In Memoriam John Mortimer

In Memoriam John Mortimer


Gisteren is in Turville Heath de Engelse schrijver en advocaat Sir John Clifford Mortimer overleden.

John Mortimer werd geboren in Londen op 21 april 1923. Hij studeerde aan de Universiteit van Oxford. Tijdens de Tweede Wereldoorlog schreef hij scenario’s en draaiboeken voor propagandafilms. In 1948 begon hij te werken als advocaat en ongeveer tegelijkertijd begon hij zijn carrière als schrijver. Hij schreef talrijke romans, korte verhalen, theaterstukken en scenario’s. Mortimers bekendste schepping is de figuur van de excentrieke advocaat Horace Rumpole, die in 1975 voor het eerst verscheen in Rumpole of the Bailey. Rumpoles avonturen werden ongeveer gelijktijdig uitgebracht als kort verhaal en als televisieserie, met de Australische acteur Leo McKern in de titelrol. Na McKerns dood in 2002, kwam er een vervolg met Timothy West. Mortimer bewerkte ook de roman Brideshead Revisited van Evelyn Waugh voor de gelijknamige televisieserie.


Uit: Rumpole Misbehaves


‘The North Pole is melting, Rumpole. The seas are rising all over the world. The Thames will probably overflow the Embankment and there is a real possibility of the ground-floor rooms in our chambers being submerged. And you occupy a downstairs room, Rumpole.’ He added the final sentence with, I thought, a sort of morbid glee.

‘What am I expected to do about it?’ I felt I had to ask. ‘Stand in the Temple car park and order the tide to turn back? My name’s not Canute, you know.’

‘We know exactly what your name is, Rumpole.’ Sam Ballard was giving me one of his least pleasant looks. ‘And we have identified you as a source of pollution.’

‘Well,’ I said, adopting the reply sarcastic, ’that’s nice of you.’

‘You pollute the atmosphere, Rumpole, with those dreadful little brown things you smoke.’

‘Cigarillos,’ I told him. ‘Available from the tobacconist just outside the Temple gate. Can I offer you one?’

‘No, Rumpole, you certainly cannot. And I would ask you to consider your position with regard to the environment very carefully. That is all I have to say. For the moment.’

With that, our Head of Chambers gave a final sniff to the atmosphere surrounding me and then withdrew, closing the door carefully behind him. In a moment of exaggerated concern, I wondered if he was chalking a fatal cross on the other side of my door to warn visitors and prospective clients of the source of plague and pollution to be found within.

Dismissing such thoughts, I lit another small cigar and wondered if, as I struck the match, I could hear the distant sound of an iceberg melting, or at least the Thames lapping at the door. All was quiet, however. But then the telephone rang with news that put the environment firmly back into second place among my immediate concerns.

‘There you are, Bonny Bernard, and it’s good to hear from you,’ I said, giving my favourite and most faithful solicitor a polite welcome. ‘What are you bringing me? A sensational murder?’



John Mortimer (21 april 1923 – 16 januari 2009)