Victorian London - Legal System - The Long Vacation

THE LONDON SEASON-TERM TIME. The London Season was formerly regulated by the Law Terms, fashionable persons fre quenting the metropolis at the four periods of the year, Hilary, Easter, Trinity, and Michaelmas. Authors and booksellers made it a point to produce something new every Term. Moseley, the most entinent book-seller in the reign of Charles I., advertised his list of books "printed this Term;"and Dapper, in Wycherley's Love in a Wood, describing a young woman new to London life, observes: "She is, I warrant  you, some fine woman of a Term's standing or so in the town." The Long Vacation (when London is most empty) extends from Aug. 10th to Oct. 24th; but the London Season may be said to commence in March, and terminate in July. It is in its height in May and beginning of June.

Peter Cunningham, Hand-Book of London, 1850

It is the long vacation in the regions of Chancery Lane. The good ships Law and Equity, those teak-built, copper-bottomed, iron-fastened, brazen-faced, and not by any means fast-sailing Clippers, are laid up in ordinary. The Flying Dutchman, with a crew of ghostly clients imploring all whom they may encounter to peruse their papers, has drifted, for the time being, Heaven knows where. The Courts are all shut up; the public offices lie in a hot sleep; Westminster Hall itself is a shady solitude where nightingales might sing, and a tenderer class of suitors than is usually found there, walk The Temple, Chancery Lane, Serjeantsí Inn, and Lincolnís Inn even unto the Fields, are like tidal harbours at low water; where stranded proceedings, offices at anchor, idle clerks lounging on lop-sided stools that will not recover their perpendicular until the current of Term sets in, lie high and dry upon the ooze of the long vacation. Outer doors of chambers are shut up by the score, messages and parcels are to be left at the Porterís Lodge by the bushel. A crop of grass would grow in the chinks of the stone pavement outside Lincolnís Inn Hall, but that the ticket-porters, who have nothing to do beyond sitting in the shade there, with their white aprons over their heads to keep the flies off, grub it up and eat it thoughtfully. There is only one judge in town. Even he only comes twice a week to sit in chambers. If the country folks of those assize towns on his circuit could only see him now! No full-bottomed wig, no red petticoats, no fur, no javelin-men, no white wands. Merely a close-shaved gentleman in white trousers and a white hat, with sea-bronze on the judicial countenance, and a strip of bark peeled by the solar rays from the judicial nose, who calls in at the shell-fish shop as he comes along, and drinks iced ginger-beer! The bar of England is scattered over the face of the earth. How England can get on through four long summer months without its bar ó which is its acknowledged refuge in adversity, and its only legitimate triumph in prosperity ó is beside the question; assuredly that shield and buckler of Britannia are not in present wear.

Charles Dickens, Bleak House 1852