Tuesday, December 14, 2010

For of the Bailey

Rumpole was.

A delightful quote from John Mortimer's (who is a British author comparable to a slightly more serious and less talented Wodehouse) "Rumpole of the Bailey" shall follow, but first, a bit of background. Rumpole is a short, fat, brilliant barrister (lawyer, to a Brit) who chain smokes cigars, quotes poetry (especially Wordsworth), swills claret, never pleads guilty and never prosecutes--and never asks if his client is guilty, lest they say yes. He is as cynical, jovial and witty a character as you could hope to meet. He also refers to his wife as "She Who Must Be Obeyed."

While standing before a judge in a libel suit, he is cross-examining a smarmy female author of romantic historical fiction of the most sappy and sentimental type. He has already mentioned that the hardest part of preparing for his case was having to read through--rather, endure--some of her books, and he has commented to a friend of his that it is simply inconceivable for someone who writes such terrible prose not to have some other serious faults, so we can understand what type of author this is.

Anyway, he asks the judge, a major fan of Ms. Nettleship, our authoress, for permission to read a section from one of her books. The judge, delighted, settles back and says, "Oh, yes. Isn't that the one that ends happily?" To which Rumpole responds, "Happily all Ms. Nettleship's books end... eventually."

In another story, he is defending a liberal minister from an adultery charge (he was innocent), and meets the loud, ill behaved and extremely combative children--they are always attacking each other with whatever weapons lie to hand--of said minister. What are their names? Martin and Erasmus.

I like Rumpole.

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