Cooper, Charles Purton (DNB00)

COOPER, CHARLES PURTON (1793–1873), lawyer and antiquary, was born in 1793. He was educated at Wadham College, Oxford, where he was a contemporary of Bethell, and in 1814 he attained a double first class in honours, and graduated B.A. on 7 Dec., and on 5 July 1817 M.A. He was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn in Michaelmas term 1816, and, after practising with success as an equity draughtsman, was appointed a queen's counsel in 1837, and was long queen's serjeant for the duchy of Lancaster. In 1836 he became a bencher of Lincoln's Inn, and in 1843 presented to the society two thousand volumes of civil and foreign legal works, having previously presented a hundred and fifty volumes of American law reports. He was treasurer in 1855, and master of the library in 1856. His enthusiasm for the cause of legal reform attracted the attention of Brougham, by whom he was introduced to the Holland House circle and the heads of the whig party. Lord Brougham appointed him secretary of the second record commission, in which capacity he bought and printed so many books, that the commission's debt, over and above the 400,000l. voted by parliament, rose to 24,000l. Lord Holland recommended him for the post of solicitor-general when Rolfe was appointed. He played an active part in public affairs in his own county, Kent, where he resided at Denton Court, near Canterbury. He appeared as a candidate for Lambeth in 1850, but withdrew from the contest; in 1854 he unsuccessfully contested Canterbury, and was proposed as a candidate for West Kent in 1855, but declined to stand. His great knowledge of jurisprudence and legal antiquities procured him a fellowship of the Royal Society, and the degree of LL.D. of the universities of Louvain and Kiel. He was also a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and corresponding member of the royal academies of Lisbon, Munich, Berlin, and Brussels. He enjoyed a leading practice in the court of Vice-chancellor Knight-Bruce, but, having openly quarrelled with that judge, quitted his court and lost his practice. Disappointment and difficulty now overtook him. He endeavoured without success to obtain government assistance for a project for digesting and sifting on a settled scheme all the law reports down to that date. He at length retired to Boulogne, where, after unsuccessfully endeavouring to carry on his projects of legal reform, he at length died of paralysis and bronchitis on 26 March 1873. His activity and industry were very great, and he was a most voluminous writer. In his later years he published a printed list of no less than fifty-two pamphlets, written, edited, or printed by him on political topics between 1850 and 1857. His principal works were: 1. ‘An Account of the Parliamentary Proceedings relating to the Practice in Bankruptcy, Chancery, and the House of Lords,’ 1828. 2. ‘Notes, etc., in French on the Court of Chancery,’ 1828, 2nd edit. 1830. 3. ‘Notes on Registration and forms in Conveyancing,’ 1831. 4. ‘An Account of the Public Records of the United Kingdom,’ 2 vols. 1832. 5. ‘Speech for Rev. C. Wellbeloved in the case of Lady Hewley's Foundation, Attorney-general v. Shore,’ 1834. 6. ‘Notes on the Act for regulating Municipal Corporations,’ 1835. 7. ‘Reports of Cases decided by Lord Brougham in 1833 and 1834 from the original MSS.,’ 1835. 8. ‘Reports of Cases decided by Lords Cottenham and Langdale, and by Vice-chancellor Shadwell in 1837 and 1838,’ with notes 1838–41. 9. ‘Reports of Lord Cottenham's decisions,’ 1846. 10. A letter to the Lord Chancellor on defects in the law as to the custody of lunatics, 1849. 11. A pamphlet on the reform of solicitors' costs, 1850. 12. A letter to Sir George Grey on the sanitary state of St. George's parish, 1850. 13. A pamphlet on the condition of the court of chancery, 1850. 14. A pamphlet on the masters in chancery. 15. A pamphlet on the House of Lords as a court of appeal. 16. Chancery Miscellanies under his editorship, Nos. 1–13, 1850 and 1851. 17. Parliamentary and political Miscellanies under his editorship, Nos. 1–20, 1851. 18. A letter on the pope's Apostolic Letters of 1850, 1851. 19. A pamphlet on the Government and the Irish Roman catholic members, 1851. 20. ‘Reports of Cases and Dicta in Chancery from MSS., with notes,’ Nos. 1–7, 1852. 21. ‘Memorandum of a proposal to classify the Law Reports,’ Boulogne, 1860. 22. A similar proposal for digesting the statute-book, Boulogne, 1860. 23. On Freemasonry, Folkestone, 1868.

[Law Times, 5 April 1873; Solicitor's Journal, 29 March 1873; Times, 2 April 1873.]

J. A. H.