Now, if your choler grew full
By reading chapter last,
We earnestly entreat you not
To let it rise so fast.
As most of the persons
principally engaged in this conspiracy are still living, it is not without
some hesitation that we enter upon an historical narrative of it,
considering that their Feelings might receive fresh wounds by the fact of
bringing it before our readers in these pages. This is well so far: but in
justification we plead, that by printing these things here we are not
violating any secrecy, as most of the circumstances of the transaction
appeared in all the public journals of the day, pretty freely commented on
too, and the detailed minutes of the trial at Lancaster, in March 1827, were
issued from Mr. Murray's press in the form of an octavo volume.
Mr. Turner, the father of the
young lady, was a gentleman of fortune residing at Shrigley Park, his
estate, near Macclesfield, in the county of Chester. Ellen, his daughter and
only child, was at school, under the instruction and care of the Misses
Daulby at Liverpool, where she had been during the space of several years.
Her schoolmistresses were personages of talent, good acquirements, and
trust; Miss Turner herself was an amiable,, sensible, and agreeable girl;
approved of by her teachers, and loved by her youthful companions.
A plot was hatched for the
purpose of marrying this young heiress. One of the contrivers was a lady,
wife of Mr. Edward Wakefield, the father of Edward Gibbon; but on this
occasion she took her maiden name, .Miss Davies.
In the autumn of 1825 she,
the said Miss Davies so called, went over to Paris with her father Dr.
Davies, (in which city, during a previous visit, she had been married,) and
she now, for the first time, became acquainted with Gibbon Wakefield, her
step-son, and his younger brother William, the principal actors on the arena
which we are about to spread before you. Although they were veritable
Englishmen, they chose to make the French capital their chief residence; and
there, either for their edification or their pleasure, Or their fancy, they
had established a little coterie, or society,—together with some few
"This conspiracy," said Mr.
Sergeant Cross, in his opening address at Lancaster Castle, "was hatched in
this little coterie at Paris; there it was that the thing was first
propounded. I don't mean to say that at-Paris they had conceived the foul
design of carrying off the young lady by force, or committing all the frauds
that they have practised since, but there the plot was first hatched. In the
course of a little while Dr. Davies and his daughter (still called Miss
Davies), returned home to Macclesfield. And then Miss Davies began her
operations at Shrigley, where Mr. Turner resides. Mr. Turner had resided
there, I understand, for about eight years. The first thing that Miss Davies
did, was to call upon a lady in the neighbourhood, who was a common
acquaintance of both,—both of herself and of the family of the Turners; and
she was particularly urgent to have an introduction to the family at
Shrigley. She proposed to this lady, that the first time she made a visit
there, she might have the pleasure of accompanying her in her carriage. The
lady assented to this, and the visit was made at Shrigley. When the ladies
got there, they saw Mrs. Turner, the mother of the young lady. Miss Davies
made many inquiries about Miss Turner, whom, I believe, she had never seen,
and of whom she knew nothing, except that she was an heiress to a large
fortune. She said she should be particularly happy to have the pleasure of
her acquaihtance ; she lamented that, as she was returned to school the day
before, she must wait some time before she could have that pleasure; but
begged, as soon as ever Miss Turner returned into the neighbourhood, she
might have the pleasure of seeing her. This was the first step."
It was about the first of
March 1826 that the two Messrs. Wakefield quitted France for England,
apparently to look after their own affairs, and follow up the prosecution of
the plan only a little while before begun by the visit at Shrigley: they
made their way to Macclesfield, and having arrived at that town, took up
their abode in the house of Dr. Davies. This done, they diligently set about
the work. In conjunction with their step-mother, they spent several days in
paying judicious visits to certain neighbours whose interest might be
favourable—in getting introductions, through her, to two or three likely
families that lived within a short distance—in acquiring information
touching the Turner family, by casual conversations with those on whom they
called—and in taking rides about the estates at Shrigley, by which they had
opportunities of personally reconnoitering the ground.
Miss Davies also learnt from
Mr. Grimsditch (Mr. Turner's solicitor in Macclesfield), that both he (Mr.
Grimsditch) and Mr. Turner were going to London on Monday the 6th of March,
that identical day in which she was speaking to him being either Friday or
Saturday, the 3rd or 4th, only two or three days before, and Sunday being
one of the intervening days. This, then, was the favourable time; there was
not a moment to be lost, although so rapid a course of proceeding might have
come upon them more suddenly than might have been at first contemplated :
the opportunity, however, of having these two formidable personages out of
the way, was such as might not again happen for a length of time ; and
although they had scarcely been able, since their arrival, to mature their
plans with much deliberation, the chance before them must not be allowed to
escape. They then, in this posture of affairs, came to a resolute decision,
and determined to act at once.
Wakefield accordingly started
to Liverpool, where the Misses Daulby's school was, taking with him one
Edward Thevenot, a Frenchman, who acted as servant.
Wakefield having alighted,
Thevenot alone drove up to the school, Miss Turner being in the house, and,
according to his instructions, delivered the letter to Miss Daulby, of which
the following is a copy :—
"Shrigley, Monday night, half
past twelve, March 6th." Madam,
"I write to you by the desire
of Mrs. Turner of Shrigley, who has been seized with a sudden attack of
paralysis. Mr. Turner is unfortunately from home, but has been sent for; and
Mrs. Turner wishes to see her daughter immediately. A steady servant will
take this letter and my carriage to you, to fetch Miss Turner, and I beg
that no time may be lost in her departure, as, though I do not think that
Mrs. Turner is in immediate danger, it is probable she may soon become
incapable of recognizing any one. Mrs. Turner particularly wishes that her
daughter should not be informed of the extent of her danger, as, without
this precaution, Miss Turner might be very anxious on the journey, and this
house is so crowded, and in such confusion and alarm, that Mrs. Turner does
not wish any one to accompany her daughter.
"The servant is instructed
not to let the boys drive too fast, as Miss Turner is rather fearful in a
"I am, Madam, your obedient
servant, John Ainswortii, M.D.
"The best thing to be said to
Miss Turner is, that Mrs. Turner wishes to have her home rather sooner, for
the approaching removal to the new house ; and his servant is instructed to
give no other reason, in case Miss Turner should ask him any questions. Mrs.
Turner is anxious that her daughter should not be frightened, and trusts to
your judgment to prevent it. She also desires me to add, that her sister, or
niece, or myself, should she continue unable, will not fail to write to you
by the post."
The unsuspecting girl was
given up by Miss Daulby, who had no idea but that all was right and true :
and, on getting into the carriage, she was forthwith driven to Manchester,
accompanied only by the pseudo domestic, Thevenot.
Here, for the first time, she
beheld the two Mr. Wakefields, who took occasion to introduce themselves,
severally, at the inn in that town, whereat she had alighted. Edward Gibbon,
the principal, regretted that her father, whose dear friend he was! was not
present to introduce him, so that" he was under the necessity of performing
that office for himself; but excused this step by saying that Mr. Turner had
sent him to her, with the request that she would accompany him to her
Surprised, uneasy, and
anxious as she was, she gladly complied with a request so welcome; she
desired nothing more than to meet with those whom she knew and loved, since
she was now surrounded only by strangers, a position to a girl of fifteen,
both annoying and formidable.
To all her questions,
however, as to where Mr.. Turner was, she got evasive, perplexing, and
unsatisfactory answers; in fact, it was here necessary to work forcibly upon
her fears and her credulity, as, indeed, the sequel will shew. Nor did the
smallest part of the plot centre in the necessity of keeping her in
ignorance of all that concerned her parents ; of making representations to
her in which there was no truth, and in terrifying her mind by fabrications
of distress recently come upon them. He took occasion to tell her that her
mother's illness was not the true cause of her being sent for (and here he
was right), but that it was the unfortunate reverse in her father's affairs;
in this way terrifying her with an appalling picture of ruin just lighted on
the family. He said that Mr. Turner had lately lost much money through the
failure of certain banks, which he duly specified ; a piece of information
that threw Miss Turner into a heart-rending state of sorrow and
apprehension. Then, in order to excite the feelings of gratitude and
obligation in the sensitive bosom of this young lady towards himself, he
added, by way of consolation, that a generous-minded uncle of his had
actually lent Mr. Turner the sum of sixty thousand pounds.
Mr, Wakefield, having now
worked the young lady up to a pitch of extreme terror, set about to allay
her apprehensions by suggesting how these immense evils might be averted :
he said he had received a letter from Mr. Grimsditch, her father's lawyer,
in which a plan was proposed and approved of by them, and which he would at
once proceed to explain ; and he also had to mention, that the liberation of
the whole family from destruction, and the warding off of the peril which
was about to overwhelm them, centered in herself entirely : in fine, that if
she would only accede to the proposal propounded by her father and his
lawyer, as set forth in the letter, she could be the means of restoring them
all to prosperity and happiness.
The words in the opening
speech of the trial, on the part of the prosecution, are these: "An
expedient has been suggested," said the learned counsel, imitating the
language of Mr. Wakefield, "for relieving himself (Mr. Turner) and all your
family from this distress, by Mr. Grimsditch, your father's confidential
adviser, from whom I have received a letter ; and what do you think it is?
Why that you should marry me! and then my uncle, if you do, will settle
matters between you and me, and it will save your father from beiug turned
out of doors, and all your family from destruction."
Miss Turner was perfectly
astounded at this proposal ; and after she had been pressed about it several
times, She very properly said, "I must see my papa first, before I can
answer upon such a matter as that."
That Mr. Wakefield is a
clever, shrewd, and acute man, the whole scheme and prosecution of this plot
everywhere evinces. There was an immense deal to do; a great many
difficulties to combat; a host of obstacles to overcome. There was as much
ingenious and plausible fictiou to invent as would fill a romance ; there
were several episodes, as it were, besides the main fiction, which must be
kept as reserves to fall back upon ; so that if any member or portion of the
principal thread of the invention should miscarry, or fall under detection,
one of these detached episodes of reserve might be brought up to carry on
the business without an hiatus. It was an ingeniously contrived affair, and
gone through likewise with equal skill: the only lamentation is, that the
talent herein displayed was not devoted to a better purpose.
Miss Turner, as we have said,
was taken in the carriage from Liverpool to Manchester, and here wrought
upon, as the reader knows. The rubicon now being passed, every expedient was
urged that would consummate. the scheme with all despatch. The design was,
to 'marry her to the principal in the affair, according to the proposal
pretended to have been set forth in the said letter; and to this end it was
necessary to lose no time in getting to Gretna Green. They told her that Mr.
Turner was flying from the sheriffs' officers, who were in pursuit of him in
consequence of his reverse; that he was endeavouring to escape into
Scotland, where they had no power to touch him; and that, as he had fled
northward with this intention, they must follow him immediately, if she
desired to see him as she wished.
This innocent child,
suspecting no evil, and yearning after nothing so much as to throw herself
into the arms of her parent in his affliction, and more especially so, as
she had been given to understand that the power of delivering him from his
enemies was in her own hands, readily and willingly consented to go anywhere
in the world where her father might be; and with this ostensible purpose
they quitted Manchester without delay. They travelled all that day from the
morning they left the school, and all the succeeding night, nor stopped
until about ten o'clock before noon of the next day, when they got to
Here they did not tarry much
longer than to change horses; but here they practised upon their prey the
most torturing scene in the whole drama.
On arriving at the inn the
two Mr. "akefields alighted, leaving Miss Turner in the carriage. At the
door of the inn, and in the street, several idlers had collected, to satisfy
their curiosity by looking at the strangers, as they generally, do in most
towns on similar occasions. These two, who accompanied her, either walked
about within sight, or went into the house, sometimes near her and sometimes
away, whilst she remained where she was. Although the servants of the
establishment came and offered her their civilities, she rather preferred
not to get out; nor indeed do her companions appear to have been very
anxious that she should escape from the cage in which they had put her.
After some little tarrying,
they came to speak to her at the carriage window, and poured forth into her
affrighted ears such a torrent of afflicting news, as might well have
overwhelmed the strongest mind ; no wonder, then, that she was sorely
troubled. They assisted each other, either separately, together, or
corroboratively, in informing her that her father was really arrived before
them, together with his friend Mr. Grimsditch ; that he was endeavouring to
effect his escape over the Border into Scotland from the bailiffs, who were
searching for him ; that, in fact, those very bailiffs were now standing
round the door of the hotel, and that her papa was actually at that moment
in the house, but dare not discover himself for fear of being taken.
Still working on her terrors
and her affection towards her father, they went on to say, that they had .
been into the inn, and had positively seen both Mr. Turner and Mr.
Grimsditch concealed in a backroom, hid away in bodily fear ; that they
would come out to her if they dare: that they had twice that morning tried
to escape into Scotland, but could not effect it on-account of the sheriffs1
officers: but that her father had sent her out a message, commissioning them
to deliver it to his child, and which was, that if she ever loved him she
would not hesitate to accept Mr. Wakefield for a husband !
Most indignant reader! art
thou in an honest passion? art thou as justly furious at perusing this
narrative as we are at writing it? We would venture a small hazard that thou
hast not coolly gone through these pages with an indifferent mind.
It may. not be uninteresting
to add part of the evidence, as -given by Miss Turner's own lips in the
court of justice at Lancaster, in illustration of the above particulars. The
court on this occasion was crowded to excess, since the most intense desire
to hear the proceedings was manifested by both sexes and all conditions. Not
only did a great many from the neighbouring English counties, and even from
the more distant ones also, flock thither to be present on the occasion, but
persons from Scotland likewise repaired to Lancaster, so great and so
extended was the curiosity and the interest.
After several witnesses had
been called, and minutely examined, amongst whom was her father, it was
signified that Miss Turner's evidence would be required next. Infinite
anxiety spread itself all through the building at this moment; the longing
to see the youthful and innocent victim was intense; the feelings of pity
and commiseration burst: from the hearts of every one towards her. Edward
Gibbon Wakefield was seated at a short distance, where he was necessitated
to withstand the gaze of a multitude' that looked not kindly on him; at the
same time that certain others who had promoted the conspiracy, had sociably
to undergo the like public exhibition. • At last Miss Turner appeared. Every
breath was stopped; every tongue was hushed; and every eye was fixed on one
Nothing so much engrosses the
sympathies of this human heart as the contemplation of youth and purity
being inę imminent peril. Our whole soul is turned to that object; our whole
desire is for .its rescue; -our whole yearning for its safety.
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