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Vol 25 No 2 Feb/March 2020

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Boxed Set: The Literature of the Law & The Language of the Law

Edited by: Louis Blom-Cooper, Edward Jackson

ISBN13: 002030
ISBN: 002030
Published: April 1965
Publisher: The Macmillan Company
Country of Publication: USA
Format: Hardback, 2 Volumes in Slipcase
Price: Out of print

Edited by Louis Blom-Cooper

The Literature of the Law: An Anthology of Great Writings in and about the Law - (Published in the UK as The Law as Literature)

The Language of the Law: An Anthology of Legal Prose: An Anthology of memorable Writings by Lawyers of Various Countries

The Language of the Law
Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, editing the Oxford Book of English Prose discovered a new vein of literature. Law books, undeniably rich in legal learning, contained - rather surprisingly, he found - a sizeable body of good writing. But the recovery of these literary gems from their legal environment was a formidable task, and only three judges found their way into his anthology.

In his previous book The Law as Literature Louis Blom-Cooper gave equal say to lawyer and non-lawyer. Now he and his collaborator have collected a whole volume devoted exclusively to the writings of lawyers.

They have burrowed deep into the great mass of law reports and legal books, and have come up with a rich and illuminating collection of legal literature. Bowen and Macnaghten - two of the three judges in 'Q's' anthology - are represented here; so are other judicial giants through the ages - Bacon, Stowell, Stephen, Holmes, Atkin and. Frankfurter.

Here is an impressive array of testimony that the spirit of literature lives even in the dusty corners of the law. Here are those who practise the law, and those who preach it; those who make it, and those who break it. Here too are the great issues of human rights and fundamental freedoms, elegantly - at times indignantly - argued.

Then there are less important but more dramatic cases where judges discourse felicitously about the oddities of human behaviour which enliven the legal stage. Witnesses to the pervasive influence of English law includes judges in Scotland, Ireland, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Israel and South Africa - all beneficiaries, to a greater or lesser extent, of our lady the Common Law.

The Law as Literature
Much legal writing, embedded as it is in abstruse terminology, is obscure and of interest only to lawyers. Yet the law, which touches on almost every side of life, has also produced a fund of good literature of which few people are aware.

In this anthology, Louis Blom-Cooper, legal correspondent of the Guardian and the Observer, has helped to bridge the gap between lawyer and layman, by presenting a varied selection of first-class writings over the centuries in and about the law.

The pieces have been chosen according to a number of criteria - some for the human conflicts which they illustrate, others for their wit and precision of language, others again for their subtlety in argument or their clarity of exposition and description, all for their interest and relevance today.

The drama of the law centres in the courts themselves. Socrates and Gandhi, so distant in time yet so curiously similar in approach, are among those who speak here in their own defence. For the prosecution there is Judge Jackson's closing address in the Nuremberg Trial and- an unusual document - the notes which Sir Richard Muir had before him as he opened the Crown's case against Dr Crippen; while the art of cross-examination is represented by Sir Charles Russell's brilliant verbal duel with Pigott before the Parnell Commission.

From the bench, a rich source of legal literature, there is a variety of judgments Mr Justice Maule's address to a convicted bigamist, Lord Sumner's masterly analysis of the blasphemy laws, Lord Justice Harman's astute interpretation of the will of Bernard Shaw, and many others.

These pieces are all products of the law in action. The observer's view of the law is also recorded - Harold Laski's account of what it feels like to be a litigant and to lose a case, Kenneth Tynan's impressions of 'Lady Chatterley's Trial' and James Morris's report of the Powers Trial in Moscow.

Legal biography is well represented, as is also jurisprudence. Finally, there is an important section on the vexed issue of punishment, including a hitherto unpublished letter by Charles Dickens.

All the pieces are fine examples of English prose which deserve to be remembered not only for the insight they provide into the fascinating world of the law, but for their literary qualities and - not least - for their sheer entertainment value.

Law and Literature, Law and Literature (Out of Print)
The Language of the Law
1. On and Off the Bench
2. Crime and Punishment
3. Family Relations
4. Slaves and Citizens
5. P.P.E.
6. Words, Words, Words...
7. Judicial Restraint
8. Judicial Felicities
Notes on Contributions
The Law as Literature
Foreword: Lord Birkett
Editor's Note: Louis Blom-Cooper
1. Prosecution and Defence
2. The Courtroom Scene
3. On Law
4. On Lawyers
5. From The Bench
6. Crime and Punishment