Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Rumpole Rests His Case by John Mortimer

22. Rumpole Rests His Case
by John Mortimer
fiction, 2001
paperback, 211 pages
finished, 4/12/09

I've been mulling over this book report on Rumpole Rests His Case by the late, and sorely missed, John Mortimer since I finished it on April 12. And here I find myself writing on what would have been Mr. Mortimer's 86th birthday. This is the second time I've written about a beloved author without being aware that it was a special date. The first time was last July.

I've been thinking about just why I enjoy these books about Horace Rumpole, the London barrister so very much:

First and foremost is his belief in the 'Golden Thread' - the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, which guides his life's work.

His wife, Hilda - 'she who must be obeyed.'

Pommeroy's Wine Bar where Horace drinks his 'plonk,' his 'Chateau Fleet Street,' his 'Pommeroy's Very Ordinary.'

His cheroots, which he grudgingly smokes outdoors in later books.

His love of William Wordsworth and Arthur Quiller-Couch. Because of Mr. Rumpole, I bought myself The Oxford Book of English Verse 1250-1900, edited by Mr. Q-C in 1912. It is a used library copy which cost me maybe a dollar. It should have cost a thousand.

The Timson family, those 'minor villains' who have kept Rumpole in business all these years.

All Rumpole's colleagues at 3 Equity Court, especially Phillida Erskine-Brown, née Trant, 'the Portia of our Chambers.'

These are familiar details in almost every book, yet each story is as fresh as a new day. In Rumpole Rests His Case, we are offered several situations for our reading pleasure. He deals with prejudice in Rumpole and the Asylum Seekers; he has a client who confesses to a crime he didn't commit in Rumpole and the Actor Laddie; and most alarming is the last chapter called Rumpole Rests His Case in which Horace has a heart attack in court. Often a current case mirrors or connects somehow with what is going on at home in Froxbury Mansions. Because Hilda 'stores old newspapers, sometimes for months on end, in case she should suddenly need to remember a recipe, or a new way with a cashmere scarf, or some juicy slice of gossip,' Rumpole is able to find a photograph which helps him in his work. Hilda's friendship with her old school chum, Dodo Mackintosh, a recurring character, aids him in another case.

Though there is humor, these aren't funny books. Serious matters are introduced and crimes are committed. Life with Hilda is not so cheery. Yet within their pages, this reader feels comfortably at home. I have begun to think that I love Mortimer's Rumpole even more deeply than Wodehouse's Jeeves, Bertie Wooster, or Emsworth.

Over the course of this blog, I've posted a couple of Horace Rumpole quotes here and here.


  1. What! Love Rumpole more than Jeeves! Bite your fingers!

  2. That was very high praise indeed from me, the Wodehouse fan! It shows the degree of love I have for Horace. :<)

  3. I will have to think about that. Maybe re-read some Rumpole before I demote Mr Wodehouse.
    Dear John Mortimer, I wonder if you got the documentaries about him in the U.S, there was one about The Voyage Round My Father, and another one in celebration of him, I think on his 80th birthday. Maybe on You Tube.
    Lovely book report as ever Nan, thank you so much.

  4. Good to hear the connection with 'Q' as I've gotten his biography and his lectures on Shakespeare! He says his name is " not a sofa." So pronounce it that way ~~ COOCH ~~ !


  5. Oh, Carole, I wasn't meaning to 'demote' PGW, only to promote Mr. Rumpole. :<) I did see Voyage when it was first on, but I'm waiting for it on dvd from Netflix. I never saw the birthday. And I thank you, Carole. It was a struggle to write because I love the author and the series so very much.

    Bonnie, I don't remember where I first heard the correct pronunciation. I'm so very fond of the fellow. :<)

  6. I've always loved Rumpole, too -- and all of the wonderful details you mention. I would add one other: the chambers meetings chaired by the officious Sam "Soapy" Ballard. Not that he reminds me of anyone at MY office. Nope. Absolutely not. ; )

  7. Good Morning Nan,

    I’ve seen the books about Rumpole for some years and been tempted to buy one – but not been sure I’d like it, so I haven’t dared to spend money it. Now when I know that you like it I might buy at least one of the books when I get rich. No, that means that I never can buy it – I’ll send for it anyway…
    My copy of The Oxford Book of English Verse 1250-1900 looks like yours – but mine is mended with green tape.

  8. Em, I found a site that lists the Rumpole books in order of publication:


    Things do change as time goes on. People age, get married, etc. I have the First Rumpole Omnibus, which you'll see on the above site has the first books included. (I also have the Second and Third). I'll be interested to know what you think. Have you seen the televised versions with the late, wonderful Leo McKern? He really was such a perfect choice for the role.

  9. I can't rank Rumpole and Jeeves. They are both perfect of their kind. Jeeves is pure froth, although he does show an understanding of human nature, as does Rumpole, but Rumpole's stories do bring up serious issues in the most delightful way. Oddly enough my pre-teen grandsons have shown delight in the Jeeves TV series with Laurie and Fry.

  10. Common weeder, I didn't really mean to rank them. I guess what I was expressing was that since I love Wodehouse and his characters, it is very high praise for me to say that I may love Rumpole even more. I'm thrilled to hear that young people are still discovering the genius and fun of Jeeves and Bertie. It was the series that introduced me to Wodehouse.

  11. Mortimor is definitely on my TBR list for this year and because of your praise I want to get to him soon. I recently finished The Cruellest Month and I wanted to thank you for leading me to this wonderful series. I can't wait to read the rest of them.

  12. BookPsmith, I'm pretty sure you will enjoy Mr R! If you go to the note I wrote to Em, you'll see a link that tells the order. I feel the same way about the Hazel Holt series. I love Mrs. Malory!

  13. Thank you for the list Nan,
    Unfortunately only a few of them are available in Sweden – but I’ll keep looking for them.
    No, I haven’t seen anything with Leo McKern – I haven’t even heard of him. Probably because I’m not very fond of watching movies – I prefer to make my own pictures when I read.

  14. Em, here are some fun links to visit:




    I had never heard of John Mortimer or Rumpole before the series first came on tv many years ago.

    I checked Book Depository, with the free shipping worldwide, and they have the first omnibus:


  15. Thank you for the links – I’ve been outside all day but will take a quick look at them now before I go to bed.


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