What more natural, then, than that those who had the ability and the need should seek to recruit their slender means by supplying the constant demand for new plays? and how inevitable that some of them, having been successful in their dramatic efforts, should give themselves up to play-writing! As do the great, so will the small. What the Inns-of-Court man did, the attorney would try to do.
At the present time, when three out of every five journalists attached to our chief London newspapers are Inns-of-Court men; when many of our able and successful advocates are known to ply their pens in organs of periodical literature as regularly as they raise their voices in courts of justice; and when the young Templar, who has borne away the first honors of his university, deems himself the object of a compliment on receiving an invitation to contribute to the columns of a leading review or daily journal it is difficult to believe that strong men are still amongst us who can remember the days when it was the fashion of the bar to disdain law-students who were suspected of 'writing for hire' and barristers who 'reported for the papers. Throughout the opening years of the present century, and even much later, it was almost universally held on the circuits and in Westminster Hall, that Inns-of-Court men lowered the dignity of their order by following those literary avocations by which some of the brightest ornaments of the law supported themselves at the outset of their professional careers.
Beaumont, for instance, was a younger son of a Judge of the Common Pleas, and, following the common routine that we have noticed, after leaving the University, became an Inns-of-Court man, but soon abandoned law for literature; his friend and associate, Fletcher, was the son of a bishop, but had an uncle who was a lawyer and a diplomatist, and is himself believed to have been of the Inns of Court.
Each Inn of Court had its own Inns of Chancery, yearly receiving from them the pupils who had qualified themselves for promotion to the status of Inns-of-Court men.
To give you the total reckoning of it; it is the busy man's recreation, the idle man's business, the melancholy man's sanctuary, the stranger's welcome, the inns-of-court man's entertainment, the scholar's kindness, and the citizen's courtesy. It is the study of sparkling wits, and a cup of canary their book, whence we leave them.
Under Charles II., James II., and William III. the law-student was compelled to muster the barbarous Law-French; but the books which he was required to read were few in comparison with those of a modern Inns-of-Court man. But the student was advised to read this small library again and again, "common-placing" the contents of its volumes, and also "common-placing" all new legal facts.
Hence it appears that during the most patrician period of the law university, when wealthy persons were accustomed to maintain ostentatious retinues of servants, a law-student often had no private personal attendant. An ordinance shows that in Elizabethan London the Inns-of-Court men were waited upon by laundresses or bedmakers who served and took wages from several masters at the same time.
Though Inns-of-Court men were for many generations gentlemen by birth almost without a single exception, it yet remains to be proved that plebeian birth at any period disqualified persons for admission to the law-colleges.
Your inns-of-court men were undone but for him, he is their chief guest and employment, and the sole business that makes them afternoon's-men. The poet only is his tyrant, and he is bound to make his friend's friend drunk at his charge. Shrove-Tuesday he fears as much as the banns, and Lent is more damage to him than the butcher.
He is exceedingly censured by the inns-of-court men, for that heinous vice, being out of fashion. He cannot speak to a dog in his own dialect, and understands Greek better than the language of a falconer. He has been used to a dark room, and dark clothes, and his eyes dazzle at a sattin suit.