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ART. V.-State Trials. Specimen of a New Edition. By
Nicholas Thirning Moile, Esq. of the Inner Temple, Special
Pleader. Táis volume is a specimen of a proposed new edition of the State Trials rendered into verse. Whether the completion of the work be intended, or not, we are not able to depose. If so, it appears to us to be a task likely to occupy the combined lives of a score of fluent and habitual poets, each living to the full age of man; inasmuch as these trials range between the years 1163 and 1749, and occupy the closely printed pages of no less than thirty-two portly volumes. In this state of uncertainty, therefore, we will content ourselves with wishing the necessary long life and health to the gentlemen engaged in the task and proceed to the consideration of the present volume.
Mr. Moile has selected as his specimens three trials, those of Ann Ayliffe for heresy, Sir William Stanley for high treason, and Mary Queen of Scots for (among other great and notorious misdemeanours) having countenanced the conspiracy of Babington and others to assassinate Elizabeth, queen of this realm. Anne Ayliffe was tried before "an unyversall synod of the Papystical clergye of England,” summoned at St. Paul's, by Thomas Arundell, Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1419. Sir William Stanley was impeached by Sir Robert Clifford of high treason about Christmas 1494, 10 Hen. 7, and beheaded on the 15th of February following. — State Trials, vol. i. p. 277. According to Lord Bacon's account, “ On the morrow after Twelfth Day the king being at the Tower was advertized that Sir Robert Clifford (in whose bosom most of Perkinis secrets were layed up) was come to London.” Clifford being admitted to the king, “ did amongst others (of himself not interrogated) appeach Sir William Stanley, the lord chamberlain of the king's household.” The king, though much amazed and distressed at such a charge against Stanley, he having saved his life and set the crown upon his head, his brother also having married the king's mother, gave order that he should be restrained to his apartment. On his examination before the Lords, “he denied
little of that wherewith he was charged, nor endeavoured much to excuse or extenuate his fault.” The motive for Stanley's defection appears doubtful, nor does any appear to be suggested but his failure in obtaining the earldom of Chester, for which he applied to the king.
We have thought it necessary to mention these facts, as Mr. Moile dashes at once in medias res, leaving his readers considerably in the dark as to the circumstances which led his hero into so perilous and calamitous a position. Of the last specimen, the trial of Mary, the facts being sufficiently notorious, and it being our intention to refer to it before we conclude our remarks, we shall say nothing in this place.
In his preface Mr. Moile describes his ear as “not averse in leisure moments to the lighter recreations of the muse, nor insensible to the peculiar melody of our earlier versification.” He then deplores the spare opportunities afforded to students of the English law for singing, and contrasts with much feeling their unhappy case with the better fortune of the Roman youths who “ thus acquired the laws of the twelve tables.” Glancing reproachfully at the Pleader's Guide, as partaking too much of a levity inconsistent with the gravity of the subjects of which it treats, he proceeds on the authority of Mr. Jardine, whom he designates as his learned friend and competitor, to draw a parallel between criminal trials and tragedy,-in seeming unconsciousness of the fact that an elaborate parallel had appeared already from the pen of the most distinguished poetic practitioner (or practising poet) that the profession, from its first formation on the breaking up of the Aula Regia, has had to boast
“ I rejoice, indeed, (says the author of Ion, in his Preface) to trace in that form of poetry, which I have chiefly loved, an analogy to the greater occasions, and the nobler excitements, of
my own profession. Like a tragedy, a momentous trial embraces within a few hours an important action-condenses human interests, and hopes, and passions within its anxious circle,-is restrained, bounded, and dignified by solemnities and forms, which define it as a thing apart from the common succession of human affairs,—developes, sometimes, affecting traits of generosity, or is graced by the beauty of suffering, and is terminated by a catastrophe anticipated with quivering
VOL. XXI. NO, XLIV.
expectation, which may decide character, fortune, or life itself,—with sometimes a background of public interest, where the struggle of principles, and the fate of parties, may be seen in the intellectual perspective. But this is accident, rather than art."
Our author then proceeds on his own bottom and responsibility to demonstrate the resemblance of nisi prius to comedy.
“ The action of replevin, indeed, has aleady engaged the labours of both painters and dramatists : under the name of * The Rent Day,' it has drawn tears from thousands at our national theatres ; and the pencil of a Wilkie has proved a common law or statutable distress may become of all others the most pathetic. But though, in both those works, the declaration and avowry are admirably delineated, there can be no doubt that the whole of the pleas in bar would be bad on a general demurrer. Succeeding artists may avoid this fault:—and the design give rise to an emulation no less noble than that of Timanthes and Parrhasius to delineate the trial of the controversy for the arms of Achilles."
After thus indicating the peculiarities which make legal proceedings a meet object of the muse, he acquaints us with the course of events which led to the publication of this volume. We regret to say that they involve the demise by shipwreck of a pupil of the author, of whose private life and disposition some interesting anecdotes are appended. It should seem that the design of this work had long suggested itself to the author's mind, but, time and the hour not having suited, it was laid aside until the discovery of part of the poems now before us during a search in his pupil's chambers as executor. Prompted by this happy accident, Mr. Moile put his shoulder to the wheel, and the three specimens were completed. But for the marine disaster which happened to the author's ill-starred pupil, there can be little doubt that he would have pursued his harmonious toil, and it is to be hoped that the twenty hypothetical gentlemen above alluded to, warned by the fate of their early colleague, will by no means "go down to the sea in ships” during the progress of their labours.
Mr. Moile then manfully rescues his craft from any imputation of pedantry which may
attach to it, stoutly maintaining that a man may be a good special
pleader, and yet capable of “even the nicest appreciation of a opera ballet," and further intimating that he in his older growth most cheerfully affects and covets “ that graceful and refined spectacle.” Nor does he marvel at this, seeing " that the ballet is evidently borrowed from the ancient revels of the inns of court, in whose stately dances perhaps the art-now lost-was then practised, of representing by solemn gestures and measures, and with their feet in walking, the intricacies of law suits, and the reasonableness of their decisions.” So concluding a most pleasant preface, Mr. Moile places his poem before the mixed tribunal of poets and lawyers.
On the poetical part of Mr. Moile's work we are unwilling to pass a severe judgment, as we are ignorant what opportunities he may have had of cultivating his muse; and if we point out a few blemishes, they will be intended as beacons by which his future auxiliaries may be enabled to avoid similar dangers. Assuming, however, that Mr. Moile has had no other tuition in the “gay science” than such as he has drawn from special pleading precedents, the following description of Anne Ayliffe at the stake, if it does not entitle him to great praise, will do no discredit to his capacity for investing such topics with a new description of interest.
“ No more resisted she, nor further spake,
With which, her dextral hand, till then preserved,
As the trial of Mary will afford the greatest interest to the general reader, we shall now devote our attention and remarks to that especially
It is known that a commission was sent to Fotheringay Castle, consisting of the Lord Chancellor, Lord Treasurer, Oxford, Kent, and others who are duly set forth in the State Trials, Vol. I. p. 1171. Preparations are made for the trial, the Court assembles, the judges are seated, and Mary is summoned to the presence. At this point the poem opens. Mary, having latterly led somewhat of a secluded and monotonous life, expresses a natural surprise in the two first lines of the poem :
“ Wherefore, Lord Treasurer, are we honoured thus ?
What means this pageant, most unused to us ?" She then takes some exceptions to the conduct of her audience in not rising to do her honour, wishes to know the terms of the indictment, and inquires
Why come these councillors of England down?
With book and brief to drive a deadly suit ?" concluding an impassioned and forcible remonstrance with these two lines-
“ Hear, say ye, first? I must:--and after bear
Your pleasure? Read it! May I have a chuir ?" Whether this very reasonable request upon the part of her majesty—a female, with the prospect of a long trial before her-was granted or not, the poem does not say, and therein, as it
appears to us, leaves the gallantry of the judges in la. mentable question. The charges are then gone into and the counsel named. For the crown appeared Mr. Attorney-General Popham, with him Egerton Solicitor-General, Gawdy,