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The life of a lawyer in 1840

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A solicitor is seldom very fat……..A solicitor is seldom very tall . . . a solicitor has a keen, enquiring look - uneasy, not to say, suspicious; he is often clever, never great; generally acute, never profound; he deals in details, and never cares for or comprehends principles; he sees a point of law only as it affects the case before him; he asks many questions, and answers few.

He is, in nine cases out of ten, a Tory. He cares little for literature; but, if rich, affects pictures, which he regards as good investments of capital. He is well read in the classics, but seldom really a scholar. Though he claims to himself the name of Lawyer, there are not many amid the class who deserve that title. When he doubts (and when does he not doubt?) he sends the case to counsel. He buys Term Reports, but doesn’t read them, and his shelves are loaded with learned legal volumes, doomed never to be opened. From being continually consulted and appealed to, he attains a certain look of self-satisfaction, a perfect reliance on his own acumen. He laughs little, but has a 'stock' smile, that suits many, if not all occasions . . .He sometimes speaks at public meetings, but never very successfully; he sometimes subscribes to public charities - but never very largely. When he visits the theatre it is to see a comedy . . . I will not say that the duties of his calling harden his heart, but assuredly they have a tendency to deaden it. Much of his time is necessarily spent in making people uncomfortable; some of it is happily devoted to righting the wronged and resisting the oppressor. I would not willingly have my son a lawyer; though I have known many intelligent, honourable, and generous men in that profession; and, in fact, extraordinary as it may appear, once found 'a friend' in a Solicitor.

Heads of the People, or Portraits of the English by Leman Rede (1840)