Murray Gleeson: The Smiler

Murray Gleeson: The Smiler

Murray Gleeson: The Smiler

by Michael Pelly

Federation Press $59.95 hb, 278 pp, 9781862879607

Although a few can pull it off, most judges have the good sense not to attempt an autobiography. Judges’ personalities are not usually of such outstanding interest, andtheir lives generally do not so engage with the world, as to generate the stuff from which autobiographies worth publishing are made. The reserve which thejudicial experience inculcates, and the general inability to expose judicial life in prose that does not condemn the reader to death by suffocation, are additional inhibitors. Even those tragics who think that the judiciary occupies a place of mystical significance use the autobiographies of their colleagues as a cure for insomnia.

‘Biographies of judges are almost as often mired in languor as their autobiographical cousins’

Biographies of judges are almost as often mired in languor as their autobiographical cousins. But there are exceptions. Michael Pelly provides the proof. He has never been a judge, though he has a postgraduate degree in law. Rather, he is an experienced journalist. And he can write – very well. Nevertheless, he has taken on a hazardous task. He has attempted the biography of a man who was not only a judge but of whom a judicial colleague (Justice Roderick Meagher, of the New South Wales Court of Appeal) has said, not altogether in jest, that ‘he never utters an unnecessary word. He has written nothing outside his professional work. He takes no interest in either music or art. He does, however, like flowers. He stares at them to make them wilt.’

Read the rest of this article by purchasing a subscription to ABR Online, or subscribe to the print edition to receive access to ABR Online free of charge.

If you are a single issue subscriber you will need to upgrade your subscription to view back issues.

If you are already subscribed, click here to log in.

David Harper

David Harper

David Harper AM joined the Victorian Bar in 1970 and was appointed Queens Counsel in 1986. He was Chairman of the Victorian Bar Council (1990–91), and was appointed a Judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria in 1992, becoming a member of the Appeal Division of that Court in 2009. He retired in 2013.

Leave a comment

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.

NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to comments@australianbookreview.com.au. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.