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ment was exactly the reverse. was urged that the fact of her body floating proved that she was thrown into the water after she was dead; and it was sought to be inferred that she had been strangled-that if, as was argued on behalf of the prisoner, she had drowned herself, her body would have been filled with water, and would have sunk. The evidence as to whether the body did in fact float or sink was, as we have seen, contradictory. The post-mortem examination was delayed so long that the medical testimony had really no foundation of facts to rest upon. At the trial an attempt was made, on the part of the prisoner, to establish the insanity of the girl; but nothing more was proved than might be easily shown to have occurred in the case of any lovesick girl who was, or fancied herself, the victim of an unrequited passion. Lord Macaulay's treatment of this evidence is amusing. Three of the circumstances on which he relies to prove her insanity are,
1st, That" she sometimes hinted a dislike of the sect to which she belonged" (rather an odd proof of insanity, in the mouth of Lord Macaulay); 2d, That "she complained that a canting waterman, who was one of the brethren, had held forth against her at a meeting" (which happened to be true, and seems to be a tolerably reasonable ground of annoyance); and, 3d, That "to two or three of her associates she owned she was in love." (Alas for all young ladies from sixteen upwards, in white satin, and their confidantes in white linen, if this is to be taken as a proof of insanity!) But when Lord Macaulay comes to the facts connected with Cowper's writing to announce his intention of staying at the house, his dining there, his return in the evening, and his mys
and the report carried back to London by persons who had been present at the trial was, that everybody applauded the verdict, and that even the Stouts seemed to be convinced of their error. It is certain, however, that the malevolence of the defeated party soon revived in all its energy. The lives of the four men who had just been absolved were again attacked by means of the most absurd and odious proceeding known to our old law, the appeal of murder. This attack too failed. Every artifice of chicane was at length exhausted; and nothing was left to the disappointed sect and the disappointed faction except to calumniate those whom it had been found impossible to murder. In a succession of libels, Spencer Cowper was held up to the execration of the public. But the public did him justice. He rose to high eminence in his profession: he at length took his seat, with general applause, on the judicial bench, and there distinguished himself by the humanity which he never failed to show to unhappy men who stood, as he had stood, at the bar. Many who seldom trouble themselves about pedigrees may be interested by learning that he was the grandfather of that excellent man and excellent poet, William Cowper, whose writings have long been peculiarly loved and prized by the members of the religious community which, under a strong delusion, sought to slay his innocent progenitor.*
"Though Spencer Cowper had escaped with life and honour, the Tories had carried their point. They had secured against the next election the support of the Quakers of Hertford; and the consequence was, that the borough was lost to the family and to the party which had lately pre
Notwithstanding the fact that Lord Macaulay has given so large a space to this case, he has read it with more than ordinary carelessness. He says: "The case against the prisoner rested chiefly on the vulgar error that a human body found, as this poor girl's body had been found, floating in the water, must have been thrown into the water while still alive." + The argu
"It is curious that all Cowper's biographers with whom I am acquaintedHayley, Southey, Grimshawe, Chalmers-mention the judge, the common ancestor of the poet, of his first love, Theodora Cowper, and of Lady Hesketh, but that none of these biographers makes the faintest allusion to the Hertford trial, the most remarkable event in the history of the family; nor do I believe that any allusion to that trial can be found in any of the poet's numerous letters."
+ Vol. v. p. 238.
terious disappearance at night simultaneously with the girl, he condenses them into the following words: -"He, like an honest man, took no advantage of her unhappy state of mind, and did his best to avoid her" (it was, to say the least, an odd mode of avoiding her that he adopted). "It was necessary, however, that he should see her when he came to Hertford at the spring assizes of 1699, for he had been intrusted with some money which was due to her on mortgage. He called on her, for this purpose, late one evening, and delivered a bag of gold to her." (The "bag" exists only in Lord Macaulay's imagination-the "gold" was the petty sum of six pounds and a few odd shillings, which Cowper had received for her as interest on a sum of £200 which he had placed out on mortgage on her behalf, and the payment of which certainly did not make it necessary that he should be with her from two till four, and again from nine till half-past ten at night.) "She pressed him," adds Lord Macaulay, "to be the guest of the family, but he excused himself and retired."
It is worth while, as a matter of philological curiosity, to enumerate over again the facts which one of the greatest masters of the English language can compress into the phrase "he excused himself and retired." Cowper went to the house on his arrival in the town, dined there with the family, left at four, returned at nine, supped, wrote his letters, was present whilst his bed and his bedroom fire were ordered and the maid was sent up to warm his bed; sat alone until half-past ten o'clock at night with a girl who he knew was violently in love with him, and who had been in the habit of addressing the most passionate letters to him under a feigned name, and then-" abiit—excessit-evasit -erupit." His departure only announced by the slamming-to of the street-door. This is Lord Macaulay's notion of "excusing himself
and retiring." He and the girl disappeared together. In the morning he is at other lodgings in the town, and she a corpse in the mill-dam.
For the charge that Lord Macaulay makes that "the prosecution was conducted with a malignity and unfairness which to us seem almost incredible," we cannot discover the slightest ground. Certainly none is to be found in the very ample and detailed report in the State Trials. Indeed, a far greater latitude was allowed to the prisoner in his defence than would be permitted at the present day. What authority Lord Macaulay may have had for describing Hatsell, who presided at the trial, as "the dullest and most ignorant judge of the twelve," we know not. He seems to have tried the case with strict impartiality and very fair ability, and his charge to the jury was decidedly in favour of the prisoners.
We have frequently had occasion to remark upon the caution which ought to be observed before relying upon Lord Macaulay's marks of quotation. An amusing instance of this occurs in the passage we have just cited. A sailor of the name of Clement deponed that he had frequently observed that when a corpse was thrown into the sea it floated, whereas, if a man fell into the water and was drowned, his body sank as soon as life was extinct. In confirmation of this, he cited his own experience at the fight off Beachy Head, where the bodies of the men who were killed floated about, and at a shipwreck, where between five and six hundred men were drowned, whose bodies sank. This evidence was curious, and if it had been proved whether Sarah Stout's body floated or sank, would have been valuable. The judge felt, no doubt, that it was so; and when Garth swore that "it was impossible the body should have floated," and boldly stated his belief that "all dead bodies fall to the bottom unless they be prevented by some extraordinary tumour," "he
* 13 State Trials, 1157.
directed his attention to the evidence which had been given, and asked him "what he said as to the sinking of dead bodies in water?" Garth replied that, "if a strangled body be thrown into the water, the lungs being filled with air, and a cord left about the neck, it was possible it might float, because of the included air, as a bladder would." Upon this the judge recalled his attention to the question as follows:
"Baron Hatsell.-But you do not observe my question: the seaman said that those that die at sea and are thrown overboard, if you do not tie a weight to them, they will not sink-what do you say to that?
"Dr Garth.-My Lord, no doubt in this thing they are mistaken. The seamen are a superstitious people: they fancy that whistling at sea will occasion a tempest. I must confess I have never seen anybody thrown overboard, but I have tried some experiments on other dead animals, and they will certainly sink: we have tried them since we came hither."
Now in this, we confess, it seems to us that the judge appears to greater advantage than the physician. Garth was evidently desirous to evade the question, and he attempted to do so by a sneer. The superstition of the sailors had nothing to do with the question whether a man killed in battle and falling into the water floats or sinks. Garth was compelled to admit he had no experience on the subject. He said, and said truly, that “the object of tying weights to a body is to prevent it from floating at all, which otherwise would happen in some few days." The well-known instance of the floating of the body of Caracciolo, notwithstanding the weights which were attached to his feet, will occur at once to the mind of the reader. The inquiry of the judge was pertinent to the evidence, and the reply might have been material to the question of the guilt or innocence of the prisoner. Lord Macaulay disposes of both question and answer in the following words:
* State Trials, 1158.
Lord Macaulay, however, does not trouble himself with the facts of the case. He finds for once the Quakers and the Tories united (or rather, we ought to say, he assumes their union; for from first to last in the trial there is not a particle of evidence that political feeling intervened), and he infers that they could only be united for the purpose of committing a judicial murder; that the object of the Quakers was to "send four innocent men to the gallows rather than let it be believed that one who had their light within her had committed suicide," and that the Tories were urged on to the same atrocity by "the prospect of winning two seats from the Whigs." Lord Macaulay makes no account of the feelings that would be wakened amongst relations, friends, and neighbours by the sudden and violent death of a young and beautiful girl, who, whether murdered or not, had unquestionably been cruelly trifled with by a man who, if not directly, was at any rate indirectly the cause of her death. "Religious and political fanaticism" are motives the power of which Lord Macaulay was certainly not likely to underrate. Yet it might have been supposed that the religion of Sarah Stout was one which he would have been disposed to treat, if not with respect, at least with tenderness, however mistaken his more mature convictions might lead him to consider it to be.
We have ourselves little sympathy with the peculiar tenets and habits of the Quakers. It is difficult for any one to write with
perfect justice about that very singular sect. A body of Christians who make it part of their religion to observe the strictest rules of grammar in the use of the singular and plural of the personal pronouns, whilst they habitually violate them as to the nominative and the accusative; whose consciences are tender as to buttons; who hold gay colours to be "unfriendly," whilst they delight in the richest and most costly fabrics; who shrink from the hypocrisy of addressing a stranger as "Dear Sir," whilst they have no scruple in calling the man they most despise "Respected Friend," merely commit amusing eccentricities. The evil is much more serious when they proscribe all those arts which tend most to brighten our course through life. Literature, except of the most dreary kind, is prohibited to strict Friends. We once made a passing allusion to Mr Jonathan Oldbuck, in conversation with one of the most eminent Quakers of the day, a member of a learned profession, and discovered, to our astonishment, that he was in total ignorance of the Waverley Novels. Another venerable and strict Friend, seeing a volume lettered Horatii Opera on the table of one of his laxer brethren, shook his head gravely, and said, "Thou knowest, friend, that we have a testimony against all operas." Nothing can be conceived more desolate than a pure Quaker library: Barclay's Apology and Baxter's Shove, Penn's No Cross, no Crown, and George Fox's Journal-perhaps, by extraordinary good fortune, Paradise Lost and The Task-all excellent in their way, but not exactly the books to wile away a tedious hour; and one looks in vain for Shakespeare and Scott, for Pope or Fielding. Painting and music share the same fate. Now and then, however, happily, the old Adam is too strong, and such arts are cultivated either "clandecently," as Mawworm says, or in open defiance of the yearly meeting. Gastronomy is the only one of the liberal arts
that flourishes unrestrained. The Quakers are a hospitable people; their dinners are excellent, and their wines super-excellent. The whitest linen, the most brilliant silver, and the most sparkling glass, are to be found at their tables. They indulge, not to excess, but silently and thankfully, in these good things, and a certain serious rotundity has in consequence become hereditary amongst them. The member for Birmingham is a type of his class: he is evidently not only a man who has eaten good dinners himself, but his fathers, reckoning back to the third and fourth generation, have eaten them too, and we trust his descendants, in equal numbers, will keep up the laudable practice. The late Lord Macaulay himself inherited something of the same formation, modified, however, by the admixture which his blood had received from the lean and hungry Celts to whom he owed his Highland name. This formation is no doubt unfavourable to great personal activity; but personal activity is of little import to a Quaker. Field-sports, and their attendant festivities of all kinds, are prohibited. A Quaker thinks of a hunt-ball as if it were a war-dance of wild Indians. But here again nature will sometimes assert her rights. We have known a Quaker to be an excellent judge of a horse, and some of the best heavy-weights across the Pytchly and Warwickshire countries have been of pure Quaker blood. We once knew a Quaker horse-dealer. But of all strange sights a Quaker child is the strangest. To find a little curly-headed darling of four or five years old, who, instead of climbing on one's knee, and insisting vociferously on a game at romps or a fairy story before it will go to bed, walks off demurely with a "Fare thee well, friend John Smith," is enough to make one's hair stand on end..
Early as this discipline begins, it is pleasant to find that nature is sometimes too strong for it. We
have lately met with a narrative (published within the last six months) of a Quaker journey in America, writ by one William Tallack, a "Friend," who, if we are to judge of him by his book, must be dry enough to satisfy the most nervous dread of any approach to that humidity which constitutes a "wet Quaker"-a being peculiarly abhorrent to consistent Friends. After devoting many pages to bonnets with round crowns, and bonnets with square crowns, buttons and straps, knee shorts, and "slit collars," and those still more execrable abominations, "turned-down collars with slits in them" (though, we confess, without making it by any means clear to one of the profane what constitutes a slit collar); after recording how one Elias Hicks "felt that his conscience required the relinquishment of unnecessary buttons to his coat," and compelled him to "turn up a cushion in the meeting, and to seat himself on the hard board," he gives some extracts from the records of the Quakers' meeting, amongst which it is really refreshing to meet the passions and the foibles of poor human nature.
Here is the confession of a warmtempered Friend, who probably would have been all the better for the cooling discipline he administered to his neighbour, even at the risk of the dreaded consequence of becoming "wet."
But it is not to wrath alone that Friends sometimes give way. A gentler passion occasionally hurries them beyond the bounds of what is strictly "friendly."
"Whereas I contended with my neighbour, W. S., for what I apprehended to be my right, by endeavouring to turn a certain stream of water into its natural course, till it arose to a personal difference, in which dispute I gave way to warmth of temper so far as to put my friend W. into the pond; for which action of mine, being contrary to the good order of Friends, I am sorry, and desire, through Divine assistance, to live in unity with him for the future."+
"Whereas I was too forward and hasty in making suit to a young woman after the death of my wife, having made some proceedings that way in less than four months, which I am now sensible As witness my hand,
was wrong. R. H." +
It is to be hoped that Elias Hicks never became subject to the inconvenient delusion recorded by Melander of an unhappy man, qui opinatus est, ex vitro sibi constatas clunes, sic ut omnia sua negotia atque actiones stando perficeret, metuens, ne, si in sedile se inclinaret, nates confringeret, ac vitri fragmenta hinc inde dissilirent."-MELAN., Joco-Seria, 433.
+ Friendly Sketches in America, by WILLIAM TALLACK.
‡ Ibid., p. 195.