IN LITERATURE - By Gordon R. MacKenzie
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
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