A.P. Herbert

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Ashtead, Surrey
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Ashtead, Surrey

Alan Patrick Herbert was an independent Member of Parliament for Oxford University and an English comedian, author, and law reform crusader. He’s well-known for his tireless efforts to change the country’s divorce rules. He even authored and published a book called “The Holy Deadlock,” which was an openly propaganda tale criticizing the country’s divorce rules. He began contributing to the funny magazine ‘Punch’ when he was still a student at a young age. He wrote a number of successful comedic operas, musicals, and children’s novels, including ‘Riverside Knights,’ ‘Bless the Bride,’ ‘Big Ben,’ and others. During his lifetime, he wrote more than 50 books. He was fascinated by sundials and sundial technology, which led him to write and publish ‘Sundials Old and New; or Fun with the Sun’ in 1967, in which he described the various types of sundials and how he designed and built a number of them, including some that could not only tell the local time, but also your position on the earth. In 1970, he received the Companion of Honor, one of England’s highest decorations, for extraordinary achievement.

Childhood and Adolescence

Alan Patrick Herbert was born on September 24, 1890, in Ashtead, Surrey. Patrick Herbert was his father’s name, and Beatrice was his mother’s. His mother died of TB before he even entered preparatory school. He had two younger brothers, one who died in 1914 and the other in 1941, both of whom were slain in action.
In Winchester, Hampshire, England, he attended Winchester College. There, he received the King’s Medal for English Verse and the King’s Medal for English Speech, both from Prime Minister Herbert Asquith at the time. He was also involved in the school’s debate organization and Shakespeare society.
He then went to Oxford’s New College. From August 1910, he began contributing to ‘Punch.’ He gave his first public address at the Oxford Union three months later. Other newspapers, such as ‘The Observer,’ ‘Pall Mall Gazette,’ and ‘Vanity Fair,’ began to publish his work.

In 1914, he completed his studies at Oxford. In the meantime, he became friends with people like Duff Cooper, Harold Macmillan, Philip Guedalla, and others. Then he decided to spend a year volunteering at Oxford House. He spent his time scrubbing floors and running errands, among other things., are some quotes

Career Of A.P. Herbert

During WWI, A.P. Herbert enlisted in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve as an ordinary seaman. By 1915, he had advanced to the rank of sub-lieutenant and was stationed at Gallipoli. However, he was injured the next year, and while on medical leave, he began writing his first book, ‘The Secret Battle.’ He completed it in a few of weeks.
A few years later, in 1924, he was invited to join the staff of the ‘Punch’ by its editor, Owen Seaman, which he gladly accepted. He attended the Third Imperial Press Conference in Melbourne on behalf of ‘Punch,’ where he gave his first address in front of such a big crowd.

With the support of his friend Frank Pakenham, he became an independent Member of Parliament for Oxford University in 1935. He drafted many bills during his term in Parliament, including the Matrimonial Causes Bill (which advocated the liberalization of divorce laws), the Bookmakers Bill, and the Public Refreshment Bill. He pushed for the change of a number of laws that he believed were outmoded using his humor.
In 1935, he released ‘Uncommon Law,’ which is considered one of his best works. It was first published as ‘Misleading Cases’ in the ‘Punch.’ The book, which was an anthology of bogus legal reports, was intended to mock some of the law’s absurdities.
During WWII, he re-enlisted in the River Emergency Service, where he participated in Air Raid and Casualty Retrieval.

Major Works *His most well-known work, ‘Uncommon Law,’ was released in 1935. The book, which was first published as ‘Misleading Cases’ in the magazine ‘Punch,’ contains humorous fiction in the shape of ‘legal reports’ or ‘judgments.’ They were intended to expose the country’s justice system’s shortcomings. Albert Haddock, the protagonist (who was supposed to reflect Albert’s point of view), went to court to fight for his civil liberties.
‘Misleading Cases in the Common Law,’ ‘More Misleading Cases,’ ‘Still More Misleading Cases,’ ‘Codd’s Last Case,’ and ‘Bardott M.P.’ were among the five collections of this book that A.P. Herbert produced throughout his lifetime. All of the cases were eventually compiled into two volumes, ‘Uncommon Law’ in 1935 and ‘More Uncommon Law’ in 1982. Aside from that, Herbert included incidental legal instances in his books like ‘General Cargo’ as funny articles.
These cases were seen by Herbert as tools to aid him in his work, which included altering British laws such as copyright, divorce, defamation, and liquor licensing. Ironically, the incidents were wrongly reported as factual by media in the United Kingdom and worldwide on multiple occasions due to their realistic aspect. All of his publications contained incisive legal and political points that aided him in his personal crusades against what he saw to be obsolete laws.

Achievements & Awards

At a young age, A.P. Herbert received his first prizes from the then-Prime Minister himself. Herbert Asquith presented him with the King’s Medal for English Verse and the King’s Medal for English Speech.
A.P. Herbert received a knighthood when Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s Resignation Honors were revealed in 1945.
In 1970, he was appointed a Companion of Honor, which is one of England’s highest awards.

Personal History and Legacy

He married Gwendolyn Harriet Quilter, the daughter of art critic and writer Harry Quilter. They married in 1915 after getting engaged in 1914. Crystal, Lavender, Jocelyn, and John were the couple’s four children.
He was a big fan of the Thames River, and in 1966 he wrote a book called ‘The Thames,’ in which he detailed the river’s mechanism.
A.P. Herbert died on November 11, 1971. His memorial service, conducted on December 6, was packed to capacity, demonstrating the respect and appreciation that he had acquired via his writings and reform efforts.
Since the 2010 general elections, his grandson Toby Perkins has been a Member of Parliament for the Labor Party.


The first person to criticize the House of Commons for selling unlawful booze was this writer turned lawmaker.

Herbert was courageous enough to announce his plan to bring the Matrimonial Causes Bill as a way to reform divorce in his first-ever speech in the House.
This writer wrote the lyrics to the well-known British patriotic anthem “Song of Liberty.”
Toby Perkins, his grandson, had campaigned for the UK to remain a member of the European Union ahead of the EU Referendum in 2016.