Aside from wishing he’d sent me some money before his great public humiliation, I have little understanding of the complicated legal matters surrounding the fall of erstwhile media mogul Conrad Black. You’ll recall that Lord Black has just sold off his empire, including the Chicago Sun-Times, London’s Daily Telegraph, and the Jerusalem Post, as his company, Hollinger International, sued him for $200 million.

Columnist Anne Applebaum of the WaPo has a wonderful column this morning on “The Undoing of Lord Black.” (Applebaum was deputy editor of the English Spectator, another Black property, in the early 1960s. Because, when Applebaum resigned, Black wrote her a letter “containing insults of the kind most people use in missives to their ex-wives, not their junior employees,” Applebaum says that her “unconscious biases” could “run either way.”)

Applebaum sees Lord Black’s fall as “a gloriously British tragedy.” His fictional precedents are Trollope’s Melmotte, a crooked foreign financier who “buys his way into Victorian society and then crashes to the immense satisfaction of all,” and Evelyn Waugh’s Lord Copper. “Like Lord Copper,” writes Applebaum, “Lord Black reveled in his own ambition.” Read the whole column to find out what misperception undid Lord Black.