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ance of the Rev. John Royet, a native of Geneva, who had left that city of the mountains, and been appointed minister of the French chapel attended by the Romilly family. He was an eloquent preacher, but he was something more—he was a man of original mind, richly cultivated, and his hints and suggestions proved of great value to Romilly. I know not indeed of
circumstance of greater profit to a young man than that he should obtain the guidance of a trained and thoughtful intellect in his studies, to save him from wasting time by a fatal but enticing desultoriness of pursuit, to cheer him in his seasons of despondency, to control him in his moods of extravagant self-esteem and self-assertion, and to set before him an elevated ideal as that to which all his hopes and aspirations must be directed.
It was partly the influence of this valued friend which led Romilly into his true career.
In the Six Clerks' office there was no room for the development of his higher capabilities; and that fame and fortune which sometimes coloured his dreams, could be obtained only in a more important branch of the profession. He resolved, therefore, to study for the bar ; and in May, 1778, became a member of Gray's Inn. Under the supervision of a Mr. Spranger, he pushed forward his legal reading with all the warmth of his nature. Writing to his friend, Royet, he thus details his daily order of work :
“At six or sooner I rise, go into the cold bath, walk to * In his autobiography Romilly says that he was influenced also by his perusal of Thomas's “ Eloge of Daguesseau ;” the career of glory which he represents that illustrious magistrate to have run, had greatly excited his ardour and ambition, and opened to his imagination new paths of glory.
Islington to drink a chalybeate water (from which I have found great benefit); return and write or read to ten; then go to Mr. Spranger's, where I study till three ; dine in Frith Street, and afterwards return to Mr. Spranger's. This is the history of every day, with little other variation than that of my frequently attending the courts of justice in the morning, instead of going to Mr. Spranger's, and of often passing my afternoons at one of the Houses of Parliament.”
We shall see that Romilly became a great lawyer, but he was also much more than a lawyer, and this was owing to his incessant and extensive reading. He was always athirst for general knowledge. He read a great deal of history; he continued to improve himself in the classics ; he translated, composed, and sedulously aimed at the formation of a correct and elegant style; the best passages of the best authors he assiduously rendered into English; he wrote political essays, which he sent anonymously to the newspapers, being not a little elated at their constant appearance in print; and he strove to obtain a great facility of elocution. Adopting a device, suggested by Quinctilian, he expressed to imself, in the best language he could, whatever he had been reading, using the arguments employed by Tacitus or Livy, and building them, mentally, into speeches of his own.
Occasionally, too, he attended the two Houses of Parliament, and would recite in thought, or answer, the speeches he heard there. And for the better economy of his time, he reserved these exercises for the hour devoted to walking or riding; and before long, had so grown into the habit, that he would think these compositions as he was passing through the most crowded streets.
It is no marvel that intellectual labour so continuous,
and at such high pressure, eventually injured his health. He was naturally of a very nervous and sensitive temperament, which he ought to have managed with great care, and strengthened by adequate rest and open-air exercise ; but throughout his life he put too great a strain upon it, with a result which should be a warning to all persons similarly constituted. In the spring of 1780 he spent six weeks at Bath, but without feeling any definite improvement. Then
the “No Popery” riots, headed by Lord George Gordon; and the consequent excitement still further disturbed his nervous system. Fortunately for him, a pressing occasion—the ill-health of Royet, who had married his sister, and sought a residence in Lausanne--called him away from England ; and a journey through Switzerland, followed by a visit to Paris, recruited both his physical and mental energies. While at Geneva, he formed the acquaintance of Dumont, afterwards the friend and editor of Bentham; and at Paris he was introduced to the philosophers of the Encyclopaedia, D'Alembert and Diderot.* second visit to Paris, two years later, he had the satisfaction of conversing with Dr. Franklin, whose venerable patriarchal appearance, the simplicity of his manner and language, and the novelty of his observations, impressed Romilly with a conviction that he was one of the most extraordinary men that ever existed.”
On the 2nd of June, 1783, he was called to the bar. In a letter written a few weeks before to his friend,
* His letters at this time are marked by many interesting descriptions of the men and places he saw, and contain some curious sketches of a social order which was then unconsciously trembling on the brink of revolution.
Royet, he describes in elevated language the feelings with which he contemplated the career before him
“It would seem," he says, “that you thought I had affected doubt of succeeding in the way of life on which I am to enter, only to draw from you such praises as might encourage me in my pursuit. That object, had it been mine, must have been fully gratified by your silence, which, introduced as it is, is a greater encouragement to me, and is more offensive to modesty even than a panegyric upon talents which your indulgence might have supposed me to possess. However, I assure you I had no such wish, and that what I wrote to you was but a faithful transcript of what I felt. Could I but realise the partial hopes and expectations of my friends, there could be no doubt of my success, almost beyond my wishes; but in myself I have a much less indulgent censor, and in this, perhaps alone, I cannot suffer their judgment to have equal weight with my own. I have taught myself, however, a very useful lesson of practical philosophy, in order to make myself easy in my situation, which is, not to suffer my happiness to depend upon my success. Should my wishes be gratified, I promise myself to employ all the talents and all the authority I may acquire for the public good. Should I fail in my pursuit, I console myself with thinking that the humblest situation of life has its duties, which one must feel a satisfaction in discharging ; that, at least, my conscience will have ever the pleasing testimony of having intended well ; and that, after all, true happiness is much less likely to be found in the high walks of ambition than in the secretum iter et fallentis semita vitae. Were it not for these consolations, and did I consider my success at the bar as decisive of my future happiness, my apprehension would be such that I might truly say, 'cum illius dici mihi venit in mentem, quo mihi dicendum sit, non solum commoveor animo, sed etiam toto corpore perhorresco.
Cicero, in Q. Cæcil. Div. 13. “ Memoirs of Sir Samuel Romilly," i. 257, 258.
To the high key-note pitched in these remarks, Romilly's whole life responded. I often think that men's failure in life is due to the low standard wbich they set up for themselves at the start; we make more misses by aiming too low than too high. But, after all, ,
and “ failure? are relative terms; and what the world calls “success," God and angels may regard as “ failure."
Again in May, 1783, he writes :
“I am soon to enter on a career which possibly (though I grant not very probably) may place me in important and critical situations, which will certainly give one practical and selfish interests incompatible with the good of others, and which will throw me amidst mankind, and condemn me to hear the profession of dishonourable sentiments without opposing them, and to be a mere spectator of selfish and degrading conduct without discovering any detestation of it. It will in part depend on you to save me from the contagion of such examples; for though my heart still recoils from them with an antipathy that seems quite insurmountable, I have I know not what kind of terror, which I cannot overcome, of the force of habit, of perpetual temptations, of being familiarised with a contempt for virtue, and, above all, of our habitual attachment to the miserable gold which one earns."
For the first four or five years, Romilly's professional progress was very
slow. His sensitive and nervous temperament was a grave obstacle, as it prevented him in public from doing justice to his really great powers. But if it were a source of weakness, it was also a source of strength. It refined and elevated his genius; quickened his sympathies; and promoted that human and compassionate disposition which animated his efforts for the amelioration of our universal law. Meanwhile, he con