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HE Yorke Prize of the University of Cambridge, to the
establishment of which this work owes its existence, was founded about thirteen years ago by Edmund Yorke, late Fellow of St Catharine's College, Cambridge, and, under a scheme of the Court of Chancery, is given annually to that graduate of the University, of not more than seven years' standing from his first degree, who shall be the author of the best essay on some subject relating to the "Law of Property, its Principles, and History in various Ages or Countries." The subject prescribed for the year 1885 by the Adjudicators (Arthur Cohen, Q.C., M.P., and R. Romer, Q.C.), was "The History and Policy of the Laws restraining the Alienation and Settlement of Land in England." The prize was awarded to the Essay bearing the motto: "Te teneam moriens," which is now published in accordance with the conditions of the Award.
I am fully conscious that this essay sees the light under serious disadvantages. The subject it deals with has already been so fully treated by Mr Kenelm Digby and Mr Pollock, Mr Kay, Mr Brodrick and Mr Arnold, each from a different point of view, that there can hardly be room for another work on the subject. These pages bear the additional stigma of being a Prize Essay, and it is a commonplace of criticism that from that source no good thing can come. My critics, however, have been so forbearing to two previous trials of their patience
in the shape of Prize Essays, that I am sure they will in this case distribute their blame and censure aright. That the Yorke Prize Essay is written at all, the late Mr Edmund Yorke, assisted by the Court of Chancery, must bear the responsibility; that it is written in this year on this particular subject the Adjudicators, and not the author, are the cause; that it is published, is the result of the scheme sanctioned by the Court of Chancery. The author's modesty would prefer to receive the money value of the prize without the additional honours of publicity.
While life is too short to review the reviews of one's work, there is yet one criticism on my last Essay, to which, as it may also affect the present work, I should wish to refer. The Saturday Review regretted that my treatise "was marred by a pervading flippancy in tone," and expressed the hope that I might when a little older become "less cocksure." I naturally took this to heart, and was about to endeavour to mould my style on the sober and modest exemplar prescribed by the Saturday Review itself. But my intentions were bewildered by a critic in the Law Quarterly Review, who informed me that "the author's opinions are for the most part sound and sober, and are clearly and modestly stated." And on reflection I felt that a style which was, in the opinion of two such authorities, both "sober" and "flippant," "cocksure" and "modest," was such a unique production as to be worth preserving.
In the present essay, I do not claim to have done more than collect as carefully, and state as clearly as I could the methods. and degrees in which the State has recognized and upheld from time to time the power of the individual to dispose of and control the ownership and management of his land, both during his life and after his death. I have paid especial attention to the earlier periods of the law, and have availed myself freely of the priceless records of Domesday. My indebtedness to Mr
Digby is visible on every page, and I have derived great assistance from the study of Mr Pollock's little book, as exhaustive in matter as it is admirable in exposition. But I have always endeavoured to go straight to the original authorities, and I trust that when Parliament is again at liberty to devote itself to the consideration of English matters, and when the whole question of the Reform of the English land laws is under consideration, this little work will be found of some use, as containing a short but accurate account of the history of those laws.
T. E. S.
1, ESSEX COURT, Temple,