In the reign of Queen Elizabeth
, one Peter Palmer
, of Lincoln's Inn
, brought an action against a barrister of the name of Boyer, for having, with the intention to injure him in his name and practice, said, 'Peter Palmer
is a paltry lawyer, and hath as much law as a jackanapes
.' It was moved in arrest, that the words would not maintain an action, because they were not slanderous. Had Mr. Boyer said, 'Mr. Palmer had no more law than a jackanapes
,' it had been actionable, for then he had lessened the opinion of his learning; but the words were, 'he hath as much law as a jackanapes
,' which was no impeachment of his learning, for every man that hath more law than a jackanapes
, hath as much. Sed non, allocatur
, for the comparison is to be taken in the worse sense.
Judge Berkeley says it has been adjudged, where a person said of a lawyer, 'that he had as much law as a monkey,' that the words were not actionable, because he had as much law, and more also; but if he had said 'he hath no more law than a monkey,' these words would have been actionable.
From The Percy Anecdotes, published 1823