« PreviousContinue »
Courtney Stanhope Kenny
PROFESSOR COURTNEY STANHOPE KENNY, J.P., LL.D., Fellow of the British Academy, began his official acquaintance with the law by being articled in 1863 to a solicitor in his native town of Halifax, Yorkshire. He was subsequently a pupil in the chambers of Mr. C. H. Anderson (who took silk later). He was admitted as a solicitor in 1869, receiving the Broderip gold medal for conveyancing, and the Clifford's Inn Prize, along with a special prize "as a mark of peculiar distinction." The foundation of a sound professional training was laid by a two years' partnership in a conveyancing firm, and then began a University career which fulfilled to the letter the earlier promise of mastery of the law. In October, 1871, after the award of a proxime accessit in the examination for the Whewell scholarships in International Law three months earlier, Dr. Kenny proceeded to Downing College. Like the two other distinguished lawyers associated with him in the dedication of this volume, he headed the list in the Law Tripos and was Chancellor's Medallist. In the same year (1874), he was elected President of the Union Society, thus giving evidence of the eloquence which has characterised his public utterances and delighted his audiences. His aptitude for research was displayed in the notable achievement of gaining the Yorke Prize in three successive years (1877-1879) with luminous essays on the History of Primogeniture, the Law of Married Women, and Endowed Charities. He was called to the Bar as a member of Lincoln's Inn in 1881, and joined the South-Eastern
circuit. From 1882-1886 he was on the staff of Trinity College as a law lecturer, and was elected a Fellow of Downing in 1885. Next came his appointment as University Reader in English Law in 1888, a post which he vacated on his promotion to the Downing Professorship of the Laws of England, in 1907. He resigned his tenure of the chair in 1918. It is highly significant that the man whom he succeeded in each of these offices was Frederick Maitland. Meanwhile a wider arena than the lecture-room had attracted Dr. Kenny. He had twice been returned for the Barnsley division of his native county, in 1885 and 1886, as a follower of Mr. Gladstone. In Parliament he manifested his interest in law reform by the introduction of two bills. One of these provided for the abolition of primogeniture. This hardy assault on a venerable outwork of feudalism met with the fate which might have been expected at the hands of opponents, some of whom regarded any disparagement of existing land law as but one remove from an indictable misdemeanour. Possibly this accounted for Dr. Kenny's other bill, which embodied amendments of the law relating to blasphemy. However, he has the consolation of most law reformers in seeing a later generation extract his measure from the back-shelf, blow the dust off it, and incorporate it in the Law of Property Act, 1922. When he accepted the Readership in English Law, he retired from Parliamentary life. Not that this by any means ended his participation in public affairs. Besides having been Chairman of the Cambridgeshire Quarter Sessions, he has also held the Vice-Chairmanship of the Cambridgeshire County Council. Both functions were discharged with conspicuous success. His profound knowledge of criminal law,
combined with his experience as a man of affairs, have made his work as a magistrate free from amateurism on the one hand, and from pedantry on the other. And, by his decision to adopt a career at Cambridge, the University gained not merely the services of an unsurpassed teacher, but also the sage legal advice and skilled draftsmanship of one to whose counsel it has often had recourse. Professor Kenny's contributions to legal literature have been numerous and important. They include, in addition to the Yorke Prize Essays, and articles in the Law Quarterly Review, Cambridge Law Journal, and other periodicals, Cases on Criminal Law, Cases on the Law of Torts, and Cases on the Law of Contract. These expressed in practical form his conviction of the value of studying case-law, and they have proved of much use to teachers in the attempts which have been made recently to adapt the Harvard Law School system to the different conditions prevalent in this University. But the book associated par excellence with Professor Kenny's name is his Outlines of Criminal Law. The fact that it has passed through eleven editions in 23 years is striking enough; but it is far short of an adequate appreciation. Until its appearance, the student might well have thought that the art of putting criminal law in a comely shape had died with Blackstone. No book could be more typical of its author's methods of instruction. His lectures flame like a beacon in the memories of those who have attended them, and have been the altar at which younger instructors have sought to kindle their own more humble torches. Their excellent substance, lucid form, and resonant delivery mark in the highest degree the scholar, teacher, and orator. Omne tulit punctum qui miscuit utile dulci. It has been matter of lasting
regret to the hearers of his lectures on jurisprudence that they have not also been given to the world as a text-book. The policeman and the hangman rather obscure one's view in the Austinian system. Professor Kenny got these functionaries properly focussed in a picture of the law without eliminating them altogether, as appears to be the tendency in some quarters at the present day.
Professor Kenny's retirement has not in the least diminished his attachment to legal research or to the law school. He was recently made a Vice-President of the Selden Society; it is but a year ago that he gave some lectures to a class whose only regret was the shortness of the course; and in spite of his magisterial abilities he is, and always has been, the victim of sturdy beggars disguised as secretaries of College Law Societies, who will not leave his door-step without the promise of a paper that invariably proves to be as fascinating as his lectures.
He is, as Sir Mathew Hale said of another distinguished lawyer, "a person of great learning and experience in the Common Law, profound judgment, singular prudence, great moderation, justice, and integrity.'