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Holdsworth Club 2012 Presidential Address: Where angels fear to tread


In considering what I might talk about today, it struck me that you might be interested in some aspects of those constitutional developments. In particular I thought I might focus on what Keith Mason, a former President of the Court of Appeal of New South Wales, described as ‘the right of every judge to contribute to public debate.’ In doing so I intend to heed the warning, picked up by E M Forster as a title for one of his novels, given by Alexander Pope in his Essay on Criticism, that ‘fools rush in where angels fear to tread’. Pope immediately went on to say,

Distrustful sense with modest caution speaks, It still looks home, and short excursions makes; But rattling nonsense in full volleys breaks, And, never shocked, and never turned aside. Bursts out, resistless, with a thundering tide,

I shall do my best to avoid any thundering tide, but, as Pope also reminded us, hope, of course, springs eternal

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