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Chronicles of Gretna Green
Chapter VIII


Gretna Marriages.—Wakefield and Miss Turner.

The actors and the stage revealed
The devil wide awake,
His imps walk with him o'er the field,
And follow in his Wake.

It is a formidable thing to be an object on which a thousand eyes are intently fixed, all at the same moment.

And yet, pray let us ask, why should it be thus formidable? Can a thousand eyes do us more injury by being fixed upon us, than a single pair; or than no eyes at all? Assuredly not. If we have done no wrong, and if we possess a clear conscience, what signifies who. looks at us, or how many, or how intently?

The fiction of the evil eye has been exploded. It was once believed that rays were emitted from the eye, like rays out of the disc of the sun; and that they fell upon the object towards which that eye was directed: and then it was thought, furthermore, that if one person looked at another with hatred, revenge, or other malignant passion, the rays so emitted were of a deadly nature, and could work injury to the person on whom they fell. The dread of the evil eye, therefore, in a superstitious, h id credulous, and ignorant age, was often very extreme in those who fancied they were the object of its gaze; and he who was looked upon by a thousand eyes at once, peradventure thinking that many of them might be the malignant eyes of his enemies, might well cower under the infliction.

But now we know better. We know that rays do not proceed from the eye, and therefore we know that eyes cannot cast any injury upon us merely by being directed towards us: and yet, in spite of knowing this and feeling this, we cannot place ourselves before a hundred spedtors without finding our courage shaken when w e become the object of their fixed look.

Why is this, when our conscience is clear and unsullied, and pure ? We believe it to be a sensation of modesty, which is a component of human nature, but which is of various degrees of intensity in different individuals—some being more- modest than others. We may just as well ask why a virtuous and innocent girl blushes when she is looked at, or spoken to—why she should be conscious of shame when she has done no wrong? It is an inherent modesty which heaven has implanted in our natures, doubtless for some wise purpose. We are not quite satisfied that the operations of mesmerism are not referable to • this fact in a great measure; and that the timid, modest, and shame-faced, will be much more readily .wrought upon than the fearless, brazen, and bold. "

The feeling of modest shame is more powerful in youth than it is in the period of more advanced age; because then our strength of mind to overcome it, our usage in the world, which makes us familiar with publicity, and our powers of reflexion, to reason down the rising blush, are by no means so strong as they are when we are a little older and more experienced. Nature then shows herself in her true colours—the modest reveal their timidity, and the bold their effrontery; but afterwards we become -hardened to innocent shame, do not betray our internal emotions so readily, and more completely acquire what is termed "a command of countenance."

For one so young, so unused to appear in public on any occasion, and especially on an occasion so much concerning herself, and one which called the gaze of hundreds upon her, and for one of her sex, naturally averse to publicity, her self-possession, her collectedness, her presence of mind, and her courage, were remarkable to a degree, and prepossessed every heart favourably towards her the moment she came forward. Part of her evidence ran as follows :—

Miss Turner sworn. Examined by Mr. Sergeant Cross.

Miss Turner, I believe you are the daughter of Mr. Turner of Shrigley?—I am."

[It would occupy too much space were we to make our extracts copious: we will, therefore, only keep to the point in hand.]

What was the communication that William Wakefield made to his brother?—He said he had seen my papa at Carlisle:

And what else?—And that Mr. Grimsditch was with him.

Go on, if you please?—That' he was there concealed in a small room at the back of the house. .

Go on, if you please?—That he had made two attempts that day to cross the Border, and could not.

"What Border was that?—The Border between England and Scotland.

Did he say anything more had passed in the room with your father and Mr. Grimsditch?—He said the persons whom I had seen round the carriage door were sheriffs' officers.

Sheriffs' officers! what about?—In search of my papa.

Was anything more said about Mr. Grimsditeh?—That Mr. Grimsditch had entreated Mr. William Wakefield would not stop in the room, or they should be discovered.

Well, anything else?—And that he had taken him by the shoulders and turned him out of the room.

Did he bring any message from your father to you?—He said that my papa requested, if I ever loved him that I would not hesitate.

By Mr. Baron Hullock. Hesitate to do what?—To accept Mr. Wakefield as a husband.

What did you say to that?—I consented.

What induced you to consent?—The fear that if I did not my papa would be ruined."

Surely this course of proceeding towards a youthful damsel was somewhat novel, in order to obtain her consent to a marriage. And he, too, who played the principal role, Ťa widower with a family of children! "The fear that if I did not my papa would be ruined!" a sweet consentment, in sobet sooth, for a lover to win from his bride: a disinterested lover of Shrigley Hall, and papa's broad acres. Well has it indeed been said, that money is the root of all evil.

One short extract more and there an end.

Cross examined by Mr. Scarlett.

Will you allow me to ask you two or three questions: I shan't trouble you at any length. You went through the form of ceremony of marriage in Scotland, did you not?—Yes.

And you had a ring?—Yes.

The ring was too large for you I believe, was it not?—It was rather.

Another was bought for you at Calais, afterwards, I believe?— Yes.

When we have to explain the manner in which the ceremony is performed at Gretna, we shall have to recur to the minutes of this trial, in the evidence of David Laing, "The blacksmith," so called (who never was a blacksmith) ; but as far as regards the present, we desist from transferring to our pages any more, thinking that we have given enough to serve every purpose of information.

We have already been present at the precipitate arrival of this party at Gretna Hall, (when we commenced the history of this particular case of abduction,)—we were pr< rent at the execution, whereat there was no need of a wedding garment,—we have shewn how that they sat down to dinner after it was over, and how the aforesaid David, marrier-general to all comers, relished his champagne; and it only now remains to shew how the young lady was hurried away thence by these miscreants all through England, from the extreme north even to the south, and then across the Channel to France, incessantly travelling for days and nights, and having no time allowed her for rest, for -sleep, and scarcely for refreshment.

This over, we think the reader will be satisfied.

It will not appear astonishing that the party should hastily depart from Gretna Green, and fly to some sanctuary beyond the reach of English pursuit. This they did without long tarrying, when they had handsomely fee'd the various functionaries at the Hall; and directing their course for London, they passed again through Carlisle, Penrith, Manchester, &c., and arrived in the great metropolis without accident or hinderance.

All along the road, as they proceeded through the various towns, the same conduct towards Miss Turner was sedulously kept up as had been previously maintained, with regard to her father and his affairs, —the same statements were sent forth, and the same suspense and uncertainty inflicted upon the poor girl.

In those who trade for lucre, there is no feeling —no sympathy—no consideration—self is the only thing cared for. The crosses, poverty, or reverses of others pass unheeded, so that such mishaps do not retard the progress of self. What if others weep— what if others hunger—starve—die? the sordid worshiper of self does not feel it. Why? Even because perchance those others may hunger, starve, or die to enrich him.

The fugitives immediately hurried their young female companion out of London to the coast; and there, taking the packet, they got to Calais.

Here they appear to have been a little less apprehensive ; either resting on the hope that their retreat would remain undiscovered, or else fancying that pursuit could not reach them beyond the straits—but in both these suppositions they were mistaken.

Miss Daulby had not been very long deprived of her young charge before there arose in her mind certain suspicions that all was not right; and as she received no account from Miss Turner of her safe arrival at home, and no news or letter from any other persons touching her, those suspicions, after they had been once started, every hour gained ground rapidly upon her.

In this state she continued for a time, tossed about "upon the troubled sea of uncertitude," as some gentle poet touchingly saith; one while giving herself up to fear, which, as John Locke sagaciously tells us "is an uneasiness of the mind upon the thought of a future evil likely to befal upon us,"—her uneasiness being the dread of loss of her good name in the care of her establishment, and loss of pupils in consequence ;—and at another, clutching to her the sweet passion of hope, which, as the same logician sets forth, "is that pleasure of the mind which every one finds in himself (or herself) upon the thought' of a profitable future enjoyment of a thing which is apt to delight,"—to wit,—that peradventure, she should receive such good news shortly as would sweep away her former fears, and assure her that all was well, and she might rest at ease.

When, however, it got bruited about by the philanthropy of her neighbours, that, forsooth, a young lady had been stolen away from her protection, most likely through her carelessness, or lack of caution, or unfitness for her calling ; and when some said, "I am sure I would never send my daughter to such a school," and when others (who were too poor to pay the half-year's bill) cried out vociferously, "Well, I think it is time I take. my daughter away—she shall stay there,"—then, indeed, this worthy teacher of archery to the young idea, conceived another passion within her bosom, videlicet—"ail uneasiness of the mind upon the thought of a good lost, which might have been enjoyed longer, or the sense of a present evil—which passion, in the vulgar tongue, goes by the common name of " sorrow."

The "good lost," as mentioned above, was the young lady herself—or, under correction, the fair round sum she yearly received with her; or, to do her justice, the reputation of her school, touching which, she put herself into an infinite fluster:—a good " which might have been enjoyed longer," that is, if the misfare had not befall.. So, also, "the sense of the present evil" was neither more nor less than the reflecting on these sad matters.

Unable to control these passions any longer, together with one or two others ycleped "suspense" and "impatience," she resolved to journey forthwith to Shrigley, and ascertain the real truth; for suspense and incertitude are worse than death ten times over.

When she had arrived there and stated her case, there was, indeed, a fine to-do in that house ; the brooks were augmented with tears, the winds with sighs, and the thunders of heaven with oaths ten fathom deep. The inquiries were minute, the lamentations great and loud, the conjectures many, and the resolutions various.

At last, when they had sufficiently cooled down into a state of reflection, preparations were made for instant pursuit. Having, from some hasty investigations, obtained a clue as to the direction which the abductors had taken, Mr. Turner, Mr. Grimsditch, and others, started for London, whereunto all rogues repair, whatever honest men may do; here they traced them to the coast, and fled onwards in search.

Mr. Turner was so overcome by the shock, so overwhelmed at the loss of his only hope, his only heir, his only pride, his only offspring, that he was seized with an ailing so piteous as to prevent his continuing the journey ; he could go no further— he was stricken down: wherefore he was left under the care of certain medical men, whilst the others made the best of their way to France.

The rencontre here was belligerent to a degree. The young lady was secured in another room of the hostel to which they had been traced, whilst Wakefield resolutely fought for the retainment of his bride, face to face with his opponents. He, at first, obstinately refused to give her up, asserting his superior right to her over her father or any one else, as being her husband; but they, on the other hand, assured him that he was not her husband; for since he had used deception, intimidation, and falsehood in obtaining her, the marriage was illegal, and, indeed, was no marriage at all. The battle raged long and fiercely: he, unwilling to be convinced that the marriage was void; and they " quoting William and Mary upon him until he was tired of their majesties'' names," in proof of the truth of their assertion.

They also demanded to see Miss.Turner—to have her produced from her place of concealment—that they might learn from her lips the particulars of a proceeding so strange and so iniquitous. This he was reluctant for a long time to submit to, seeing that a host of evils to himself, and the probable annihilation of his whole scheme, now so nearly perfected, would ensue thereon. But there was no help.

He was constrained to promise that he would go and fetch her; they would not suffer him to be in the room during the interview, but granted that he should come in amongst them after she had told them the truth unrestrained by his presence.

A few words served to convince her of the peril wherein she had stood, and to open her eyes to the conduct of the man who had thus stolen her. She was told that the marriage was deceptive and illegal; and when the real state of the transaction rushed upon her, she turned from him in horror and disgust, and threw herself into the arms of her uncle, who was one of those who had come over for her.

She was then taken back to England, despite his every attempt to retain her, and restored to those who %vere bewailing her loss.

The following letter from Mr. Edward Gibbon Wakefield to his brother William, which, by the by, was never intended to meet the public eye, was written soon after the rumpus at Calais; and is curious enough to amuse the reader, if the preceding narrative may have done so.

Calais, Thursday.

My dear William.—I write in haste to save the post, only to give you news, and nothing else. Mr. Robert Turner, Mr. Critehley, and Grimsditch, arrived by the packet to-day, with warrants, &e. I soon knew what they were come for, but would not attempt to avoid the question. Shortly I saw them, and found that, with Ellen's consent, they could take her away. They insisted on seeing her: I could not object. She told all, and was anxious to leave me, when she knew all. I expected as much, and therefore made a merit of necessity, and let her go. They tried to take me, but for that they were on the wrong side of the water, as I well knew. However, I offered to go with them, but begged Mr. Critehley to believe that I would be in England to answer any charge, as soon as I had seen my children and settled my affairs. Nothing could be more hostile than the whole spirit of their proceedings. I could readily have escaped with Ellen, but their account of Mrs. and Mr. Turner's state, made such a step impossible. I made, and gave in writing, a solemn declaration, that she and I have been as brother and sister. How this may affect the validity of the marriage I know not, nor could I raise the question : I was bound, and it was wise, to give some comfort to Mr. Turner.

I am now in a stew about you, and wish that you were safe. There can be no doubt the law can punish us. For myself, I will meet it, come what may ; but if you are able, get away as soon as possible : I do not eare a straw for myself. The grand question now is—is the marrjage legal ? They all said no, and quoted William and Mary upon me till I was tired of their majesties' names. Pray let me know that. But I write to Nunky. Do not stay—you can do no good. I shall go to England as soon as possible ; upon this you may depend. I shall not write again till I hear from you, for fear of accidents. Percy came with the trio, and has witnessed the row. We start early in the morning. Pray write, but say nothing to anybody. I am the person to speak. 'Yours ever, E. G. W.

Thus the matter ended on the other side of the Channel; but the reckoning was not paid—the day of retribution was to come.

The marriage at Gretna took place on Wednesday, March the 8th, 1826 ; she was rescued at Calais on the 1.5th of the same month, having been married (so to speak) for the space of seven days; and the trial at Lancaster came on the 23rd of the same month also, and in the subsequent year, 1827.

The indictment set forth:—"That, on the seventh day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and twenty-six, at Manchester, in the County of Lancaster, Edward Gibbon Wakefield,* *William Wakefield,* *Edward Thevenot,* *and Frances, the wife of Edward Wakefield (Miss Davies),* *not having any right or authority whatever to take and convey the said Ellen Turner out of or from the possession, and against the will of the said Margaret Daulby, See., unlawfully, wickedly, and injuriously, and for the sake of lucre and gain, did conspire, &c., by divers subtle stratagems and contrivances, and by false representations, unlawfully to take and convey, and to cause and procure to be taken and conveyed, the said Ellen Turner, then and there being a maid unmarried, and within the age of sixteen years, to wit, of the age of fifteen years, from, and out of the possession of, and against the will of, the said Margaret Daulby, &c., and unlawfully to cause the said Ellen Turner, &c., to contract matrimony with the said Edward Gibbon Wakefield f—and so on.

Throughout the whole of the proceedings, the learned lawyer was not very reserved in the severity of his epithets and nouns, as applied to one and all of these conspirators. Certainly, he spoke very freely, to say the least of it; and appeared nothing fearful of action for libel by so doing.

By the statute of 3rd of Henry VII. cap. 2., it is enacted, "That whereas women having substances, or being heirs apparent, &c., for the lucre of such substances, have been oftentimes taken by misdoers, contrary to their will, and after married to such misdoers, or to other, by their assent, or defiled:— what person or persons, from henceforth, that taketh any woman, so against her will unlawfully, such taking, procuring, or abetting to the same, and also receiving, wittingly, the same woman so taken against her will, knowing the same, shall be felony,' &c.

And the crime of felony in those times was punished with a severity which not only showed how carefully the law lent its aid to the protection of youthful heiresses, but also proves in how great abhorrence that wretch was held who would abduct one away from her home.

In subsequent reigns the statute underwent certain modifications, but the offence was still punishable according to its heinousness.

The existing state of the law was thus explained to the Court by Mr. Sergeant Cross:—"By the statute law of England, carrying away a young female under the age of sixteen, whether with her own consent or not, from the custody of her parents or instructors, and afterwards marrying her, whether with her own consent or not, is a high misdemeanour, that subjects the offender to five years imprisonment, and a fine at the discretion of the Court; and subjects the female herself if she consents to such a marriage, to the forfeiture of her inheritance as long as the husband whom she has chosen shall live."

The words in italics we have laid particular stress on, that the attention of our youthful ladies patronesses may be more especially attracted thereto; wherefore, we pray ye to lay up the above well in your memories, as a wholesome check against the temptations of some agreeable villain, who would whisper elopement and Gretna Green in your ears.

Whatever befalls, don't say we didn't warn you.

Alas ! how much more easy it is to give advice than to receive it.

Who was that humble and excellent divine that used to exclaim from his pulpit to his congregation, "Do as I say, but not as I do;" well knowing his own weakness as being a morsel of human nature, yet wherewithal passing humble in confessing that it was difficult indeed to act up to the good advice which he could give.

Shall we gravely advise you never to fall in love at all, by way of being on the safe side of the question ? Nay, that we will not do : fall in love by all means, only do it discreetly and wisely. But it is hard to be wise in this matter, since passion ever sways us more than sober reason; and some one demands, "Who ever loved and was wise?" as we have heretofore said.

It is below, and up to the age of sixteen, that the statute as above propounded refers; that is, sets forth how you may be persuaded to wed as with your own consent; yet, to run upon destruction, to ruin your husband, and to forfeit your inheritance ; after that age this law does not affect you, but leaves you to the guidance of your own discretion, a stable guidance assuredly, and one of which you all are possessed long before you attain to those years.

Some two months after the trial, the prisoners were transferred from Lancaster Castle to London ; and the final sentence was passed upon them in the Court of' King's Bench, in May 1827. "An affidavit," we are further told, "on the part of Edward Gibbon Wakefield was read, alleging the imprisonment he had already suffered, and the expense entailed upon him by the prosecution, (3,000/.) in mitigation of punishment."

Whether this affidavit effected anything in his behalf or not, certain it is, he was sentenced to three years durance in Newgate prison; and his brother William suffered incarceration within the walls of Lancaster Castle for an equal period of time; a lenient punishment, indeed, for the injury they had done.

By way of diverting his mind, and drowning the dismalness of his gloomy cell, in Newgate, he amused himself by covering the walls with maps of various parts of the world; and here he speculated on such plans of colonization as lie has been more deeply engaged in since his liberation.

In commenting with due severity on Edward Gibbon Wakefield's case, the Edinburgh Review makes some sound remarks on the Scottish marriage of English parties.

"It seems a most extraordinary posture of things,"' says the Northern Writer, "that while our neighbours have guarded, by extreme precaution, against an improvident contract on so important a matter, all those precautions should be evaded or frustrated by so easy an expedient as a journey to Scotland—no difficult thing to undertake from the Land's-End, but easier than going to the county town, in the provinces bordering on Scotland. - "By the Marriage Act, ever since the reign of George the Second, a person under the age of one and twenty can only marry after public proclamation in church for three successive Sundays, and consequently a fortnight is given for notice to parents or guardians, unless their consent is formally interposed, in which case the marriage may be immediately celebrated by licence. Moreover, the solemnity must be performed by a regular clergyman in orders. To the English it has appeared that this is by no means too complicated a machinery for effecting so important a purpose ^ or that greater facility could safely be given for entering into so weighty and so indissoluble an engagement. The more delay, they say, the more time for reflection, the better at a time of life when the passions are so much stronger than the judgment; and the interposition of parental authority and advice is the mildest and most appropriate check that could be devised upon the imprudence of youth.

"With us, in Scotland, however, the law is wholly different. The civil law doctrinc prevails here in its full force. Mere consent of parties, deliberately given, is alone sufficient to constitute a marriage, without a moment's delay, without any consent of parents or guardians, or any notice to them; add to which, that a mere promise of marriage, followed by consummation, or a living together as man and wife, without either formal consent or promise, amount also to a marriage, being deemed by operation of law to involve presumptions of conscnt.

"We speak with all reverence of our country's institutions ; and we know that in point of fact less evil has practically resulted from them than might have been apprehended ; but we must admit that it is not unnatural for our neighbours to wonder how such a law can prevail in a civilized state of society, where marriage is, as it were, the very corner stone of all the social edifice. A person under twenty-one years of age cannot sell or pledge, or in any way burden an acre of his land; but a boy of fourteen, and a girl of twelve, may unite themselves, on an acquaintance of half an hour, indissolubly for life. Nay, the heir to vast possessions and high honours may be, at that tender age, inveigled by a strumpet of thirty, into a match, which, by its consequences, shall carry to the issue of her bed all his castles and dignities. This seems strange; and it is impossible to deny that it does expose our youth occasionally to most tremendous hazards. We have already said, however, that the practical evils are far less than might be expected, owing, perhaps, to the characteristic caution of our race ; and we might say, that there are hazards and evils in the opposite system, which we, in our turn, wonder a little that the English should overlook. We do not propose, however, on this occasion, to enter into any comparison of the two laws; but merely to consider the consequences that have arisen from their conflict, and from what we cannot but think the inconsistent principles upon which their respective pretensions have on different occasions been adjusted. ,

"The law of England, by allowing the validity of Scotch marriages between its own domesticated subjects, plainly renders that law quite nugatory, wherever there is a temptation to evade its enactments, that is, wherever the mischief exists, to punish which they were devised. The tradesman and his wife, and their children, are married regularly by banns ; the person of maturer age and easy circumstances weds by licence ; the consent of parents or guardians is given as a matter of course where the match is prudent. But wherever the parties ought not to marry—where there is disparity of years, or of station, or of fortune, then the law becomes a dead letter : these being the very cases for which its aid was wanted, and to regulate which its provisions were contrived—provisions, in every other case, rather incumbrances than advantages. The journey to Scotland is plainly a mere fraud upon the law of England—an escape from its penalties—an occasion of its authority. The residence in Scotland, which allows the Scottish law to regulate the contract as lex loci, is hardly colourable, or rather, it is no residence at all. The parties may remain within our territory during the half minute necessary to utter the words of mutual consent, and then recross the "line and re-enter England. Straightway they are married to all intents and purposes ! and all English rights, from the succession to a dukedom down to the inheritance of a cabbage-garden, become irrevocably affected by the solemnity, or rather the mockery, enacted in Scotland. No matter how illegal the whole affair may have been—for it is illegal even in Scotland, and the parties are liable to censure, and strictly speaking, even to punishment; but this is never inflictcd, unless a clergyman most needlessly lend his aid ; and whether inflicted or not, the marriage stands good. "Fieri non debuit, factum valet," says the law of Scotland! "Contractus habent v'igorem secundum legem loci" echoes the English law ! with a view to frustrating its own most specific and positive enactments, upon the most important of all subjects.

"Now, that such a state of things is eminently pregnant with inconvcnience and misehief, needs hardly be stated ; it obviously must be so. That it is peculiar to the Law of Marriage, is equally certain. In no other matter do our municipal laws suffer themselves to be evaded. A man cannot get into a boat at Dover, for the purpose of escaping the stamp laws, by drawing a receipt, which may be afterwards available in an English Court of Justice. He cannot go to Scotland and execute a will of lands in England, without three subscribing witnesses. If he could, whatever fraudulent devices any one had to set up, would he alleged to have been made at Gretna Green, and the check afforded by examining attesting witnesses, would no longer exist; and we should hear of Gretna Green wills to defraud the heir-at-law just as we now do of Gretna Green marriages, to defeat the marriage act immediately, and in their consequences to affect heirs-at-law likewise. Is, then, the subject of marriage to be the only one where the Law of England permits the most gross and barefaced evasion of its provisions, merely because this is of all contracts the most momentous in itself, and the most grave in its conscquences?


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