« EdellinenJatka »
mas preceding, but was permitted to continue a scholar there till after the twelfth of December, being the anniversary commemoration of the founder, to give him an opportunity of speaking the customary oration, which he had prepared, and which did him much credit.
About this time he obtained Mr. Benson's gold prize medal of Milton, for verses on that poet. And so well pleased was the Society of Pembroke College with their young pupil, that in the February following they unanimously elected him to one of Lady Holford's exhibitions for Charter House scholars in that house.
Here he prosecuted his studies with unremitting ardor; and although the classics, and particularly the Greek and Roman poets, were his favorites, they did not entirely engross his attention: logic, mathematics, and such other sciences as then formed part of a university education were not neglected; in the mathematics he obtained what was then esteemed a tolerable proficiency, and amused himself with pursuing the branch of it which relates to architecture. Of this science he made himself so far master that, at the age of twenty, he compiled for his own use, and without any view to publication, a treatise entitled Elements of Architecture, which still exists in manuscript, and has been well spoken of by professional judges, who have remarked that the author pays particular attention to those practical branches of the subject which are usually neglected by amateurs, such as the choice of soil, the making of foundations, the principles of construction, &c.
Having determined on his future plan of life and made choice of the law for his profession, he was entered of the Middle Temple on the 20th of November, 1741. He now found it necessary to quit the more amusing pursuits of his youth for severer studies, and began seriously reading law. How disagreeably a change like this was felt by a young man whose parts and elegant tastes and accomplishments had already procured him some distinction, and whose taste was formed in accordance with, and admiration of, the classical and poetical beauties he had stored in his memory, he expressed in the following lines, some time afterward published in the fourth volume of Dodsley's Miscellanies, under the title of The Lawyer's Farewell to his Muse.
"As by some tyrant's stern command,
"Companion of my tender age,
How bless'd my days, my thoughts how free,
Then all was joyous, all was young,
And years unheeded roll'd along;
But now the pleasing dream is o'er,
These scenes must charm me now no more;
"The wrangling courts and stubborn law,
In frighted streets their orgies hold;
"Shakspeare no more, thy sylvan son,
Pope's heaven-strung lyre, nor Waller's ease,
Nor Milton's mighty self must please;
Instead of these, a formal band
In furs and coifs around me stand,
With sounds uncouth, and accents dry,
That grate the soul of harmony.
Each pedant sage unlocks his store
And points with tottering hand the ways
"There, in a winding, close retreat,
"Oh! let me pierce the secret shade
There humbly mark, with reverent awe,
While mighty Alfred's piercing soul
"Then welcome business, welcome strife,
"Thus, though my noon of life be past,
Thus to the grave in peace descend!"
Several little fugitive pieces besides this have at times been communicated by him to his friends, and he left (not with a view of publication) a small collection of juvenile pieces, both originals and translations, inscribed with this line from Horace,
"Nec lusisse pudet, sed non incidere ludum."
His investigation of the quarrel between Pope and Addison, communicated to Dr. Kippis and anonymously printed by him in the Biographia Britannica, and some notes on Shakspeare, which, just before his death, he communicated to Mr. Malone, and which that gentleman inserted in his last edition of that author, show with how little of rigor he adhered to his ascetic resolutions. Mr. D'Israeli (whose good-natured criticisms are, how
*The verses, published in the name of J. Clitherow (the editor of Sir W. B.'s Reports), in the Oxford Collection, on the death of the Prince of Wales, in 1751, and which were esteemed one of the best compositions in that collection, were written by Mr. Blackstone, who at that time exacted a promise of secrecy; which promise Mr. Clitherow considered himself absolved from by the death of the learned judge, and felt a sensible satisfaction in restoring to the right owner that applause he had so long received without any pretensions; and in making this acknowledg ment, Mr. Clitherow also, in a note in his
edition of Sir W. B.'s Reports, expressed
""Twas on the evening of that gloomy day,
ever, as little to be relied upon as those of Sir Walter Scott) speaks in high terms of the former disquisition: he says, "His happy genius has only honored literary history by the masterly, free, and luminous arrangement of investigation, to which, since the time of Boyle, it has been too great a stranger."
In November, 1743, he was elected into the Society of All Souls' College; and in the November following he spoke the Anniversary Speech in commemoration of Archbishop Chichele, the founder, and the other benefactors to that house of learning, and was admitted actual fellow.
From this period he divided his time between the University and the Temple, where he took chambers, in order to attend the courts. In the former he pursued his academical studies, and on the 12th of June, 1745, commenced Bachelor of Civil Law; in the latter he applied himself closely to his profession, both in the Hall and in his private studies, and on the 28th of November, 1746, was called to the bar.
In the early part of his professional life, upon a vacancy of the Civil Law Professorship in the University of Oxford, Mr. Murray (afterward Earl Mansfield) took occasion to expostulate with the Duke of Newcastle, then Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, on the appointment of a successor, and lamented that at Oxford the civil law lectures, and the opportunities of gaining legal knowledge through that channel, were, when contrasted with the sister University, in the most degraded and unworthy situation, and expressed a wish that an able professor might be invited to fill the vacant seat. Though Dr. Jenner was the person thought of by the duke, yet he asked Mr. Murray if he could recommend him a gentleman who would fill it with greater ability. Mr. Murray shortly afterward introduced and warmly recommended Mr. Blackstone to the Duke of Newcastle, who, in order to ascertain the political bias of the new candidate, addressed him thus: "Sir, I can rely upon the judgment of your friend, Mr. Murray, as to your giving law lectures in a style most beneficial to the students; and I dare say, I may safely rely on you, whenever any thing in the political hemisphere is agitated in the University, that you will exert yourself in our behalf." The answer was, "Your grace may be assured that I will discharge my duty in giving law lectures to the best of my poor ability." Ay, ay," replied his grace," and your duty in the other branch
"The full-voiced choir, in robes of purest white,
With frequent pause the soul-felt anthem raise,
"Who shall to arts their pristine honor bring?
Rear from the dust fair Learning's laurel'd head?
too?" Mr. Blackstone only bowed assent, and a few days afterward Dr. Jenner was appointed civil law professor.
The first years of his attendance on the courts appear to have been more than usually unproductive; not possessing either a graceful delivery or a flow of elocution, nor having any powerful friends or connections to recommend him, he made his way very slowly, attracting little notice and less practice; and the effect upon his hopes of this ill success may be traced in his notes of cases in the King's Bench, which he commenced at the period of his call, and, after a few years of diligence, gradually neglected. At Oxford, his active and practical mind had more room to display itself, and, being elected into the office of bursar soon after he had taken his degree, and finding the muniments of the college in a confused state, he undertook a thorough search, and completed a new arrangement, from whence that society reaped great advantage. He found, also, the method of keeping accounts, in use among the older colleges, though very exact, yet tedious and complex; he therefore drew up a dissertation on the subject, in which he entered minutely into the theory, and elucidated every intricacy that might occur. A copy of this tract is still preserved for the benefit of his successors in the bursarship.
But it was not merely the estates, muniments, and accounts of the college in which he was so usefully employed during his residence in that society. The Codrington Library had for many years remained an unfinished building. He hastened its completion, rectified several mistakes in the architecture, and formed a new arrangement of the books under their respective classes. The Duke of Wharton, who had engaged himself by bond to defray the expense of building the apartments between the Library and Common Room, being obliged, soon after, to leave his country, and dying in very distressed circumstances, the discharge of this obligation was long despaired of. It happened, however, in a course of years, that his grace's executors were enabled to pay his debts, and by the activity of Mr. Blackstone the building was completed, and the college enabled to recover the whole benefaction.
In May, 1749, as a small reward for his services, and to give him further opportunities of advancing the interests of the college, he was appointed steward of their manors. And, in the same year, on the resignation of his uncle, Seymour Richmond, Esq., he was elected Recorder of the borough of Wallingford, in Berkshire, and received the king's approbation on the 30th of May.
The 26th of April, 1750, he commenced Doctor of Civil Law, and thereby became a member of the Convocation, which enabled him to extend his views, beyond the circle of his own society, to the general benefit of the University at large.
In the same year he published An Essay on Collateral Consanguinity, relative to the claim made by those who, by a pedi