Saunders, Sir Edmund

, lord chief justice of the King’s Bench towards the close of the seventeenth century, seems entitled to some notice on account of his “Reports,” although his character in other respects may as well be consigned to oblivion. He was originally a strolling beggar about the streets, without known parents or relations. He came often to beg scraps at Clement’s Inn, where his sprightliness and diligence made the society desirous to extricate him from his miserable situation. As he appeared desirous to learn to write, one of the attornies fixed a board up at a window on the top of a stair-case, which served him as a desk, and there he sat and wrote after copies of court and other hands, in which at length he acquired such expertness, as in some measure to set up for himself, and earn a pittance by hackney- writing. He also took all opportunities of improving himself by reading such books as he borrowed of his friends, and in | the course of a few years, became an able attorney and a very eminent counsel, his practice in the King’s-bench being exceeded by none. All this would have redounded to his honour, had his progress in integrity kept pace with other accomplishments, but he appears to have brought into his profession the low habits of his early life, and became as much a disgrace as an ornament to the bar. His art and cunning were equal to his knowledge, and he carried many a cause by sinister means, and when detected, he never was out of countenance, but evaded the matter with a jest, which he had always at hand. He was much employed by the king against the city of London, in the business of the quo warranto, and was a very fit tool in the hands of the court, and prompted the attorney- general Sawyer, to overthrow the city charter. It was when this affair was to be brought to a decision, that Saunders was knighted and made lord chief justice Jan. 23, 1682-3. But just as sentence was about to be given, he was seized with an apoplexy and died. In our authority, a disgusting description is given of his person, which seems to have corresponded with his mind.

His “Reports” are considered as peculiarly valuable, on account of the correct state of the pleadings in the several cases in the court of King’s-bench. They were first published in French, 1686, 2 vols. fol. and reprinted in English, with the addition of several thousand references, in 1722. A third edition, by serjeant Williams, appeared in 1799, with notes and references, 2 vols. 8vo, usually bound in three. 1


North’s Lives of the Chancellors. Burnet’s Own Times. Granger.