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Alfred Whaley Cole

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Published : 9 Articles
Pen Names : None
Date of Birth : N/A
Death : N/A
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Judge, Q.C. Born at Highbury, near London. Student at London University. For short time, clerk in office of his uncle, a London solicitor. Undecided as to career, embarked in 1841 on an emigrant ship bound for New Zealand; ship wrecked off coast of Cape Town. Stayed five years in Cape Colony, then returned to England. Admitted at Middle Temple, 1847; called to the bar, 1850. While waiting for briefs, turned to writing, but found writing hard to earn a living by. Sailed for Cape Town, 1856. Admitted advocate, Cape Colony bar; successful in private practice; appointed acting judge, later judge; Q.C., 1880; retired, 1891. At various times represented in Parliament four separate divisions of the Colony; was for many years Colonial Law lecturer. Died at Wynberg, near Cape Town. Best account of Cole is in South African Law Journal, February 1935. In early life contributed to Bentley's Miscellany and Sharpe's. Published The Cape and the Kafirs, 1852; Legends in Verse, 1855; two novels, and three books of tales and sketches. In Cape Colony was cofounder and for some years editor of Cape Monthly Magazine; for shorter time, editor of South African Magazine; contributed articles, also verse, to periodicals. His "Three Idylls of a Prince", written on occasion of Prince Alfred's first visit to the Cape, said to have "heartily amused" Queen Victoria and the Princess Royal. Published Reminiscences, 1896.


During the time that he kept terms at the Middle Temple, wrote Cole (Reminiscences, p. 3), Dickens and Thackeray were "among my fellow 'students'". (Dickens had entered his name at the Middle Temple in 1839, but did not eat dinners there, stated Forster, until "many years later").

Editorial comment prefaced to the first installment of Cole's 'Cape Sketches' in H.W. identified the writer as a "gentleman ... who has passed five active years in the colony of the Cape of Good Hope", and characterized the sketches as "amusing and instructive".

Cole's 'Martyrs of Chancery' dealing with the offence of contempt of Court and citing instances of persons who had been "Chancery prisoners" for ten, twenty, and thirty years, provoked a reply from Sir Edward B. Sugden, framer of the act of 1830 intended to clear prisons of persons so confined. The H.W. article, wrote Sugden in a letter to the Times, January 7 1851, contained misstatements; it misinterpreted facts; it was calculated "to prejudice the due administration of justice, and to direct public feeling into a wrong channel". Sugden took the author of 'Martyrs of Chancery' to be Dickens. "I grieve", he wrote, "to see a writer of such distinguished reputation ... condescend to write such an article". H.W.'s reply to Sugden's letter, assigned in the Office Book to Wills and Cole, pointed out that certain of Sugden's statements were self-contradictory; that his "excellent" act of 1830 was a "curative after mischief done", rather than a preventive of mischief; and that, even as such, its provisions were largely inoperative in the present state of Chancery administration. It cited, with name and dates, a case proving this point.

Author: Anne Lohrli; © University of Toronto Press, 1973.

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