the greater the truth, the greater the libel

The ‘Mansfield’ referred to in quots. 1787 and 1882 was William Murray, first Earl of Mansfield (1705–93), statesman and judge.

c 1787 BURNS Poems (1968) I. 349 Dost not know that old Mansfield, who writes like the Bible, Says the more ’tis a truth, sir, the more ’tis a libel?

1828 BULWELYTTON Pelham I. xxiv. ‘You won’t catch an old lawyer in such impudence.’ ‘The greater the truth the greater the libel,’ said Warburton, with a sneer.

1882 S. A. BENT Short Sayings of Great Men 371 The greater the truth, the greater the libel. A maxim of the law in vogue..while Mansfield presided over the King’s Bench... The maxim is said to have originated in the Star Chamber.

2002 Spectator 23 Nov. 50 On the contrary: there is an old adage, ‘The greater the truth, the greater the libel’, for rioting is bound to be more serious if the incitement is known to be based on fact rather than on gross exaggeration.

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