One of the many fascinating aspects of researching THE WIFE’S TALE was delving into English legal history. Nowhere–except perhaps in the courts themselves–does that history seem more alive than among the Inns of Court.
Technically, the term “Inns of Court” refers to the professional associations of barristers in England and Wales. To practise as a barrister, one must belong to Lincoln’s Inn, Middle Temple, Inner Temple or Gray’s Inn. There are various requirements an applicant must satisfy to get into such an association, including attending a certain number of dinners in the inn’s dining hall.
Each Inn has its own library, chapel or church and many barristers have chambers there. Scores of historic figures have inhabited these places and I’m told the dinner speakers at the Inns are magnificent to behold. Charles Dickens worked on the second floor of this building when he practised law.
These are such beautiful, tranquil precincts in the heart of London–it is like finding oneself in the middle of Oxford or Cambridge with the London bustle muted and the trickle of a fountain and the odd birdcall the only sounds to be heard.
Thomas Erskine, later Baron Erskine, was a member of Lincoln’s Inn and it is at Erskine’s chambers that Delany and her companions meet with the famous barrister, later Lord Chancellor, and his large dog, Phoss.
Soaking up the atmosphere of the inns I could believe myself back in the eighteenth century with Delany and imagine how she must have felt, hastening to Erskine’s chambers, desperate to defend herself against her husband’s allegations.