Adam Burdock by Anonymous

Although a very plodding man of business, during the summer and autumn of his life, my cousin Adam had been rather wayward in his youth. After the completion of his articles of clerkship, in the office of an eminent firm in the Temple, he oscillated, for several months, between Mount Parnassus and the Temple of Justice. During that period, he made out a catalogue raisonné of above three hundred authors,—most of them men of considerable eminence,—who had deserted law for literature; and my cousin Adam would, perhaps, have followed their example, had not a young lady whom he loved,—and of whose taste and judgment he entertained a very high opinion,—treated a copy of verses, composed by him in her praise, and which he considered his poetical chef-d'ouvre, not merely with coolness, but positive contempt. Her sneers at his rhapsody were so galling, that he set his face for ever against love and literature,—lived an attorney, and died a bachelor.

A good hand at making out bills of costs is an invaluable acquisition to a legal practitioner; a superior statement of charges being, in fact, a concise but clear history, subdivided into items, of the suit to which it refers. Adam Burdock's attendance books were masterly performances in this respect: almost every action, or legal affair, was, as I discovered during my examination of his papers, an interesting little romance; and there appeared to be much of that quality which is, by many modern writers, termed poetry, in the law. My cousin's bills frequently contained moral, as well as pecuniary charges against his clients: for the sake of being explicit, he was evidently compelled, on many occasions, to envelop an accusation in a formal debit. All attornies, as I have since been told, labour, more or less, under this disadvantage: a man acts wisely, therefore, in keeping his legal adviser's bill "aloof from public eye;" it is often a record of follies and offences, for which, perhaps, after they are passed, he blushes and repents. A precise, old-fashioned solicitor's ledger would form a capital volume for the study of human nature: the characters of his clients, their whims, their frailties and their sins, are accurately unfolded in its pages; the sources and consequences of events may therein, without difficulty, be traced; the gradations of a spendthrift, from opulence to penury, are finely marked by the progressive venues from Bond Street to the Bench, in which the attendances against him are laid; and a wholesome moral may, very often, be found in the concluding items of a lawyer's bill.

My cousin Adam's draft sketches of costs, the elaborate marginal memoranda which he had made on them, apparently, for his own amusement,—being, perhaps, under the influence of the cacoethes which, in his younger days, he had "scotch'd, not kill'd,"—and the documents to which such sketches and memoranda referred, afforded data for the following tales. Should they prove deficient in interest to the reader, I must either have erred in selecting, or failed in narrating them; for many of my cousin's papers, and especially his briefs, were to me such amusing details of matters of fact, that, for the first time in my life, I heartily enjoyed a wet Saint Swithin's day.