In my last article on Law and Literature, I discussed the workings of the early nineteenth century British Court of Chancery, both in reality and as portrayed by Charles Dickens in his magnificent novel, Bleak House. Such a serious subject in a work of fiction, especially one written in serial form for the Victorian masses, must necessarily be offset by a strong cast of characters with whom the reader can relate.
As always, when it comes to depicting the frailties of human nature, Charles Dickens does not disappoint. From the noble to the ridiculous, we are given a glimpse of the people whose lives have been touched by the infamous lawsuit of Jarndyce and Jarndyce. And none of them are more fascinating than the range of lawyers and law clerks that navigate (with varying degrees of skill) the murky waters of Chancery dysfunction.
By the early nineteenth century, the British Court of Chancery had become synonymous with procedural dysfunction and injustice. This was especially so for the middle classes, who could not afford to bring a claim lest they end up having their entire fortunes swallowed up by the process.
However, though “the evils of Chancery were well known and had been exposed over and over again,” the 1852 publication of Charles Dickens’ novel Bleak House shone an even brighter light both on the Court and on the lives ruined by its corruption and dysfunctionality.[…]Continue Reading