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The biographical and critical sketches of Judges which are contained in this volume have already appeared in the Empire Review with the exception of the studies of Mr. Justice Fitzjames Stephen and of Lord Halsbury. My thanks are due to Commander Oliver Locker Lampson, D.S.O., M.P., for his permission to produce them in the form of a book.
I have not attempted to collect those Fourteen Judges whom I consider the greatest in our long list of illustrious lawyers. I could hardly, had this been my purpose, have excluded Chief Justice Cockburn; but certain considerations which I think would have attracted the biographical zest of Campbell repelled me a little from the task of reconstructing the career of this very remarkable man.
The attempt, however, would be of interest, and I may one day undertake it. For if the public attention to judicial biography, as attempted by me, affords encouragement, and my leisure allows, it is not improbable that I may continue this series in a companion volume to be known as More English Judges.
I have often thought, too, that an interesting volume - I mean, of course, a volume interesting to lawyers could be written of Law Officers who have, so to speak, fallen out by the way through ill-health or political misadventure without reaching the judicial goal. A very arresting book, not lacking in dramatic quality, is suggested by this topic.
I may, perhaps, be allowed to say a word as to the method which I have proposed to myself in these studies. I have tried, in the first place, to set forth a simple biographical statement of the principal facts in the life of each Judge. I have tried, in the second place, to paint some kind of general picture of the man's personality so that the reader may know in general outline what kind of human being he was; and, in the third place, I have been at some pains to attempt a technical valuation of each individual subject as an artificer in the Law.
The research required in this branch of the subject has been very great; and it would not have been possible for me to undertake it if I had not received the assistance of Mr. Roland Burrows, one of the most learned members of the English Bar. He has sifted and examined hundreds, perhaps thousands, of cases in the Year Books and in the Law Reports in order to bring before me those upon which he thought it likely that I might desire to comment, or which I might find it proper to collate.
My method, then, differs toto caelo from that of Campbell. His technical valuations -on the rare occasions when he attempts them- possess little or no value. I am egotistic enough to believe that mine are, on the whole, just. But, of course, my book neither possesses nor has attempted the racy readableness of Campbell's.
This very self satisfied man was frankly malicious. I suppose it may be considered more tempting to be malicious about your contemporaries and rivals than about characters who have passed into history and whom you never knew. I at least am free from any animosity; in life my work is nowhere scandalous; and I have not spared labour in the attempt to discover what kind of a man, and what kind of a Judge I was attempting, long after death, to reproduce.
The question is often asked, who was . the greatest of all our English Judges; indeed, one or two newspaper critics of my articles have invited me to set out a list in the order of their greatness of the Judges whom I most admired. This task would be rather like that of suggesting the strongest cricket side which could be formed, if you were allovved a selection from all the cricketers who have ever played that game in Great Britain or in Australia.
Still, the attempt would not be without its fascination. But I have already made it plain that I have not included in this volume the fourteen Judges whom I study merely in obedience to a strict appraisement of judicial quality. If and when I find leisure to complete my work, I will, in its preface, for the benefit of anyone who attaches the slightest importance to my opinion, attempt to make plain who, and in what order, are in my judgment the ten greatest Judges who have interpreted Law in the Courts of this country.