Fictional Attorney of the Month: Serjeant Buzfuz

Charles Dickens's Sydney Carton may be his most well-known attorney, but Serjeant Buzfuz is perhaps the most amusing. Mr. Buzfuz represents the widow Mrs. Bardell in a suit against Mr. Pickwick, the lead character in The Pickwick Papers, for a breach of a promise to marry.

In court, Mr. Buzfuz's rhetorical opening has its desired effect: "A visible effect was produced immediately; several jurymen beginning to take voluminous notes with the utmost eagerness." Some of my favorite, and deeply Dickensian, passages from the oratory to the jury:

Before the bill had been in the parlour-window three days—three days, gentlemen—a being, erect upon two legs, and bearing all the outward semblance of a man, and not of a monster, knocked at the door of Mrs. Bardell’s house.
These letters, too, bespeak the character of the man. They are not open, fervent, eloquent epistles, breathing nothing but the language of affectionate attachment. They are covert, sly, underhanded communications, but, fortunately, far more conclusive than if couched in the most glowing language and the most poetic imagery—letters that must be viewed with a cautious and suspicious eye—letters that were evidently intended at the time, by Pickwick, to mislead and delude any third parties into whose hands they might fall. Let me read the first: ‘Garraway’s, twelve o’clock. Dear Mrs. B.—Chops and tomato sauce. Yours, Pickwick.’ Gentlemen, what does this mean? ‘Chops and tomato sauce. Yours, Pickwick!’ Chops! Gracious heavens! and tomato sauce! Gentlemen, is the happiness of a sensitive and confiding female to be trifled away by such shallow artifices as these?

It is for the absurdity of circumstantial evidence and the power of his rhetoric that Serjeant Buzfuz is the Fictional Attorney of the Month.