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DEATH OF LORD LYNDHURST.
REMARKS MADE AT A MEETING OF THE MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY,
NOVEMBER 12, 1863.
THE Right Honorable John Singleton Copley, Lord Lyndhurst, died in London on the 12th of October last. He was elected an honorary member of this Society in February, 1858, and his letter of acceptance was reported by our Corresponding Secretary at the ensuing May meeting. He was a native of this city, having been born in Boston on the twenty-first day of May, 1772. His father, who was also a native Bostonian, left America in 1774, with a primary view to the more favorable pursuit of that career, as an artist, in which he afterwards acquired such eminent distinction. For this purpose, he went first to Italy; but in the following year he sent for his family, who had remained in Boston, to join him in London. The young Copley was thus taken, at only three years of age, to the land which was chosen for him by his parents, and which was destined to be the scene of his long and brilliant life. He is said to have been a passenger, with his mother and sisters, in the very last ship which left our shores under British colors before the battle of Bunker Hill,—sailing on the 27th of May, 1775.
Educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, he was called to the bar in 1804, and continued for twelve or thirteen years in the assiduous and almost uninterrupted practice of the law. The care which he bestowed on his cases at this period, is well illustrated by the fact, for which I have the authority of one of his American relatives, that in order to do better justice to the defence of the patent of an English lacemaker, he not only passed a week at the factory studying the loom and its processes, but actually tried his own hand at the manufacture of the article. The familiarity with the machine, which he displayed in the course of his argument, having led to the remark from the Judge who presided at the trial,—“I should think, Sergeant Copley, you were a lacemaker yourself," — he instantly acknowledged that the piece which had been brought into court to illustrate the case was his own handiwork. I need hardly add that he won the case, and secured the fortune of his client.
An earlier illustration of the same eager and persevering spirit of inquiry and investigation is found in the story which has often been told of him in his family, that when a mere boy, he got up one morning before anybody else in the house was stirring, and took the kitchen clock to pieces, in order to find out exactly how it was made; and then, having satisfied his curiosity, put it safely together again.
In the year 1817, or, as some accounts have it, in 1818, he entered the House of Commons, and from that time became conspicuous in public life. His energy and self-reliance, his industry, ability, and eloquence, soon secured for him the highest legal and political honors of the British Empire. The details of his public career belong to more extended notices, and to other occasions. It is enough to say here, that he became successively SolicitorGeneral, Attorney-General, Master of the Rolls, Chief Baron of the Exchequer, and three times Lord Chancellor.
Since his retirement from all official duties, except those which devolved on him as a member of the House of Lords, by virtue of the peerage conferred on him in 1827, he has been hardly less prominent in the public eye than when he held the great seal. He was one of the few parliamentary orators, of late years, who commanded attention beyond the limits of his own land, and whose speeches, on foreign and domestic questions alike, were read with interest and eagerness in all parts of the world. There are those who remember well how emphatically Mr. Webster spoke, on his return from England many years ago, of the clearness, cogency, and true eloquence which characterized a speech of Lord Lyndhurst's which he had himself been fortunate enough to hear. Like Mr. Webster, he was especially remarkable for the power and precision with which he stated his case, and for the lucid order in which he arranged and argued it. His advancing age seemed only to add mellowness and richness to his eloquence, while it greatly enhanced the interest with which he was listened to. As late as 1860, when he was on the verge of his eighty-ninth year, he made a speech on the respective rights of the two houses of Parliament, which was regarded as a model of argument and oratory, and which made London ring anew with admiration of “the old man eloquent.”
Lord Lyndhurst revisited his native land in 1796, when he was only twenty-four years of age, and while he was still connected with the University at Cambridge as a travelling Fellow. Two letters written by him in Latin, agreeably to the requisitions of his fellowship, during this visit, are still extant, and our honored associate, Mr. Everett, promises to send us copies of them at some future day. I know not whether his presentation to Washington is mentioned in either of them, but he seemed always proud of recalling that fact. He ever evinced a deep interest in the condition and welfare of our country,- keeping up a constant correspondence with relatives and friends in Boston, and always giving a cordial welcome to such Americans as were commended to his acquaintance. No one who has enjoyed his hospitality will soon forget his genial and charming manners, and the almost boyish gayety and glee with which he entered into the amusements of the hour. The last time I saw him, less than four years ago, he rose from his own dinner-table, and placing one arm on the shoulder of our accomplished associate, Mr. Motley, and the other on my own, he proceeded towards the drawing-room, -remarking playfully, as he went, that he believed he could always rely safely on the support of his fellow-Bostonians.
Living to the great age of nearly ninety-two years, with almost unimpaired faculties, taking a lively and personal interest to the end both in public affairs and in social enjoyments, and dying at last the Senior Peer of England, - his name and fame will not soon be forgotten. It may safely be said, that Boston has given birth to but few men,- perhaps only to one other, Franklin,—who will have secured a more permanent or prominent place in the world's history. A portrait of him might well be included, at some future day, in the Historical Gallery of illustrious Americans which we are gradually accumulating, and would form an appropriate companion-piece to that of our venerable senior member (Mr. Quincy), of whom he was a cotemporary, correspondent, and friend. Meantime the Society may not think it unfit to place upon their records the following resolution :
Resolved, That in the death of our late distinguished Honorary Member, Lord Lyndhurst, - a native Bostonian, and whose life covers the whole period of our existence as a nation,— this Society cannot fail to recognize the close of a great historical career, which has reflected honor at once on the land of his birth and on the land of his adoption.
BIRTHDAY OF SHAKSPEARE.
REMARKS MADE AT A MEETING OF THE MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY,
APRIL 14, 1864.
You will hardly need to be reminded, gentlemen, that we are now within a few days of the great “ Tercentenary Commemoration” of the birthday of Shakspeare; and, though our Society has made no arrangements for any formal observance of the day, we can none of us be insensible to the interest of the occasion.
It is eminently appropriate that the principal celebration of the event should take place in the land and on the spot where it occurred; and we shall all look eagerly for the report of what shall be said and done at Stratford-upon-Avon on the successive days which have been designated for the commemoration. Our own land, unhappily, is hardly in a condition for engaging in the festivities of such an anniversary with all the zeal and heartiness it is so well calculated to excite. Yet we all feel that it might well become us to take a part in the jubilee. We all feel, that, as the descendants of English ancestors who were contemporary with Shakspeare, we have a full share both in the large inheritance of his fame, and in the world's great debt to his memory.
We do not forget that he had finished his marvellous work, and gone to his rest, four years before the Pilgrim Fathers landed at Plymouth Rock; fourteen years before the Massachusetts Company embarked at Southampton.
We do not forget that it was the wreck of Sir George Somers in the Bermudas in 1609, when on his way to Virginia for the re-enforcement of an American colony, which is said to have suggested the scene and some of the most striking incidents for