« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
the inspired penman, which in fact it is not—would, always assuming his subjection to the Divine guidance, have been immaterial.
WilB. There are such things as weak brethren, my lord. Your lordship's authority in matters of faith and ceremonial was a stumbling-block to many.
WEST. Yes; and many a bitter sectary, thirsting for the discomfiture of his opponents, was tripped up by it. The tables are turned now, Bishop, and it is your own party who are on the defensive. Well would it be for them if a Gallio or two of my unworthy type could return to stand their friend.
WILB. I own I should prefer some of your lordship's contemporaries to yourself. But, alas ! they cannot return to teach the laws of death's untrodden realm.”
WEST. No, or they would take back more jurisprudence than they brought with them. But if clerically-minded judges are all you want, you have nothing to complain of. The interests of the Church are surely safe in the hands of Lord Selborne. He has made its songs, or at least collected them, and can be trusted therefore with the less important duty of declaring its laws.
WILB. Lord Selborne, however, is not immortal.
WEST. No, in spite of his devotion to what is understood to be the chief employment of eternity. But the immortality of a Chancellor would derange our whole political system.
WILB. He is a sound Churchman. But who is to succeed him ?
WEST. Have you not Lord Cairns ?
WILB. Lord Cairns !
WEST. There is a significance in your lordship's intonation which I cannot affect to misunderstand. We will say no more of Lord Cairns. And he, after all—as, for that matter, the Chancellor too-is but one member of the much maligned court whose deliberation I used once, under Providence, to attempt to guide. Moreover, there are archiepiscopal assessors in Church cases upon whom at least you can rely. The Archbishop of York
WILB. The Archbishop of York !
WEST. More accentual eloquence! Let us say no more then, of the Archbishop of York.
WILB. I dismiss him willingly. Of the two I should prefer Lord Cairns.
WEST. Your lordship’s leaning towards the lay lawyer is as natural and blameless as mine towards the ecclesiastic. We know the purity of our preferences; yet there are those, Bishop, who would attribute them to professional jealousy.
WILB. You, my lord, are surely safe against any such imputation, and, for myself, I can afford to despise it. There could be no room for envy in the case; and for obvious reasons.
WEST. Obvious indeed! For your lordship must mean, of course, that envy between prelates is theologically impossible. It was only by Divine permission that Dr. Thomson could ever have risen to the see of York; and when once your faith had surmounted the severe trial of believing that he could have been Divinely permitted to distance you in the race, you must have felt that it bordered on impiety to grudge him such a summons from on high. You may well
say, therefore, that there were obvious reasons for not envying him.
WILB. The reasons which you mention, Lord Westbury, were not those to which I referred. There is a lamentable lack of reverence in your manner of handling holy things. The appointments of Archbishops are indeed, like all other earthly events, of Divine permission, but the inscrutable counsels of Providence may occasionally permit ...
WEST. The appointment of the second-best candidate?
WILB. Your interruption is hardly in keeping with your usual courtesy, my lord, and it attributes to me language which I have given you no warrant for putting into my mouth. But though I should be guilty of insincerity were I to pretend that I considered myself worthy of no higher preferment than fell to my lot, I repeat that I did not feel, and that I was incapable of feeling, any jealousy of those by whom, as you express it, I was distanced in the race.
WEST. You will do me the justice to remember, Bishop, that I entirely acquitted you of any such sentiment. My only offence appears to have been that I credited you with higher motives for your magnanimity than in your apostolic meekness you are willing to ascribe to yourself. I only wish that I could claim the same elevated sanction for my own humble exercise of the same virtue. But lawyers have never been enjoined to regard the success of a rival as a matter of Divine ordinance.
WILB. Nor, do I see, my lord, that you, at least, require any such injunction to the practice of magnanimity. A
lawyer who has held and has distinguished himself in the highest post in his profession might surely regard his successors in that office without feeling any temptation
WEST. Is it possible, Bishop, that you can imagine me in danger of envying a Lord Chancellor? I who have known so many ? ? I who have measured so many of those feet “whose length is equity”? Your lordship must be jesting
Will. You spoke just now of rivals.
WEST. Yes; rivals in the knowledge and interpretation of the law, competitors for precedence on the roll of English jurists. That, my dear Bishop, was the rivalry, and the only rivalry, to which I referred.
WILB. Distinction as a jurist, then, is not to be presumed from the fact of advancement to the highest place in the legal profession ?
WEST. Pardon me, it is to be presumed : but presumptions of law, you know, are open to rebuttal by facts; and the presumption of a Chancellor's law has sometimes been rebutted by certain facts disclosed in his first judgment.
WILB. I cannot but think, my lord, that you are here indulging your satirical temper to exaggeration. Success in the legal profession may not stamp a man as a great jurist, but I think it may fairly be held to argue adequate capacity for the highest judicial office.
WEST. Your lordship has doubtless some reason for coupling professional success with advancement to the highest judicial office; but I cannot divine what it is.
I was not aware that Chancellors either were or could be selected on professional grounds alone.
WILB. Not on those grounds alone, perhaps; but, if they are promoted mainly for political aptitude, they have also to qualify themselves as lawyers for the preferment bestowed upon them.
West. Qualify themselves! Exactly. An extremely happy phrase! It quite recalls old university days, does it not, Bishop ? .“ Satisfecit nobis examinatoribus.” The pushing advocate who goes in for high political honours, is always at least compelled to produce a testamur in law. The class-man in the Cabinet is at any rate never less than a pass-man in the Court of Chancery. It is an admirable arrangement.
WILB. I think, with submission, my lord, that you somewhat overrate the difficulty experienced by others in performing tasks which to you were easy. Most Chancellors, after all, have acquitted themselves creditably as judges, and there is, perhaps, no great rashness in assuming that any man who has excelled his fellows in the exceedingly difficult art of politics must have brains to fill the Woolsack.
WEST. As epigrammatic as ever I see, Bishop, even in the Shades. You are right. I have known no Chancellor however inferior in capacity whose brains were not perfectly well adapted to such a But have we not wandered somewhat far afield? I thought we discussing Churchmen and not lawyers.
WILB. We were discussing both; and their respective qualifications as ecclesiastical judges.