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groom have been discussed in some detail in chapter two and thus this section will focus on her "sisters in high life."3 In 1782, Sir Richard Worsley attempted to sue George Bisset for £20,000 for having "debauched, deflowered, lay with, and carnally (known)" his wife, Seymour. 4 His case was, however, spectacularly overthrown. Mr Bearcroft for the defence succeeded in demonstrating, not only that Mr Bissett was but one of many with whom Lady Worsley had enjoyed extra-marital relations, but that her husband had actively connived at their activities. 5 The most salacious example provided was that Lord Worsley had hoisted Bissett onto his shoulders to enable him to spy on Seymour taking a bath. Consequently, a mere one shilling in damages was awarded. 6 The earlier case of Lady Grosvenor in 1770 was equally notorious, especially as her lover was none other than the Duke of Cumberland, the King's brother. Their illicit relationship was brought to a sudden end when her husband's servants burst in on them in an inn in St. Albans: "Upon breaking down the door at the inn, (they) found the Lady with her Dresden unbuttoned, and her breasts wholly exposed... on their entering, her Ladyship made towards the door of communication with the next room, but in the attempt felI."7 The jury took just over two hours to find
Trial between the Rt. Hon. Sir RICHARD WORSLEY, Bt., Plaintiff, and GEORGE MAURICE BISSETI', Esq., Defendant (London. 1782). p.1 See Horace Walpole's account. Horace Walpole's Correspondence, eds. W.S. Lewis. W.H.
Smith and G.L. Lam. 48 Vols. (London and New Haven. 1960). XXV. pp.245-6. Horace Walpole to Horace Mann. 25 February 1782 As reported in The Life and Amours of Lady Ann F-L-Y: Developing the Whole of her Intrigues from the Time of her Marriage with the Hon. Edward Foley, in October 1778, till the Present Time (London. 1782). p.12. the council for the defence in the later trial of Lady Ann Foley attempted to reproduce this spectacular result. He thus attempted to prove that Lord Foley had connived at the adultery and willingly '''pocket( ted) his horns. '" The Trial of His R.H. the D.of C, July 5th 1770 for Criminal Conversation with Lady Harriet G----R (London. 1770), p.11 the Duke of Cumberland guilty of criminal conversation, whereupon they ordered him to pay £10,000 in damages. Elizabeth Chudleigh's adultery was somewhat more serious as a jury at Westminster Hall in 1776 concluded that she had bigamously married both the Hon. Augustus John Hervey and Evelyn Pierrepoint, 2nd Duke of Kingston, the latter by this time deceased. The case had been instigated by Kingston's nephew, aggrieved that she had inherited his uncle's entire estate and fortune.
However, despite being found guilty, her peerage exempted her from the corporeal punishment legally due and no other action could be taken against her. She was released with instructions to pay the court fees and a recommendation that she look long and hard into her conscience.
Such trials were widely attended. Hannah More estimated the presence of some five thousand spectators at that of the Duchess of Kingston, noting the Duke of Newcastle, Lady Derby and the Duchess of Devonshire as amongst their numbers. 8 Mrs Harris, after her visit to Westminster, observed the presence of the Queen with her four eldest sons, the Princess Royal, Lord and Lady Holdemesse, General Fitzroy, Lady Charlotte Finch and Lord Lincoln. 9 The case dominated all polite conversation.
Mrs Harris claimed that "nobody talks of anything but the Duchess of Kingston," James Northcote informed his brother that "the Duchess of Kingston is now trying and Memoirs of the life of Mrs Hannah More: Abridged, ed. W. Roberts (London, 1839), pp.39Hannah More to a member of her family, 1776. This fulfilled the prophecy of the anonymous author of The Trial of Robert Feilding Esq...for Felony in Marrying her Grace the Duchess of Cleveland; his First Wife being then Alive;... to which is added an Appendix relating to the Indictment instituted against Elizabeth, Duchess of Kingston, Pointing to Circumstances Somewhat Similar (London, 1776), p.42: ''The case of a Peeress, thus charged with bigamy, is so extraordinary, that doubtless the hall will be crowded."
Letters of the First Earl of Maimesbury, his Family and Friends ed. the Rt. Hon. the Earl of Malmesbury,2 Vols. (London, 1870), I, p.344, Mrs Harris to her son, 16 April 1776 everybody is talking about it" whilst Bessy Ramsden wrote, "there is nothing talk[ed] of now but the preparations for the Trial of the Duchess of Kingston."IO The comments of Mrs Ramsden demonstrate the combination of "fascinated admiration, deferential respect, scandalised horror, amused condescension and lofty disregard" that characterised the reactions of the genteel. This schoolmaster's wife was clearly enthralled with the details of the trial but simultaneously proud of her self-possession in refusing no less than three offers to attend. I I The widespread interest in such cases created an extensive audience for the proliferation of associated literature and memorabilia. Accounts appeared in magazines, newspapers and periodicals and numerous pamphlets were published, many going into several editions within the year.
These ephemeral tracts were both reasonably financially accessible at an average price of one or two shillings and physically attainable through shops, newspaper advertisements and street hawkers. Indeed, as shown by the frequent publication of anthologies of trial reports, often featuring cases some ten years in the past, the widespread fascination with the adulterous liaisons of the elite was remarkably protracted. 12 Letters of the First Earl of Malmesbury, I. p.344, Mrs Harris to her son, 16 April 1776; The Whitley Papers, Vol. IX. f.l098. James Northcote to his brother. 18 April 1776; Vickery. The Gentleman's Daughter, p.238. Bessy Ramsden to Elizabeth Shackleton. 1776 II Vickery. The Gentleman's Daughter, pp.37.238 For example. the anonymous Trials for Adultery: or, The History of Divorces. Being select trials at Doctors Commons, for Adultery, Fornication, Cruelty, Impotence &c. from the Year 1760, to the present Time. Including the Whole of the Evidence on Each Case... Taken in Short hand by a Civilian 7 Vols. (London. 1779-80). V. pp.I-304 and VI. pp.3-202 provided an account of the Cumberland case of more than five hundred pages. some ten years after the events had taken place. The trial was also recalled to public attention by F. Plowden, Criminal Conversation Biography; or, Celebrated Trials in the Ecclesiastical and Civil Courts for Adultery (1789). 2 Vols. (London. 1830).
I. pp.240-93 Advertisements for these pamphlets frequently emphasised their inclusion of one or more prints. In 1786, The Daily Universal Register announced the publication of an account of a criminal conversation trial in which Lord Foley had sued the Earl of Peterborough for adultery with his wife, most famously in the environs of a shrubbery.
This tract was a lavish affair at two shillings and sixpence, a price justified by its three engravings which were described by the advert in some detail. 13 Similarly, in July 1770, The Public Advertiser informed its readers of a new account of the Grosvenor trial, "illustrated with two beautiful Copper Plates, being very striking Likenesses of his R- H- and her Ladyship."14 Prints were clearly a major selling point of such texts.
They could be cut out, sometimes to be stuck into scrapbooks or bound volumes of famous people, but also to be pasted or framed and hung on walls. 15 As revealed by a comparison with one of the cheaper editions of William Hogarth's series, The Four Times of the Day, published in 1751 at the price of one shilling, buying images in this way was financially attractive.
As well as enhancing their popUlarity, illustrations helped to justify the motivations behind these tracts. Many authors argued that, by disclosing adulterous The Daily Universal Register, 2 June 1786. The engravings were cited as, "I. The Driving Scene; or, a new Method of moving in a Post-Chaise. 2. The Oak-Tree Scene; or, the Erect Lovers. 3.
Love in a Furze-Bush; or, the Elastic Touch."
The Public Advertiser, 13 July 1770
Country Magazine', in H. Barker and E. Chalus, eds., Gender in Eighteenth-Century England: Roles, Representations and Responsibilities (London and New York, 1997), p.216. Inventories demonstrate the remarkable depth of the market for pictures, ranging from gentry families through the vagaries of the middling ranks down to the labouring class. See L. Weatherill, Consumer Behaviour and Material Culture in Britain, 1660-1760 (London and New York, 1988), especially p.168, Table 8:1 'A SocialStatus Hierarchy: Frequencies of Ownership of Goods in a Sample of Inventories in England, 1675Similarly, Timothy Clayton in The English Print 1688-1802 (New Haven and London, 1997), p.23 observes that the suitability of prints as ornaments was a constant refrain of advertisers.
affairs, they were embarrassing the perpetrators of such crimes and exposing them to "judgement from public opinion."16 For example, the author of The Devil Divorced;
or, The Diabo-Whore, a pamphlet following close on the heels of the Worsley case, hoped that one of its "salutary effects" would be "to put vice to the blush."17 Second, the hacks claimed that they were both deterring others from succumbing to such temptations and spurring those who had already done so to recant their evil ways. The seven volumes of Trials for Adultery: or, The History of Divorces were justified "To the PUBUC" with the argument: ''The transactions of the adulterer and adulteress will, by being thus publickly circulated, preserve others from the like crime, from the fear of shame, when the fear of punishment may have but little force."18 Such rationales were entirely conventional. As Kathryn Shevelow has noted with reference to the periodical, cautionary portraits of "the unfit mother, the uncompanionable wife, the uneducated, ignorant and thus fallible female" provided standard anti-models against which to regulate conduct. 19 Visual satires could be argued to assist in the reformation and embarrassment of the debauched. The author of an instruction manual for drawing caricature analogised satiric painting and poetry, contending that both The Life and Memoirs of Elizabeth Chudleigh, afterwards Mrs Hervey and Countess of Bristol commonly called Duchess of Kingston (London, 1788), p.5 17 The Devil Divorced; or, The Diabo-Whore (London, 1782), p.iv 18 Trials for Adultery, I, p.iii 19 K. Shevelow, Women and Print Culture: The Construction of Femininity in the Early Periodical (London and New York, 1989) p.53. Cindy McGreery in 'Keeping up with the Bon Ton', pp.222-3 notes how the accounts accompanying Tete-A-Tete satires in The Town and Country Magazine. engravings that paired oval portraits of a man and a woman rumoured to be illicitly involved, often recommended that such behaviour be either copied or condemned. She similarly observes how frequently the editors of the periodical claimed their aim to be moral instruction.