Monday, February 26, 2007

Five best: law and literature

John Mortimer, British playwright, former practicing barrister, and author -- most recently of the novel Rumpole and the Reign of Terror -- picked the five best books about law and literature for Opinion Journal.

One of his selections:

Bleak House by Charles Dickens

"Bleak House" is one of Dickens's best books. All life is there, from the aristocratic Sir Leicester Dedlock to Poor Joe, the starving little crossing-sweeper. And everybody's secrets, particularly those of the beautiful Lady Dedlock, are known to Mr. Tulkinghorn, the enigmatic lawyer to whom knowledge is power. He appears as "a little old man called Tulkinghorn" and he dies, with all his secrets, shot through the heart in his dining room, his wine half drunk, under his painted ceiling. "Bleak House" castigates the law's insufferable delays. The great case of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce destroys the health and sanity of generations of litigants and is wrapped in a legal fog, much like that which descends on London and follows the Thames up to the Law Courts and finally enters the Lord Chancellor's throat. For Dickens the all-pervading fog is an apt simile for the laws of Chancery.

Read about his other selections.