Highlights from Recent Reading

from Confessions of an Un-Common Attorney, by Reginal L. Hine (1947)

There is another advantage enjoyed by the private citizen. He belongs to himself. When the little man in the little city looks out upon the huge and thoughtful night, fame loses its allure; he has no envy of counsellors or kings. his tributes as first, second, or third citizen must be paid: ‘Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.’ But when that has been accomplished he is freer than most men to follow his own whim, to taste the delights of human tranquility, to cultivate the muses, to make innumerable friends. That way, even in the brief hour-glass of one mans’ life, much happiness can lie; there may be no sandstorms, but there will be many golden grains of blessed gaiety, some fireside ease, cool spaces of leisure sitting at peace in ‘the middest of one’s books.’

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Ut olim flagitiis, sic nunc legibus laboramus—as in times past we were sicke of offences, so now are we of lawes.’

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On a shelf in that same cupboard, deep in dust, reposed the draft Bill introduced into the House of Commons in 1770, forbidding any woman ‘to impose upon, seduce, or betray into Matrimony any of His Majesty’s subjects by means of scent, paints, cosmetic washes, artificial teeth, Spanish wool, iron stays, hoops, high-heeled shoes, or bolstered hips.’ Any marriage so contrived was to be null and void.

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Consider the extraordinary surnames that are to be met with in parish records, especially in the Puritan period. Here are a few taken from parishes in the Hitchin region: Ankle, Balaam, Bawcock, Breeding, Childermass, Chuck, Coalblack, Collop, Damosell, Ditch, Drawsword, eaw, Evilthrift, Freelove, Fogg, Funeral, Giggle, Grave, Guzzle, Hadduck, Huzzy, Indeed, Morespeed, Mouse, Outlaw, Pipkin, Pitchfork, Pretious, Rapier, Sacbut, Scurfy, Sex, Silverside, Sipsap, Slimehead, Slow, Sorry, Thickpenny, Topcoat, Triplet, Tuppeny, Typtoe, Wedlock.

Keeping good things to the last, let me set down a short list of names in combination—all from my own county—where both the Christian and the surname are outlandish, Old and New Testamentish or grotesque: Gabriel Angell, Abednego Atkins, Giver Battell, Ghost Butteridge, Paternell Bunne, Lamentation Caudle, Plampin Cooley, Matthew Divine, Radulphus Doffer, Adam Eve, Youthful Eyres, King Fisher, Obsingoldsbey Humblebee, Repentance Peacock, Susannah Sparrow, Zilpher spittle, Lazarus Stops, Greediana Tarboy, Tobias Trim, Adored Tuffnail, Wigmore Wiskin.

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Here is the classic example of circumstantial evidence. A witness in a railway case at Fort Worth was asked to tell in his own words just how Holy, a mate of his, came by his death.

He said: ‘Well, ‘Ole and me was walking down the track and I ‘eard a whistle and I got off the track, and the train went by, and I got back on the track. I didn’t see “Ole, but I walked along, and pretty soon I saw ‘Ole’s ‘at, then I walked on and saw one of ‘Ole’s legs. After that I seen one of ‘Ole’s arms and then another leg; and then another leg; and then, over on one side, I seen ‘Ole’s ‘ead, and I says to meself: “My Gawd, somethin’ muster ‘appened to “ole.‘”

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‘He that hath a great nose,’ saith the proverb, ‘thinks everybody is speaking of it.’

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Once upon a time Bernard Shaw posted a play of his, just published, to Sir John Squire, and inscribed it in the usual manner “with the author’s compliments.” Squire read it, kept it awhile out of respect for the donor, then sold it. by a curious coincidence Shaw lit upon this very copy in a second-hand bookseller’s shop in the Charing Cross Road, bought it, and returned it to Squire with the added inscription: “To Sir John Squire, with the Author’s renewed compliments.'”

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There was no medical reason, in his opinion, why she should not attain three figures, and when I saw her for last time, in her ninety-fourth year, I insisted that she should set herself to become a centenarian. ‘I doubt if it would be wise,’ she said, ‘there are risks involved.’

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