A.P. Herbert

A.P. Herbert

Famous as Playwright, Member of Parliament, Law Reform Activist, Humorist, Writer
Born on 24 September 1890
Born in Ashtead, Surrey, England
Died on 11 November 1971
Nationality United Kingdom



A. P. Herbert


A. P. Herbert
A. P. Herbert was a great playwright, a law reform activist and a well known Member of Parliament for 15 years. Being born in a family serving the English government civil services, Herbert found the political roles quite easy. Herbert is known for his tremendous efforts in bringing about changes in various kinds of laws which included those on divorce and obscenity. He strived hard throughout his life to form lobbies and use his satirical skills in challenging the existing outdated laws of the land. Herbert's efforts were instrumental in bringing out the dark laws and actions of the higher ups in the society out into the open. Herbert gave speeches and moved constructively to successfully bring out the 'Matrimonial Causes Act 1937' that started allowing divorce. Herbert played an integral role in starting off gambling laws and repeal of the entertainments tax. Herbert is also famous for his very popular humour filled writing that came out in Punch Magazine starting in 1910 where his series of "Misleading Cases in the Common Law" was first published.

A.P. Herbert Childhood & Early Years 
A. P. Herbert was born on 24 September 1890 in Ashtead, Surrey, England to civil servant father Patrick Herbert and mother Beatrice Herbert. Young Herbert lost his mother at a tender age of 7. His mother died leaving two of his younger brothers, who died later in battles of 1914 and 1941.
 
Education and Early Career
Herbert attended Winchester College and New College in Oxford where he earned a first class honours degree in jurisprudence. In 1919 Herbert was invited by The Honourable Society of the Inner Temple, commonly known as Inner Temple (associations comprising of barristers and judges) to join the bar council but he never practiced. Herbert was a member of the parliament and he was busy serving his nation during the Second World War through his parliamentary duties as well as in the Royal Navy that served on patrol-boats in the Thames River. Herbert was probably the very first serving Member of Parliament to have simultaneously taken the responsibility in the Royal Navy without being an officer.
In 1935 Herbert became an independent Member of Parliament for Oxford University with help and guidance from Frank Pakenham. Herbert was sent to Newfoundland and Labrador in 1943 along with Derrick Gunston and Charles Ammon as part of a team sent as a Parliamentary Commission for investigating the future prospect of the dominion where he had supported the cause of independence over confederation. In 1945 Herbert received his Knighthood in Winston Churchill's Resignation Honours.
 
Role as a Law Reformer
Herbert lobbied and made all efforts to bring success in reforming of certain laws that he felt were outdated and went against the developing society throughout his life. The causes that he vehemently fought against were divorce and obscenity for which he often used his satirical skills to explain and speak against. Herbert was critical of the very complex British licensing laws of his times and in 1935 he protested more firmly and became the first person ever to submit criminal information against the House of Commons for selling unlicensed alcohol. To this the High Court Ruling stated that the act was exempt due to Parliamentary privilege.
 
It was on his second day of office at the House, when Herbert gave his first speech which was fiery and bold as he stated his plans to introduce the Matrimonial Causes Bill, to reform divorce and also placed his view that he wanted the bill to be passed before the Parliament was over. In 1934 he published his humorous book (which was based on his matrimonial and divorce bill passing cause) novel ‘Holy Deadlock’ where he presented his views humorously. In 1938 the bill got passed as the Matrimonial Causes Act 1937. The law allowed the act of divorce and curtailed the requirement of the proof of adultery which was necessary to get a divorce during that time. Herbert advocated the reforms of many other laws like gambling laws and the repeal of the entertainments tax.
 
Works
Punch Magazine started in 1910 and Herbert’s humorous writings regularly appeared in it. Herbert’s best ever written work, ‘Uncommon Law Misleading Cases’ was a book published in 1935 which first appeared on Punch. His book consisted of satirical representations of “law reports” and “judgements” representing various areas and aspects of British legal and judicial system. Underneath his satirical pieces lay the crux of sharp political points. Herbert lashed out with his personal crusades against obsolete legislatures. He often referred to a certain Albert Haddock, a tireless and veteran litigant who was often represented as “A. P. Haddock” (referring to himself) in Punch magazine. Herbert’s plays and novels were purely fictional but had a certain level of professional and real platforms. In spite of its fictional value his works are referred as foundations for judicial decisions and are also regarded as a subject of academic research. ‘Board of Inland Revenue v Haddock’, also known as ‘The Negotiable Cow’ is one of Herbert’s most popular and colourful fictitious legal cases that came out in as part of his series of ‘Misleading Cases in the Common Law’ in 1930.
 
Herbert’s writing had a great point of realism which was often mistakenly misinterpreted as factual reports by several British and foreign newspapers. Herbert published a total of five collections of the ‘Misleading Cases’ which were ‘Misleading Cases in the Common Law’, ‘More Misleading Cases’, ‘Still More Misleading Cases’, ‘Codd's Last Case’ and ‘Bardot M.P.?’ throughout his life. Herbert also presented stray legal cases as humorous essays in his miscellaneous collections like ‘General Cargo’. All of the cases were compiled and produced into two omnibus volumes, Uncommon Law in 1935 and More Uncommon Law in 1982.  In 1966 a short selection of cases came out as ‘Wigs At Work’. Such was the popularity and acceptance of these cases that  BBC brought out a television adaptation as three series of A P Herbert's Misleading Cases (1967, 1968 and 1971), with Roy Dotrice as Haddock and Alastair Sim as the judge, Mr. Justice Swallow.
 
Herbert wrote eight novels that include The Water Gypsies written in 1930 and 15 plays that include the light opera ‘Tantivy Towers’ and the comedy ‘Bless the Bride’ which was written in 1947 and ran successfully for two and a quarter years in London.
 
Herbert started and continued with his English campaign in Punch magazine that was to circulate better use of English. Herbert also wrote the lyrics of the patriotic song “Song of Liberty” set in 1940 to the music of Edward Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March No. 4. Herbert wrote and published “Sundials Old and New; or, Fun with the Sun” in 1967 which was a book on details about his personal fascination and experiments in sundial technology. In the book Herbert discusses about several experiments that he had carried out, on designing and building a number of different models that could determine a person’s position on the earth as well as the local time. In 1970 Herbert published ‘A.P.H., His Life and Times’ which he dedicated to his dear wife and had mentioned as a gift for their 56th anniversary.

Death
 
A. P. Herbert died on 11 November 1971.

A.P. Herbert Timeline:
1890 – He was born on 24 September
1910 - Punch Magazine started and Herbert’s humorous writings regularly appeared in it
1914 - One of his two younger brothers died in the battle of 1914
1919 - Herbert was invited by The Honourable Society of the Inner Temple, commonly known as Inner Temple (associations comprising of barristers and judges) to join the bar council but he never practiced
1930 - ‘Board of Inland Revenue v Haddock’ also known as ‘The Negotiable Cow’ is one of Herbert’s most popular and colourful fictitious legal cases that came out in as part of his series of ‘Misleading Cases in the Common Law’
1930 – He wrote his novel ‘The Water Gypsies’
1934 - He published his humorous book (which was based on his matrimonial and divorce bill passing cause) novel ‘Holy Deadlock’ where he presented his views humorously.
1935 - Herbert found himself an Independent Member of Parliament for Oxford University with help and guidance from Frank Pakenham
1935 - He became the first person ever to submit criminal information against the House of Commons for selling unlicensed alcohol
1935 - ‘Uncommon Law Misleading Cases’ was a book published which first appeared on Punch. His book consisted of satirical representations of “law reports” and “judgments” representing various areas and aspects of British legal and judicial system
1938 - The bill got passed as the Matrimonial Causes Act 1937
1940 – He wrote the lyrics of the patriotic song “Song of Liberty” set in 1940 to the music of Edward Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March No. 4
1940 to 1945 - He was a non-commissioned petty officer who had served in the navy
1941 – Herbert’s second younger brother died in the battle
1943 - Herbert was sent to Newfoundland and Labrador along with Derrick Gunston and Charles Ammon as part of a team sent as a Parliamentary Commission for investigating the future prospect of the dominion where he had supported the cause of independence over confederation
1945 - Herbert received his Knighthood in Winston Churchill's Resignation Honours
1947 – He wrote comedy play ‘Bless the Bride’ which ran successfully for two and a quarter years in London
1966 - A short selection of cases came out as ‘Wigs At Work’
1967 – He published “Sundials Old and New; or, Fun with the Sun” which was a book on details about his personal fascination and experiments in sundial technology
1970 - Herbert published ‘A.P.H., His Life and Times’ which he had dedicated to his dear wife and had mentioned as a gift for their 56th anniversary
1971 - A. P. Herbert died on 11 November

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