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If you have read The Eustace Diamonds, the second of Anthony Trollope's Palliser novels, then you'll have waded through Mr Dove's opinion on paraphernalia. You'll have learned that "paraphernalia," far from meaning "stuff," describes the property that a widow can hold on to as her own after her husband's death. The central plot point of the novel is whether, indeed, the eponymous diamonds are paraphernalia, and therefore no-better-than-she-should-be Lizzie Eustace's property to dispose of as she will, or whether they're heirlooms, personal property that must be returned to the family of her late husband, Sir Florian. Mr Dove is of the opinion that the diamonds are heirlooms, and it is well-known that Trollope secured a genuine opinion on the matter from a genuine barrister, his friend Charles Merewether. The first time I read The Eustace Diamonds, I was thrilled by the absolute pedantry of Mr Dove's opinion. Many of my classmates went to law school because they wanted to be Perry Mason. I wanted to be Thomas Dove.

Mr Thomas Dove, familiarly known among club-men, attorney's clerks, and, perhaps even among judges when very far from their seats of judgment, as Turtle Dove, was a counsel learned in the law. He was a counsel so learned in the law, that there was no question within the limits of an attorney's capability of putting to him, that he could not answer with the aid of his books. And when he had once give an opinion, all Westminster could not move him from it, - nor could Chancery Lane and Lincoln's Inn and the Temple added to Westminster. When Mr Dove had once been positive, no man on earth was more positive,. It behoved him, therefore, to be right when he was positive; and though, whether wrong or right, he was equally stubborn, it must be acknowledged that he was seldom proved to be wrong. Consequently the attorney's believed in him, and he prospered. He was a thin man, over fifty years of age, very full of scorn and wrath, impatient of a fool, and thinking most men to be fools; afraid of nothing on earth - and, so his enemies said, of nothing elsewhere; eaten up by conceit; fond of law, but fonder, perhaps, of dominion; soft as milk to those who acknowledged his power, but a tyrant to all who contested it; conscientious, thoughtful, sarcastic, bright-witted, and laborious. He was a man who never spared himself. If he had a case in hand, though the interest to himself in it was almost nothing, he would rob himself of rest for a week should a point arise which required such labour. It was the theory of Mr Dove's life that he would never be beaten. Perhaps it was some fear in this respect that had kept him from Parliament and confined him to the courts and the company of attorneys. He was, in truth, a married man with a family; but they who knew him as the terror of opponents and as the divulger of legal opinion, heard nothing of his wife and children. He kept all such matters quite to himself, and was not given to much social intercourse with those among whom his work lay. Out at Streatham, where he lived, Mrs Dove probably had her circle of acquaintance; - but Mr Dove's domestic life and his forensic life were kept quite separate.*

When I got out of law school, my record was so mediocre that, far from being put on the Dove-track at, say, Sullivan & Cromwell, the best job that I could find was that of a paralegal clerk in the Enforcement Division of the New York Stock Exchange. (I would get a decent job out of it eventually.) When I look at the picture below, taken while I served in that position, from the very partition of my non-cubicle, I suppose that I can see that those whose day jobs involved sizing up legal talent could tell that, while I might possess a few of Mr Dove's talents, I altogether lacked the crucial ones.  


* The Eustace Diamonds (Oxford, 1983), pp I : 225-226.


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God, I love books about people who argue over jewelry.

God, I love books about people who argue over jewelry.

Mmmmm.... rather dishy. Rah-THER!

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