Men-at-the-Bar (1885)
by Joseph Foster
668289Men-at-the-Bar1885Joseph Foster






Her Majesty's Judges, etc.





"I have taken this pains not for the present age, but a future; many things which were known to our grandsires are lost to us, and our grandchildren will search in vain for many facts which to us are most familiar."












THE remarkable development which of late years has been manifest in biographical undertakings renders it necessary that in adding to the number of those which have been completed, or which are in process of publication, I should prove myself justified in doing so by the distinctive character of my enterprise.

Biography in the present day is tending, like other studies, to become more and more specialized. Already dictionaries of universal biography are being everywhere abandoned for those which are to deal with the biography of particular nations. But even so, the mines of biographical materials have become so much more accessible within the present generation, that such a work, for instance, as the noble Dictionary of National Biography, of which the two volumes have already appeared, seems likely to extend far beyond the limits that could at first sight have appeared possible. It may, therefore, fairly be contended that the more restricted the scope of the biographer, the more creditably his work is likely to be accomplished, and that if he confines himself to a special class, requiring special information he may be enabled, by making himself master of that information, to produce a work of peculiar value.

My own enterprise is accordingly limited to a particular epartment of the wide field open to biographical research. It is my aim to compile from the original records, in a clear form, complete and essentially authentic lists of all those whose names are to be discovered as graduates of our two historic universities, as members of our ancient Inns of Court, or as representatives from the earliest times in the parliaments of the three kingdoms. These lists I propose in addition to annotate to the best of my ability, making use, for that purpose, of the stores of material accumulated in my genealogical collections, and in the case of those now living of a vast mass of that personal information which the biographer so highly values, and which has been long and freely tendered me. It is the lack of such contemporary information in the past that he has so often and so grievously to deplore. It will readily be admitted that such an enterprise as this, if I am enabled to accomplish it with success, will form not only a series of most important works of reference, but will lay the foundations and form the groundwork of more scholarly and accurate biographical knowledge than it has hitherto been possible to obtain.

Our painters and engravers, our judges, our naval heroes, some of our archbishops, and even our authors have had special works devoted to them by able biographers. Yet it is remarkable that neither of the seats of learning, our universities and our inns of court, with their records carefully and elaborately kept for at least three centuries, should have possessed men strong enough to compile from time to time histories of their contemporaries and forerunners, and that these corporations should have lacked the public spirit to have stood sponsors to undertakings which to us of this generation would have been priceless. The works of Antony A'Wood and of Dugdale, and the MSS. of Cole, are evidence, however, of what could be effected if means only could have been found for their extension. The secret of failure is doubtless to be found in the fact that their value to posterity is ignored, or perhaps even undreamt of, and they are therefore denied legitimate support, even by the very corporations whose history they serve to illustrate.

We have it, then, that the continuous history of these institutions is yet to be written. But although the several universities each possess their calendar, yet the Inns of Court have never even in their corporate or collective capacity been able to rise to the university level. A spirited attempt was, indeed, made by the under-treasurer of the Middle Temple a few years ago, but it failed to arouse the interest of those concerned. This was most probably because it abounded merely in what seemed at the time common knowledge, yet unquestionably as time rolls on, his carefully compiled and useful volumes will be eagerly consulted by the legal biographer.

I have already advanced so far with my scheme as to have completed the list from the earliest times of Scottish members of parliament,[1] and to have made some progress with those of English and Irish representatives. It will, however, I find, be more advantageous to give precedence for the present to my lists of barristers. For this there are two reasons. In the first place, the material which they contain is of greater value or illustrating the other lists than conversely, and should, therefore, be dealt with first; in the second, their precious genealogical information is at once the most interesting and the most unknown. It was while collecting materials, a few years ago, for the annotation of the lists I am completing, as mentioned above, from the official returns of the members of parliament, that my attention was specially drawn to the value of the registers of admissions to the Inns of Court, "the noblest nurseries of humanity and liberty in the kingdom."

So much was I impressed with the importance of their contents, not only the genealogist, but also to the biographer, that I at once set myself to obtain the sanction of the benchers of the various Inns of Court to permit me to transcribe these registers. The desired concession, I need scarcely add, was in all cases most cordially granted.

The vast extent of these registers may be estimated from the period at which they commence: Lincoln's Inn, 18 Henry VI., 1439; Inner Temple, 1547; Middle Temple, 1501; and Gray's Inn, from 1521, cumulatively representing a period of fifteen hundred and thirty-two years. Having completed the several transcripts, and having made some progress with the publication of the admissions to Gray's Inn in my Collectanea Genealogica, I found it impracticable to obtain personal information from barristers in so desultory a fashion as that plan was found to involve, therefore determined to utilise my copies of these legal registers for the production of a separate volume, devoted solely to short notices of the present members of the bar.

The issue of this volume will have the additional advantage of enabling those whose names occur in it to correct its errors and supply its omissions, and so to assist' me to attain a higher perfection in the complete lists which will be ultimately published.

Some idea of the labour involved in this compilation may be inferred from the fact that probably ninety-nine out of every hundred of these biographical notices are to be found nowhere else. My knowledge of the families of the nobility and gentry has lessened some of the natural difficulties, for a large number of these notices refer to the cadets of the nobility, the heads of county families, and the sons of our merchant princes. To the original entries of admission and parentage extracted from the records themselves, there are here added, to the best of my ability, the university and legal distinctions, the public offices and appointments, the marriages, residences, etc., etc., of all " Men-at-the-Bar." So varied are these details, that almost any appointment from the Lord High Chancellor down- to the counsel to the Salvation Army may be found in its pages. Very many of the notices, I am happy to say, have been corrected by the barristers themselves, and the majority may therefore^ be considered as, in fact, published by authority.

Surprise may be occasioned by the appearance in this work of names belonging to other professions, such as beneficed clergymen of the Church of England, Roman Catholic priests, medical men, and even soldiers and sailors; but however anomalous this may seem, it is strictly in accordance with the recognised rule that a barrister is at the bar until he is actually disbarred; a mere withdrawal of his name from his inn of court is insufficient to remove him from the list of barristers.

Protracted and arduous though such an undertaking as this must inevitably prove to be, I found my work further lessened by availing myself of the work to which I have referred above, namely the Inns of Court Calendar, 1878, compiled by Charles Shaw, Esq., under-treasurer of the Middle Temple, for from that valuable repertory of legal information I was enabled to obtain the dates of the great majority of the admissions, and so to refer to the original entries, without the added and incalculable labour of searching, and that over a number of years, for the admission of each of the seven or eight thousand barristers separately. The period over which the admissions of living barristers extend may be estimated from the fact that Viscount Eversley, the venerable father of the English bar, was already a member of Lincoln's Inn before the battle of Waterloo was fought.

Doubtless owing to the increasing duties of the county court judges, the Crown has deemed it desirable to confer upon them especial rank and precedence, and although placed by the royal warrant immediately after knights bachelors in the precedency among men, yet their place is immediately after the Solicitor-General in the order of legal precedence. Owing to the importance of the subject, I reprint the royal warrant referred to:—

"WHITEHALL, 7 Aug., 1884."

The Queen has been pleased to grant Rank and Precedence to County Court Judges of England and Wales by the following Warrant, under Her Royal Sign Manual, which was duly recorded in H.M.'s College of Arms pursuant to the Earl Marshal's Warrant of 31st October, 1884:—

"Victoria R.

"Victoria, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Queen, Defender of the Faith:

"To Our right trusty and right entirely beloved Cousin Henry, Duke of Norfolk, Earl Marshal, and Our Hereditary Marshal of England; Greeting!

"Whereas We taking into Our Royal consideration that the Rank and Precedence of the Judges of County Courts in England and Wales have not been declared or defined by due authority. We deem it therefore expedient that the same should be henceforth established and defined:

"Know ye, therefore, that in the exercise of Our Royal Prerogative, We do hereby declare Our Royal will and pleasure that in all times hereafter the Judges of County Courts in England and Wales shall be called, known, and addressed by the style and title of 'His Honour' prefixed to the word 'Judge' before their respective names, and shall have Rank and Precedence next after Knights Bachelors:

"Our will and pleasure further is that you Henry, Duke of Norfolk, to whom the cognizance of matters of this nature doth properly belong, do see this Our Order observed and kept, and that you do cause the same to be recorded in Our College of Arms to the end that Our Officers of Arms and all others upon occasion may take full notice and have knowledge thereof.

"Given at Our Court at Saint James's, the fourth day of August, 1884, in the 48th year of Our Reign.

"By Her Majesty's Command,
If a subsequent edition of this work be called for, I hope by a special numerical arrangement to include the relative precedency of the various members of the bar, from the Lord High Chancellor to the junior barrister. This, I doubt not, will be appreciated as a novel and valuable feature, for in no existing work is that precedency supplied.

Should sufficient interest be aroused in my undertaking, and the requisite encouragement be forthcoming on the part of the Faculty of Advocates and the benchers of King's Inns, it would also be desirable to add to this list the members of the Scottish and the Irish bars.

I ought not, perhaps, to leave unnoticed a seemingly small yet not uninteresting point that has arisen in the course of my work. This is the problem of how best to deal with the names of the Indian barristers. To find a satisfactory principle for their arrangement in alphabetical order is a matter of no slight difficulty. The Hindoos of Bengal have surnames, so also have the Parsees, but the Mahomedans having none, and finding that in England it is necessary to adopt one, have done so as yet in a somewhat haphazard manner, giving preference, however, to the name of their caste or religious designation. Hence such extemporized patronymics as Mr. Ali, Mr. Iyah, Mr. Pandit, or Mr. Tagore, which, unmeaning though they be to those ignorant of the language, must surely to the native be somewhat incongruous and grotesque. It would be well, indeed, if some rules could be laid down for the adoption of surnames for the use of the public services; even in the index to the official India list there are instances where a native will be found under no less than three names.

The inconvenience seems greatest to us in the case of brothers, who of course have totally different names. In one instance I detected three brothers, in other cases two brothers. These I have placed under their father's name with a cross reference, but I am far from feeling that even this plan may not horrify the native ear. For very much advice in the arrangement of these Indian names I am indebted to my friend C. W. Arathoon, Esq., Barrister-at-Law, of the East India Association.

For the complete list of the members of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, I have to thank Lord Hobhouse, Q.C., K.C.S.I., C.I.E., who, with his customary courtesy, spared no trouble in obtaining for me the list of names as printed. To His Honour Judge Stonor, I am indebted for the authentic list of County Court Judges.

I venture to believe that the present volume will supply a very real want, and that few of our existing works of reference are so likely to be widely and constantly employed. For on the illustrious roll of the Inns of Court there will be found not only the names of those eminent in the law, but also of the majority of our public men, the leaders of our unrivalled press, and the most distinguished writers of the day.


21, Boundary Road, London, N.W.

  1. Members of Parliament, Scotland, 1357-1882 (privately printed), pp. 360.

This work was published before January 1, 1929, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

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