Here is an odd relic from the early years of Arthur Machen’s bibliography. The following obituary was published by The Law Times in January 1887, the same month Machen began work as a regular writer and editor for Walford’s Antiquarian Magazine. (This latter material was collected in A Reader of Curious Books by Darkly Bright Press in 2020.) Therefore, it stands as one of the earliest examples in a long career of contributions to periodicals. Unlike his work for Walford’s, this piece is a bit dry and lacks the hallmarks of Machen’s writing voice. However, it is offered here for the history it provides for the subject and the author.

Mr. Serjeant Ballantine
Arthur Machen

220px-WilliamballantineMR. SERJEANT BALLANTINE.—The late Mr. William Ballantine, serjeant-at-law, who died on the 9th inst. at Margate. in the seventy-fifth year of his age, was the eldest son of William Balantine, barrister-at-law. Serjeant Ballatine was born in the year 1812, and was educated first at St. Paul’s School, afterwards at Ashburnham House, Blackheath, and at a private school at Hampstead. In the year 1834, when Mr. Ballantine was twenty-one, he was called to the bar of the Inner Temple-lane. The firm of Messrs. Allen, Gilby. and Allen, at that time well-known solicitors of Carlisle-street, Soho, were amongst the first of his clients; and at the Middlesex Sessions, where his father occasionally presided, he made the acquaintance of one of his earliest friends at the bar, Mr. (afterwards Baron) Huddleston. At these sessions the late serjeant records his first forensic display as having been made, he being instructed to apply for the renewal of the license of the Garrick Theatre by Mr. Conquest, the manager; and for this, his first speech, Mr. Ballantine received the sum of half-a-guinea. Subsequently he joined the Central Criminal Court, and chose the Home Circuit, which consisted of Hertfordshire, Essex, Sussex, Kent and Surrey. In making choice of this circuit Mr. Ballantine was influenced by motives of convenience, for junior barristers in those days travelled two and three together in post-chaises, public conveyances being forbidden.

In 1839 Mr. Ballantine was appointed, through the friendship of Lord Denman, to the post of a revising barrister, which he continued to hold till the year 1843. At the Central Criminal Court, where the late serjeant soon rose to a leading position, the greater portion of the defence business was shared between two firms—that of Mr. Harmer, an alderman of the city of London, and proprietor of the Weekly Dispatch, and that of Messrs. Lewis, of Ely-place. Among the celebrities of the court after barristers, alderman, and officers, Mr. Ballantine makes mention of “another personage, rarely met with upon festive occasions, but nevertheless, accustomed to present himself often the last day of the sessions. He was a decently dressed, quiet-lookin man. Upon his appearance he was presented with a glass of wine. This he drank to the health of his patrons, and expressed with becoming modesty his gratitude for past favours, and his hopes as for favours to come. He was Mr. Calcraft, the hangman.”

Amongst the friends of the serjeant were Mr. C. E. Jerningham. nephew of the Earl of Stanford, and father of Mr. Hubert Jerningram, M.P. for Berwick; the brothers Smith, authors of the “Rejected Addresses;” Barham, author of the “Ingoldsby Legends,” and Theodore Hook. Almost, the last of the “wits.” He became a member of the Clarence Club, of which Mr. Dilke, founder of the Athenæum, and father of the first baronet, was a prominent member; Campbell the poet, and Frank Stone the artist, being also members.

The first suit of importance in which Serjeant Ballantine was engaged was a suit in the House of Lords to annul the marriage of an heiress, Miss Esther Field, on the ground of coercion and fraud. Sir Fitzroy Kelly, Mr. Rolt, Sir John Bayley, Mr. F. Walford, and Mr. Austin were in support of the Bill, and Mr. Ballantine stood alone in opposing it. This was in 1848, and in consequence of the able cross-examination of the late serjeant, the Earl of Devon, chairman of the court, declined to move the further progress of the Bill. The first occasion on which the life of Mr. Ballantine’s client was involved was a trial for murder at the Chelmsford Assizes. Mr. Ballantiue defended. This trial, he records, gave him his first lesson in the art of “silent cross examination.” Lord Denman, on retiring from the bench in 1850, was succeeded by Lord Campbell, whom the so serjeant criticises rather sharply for his harshness and severity.

In 1856 (3rd Nov.) Mr. Ballantine received the coif of a serjeant-at-law; but he had to wait till 1863 to obtain from Lord Westbury his patent of precedence, which was required to place serjeants on the same level as Queen’s Counsel. The practical distinction between the Q.C.’s and serjeants was that the former were not allowed, without special license, to hold a brief against the Crown; and formerly the serjeants practised in the Court of Common Pleas to the exclusion of all other members of the Legal Profession. Mr. Ballantine was “recommended” by Sir John Jervis, and “created” by Lord Cranworth, and was duly elected by the Inn attached to the Society of the Coif. In the same year the late serjeant was counsel in the Woolley case, in which a Mr. Woolley was charged with fraudulently committing arson; and in 1864 he prosecuted M. Mogni on behalf of Pellizzioni. who had been condemned to death for the willful murder of a man named Harrington; and received, through the Marquis D’Azeglio, the thanks of the Sardinian Government for his exertions in the cause of Pellizzioni. a Sardinian subject.

220px-William_Ballantine_Vanity_Fair_5_March_1870_(crop)In 1867 Serjeant Ballantine was largely engaged in tactics before Parliamentary Committees, in the matter of contested elections. This was the last year in which the House of Commons exercised this jurisdiction, which was afterwards assigned to the common law judges, before whom Serjeant Ballantine also practised in cases of the same kind. The serjeant relates that on one occasion he succeeded in annulling the election of Mr. Serjeant Cox for Taunton, and in seating Mr. (now Sir Henry) James, and late Attorney-General. In 1868, along with Mr. Coleridge, present; Lord Chief Justice, he was engaged by the proprietors of the Daily Telegraph newspaper to defend an action brought by a personage called Risk Allah Bey for libel. Mr. Serjeant Parry appeared for the prosecution, and a verdict of £960 was given by the jury against the serjeant’s clients. He was, in 1869, appointed by the House of Commons to conduct, in conjunction with Mr. Barry, then Attorney-General for Ireland, the legal proceedings against the Mayor of Cork, Mr. O’Farrell, who had eulogised the attempt of O’Farrell to assassinate the Duke of Edinburgh.

He was retained at the commencement of the Tichborne Trial on behalf of the “Claimant” to the style, title, and estates of Tichborne, and led for the plaintiff. With him were Mr. Hardinge Giffard, now Lord Halsbury, Mr. Jeune, Mr. W. B. Rose, and Mr. Pollard. In Jan. 1875 Mr. Ballantine started for India, where he was commissioned to defend Mulhar Rao, Gaekwar of Baroda, arraigned of the crime of attempting to poison the Resident, Colonel Phayre. The commission which was constituted to try the case was composed partly of English and partly of Hindoo magnates; and the proceedings ended in a disagreement of the judges.

md30119577591Serjeant Ballantine was engaged in several other important cases; amongst others that known as the “Mordaunt case” (1875), in which the society papers immortalised him as “the counsel who did not cross-examine the Prince of Wales.” Other cases in which he was retained were the capital trials of Barber and Fletcher in 1864, and that of Franz Muller (who found an imitator in Lefroy) in the same year. He also prosecuted the infamous Madame Rachel, and, if we may judge from his remarks upon her, the duty was performed with no small amount of zeal. In 1882 he wrote his “Experiences of a Barrister’s Life,” which contains some amusing and incisive sketches of London streets and Londoners as they appeared to a bachelor of fifty years ago; and in 1884 he followed this volume up with “From the Old World to the New,” which consists of addenda to the facetious annals of his former book.

Serjeant Ballantine was made, in 1878, an honorary Bencher of the Inner Temple. Serjeant Ballantine was one of the last of the serjeants-at-law, (only seven now survive), and among whom he had an individuality of character which gave him a position almost unique in the estimation of the public. His intimate acquaintance with human nature made him an excellent prosecutor or counsel for the defence in criminal trials. It is generally said that he was the original Mr. “Chaffanbrass” in Anthony Trollope’s “Orley Farm.” He was a skillful cross-examiner, an amusing speaker, and a great adept in the art of penetrating the motives and designs of criminals.

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