A couple of days ago I bought a copy of Private Eye: The First 50 Years by Adam MacQueen, which I’ve been dipping into from time to time. This is in an A-Z format that encourages one to sample rather than read straight through like a history book. I think it’s excellent: not only great fun, with several “laugh-out-loud” passages, but also a very interesting piece of social history.
Last night I came across the book’s account of the famous episode of Arkell versus Pressdram , one of the Eye‘s many brushes with libel law, Pressdram being the name of the company that publishes said organ. I thought I’d post it here for those who haven’t heard of it because I find it quite inspirational. It’s actually been a while since anyone threatened me with a libel action but when that did happen, many moons ago, my response was similar in spirit (though not in form) to the memorable reply given by the Eye in the correspondence below (with, I might add, the same result):
Solicitor’s Letter to Private Eye:
We act for Mr Arkell who is Retail Credit Manager of Granada TV Rental Ltd.
His attention has been drawn to an article appearing in the issue of Private Eye dated 9th April 1971 on page 4. The statements made about Mr Arkell are entirely untrue and clearly highly defamatory.
We are therefore instructed to require from you immediately your proposals for dealing with the matter. Mr Arkell’s first concern is that there should be a full retraction at the earliest possible date in Private Eye and he will also want his costs paid. His attitude to damages will be governed by the nature of your reply.
Response from Private Eye:
We acknowledge your letter of 29th April referring to Mr J. Arkell.
We note that Mr Arkell’s attitude to damages will be governed by the nature of our reply and would therefore be grateful if you would inform us what his attitude to damages would be, were he to learn that the nature of our reply is as follows: fuck off.
No further letters were received from Mr Arkell’s solicitors. This legendary exchange of letters has now become a well-known in-joke for solicitors. So if you ever get a letter from a solicitor trying to frighten you with threats of libel, or simply want someone to fuck off for some other reason, I suggest you refer them to the Reply Given in Arkell versus Pressdram.Follow @telescoper