He had remodelled the judicial committee in 1833, and it still remains one of the most useful of his creations.
In the year 1860 a second patent was conferred upon him by Queen Victoria, with a reversion of his peerage to his youngest brother, William Brougham (d. 1886). The preamble of this patent stated that this unusual mark of honour was conferred upon him by the crown as an acknowledgment of the great services he had rendered, more especially in promoting the abolition of slavery, and the emancipation of the negro race. The peerage was thus perpetuated in a junior branch of the family, Lord Brougham himself being without an heir. He had married in 1821 Mrs Spalding (d. 1865), daughter of Thomas Eden, and had two daughters, the survivor of whom died in 1839. Brougham's last days were passed at Cannes, in the south of France. An accident having attracted his attention to the spot about the year 1838, when it was little more than a fishing village on a picturesque coast, he bought there a tract of land and built on it. His choice and his example made it the sanatorium of Europe. He died there on the 7th of May 1868, in the ninetieth year of his age.
The verdict of the time has proved that there was nothing of permanence, and little of originality in the prodigious efforts of Brougham's genius. He filled the office of chancellor during times burning with excitement, and he himself embodied and expressed the fervour of the times. He affected at first to treat the business of the court of chancery as a light affair, though in truth he had to work hard to master the principles of equity, of which he had no experience. His manner in court was desultory and dictatorial. Sometimes he would crouch in his chair, muffled in his wig and robes, like a man asleep; at other times he would burst into restless activity, writing letters, working problems, interrupting counsel. But upon the whole Brougham was a just and able judge, though few of his decisions are cited as landmarks of the law.
As a parliamentary figure Brougham's personality excited for many years an immense amount of public interest, now somewhat hard to comprehend. His boundless command of language, his animal spirits and social powers, his audacity and well-stored memory enabled him to dominate the situation. His striking and almost grotesque personal appearance, added to the effect of his voice and manner - a tall disjointed frame, with strong bony limbs and hands, that seemed to interpret the power of his address; strange angular motions of the arms; the incessant jerk of his harsh but expressive features; the modulations of his voice, now thundering in the loudest tones of indignation, now subdued to a whisper - all contributed to give him the magical influence such as is excited by a great actor. But his eccentricity rose at times to the verge of insanity; and with all his powers he lacked the moral elevation which inspires confidence and wins respect.
The activity of Lord Brougham's pen was only second to the volubility of his tongue. He carried on a vast and incessant correspondence of incredible extent. For thirty years he contributed largely to the Edinburgh Review, and he continued to write in that journal even after he held the great seal. The best of his writings, entitled "Sketches of the Statesmen of the time of George III.", first appeared in the Review. These were followed by the "Lives of Men of Letters and Science," of the same period. Later in life he edited Paley's Natural Theology; and he published a work on political philosophy, besides innumerable pamphlets and letters to public men on the events of the day. He published an incorrect translation of Demosthenes' De Corona. A novel entitled Albert Lunel was attributed to him. A fragment of the History of England under the House of Lancaster employed his retirement. In 1838 was published an edition of his speeches in four volumes, elaborately corrected by himself. The last of his works was his posthumous Autobiography. Ambitious as he was of literary fame, and jealous of the success of other authors, he has failed to obtain any lasting place in English literature.
His style was slovenly, involved and incorrect; and his composition bore marks of haste and carelessness, and nowhere shows any genuine originality of thought. The collected edition of his works and speeches carefully revised by himself (Edinburgh, 1857 and 1872) is the best. His Autobiography is of some value from the original letters with which it is interspersed. But Lord Brougham's memory was so much impaired when he began to write his recollections that no reliance can be placed on his statements, and the work abounds in manifest errors. Nor was his regard for truth at any time unimpeachable, and the accounts which he gave of more than one transaction in which he played a prominent part were found on investigation to be unfounded.
The best modern account of Brougham is J.B. Atlay's, in his Victorian Chancellors (1906); Lord Campbell's, in Lives of the Chancellors, is spiteful, and by an unfriendly though well-informed critic; the Rev. W. Hunt's judicious and careful biography in the D.N.B. is somewhat lacking in colour; Henry Reeve's article in the 9th ed. of the Ency. Brit., which is frequently drawn upon above, now requires a good many corrections in points of fact and perspective, but gives a brilliant picture by an appreciative critic, much "behind the scenes." See also references in the Greville Memoirs and Creevey Papers; S. Walpole, History of England (1890); J.A. Roebuck, History of the Whig Ministry (1852); Lord Holland, Memoirs of the Whig Party (1854); Brougham and his Early Friends: Letters to James Loch, 1798-1809 (3 vols., London, 1908, privately printed).