Lord Hoffman, in the context of the expression-ideas dichotomy in copyright law, and while pointing out that originality tends to lie in the detail with which the basic idea is presented, added somewhat enigmatically that copyright law protects foxes better than hedgehogs (Designers Guild Ltd v Russell Williams (Textiles) Ltd 2000 UKHL 58, 2001 FSR 11). The point of this note is that for a lawyer of the common or garden variety, the simile is rather perplexing and its relevance elusive.
It is generally assumed that Lord Hoffman had the rather lengthy and learned essay by Berlin, entitled The Hedgehog and the Fox (1953), which is available in book form, in mind. As Berlin's subtitle indicates, the essay is about Tolstoy's view of history based chiefly on an analysis of his War and Peace, one of those books everyone knows of but nobody reads (cf Proust and Joyce). But before dealing with Berlin's use or abuse of the tale of the fox and the hedgehog, let us begin at the beginning.