Reference > Brewer’s Dictionary > Neck-verse (Psalm li. 1).

E. Cobham Brewer 1810–1897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
Neck-verse (Psalm li. 1).
“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of Thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.” This verse was so called because it was the trial-verse of those who claimed benefit of clergy; and if they could read it, the ordinary of Newgate said, “Legit ut clercus,” and the convict saved his neck, being only burnt in the hand and set at liberty.   1
“If a clerk had been taken
For stealing of bacon,
For burglary, murder, or rape.
If he could but rehearse
(Well prompt) his neck-verse,
He never could fail to escape.”
British Apollo (1710).



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