Chapter 160139068

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Chapter NumberI
Chapter Url
Full Date1880-12-11
Page Number36
Word Count1993
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleAdelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)
Trove TitleSir Denis O'Donoghue. A Reminiscence of the English Bar
article text



In those an troubled days, wheh fresh from the tuition of a-special pleader I took chambers

on the second floor In Feachblossom Court, I. observed, over the door opposite to mine, the name of ' Mr. D. O'Donoghue. It was pretty plain that Mr. O'Donoghue used his chambers as a residence; for there were flowers in pots on the window ledgeB, and the laundress attended to the place during mere protracted minutes, with more frequency, and in a less, petfnnctory manner than if it were merely thefsbene-^br intended scene — of business. - Moreover, O'Donoghue often received visitors at all kinds of honrs, and wonld sometimes enliven the night with a song. And, if any farther evidence were wanted to prove that he lived at his chambers, there was the unweloomed mUk

can which often stood expectant at his door when - I was sallying forth to Westminster Hall at • half-past nine in the morning. I often passed O'Donoghne on the staircase and took a.- fanoy te his appearance and thought I should like to know him, the more so as an acquaintance with one whom I knew to be senior to myself, and who lived so near, might be of much assistance in the perplexities of practice as well as socially agreeable. The very fact of bis seniority, how ever, prevented any approach to him on my part; and it was not till the dnlaess of the long vacation set in that he felt tempted to make any advance to me.

One morning we happened to be leaving onr respective rooms at the same moment, and, for an instant, stood facing one another on the land ing. O'Donoghue broke silence.

"Uncommonly hot, isn't it," said he, "I'm going to smoke a cigar in the gardens. Have you anything better to do?"

I joined him with pleasure, and we went and

sat on a bench together facing the river, and neatraliztd its odours with the fragranoe of the Indian herb,

"And bow are yon getting on In the pro fession," said O'Dwioghue; " queer work, eh?"

Z told him I had bnt just began, having only

been called the November before.

"Ah! I saw your name in the law-list for the first time this year. Mine has been there ten years, more's the pity."

"I hopejyon are not disappointed with your

success?"! answered.

Then he told me about himself. He had been a scholar of Trinity College, Dublin, and after wards a gold medallist. He had oome to London on a email allowance, trusting to his abilities to recommend him, bnt he had fonnd them no recommendation at all except among his brethren of the Bar.

"And they are the most useless set of fellows in the world," he continued, " to recommend a man, except by en couragement. They used to hand me over plenty of briefs. I've won lots of causes for 'em, and once they flung me a reference like a bone to a lean dog; but I've never had more than three cases of my own since I have been the proprietor of a wig and gown, and for one of those cases I have never been paid the fee. The attorney was known to be a rascal, too, and no one wonld trust him, so it's odd he didn't pay; for, when an attorney has a bad repute he generally pays down immediately. It is your respectable client that keeps yon longest waiting for your money. Bnt-1 suppose he was speculating on my extra greenness."

I saw that I was learning something from my new acquaintance which was not to be picked up in a pleader's chambers; so I resolved to pump him as much as I could.

" But sorely," I said, " the. business which you have done in this way must result in time in makiDg you known, as well as in giving you experience and confidence in yonrself ?"

" In London it docs not make yon known," he answered; " there are too many men here, and

it ib seldom you pick up a client by holding another man's brief, however ably you may con duct yourself. On circuit and sessions it would be a different thing; but they're beginning to be a little bit Bby of me there, for an able competi tor in so small an arena is a very appreciable danger to be avoided. Not that I am regarded aB an able competitor as yet, but they've paid me the compliment to treat me as one in possi bility, and have reverted to the sound old rule of banding over what they can't do themselves to the biggest fool in Oourt. There's Tape twist, now, he'll hand over everything at ses sions or on circuit to that wretched stick Stultim&n, who does not know a mis demeanour from a mutton chop, and never will, poor devil; while In London his clerk —I mean Tapetwist's—will come to me at Guildhall or at Westminster with Mr. Tape twist's compliments, Sir, and could you attend to this little matter for him ? Oh, these chaps, they know a good-natured fool when they see him, I can tell you. Last circuit I only had one chance of appearing all the time, and that was in a case of Jawson's, and it didn't turn out so unlucky after all though it was only the junior


" At b11 events, it got your name into the newspapers," I said.

"Ay it did, and in a queer way." And here O'Donoghue began to laugh to himself.

"1 see there is something amusing about this case of Jawson's," said I," perhaps you will tell

me about it

"Jawson's!" said O'Donoghue; "why it was my greal-aunt's case; bat it's getting broiling hot out here, and if you'll only come in and have something cool—d'ye like claret cup ?"

I said I did like claret eup.

" All right; I'll make some for both of us, and I'll tell you about my great-aunt's case; for I see you are a good sort of fellow, and not going the Eastfolk circuit, and, therefore, not likely to interfere with me. Me, indeed! as though I had anything to be interfered with! I wish I could be interfered with. Any man who set up as my opponent only, egad he'd be a model conservative, for he'd assail no .one, destroy nothing, and despoil no vested


Chattering on in this way, he led me to t';e chambers opposite my own. The room to which he took me was meagerly furnished. The carpet was stained and worn, and the principal table was ricketty and blackened with ink; but great attention seemed to have been paid to the sofa and arm-chairs, in one of which I speedily found myself.

Over tne mantel piece ana udouc tne cmmney

were portraits of Irish worthies—Denis Daly, Lucas,Henry Flood, Swift, Qrattan, Oarran, anil Burke snrrounded a big engraving of Billy Pitt, which occupied the centre, while Charles James Fox hung modestly in a retired corner.

Above the wainscoting by the side of the doorway were bookshelves filled with the works of English historians, essayists, and poets, together with collections of the speeches of most of the English and Irish orators. Opposite these was a collection of classical and College books, while between the windows, sur mounted by a handsome bust of Lord Coke, was the law library of the almost briefless O'Donoghue.

" Ah, you are contrasting the number of books wi'.h my rara supellex," said he, collecting the ingredients for the claret cup. " Fes, there are the ancients on one side and the moderns on the other, and Coke acting' aB hbripens between tbem. Yes, I always keep my eye on bim when I want to steer to the golden mean. I've hit it now, at all events in the drink," he continued; "I think you'll say that's an elegant beverage for a gentleman in mishear e, and who wishes to console himself iqr the injustice of Themis."

" Well, I was going to-tell you of the good fortune that befell me -atjfhB hut St. Edmonds bury Assises, but jtmay M^well first explain what a poo? devlll am. Yoft'see -when I first came to London I was obliged to work hard to main tain myself, and .I went through an awful amount ofjJiterary drudgery. I translated the voluminous writings of one of the Fathers of the .Churchfor a publisher who br ings them out ina - cheap series with green cloth covers. I edited a weekly journal till -the proprietor sold it and .got «$cpd price for it, partly through the good character it had acquired under my manage ' s>£nt| and then the new proprietor employed aBOther editor. Then I joined Lawrence—you

remember Lawrence of the Circuit, who used to go the Uiddlesex session's—he's dead 'Dow,-poor fellow—well he and I went into a little speculation of our own. We used to write two editions of a weekly paper, one for Wednesday and the other for Friday. It was printed on one ride only, that is on two pages, and. we sold it to printers and others in the country whs brought it ont as a country newspaper with any name they pleased, putting their local news on the

first page and their advertisements on the' fourth. There was no difficulty in this, as we shifted the head-lines according to order, and sent down onr copies in time to receive the1 matter already prepared by onr customers in their country offices.

"Lawrence did the literary, artistic, and general work, and I did the legaland political, 1 and I may say of both branches that they were 1 honestly done without shirking. ' The rest of coprse was all cuttings. And thus we con tributed impartially to the Muddleton Gazette, which was stoutly Conservative, and to the

Erumthorp Beacon, which had a Chartist tendency, and to fifty or sixty other tapers of no tendency at all.

" Bnt presently Nonpareil and Nonsuch took it into their heads to go into a similar business. As yon know they are an enterprising firm who combine general printing with the reproduction in an illustrated form of standard works, the copyrights in which have expired, and they also have a magazine of their own. I don't know that they could work cheaper than we did, but they brought ont editions for every day in the week except Snnday and they made them of all sizes and shapes, and some were illustrated, though usually with old cnts. And then they brought out one paper with a kind of feuilleton on the fourth page containing a tale in three or four parts to last about a month. Altogether it was clear they would soon beat us.. And presently poor Lawrence fell ill; so we gave it up at last, and I was not sorry we did, for it was bard work and poor pay at the beBt."

"This sort of work must have been very irksome," said I, "to a man of your attainments."

" It was irksome," said O'Donoghue, •' it is true, and the details were occasionally annoying; but I did not consider the work as at all beneath my attainments, though it was no doubt capable of being performed by a man with less. And then you must remember that ne one who chose to depreciate the work or ridicule the under taking itself could enjoy the pleasure of flinging stones at either of_ us; for the writing was anonymous, and neither of ns personally con ducted the sale. Yes, I assure you wheu we saw Magpie, who could not speak an original sentence on any subject, engaged iu teaching elocution, and Sampson holding forth on Sundays at a dissenting conventicle, we agreed with Sbakspeare that ' the post of honour is the private station.'"