Leading article: John Mortimer - Wine, wit and wisdom

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The Independent Online

Rumpole by name and rumpled by nature, Sir John Mortimer was an author who became his most famous character in the public mind and busily lived up to the billing. If a country's character can be found in its comic "types", then Rumpole/Mortimer was an English model in the Falstaffian mould, a lovable old rogue for ever putting his duty aside and keeping his wife at bay as he pursued a course of wine, wit and bonhomie. Alongside, of course, a certain dogged defence of truth and the underdog.

Which was indeed true of Rumpole's creator. Never quite the carefree character of his appearance (he had a rotten childhood as he admitted later), Mortimer QC notched up a notable series of defences for freedom of expression, from the Lady Chatterley trial to the prosecution of the Sex Pistols for their album Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols. His weakness, he said, was a glass of champagne before breakfast. He bestowed on us some of that fizz.