Happy Birthday, Charles Dickens!

Charles Dickens, born on this day in 1812, peppered his novels and stories with the law, the legal system, and the lawyers, as in A Tale of Two Cities, The Old Curiosity Shop, The Pickwick Papers, and certainly, in Bleak House where

Jarndyce and Jarndyce drones on. This scarecrow of a suit has, over the course of time, become so complicated, that no man alive knows what it means. The parties to it understand it least; but it has been observed that no two Chancery lawyers can talk about it for five minutes without coming to a total disagreement as to all the premises. Innumerable children have been born into the cause; innumerable young people have married into it; innumerable old people have died out of it. Scores of persons have deliriously found themselves made parties in Jarndyce and Jarndyce without knowing how or why; whole families have inherited legendary hatreds with the suit. The little plaintiff or defendant, who was promised a new rocking-horse when Jarndyce and Jarndyce should be settled, has grown up, possessed himself of a real horse, and trotted away into the other world. Fair wards of court have faded into mothers and grandmothers; a long procession of Chancellors has come in and gone out.

Perhaps someday the probate issues will be resolved in Jarndyce v. Jarndyce.  But, let’s not hold our breath.   Although, upon further consideration, it does seem that some of the issues should have been resolved by now under the Rule Against Perpetuities……

Thus, in honor of Mr. Charles Dickens, the Hamilton County Law Library would like to take a moment to highlight a selection of some Dickens themed materials in our collection.

Charles Dickens, 2 Walter Bagehot & R. H. Hutton, The Works of Walter Bagehot (Forrest Morgan, ed.) (1891)

Charles Dickens, Cowley, Charles, 1 Famous Divorces of All Ages (1878)

Charles Dickens: In Chancery, London, Ephraim, Editor, 1 World of Law: A Treasury of Great Writing about and in the Law, Short Stories, Plays, Essays, Accounts, Letters, Opinions, Pleas, Transcripts of Testimony; from Biblical Times to the Present (1960)

Charles Dickens as Criminologist [article], Squires, Paul Chatham, Journal of the American Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology, Vol. 29, Issue 2 (July-August 1938)


The Failure of the Act: Conceptions of the Law in the Merchant of Venice, Bleak House, Les Miserables, and Richard Weisberg's Poethics [article], Lowenstein, Daniel, 15 Cardozo L. Rev. 1139 (1993 - 1994)


The Lawyers of Charles Dickens
[article], Packard, George, 45 Am. L. Rev. 534 (1911)

Our Debt to Charles Dickens [article], Unger, Milton M., 38 Fla. B.J. 1088 (1964)

Charles Dickens as a Legal Historian [article], Holdsworth, William S., 14 Mass. L.Q. 19 (1928-1929)


Charles Dickens Looks at the Law [article], Young, Frances Y.,Polamerican Law Journal, Vol. 3, Issue 1 (February 1940)

Encountering Charles Dickens: The Lawyer's Muse [article], Malloy, Michael P. , 7 Athens J.L. 507 (2021)

Dickens’ Lesser Lawyers, Larry M. Werthein, 46 S.D. L. Rev. 695

Law Imitates Art: Jarndyce v. Jarndyce and Litigation, 89-Aug N. Y. St. B. J. 45

Charles Dickens and the International Copyright Law, Thomas Hoeren, 63 J. Copyright Soc’y U.S.A. 341

Defiled and De-Sexed: Dickens’s Portrayal of a Woman Waging Law in Victorian England, 49 Am. K. Legal Hist. 438

Charles Dickens’ Bleak House: Mr. Tulkinghorn as a Successful Literary Lawyer, Maureen E. Markey,  14 St. Thomas L. Rev. 689

Law, Literature and Morality in the Novels of Charles Dickens, Larry M. Werthein, 20 Wm. Mitchell L. Rev. 111

The character of social connection in law and literature: lessons from Bleak House, Gary Watt, International Journal of Law in Context, 5, 3 pp. 263-280 (2009)

Please feel free to contact us at 513-946-5300, or reference@cms.hamilton-co.org, if you would like copies of these articles (or chapters), or to explore the collection further.