Friday, 30 August 2013

The Forgetful Lawyer

The idea of a lawyer who starts arguing against his own case may sound like a character from a bad sitcom, but it occurred at least once in real life. The biography for Lord Eldon relates that when he was young, and simply known as John Scott, he was working as a junior to Mr Dunning (“who was the most eminent of the counsel prectising in the Court of King’s Bench”).

The anecdote, as told by Lord Eldon, goes:

“He began the argument, and appeared to me to be reasoning very powerfully against our client. Waiting till I was quite convinced that he had mistaken for what party he was retained, I then touched his arm, and, upon his turning his head towards me, I whispered to him that he must have misunderstood for whom he was employed, as he was reasoning against our client. He gave me a very rough and rude reprimand for not having sooner set him right,”

Yet Mr Dunning managed to get out of this situation with a very elegant solution...

“[He] then proceeded to state, that what he had addressed to the court was all that could be stated against his client, and that he had put the case as unfavourably as possible against him, in order that the court might see how very satisfactorily the case against him could be answered; and, accordingly, very powerfully answered what he had before stated.”

Twiss, H. (1844) “The Public and Private Life of Lord Chancellor Eldon” Vol 1, p63

Monday, 26 August 2013

Life drawing 26/08/2013

Although I’m not late, I am usually one of the last to arrive for life drawing, so I’m obliged to take a space at the side. This is fine by me, since the lighting is usually more interesting and, besides, profiles tend to be easier to draw.

Today, since it was a bank holiday, there were fewer people and when I arrived there was one seat at the front, centre stage. Well, I chose it immediately.

I sort of regretted that. Because the model needs to give everyone in the room a decent angle to work from, a lot of the poses were facing forward. In other words, straight at me. I struggled at first with this. I kept telling myself it shouldn’t make a difference, but the lighting and the pose seemed a lot flatter than usual.

The best of a very bad bunch
Finally, in the long fifty minute pose, I was faced with someone doing a sort of lotus pose. I was depressed at first: after a load of drawings with no sense of movement, you couldn’t ask for a more sedate model. But this time, I decided to focus on the symmetry rather than ignore it, and I think it turned out okay.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Late sun rises and missing satellites

A short-lived but entertaining rumour occurred in October 1736. In the Ipswich Journal for October 15-22, they stated that the “News-letters” for October the 19th reported that the Royal Observatory in Paris had discovered two strange phenomena. One, that the sunrises and sunsets for the past ten days had been quarter of an hour later than expected, and also that one of Jupiter’s satellites had disappeared.

Quite what the implications would have been had this rumour spread is never discovered. After just a week, retractions were being published in those newspapers that carried the initial story.

Where this story came from, a misunderstanding or deliberate misinformation, is never made clear. Pity. It would have been interesting to see the effect if it had been given more time.

Ipswich Journal, 15-22 October 1736
Derby Mercury, 28 October 1736

Sunday, 11 August 2013

The Rood of Boxley

Boxley Abbey, which once stood in Boxley in Kent, once hosted a religious icon called the Rood of Grace (“Rood” being an old word for crucifix) which was a wooden sculpture of Jesus on the cross, which could move. This became a popular icon for pilgrimages and brought in some money for the Abbey. When this first appeared is not know, but by 1412, the Abbey was referred to as “the Abbey of the Rood of Grace”.

In 1538, as part of a country-wide act to take possession of Catholic buildings, the Abbey was taken by the government and the secret of the Rood was uncovered. Geoffrey Chamber wrote to the Lord Privy Seal about the episode (I’ve modernised the English)...

“I found in the Image of the Rood, called the Rood of Grace, [...] certain engines and old wires, with old rotten sticks in the back of the same, that did cause the eyes of the same to move and stare in the head thereof, like unto a living thing.”

This discovery was used as anti-Papist propaganda, and was decried in public speaking as an example of how Romanist churches were lying to their congregations. John Cromer wrote to Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex on the 7 February 1538, saying...

“Considering that the people of Kent had in time past a great devotion to the image and used continued pilgrimages there, I conveyed it to Maidstone this present Thursday being market day and shewed it to the people; who had the matter in wondrous detestation and hatred”

However, recently historians have been questioning the idea that the Rood was an act of deception. Rather, the congregation were fully aware of the mechanical nature of the icon, treating it as one more attraction to the already opulent surroundings of a Catholic abbey. Since many people were illiterate in those days, churches relied on visual means (stained glass, statues) to help communicate the word of God.

Whether the protestant reformers knew this, or chose to ignore it, is not clear. Chamber wrote that the monks at the Abbey pleaded ignorance when asked about the mechanisms which only adds to the air of deception, but I’m inclined to believe that most of the visiting pilgrims (who’d only arrive because they were on their way to Canterbury) were not so gullible and knew of, or were quickly aware of, it’s less than miraculous powers.

Cave-Brown, J. (1892) “The History of Boxley Parish”
Ellis, H. (1846) “Original Letters, Illustrative of English History”
The History of the County of Kent, vol 2, p74
Groeneveld, L. (2007) “A Theatrical Miracle: The Boxley Rood of Grace as Puppet”