A good man to have in your corner

If you were picking someone to write an insightful and powerful argument in your defense, Samuel Johnson would probably be high on the list. So I would guess that Edinburgh printers Thomas and John Robertson were pleased that their attorney, Boswell, enlisted Johnson to help write the brief in their case. The Robertsons published a newspaper called the Caledonian Mercury, in which they poked some very modest fun at the pretensions of the Society of Solicitors. (Boswell writes of the incident “It has been said, that the Scottish nation is not distinguished for humour; and, indeed, what happened on this occasion may in some degree justify the remark.”) The Solicitors were sufficiently unamused to sue for libel, and Boswell was hired for the defense.

Johnson, amused at the pettiness of the suit, composed the concluding paragraphs of the brief, deftly deflating the self-importance of the Society of Solicitors. “We consider your Lordships as the protectors of our rights, and the guardians of our virtues; but believe it not included in your high office, that you should flatter our vices, or solace our vanity; and, as vanity only dictates this prosecution, it is humbly hoped your Lordships will dismiss it.”

This copy is Boswell’s own, marked by him to indicate the portion written by Johnson.

Legal brief

Published in:John Overholt |on June 4th, 2006 |Comments Off on A good man to have in your corner

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