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immeasurable superiority which, throughout the day's proceeding, he showed over all his competitors in every branch of the cause.
During the last five or six years of his brilliant career, he was a frequent practitioner in Courts of Equity, and he showed a familiar acquaintance with the law of those tribunals, and above all, with the law of real property, which they so often administer, the most recondite, difficult, and scientific branch of our jurisprudence. It is probable that his frequenting the Court of Chancery was mainly owing to his having the prospect before him of one day succeeding to its chair: no one doubts that had he survived, the Great Seal must have been his portion, and with a more than ordinary assent of the whole profession over which he would so worthily have been called to preside.
But the decrees of an All-wise Providence forbade. As early as the summer of 1838, symptoms were perceivable of a serious malady having made a lodgment in his constitution, and it was feared that his lungs were affected. In 1841, while attending the Privy Council, he was seized with an attack of erysipelas, which retreated inwards, and alarmingly affected the alimentary canal. He hardly regained good health after that illness. Two years later the spine was supposed to be affected, for he certainly had an extreme feebleness in the lower limbs, almost amounting to paralysis. At length, in 1844, this increased, and seemed complicated with a return of pulmonary weakness. He was obliged to leave off all practice; and on the rising of Parliament, to go abroad with the intention of wintering in the south, should his health not be sufficiently restored by the autumnal repose to justify a return in November, the beginning of the judicial year. It was ultimately found necessary to make for Italy before the cold of winter approached, and he went to Rome and Naples,
which he did not quit before February. His attached friend Lord Brougham had hopes of his benefiting by the delightful and agreeable climate of Provence, and for some weeks expected him at Cannes, where he had urged him to occupy his villa. He went, however, by sea to Marseilles, and after passing a few days at Paris, returned to England early in March. The proverbial deceitfulness of consumption, which soon after plainly declared itself, flattered his friends with hope that the blow might be stayed, if not averted, with which they were now threatened. But he felt unequal to any business except that of consultations, and giving opinions, nor could he attend Parliament, except on two or three occasions, on one of which he spoke, and with his accustomed power and felicity. In the month of May, however, finding his illness increase, he distinctly tendered the resignation of his office of Attorney-General, which, however, was not accepted.
For better air he removed from his house in Park Street to the house of a kinsman in the Regent's Park. The disease now made rapid progress; but his mind remained unclouded within a few hours of his decease, which took place at three o'clock on the afternoon of Saturday, the 28th of June, 1845. How far the consumption which proximately caused his death was itself the result of another malady it is not easy with certainty to determine. But certainly, although the chest was in 1838 the seat of illness, a tendency to palsy was perceived long before the pulmonary complaint which proved fatal had appeared. That he suffered from severe labour has frequently been said, but without any foundation. The mischief was seated far deeper than any devotedness to hard work could reach, or any relaxation from hard work could cure. In truth, no man ever went through his labour of any kind, whether in chambers or in court, with greater ease to himself. That labour never fatigued
his understanding or damped his spirits, and his body suffered accordingly no wear and tear from the work which could only affect it through the mind.
He had married in 1830 the eldest daughter of the late Sir Harding Giffard, Chief Justice of Ceylon, by whom he has left two daughters and four sons, the youngest only thirteen months old.
His death in the zenith of his fame, the fulness of prosperity, the certain prospect of the highest public station under the crown which the country knows, the unimpaired vigour of his great faculties, the possession of universal esteem, such as no successful lawyer but Lord Erskine ever before possessed, an esteem that seemed to lay all envious feelings asleep, as if where there was no rivalry there could be no jealousy, was calculated to produce a great effect upon the minds of all; it was regarded as a singularly affecting spectacle, one which exhibited in a striking way the vanity of sublunary enjoyments, of mortal powers and worldly prospects-it was deeply felt as a public, and above all as a professional loss. The funeral was rendered still more solemn by the spontaneous attendance of the heads of the law, the ministers of state, many distinguished members of both Houses of Parliament, and the most eminent members of the bar. The Chancellor, the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, were among those who bore the pall. The funeral service was rendered impressive by all these extrinsic circumstances, and it was only lamented that its singular and touching beauty should have been in a great degree sacrificed to the music-admirable music it is true, but a most inadequate substitution for the noble and mournful simplicity of the service, as it is read, and ought ever so to be. A subscription has been formed for erecting a statue to his memory.
In relating the history of this eminent person's life the best description of his character has been presented to the reader It remains only to say that he was
peculiarly amiable in all the relations of domestic and of private life. To this the sweetness of his equable temper, and the known purity, as well as firmness, of his principles contributed with a certainty and a power that must needs have produced their natural effect. His genius having always been directed towards law, and law alone, his general information was not extensive, and he disappointed all who expected from his conversation the same pleasure that they derived from his public exhibitions. But he loved the relaxation of society, and took his part with sense, and intelligence, and uniform good humour, though all desired it should be a larger share. His composition was clear and pure, though he had only the habits of writing acquired by professional correspondence or opinions. Though law was the study of his life, he was well versed in classical literature, and retained to the last his relish for its study. Indeed, his taste in speaking was pure enough to show that he drew his principles of oratory from the only pure sources. In Italy he enjoyed the pleasure of such associations as much as the state of his enfeebled health would allow. That he was a competent Greek scholar has been doubted from the occurrence at Guildhall of a book being mentioned with the name of Aywyos (leader), for the author, and his not remarking the meaning till the Chief Justice said "You, Sir William, are meant, among others." But we happen to know that, within a few weeks of his decease, a dispute arising upon a Greek passage, and the sense of a particular idiom, he differed firmly with the company, and on examination was found to be right. This leaves no doubt on the point; but other proofs exist.
In his conduct as a professional man there have been attempts made by the uninformed, or the prejudiced, to point out one flaw; he is sometimes charged with having disappointed clients by taking briefs while he could not attend to the business. No accusation can be more unfair, and it is not the less to be repelled
and reproved because it is made against every man in full practice-we might almost say unavoidably made, as well as infallibly groundless. The first practitioners are always beset with applications from clients for their assistance. They cannot possibly tell whether on any occasion they shall be able to attend the court unless they confine themselves to a single court, which no great leader can do, and which the business of such occasional courts as the Lords and the Privy Council, having no bar of their own, would never permit. Consequently, clients must run the risk in question; but as they run it with their eyes open, they have no right to blame the advocate when the chance which they were aware of has deprived them of his aid. It was once said by Bearcroft, when much employed in committees, and seen walking about in the Court of Requests, unmoved by the many calls of his name in all quarters, that he was there to avoid giving undue preference to any of his clients. But a man whose conduct in other respects was so bad deserves not to be cited as an example. Sir W. Follett did only what all leaders do; his clients suffered only as all clients do that insist upon retaining a man of whose services they cannot be assured. The answer to their complaints is-"Go to inferior counsel, of whose attendance you can be assured." But this they never will do; and for why? Because every one feels that if he does not take the only effectual means of securing Sir W. Follett, his adversary will retain him, and then, peradventure, he may appear against him. Therefore, every one takes the chance of having him, with the risk of losing him, in order to insure himself against the risk of having to meet him on the opposite side. Nothing can be more plain than this. Many instances might be given during Sir W. Follett's greatest popularity of clients insisting upon delivering briefs, though formally and distinctly told that he could not attend. Why did they so? Because some unforeseen accident might