The Great Defender, a population explosion, and a newspaper article that turned into a famous poem:newsletter, May 5, 2023

May 5, 2023 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: baseball, beekeeping, fiction, history, journalism, newsletter, writers, writing.

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,845) on Friday, May 5, 2023.

During my nearly four decades as a college professor, I cannot remember a course that I taught where I did not take attendance—and emphasize to the students how important it is that they “show up.” Students would express a variety of opinions (rarely positive) about my insistence, but I always believed that attendance was a basic trait of an adult and a professional person.

In the years since I stopped teaching, I have not given that much thought. Reading the following from Shane Parish’s newsletter (FS | Brainfood) not long ago brought that all back to me:

One way to become luckier is to show up consistently.

When people trust that you’ll do what you say when you say it, not only will they want to work with you, but they’ll want you to be successful. You can’t build anything meaningful when you show up inconsistently.

In the short term, you are as good as your intensity. In the long term, you are only as good as your consistency.

I could not have said it better.

Meanwhile, have a great and literate weekend.


Under the newsletter’s hood: Last week’s newsletter was sent to 2,940 subscribers and had a 35.6 percent open rate; 10 persons unsubscribed.

Important: Remember to open the images or click on one of the links so that my email service will record your engagement, and you will stay active on the list. Thanks.


Edward Marshall Hall, the Great Defender

If you lived in England, in the first two decades of the 20th century, and if you were accused of murder, and especially if you were a woman, the lawyer that you wanted to speak for you in court would undoubtedly have been Edward Marshall Hall. 

Because murder trials were heavily reported by the many newspapers of the day, and because Edward Marshall Hall had gained a reputation for making sometimes unusual and extra-legal arguments that resulted in acquittals, the six-foot-three-inch, exceedingly handsome barrister had become one of the most famous characters on the British public scene at the time.

Hall gained his reputation as a spellbinding orator, not as a great legal mind. In fact, his knowledge of the law was often criticized. But that knowledge, or lack thereof, meant little to a jury once he stood to cross-examine prosecution witnesses, or to make final arguments for his clients.

Hall was born in 1858 in Brighton, the son of a physician. He was a bright lad, and his family sent him to Rugby for his early education. His rambunctiousness caused him to be sent home, and his father decided that the place for him would be St. John’s College in Cambridge. He left Cambridge a year before obtaining his degree and, at the expense of his parents, traveled widely. He eventually returned to Cambridge, finished his degree, and was called to the bar from the Inner Temple in 1883.

His tall and handsome physique, his winning smile, and his genial personality distinguished him among his colleagues. He quickly began to make a name for himself, taking on, and often winning, some high profile cases.

His personal life, however, was not so successful. In 1882, he married a young woman named Ethel Moon. It was clear almost from the beginning that she did not love him and that she was unhappy in his presence. Eventually, they separated, and she took up with an army officer. She became pregnant, and because of a botched abortion, she died. Hall was grief-stricken at her death and always tended to blame himself.

In later years, it was noted that Hall was particularly energetic in defending women who were accused of murder, and that extra energy was attributed to his deep feelings about the tragedy of his wife.

Hall’s meteoric rise in the world of English law was interrupted in the late 1880s when he took on a client who was suing the Daily Mail newspaper for libel. His arguments in favor of his client resulted in what was then a much larger-than-average judgment against the newspaper, a judgment that was later set aside by an appeals court. But Hall got himself into trouble when he made a representation to the court about the newspaper’s attorneys, a representation that turned out not to be true. The result was a stern reprimand from the court, which then damaged his reputation and his ability to attract clients and cases. It took a number of years before the legal community was able to have full confidence and respect for him.

The breakthrough case for his reputation came in 1907 and is known as the Camden Town murder. The case occurred in 1907 when a young man named Bertram Shaw found his fiancée, Emily Dimmock, lying on the bed in her room with her throat cut. Investigators found evidence in her room that pointed to a man named Robert Wood. They eventually arrested and charged him with murder. Wood made a poor witness when he stood up to testify for himself, but Hall had rigorously cross-examined many of the prosecution witnesses and had created some doubts about the story the prosecution was presenting to the jury.

Hall used his mastery of oratory to persuade the jury that his client would have not committed the murder. His argument was so persuasive that the judge, in summing up the case for the jury, made it clear that he thought they should acquit the defendant. They did so after only 15 minutes of deliberation.

The case had attracted a huge amount of attention from the press, and a large crowd stood outside the Old Bailey courtroom on the day of the verdict. Announcements of the verdict even interrupted performances in many of London’s theaters. Hall began to be known as “The Great Defender” and was the toast of the city.

For the next two decades, there was rarely a major murder case in English courts in which Hall did not appear for the defense. He did not win every case, but his arguments and eloquence became legendary. Spectators crowded into the small courtrooms to see and hear Hall’s arguments. Those arguments may not have always been legally sound, but they were inevitably creative, entertaining, and often compelling.

Hall died in 1927, but his reputation lived on for many years. In 1989, the BBC produced an eight-episode series titled Shadow of the Noose that recounted a number of Hall’s most famous cases. Seven years later, John Mortimer, creator of Rumpole of the Bailey, presented Marshall Hall’s cases in a five-part radio series. That series can still be heard through the BBC Sounds app. It is well worth listening to.

Hall’s wit was as famous as his oratory. Once, when he was defending an Irish laborer, a pompous judge asked Hall whether or not his client was familiar with the maxim “res ipsa loquitur.” Hall replied, “My Lord, on the remote hillside in County Donegal where my client hails from, they talk of little else.”


A population explosion

Sometime in the next week or two, the beehives that I started in mid-April will experience a population explosion. Suddenly, within a few days, there will be thousands of new bees.

When the bees were poured into the hive, you might remember that I mentioned there was a queen who was in a special cage for her protection. It took two to four days for her to be released and to start doing her duties as queen of the hive.

Her main duty was to lay eggs into the cells of the comb that the worker bees were building. Once those eggs were laid, they would be covered over with wax, and a new bee would grow and eventually emerge. That process takes 21 days, and we are coming to the end of that period now.

So, if the normal processes have occurred, new bees will begin to emerge from their cells in the next few days, and that will continue to happen during the warm weather weeks to come.

What will these new bees be doing? We’ll discuss that next week.


The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries.”


A newspaper story becomes a poem: The writing of The Charge of the Light Brigade

The Charge of the Light Brigade, Alfred Lord Tennyson’s most famous poem, celebrates not a glorious victory for the British army but rather a glorious defeat.

The poem was originally composed on December 2, 1854 after Tennyson, who was very famous and was then the poet laureate of the United Kingdom, had read two newspaper accounts of a failed action by British forces fighting in what became known as the Crimean War.

The action actually took place in October, and one of the stories that Tennyson read was by William Howard Russell, a correspondent for The Times of London who was making a name for himself by covering that war. Russell would later travel to the United States to cover the American Civil War for The Times. Part of his report reads this way:

They swept proudly past, glittering in the morning sun in all the pride and splendor of war. We could hardly believe the evidence of our senses. Surely that handful of men were not going to charge an army in position? Alas! It was but too true—their desperate valour knew no bounds, and far indeed was it removed from its so-called better part—discretion.

They advanced in two lines, quickening the pace as they closed towards the enemy. A more fearful spectacle was never witnessed than by those who, without the power to aid, beheld their heroic countrymen rushing to the arms of sudden death. At the distance of 1200 yards the whole line of the enemy belched forth, from thirty iron mouths, a flood of smoke and flame through which hissed the deadly balls.

Their flight was marked by instant gaps in our ranks, the dead men and horses, by steeds flying wounded or riderless across the plain. The first line was broken—it was joined by the second, they never halted or checked their speed an instant. With diminished ranks, thinned by those thirty guns, which the Russians had laid with the most deadly accuracy, with a halo of flashing steel above their heads, and with a cheer which was many a noble fellow’s death cry, they flew into the smoke of the batteries; but ere they were lost from view, the plain was strewed with their bodies and with the carcasses of horses. They were exposed to an oblique fire from the batteries on the hills on both sides, as well as to a direct fire of musketry.

The action itself was a short, minor one, but Tennyson’s poem vaulted it into one of the most famous battles of all time.

The poem was published a week after he wrote it in The Examiner. As was Tennyson’s habit, he revised the poem a number of times as it appeared in various publications throughout the years of his life. In whatever form the poem took, the public loved it, took it to heart, and thousands upon thousands of school children in Great Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia, and many other places memorized it in the next century and a half.

The images here are of a version of the poem written and signed by Tennyson in 1864.


Group giveaways for May 

Kill the Quarterback, Point Spread, and Murder Most Criminous are part of several group giveaways this month:

Page-turning mysteries and thrillers

Mystery and thriller season (through May 21)

Spine-chilling reads

Historical crime and mystery giveaway

KDP promo (May 9 – May 29)

Each of these giveaways includes more than 20 books of various sub-genres. You can download any or all of them in exchange for your email address. The email address will be shared among all authors participating in the giveaway. The purpose of these giveaways is to get books into the hands of readers and to increase email lists for the authors.


Check out last week’s newsletter

Vince V.: In my journal I keep count of the days (not years) that I’ve been alive. Today marked 28,043. I’m grateful for everyone and look forward to many more, no matter what comes.

Steve W.: I know I will be fine. My problem is the friends that are dying off around me. No one to play with.

Jean C. (from South Africa): I’ve known about Anne Perry for many years, can’t remember if I read or heard about it (her life). I absolutely adore her books. She’s never boring. Just found another one, about Sir Thomas Pitt’s son Daniel, an attorney, which I’m finding very interesting. Trouble is, the writing is so small that I can only read a few pages, and put it down, very frustrating. 

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: The windup

Best quote of the week:

Oh, the comfort—the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person—having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with the breath of kindness blow the rest away. Dinah Maria Mulock Craik, poet and novelist (1826-1887)

Pray-as-you-go podcast

If you are looking for a quiet, meditative, non-theological but scriptural podcast to start or close your day, try The podcasts are 10-12 minutes long, and they feature beautiful music, a scripture reading, and a very short devotional. It’s a great respite from an otherwise all-too-noisy world.

Helping those in need

Earthquakes in Turkey, fires in California, freezing weather in Texas, hurricanes on the Atlantic Coast, tornados in Tennessee: disasters occur everywhere. They have spread untold misery and disruption. The people affected by them need our help.

It’s not complicated. Things happen to people, and we should be ready to do all the good we can in all of the ways we can. (Some will recognize that I am paraphrasing John Wesley here).

When is the last time you gave to your favorite charity? The United Methodist Committee on Relief ( is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to this one or to yours.

Keep reading, keep writing (especially to me), and have a great weekend.


Jim Stovall

You can connect with Jim on FacebookTwitterLinkedin, and BookBub.

His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.

Last week’s newsletter: Anne Perry and her secret, John Creasey and his readers, and blooms for the bees: newsletter, April 28, 2023



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