Here’s one for those with a high tolerance for Victorian humour – a ‘gem’ I turned up while on the hunt for coverture references (there is a brief one, but so much … more). I have had it in my file for a while, under the heading ‘Putrid lawyer love note’, which may give the game away slightly …
It is to be found in that essential publication, the Glamorgan, Monmouth and Brecon Gazette and Merthyr Guardian for 30th December 1843, and you can see it via Welsh Newspapers, courtesy of the National Library of Wales, here.
The letters pages of these papers demonstrate just how much time some people had on their hands – here, the correspondent is one ‘Lycurgus’ (how they did like their classical references … are we not impressed?) makes up a ‘funny’ story about having picked up a piece of paper dropped by a buzy attorney at unidentified assizes, which – how amusing – turns out to be a love letter, pressing the lawyer’s case with the woman he wants to marry. Even more amusingly, the attorney has stuffed it full of legal language, e.g. ‘Cupid … has taken my heart into custody and will not accept of bail’. There are tipstaffs, green wax, affidavits, nonsuits, rejoinders, demurrers, enfeoffments (though the printer struggled with that one), Ca. sa., , essoins, and all manner of other legal terms and things. And the killer argument in favour of acceptance? ‘‘How vastly preferable the title of a feme covert to that of a feme sole’. I can only say Hmmm!
Once the queasiness dies down, it is quite an interesting little piece of whimsy, suggesting wide recognition of the sorts of technical terms lawyers might use – procedure and pleading terms are to the fore. And although it is mocking lawyers, it is doing so quite gently – so, an interesing snippet on the reputation of the profession, I suppose.
(The letter goes on to greater depths, with an abysmal poem about a husband and wife arguing … I do so hope that there was no Mrs Lycurgus …).