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perjured and dishonest. Somers again leaped into the arena with ready pen, and defended with equal vigour and success the institution of the grand jury in general, and the action of the Old Bailey grand jury in particular, in his pamphlet, “The Security of Englishmen's Lives; or, the Trust, Power, and Duty of the Grand Juries of England Explained, according to the Fundamentals of the English Government, and the Declaration of the same made in Parliament by many statutes.” As in all Somers's tracts, constitutional maxims, forcibly put, are very numerous.
Here is a specimen : “The king's interest is more concerned in the protection of the innocent than in the punishment of the guilty." And again :
Every design of changing the constitution ought to be most warily observed and timely opposed; nor is it only the interest of the people that such fundamentals should be duly guarded, for whose benefit they are at first so carefully laid, and whom the judges are sworn to serve, but of the king too, for whose sake those pretend to act who would subvert them.”
Somers did not allow his energies to be wholly absorbed by political contention. He found or made time to gratify his ardent love of letters ; and in 1681, gave a proof of the versatility of his powers and the extent of his acquirements, by his translation into English of Ovid's Epistles from “Dido to Æneas,” and “Ariadne to Theseus."
No one will suppose that Somers thought himself a worthy rival of Dryden. Poetry is a jealous mistress, and he who would gain the smiles of the muse, must devote himself wholly to her service.
But the writing of verse is an elegant accomplishment, with which
a statesman or a jurist may profitably grace his learned leisure. Somers did not write better than the mob of gentlemen who write with ease, but he rendered his original with spirit and accuracy, and if not a good poet, was far from being a bad translator. The following passage is a fair specimen of his merits :
“With cruel haste, to distant lands you fly,
“Scorched up with love's fierce fire, my life does waste,
Like incense on the flaming altar cast ;
A further proof of his scholarship was his version of “ The Life of Alcibiades," which he contributed to the translation of Plutarch by“ various hands,” published in the same year. The evidence which connects him with the authorship of the strong and vigorous, but coarse invective, “Dryden's Satire to his Muse," a reply to glorious John's “ Absalom and Ahitophel,” is far from satisfactory. Dr, , Johnson says it was ascribed to Somers, but in Pope's opinion, “ falsely.” He adds :—“The poem, whosesoever it was, has much virulence and some sprightliness. The writer tells all the ill that he can collect of Dryden and his friends.” Horace Walpole remarks, that “the gross ribaldry of it cannot be supposed to have flowed from so humane and polished a nature as Lord Somers's.” This, however, cannot count for much, as, in the heat of political warfare, a satirist will allow himself an exceptional license; but more weight may be allowed to the fact that Somers himself positively disavowed the authorship. *
The generous patronage which he extended to men of letters and to literary enterprises is a matter beyond doubt. It was at his instigation that the first folio edition of Milton was printed, and he encouraged the rising genius of the author of "The Rape of the Lock.”
“ The courtly Talbot, Somers, Sheffield read."
Blackmore refers to him as an acknowledged arbiter elegantiarum.
« 'Twill Somers' scales and Talbot's test abide,
And with their mark please all the world beside."
He was the friend of Addison and the correspondent of Tillotson. Talent or scholarship never appealed to his sympathies in vain.
Soon after the death of his father in 1681, Somers bade farewell to the classic shades of Oxford, and having taken his bachelor's degree, finally removed to London, where he began to practise at the bar. A competent authority observes that
Sir Walter Scott, “Life of Dryden," p. 257.
“Probably no man ever commenced practice as an advocate in England with such high and varied qualifications. He was consummately skilled as a lawyer—from the practice of commencing an action, which he had learned when a lad in his father's office, to the most abstruse doctrines of real property, which he had imbibed from Winnington, and the most enlarged views of general jurisprudence, with which he had become familiar from his civil law studies at Oxford. He was moreover deeply versed in all constitutional learning, and besides being a fine classical scholar, he was familiarly acquainted with the languages and the literature of all the polished nations on the continent of Europe. Above all, he had steady habits of application, and he could not only make the necessary active exertion, but undergo the necessary drudgery, and submit to the necessary sacrifices, to ensure success at the English bar.”
Success he immediately obtained, and success so complete, that his professional income in the reign of James II. amounted to £700 per annum, an exceptionally large sum at that period. He had scarcely been a year at the bar when he was employed as one of the counsel in the then famous case of Pilkington and Shute, the sheriffs of London, who with others were indicted for a riot on Midsummer Day, 1681, caused by the attempt of the Crown to influence the election. But it was in a far more important trial that his reputation as a constitutional lawyer was solidly established. When James II. asserted the “dispensing power” of the Crown, and, in April, 1688, published a Declaration of Indulgence which suspended the operation of the penal laws against both Nonconformists and Roman Catholics, and of all acts imposing a test as a qualification for office in Church or State, he ordered that every clergyman should read it during divine service on two successive Sundays. “Little time," says Mr. Green, "was given for deliberation; but little time was needed. The clergy refused almost to a man to be the instruments of their own humiliation. The declaration was read in only four of the London churches, and in these the congregation flocked out of church at the first words of it. Nearly all the country parsons refused to obey the royal orders, and the bishops went with the rest of the clergy." The Archbishop of Canterbury, with six of his suffragans, humbly petitioned the king to be absolved from it. When their protest was laid before James, he exclaimed, " It is a standard of rebellion !” and, impelled by the fate which was driving him on to destruction, directed an information to be filed against them for publishing a seditious libel against the king and his government.
On the 15th of June, 1688, they were brought to trial in the Court of King's Bench.
Their counsel were Sir Robert Sawyer, Mr. Finch, Mr. Pollexfen, Sir George Treby, Mr. Pemberton, Sergeant Levaig, and Mr. Somers. To the last the bishops had at first objected on the ostensible grounds of his youth and want of practice; more probably, because he was a Whig in politics, and a known opponent of the doctrines of "divine right” and passive obedience,” which they had so zealously and unwisely advocated; but Pollexfen, insisting on his profound constitutional learning, and his thorough knowledge of “precedents and records,” declared that unless he was retained he himself would abandon the defence. His services proved to be invaluable. He supplied his brother-counsel with the facts gleaned by his wide and laborious research ; while his own speeches were distinguished by the force and clearness of their arguments. His closing address was remarkably impressive, and, assisted as it was by the popular feeling, led to the