Viner, Charles

, an eminent benefactor to the study of law, is introduced here in that character, although we have scarcely any memorials of his personal history. He died at his house at Aldershot, Hampshire, June 5, 1756, at what age we are not told, nor have we heard of any particulars of his life having been then or since collected, or published. That he was of the profession of the law may be supposed from his having dedicated a considerable portion of his life to the Herculean labour, which will long preserve his name, and which he executed at his house at Aldershot, under the title of “A general and complete Abridgment of Law and Equity,1741—1751, 24 vols. fol. It was not only printed under his own inspection (by agreement with the law patentees) at his house, but the paper also was manufactured under his direction, as appears by a peculiar water-mark, describing the number of the volume or the initials of C. V. He began at the title Factor, where D’Anvers left off, and published to the end of the alphabet; he then proceeded to the title Abatement, but by his Index he directed the volumes to be placed in alphabetical order.

This work, on which, Blackstone informs us, he employed above half a century, is styled by Mr. Hargrave an immense body of law and equity, and that learned gentleman recommends it, notwithstanding all its defects and inaccuracies, as a necessary part of every lawyer’s library. He further says, it is indeed a most useful compilation, and would have been infinitely more so, if the author had been less singular and more nice in his arrangement and method, and more studious to avoid repetition; faults which proceeded in a great measure from the author’s error in judgment, in attempting to engraft his own very extensive judgment on that of Mr. Sergeant Rolle. This stupendous | work vras reprinted in 1792 and 1794, 24 vols. royal 8vo; it was followed by six supplemental volumes, undertaken by James Edward Watson, Samuel Corny n, James Sedgwick, Henry Alcock, John Wyatt, James Humphreys, Alexander Anstruther, and Michael Nolan, esqrs. who laid them before the public in 1799, 1800, 1801, 1805, and 1806, each gentleman having taken up his own apportioned burthen of the task.

But this was not the only* obligation Mr. Viner conferred on the profession. Having resolved to dedicate his learned labours, to use his own words, “to the benefit of posterity, and the perpetual service of his country,” he bequeathed by his will (dated Dec. 29, 1755) about 12,000l. to the university of Oxford, to establish a professorship, and endow such fellowships and scholarships of the common law in that university as should be adequate to the produce of his estate. Dr. Blackstone was appointed the first professor, and it is a sufficient praise of this foundation that it produced his celebrated “Commentaries.” The excellent management of the estate has since enabled the university to increase the number of the scholarships and fellowships. Mr. Viner was afterwards, by decree of convocation, enrolled among the public benefactors of the university. The sense, says Blackstone, which the university entertained of this ample and most useful benefaction, must appear beyond a doubt, from their alacrity and unexampled dispatch in carrying it into execution, and above all, from the laws and constitutions by which they have effectually guarded it from the neglect and abuse, to which such institutions are liable. 1


Gent. Mag. vols. XXVI and XXVIII. Bridgman’s Legal Bibliography. Blackstone’s Commentaries.