The Times/1871/Obituary/William Hayes

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The Late Mr. William Hayes.—The late Mr. Hayes, who died on the 31st ult., should not be suffered to pass away without a somewhat fuller record than the brief notice which describes him as Senior Conveyancing Counsel of the Court of Chancery. Long in the first rank of a branch of the profession whose fame rarely passes beyond the privacy of Chambers, he enjoyed among lawyers a degree of authority and reputation which the general public, accustomed to the more conspicuous names, can hardly be expected to appreciate. Mr. Hayes was called to the Bar in 1818, but, as was then usual, he had before his call practised as a conveyancer under the Bar from 1813. During the earlier part of is career the business of conveyancing was replete with the technical learning which modern reforms, and especially the statues passed under the auspices of the Real Property Commission of the reign of King William IV., have now thrown far into the background, and Mr. Hayes was one of the few lawyers of recent times who were conversant with the old real property law. Its technical subtleties, its quaint dialectics, had no doubt a great attraction for his singularly acute and refined intelligence from those early days downwards in which, as he himself describes, he and his friend the late Mr. Jarman were "wont to discuss points and settle them very much to their satisfaction, and eventually, in some instances, to the satisfaction of the judicature, at Jack Straw's Castle, the woodman of Old Norwood, and on the Cotswold." The late Lord Langdale is said to have signified his sense of Mr. Hayes's singular acuteness and the piercing keenness of his legal vision by describing him as "the mist farsighted lawyer he had ever known." But Mr. Hayes was no mere lawyer, not merely of subtle and acute intelligence, nor were his attainments and accomplishments restricted within professional range. A shrewd and genial worldly wisdom was always at hand to inform and guide his professional judgment; his subtlety was controlled by a tact and discretion which prevented him from ever degenerating into crotchets; he was a scholar and never lost his love for the Latin classics, and especially Horace. All his qualities, both of thought and style, came out in his contributions to the literature of the profession, both in his more elaborate works, such as his treatise on the "Elements of Conveyancing", which reached a fifth edition, and was highly and justly esteemed, and in the little brochures which he scattered freely about, and several of which he contributed to the Solicitors' Journal down to within the last two or three years. These papers, mostly on subjects that would have been dry in other hands, had a sparkle and a felicity of their own. The same qualities, too, were reproduced in his conversation. Those who had the advantage of meeting Mr. Hayes among his old friends and haunts—say, at the Conveyancers' Dining Club, called by the somewhat ambitious name of the Institute—will well remember his keen sense of enjoyment, the animation that he felt and diffused, the certainty that some good things would be said, and that all things would be well said, and will recall how much was lost when advancing years and infirmities compelled Mr. Hayes to withdraw from general society. Though he had retired for some time from ordinary practice, he retained till his death the post of conveyancing counsel to the Court of Chancery.

This work was published before January 1, 1925, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.