Monday, June 9, 2014

"The Element of 'Surprise' Is Virtually Eliminated in an English Trial"

By Thomas Leaming.
Henry Holt & Co.
1911. 199 pages. $2.00
Online HERE, HERE, and HERE.
". . . who would bear the Whips and Scorns of time,
The Oppressor's wrong, the proud man's Contumely,
The pangs of despised Love, the Law’s delay . . ."
Hamlet, Act III, Scene 1

Many classic detective stories (Christie's "The Witness for the Prosecution" springs immediately to mind) either involve or have as a background the British legal system, and Leaming's book can usefully serve as a source to compare with what you might read in mystery fiction set in the early 20th century when, for example, Dr. Thorndyke was most active.
Short excerpts from three contemporary reviews:
. . . Law as practised in England approaches the dignity and exactness of a science. With us [Americans] it more closely resembles a game. The element of "surprise" is virtually eliminated in an English trial and this, Mr. Leaming thinks, would not appeal to the profession in America. If lawyers in this country were forced to exchange documents and otherwise to simplify the court proceedings, as is required in England, they would, in the author's opinion, "feel that half the fun of life were gone." . . . — Frederick Trevor Hill, "Ten Books of the Month," THE BOOKMAN (July 1911)
. . . To professional lawyers the methods of proceedings in the various courts, the character of the to us remarkable control exercised by the judge, and especially the freedom in questioning witnesses, will be extremely interesting. To more general readers, or to a lawyer in his more general moods, the comparisons made by the learned author between English and American litigation and jurisprudence, and his explanation of the reasons for sundry American divergences, will seem more important, and give much food for thought.  . . . — "Review," THE LITERARY DIGEST (August 26, 1911)
. . . Mr. Leaming shows himself to be by no means an uncritical admirer of English methods, as, for example, in his comments upon the trial of Dhingrar, the murderer of Sir Curzon Wyllie, and the use in the Court of Appeal of manuscript, often illegible and with occasional errors in the copies furnished the court and opposing counsel, and the laxity with which the rules of evidence are enforced. But, in general, he finds many features of the British system admirable in operation and suitable for introduction into American practice.  . . . — "Book Reviews," AMERICAN POLITICAL SCIENCE REVIEW (May 1912)

Category: Crime nonfiction

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