Since Bleak House got brought up yesterday and I have just begun it myself, I thought I’d share this bit from Dickens’ preface, which cracked me up. Once I knew that there had only been two Chancery judges at a time for several hundred years (and that was still the state at the time of this book) … AND … that Dickens himself had once been a solicitor’s clerk before becoming a journalist … well, that added layers that made it even funnier.
A Chancery judge once had the kindness to inform me, as one of a company of some hundred and fifty men and women not labouring under any suspicions of lunacy, that the Court of Chancery, though the shining subject of much popular prejudice (at which point I thought the judge’s eye had a cast in my direction), was almost immaculate. There had been, he admitted, a trivial blemish or so in its rate of progress, but this was exaggerated and had been entirely owing to the “parsimony of the public,” which guilty public, it appeared, had been until lately bent in the most determined manner on by no means enlarging the number of Chancery judges appointed–I believe by Richard the Second, but any other king will do as well.
This seemed to me too profound a joke to be inserted in the body of this book…
Charles Dickens, Preface to Bleak House