The Juror’s Excuse

Things happen in life – little things, but inconvenient things. In mid October 1833 William Harrison had such a happening – and inconvenient it was – BUT his way with words; light but to the point; well thought out AND persuasive would come to his rescue. This is made very clear here when an accident befell William Harrison, the Fen Poet, which prevented his attendance when summoned upon a jury. The following apology was read by the Clerk of the Court – and was accepted by the Court. The Cambridge Quarterly Review of January 1834 shared that letter with the local world.

Dear Sir:

I beg you wilt inform the Court
Assembled in the present Session,
A serious accidental hurt
Obliges me to this transgression.
Having sufficient cause to shew
From the disastrous intervention,
Of circumstances nam’d below,
Completely thwarting my intention.
Yesterday, stepping down a bank,
Which recent rains had rendered greasy,
My left foot slipt, when down I sank,
And in a posture most uneasy,
My right leg underneath me doubled,
Receiv’d a sprain in knee and ankle,
Which still continues sorely troubled,
With aches that gnaw and pains that rankle.
So now with limb encas’d in flannel,
With all an invalid’s effrontery,
I claim exemption from the panel,
And service of my King and country;
But feel consol’d, from the persuasion
In which my confidence and trust is,
That this event will not occasion
Much detriment to Madame Justice;
For I most humbly can assure her,
While thus obliged to keep my distance,
The presence of so raw a juror
Could not afford her much assistance;
And hope a pair of damag’d joints,
With men of sense and penetration,
Will be esteemed sufficient points,
To answer in my vindication,
That without reprimand or fine
I shall completely stand aquitted
Of even sinister design —
To have a “lame excuse” admitted.


Prickwillow, Oct. 15, 1833


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