John Irving, who warned you about Roe vs. Wade, hopes to die at his desk. I don’t know what else to say about him. I suppose you could say, “He was a lawyer.” I think that’s a start. But he wasn’t a good lawyer.
By Scott Martelle
Is it true? I mean, was Irving actually as bad a lawyer as people say he was? And if so, what can I say about him? For that matter, is it true that no one in the history of the United States—not one single person who was in on the secret—knew that Irving was a terrible lawyer? Why do I believe he would have been better off in the afterlife than he was on earth?
I believe, so far as the law is concerned, Irving was a good man. So good he was capable of deceiving the public—indeed all of us—and that would be bad for him. If he had been born rich and in a place like Boston or New York, he might have had people come up to his house and say, “We thought you would be in the law, but you’re not. What are you now, a lawyer?” And when a member of his family was sick or in some other financial straits, they would have said, “Yes, he is: he’s a private lawyer. We’re just going to have to find somebody else.”
I don’t know if Irving was in a position to help us that way, but I don’t think he was—and I don’t think he ever gave a damn.
It took me years to realize that Irving was not a good lawyer. He was a fine, sweet man, and he was a patriot who loved his country. He had a mind that was well educated. When you read the words he would use in a letter or in a newspaper article, he would often quote Shakespeare: “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
I’m writing this to you from his headstone on the grounds of the Irving family cemetery in Newton, Massachusetts. It’s the only headstone that will hold a plaque. It’s a square, four-inch block of granite with the dates of his birth, death, marriage and burial on every side. There is a white