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lated to sustain his cause.
a poor man, and had no means of pushing his claim. At last lawyers were found who looked favourably on his case, and were willing to stake their money on it. Some mention was made of a bond of twenty thousand pounds; and it was stated that for every pound advanced, there was an annuity to be paid. The case eventually came on for trial at Gloucester, before Mr. Justice Coleridge and a special jury. Mr. Bovill, the present Lord Chief Justice, in the absence of his seniors, Sir F. Kelly and Mr. Keating, conducted the plaintiff's case, and Sir Frederick Thesiger led an army of five counsel for the defendant. The claim was that he was the son of Sir Hugh Smythe, who married Jane, the only daughter of Count Vandenbergh, by Jane, daughter of Major Goodkin of Court Macsherry.
Sir Hugh Smythe gave his evidence with the utmost coolness. While his own counsel was examining him there was nothing to check the easy flow of autobiographic narrative. He recounted his earliest impressions: how while under the carpenter's roof of the name of Provis, he was treated like a little lord in the village; how ladies of the highest rank visited him; and how the Marchioness of Bath, when he was only thirteen, gave him fifteen hundred pounds which had belonged to his mother, and various documents necessary to establish his birth. He said that his reputed father, John Provis, of Warminster, a carpenter, gave him a Bible, some jewellery belonging to his mother, his father's portrait, and a brooch marked 'Jane Goodkin.' It was also stated that he was for some time at Winchester School. He gave an account how he had been a lecturer on educational subjects, in this country and abroad, and then turned lecturer on oratory, and actually lectured before the Queen at Buckingham Palace. The truth of this statement was left untested. When, however, the witness got into the hands of Sir Frederick Thesiger, there ensued one of the most memorable and searching cross-examinations known in forensic history. In the first place, the
educational lecturer altogether broke down in his spelling. Asked to spell 'vicissitudes,' he spelt it vissicitudes;' and when there was a laugh, he said he could give authority for such spelling in the dictionaries. Asked to spell 'scrutiny,' he spelt it 'screwteny,' and insisted to the judge that many persons spelt it in that way. He spelt whom,' 'whome,' and 'set aside,'' sett asside.' In his speaking he had the curious habit of thus doubling his consonants; and one of the signatures impugned as forgery, was Dobbson,' instead of Dobson.' This false spelling constantly appeared in the documents, and so impugned their authenticity. He got very restless as Sir Frederick's cross-examination increased in severity. He declared he would say nothing except in answer to a question. He used some insulting expression to counsel. At one time he sat down terrified and exhausted by the process of crossexamination. An anonymous letter was sent to the judge, which he produced in court, urging that he ought not to be unfairly pressed. At six o'clock in the evening the cross-examination was suspended till the following morning.
The next morning a telegraphic despatch reached Sir Frederick The siger from town. This was a signal instance of the advantages of publicity in trials and of the facilities afforded by the electric telegraph. It was said that the electric wires hanged John Tawell, and they were almost equally fatal to the cause of the pseudo baronet. A jeweller in Oxford Street sent word that he could give some important information. Messages were interchanged, and Sir Frederick was requested to ask him whether he had not directed the name of Goodkin to be engraved on the brooch. He now completely broke down under examination. He turned very pale, and asked permission to leave the court to recruit himself. Had he done this he might have escaped, and have avoided his coming doom. At last, Sir Frederick put the terrible question whether he had not been in gaol for horse-stealing during some period of eighteen months, of which he had given a
very different account? Then Sir Frederick, taking up the telegraphic message, amid breathless silence, asked him whether he had not directed the name of Goodkin to be engraved on the brooch, by a jeweller in Oxford Street, a short time before? The witness acknowledged that he had. There was the utmost sensation at this avowal. Of course there was an end of the case. There were many more witnesses-about a hundred and thirty, including both sides-to be examined, but this utter failure of the principal witness settled the case. The counsel for the plaintiff threw up their briefs. The unhappy man was immediately ordered into custody by the judge for wilful and corrupt perjury, and was received by a javelin man in a neighbouring apartment. It was stated that there were about eighty witnesses in attendance to disprove every alleged fact in his case; and the Smythe family spent some six thousand pounds in overthrowing this monstrous claim.
He was afterwards tried at Gloucester for forgery, and sentenced to twenty years' transportation. So heavy were the stakes for which he had played-title and fortune on the one hand and transportation on the other. The whole history of this wonderful fabric of deception came out on the criminal trial. The one strange fact was that he certainly had received some education at Winchester College. Otherwise there never was a clearer case of imposture, without even the slenderest basis for the huge superstructure of deceit. His own sister identified him as the plain workman's son. There never had been the least doubt about his name, though he had turned lecturer and assumed another. His career was traced step by step. It was shown that he was a man of bad character, with a large intermixture of the fool, and at one time had been under sentence of death for horsestealing.
The Shirley family, in the possession of the earldom of Ferrers, and vast estates in Leicestershire and Staffordshire, have made consider
able contributions to juridical literature. The trial of Lawrence Shirley, the fourth earl, for the murder of his steward, Johnson, is one of the ugliest cases in the ugly literature of murder. My own impression is that Lord Ferrers was mad; but though the plea of insanity is often so successful, yet if a nobleman commits a murder, he is a very unlikely kind of criminal to derive any benefit from it. He appears, like so many other criminals, to have worked himself habitually into fits of passion, in which he hardly was sane. Passion, oftener than anything else, causes murder, and in many more cases it causes death through some sudden access of disease. In this case Lord Ferrers declared that he bore poor Johnson no malice, and did not know what he was doing. He left large legacies, never paid, to the children of his victim, and also made compensation to other persons whom he had injured in fits of passion. The king refused to commute his sentence, but he had the poor satisfaction of going to Tyburn in his own landau, and being hung by a silken rope. His widow became Duchess of Argyle. He was the great-great uncle of the present lord, and it has been stated that a gibbet has been erected in Chartley Wood for the purpose of hanging him in effigy.
A much more pleasing reminiscence of the family of Ferrers is preserved in Mr. T. B. Potter's Walks round Loughborough,' and by Sir Bernard Burke, of which we give a résumé.
'The seventh Earl Ferrers inherited some of that eccentricity of his family, which in the case of one of his line had led to such sad results. Disliking the splendid seat of Staunton Harold, probably from the painful associations connected with it, he erected mansions on other portions of his large estates. Rakedale Hall was one of these, Ratcliff Hall was another. He had quarrelled with his only son, the amiable and accomplished Lord Tamworth, and the latter had died without any reconciliation having taken place. One morning a
woman of plebeian appearance came to the Hall, and at first requested, and then being refused, demanded an audience of his lordship. She was at last ushered into the study, and she led by the hand a little girl of three years old, for whose support, as the grandchild of the earl, she supplicantly pleaded for some assistance. He looked down on the child, and relaxing and relenting, said, "Ay, you have Tamworth's eyes." This likeness to Lord Tamworth, the little one's innocent prattle, and perhaps some compunctious feelings for his late coldness to his son, made a strong impression on the Earl's heart. He took the child on his knee; his stern heart was softened, and from that moment he formed the resolution of adopting her. During his lifetime she never left him, but became the solace of his declining years. He bestowed great pains on her education, and by his will appointed Mr. Charles Godfrey Mundy, of Burton Hall, her sole guardian, with an allowance of three thousand pounds a year for her maintenance during minority, and bequeathed her the beautiful manors of Rakedale, Ratcliff, &c., with a large amount of personal property.
Miss Shirley, as she was always called, was removed to Burton Hall; for she had been entirely separated from her mother, who had married an humble innkeeper of Lyston, receiving a small annuity, on condition that she should not have any intercourse with her daughter.
'One day the mother was brought in by one of the domestics as a visitor; the young ladies pursued their drawing, none of them being at all conscious of any relationship between themselves and the rustic stranger. A picture or two had been described, but the woman's eye could not be diverted; she only saw her daughter, and in her overpowering emotion threw herself on her daughter's neck. The scene need not be described further.
"There was a stipulation in the will of the late Earl, that Miss Shirley should spend three months of every year upon the Continent. During a sojourn in Italy she was
introduced to the young Duke de Sforza, to whom she was afterwards united. The little girl whom I first introduced to the reader in the character of an humble suppliant at the door of Rakedale, is now the Duchess de Sforza, wife of one of the most distinguished men in Europe, and owner of Rakedale Hall itself, and the fine estates that surround it. The Duke and Duchess reside on the Duke's ancestral home in Romagna. They rarely visit England.
Three or four years ago, a stranger and his wife were observed sketching, for several days in succession, the remarkable ancient manor house of the Shirleys, called Rakedale Old Hall.
'Even the children of the village learned to love the strangers for their gentle manners, and still more, perhaps, for the presents that were bestowed upon them; and there was a universal gloom in the village, when "the artist and his wife announced that they would not return again." The morning after their departure a letter was received by the principal farmer, "conveying grateful thanks to the inhabitants for their kind and hospitable attentions, and enclosing a cheque for a handsome sum for distribution among the cottagers and their children." The letter destroyed the incognito. The artist and his wife were the Duke and Duchess de Sforza. In the summer of 1861, an antiquary rambling in North Leicestershire, was induced to visit this secluded hamlet, a few miles east of Melton Mowbray. He had been attracted to this spot by the fame of the old Hall as a remarkably fine specimen of Jacobean architecture. He was descending the hill that overhangs the village, when groups of well-dressed rustics met his eye. The word welcome, too, affixed in flowers on an arch that spanned the entrance to the Hall, gave sign of rejoicing. "What holiday are you celebrating?" said my antiquarian friend to the civil rustic who opened the gate. "It's the visit of the Duchess," was the reply; "and there she comes," said he, pointing to a carriage descending the hill.
'A loud shout proceeded from the rustics, and the two bells of the little chapel adjoining the Hall at once began to jingle the best peal the dual could produce. The carriage entered the Hall gates, and a lady of middle age was handed out by a soldier-like young man who accompanied her. With bare heads the farmers and labourers made their best bows to the Duchess and her son.'
The last judicial appearance made by any of the Shirley family was that famous Breach of Promise of Marriage case brought by Miss Mary Elizabeth Smith against Washington, Earl Ferrers.
was a great deal of mystery about this case; and although the plaintiff's case entirely broke down, and the Solicitor-General (Sir Fitzroy Kelly) elected to be nonsuited, yet many facts were left unexplained. The plaintiff afterwards published a pamphlet on the subject, which, in the eyes of her friends, would make considerable excuses for her conduct. On the very night before the trial came on she was pressed by the Solicitor-General and her other counsel in the strongest way, and she was told, that if she had any sort of reservation or deception on her mind it would certainly be detected, and she would at once lose her cause; and she was told that the abandonment of proceedings would be infinitely less painful than the consequent degradation. Still she persevered, and her friends supported her with their full credence. There is no doubt that she and Lord Ferrers had known each other when boy and girl in the same village. After they had been separated for years, Lord Ferrers received an anonymous letter, advising him to go to a ball at Tamworth: There will, to my knowledge, be a young lady at the ball whom I wish you to see and dance with. She is very beautiful, has dark hair and eyes-in short, she is haughty and graceful as a Spaniard, tall and majestic as & Circassian, beautiful as an Italian;
I can say no more.' Four letters in this strain were produced in court. Sir Frederick Thesiger, in the course of one of his most adroit and successful cross-examinations, showed through the young lady's mother that these letters must have been written by her daughter, the plaintiff. On this point it was that her case broke down. It was also suggested by Sir Frederick that the love-letters, purporting to be Lord Ferrers', but which by no possibility could be his, were forged by the plaintiff. In her pamphlet Miss Smith acknowledged that these four silly romantic letters were written by her, with a view of bringing about a renewal of old acquaintance, but she altogether denies that her confession of this fact involves the rejection of her case. It is a fact worth mentioning that her leading counsel, the Solicitor-General, was absent almost entirely during the progress of the cause. Miss Smith declares that if the individual whom she repeatedly met-and there was some confirmatory evidence of this statement-was not Lord Ferrers, there was some one who was like him, and who assumed his name. It is of course possible that some personation of this kind might have been effected. It was made clearer than sunlight that Lord Ferrers had run the chance of being made the victim of a conspiracy. Possibly she may have been made the dupe of some designing person acquainted with the previous circumstances and her romantic disposition. Perhaps, also, at an age when the judgment is unripe, and the temperament least governed, she may have been influenced by passion and ambition, and that abnormal cunning which under such circumstances is often developed in the young. Let us
hope that in either case the errors of youth were atoned for by a useful and well-balanced life. any rate, this remarkable trial forms a curious chapter in family history, and the vicissitudes of the cause give us some singular illustrations of Luck.
THE PEARL OF THE COURT.
EAUTY, as the poets sing,
In the vales of life is found, Hidden sweetness, violets hid 'Twixt the leafage and the ground.
Worthy of divinest song,
So divinest singers tell,
Are these Chloes of the plain,
Sunny locks about them float,
Happy poets, who to song
Can their hearts melodious break,
For the beauty that they find,
Not by unanointed eyes
Are these sylvan Phrynes seen;
Rosy is the Queen of May,
While the rustics round her sport;
But the village Pearl would ill
Match the Pearl of all the Court.
Look upon her queenly brow,
Note the wonder of her face,
Its inimitable lines,
Its incomparable grace!
Eyes of the Immortals gaze
From those lids on things of earth,
With a sadness of the soul,
Half the heritage of birth.
Perfect beauty such as this
Latest bloom of longest line;