A.P. Herbert's Misleading Cases

An attempt to catalogue the appearances of these famous spoofs of British legal procedure, as collected in books by A.P. Herbert himself (later Sir Alan Herbert). Most, though not all, were first published in Punch magazine. "The first Case – I think it was The Reasonable Man – Fardell v. Potts – appeared in Punch in 1924," Herbert wrote in A.P.H: His Life and Times (1970). Note that several cases from the first three collections were retitled as well as revised for the omnibus volume Uncommon Law. – David Langford

Title List

Numbers and Notes



New Cases



Never Reprinted

Misleading Cases

1927 21
21 4

More Misleading Cases

1930 23
23 2

Still More Misleading Cases

1933 22
22 3

Uncommon Law

1935 9 57 66 5

General Cargo

1939 4
4 3

Codd's Last Case

1952 23 *1 24

Look Back and Laugh

1960 1 3 4

Bardot M.P.?

1964 23 **1 24

Wigs at Work

1966 2 32 34 2

More Uncommon Law

48 48

Known uncollected cases






* from General Cargo
** from Look Back and Laugh

"Reprints" against book titles in the above table refers to Cases taken from previous A.P. Herbert collections, not to the original magazine/newspaper appearances. In the introduction to WW, Herbert reckoned that he had written some 150 Misleading Cases in all (and at least one more followed – see below). This implies that about twenty have never been collected in book form. It may be worth scouring old issues of Punch and the once regular anthology volume Pick of Punch for more. For example, Pick of Punch 1962 (London: Arthur Barker, 1962) ed. Bernard Hollowood includes Regina v. Strool – see Bardot M.P.? below. See also the final list on this page, Known Uncollected Cases.

Not every case appeared in Punch. A prefatory note in MC states: "These cases (with one exception) were recorded in the legal columns of Punch ..." – case and periodical both unspecified. The corresponding note in MMC records two exceptions, Lavender v. Ladle in the Week-end Review and In re John Walker, periodical unspecified; SMMC has one exception, "Not a Crime", periodical unspecified. The CLC note claims one exception, unspecified, and BMP says only that "Most of the cases were originallly reported in Punch." Herbert's new introduction to the 1969 edition of UL mentions a 1967 case which Punch refused "because they had recently made a resolution to have no more jokes about mini-skirts": instead it was printed in the Evening Standard, and reported as straight news in America, France and Italy.

In GC and WW the case details (Rex v. Haddock, etc) appear after the descriptive title rather than before, but it seems more sensible to follow a consistent style throughout. Original publication dates of cases appear in the collections CLC, LBL (once) and WW only – hence the many undated cases below. My thanks to Kim Huett for tracing the original Punch publication dates of four cases collected in MC, and reporting the magazine's numbering of these cases: XII Legacy To the Liberal Party in Volume CLXXII #4470, 9 March 1927; XVII Rex v. The Licensing Justices of Muddletown in Volume CLXXII #4484, 15 June 1927; XVIII Is Marriage Lawful? in Volume CLXXIII #4488, 13 July 1927; and XXI Is a Golfer a Gentleman? in Volume CLXXIII #4492, 10 August 1927.

Contents Lists

* WW cases marked with an asterisk include notes added since their appearance in a previous collection. These mostly record later relevant cases in real life, up to 1966. The extra material in Good Old Scire Facias! covers Herbert's actual plan to have the Arts Council wound up for apparently excluding Literature from its "fine arts" remit.