The Perils of Irony

From a Bookman's Budget by the estimable Austion Dobson (OUP 1917). The case was reported in the Westminster Gazette of 1916 but has a slightly  Dickensian ring.

THE PERILS OF IRONY 

Irony, which Byron described as a ' master-spell ', 
and Mrs. Slipslop called 'ironing'* is at times an 
awkward edged-tool.There is no better illustration 
of this than an anecdote of the late Lord Justice
Bowen. Once, when acting as a Puisne Judge, there 
came before him the case of a burglar who, having
entered a house by the top-story, was afterwards 
captured below stairs in the act of sampling the silver.
The defence was more ingenuous than ingenious. The 
accused was alleged to be a person of eccentric habits,
much addicted to perambulating the roofs of adjacent 
houses, and occasionally dropping in 'permiscuous' 
through an open skylight. This naturally stirred the
judge to caustic comment. Summing up, he is reported 
to have said : "If, gentlemen, you think it likely that
the prisoner was merely indulging an amiable fancy for
midnight exercise on his neighbour's roof; if you think
it was kindly consideration for that neighbour which led
him to take off his boots and leave them behind him before
descending into the house ; and if you believe that it was
the innocent curiosity of the connoisseur which brought him
to the silver pantry and caused him to borrow the teapot,
then, gentlemen, you will acquit the prisoner!" To Lord 
Bowen's dismay, the jury did instantly acquit the prisoner. 

*Byron must have remembered this when he said that the 
irrepressible Mme de Stael was ' well ironed ' by Sheridan at 
one of Rogers's breakfasts. 

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