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Kay's Edinburgh Portraits
Captain James Justice, of Justice Hall


Sir James Justice, descended from a family of that name in England, came to Scotland about the end of the seventeenth century, and held the office of Clerk to the Scottish Parliament. He acquired the estate of Crichton, with the celebrated castle, in the county of Edinburgh, which he left to his son, James Justice, Esq., who was one of the principal Clerks of the Court of Session. This gentleman was very fond of horticulture; and was the author of a book, published in 1755, entitled "The Scots Gardener's Director"—a work which, as the result of practical experience, with reference to the soil and climate of Scotland, was formerly in great repute, and is still worthy of consultation. The author was so great an enthusiast in this favourite pursuit, that he spent large sums in importing foreign seeds, roots, and trees. The collecting of tulips, being one of the fancies of his day, Mr. Justice was so deeply affected with the mania, that he has been known not to hesitate giving ^50, or sometimes more, for a single rare tulip root. The rage for tulips was, for a long series of years, peculiar to the Dutch, who used to give very large prices for single roots of a rare description. For a short period it was very prevalent in Britain, where a gentleman is reported to have given a thousand pounds for a black tulip—he being at the time the owner of another root of the same description. Upon making the purchase, he put the root below his heel and destroyed it, observing that now he was the possessor of the only black tulip in the world!!! The extravagance of this propensity, with other causes, rendered it necessary for him to part with his estate of Crichton ; and about the year 1735, it became the property of Mark Pringle, Esq. This gentleman killed William Scott of Raeburn, great grand-uncle of Sir Walter, in a duel. They fought with swords, as was the fashion of the time, in a field near Selkirk, called, from the catastrophe, the Raeburn Meadow. Mr. Pringle fled to Spain, and was long a captive and slave in Barbary.—Lockhart's Life of Scott, p. 4. vol. i. With the residue of the price of this large property, Mr. Justice purchased some lands in the vicinity of the village of Ugston, or Oxton, in the parish of Channelkirk, and county of Berwick, where he built a mansion-house, which he called Justice Hall—a name which it still retains. Justice Hall is now the property of Sir James Spittal.

By his second marriage, Mr. Justice left an only son, (the subject of the Print), who was born about the year 1755 ; but at what period he succeeded his father is not exactly known. He entered the army, as an officer, in the marine service; served abroad during the American war, and attained the rank of Captain. He was above six feet in height, and well proportioned. His address was peculiarly agreeable and fascinating; and, both in appearance and manner, he bore no slight resemblance to George IV.

The Captain inherited little of his father's enthusiasm for horticulture, being more enamoured with the "flowers of literature." He was exceedingly fond of the drama, and was one of the best performers at the private theatricals at Marrionville, (alluded to in our notice of Captain Macrae). His genius in this line was rather imitative than original, and his delineations of Cook, Kemble, and other eminent actors of his time, were very successful. Had his talents for the stage been cultivated, with the advantage of his fine personal appearance, it is possible he might have made a distinguished figure, and perhaps retrieved the fortunes of his family. Besides indulging his friends with declamations from Shakspeare, and other popular dramatic poets, he occasionally contributed to their amusement by writing plays; and we are assured that his compositions possessed some merit. One of these was entitled "Hell upon Earth, or the Miseries of Matrimony," and is said to have contained many scenes indicative of the Captain's personal experience on the subject.

The Captain's love for the drama continued long to hold undiminished ascendancy in his bosom, and was the occasion of his not infrequently patronising the humblest as well as the highest in the profession. While in Edinburgh, he was regular in his attendance at the Theatre; and no worn-out son of Tliespis ever visited Justice Hall without experiencing the hospitality of the owner. A gentleman of our acquaintance, happening to call on the Captain one forenoon, was astonished to find him in his parlour, surrounded by a company of strolling players, who, on one of their migratory excursions, had called at Justice Hall, in the certainty of obtaining—what they probably had not known for some time before—an hour or two of comfortable entertainment. The wine was in free circulation; and the players, in merry tune, were repaying their host with speech and mimicry, in every variety of imitation, from the majestic Cato to the versatile Sylvester Daggerwood.

The Captain was at this period perhaps less choice than formerly in the selection of his amusements, and of the means which might contribute to them. He had been married to a Miss Campbell, by whom he had one child—a daughter; but the union proved unhappy, and a separation was the consequence. When disputes of this nature occur, it is a generally received maxim that there must be faults on both sides; and, in this instance, we are not prepared to assert the contrary. The Captain was undoubtedly one of the most kind-hearted mortals in existence; but it is possible he might lack other qualities necessary to the growth of domestic happiness. There was at least a degree of eccentricity in his character not exactly suited for matrimonial felicity. Shortly after this unfortunate separation, a friend of his, accompanied by an acquaintance, went to visit him at Justice Hall. They found the Captain just returned from a solitary stroll in the fields, and a little in dishabille. He apologised for his appearance ; and, on the stranger being introduced to him, "O," said he, in his usual voluble manner, " know your father well—not at all like him; no doubt of your mother—but—pshaw !—never mind. Welcome to Bachelor's Hall : 'tis Bachelor's Hall now, you know—Mrs. Justice has left me—no matter—she was a good sort of person for all that—a little hot tempered—only three days after marriage, a leg of mutton made to fly at my head ; never mind—plenty of wine, eggs, at Bachelor's Hall —we can make ourselves merry." The lady and her daughter survived the unfortunate Laird of Justice Hall. The former, we believe, died in 1837; the latter was respectably married. She some 3'ears ago (through her mother) fell heir to a considerable fortune. When Captain Justice's father, as already stated, sold the estate of Crichton to Mr. Pringle, a clause had been inserted in the deed of conveyance, by which the seller guaranteed (or, according to Scotch law phraseology, warranted) the purchaser and his successors against all augmentations of stipend which the clergyman of the parish might obtain subsequent to the date of the sale; probably not anticipating that the practice of granting augmentation to the stipends of the clergy would be extended as it has been done. In process of time, various augmentations of stipend were obtained by the incumbents of the parish of Crichton. The proprietors of the estate of Crichton called upon Captain Justice, as representing the granter of the disposition or deed of conveyance, to relieve them from the share of increased stipend thus allocated upon them. This gave rise to a long and expensive law suit, in which Captain Justice argued that the warrandice which his father had given was not perpetual, but limited to the endurance of certain leases of tiends originally granted by Mr. Hepburn of Hum-He, which had long since expired; and the Court of Session decided the cause in favour of Captain Justice. An appeal, however, was taken to the House of Lords, and the judgment was reversed, by which a liability of upwards of ,£9000 was created against Captain Justice and his estate.

The Captain, who had borne with great fortitude the vexations of this protracted litigation, submitted to the fatal effect of it on his means and estate with astonishing resignation. The estate, in fulfilment of the decree of the House of Lords, was adjudged for payment of this debt, and was sold in lots to different purchasers. The unfortunate owner, unable to dwell longer even in the frugal manner in which he had done in the house of his father, rather than remove to some other part of the country, which his friends advised him to do, resolved to end his days, if not in, at least within sight of his old "dear home;" and he accordingly took up his abode in a cottage in the adjoining village of Ugston, where he lived a season or two, and died about the year 1822.

The "fair one" in whose company the artist has thought proper to place Captain Justice, in "The Evening Walk," was at one time well known in the bemi monde of Princes Street. The lady, we understand, is still alive ; and may be remembered by those who recollect the sympathy pretty generally excited by the fate of her accomplished daughter, who fell a victim to the arts of one whom a sense of gratitude and honour should have induced to have acted otherwise.


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