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He that will not mind his own belly will not mind his own business. This little paraphrase of Dr Johnson was almost the last remark of a recently deceased friend and colleague who allowed me to collect many of his observations into three Lawyer's Notebooks.
He strongly objected to writing them down in any legible fashion or even when I had done so, to correcting typoscript or even proofs. Fortunately his death has left me in possession of his papers and manuscripts and of all copyright in them so that I can as before combine his material with my own.
He desired his anonymity to continue even after his death; but I may perhaps be permitted to mention that he was about twenty years older than myself and had had much the same sort of education and professional experience. He lived for some years in my neighbourhood so we often walked and talked on Sundays. What first impressed me about his talk was its unexpectedness. Thus he would deplore the Reformation but when asked to give reasons, would say that Calvinism and the Counter Reformation had made Europe intolerable till the latter half of the 19th century.
He relished ripe decay and maintained that the Catholic Church of the 15th century combined all the best qualities of an 1870 claret and of an old Stilton cheese. While not insensitive to the convenience of modern locomotion for travellers, he would indulge in the most deplorable expletives in regard to the consequences of the industrial movement, to wit, the Victorian employer, the Edwardian Trade Unionist, and the Georgian philanthropist.
To read a newspaper in which agricul¬ture was referred to as an "industry" made him positively ill, and his end was no doubt hastened by a peculiarly smug leading article in The Times advocating the extinction of any right of appeal to the County Court by owners and tenants of old cottages against the bureaucratic . tyranny of borough councils, the members of which are often said to derive considerable profit from destroying well-built old cottages and erecting gimcrack flats under the unctuous pretence of demolishing "slum property."
References to "planning" or such a sentence as "The more democratic we become the more laws we must have and the more police there must be to enforce them" were dangerous to such philosophic tranquillity as he wanted to preserve for the sake of his health. He kept a little shelf of select volumes starting with Aristophanes and ending with Cobbett and A. P. Herbert to which he resorted when necessary but even these failed to soothe him when he read press references to the lack of sympathy in France with modern civilization and to the "great Anglo-German family to which we all belong."
Nor did he care for the past merely as the past, for he was obsessed by long obsolete ideas of what he called justice and common sense, which have found expression in such different periods as the second and eighteenth centuries of the Christian era. He was quite as well aware as anyone else that this rather futile indignation about public affairs was not only quite out of date, but also prejudicial to professional success....from the Preface