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Leave the Law to Take Care of Itself

December 15, 2016

By Alan Kilpatrick

Adickens1re you searching for a legal themed book to read this holiday season?  Why not try something from Charles Dickens?  While A Christmas Carol is the most popular of Dickens’ works this time of year, lawyers, courts, and judges appear in many of his other works.

In his youth, Dickens worked as a court reporter for the English Courts of Chancery.  Interestingly, you can find original copies of the Court of Chancery Law Reports from the 1800s in the Law Society of Saskatchewan Library.

Witnessing corruption and cruelty, Dickens developed a critical view of the English legal system.  Many of his books reflect this and feature criticism of the courts. His experience as a court reporter greatly influenced the bleak courtroom scenes in David Copperfield.

Here are two notable Dicken’s quotes about the law:

From Bleakhouse:

“The one great principle of the English law is to make business for itself. There is no other principle distinctly, certainly, and consistently maintained through all its narrow turnings. Viewed by this light it becomes a coherent scheme and not the monstrous maze the laity are apt to think it. Let them but once clearly perceive that its grand principle is to make business for itself at their expense, and surely they will cease to grumble.”

dickens2From A Tale of Two Cities:

“It is the law,” remarked the ancient clerk, turning his surprised spectacles upon him. “It is the law.”

“It’s hard in the law to spile a man, I think. It’s hard enough to kill him, but it’s wery hard to spile him, sir.”

“Not at all,” retained the ancient clerk. “Speak well of the law. Take care of your chest and voice, my good friend, and leave the law to take care of itself. I give you that advice.”


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