The Times/1927/Obituary/Francis Watt

Mr. Francis Watt.

Mr. Francis Watt, barrister-at-law, died on Tuesday at Herne Hill, at the age of 78. He was one of the most genial and lovable men that ever spent the greater portion of his life in the precincts of the Temple. Born on September 20, 1849, at Haddington, where his father was Provost, he was educated at Edinburgh University and he took his degree with honours. At Edinburgh he became a friend of Robert Louis Stephenson, of whom he afterwards wrote a biography, which contains some interesting personal touches. After studying at Heidelberg, Watt entered at Gray's Inn, and was called in 1886, becoming also a member of the Middle Temple in 1898. He joined the South-Eastern Circuit, attended the Old Bailey, the Clerkenwell Sessions, as they were then called, and the Middlesex Sessions. A certain amount of practice came his way, but, though a sound lawyer, he did not excel in advocacy. At first he devoted a portion of his time at Wren's coaching students for admission to the Indian Civil Service, and in this he achieved no small success, with his profound knowledge of the classics, his insistence on the use of pure English, and his command of French, German, and Italian. In 1914 he was appointed one of the examiners of the High Court.

But writing was his true vocation, He was associated with Henley in the production of the National Observer, and afterwards he wrote on a variety of subjects for the principal newspapers. For some years during and after the war he served as deputy librarian of the Middle Temple. Among his books may be mentioned "The Law's Lumber Room," "Edinburgh and the Lothians," "Scotland of To-day" (with Mr. T. F. Henderson), A "Book of Edinburgh Anecdote," and "The Canterbury Pilgrims and their Ways." In 1924 he collaborated with Sir D. Plunket Barton and Mr. Charles Benham in a scholarly and attractive book, "The Story of Our Inns of Court." An artist in his words, master of the delicate fancy, loving the things of the past, a scholar who himself described his recreations as "Latin and walking," Watt was one of our last literary links with the 19th century. He leaves a widow and one daughter. The funeral will be at Haddington to-morrow at 3.15.

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