27 JUNE 1896, Page 12

The Law's Lumber - Boom. By Francis Watt. (John Lane.)— Mr. Watt

has made a very curious collection of practices and principles which had their origin in needs or belief of the day, served, more or less, a useful purpose, became in process of time obsolete, and were finally abandoned, seldom without a struggle on the part of that most conservative of professions, the Law First comes " Benefit of Clergy "—in the course of which we get the curious story of Ben Jonson. This survived down to 1841, when the privilege of a Peer to plead this exemption, that whether he could read or no, was abolished. Then comes the Peine forts et dure, the strange invention by which a man who, being unwilling to subject his property to the chance of confiscation, refused to plead. Under this heading comes the strange story of Margaret Clitherow, who seems to have been about as obstinately bent on martyrdom as woman ever was. This curiosity lasted down well into the eighteenth century. Then there is a distinctly amusing account of the "Custom of the Manor." "The Law of Deodands," by which the thing that caused death was forfeit, survived till within the memory of people who have hardly reached old age. It was finally swept away in 1846. These too will remember those creatures of the legal imagination, "John Doe and Richard Roe," whose raison d'être Mr. Watt learnedly explains. A chapter on " Sanctuary " follows, and finally we have " Wager of Battle," a process which, by some oversight, lasted till 1819, after bringing about the escape of a man who was more than suspected of murder. This little volume is full of learning skilfully applied.