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Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Earl of Birkenhead's Lousy Excuse

While wandering through some of my books the other day, I stumbled across a copy of Famous Trials of History, by the Earl of Birkenhead (Clark Boardman, Ltd., 1929).  Wondering why I'd had this book for so long, but not read it, I opened the book to the preface.  The first paragraph reads:

Let me begin by an attempt to disarm an obvious criticism.  This book is called "Famous Trials of History."  But it contains (it may be said) some trials in which the author was himself engaged for which it cannot be claimed that they fall within this description.  This is perfectly true.  And if it be asked: "Why, then, do you so dignify them?" I can only reply that I was quite unable to think of a compendious title which would cover both really famous trials and others which, interesting or not, are unlikely to become historical.  Habetis confitentem reum. [I plead guilty].

All of a sudden, I remember why reading this book is not very high on my to-do list.

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