its open timber roof and handsome
screen. Upon the panelled walls, like those of the Middle Temple Hall,
are painted the coats of arms of past Treasurers and Readers, in
perpetuation, as it were, of the old custom of the Knights Templars, who
used to hang their shields upon the walls when they sat two by two at
dinner in the old Hall, wherein, as the Accusers averred, the Novices of
the Order were compelled to spit upon the Cross, to kiss an Idol with a
black face and shining eyes, and to worship the Golden Head kept in the
Treasury adjoining. The doors in the panelling at the East End lead now
to nothing more thrilling than Parliament Chambers–‘a handsome set of
rooms, the walls of which are covered with portraits and engravings of
legal luminaries.’[45]

In the minstrel gallery hang some old drums and banners, which serve to
remind us of the martial achievements of the Lawyers, when ‘forth they
ride a-colonelling.’ Two very richly carved doors at the north and south
entrances to the Hall, one of which bears the date 1575, are reasonably
supposed to be surviving fragments of the great carved screen, said by
Dugdale to have been erected in the Hall in 1574.

The four fine bronze statues of Knights Templars and Knights
Hospitallers are by H. H. Armstead (1875). The Hall is rich in
portraits. Beneath a large painting of Pegasus are portraits of King
William III. and Queen Mary, of Queen Anne, George II., and Queen
Caroline. Portraits of Sir Edward Coke and Sir Thomas Lyttleton, Sir
Matthew Hale, Sir Randolph Carew, and Sir Simon Harcourt, among others,
hang upon the walls.

The old Hall of this, as of the other Inns, was frequently the scene of
Revels and Merry-making.[46] Here, as elsewhere, Christmas Feasts
formed prominent incidents in the life of the Society, and one such has
been described by Gerard Leigh (1576), when the guests were served ‘with
tender meats, sweet fruits and dainty delicates confectioned with other
curious cookery … and at every course the Trumpeters blew the
courageous blast of deadly War, with noise of drum and fyfe; with the
sweet harmony of Violins, Sackbutts, Recorders and Cornetts, with other
instruments of music, as it seemed Apollo’s harp had tuned their stroke.
Thus the Hall was served after the most antient of the Island.’ And it
was in the old Hall of the Inner Temple that the first performance of
the first English tragedy took place in 1561. This was ‘Gorboduc; or
Ferrex and Porrex,’ and it was written by two distinguished members of
this Society: Thomas Norton and Thomas Sackville. A hundred years later
Sir Heneage Finch, afterwards Lord Chancellor and Earl of Nottingham,
‘the Oracle of Impartial Justice,’ gave in this Hall the most
magnificent ‘Reader’s Feast’ upon record.

King Charles came in his barge from Whitehall, with his Court, and was
received at the Stairs by the Reader and the Lord Chief Justice in his
scarlet robes. He passed into the Temple Garden through rows of Readers’
servants, clad in scarlet cloaks and white Tabba doubtlets, and the
Gentlemen of the Society in their gowns, whilst music and violins
sounded a welcome to His Majesty. The Duke of York was also present upon
this occasion, and so delighted was he with the entertainment that he,
together with Prince Rupert, was at once admitted to the Society, and
presently became a Bencher.

Sir Heneage Finch was the most famous of a long line of distinguished
members of that family who have been Benchers. It is characteristic of
the Inner Temple that it has and always has had a tendency for members
of the same families to supply the vacancies among the Benchers. The
Pollocks, Wests, Wards, and Finches point back to a long roll of
ancestors distinguished in the Law and the annals of the Temple. This
tendency coincides with the aristocratic nature of the Society. For many
centuries a candidate for Bencher was required to show at least three
generations of ‘gentle blood,’ a regulation which affords a curious
contrast to the more democratic nature of Oxford and Cambridge. In
Elizabeth’s reign it was ordered that ‘none should be admitted of the
Society, except he were of good parentage and not of ill-behaviour.’
Such another Inner Temple family was that of the Hares, who lived for
generations in Hare Court, the south side of which was built by Nicholas
Hare about 1570. Hare Court, together with the rooms once occupied by
Chief Justice Jeffreys, has been recently rebuilt. A doubtful portrait
of that ferocious Judge by Sir Peter Lely was presented to the Inn by
Sir Harry Poland, K.C.

The exterior of the Library Building is not imposing. It contains on the
ground and first floors the Parliament Chambers, offices, and
lecture-rooms, and on the second floor a very fine library, admirably
arranged in a room perfectly suited to the student.

Very early indications of a Library existing with chambers under it are
found in the records. It stood at the west end of the Hall. A later
building, apparently, at the east end of the Hall was afterwards used as
the Library, and was rebuilt in 1680, after having been destroyed by
gunpowder in 1678 in order to save the Hall from the fire in that year.

The north wing, upon the site of No. 2, Tanfield Court, was opened in
1882. A case containing a collection of ‘Serjeants’ Rings’ is of some
interest. In the anteroom to the Parliament Chambers hangs a portrait of
William Petyt, a former Treasurer of the House and Keeper of the Records
at the Tower, who bequeathed his exceedingly valuable collection of
historical documents, etc., to the Inn. A fine piece of carving by
Grinling Gibbons, as it is supposed, which is placed in this anteroom
also, bears the inscription ‘T. Thoma Walker Arm. A.D. 1705,’ and was
the result of a payment of £20 5s. made by Sylvester Petyt, Principal of
Barnard’s Inn and brother of William, as executor of the latter’s
will.[47]

The narrow alley that leads from Fleet Street through Mitre Court and
Mitre Buildings, gives little promise of the broad open expanse of
gravel

[Illustration: NO. 5, KING’S BENCH WALK, INNER TEMPLE

A DOORWAY, probably by Sir Christopher Wren.]

walks, sparsely dotted with plane-trees, and narrowing down to a distant
glimpse of gardens, and of the River beyond, to which it guides our
feet.

This stretch of gravel walks is enclosed on the west by Paper Buildings
and on the east by the buildings of the King’s Bench Walk. The lower
half of the latter, below the gateway leading into Temple Lane, and
facing the Gardens, dates from 1780, and is quite devoid of
architectural merit or even any pretence to it; but the northern section
is composed of houses of rare excellence. The fine proportions, the
appropriate material, the handsome doorways of these houses, and the
graceful iron lamp-brackets in front of them (Nos. 3, 4, 5, 6), all
proclaim the influence of a great master in a good period. The doorways
of Nos. 4 and 5 are, indeed, with every probability, attributed to Sir
Christopher Wren, whose genius was largely employed in the re-building
of the Temple. For the Fire of London reached the Temple two days after
it broke out, and almost completely destroyed all the buildings east of
the Church, King’s Bench Walk included. The houses then were quickly
rebuilt, but, as an inscription on a tablet on No. 4 records, only to be
burnt down again in 1677. No. 4 was rebuilt in 1678, No. 5 in 1684.

In No. 1, James Scarlett, Lord Abinger, had chambers; at No. 5, William
Murray, Lord Mansfield, of whom Colley Cibber, parodying the lines of
Pope, wrote:

‘Persuasion tips his tongue whene’er he talks,
And he has chambers in the King’s Bench Walks.’

Another famous lawyer who had rooms here was Frederick Thesiger, Lord
Chelmsford. The most remarkable of the cases tried by him is said to
have formed the basis of Samuel Warren’s ‘Ten Thousand a Year,’ a novel
whose title we most of us know now better than its contents. The author
of this popular novel, with its legal satire of Quirk, Gammon, and Snap,
was written at No. 12, King’s Bench Walk, in what Warren calls ‘this
green old solitude, pleasantly recalling long past scenes of the
bustling professional life’;–though how King’s Bench Walk can be called
a solitude, or why a solitude should recall the bustling professional
life, deponent sayeth not. Warren was treasurer in 1868. A painting,
attributed to Hogarth, of King’s Bench Walk in 1734, hangs in the
Benchers’ Committee Room, together with a painting of Fountain Court,
also attributed to him. At No. 3 lived Goldsmith in 1765.

And now, since we have drifted again from law to poetry, mention must be
made of two other poets whose names are connected with the Inner Temple.
About the year 1755 William Cowper left his lodging in the Middle
Temple, and took Chambers in the Inner, remaining there till his removal
to the Asylum ten years later. That was nearly three hundred years after
the Father of English poetry is said to have lived here. For, if we
could believe the life of Chaucer prefixed to the Black Letter Folio of
1598, both he and Gower, the poet, were members of the Inner Temple.
‘For not many years since Master Buckley did see a record in the same
house, where Geoffrey Chaucer was fined two shillings for beating a
Franciscan Friar in Fleet Street.’ Master Buckley was Chief Butler of
the Inner Temple (1564), and as such performed the functions of
Librarian. He may, therefore, quite well have seen a record to this
effect. But there is no reason to identify this Chaucer with the poet.

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