Thursday, July 28, 2011
Two Englishmen, Hugh Brooks (right) and Lawrence Preller, met aboard a ship headed for the States. Brooks is 24 and a family disappointment; he was on his way to New Zealand. He had studied a little law and some medicine and was traveling under the name of Dr. Walter Maxwell. Preller was in his 30's and a carpet salesman, bound for Australia. A shipboard friendship and - apparently - a homosexual one, blossomed. They decided to cross America together; arriving in St. Louis they took a room at the Southern Hotel in St. Louis in early 1885. One day, "Dr. Maxwell," drank heavily at the bar and then left the hotel, rather in a hurry.
Two weeks later, hotel maids found Preller's decomposed body in a steamer trunk. Since Brooks/Maxwell's' travel plans were well-known, he was arrested in Auckland upon his arrival and returned to the USA for trial. Brooks made the claim that Preller had died from an accidental overdose of chloroform prior to a hotel room operation for a "private disease." He had then fled in panic: "Put yourself in my place ... a stranger alone in a vast land ... and tell me what you would have done! Probably just what I did." A post mortem determined that Preller had been strangled and they found no evidence of disease,
The damning witness against Brooks was a cellmate who testified that Brooks had admitted to killing Preller, quoting him: "I thought I'd just fix him for his meanness and get his money too." The jailhouse snitch was actually a railway detective who was planted in the same cell with Brooks. The New York Times condemned the "breezy unconventionality" of Western justice which was "not defensible upon any theory of morals accepted outside of Missouri." In London, The Saturday Review agreed: "No honorable man would for any sum ... perform such service as was expected from this detective." The issue went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court: "This court is unable to find that [Brooks] has been deprived of any right, privilege or immunity guaranteed to him by the Constitution of the United States." Appeals for mercy, through the British Embassy, are unavailing.
With sickly pallor, Brooks walks to the noose, leaving a "Letter to the People of England." Sneering at the "great boasts" of American justice, he complained of "the unlawful, unjust and unfair way in which I have been treated."
The photograph of Brooks appears at murderbygaslight.blogspot.com
English law and, to many, God's as well, had ever held that upon marriage, a husband might tell his wife, "What's mine is mine and what's yours is mine, too." In 1869, in his book "The Subjection of Women," the reformer John Stuart Mill had written: "The wife is the actual bondservant of her husband ... She can acquire no property but for him; the instant it becomes hers, even if by inheritance, it becomes ipso facto his."
Previous reform efforts - despite petitions bearing as many as 25,000 signatures - had failed. The new law allows a woman to retain as hers any earnings acquired after her wedding day, including earnings through literary efforts, real estate, and inheritances up to £200. The House of Lords had a jolly time gutting the bill. Lord Westbury drew cheers suggesting a wife with her own income would only squander it on "any number of bracelets." Even a supporter of the legislation predicted it would be no hardship as the husband could still maintain control of his wife's money through "kicks or kisses." Lord Penzance, Chief Justice of the Divorce Court, warned that a wife with her own means might enter business with a partner "who need not be a woman."
Ironically, it wasn't the average Lord who had anything to fret about; his estate and likely that of his wife too, being strictly entailed and jealously guarded by the family solicitor. Lord Cairns, who sponsored the bill in the Lords, conceded it was for the benefit of the "humbler classes," women who needed protection from the designs of "intemperate, idle or dissolute husbands."
The Times hailed the new act as benefiting "one half the human race." Still, many were disappointed in the law's limited application, among them Wilkie Collins, whose novel "The Woman in White" sensationalized the plight of the wife of an unscrupulous husband: "Being an act mainly intended for the benefit of the poor, it was, of course, opposed by the House of Commons at the first reading, and largely altered by the House of Lords—it is, so far, better than no law at all."
In 1882, the law was amended to add a woman's right to any property she brought to the marriage at the time of her wedding.
A cartoon by the artist Martin Anderson, from spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk
Large crowds had gathered each week at the magazine's offices for the latest installment in the tale of the disappearance of the fabulous yellow diamond and the sinister forces conspiring to recover it. More than a few bets were taken on the solution to the mystery.
Modern critics have actually been kinder to Collins than his contemporaries. Dorothy Sayers, creator of the aristocratic sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey, calls Moonstone, which introduces the plodding rose-loving Sergeant Cuff, "probably the very finest detective story ever written." T.S. Eliot proclaimed it "the first, the longest, and the best of modern detective stories." Yet, in 1868, the critic in The Pall Mall Gazette, who had wearied of "sensation" novels with more puzzle than plot, groaned, "Is this, then, what fiction has come to?" The public. however, was less jaded. Sales of the weekly soared and the hardbound edition quickly went into a second printing.
Collins' achievement is the more remarkable when considering his private life. While he was writing the novel, his lost his mother and collapsed himself with the gout. Only by treating himself with massive doses of opium, did he never miss a deadline. Interestingly, the denouement of the story involves an experiment in which a character doses himself with opium. Guilty of "writing-under-the-influence," Collins told a friend, "When it was finished, I was not only pleased and astonished at the finale, but did not recognize it as my own!"
The Moonstone was the apogee of Collins career. As his popularity waned, he increasingly relied on his drugs, drinking laudanum by the wineglass. He died in 1889; a recluse, haunted by phantoms, he rarely left home, taking exercise dragging himself up and down stairs.
A sketch that appeared in the Penny Illustrated Paper in 1868.
She would not go easily. Instead, she wrote to The Times to appeal for public aid, as "I have many foes." For years, Mrs. Hicks had lived in the Park, making a few pence selling fruits and drinks. At first, she had refused to make way for the Exhibition. The Duke of Wellington himself, Her Majesty's Ranger of the Parks, had ridden over to her "home" near the Serpentine and promised her the grand sum of five shillings a week for a year in compensation. When the money proved inadequate, Mrs. Hicks re-appeared in the Park, purveying ginger-beer to the parched.
Mrs. Hicks had become a celebrity. "A Stroller in the Park" wrote The Times to insist "Anne Hicks is part of Hyde Park." Col. Charles Sibthorp MP, the gadfly critic of the Exhibition, took up her case in the House. He calls the treatment of Mrs. Hicks a "gross act of cruelty." Mrs. Hicks made the claim - albeit just recently - that her grandfather had actually rescued the future King George II from the Serpentine back in 1733. As a result, a grateful monarch had granted her family life tenancy in the Park.
Lord Seymour answers for the Government, laughing off the Royal anecdote and arguing that her cottage was an impermissible encroachment, "however virtuous or excellent." The Commons quickly moves on to other business and Mrs. Hicks is soon forgotten. A public fund, however, brought in enough contributions to afford Mrs. Hicks transit to Australia to join her son.
For one of only a few moments in his long life, the great Wellington found himself in bad odor. His role in the eviction of the poor woman - while his great mansion, Apsley House, stood undisturbed in the very same park - was not without its irony. The hitherto unknown North London Anti-Enclosure Society wrote him demanding an explanation. The Duke's secretary sent a haughty reply. "The Duke purchased from the Crown his property in Piccadilly; Mrs. Hicks is neither more nor-less than a squatter." The Society was also informed that His Grace declined to continue "any epistolary correspondence."
PUNCH summed up the matter in pithy doggerel:
Moral of the story:
To titled Rangers large amends
Impartial Justice makes,
But little to the dame that vends
Poor ginger-pop and cakes.
In July, Lola had married Lt. George Heald, of the 2nd Life Guards (At Prince Albert's urging, he was promptly expelled from the regiment). Born Eliza Gilbert in Limerick in 1818, Lola's lovers had included an array of noblemen and artists, including Franz Lizst. Most recently, she had been mistress to old King Ludwig of Bavaria, who rewarded her with a peerage, the Countess Landsfelt. His extravagance on her behalf soon prompted a rebellion (students chanted "Perish the whore!") and Ludwig's abdication.
Once in London, she soon latched on to the 20-year old Heald and his considerable expectations of £7000 a year. Clubland wits riddled: Why is a certain young officer like a shoe? Because he is "Heald" and "sold." The bigamy charge is pressed by the lieutenant's spinster aunt and guardian, Susanna Heald. Auntie's goal is to "remove this deluded young man from the fangs of this woman." She charges that Lola is still legally married to an officer in the Indian Army, with whom she eloped in 1837. Lola calls the charge "rubbish" and tells the magistrate, "I don't know whether Capt. James is alive or not and I don't care." While the lawyers argued, Heald stood by Lola's side, "with the Countess's hand clasped in his, occasionally giving it a fervent squeeze." The newlyweds are freed on bail.
Within days however, The Times published evidence confirming the previous marriage. The Healds failed to appear at their next hearing, their discomfited counsel explaining "a precipitate journey to France was necessary for the benefit of her health." Alas, the romance waned. By November, they had separated. In Barcelona, Lola went after her husband with a knife and Heald, "objecting to such a display of conjugal affection, promptly quitted the town."
The besotted young fool, Lt. Heald died young, at 27 of consumption, although Gentleman's Magazine suggested a broken heart may have been the real cause of death. As for Lola, she left for America; first New York and then settling in California. She continued to "entertain." On a tour of Australia, her spider-dance in Melbourne was so erotic it was denounced as "utterly subversive to all ideas of public morality." She returned to New York where she died of a stroke in 1861.
A rather demure portrait of Lola painted pre-bigamy by Joseph Karl (1847).
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Crawford would tell the Divorce Court that when he confronted his wife, Virginia, she admitted: “The man who ruined me was Charles Dilke.” But, beyond her word, there was no actual proof of Dilke’s involvement and taking legal advice, Dilke opted not to testify. Mrs. Crawford had been unfaithful with others and her husband got his divorce. The judge declared, “I cannot see any case against Sir Charles Dilke.” It proved a disastrous “victory.” The unfriendly segments of the press wondered why Sir Charles had not demanded the opportunity to clear his name. The Pall Mall Gazette said Dilke's career could not remain under such a “black and hideous suspicion.” Dilke finally asked that the divorce be reviewed by the office of the Queen’s Proctor. It must have seemed like a good idea at the time.
Victorian divorces were granted conditionally, a decree nisi. During the time period before a decree absolute was issued, any member of the public could ask the Queen’s Proctor to determine if the divorce should be prevented for any reason, usually fraud, connivance or condonation. Dilke’s appeal came on before the Queen’s Proctor in July, 1886. The Crawfords, desperate not to be re-linked, were vigorously represented. When Dilke did finally take the stand, he funked it. He rambled, evaded and “forgot.” His appointment diaries, with key portions “cut out,” were certainly not helpful. Then, the blushing ex-Mrs Crawford took the stand, asking “My Lord, is it necessary that I should give all the details?” And, with what was described as “marvelously little embarrassment,” she did. She gave dates, locations, and floor plans. She accused Dilke of introducing her to “every French vice” including a threesome with a maid named Fanny. The latter had conveniently “disappeared.” And, to gasps in the courtroom, she testified, “Sir Charles told her he had been her mother’s lover, and that she was very like her mother, that being why he had taken a fancy to her.” The jury took a quarter-hour to put a final stake in Sir Charles Dilke’s career. It is no wonder that a friendly newspaper deadpanned: “It would have been far better if the case had not been reopened.”
The keeper of the Dilke papers says the Crawford divorce was the most notorious politico-social drama of the 19th Century. Was Dilke framed? No brief survey can even turn the first wheel within the wheels of the sinister conspiracy Dilke partisans insist was set in motion to crush him. The villain, to many, was his rival for Mr Gladstone’s chair, Joe Chamberlain. Chamberlain stood best man at Dilke’s wedding and Dilke himself thought Joe C was “incapable of such treachery.” But why was Mrs Crawford seen skulking from Chamberlain’s home only days before confessing her adultery to her husband? In later years, Mrs Crawford converted to Catholicism and unburdened her sins and secrets upon her confessor. He’s not talking.
Dilke was soon no longer the member for Chelsea. He did return to the House in 1892 but was never again a figure of any influence in politics. So, who was Sir Charles Dilke? Was he, in the words of the Crawford’s counsel, “a coarse brutal adulterer more befitting a beast than a man?" Or, was he, as he told his rapidly dwindling band of supporters, “A sick and sleepless man supported by a sick and sleepless wife … crushed by a monstrous slander.”
Reading the magazine at first silently, Swinburne suddenly is literally dancing in anger and shrieking profanity. His companion drags him into a restaurant, all the while urging him to swear in French so as confuse his audience. Nothing can calm Swinburne and he's soon asked to leave the establishment. The critic has dismissed Swinburne's effort as something "a professional vendor of filthy prints might blush to sell if he only knew what they meant."
The 29-year old Swinburne's collection celebrates everything from lesbian cannibalism to medieval necrophilia, amid heavy doses of sado-masochism, or as the reviewer calls them, "nameless shameless abominations." A sample:
Ah that my lips were tuneless lips, but pressed
to the bruised blossom of thy scourged white breast
The review is unsigned but it is certainly the work of the editor John Morley, who had known the poet at Oxford. The critic [Morley] labels Swinburne "the libidinous laureate of a pack of satyrs ... [who] has revealed to the world a mind all aflame with the feverish carnality of a schoolboy." Nor was Saturday Review alone; The Athenaeum declared that Swinburne was "unclean for the sake of uncleaness." Punch even took a playful jab at the man they dubbed "Swine-born." The Times was prepared to call for both the poet and the publisher to be prosecuted under the obscenity laws. Swinburne's publisher withdrew the work the very next day.
Swinburne found a new publisher, the infamous John Hotten, whose speciality was "erotica" of all types, including works of the "flagellation" school, a special interest of his newest author. Only a few literary men stood by Swinburne; Ruskin, among them, wrote. "All I can say ... is that God made you, and that you are very wonderful and beautiful."
When Swinburne heard rumors that Carlyle had made unfavorable remarks about the work, he was outraged. He wrote the aging Scot, "Could the private parts even of a prostitute rotted with disease ever be fouler than your tongue?"
It was five years before Swinburne's next major collection was published.
A painting of the poet by William Bell Scott
It was a sloppily played affair and the London press finds the American game mystifying. The Times observer called it "somewhat disappointing," and criticised the Philadelphia team for its lackluster play, "of which their opponents took most judicious advantage." In The Illustrated London News, the reporter was more appreciative: "The fielding of the men is extremely smart and good, and they show great powers of hitting, considering the awkward shape of the bats." However, the reporter concluded, "We doubt if baseball - some of the rules of which are extremely complicated - will find much favor in this country." The Standard compared baseball to the old English game of "rounders." The correspondent expressed unusual interest in the player known to Americans as "the catcher." This player, readers were told, "stands behind the striker, and who acts pretty much as a wicket-keeper in cricket, except that he appears to be considerably more in danger of the striker's club than of the ball, which is not a very formidable looking article."
Yankee proponents of the game are happy to note that a baseball contest is over in little more than two hours, an improvement over cricket where important matches can extend into a second day. The Times sniffs: "Americans, who are so busy that they cannot find leisure for cricket, managed to find it for a game which a single afternoon is sufficient to decide." The day ends with a dinner at the host Marylebone Cricket Club.
As an audition for the game, the 1874 visit was a flop. Baseball would not return to England until 1889, when the Prince of Wales attended a game between touring all-star teams at London's Kennington Oval, and got to meet the players, including another future Hall-of-Famer Cap Anson. The New York Times noted that the ballplayers were "delighted at the urbanity displayed by the Prince."
The 1874 Boston squad courtesy of 19CBaseball.com
22-year old Miss Rebecca "Kate" Dickinson tells the court that she had been alone in her 1st-class carriage until Baker boarded in Liphook. It was a slow-moving local train and they chatted for some time about military life, the theatre, even mesmerism. As the train left Woking, she says Baker suddenly became amorous. Moving beside her, he cooed, "You must kiss me, darling." She resisted, unsuccessfully, "He kissed me on the lips many times. His body was on me." Feeling his hand beneath her dress, she fought free and stepped outside the carriage, shrieking for help whilst hanging on to the footboards until the train was stopped at Esher where her story led to the Colonel's arrest. It was said by witnesses that his trousers were "disarranged."
The Prince arranged for the finest defense lawyers in London but Miss Dickinson's version of the event goes unchallenged. Baker refuses to allow his counsel to cross-examine her. Baker's counsel says the Colonel, "as a British officer and a gentleman," offers no defense, simply his "unqualified regret." He also declares that Miss Dickinson has acted "under the influence of exaggerated fear and alarm."
Baker is acquitted of the serious charge of "attempt to ravish" but found guilty of assault and sentenced to a year in the Horsemonger Lane jail. Justice Brett, to the cheers of many, denounces the "libertine outrage," and denies the implication that at worst a playful kiss had been exchanged, "A kiss that gratifies or excites passion is undoubtedly indecent." He praises Miss Dickinson's courage which adds "a new ray of glory to her youth, her innocence and her-beauty."
Col. Baker's disgrace is complete; at the Queen's command, he was publicly cashiered from the Hussars. Upon his release from jail, he entered the imperial service, dying of fever while an advisor to the Egyptian police force.
Caricature from Vanity Fair
London's grimy pall had become infamous. In 1819, Shelley wrote, "Hell is a city much like London, a smoky, populous city." Commenting on the frequent cleaning required for the capitol's buildings and monuments, a leader writer in The Times declared, "Shocking as it may sound, London is a n****r metropolis." In Bleak House, written just the year previous, Dickens' narrator watched the "smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snowflakes."
But, while the poets and the plutocrats might make periodic forays to seek the healthier airs of countryside or Continent, the great mass of Londoners lived out their (often shortened) lives, wheezing beneath the constant sooty sky. Industrial interests strongly fought the new law; one London manufacturer boasted to a Parliamentary committee, "I believe, for the last thirty years, no person has been out of London as little as myself, and I enjoy the most perfect health." They argued that the bill would simply drive industry from the cities, despoiling new areas of "this green and pleasant land." In closing debate, however, Lord Palmerston told an alternately cheering and jeering Commons, that only "100 gentleman" oppose the bill; "a small combination of men set up against the material interests, physical enjoyment, the health and comfort of upwards of 2,000,000 of their fellow men."
The law is really quite limited in scope, requiring only that all furnaces (in mills, factories, breweries, etc.) consume their own smoke "or as far as possible." Fines are low, a mere £5 for the first offense. The law was amended and its coverage extended beyond London, to the "Black Country," and even Scotland. many times. Fines were increased. Still, there was little progress in the Victorian era. The Lancet in 1900 objected to the presentation of the problem as a mere "nuisance." The word, the medical journal declared, "conveys but the feeblest impression of the real state of affairs."
Illustration from scienceblogs.com
Friday, July 1, 2011
But the early problems had left impresario Richard D'Oyly Carte a bit short and he had fallen out with his financial backers and left on a show tour of America with matters quite unsettled. One of the unhappy investors is a gentleman known as "Water-Cart" Bailey, whose riches stem from a monopoly on London's street cleaners. His hired ruffians in tow, Bailey burst in upon the theatre during the second act, crying. "Come on, my boys, now's the time."
The mission of the intruders is to seize the props, scenery and costumes. The stage manager, a Mr. Barker, is thrown down a flight of stairs and badly injured. Stagehands, ably assisted by the production's many extras dressed in navy blues, engage Water-cart's hooligans. One of the actresses, Jessie Bond praised "the jolly Jack Tars" on their "glorious naval victory." The defenders are ably assisted by the actress who plays "Little Buttercup." One report noted the "stoutly-built bumboat woman distinguished herself greatly." Amid the melee, the intruders yell "Fire" to panic the audience. However, "with commendable presence of mind," George Grossmith - who stars as Mr. Porter, the "ruler of the Queen's Navee!" - steps out of character to reassure the audience that the disturbance merely stems from the disputed possession of the scenic effects. That is Jessie and George in the photograph.
Through it all, the audience, enjoying - as it were - some free entertainment, cheers lustily and awaits the outcome. The police arrive and manage to separate the combatants, Watercart's men leave empty-handed and the 374th performance of Pinafore continues. Assault charges are filed against Bailey and others but they were dismissed upon agreement to pay Mr. Barker's medical bills and assurances that the dispute would continue in the law courts and not backstage.
The affray - which brought D'Oyly Carter hastening home from the States - convinced him to seek his own theatre, leading to the founding of the famous Savoy Theatre in 1881.
Now 63, Newman-Hall had married the much younger Charlotte Gordon, a doctor's daughter from Humberside, in 1846. They moved to London where he rose to the pulpit at Christ Church, Westminster. His marriage was less successful. Labeling his wife "spoiled from birth," Newman-Hall testifies that they argued constantly. He opposed her fancy for smoking and hunting. She took a separate bedroom and told him that love-making was "repugnance" to her. That was "a sin against God and me," the cleric tells the court.
Enter Frank Richardson, an innkeeper's son from Tring whom Charlotte met while hunting. At first, Newman-Hall welcomed the "mere youth" into his home. When Frank came to London to open a livery business, Charlotte stabled her horse there. When she began "changing into her riding habit" in Frank's quarters, the gossip became intolerable. With witnesses lined up to testify to his wife's infidelity, the miserable Newman-Hall asks to be freed "from a bondage under which I have groaned for all these years." For her part, Charlotte makes an almost hysterical witness. She claims that her husband's conduct had also been "inconsistent with the teachings of God." He had a "person in his eye" himself, a wealthy parishioner named Mary Wyatt. Newman-Hall denied even "an unchaste thought" for another woman.
Finally, young Richardson took the stand, "with considerable embarrassment." He claimed that Charlotte and he shared no more than a love of horses and an occasional friendly kiss; "She is a charming companion ... I have every affection for her as a friend." The presiding judge, poor Sir James Hannen, must frequently threaten to clear the galleries, condemning their "ill-timed hilarity" at the expense of the wretched participants.
The divorce was soon granted and Rev. Newman-Hall left the courtroom to the cheers of his supporters. After a brief retirement, he returned to his pulpit. He remarried the following year, to another member of his flock (not Miss Wyatt). The Times, which decried the general smirking coverage in rival papers, nonetheless could not help but comment: "The juxtaposition of Scriptural quotations and allusions, worldly motives and carnal incidents, is disconcerting."