Support the Monkey! Tell All your Friends and Teachers
to be a proctor? What do you think of it?'
'Well, I don't know,' replied Steerforth, coolly. 'You may as well
do that as anything else, I suppose?'
I could not help laughing again, at his balancing all callings and
professions so equally; and I told him so.
'What is a proctor, Steerforth?' said I.
'Why, he is a sort of monkish attorney,' replied Steerforth. 'He
is, to some faded courts held in Doctors' Commons, - a lazy old
nook near St. Paul's Churchyard - what solicitors are to the courts
of law and equity. He is a functionary whose existence, in the
natural course of things, would have terminated about two hundred
years ago. I can tell you best what he is, by telling you what
Doctors' Commons is. It's a little out-of-the-way place, where
they administer what is called ecclesiastical law, and play all
kinds of tricks with obsolete old monsters of acts of Parliament,
which three-fourths of the world know nothing about, and the other
fourth supposes to have been dug up, in a fossil state, in the days
of the Edwards. It's a place that has an ancient monopoly in suits
about people's wills and people's marriages, and disputes among
ships and boats.'
'Nonsense, Steerforth!' I exclaimed. 'You don't mean to say that
there is any affinity between nautical matters and ecclesiastical
'I don't, indeed, my dear boy,' he returned; 'but I mean to say
that they are managed and decided by the same set of people, down
in that same Doctors' Commons. You shall go there one day, and
find them blundering through half the nautical terms in Young's
Dictionary, apropos of the "Nancy" having run down the "Sarah
Jane", or Mr. Peggotty and the Yarmouth boatmen having put off in
a gale of wind with an anchor and cable to the "Nelson" Indiaman in
distress; and you shall go there another day, and find them deep in
the evidence, pro and con, respecting a clergyman who has
misbehaved himself; and you shall find the judge in the nautical
case, the advocate in the clergyman's case, or contrariwise. They
are like actors: now a man's a judge, and now he is not a judge;
now he's one thing, now he's another; now he's something else,
change and change about; but it's always a very pleasant,
profitable little affair of private theatricals, presented to an
uncommonly select audience.'