William Henry Maule

English lawyer, judge and politician

Sir William Henry Maule PC KC (25 April 1799 – 1858) was an English lawyer, member of parliament and judge.


  • Nominal damages are in effect, only a peg to hang costs on.
    • Beaumont v. Greathead (1846), 3 D. & L. 636.
  • There is no presumption in this country that every person knows the law: it would be contrary to common sense and reason if it were so.
    • Martindale v. Falkner (1846), 2 C. B. 720, and characterised by Blackburn, J., in The Queen v. Mayor of Tewkesbury, L. R. 3 Q. B. 629.
  • Common sense still lingers in Westminster Hall.
    • Crosse v. Seaman (1851), 11 C. B. 525.
  • In the eye of the law no doubt, man and wife are for many purposes one: but that is a strong figurative expression, and cannot be so dealt with as that all the consequences must follow which would result from its being literally true.
    • Wenman v. Ash (1853), C. B. 844.
  • "As the crow flies"—a popular and picturesque expression to denote a straight line.
    • Stokes v. Grissell (1854), 23 L. J. Rep. Part 7 (N. S.), Com. PL 144.
  • After a hard frost a man might wake in the morning and find he was breaking a covenant.
    • Stokes v. Grissell (1854), 2 W. R. 466.
  • If a man go into the London Docks sober without means of getting drunk, and comes out of one of the cellars very drunk wherein are a million gallons of wine, I think that would be reasonable evidence that he had stolen some of the wine in that cellar, though you could not prove that any wine was stolen, or any wine was missed.
    • Reg. v. Burton (1854), Dearsly's C. C. 284.
  • An enactment for the favour and liberty of the subject ought to have a liberal construction.
    • Johnson v. Harris (1854), 3 W.R. 104.
  • Fictions of law must be consistent with justice.
    • Whitaker v. Wisbey (1852), 6 Cox, C. C. 111.


  • You silly old fool, you don't even know the alphabet of your own silly old business.
    • Reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 86. The quotation has been attributed to many others, such as Lord Chief Justice Campbell, Lord Chesterfield, Sir William Harcourt, Lord Pembroke, Lord Westbury, and to an anonymous judge, and said to have been spoken in court to Garter King at Arms, Rouge Dragon Pursuivant, or some other high-ranking herald, who had confused a "bend" with a "bar" or had demanded fees to which he was not entitled. George Bernard Shaw quotes it in Pygmalion (1912) in the form, "The silly people dont [sic] know their own silly business."
      • Maule cannot be the original source of the quotation, as it is quoted nearly twenty years before his birth in Charles Jenner's The Placid Man: Or, The Memoirs of Sir Charles Beville (1770): "Sir Harry Clayton ... was perhaps far better qualified to have written a Peerage of England than Garter King at Arms, or Rouge Dragon, or any of those parti-coloured officers of the court of honour, who, as a great man complained on a late solemnity, are but too often so silly as not to know their own silly business." "Old Lord Pembroke" (Henry Herbert, 9th Earl of Pembroke) is said by Horace Walpole (in a letter of May 28, 1774 to the Rev. William Cole) to have directed the quip, "Thou silly fellow! Thou dost not know thy own silly business," at John Anstis, Garter King at Arms (though in his 1833 edition of Walpole's letters to Sir Horace Mann, George Agar-Ellis, 1st Baron Dover, attributes the saying to Lord Chesterfield in a footnote, in the form "You foolish man, you do not understand your own foolish business"). Edmund Burke also quotes it ("'Silly man, that dost not know thy own silly trade!' was once well said: but the trade here is not silly.") in a "Speech in the Impeachment of Warren Hastings, Esq." on May 7, 1789 (when Maule was just over a year old). Chesterfield or Pembroke fit best in point of time.
  • My lords, we are vertebrate animals, we are mammalia! My learned friend's manner would be intolerable in Almighty God to a black beetle.
    • "On the Authority of Lord Coleridge" [John Duke Coleridge, first Baron Coleridge (1820–1894)]; reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 493. The same quotation is given on the same authority in the ninth edition of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations (1905), essentially a reprint of the 1891 edition.
      • P. G. Wodehouse made use of the same quotation in a short story, "The Man Upstairs," which was published nearly simultaneously in March 1910 in the Cosmopolitan magazine for the American market and in the Strand magazine for the English market. Interestingly, while the American short story uses the "Almighty God" version of the quotation, it appears in a slightly variant form in the English publication: " ' "My learned friend’s manner would be intolerable in an emperor to a black-beetle," ' quoted Beverley." It is probable that Wodehouse (or more likely his editors) altered the quotation to avoid the very strict blasphemy laws that formerly obtained in the United Kingdom, changing the quotation to refer merely to a highly ranked human.
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