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of exaggerated admiration; and he certainly derived from practice the improvement which it must always afford, and most to those who from natural ability may seem the least to need it. Yet no one can doubt that in this, as in some other respects, he strongly resembled Mr. Pitt, for there was greater maturity displayed, both of faculties, of acquirements, of legal habits, almost of an advocate's habits, in the young lawyer on his very first appearance, than had ever before been seen in Westminster Hall; as the statesman is well known to have started into public life at a still earlier age an accomplished orator, whose after exhibitions could hardly be said to have surpassed his first display. There is, indeed, this marked diversity between the two cases, that Follett was an accomplished jurisconsult as well as a highly-gifted speaker, and accomplished from the beginning; while Pitt's rhetoric so far exceeded his statesmanship from first to last, that it left the latter far behind during all his long life of power nearly uncontrolled.
In committees he first became distinguished as a leader before his standing at the bar had placed him in the front rank; and in all probability that committee practice was of service in making his powers of command known; for it is certain that a lawyer may be highly qualified to fill and to shine in the second place, according to the well-known French proverb, who would be eclipsed in the first, of which the most eminent pleaders, the Wallaces, the Holroyds, the Richardsons, the Littledales, the Abbots, afford striking instances.
Sir William Follett, when he became a leader, at once fully answered every expectation that had been formed of him. In the first place he was thoroughly master of his profession; that is, of the principal tools wherewithal he had to work. Then the others he could handle as easily and skilfully, for he had an * Tel brille au second, qui s'éclipse au premier.
extraordinary power of speaking with clearness, with perfect self-possession, with abundant energy where energy was required, with a most pleasing tone of voice, that filled the ear, never tired, and perfectly suited the solid matter and the delicate texture of his discourse. Again, he had absolute command over both his temper and his faculties; could make the one submit to his purpose, and use the other at will, in that extraordinary process, without which there is hardly any real and certainly no practical businesslike eloquence, the thinking, and reasoning, and refining, and calculating while going on, and, as it were, on his legs. Thus his attention was ever wide awake, and as if his whole soul were concentrated in each cause, and in each successive step of it. His circumspection was also perfect, and served to provide against all attacks as against all snares.
quickness, as well as his entire self-reliance, and his perfect command of himself, he was of singular prudence and discretion, never to be taken off his guard, nor ever hurried into any proceeding of hazard. The faculty so essential to a leader of causes as of armies, a sudden and piercing glance through the adversary's plans from a rapid view of his movements, the coup d'œil, as it is termed, he possessed, in an eminent degree, like all great advocates who conduct business. If he was not to be over-reached or outmanoeuvred by his antagonist, so did that antagonist run no small risk from him. He was a person not to be slumbered near, and also being somewhat apt to press on the vanquished, he was, as Mr. Grattan once said of Lord Clare, though in another sense, "a dangerous man to run away from." The judge, too, required to be as much on his guard as the adverse counsel. No one's arguments in law required to be more closely watched, more especially in his reply, when the judge was left to himself without any comment or explanation of the opposite party; for so
extremely skilful, so dexterous was he, so gradually, by such imperceptible steps, did he glide on, insinuating himself rather than moving, that you could not tell he was making any progress, but suffered him by unseen steps to advance, by minute fragments to beg the question, till at last you found yourself entangled in the web so artistly woven and so cunningly thrown around, and had to go back to the point from which the first petitio principii had been made.
Ηΰτ' ἀράχνια λεπτὰ, τά κ' οὐ κέ τις οὐδὲ ἴδοιτο
Οὐδε θεῶν μακάρων· περὶ γὰρ δολόεντα τέτυκτο.*-Od. Θ.
It happened that during Sir William Follett's time no state prosecutions for libel or for treason, nor indeed any other causes célèbres, occurred after he succeeded to the lead. He had not, therefore, any of those comparatively rare opportunities of distinguishing himself before all the world, and his great fame was confined to Westminster Hall until he came into Parliament. It was in 1835 that this important event in his life happened; but far less important to his fame than to that of others; for his reputation being established at the bar was of a kind that left no man the least room for doubting his great success also in the senate, and it is perhaps the only instance in which this could so certainly be foreseen. He was appointed Solicitor-General during Sir Robert Peel's short administration, and was returned for Exeter by a great majority, having three years before been defeated in contesting that city. No sooner did he take his seat than the expectations of all men were amply fulfilled, and the predictions justified of those who had marked his progress at the bar. His matter was seen to be pregnant and pertinent; but it is in manner that lawyers are apt to fail before the assembled commons, and his manner was perfect
*"Fine as the Gossamer, which e'en deceives
The eyes of gods, his cunning web he weaves."
calm, yet not cold; firm, but unassuming; perfectly self-possessed, though without the least presumption, -every one admitted it to be about the most recommending manner that ever had clothed logical argument, clear statement, and powerful appeal. The voice, too, was of peculiar sweetness, as well as great compass, and it reminded the hearer of Mr. Pitt, to whom indeed in his whole manner he bore a great resemblance. His resemblance in the early maturity of his faculties and his fame has already been pointed out. He was, moreover, an accomplished debater, which many great speakers never were, including certainly Burke, probably Chatham, undoubtedly Windham, and perhaps Romilly also. The reliance which the government or the party he was connected with reposed on his assistance in every emergency was unbounded, like the confidence of his clients, and it was amply justified. It was a common obser
vation that he was less indifferent than some others to the gains of the profession; but never did he leave the least ground of complaint to his parliamentary allies that he preferred his briefs to his duties in the House of Commons. It is no exaggeration to say that the solidity of his matter, the charms of his manner, and his judcious use of the public ear, "using it as not abusing," made him more certain of a hearing, and more sure to retain it while he pleased, than almost any lawyer who ever addressed the House. Besides, his command over their attention was not confirmed by any wit that sparkled in his speech, the surest remedy for a popular assembly's flagging spirits, nor yet by any lively imagination of which he poured forth the stores, nor by impassioned or pathetic appeals, nor even by any rare power of vehement declamation; but it was derived from a rare combination of most lucid statement, singular aptness of argument, and of homely illustration, a forcible expression of contempt for the adversary or
the argument he was exposing, mingled with a very sparing but not unhappy use of sarcasm, and a voice of which it would be difficult to speak too highly, whether its smoothness, or its richness, or its sweetness be considered. He took part more rarely and more sparingly than all desired he should, fearful of wearying his audience by frequently appearing before them, and long demanding their attention. He was found quite equal to grappling with the largest as with the most ordinary questions; and though moderately provided with political knowledge, he never was deficient in the supply required by the exigency of the occasion, whether the subject of discussion was foreign or domestic policy, economical and financial science, or the learning of constitutional law; for he had the happy facility possessed by the Nisi Prius advocate, of gaining information for the special emergency-the artist who must make himself acquainted with the machinery of a patent one day, the nature of a chemical process another, the tackle and steerage of a ship a third, that he may explain these matters clearly to a jury as ignorant of them when he begins his lecture as he was himself two days before, and will again be two days after the cause has been tried.
On Sir Robert Peel's second accession to office in 1841 he became again Solicitor-General; and in 1844, on Sir Frederick Pollock being raised to the Exchequer as Chief Baron, he succeeded him as AttorneyGeneral, which office he held till his decease.
As there were no celebrated causes to display his talents at the bar during his time, so were there no cases of very great distinction to make his parliamentary appearance more memorable than their intrinsic merit was calculated to render them. But a mixed case of criminal law and parliamentary exhibition was afforded by the trial of Lord Cardigan, for fighting a duel, and no member of the House of Lords who was present on that occasion will easily forget the