Lawyers, the old man’s disease

Matthew Shardlake, was “the sharpest hunchback in the courts of England” in the 16th Century. That’s how he is accounted by C.J. Sansom.

In Sansom’s Dark Fire, Shardlake speaks of his “ambition to retire from practice, to escape the noisome crowds of London.” And, he says, “in two years’ time, I would be forty, in which year the old man’s disease begins; if business was good enough I might do it then.”

On the other hand, Shardlake’s friend, Guy Malton, the dark-skinned Moorish-Spanish-one-time-Catholic-monk and physician, who escaped to England to become an apothecary in Henry IV’s post-Dissolution England (always one step ahead of the latest sectarian persecution), asked

Yet I wonder if that is the life for you, my friend. Would you not become bored without cases to sharpen your wits on, problems to solve?

Shardlake:

London now, fuller of fanatics and cozeners every year. And my profession has enough of both.

I dream of a quiet life in the country …. Maybe then I will feel like taking up painting again.

Looks like the only thing that has changed from then to now is when “the old man’s disease” begins.

But wait. When Sansom in the 21st Century creates Shardlake of the 16th, who is really speaking of when?

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