BASIL S. MARKESINIS
'Probe everything and retain the best' ( St Paul, I, Thessalonians, 21)
OSCAR Wilde's views about those who lose not one but both parents are well known.2 How he would have reacted to someone who is about to deliver his fourth inaugural lecture is a matter of speculation. For my part, however, I feel that this record3 allows me some latitude to avoid delivering a lecture on a narrow and purely legal point. This may not be a bad thing since an inaugural lecture is, in essence, a public lecture and thus should be addressed to the entire university community and not only to one's own faculty. This must be particulary apposite in this case since our University, under the umbrella structure of the Europaeum, is attempting to bring together not only lawyers from different systems but also scholars from different disciplines. I have thus chosen to highlight some of the attributes which those involved in my subject should possess. I am reinforced in my view that this is a fitting topic for discussion since up to now much has been written about comparative law--not least by Oxford Scholars4--but little about its thespians. This lecture could be seen as a first, if idiosyncratic, attempt to fill the gap.5
Being an historian manqué myself, I have always been attracted by the study of the lives of great men and women; and the relationship of history and law to this day holds for me a great fascination. If there were some kind of historical equivalent to the 'Desert Island Discs' series I think I would be eager to explain why I would be intrigued to find myself in the company of Disraeli, Erasmus, Luther, Montaigne, Aristotle and the Roman God Janus. It may be a coincidence that this list contains one figure from each of the countries with which I have been fortunate enough to have enjoyed a very close association (though I am sorry that lack of space limits me to only one). More interesting, however, may be the fact that all of the above seem to have had attributes which, I believe, should be found in the true comparatist. In any event, it is not, I think, a coincidence that many of these qualities or attributes were also possessed in abundance by the great figures of my subject such as Kelsen, Rabel, Rheinstein, Ehrenzweig, Wolf and others and, indeed, those who have held (and hold) the chair of comparative law in Oxford. In that sense, therefore, this lecture could be seen as a personal tribute to the Oxford School.
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I mentioned Disraeli first, and since he represents England on my list I feel I ought to start with him. I say England but not the English for, as Lord Blake6 and others who have written eloquently about him clearly suggest, though he tried to be more English than the English, his Jewishness was never far below the surface. To this I largely attribute his perceptiveness, his wiliness,7 his Perseverance,8 and his sense____________________