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The Penguin Famous Trials series was started by Harry Hodge, who was Managing, Director of William Hodge & Co., Ltd, Publishers and Shorthand Writers. The son and grandson of a printer, he followed his father as one of the most expert of shorthand writers in Scotland, and for some fifty years was a well-known figure in the Scottish Courts both in that capacity and as a publisher of legal works.
In 1905 he founded The Notable British Trials Series which now extends to 70 volumes, commencing with that cause celebre, the Trial of Madeleine Smith. He was steeped in criminology all his life and held the view that a trial should be at least twenty years old before it can proveitself to have been notable, although this view had to be modified under modern conditions.
As general editor of that series he carefully selected his editors and insisted on the greatest possible accuracy in the presentation of each volume. Outside of his business life Mr Hodge's main interest was devoted to music, and he has a number of compositions to his name. He died in November 1947.
Since his death both The Notable Trial Series and the Penguin Famous Trials have been edited by his son, James Holier Hodge. Moreover, in 1948, after long negotiations, James Hodge produced the first volumes in the War Crimes Trials Series, of which he is the assistant general editor to Sir David Maxwell Fyfe,P.C., Q.C., M.P
On the 18th of February 1895, four days after the opening of The Importance of Being Earnest, the Marquess of Queensberrry deposited at the Albermarle Club a card on which was writteN: 'To Oscar Wilde posing as a somdomite.' This misspelt but calculated challenge sounded the bell for the first round in one of the most bizarre contests ever staged at the Old Bailey.
The prosecution (for criminal libel) of the eccentric Queensberry had to be abandoned bySir Edward Clarke, and the Crown then took action against Oscar Wilde. At his second trial he was convicted of gross indecency with male persons and imprisoned for two years with hard labour. He died in Paris, bankrupt, in 1900.
These cases were remarkable for the disgraceful evidence of public jubilation over the verdicts; for the insane antics of Queensberry on behalf of his son, Lord Alfred Douglas, the young poet; and for the absurd vanity of Wilde himself, who tripped fatally during Carson's pitiless cross-examintion.