E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
Honest Lawyer (An).
The oldest allusion to this strange expression is the epigram on St. Ives (12511303), of whom Dom Lobineau says: Il distribuait avec une sainte profusion aux pauvres les revenus de son bénéfice et ceux de son patrimonie, qui etaient de £60 de rente, alors une somme très notable, particulièrement en Basse Bretagne. (Lives of the Saints of Great Britain.)
Sanctus Yvo erat Brito,
Advocatus, et non latro,
Res miranda populo.
St. Ives was of the land of beef,
An advocate, and not a thief;
A stretch on popular belief.
E. C. B.
The phrase was facetiously applied by some wag to Sir John Strange, Master of the Rolls, who died, at the age of fifty-eight, in 1754.
Here lies an honest lawyer, that is Strange.
Of course this line forms no part of the inscription in Leyton churchyard, Essex, where Sir John was buried.