Heirloom Or Paraphernalia

No less an accomplished novelist than P.D.James has provided a positive introduction to my Folio Society 1990 edition of Anthony Trollope’s ‘The Eustace Diamonds’. Ms James has accurately analysed the characters featured in the book, and rightly, highlighted Trollope’s understanding of the nature of women and the plight of those without an income in Victorian Britain.

Trollope’s novel is a lengthy saga based on the ownership and the search for the thieves of the eponymous jewellery. His usual skills of characterisation, dialogue, and flowing language are employed. I have to say, however, that my interest waned somewhere about the middle of the story, when I struggled with the writer’s philosophising. I began to feel that I didn’t care who owned the, or who had stolen them, if, indeed, they had been purloined. Nevertheless, I did persevere, and on balance, was pleased I had done so.

The Folio Sociaty remained committed to Llewellyn Thomas for the illustrations to this Palliser series. I have explained before why I do not like these.

This is just as well given that I spent most of the day wrestling with the installation of High Sierra, the new Operating System for iMac. By late afternoon, the outside light having disappeared, I had, with the help of Apples technical help advisers, learned that the procedure, now underway, would take another 9 hours. Not having the stomach to scan old film images and struggle with the Windows 10 alternative, I have produced no illustrations today.

But I did get to read the last 100 pages of the book.

One of the most interesting aspects of the story was the question about whether th diamond necklace was a genuine heirloom or paraphernalia. These are legal terms that Mr Trollope understood far more than I.did.

I gleaned enough from the book to establish the accuracy of Wkipedia’s comments on the subject:

‘In popular usage, an heirloom is something, perhaps an antique or some kind of jewelry, that has been passed down for generations through family members.

The term originated with the historical principle of an heirloom in English law, a chattel which by immemorial usage was regarded as annexed by inheritance to a family estate. Loom originally meant a tool. Such genuine heirlooms were almost unknown by the beginning of the twentieth century.[1]

In the English legal system, any owner of a genuine heirloom could dispose of it during his lifetime, but he could not bequeath it by will away from the estate. If the owner died intestate, it went to his heir-at-law, and if he devised the estate it went to the devisee. The word subsequently acquired a secondary meaning, applied to furniture, pictures, etc., vested in trustees to hold on trust for the person for the time being entitled to the possession of a settled house. Such things were more properly called settled chattels.[1] As of 1 January 1997, no further settled land can be created and the remaining pre-existing settlements have a declining importance in English law.[2]

An heirloom in the strict sense was made by family custom, not by settlement. A settled chattel could be sold under the direction of the court, and the money arising under such sale is capital money.[3] The court would only sanction such a sale, if it could be shown that it was to the benefit of all parties concerned and if the article proposed to be sold was of unique or historical character. The court had regard to the intention of the settlor and the wishes of the remainder men[1][4]’ 

In the book, the debate centred around the Eustace family’s contention that the diamonds were an heirloom, and the widow, Lizzie Eustace’s claim that they were paraphernalia, described by the on-line free legal dictionary as

In the English legal system, any owner of a genuine heirloom could dispose of it during his lifetime, but he could not bequeath it by will away from the estate. If the owner died intestate, it went to his heir-at-law, and if he devised the estate it went to the devisee. The word subsequently acquired a secondary meaning, applied to furniture, pictures, etc., vested in trustees to hold on trust for the person for the time being entitled to the possession of a settled house. Such things were more properly called settled chattels.[1] As of 1 January 1997, no further settled land can be created and the remaining pre-existing settlements have a declining importance in English law.[2]

‘An heirloom,  in the strict sense was made by family custom, not by settlement. A settled chattel could be sold under the direction of the court, and the money arising under such sale is capital money.[3] The court would only sanction such a sale, if it could be shown that it was to the benefit of all parties concerned and if the article proposed to be sold was of unique or historical character. The court had regard to the intention of the settlor and the wishes of the remainder men[1][4]’

The Free Legal Dictionary (https://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/paraphernalia) describes paraphernalia as ‘the name given to all such things as a woman has a right to retain as her own property, after her husband’s death; they consist generally of her clothing, jewels, and ornaments suitable to her condition, which she used personally during his life.
     2. These, when not extravagant, she has a right to retain even against creditors; and, although in his lifetime the husband might have given them away, he cannot bequeath such ornaments and jewels by his will.’

This evening we dined on breaded chicken breasts served on a bed of onions, garlic, and peppers; with roast potatoes and mushrooms; ans spinach. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the cabernet sauvignon.

33 thoughts on “Heirloom Or Paraphernalia

  1. I feel as if people today use the word heirloom to mean anything that came to them from older family members that they feel has at least sentimental value to pass down to a next generation, even if it’s recipe cards.

  2. I agree with you about Llewellyn Thomas. The Folio Society’s choice of illustrator is often a little odd, I think. In fact, I don’t think the Palliser novels (or any Trollope stories) need to be illustrated at all!
    I hope your computer is working properly very soon. These big computer installations are a pain in the neck!

  3. Doesn’t sound like my sort of book Derrick, but I do like “period style” books, I’m reading one by Paulette Mahurin, “The Day I Saw The Hummingbird”. Search on Amazon books…. hope you get that computer going !!! They can be very frustrating creatures.

  4. I do so enjoy learning new things. I think that the term ‘heirloom’ I had fairly well understood but I had NO idea that paraphernalia was a legal term. I now look back over the years and wonder about a piano …. 🤔

  5. To me an heirloom is something of sentimental value. I would have difficulty in defining it.
    Best of luck with the computer, Derrick. Technology problems have me totally befuddled!

  6. Thank you for this comprehensive review Derrick. At a time when I use e books ( while travelling ), your evocation of the luxurious folio society books ( that I was part of for some years) makes me feel nostalgic.

  7. We keep talking of a dystopian world where humans are slaves to machines. In a limited sense, we have already managed to achieve that. The nearly daily grind of ‘updates’ of apps and operating systems, particularly ‘Windows’, has left me with a deeply unsettling feeling. Your elaborate post did clear the air about heirloom and paraphernalia. I wonder whether these IT behemoths are treating us like settled chattel.

  8. I always liked the drollery of Trollop (and think The Way We Live Now is a very modern book) but did find I had to intersperse them with other books or I would be recognizing stock characters from one book to the next. I was chill by your description of the High Sierra installation as I have been putting it off. I did look on the internet and did not see complaints about it, but I am always a bit hesitant. Hope it’s resolved now.

  9. Just catching up, Derrick. Always something new to learn here, and this post is no exception. 🙂

    Good luck with the Mac and the upgrade. Sorry to hear it had to go off to the hospital. 😦

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