February 8, 2012

The Law Is a Ass--a Idiot

Michael Ruse writes about his favorite Dickens novels here.  He lists The Pickwick Papers, David Copperfield, Bleak House, and Our Mutual Friend, and notes Dickens' amazing ability to write about the experiences of children.  He also notes the prevalence of law in Dickens' works: here he is on The Pickwick Papers:

My absolute favorite bit is when Sam is in the witness box in the trial of Mr. Pickwick on a charge of breach of promise, and the trouble he causes for the other side. But Sam having supper with the posh servants of Bath is a pretty close second. Dodson and Fogg, the shifty lawyers, are pretty good too, as are the drunken medical students. 
Here's Mr. Ruse on Oliver Twist:

There are some lesser novels of which I am incredibly fond, Dombey and Son and Oliver Twist in particular. I love the bit when Mr. Bumble has married the matron of the workhouse, is now under her thumb, and (being accused of a crime) told that in law even though his wife may have been the main party he is the one responsible. Most people know the first line but miss the far funnier last lines.

“It was all Mrs. Bumble. She would do it,” urged Mr. Bumble; first looking round to ascertain that his partner had left the room.

“That is no excuse,” replied Mr. Brownlow. “You were present on the occasion of the destruction of these trinkets, and indeed are the more guilty of the two, in the eye of the law; for the law supposes that your wife acts under your direction.”

“If the law supposes that,” said Mr. Bumble, squeezing his hat emphatically in both hands, “the law is a ass — a idiot. If that’s the eye of the law, the law is a bachelor; and the worst I wish the law is, that his eye may be opened by experience — by experience.”

Laying great stress on the repetition of these two words, Mr. Bumble fixed his hat on very tight, and putting his hands in his pockets, followed his helpmate down stairs.

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