Mutual Friend

Richard Altick

  • Lewis and Lewis by John Juxon
    Collins, 320 pp, £10.95, May 1983, ISBN 0 00 216476 0

The celebrated Victorian solicitor George Lewis began his career of more than half a century in the law shop of his father, whose waiting-room was constantly crowded with supplicants for his services. As John Juxon suggests, the elder Lewis could have served as a model for the abrasive Mr Jaggers in Great Expectations, who suspended his moral judgment when dealing with his greasy, grimy riffraff of clients – cracksmen, fences, thieves – and then, in revulsion, went to a washbasin and scrubbed his hands with water and scented soap and even, in extreme cases, gargled. But in the course of time his son was transformed into the type of lawyer who occupies the other end of the Dickensian gamut: a gentleman ‘surrounded by a mysterious halo of family confidences, of which he is known to be the silent depository. There are noble Mausoleums ... which perhaps hold fewer noble secrets than walk abroad among men shut up in the breast’ of such a person. This is Dickens, introducing the solicitor Tulkinghorn in Bleak House. But it might equally well be John Juxon, describing George Lewis.

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