The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Answers to Readers # 1: "Rushforth & Bindtheboy?"

A reader of Phineas at Bay has enquired about the provenance of the name of Lady Eustace's solicitors, "Rushforth & Bindtheboy."

Well, I didn't want to reveal all my easter eggs in the postscript, so this one wasn't spoiled, but for those who'd like to know, here goes. There is, it is true, and as my reader suggested, a certain thematic resonance in the name, in view of the nature of the action at law Lady Eustace is filing (breach of promise), and in view of Lady Eustace's own relationships (an example of my taking a direct but subtle thread in Trollope, and projecting it out). There is, however, also a double-barreled literary reference of which I am rather fond, and that no one has (at least that I have seen) remarked on.

As the late Sir John Mortimer explained in an interview:
Ramona Koval: I'm interested in that first interest in the arts and interest in theatre, because from your writing, you say that basically you weren't really encouraged by your parents in this area.

John Mortimer: Oh, well I was, because my father went blind when I was a bit older than that, about sixteen. And I had to read aloud to him, so I read a lot of poetry and things I might not otherwise have read. But there were two things I didn't have to read, which were the Sherlock Holmes stories and the plays of Shakespeare. And my father knew all the plays of Shakespeare by heart and he used to quote Shakespeare at very inapposite moments. Some people hum popular tunes when they're lonely, but he would say Shakespeare. And every time the cook brought him the breakfast - which we had, a cook to bring in the breakfast - my father used to say to her, 'Nymph in thy orisons be all my sins remembered.' And the cook would say, 'Well here's your breakfast.'

And every time he caught sight of me, when he could see, when I was about five, he used to say, 'Is execution done on [Cawdor]?' Well, I mean, when you're five, it's a pretty tough question to have to answer. And he also loved to take quotations and use them for something totally different. There's a quotation from King John when Hubert the Jailer has to take out Little Arthur's eyes. And the executioners are behind the curtain. And Hubert's line is, 'When I strike my foot upon the ground, rush forth and bind the boy.' And my father used to say, 'Rush forth and bind the boy - sounds like a rather unsatisfactory firm of solicitors.'

And then every time he saw a solicitor he didn't know, he'd say, 'Are you from Rushforth and Bindtheboy?'
I had not read the interview, then, but had read the same story in Mortimer's memoir Clinging to the Wreckage.

So--Rushforth & Bindtheboy.

Another reader--a fellow lawyer, and clearly an astute one--observed that the analysis the partners give of the doctrine of consideration is incorrect. Quite Right. The reader in her generally favorable review kindly suggests that "since Wirenius is a lawyer, one can assume that the inaccurate description by Lady Eustace's lawyer of 'consideration' as an element of a contract is a deliberate tribute to Trollope's tendency to fudge a bit on legal details when convenient to the plot." Well, yes, and no. Yes, in that my intention was that both Rushforth and Bindtheboy are not very good academic lawyers (In English law, the ring is generally not deemed to be consideration for the promise at all, but at most a gift that is conditional upon the marriage taking place--just to give one forum's similar approach; a more general analysis, with some American cases finding the ring to be consideration, while noting that is a minority position, is here).

Notably, Bindtheboy, in particular, is so eager to ingratiate himself with Lizzie that he does not think through what he is saying either consequentially or jurisprudentially. Rushforth, more energized by cupidity than Cupid, is a pragmatist. He is less inaccurate than his partner, aware that an exchange of executory promises is increasingly (in the 1890s) acceptable as consideration each for the other, but has no idea why. He also realizes that the engagement ring Lizzie is sporting is far too out of fashion to have been given to her by Jack, and deduces that it originated from Lizzie's first husband, Sir Florian Eustace, and does not want to have the ring play any part in the action. So Rushforth is no fool; just not a legal scholar.

No comments: