chapter  5
The Evil that Men Do Lives after Them, and the Good Is Oft Interred within Their Bones
Pages 21

Can a novelist be guilty of defamation when portraying an historical character in a work of fi ction? It is traditionally accepted that we should not speak ill of the dead because they are not able to defend themselves. This precept, enshrined in common parlance, is ethically defensible as a principle of justice and reinforced in our legal code. While the laws of defamation and slander protect the reputations of the living, they also extend to the families of those who have died, but again, this is to protect the reputations of the living. Should the concept of protecting a person’s reputation also apply to those who are long dead? Can we owe integrity to the living, but not to the dead?