Excerpt from The National Portrait Gallery
College, Cambridge. Of young Wilde the Wykehamist (there is a pleasant alliteration in the title) we know little. This is a case in point as to the difficulty of gathering the early archives of our great men. What we do gather, however, is pleasant and characteristic enough in its way. The future champion in the forum won his first distinction in the cricket-field, and the name which now occupies so prominent a place in our current annals originally stood honoured in quite a different sphere. The printed records of Lord's Cricket-ground testify to the fact that Wilde was first bowler on the Winchester side against Eton and Harrow for two years. Who shall calculate the effect Of that healthy physical exercise on the future success in a far higher arena? At Trinity, too, he pursued the even tenor of his way, graduating ba. In 1838, and ma. In 1842. Here again, besides the more strictly academical exercises in which our alumnus engaged, we find him still remaining true to the traditions of his Winchester pursuits. Now, however, he has (if one may so phrase it) changed the venue from the cricket-field to the tennis-court. Wilde of Trinity stands high in the roll of successful tennis-players at Cambridge. Incongruous as these details now appear, they may not have been without their effect on the physique of the future lawyer. Between these two dates, however, he had eaten his dinners, and in the year 1839 was called to the Bar at the Inner Temple. Thus we see him fairly embarked-in a profession wherein several members of his family had already become eminent, besides the one whose talents culminated in the woolsack. Of the various branches of his manifold subject Mr. Wilde turned his attention to the Common Law, and especially to that portion of it bearing on marine and mercantile matters. In the former department more partien larly he soon rose to great eminence, and became an able adviser and sound advocate in all matters relating to shipping, in which branch of jurisprudence he soon attained to the rank of a leading authority. He went on the Northern Circuit; and in this sphere especially he would find, ever and anon, the opportunity for exercising his special knowledge; in the technicalities of which he at the same time gained a constantly accumulating store of information. Among the earlier and less distinguished honours which fell to 'his share may be mentioned his appointment, in 1840, as one of the counsel to the Customs and Excise. In fifteen years from this date, namely in 1855, he was appointed Queen's Counsel. He had at this time quite the lead on his circuit, and was well known as an apt and graceful speaker - in fact, as a forensic orator. A portrait published in the year 1860 appropriately represents him in the act of speaking, his left hand being extended as if emphasising his speech, his right hand grasping a bundle of legal documents, and his fine manly form displayed to the best advantage in the significant costume of his legal rank.
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