Enforcement and Mr Pickwick

In the past when someone owed you money one of the common and popular enforcement options was to cast him (or her) into a debtor’s prison where they would rot until they paid up with interest and costs.

This is what happened to Mr Pickwick in The Pickwick Papers.  He was accused of breach of promise in that he offered to marry his housekeeper, she had accepted and then he reneged.  It was a misunderstanding.  But he was sued and the housekeeper won.   He was ordered to pay damages and the housekeeper’s legal costs.  He refused to pay.  The housekeeper’s lawyers applied to the court to enforce the judgment and Mr Pickwick was committed to the Fleet debtors’ prison where he was to remain until he paid the damages and costs.  But he continued to refuse to do so and gave every appearance of being prepared to stay there until he died.

The housekeeper’s solicitors had planned to receive their costs from Mr Pickwick and when this looked unlikely they claimed against the penniless housekeeper, obtained judgment and enforced it by committing her to the Fleet, as well.

When Mr Pickwick found out the housekeeper was in the Fleet, being a kind man he relented and agreed to pay her costs and in return the housekeeper abandoned her claim against him for damages.  They were both released, the lawyers were paid their fee, a happy ending of sorts.

Legal cases do not always work out this well.


Extract from "The Art of War, Peace & Palaver: The Contentious Guide to Legal Disputes" 

© Paul Brennan 2018 All rights Reserved.

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Paul Brennan  can be contacted on 617 5438 8199



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