Wednesday 27 April 2016

Damages for having seduced and debauched

Maidstone, July 26


This was an action to recover damages from the defendant for having seduced and debauched the wife of a plaintiff. ...

Mr. Chambers, in opening the case, said that the plaintiff in this action was a person in a humble condition of life, and , at the time of his marriage with the young woman whose conduct was the subject of inquiry on the present occasion, he carried on the business of a tailor in London. Unhappily for him, in the beginning of the year 1853, he was suffering from a malady which rendered it necessary for him to go to hospital, where he was obliged to remain for 15 months, and during that period he was undergo an operation of a most painful character, and the defendant appeared to have taken advantage of his being placed in this distressing position to seduce the affections of his wife, and when the unfortunate plaintiff came out of the hospital, he found that his wife had taken away the whole of his furniture and that she and the defendant had been living together at different places as man and wife. The defendant, he was instructed, carried on several different occupations. He was an omnibus proprietor, a jeweller, and also, he believed, a money-lender at very high interest; and when the jury had heard the facts he should lay before them, it would be for them to say what amount of damages he ought to pay the plaintiff for the wrong he had inflicted upon him.

James Bendall deposed that he was the plaintiff's nephew, and he produced the certificate of a marriage between his uncle and Rose Botwright on the 1st of July 1848. He was not present at the marriage, but he visited them afterwards, and they appeared to live happily together. His uncle carried on the business of a tailor and his wife worked as a dressmaker. His uncle went into the hospital in 1853, and remained their 15 months.

Cross-examined - Witness keeps a dancing academy in Circus-street, New-road. Persons were admitted to his rooms on payment of 6d. each. Some people might call the establishment a Casino, but he called it a dancing academy and he kept a dancing-master for the purpose of teaching dancing. This person also acted as master of the ceremonies, and he introduced the male and female visitors to each other (a laugh). The plaintiff's wife was in the habit of coming to his dancing-rooms. Sometimes she came with her husband before he went into the hospital. After he went there she used to come to the rooms with a young woman called Jennings. He did not whom who Miss Jennings was, nor where she lived. The plaintiff was about 52, and his wife was 28 years old. He first introduced her to the dancing-rooms. The defendant, he believed, first met the plaintiff's wife there. He was not aware that they danced together, but they might have done so. There was a refreshment-room upstairs, and very likely the plaintiff's wife, Miss Jennings, and the defendant took refreshment there. The plaintiff's wife lived with him for 18 months or two years before they were married.

The Chief Baron asked the witness what he meant by saying that they "lived together?" Did he mean that they cohabited together as man and wife?

The Witness said he did.

Mr. James - And did she not live with another person before she lived with your uncle, and did not that person give you uncle 200l. to marry her.

Witness. - I had heard that she did live with some one before she lived with my uncle; but I do not know anything of his receiving 200l. to marry her.

Cross-examination continued. - Witness was not aware of the wife of the plaintiff having put on widow's weeds directly her husband went into the hospital. She began to come to his room very soon after her husband went there, and he would not swear that she and Miss Jennings had not supped there several times with different men. His uncle first introduced her as Rose Botwright.

By the Court. - It was not any part of the witness's business to inquire into the character of the persons who visited his establishment.

The Chief Baron. - Then it was 6d. to pay, and no questions asked? (a laugh)

Witness. - Exactly, my lord.

John Cozens, of 67, Waverley-road, Harrow-road, proved that in March, 1853, the wife of the plaintiff engaged a lodging in his house, which she occupied for five months. During the whole of that period she was constantly visited by the defendant whom she introduced as her brother John. He frequently stayed all night.

Cross-examined. - Could not say where he slept.

Mrs. Cozens, the wife of the last witness, deposed to the same facts. The plaintiff's wife had occupied two rooms, but there was only one bed.

Cross-examined. - They used at first to consider that the defendant was a very affectionate brother indeed from his constant visits, and they thought that he sat up in the front room where he remained all night.

Mr. James - I believe, at last, however, you began to entertain a little suspicion of their proceedings?

Witness. - I very strong suspicion indeed. (a laugh)

Mrs. Jane Bullock proved that the plaintiff's wife occupied a room in her house for a few days and that the defendant invited her there, and upon one occasion they were in a bed-room together. She complained to Mrs. Bendall of her conduct.

Cross-examined. - She one saw Miss Jennings at her own apartment, and Miss Bendall was nursing her.

Mr. James. - I believe Miss Jennings had had a baby (a laugh). There was a child in the room, was there not?

Witness. - I shan't answer you. (a laugh)

Mr. James. - Come now, you can't object to tell us whether there was not a young child - a very young child, you know what I mean, in the room? (laughter)

Witness. - I shan't tell you. (renewed laughter)

Mr. James. - Well did you ask whose child it was?

Witness. - Oh! certainly not.

The Chief Baron. - How very discreet (a roar of laughter).

This closed the case for the plaintiff.

Mr. James then addressed the jury for the defendant. The plaintiff's wife had been proved to have lived with him in a state of concubinage, for nearly two years before they were married, and that before their connection she had lived with another man, and that she had been proved to have been in the constant habit of frequenting casinos and places of that description, and there was very little doubt that the defendant, who was a young man, had been "picked up" by her at the place referred to. He felt assured that if the jury should feel themselves bound to return a verdict for the plaintiff, they would only give him the smallest possible amount of damanges.

The Chief Baron having summed up,

The Jury, after a short consultation, returned a verdict for the plaintiff. Damages, 1s.

Daily News, 28 July 1854


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