Gordon R. McKenzie



Being a lawyer may not be the oldest profession, but for many years it seems, the practice of law has been one of ill repute. We can find evidence of the pe-Victorian opinion of lawyers in Henry Fielding's classic, "Tom Jones" first published 1749.

Fielding, himself a lawyer and a justice of the peace, makes a lawyer, Mr. Dowling, central to the action. Mr. Dowling is poor, as he travels on foot, but rushed and so busy that if "he cut himself in quarters, all would not be sufficient." He is also self-interested and devious and helps to nearly ruin the unfortunate Master Jones.

Entrusted with the secret of Jones' illegitimate birth, Dowling helps Master Blifil, conceal the truth. Dowling, instructed by Blifil, goes so far as to attempt to bribe witnesses to say that Jones was the aggressor in a fatal sword fight. While he did not offer the bribe outright nor tell them what to say, the intent of his conduct was clear.

Blifil overlooked one important detail in his schemes to disgrace Jones. The woman thought to be Jones' mother (who, incidentally, Jones slept with although neither knew who the other was at the time) also knew who Jones' real mother was. Blifil's jig was up when she told the uncle, Squire Allworthy, that Allworthy's sister was Jones' mother, making Blifil and Jones half-bothers and Allworthy's nephews (and Jones not guilty of incest).

When confronted with the truth of his acts, Dowling, does not come clean with his motives, Blifil's promise of financial gain, but justifies himself in terms of obligations to Allworthy and the explanations and instructions given by Blifil.

Plainly, the author, Fielding, conveys the general mistrust of lawyer's motives and methods 250 years ago. (To be continued)

This article is presented as general information only and is not to be relied on as legal advice. You should contact your lawyer to see how the law applies to your circumstances before any action is taken.

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