On October 3, I got an email from Ellen Gamerman, an arts writer for the Wall Street Journal. Elon Musk was in the process of being sued by Twitter for backing out of his offer to purchase the social media giant. No news there, right? So I get this email:
I’m an arts writer with the WSJ, and I’m working on a story about Bleak House and the chancery court, pegged to the start of Elon Musk’s trial in a (very different) chancery court. I hoped to talk with you because I saw on the Dickens Society site that you were interested in illustrating that novel. It would be great to hear your thoughts about the visuals in Dickens’s chancery court. If you’re free, I’m on a tight deadline and hoped to reach you today if possible, or tomorrow. Thank you!
Now if you’ve been following this blog, or have read BLEAK HOUSE, you know that the villain of the piece is the English legal system, personified by the Court of Chancery, which is essentially a civil court where non-criminal matters are litigated. Wills, contracts, legal agreements of any kind are the cases heard in Chancery.
What I did not know, and it still surprises me, is that in the U.S. there are three states, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Delaware, that still have Chancery courts, dating from the 1700s, and which still serve the same function. Since so may corporations are registered in Delaware, their courts specialize in corporate lawsuits, and Elon’s case was being heard in Delaware’s Chancery Court.
The reporter, doing research on Chancery Court, came across my blog post on The Dickens Society website, and decided I would be a good source of information. I guess it depends on the information you’re looking for.
I called her back on the spot of course, as she mentioned a tight deadline. My dad was a newspaper reporter, so I understood the urgency.
We had a nice conversation. She was curious if I was following the Musk/Twitter dustup and what I thought of it. I wasn’t much help! I knew what most of you know, and on top of that I’m not on Twitter, so to me the story was mostly a curiosity.
She also asked if I had any illustrations of the Chancery Court, i.e., banks of sleepy judges in robes and powdered wigs; I do not! I have one illustration shown here, a stack of documents and scrolls extending to the heavens, with headstones scattered around its base, which represents the abstraction of Chancery better than a literal picture of the characters involved.
I don’t think she got from me what she wanted or expected, but it turns out it was all for naught. The very next morning, the news cycle whipped around like a whippet hound.
In the morning, the lead story was Elon Musk advising Ukraine to negotiate with Russia. Fifteen minutes later the headline was, Bloomberg offer to buy Twitter. By noon, the lead story was, Musk and Twitter are friends again.
So the article in the Wall Street Journal never materialized, but I had a good week of giggles and a great story out of it.
I’m still surprised by the reach of this blog. I post as often as I can, and I do get a bump in views when I post and then announce it on various other platforms, but I get a fairly steady stream of visitors from all around the world, arriving here via Google searches on who-knows-what terms. It’s a big world!
Thanks for stopping by. You can contact me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.