“Every gentleman ought to know a little of law, says Coke, and perhaps, say we, the less the better”.
It is not a message intended to discourage our students in their quest for legal wisdom but merely a quotation from the recent addition to the Law Library Rare Books collection, The Comic Blackstone (original 1844 edition). This witty and infinitely entertaining book was written by Gilbert Abbott à Beckett (1811 –1856), an English humorist, journalist, and a lawyer, who belonged to a family claiming descent from Thomas Becket. It is so well written and so gently humorous that I am sure it will be appreciated even by exams-stressed Law students. These are few more quotes from The Comic Blackstone:
“It is a beautiful fiction of the English law that no man pays taxes without his own consent; and, from this assertion, it would naturally be supposed that the tax-gatherers were the very idols of the people, who flocked round them, tendering specie and asking receipts for it. By legal imagery, the people are declared to tax themselves […].” (p. 25)
“When the common law differs from the statute law, the latter prevails — and a new statute supersede an old one — which is just turning topside-turvy the principle which governs the common law, where the older the custom happens to be the better. Widdicomb and Methuselah are the two best authorities on questions of common law but this is not germane to the subject.” (p. 12-13)