HL Deb 28 July 1845 vol 82 cc1131-4
Lord Campbell

said, that he should take the opportunity of calling the attention of the House to a subject of one of the Standing Orders, No. 113, with respect to which he had given notice. The Standing Order was to the effect, that any person presuming to publish the works, or life, or will, of any deceased Lord of Parliament, without the consent of the heir or executor of such Lord, should be deemed guilty of a breach of the privileges of that House. He should best discharge his duty on that occasion by referring to the history of the Standing Order. It took its origin from the proceedings of the well-known Edmund Curll—the infamous, the dauntless, the shameless Edmund Curll. In 1720 died John Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham, a celebrated poet of that day; and in 1722 Curll published an advertisement in a London paper, called the Daily Journal, in which he announced that he intended to publish a libellous life of the deceased nobleman. In consequence of this, the family of that nobleman interposed, and caused a complaint to be made to that House on the subject. He found this stated in the Journals of the House of the date of the 22nd January, 1721–22, and the advertisement was read, announcing that the Life and Works, in prose and verse, of John Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham, together with a true copy of his last will and testament, would be published on a certain day named by Edmund Curll, over against Catherine-street. This person was summoned to the bar of the House, and ordered to attend next day. The Journals for the next day stated that the House being informed that Curll was in attendance, he was called in and examined as to the advertisement, and was ordered to withdraw. The House then came to this Resolution, "That it is resolved by the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, that any person presuming to publish the life, or will, of any deceased Peer, without the consent of his heir or executors, was guilty of a breach of the privileges of that House." Curll was then reprimanded by the Lord Chancellor for allowing the advertisement to be printed, and also forbidden to publish the work. In the course of the proceedings upon that occasion, a Committee was appointed; but he could not find that that Committee ever made any Report to the House, though he had made diligent search on the subject. On the 31st of January following, the matter was, however, again taken into consideration, and the Resolution was duly passed as a Standing Order. That was the Order now appearing on their Lordships' Books, and which had remained in force to this hour. He found that the Order was not intended to remain as a dead letter, for an attempt had been made to enforce it in the year 1735. In that year the same Edmund Curll issued another advertisement, which was published in the daily journals, and which gave great alarm to the Members of their Lordships' House. On the 12th day of May, 1735, this advertisement was brought under the notice of the House. It was published in the Daily Post Boy, and was to the effect that there had been just published Mr. Pope's literary correspondence for thirty years, namely, from 1704 to 1734, being a collection of letters written by him to the right hon. the Earl of Halifax, the right hon. the Earl of Burlington, and many others—printed for Edmund Curll, in Rose-street, and sold by all booksellers. It was ordered by the House that the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod should go and seize all the copies of the book, and that the said Edmund Curll, together with John Wilford, by whom the newspaper had been printed, do attend the bar of the House next day. The parties accordingly attended on the following day, and being examined, were ordered to withdraw. The Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod then reported to the House what he had done under their Lordships' order. He stated that he had ordered all the copies of the book found at Mr. Curll's house to be seized, and that he believed they might be 500 in number. A Committee was appointed, to whom the copy of the book presented by the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod was referred; and Edmund Curll was ordered to attend the Committee. The Earl Delawarr brought forward the Report of the Committee in the House, and it appeared from it that this was an illegal seizure, that no letters from any deceased Peer was contained in the publication, and that the Committee did not think it contrary to the Standing Order, and they therefore recommended that the books which had been seized, should be restored to Edmund Curll. The Report was read by the clerk attending the House, and agreed to, and the books were given back to the publisher. He was not aware that there had been any other seizure under this Standing Order, though there had been many lives of deceased Peers and of deceased Prelates, Members of their Lordships' House, published on various occasions, without the leave of the friends or representatives of the deceased parties. His noble and learned Friend, who, he regretted to perceive, was not then present (Lord Brougham), had published lives, powerfully and ably written, of several deceased Members of that House, more especially of Lord Chatham and Lord North, and he had no doubt without the consent of the heirs and representatives of those noblemen. He (Lord Campbell) had also employed many laborious hours, without, he hoped, incurring the censure of that House, in writing the lives of the predecessors of his noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack, both spiritual and temporal.

The Lord Chancellor

Not down to the present time, I hope.

Lord Campbell

said, he hoped many years would pass before any one could have an opportunity of writing the life of the present Lord Chancellor as a deceased Peer. Curious enough it was, that the Standing Order did not apply to his noble and learned Friend, for any body might take such a liberty with him. The Standing Order did not apply to the life of any except a deceased Peer. In fact, it only followed the rule de mortuis nil nisi bonum. It must, if enforced, serve as an entire prohibition against writing the lives of some Chancellors. For instance, St. Swithin had been Lord Chancellor to King Ethelbert, and St. Thomas A'Becket was also Lord Chancellor of England, and who the heirs or personal representatives of these deceased Members of their Lordship's house might be, he had been unable to discover. Besides, he considered the Standing Order unnecessary, inasmuch as the law allowed an indictment to be laid for a libel reflecting on the memory of a deceased person, and a very remarkable action of that kind was tried in the early part of the reign of George II. He considered this Standing Order one having a strong tendency to bring into disrepute the necessary privileges of their Lordships' House, and he, therefore, begged to move that it be rescinded.

Motion agreed to.

Standing Order, No. 113, vacated.

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