Изображения страниц

Rory O'More has occasion to visit Dublin; and, on his way back, meets, on the top of the coach, with an exceedingly agreeable gentleman, who is a very eloquent patriot, and puts down a Protestant fellow-traveller, who happened to say something in favour of the English government. This wins the heart of Rory O'More; and, by a singular coincidence, the coach breaks down three or four miles from its ultimate destination, exactly at the very spot where Rory O'More turns off by a by-road to his cottage. Rory accordingly invites the strange gentleman home; who, with wonderful alacrity, accepts the invitation; and, leaving the coach and passengers, including some females, in the middle of the road -walks with Rory to his cottage. Next morning the stranger awakes in the small-pox, raves about battles and his sweetheart, and talks French, to the great amazement of his hosts; who, after a good deal of deliberation, and comparing of notes, make up their minds that he is a French officer, and in love.

Their conjectures turned out tolerably correct. Mr. De Lacy (for that was the stranger's name,) was a captain in the French army-an Irishman by birth. He had now accepted the creditable employment of a spy against the government to whom his natural allegiance was owing. While engaged in this honourable mission, he had met Rory, as we have described, and in pursuance, no doubt, of his object, he remains after his recovery, at the cottage of O'More, without any apparent end, except taking solitary walks, and paying the most polite compliments to Mrs. and Miss Mary O'More. The business of Mr. De Lacy in the British dominions was to ascertain the comparative probabilities of effecting a successful descent upon England and Ireland. Before he was sufficiently strong to undertake the journey himself, he finds it necessary to meet an agent from France, in a seaport, the name of which is not given. Having ascertained that his host was a United Irishman, he despatches him in his place, giving him certain signals and pass-words, by which he is to recognise his friend. Rory cheerfully undertakes the mission, which brings him into a series of adventures too strange we fear to be true. We shall come to them presently; in the meantime, however, as they have no connection with the plot of the story-like most indeed of the incidents in the book-we

shall pass them by-merely premising that in the course of them, O'More contrives to obtain from the colonel, or general commanding the district, a pass which would ensure him safety and protection from all the visits of the military.

We are obliged to pass over an immense number of confused incidents which bewilder the reader in the pages of the book, and hasten on to something connected with the main plot of the story. It became necessary for the United Irishmen to remove out of the

way a gentleman who was an evidence at the approaching trial of some of their accomplices. Rory happened, by the merest accident, to be in company with this gentleman, when the attack was made upon him, but imagined his honour to be so much involved in his escape, that he proceeded to defend him against his associateswhose plan was to put him on board a smuggler, bound for France, and so keep him out of the way. Rory, who attempted to defend him, was of course, overcome, and being suspected as a traitor, was himself put on board the smuggler as a prisoner. While here, in durance vile, he accidentally learned that the very same vessel was conveying his friend, Mr. De Lacy, the vessel being in the pay of the conspirators at Paris. He felt that if he could communicate his situation to him, he would be safe-but how to do so was the difficulty. When Mr. De Lacy had been leaving the cottage, he pressed some parting gift upon O'More, and Rory had taken an unaccountable fancy to a pair of handsome sleeve buttons, which he accordingly selected. It so happened that he had on these sleeve buttons, when a prisoner; and a black cook, who brought him his breakfast, also had a pair. Rory proposed an exchange, to which the cook assented. De Lacy recognised the buttons, and conjectured immediately that Rory was a prisoner on board. He did not, however, directly interfere, but on reaching France, applied to the captain of a French frigate, who brought the smuggler under his guns, and effected Rory's release, who accompanied Mr. De Lacy to Paris.

Here they remained during the eventful year of 1798. De Lacy found, on his arrival, that Adela, the idol of his soul, had forgotten him, and was just about to be married to another. He is, of course, a little mortified; but swears that henceforward Ireland shall be his only love. Rory,

in his absence, is charged with the murder of Scrubbs, (the gentleman who so mysteriously disappeared) in conse quence of having been seen last in his His mother believes him company. murdered-not the murderer. After she had despaired of ever seeing him, he returns home quite unexpectedly, he finds the cottage where he had formerly lived, burnt down-his mother and sister have removed to the village where he finds them and, Mrs. Regan, and Kathleen, busily engaged waking the body of his old enemy, Shan Regan, who had that day been killed in an encounter with his Majesty's troops. A most tender scene of recognition follows; and we might now fairly expect this strange disordered scene to end-but that very night Rory is arrested for the murder of Scrubbs. On his trial, the proofs are most strong against him, when Scrubbs himself most unexpectedly makes his appearance in court, alive and well. The crown lawyer, however, perseveres in prosecuting, and the jury return a verdict of guilty. The judge remonstrates with them, but in vain the foreman justifies the verdict by say ing that the prisoner deserved to be hanged as a rebel; and most strongly insists that the judge should hang Rory. This the judge as stoutly refuses to do; but orders him back to prison; after some time he is released and duly married to Kathleen Regan. He accompanies his friend De Lacy to America, where that worthy patriot determines to spend the rest of his days the whole party embark for the land of liberty; and the last account we have of them is, that just as they were losing sight of Ireland, Mr. De Lacy was sitting on the deck with his arms round the waist of Mary O'More, to whom, we hope, he is long since


We have thus endeavoured to give a sketch of all that is material to the outline of the story. We really, how ever, know not how to convey to our readers any idea of the ignorance and absurdity that pervades a reference to the commonest book of information for the "young and ignorant," might have enabled Mr. Lover to have avoided many absurd mistakes. We shall be at the trouble of exposing a few; we will begin with the closing scene of the trial. Never, perhaps, before, did any one attempt to describe a scene of which he was in such utter ignorance. The

very first sentence is an egregious blunder :

"Lord Avonmore now appeared upon took their seats there also.” the bench, and some of the magistrates


It must be observed that these magistrates are represented as intruding their unwelcome presence on learned judge and join the foreman in insisting upon the infliction of the punishment of death upon Rory. It is quite true that the judge of assize may invite a person of very great rank and consideration, who is obliged to be present in court, to take his seat upon the bench. We remember a recent case on the north-east circuit, in which the bishop of the diocese was summoned as a material witness-and while his lordship was compelled to wait in court the learned judge, who tried the case, invited him to a seat on the bench. This compliment is indeed, we believe, reserved for peers of the realm, but it is utterly impossible that anything resembling Mr. Lover's statement ever could have occurred.

We were at first inclined to believe, that the writer of the sentence had never been in a court of justice in his life, (if the book were anonymous, we might almost regard the supposition as too favourable to one capable of so much malignity.) Perhaps, however, he has formed his idea from the court of quarter sessions, where the magistrates are the judges, and the assistant barrister acts merely as their chairman; or, perhaps, Mr. Lover has confounded the quarterly commission court in Green Street, (where by the ancient charter of the city of Dublin, the Lord Mayor and some of the aldermen are associated in the commission with two of the judges, and attend to open the proceedings,) with the assize of a county. probability is, however, that he wrote just what he thought would most tend to impeach the administration of justice in Ireland. In his zeal he forgot probability; for such an incident never did, or never could occur at any assizes. But to proceed.


The prisoner is indicted for the murder of a living man-within a very short time after his disappearance_ and when there is not even a presumption raised that he was actually murdered. Since the time of Chief Justice Hale, the maxim has been regarded as established, that no circumstantial

evidence shall be sufficient to convict a person of murder; unless, first, it is put beyond doubt that a murder has been actually committed; or, as it is technically termed, without the proof of the corpus delicti. Hale went so far as to say, that no conviction could be hadexcept upon a view of the murdered body. But this strictness evidently led to serious inconvenience-the rule, however, as we have stated it, still holds good. Mr. Lover takes care to shew us, that in the present instance, there was no presumption whatever, raised, that Scrubbs was actually murdered. The following is part of the evidence :

"Counsel You say that the prisoner at the bar and the late Mr. Scrubbs

"The counsel for the defence here in

terposed, and said he objected to the term, the late Mr. Scrubbs, as it was assuming the fact he was dead, which was not proven. The examination then proceeded."

We are tempted to quote the following precious piece of libel on the legal profession

Counsel The prisoner at the bar and the late-I beg pardon-Mister Scrubbs were the last to leave the Black Bull' on that day.


"Witness-Yis sir.

"Counsel-How did they go? Witness-They wint out o' the door,

[ocr errors]

"Counsel I don't suppose they went out of the window. I mean did they leave about the same time?

"Witness-They wint together, sir. "Counsel-Both out of the door at

[blocks in formation]

rister ever yet employed in discharging the solemn duty of a public prosecutor. The whole story is impossible. We trust it is not necessary to tell our readers, that up to a very recent period, the prisoner's counsel, in criminal cases, was not allowed to address the jury. Of course, the reply of the crown counsel is a sheer invention. It is scarcely possible to conceive ignorance more gross than this. The important change in our criminal law, by which the privilege here anticipated, has been enforced, was the subject of much and earnest discussion at the' time of its passing ;(the prisoner's counsel bill became law in the year 1836.) How any person could fall into the gross error of Mr. Lover, with the noise of those discussions almost ringing in his ears, is almost as miraculous as some of the episodes of this romance. We must give the conclusion of the trial in Mr. Lover's own words:

"Mr. Scrubbs was produced on the table; and scores of witnesses were on the spot to identify him,—indeed every man on the jury knew him.

"Order was not obtained for many minutes, and it required some interval to restore to Lord A- sufficient tranquillity to command his judicial dignity in addressing the jury, which he did in a few words, nearly as follows:

"Gentlemen of the jury,-Your duties have been terminated in a very singular and affecting manner. By one of those interpositions of the Divine will, which the Almighty is sometimes pleased to vouchsafe in evidence of his eternal providence, a human life has been preserved, even when it was in the most imminent danger—'

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

"Gentlemen,' resumed Lord A though the trial is at an end, it becomes necessary, as a matter of form, you should return a verdict.'

"Singularly contrasting to the subdued voice of the judge, subdued by the operation of his feelings, was the tone in which the foreman of the jury, with a smirk, answered without a moment's hesitation,

"We are all agreed, my lord.? "Of course,' replied Lord A passing a handkerchief across his eyes. Return your verdict, if you please, gentlemen.'

66 6 Guilty, my lord,' said the foreman, with an assumed suavity of voice and


[ocr errors]

"I beg your pardon, sir,' said the judge; your feelings have overcome you as well as many others present; you said Guilty of course you mean Not guilty. "No, my lord we mean Guilty.' "The words were now pronounced sufficiently loud to be audible over the court, and a wild scream from the women followed, while the upturned eyes of every one in court at the jury-box testified their astonishment. Even the common crier was lost in wonder, and forgot, in his surprise, the accustomed call of Silence in response to the shrieks of the women.

"Good God, sir,' exclaimed Lord A- addressing the foreman, have you eyes and ears, and yet return such a verdict ! The prisoner at the bar is accused of the murder of a certain man: that very man is produced on the table before you, and identified in your presence, a living evidence of the prisoner's innocence, and yet you return a verdict against him of Guilty!'

"We do, my lord,' said the foreman, pertinaciously, and with an offended air, us if he considered it a grievance his verdict should be questioned.

[ocr errors]

"Will you be good enough, sir,' said Lord A, changing his tone from that of wonder to irony, to tell me upon what count in the indictment he is guilty? for really I am not lawyer enough to discover.'

"We should be sorry, my lord, to dispute any point of law with your lordship; but the fact is, my lord, you don't know this country as well as we do, and we can swear upon the oath we have taken this day, that the prisoner ought to have been hanged long ago, and we say, Guilty, my lord!

"Lord A. could not withdraw the look of mingled wonder and indignation he fixed on the jury for a moment; and when he did, he transferred his eye to the prisoner, but in its transit the look

[blocks in formation]

"I beg your pardon, my lord,' said one of the magistrates sitting on the bench, your lordship has forgotten to put on your black cap!!!'

[ocr errors]

"No, sir, I have not forgotten it."Prisoner at the bar,' continued the judge, I feel it my duty to tell you that, notwithstanding the verdict you have heard pronounced upon you, not a hair of your head shall be harmed!'

“A loud hurra,' interrupted the continuation of the address; and the crier's voice, after some time, was heard shouting Silence!' After the lapse of about a minute, order was obtained; and before Lord A could resume, the foreman said, loud enough to be heard for a considerable distance,

"No wonder the rebels shout.'

"Lord A noticed not this impertinence, directly, but ordered the crier again to command silence; and when that functionary had done so, his lordship added, fixing his eye on the insolent offender, And whoever dares again to violate the decency and solemnity of this court, I will commit him.'

"The bullying foreman quailed before the dignified rebuke, and his lordship proceeded in a business-like tone to the whole jury :

"I cannot avoid, gentlemen, receiving and recording your verdict; which neither can I resist stigmatising as disgraceful to yourselves individually and collectively,-for you must be either fools, or


But I am not bound to pronounce sentence on the prisoner on that verdict, and I will not; neither will I rest this night until 1 despatch a special messenger to the lord lieutenant, to represent the case and have your verdict set aside; (!!!) and I promise here, in oper court, to the prisoner, that with all convenient speed he shall be liberated from prison.'

The notion of a judge writing to the lord lieutenant to have the verdict of a jury set aside, is just of a piece with the ignorance and impertinence of the entire.

There is a jest current, time out of mind, which evidently has supplied the hint for this grotesque fabrication.The story is at least half a century old, it was, if we recollect right, employed humorous illustration by Mr. in a O'Connell, in the House of Commons; the learned gentleman did not hesitate

to give it point, by mentioning it as having occurred in the course of his own practice (!!) A jury found a prisoner guilty of manslaughter, under circumstances somewhat similar to those which are recorded above. To the remonstrance of the judge, the foreman replied that they found him guilty because they knew he had stolen a horse. It was reserved for the author of Rory O'More to distort this stale and antiquated joke to the factious purposes of political misrepresentation.

If anything was wanting to complete the absurdity, it is the self contradiction of Mr. Lover's account. The very parties who thus attempted to take away Rory O'More's life are represented at that moment as having absolute power of life or death. The very day of his arrest, the same persons are supposed, without any legal trial, to have hanged to a cart, with the most cold-blooded barbarity, another person who was obnoxious to them. Why, in the case of Rory O'More, they preferred the tedious formalities of a judicial, to the promptness of a military murder, we are not told.

This specimen will perhaps satisfy our readers as to the correctness of Mr. Lover's portraiture of Irish courts of justice. The account, however, occurs in a narrative not professing to be real. Our objection is not, that such a scene never did occur-but that it never could have occurred. The following, however, is presented in a different shape-introduced for the purpose of illustrating the condition of Ireland as a veritable account of what actually took place. A man was indicted for manslaughter the evidence on his trial was perfectly clear.


"The prosecution and defence had closed, and the judge had nearly summed up the evidence, and was charging the jury directly against the prisoner, when a bustle was perceived in the body of the court. The judge ordered the crier to command silence, and that officer obeyed his commands without producing any effect. The judge was about to direct a second and more peremptory command for silence, when a note was handed up to the bench, and the judge himself, instead of issuing his command for silence, became silent himself, and perused the note with great attention. He pursued bis charge to the jury no further, but sent up a small slip of paper to the foreman, who forthwith held some whispered counsel with his brother jurors; and when their heads, that had been huddled toge

ther in consultation, separated, and they resumed their former positions, the judge then continued his address to them thus:.


"I have endeavoured to point out to you, gentlemen of the jury, the doubts of this case, but I do not think it necessary to proceed any further;-I have such confidence in your discrimination and good sense, that I now leave the case entirely in your hands: if you are of opinion that what you have been put in possession of in the prisoner's favour counterbalances the facts sworn to against him, you will of course acquit him and any doubts you have, I need not tell you should be thrown into the scale of mercy. It is the proud pre-eminence, gentlemen, of our criminal laws-laws, gentlemen, which are part and parcel of the glorious constitution, that is the wonder and the envy of surrounding nations, that a prisoner is to have the benefit of every doubt; and therefore, if you think proper, of course you will find the prisoner NOT guilty."

[ocr errors]

"Certainly, my lord,' said the foreman of the jury, we are of your lordship's opinion, and we say NOT GUILTY.'

[ocr errors]

"The fact was, the great man of the district where the crime had been committed, whose serf the prisoner was, had sent up his compliments to the judge and jury, stating the prisoner to be a most useful person to him, and that he would fell extremely obliged if they would acquit him. This will scarcely be credited in the present day, nevertheless it is




This case is introduced by Mr. Lover as an illustration; in the same manner as Sir Walter Scott occasionally refers in a note to historical evidence to bear out the representations of the text. It is modestly stated by Mr. Lover on his own authority. names of the parties," he adds, with the most amusing simplicity, "it is unnecessary to give." It is quite unnecessary Mr. Lover that an accusation so grave for us to do more than just to remind should rest upon very strong evidence to obtain a moment's credence. He cannot, for an instant, imagine, that he holds that station either in literature or society which would make his unsupported historical assertion evidence of this character.

It is not, however, in every instance that he condescends to verify his pic tures even by assertion as to the actual state of things. He appears to consider it a matter of course that every yeomanry captain is a bastard; every magistrate a tyrant, and every loyal

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »