About the author: Patrick Polden studied history at Reading University, completed his PhD and became a solicitor. He is currently a senior lecturer in law at Brunel University. His publications on British legal history include A Guide to the Records of the Lord Chancellor’s Department and A History of the County Court.2002 0-7734-7237-1
This is the first full-length study of the most celebrated will in English history, a will which scandalized society, forced an immediate and rare statutory curb on testamentary freedom, precipitated a Chancery suit lasting more than half a century, and was one of the inspirations for Dickens’s Bleak House. This study, based on the records of the court of Chancery, family papers, and a wide range of official and other printed sources, will be of value to scholars in a number off fields. In business, it explores the activities of the house of Thellusson, one of the biggest firms in international trade and finance in the late 18th century. As social history it explains the place of this innovative will in the development of the law and practice of inheritance and family settlement among the new rich, and discusses the motives for and effect of the legislation hurriedly enacted in response to it. As legal history it provides an unusually detailed account of the workings of the court of Chancery in its most unpopular phase and in its most criticized sphere, the administration of an estate. Furthermore, because the entire property was directed to be invested in land, this study contributes to knowledge of 19th century agriculture by a detailed examination of land purchases and management.