The Valet's Tragedy and Other Stories
Part 4 out of 5
Socrates, the mind communicated knowledge not in the conscious
everyday intelligence of the Athenian or of la Pucelle. This
information, in Jeanne's case, was presented in the shape of
hallucinations of eye and ear. It was sane, wise, noble, veracious,
and concerned not with trifles, but with great affairs. We are not
encouraged to suppose that saints or angels made themselves audible
and visible. But, by the mechanism of such appearances to the
senses, that which was divine in the Maid--in all of us, if we
follow St. Paul--that 'in which we live and move and have our
being,' made itself intelligible to her ordinary consciousness, her
workaday self, and led her to the fulfilment of a task which seemed
impossible to men.
*See the Life and Martyrdom of St. Katherine of Alexandria.
(Roxburghe Club, 1884, Introduction by Mr. Charles Hardwick). Also
the writer's translation of the chapel record of the 'Miracles of
Madame St. Catherine of Fierbois,' in the Introduction. (London,
**See the writer's preface to Miss Corbet's Animal Land for a
singular example in our own time.
VIII. THE MYSTERY OF JAMES DE LA CLOCHE
'P'raps he was my father--though on this subjict I can't speak
suttinly, for my ma wrapped up my buth in a mistry. I may be
illygitmit, I may have been changed at nuss.'
In these strange words does Mr. Thackeray's Jeames de la Pluche
anticipate the historical mystery of James de la Cloche. HIS 'buth'
is 'wrapped up in a mistry,' HIS 'ma' is a theme of doubtful
speculation; his father (to all appearance) was Charles II. We know
not whether James de la Cloche--rejecting the gaudy lure of three
crowns--lived and died a saintly Jesuit; or whether, on the other
hand, he married beneath him, was thrown into gaol, was sentenced to
a public whipping, was pardoned and released, and died at the age of
twenty-three, full of swaggering and impenitent impudence. Was
there but one James de la Cloche, a scion of the noblest of European
royal lines? Did he, after professions of a holy vocation, suddenly
assume the most secular of characters, jilting Poverty and Obedience
for an earthly bride? Or was the person who appears to have acted
in this unworthy manner a mere impostor, who had stolen James's
money and jewels and royal name? If so, what became of the genuine
and saintly James de la Cloche? He is never heard of any more,
whether because he assumed an ecclesiastical alias, or because he
was effectually silenced by the person who took his character, name,
money, and parentage.
There are two factions in the dispute about de la Cloche. The
former (including the late Lord Acton and Father Boero) believe that
James adhered to his sacred vocation, while the second James was a
rank impostor. The other party holds that the frivolous and secular
James was merely the original James, who suddenly abandoned his
vocation, and burst on the world as a gay cavalier, and claimant of
the rank of Prince of Wales, or, at least, of the revenues and
perquisites of that position.
The first act in the drama was discovered by Father Boero, who
printed the documents as to James de la Cloche in his 'History of
the Conversion to the Catholic Church of Charles II., King of
England,' in the sixth and seventh volumes, fifth series, of La
Civilta Cattolica (Rome, 1863). (The essays can be procured in a
separate brochure.) Father Boero says not a word about the second
and secular James, calling himself 'Giacopo Stuardo.' But the
learned father had communicated the papers about de la Cloche to
Lord Acton, who wrote an article on the subject, 'The Secret History
of Charles II.,' in 'The Home and Foreign Review,' July 1862. Lord
Acton now added the story of the second James, or of the second
avatar of the first James, from State Papers in our Record Office.
The documents as to de la Cloche are among the MSS. of the Society
of Jesus at Rome.
The purpose of Father Boero was not to elucidate a romance in royal
life, but to prove that Charles II. had, for many years, been
sincerely inclined to the Catholic creed, though thwarted by his
often expressed disinclination to 'go on his travels again.' In
point of fact, the religion of Charles II. might probably be stated
in a celebrated figure of Pascal's. Let it be granted that reason
can discover nothing as to the existence of any ground for religion.
Let it be granted that we cannot know whether there is a God or not.
Yet either there is, or there is not. It is even betting, heads or
tails, croix ou pile. This being so, it is wiser to bet that there
is a God. It is safer. If you lose, you are just where you were,
except for the pleasures which you desert. If you win, you win
everything! What you stake is finite, a little pleasure; if you
win, you win infinite bliss.
So far Charles was prepared theoretically to go but he would not
abandon his diversions. A God there is, but 'He's a good fellow,
and 'twill all be well.' God would never punish a man, he told
Burnet, for taking 'a little irregular pleasure.' Further, Charles
saw that, if bet he must, the safest religion to back was that of
Catholicism. Thereby he could--it was even betting--actually ensure
his salvation. But if he put on his money publicly, if he professed
Catholicism, he certainly lost his kingdoms. Consequently he tried
to be a crypto-Catholic, but he was not permitted to practise one
creed and profess another. THAT the Pope would not stand. So it
was on his death-bed that he made his desperate plunge, and went, it
must be said, bravely, on the darkling voyage.
Not to dwell on Charles's earlier dalliances with Rome, in November
1665, his kinsman, Ludovick Stewart, Sieur d'Aubigny, of the Scoto-
French Lennox Stewarts, was made a cardinal, and then died. Charles
had now no man whom he could implicitly trust in his efforts to
become formally, but secretly, a Catholic. And now James de la
Cloche comes on the scene. Father Boero publishes, from the Jesuit
archives, a strange paper, purporting to be written and signed by
the King's hand, and sealed with his private seal, that diamond
seal, whereof the impression brought such joy to the soul of the
disgraced Archbishop Sharp. Father Boero attests the authenticity
of seal and handwriting. In this paper, Charles acknowledges his
paternity of James Stuart, 'who, by our command, has hitherto lived
in France and other countries under a feigned name.' He has come to
London, and is to bear the name of 'de la Cloche du Bourg de
Jarsey.' De la Cloche is not to produce this document, 'written in
his own language' (French), till after the King's death. (It is
important to note that James de la Cloche seems to have spoken no
language except French.) The paper is dated 'Whitehall, September
27, 1665,' when, as Lord Acton observes, the Court, during the
Plague, was NOT at Whitehall.*
*Civ. Catt. Series V., vol. vi. 710. Home and Foreign Review, vol.
Lord Acton conjectured that the name 'de la Cloche' was taken from
that of a Protestant minister in Jersey (circ. 1646). This is the
more probable, as Charles later invented a false history of his son,
who was to be described as the son of 'a rich preacher, deceased.'
The surname, de la Cloche, had really been that of a preacher in
Jersey, and survives in Jersey.
After 1665, James de la Cloche was pursuing his studies in Holland,
being at this time a Protestant. Conceivably he had been brought up
in a French Huguenot family, like that of the de Rohan. On February
7, 1667, Charles wrote a new document. In this he grants to de la
Cloche 500 pounds a year, while he lives in London and adheres to
'the religion of his father and the Anglican service book.' But, in
that very year (July 29, 1667), de la Cloche went to Hamburg, and
was there received into the Catholic Church, forfeiting his pension.
Christina of Sweden was then residing in Hamburg. De la Cloche
apprised her of his real position--a son of the King of England--and
must have shown her in proof Charles's two letters of 1665 and 1667.
If so--and how else could he prove his birth?--he broke faith with
Charles, but, apparently, he did not mean to use Charles's letters
as proof of his origin when applying, as he did, for admission to
the novitiate of the Jesuits at Rome. He obtained from Christina a
statement, in Latin, that Charles had acknowledged him, privately,
to her, as his son. This note of Christina's, de la Cloche was to
show to his director at Rome.
It does not appear that Charles had ever told Christina a word about
the matter. These pious monarchs were far from being veracious.
However, Christina's document would save the young man much trouble,
on the point of his illegitimacy, when, on April 11, 1668, he
entered St. Andrea al Quirinale as a Jesuit novice. He came in
poverty. His wardrobe was of the scantiest. He had two shirts, a
chamois leather chest protector, three collars, and three pairs of
sleeves. He described himself as 'Jacques de la Cloche, of Jersey,
British subject,' and falsely, or ignorantly, stated his age as
twenty-four. Really he was twenty-two.* Why he told Christina his
secret, why he let her say that Charles had told her, we do not
know. It may be that the General of the Jesuits, Oliva, did not yet
know who de la Cloche really was. Meanwhile, his religious vocation
led him to forfeit 500 pounds yearly, and expectations, and to
disobey his father and king.
*Civ. Catt., ut supra, 712, 713, and notes.
The good King took all very easily. On August 3, 1668, he wrote a
longa et verbosa epistola, from Whitehall, to the General of the
Jesuits. His face was now set towards the secret treaty of Dover
and conversion. The conversion of his son, therefore, seemed truly
providential. Charles had discussed it with his own mother and his
wife. To Oliva he wrote in French, explaining that his Latin was
'poor,' and that, if he wrote English, an interpreter would be
needed, but that no Englishman was to 'put his nose' into this
affair. He had long prayed God to give him a safe and secret chance
of conversion, but he could not use, without exciting suspicion, the
priests then in England. On the other hand, his son would do: the
young cavalier then at Rome, named de la Cloche de Jersey. This lad
was the pledge of an early love for 'a young lady of a family among
the most distinguished in our kingdoms.' He was a child of the
King's 'earliest youth,' that is, during his residence in Jersey,
March-June 1646, when Charles was sixteen. In a few years, the King
hoped to recognise him publicly. With him alone could Charles
practise secretly the mysteries of the Church. To such edifying
ends had God turned an offence against His laws, an amourette. De
la Cloche, of course, was as yet not a priest, and could not
administer sacraments, an idea which occurred to Charles himself.
The Queen of Sweden, Charles added, was prudent, but, being a woman,
she probably could not keep a secret. Charles wants his son to come
home, and asks the Jesuit to put off Christina with any lie he
pleases, if she asks questions. In short, he regards the General of
the Jesuits as a person ready to tell any convenient falsehood, and
lets this opinion appear with perfect naivete! He will ask the Pope
to hurry de la Cloche into priest's orders, or, if that is not easy,
he will have the thing done in Paris, by means of Louis XIV., or his
own sister, Henrietta (Madame). Or the Queen and Queen Mother can
have it done in London, as they 'have bishops at their will.' The
King has no desire to interrupt his son's vocation as a Jesuit. In
London the young man must avoid Jesuit society, and other occasions
of suspicion. He ends with a promise of subscriptions to Jesuit
*Civ. Catt. Series V., vii. 269-274.
By the same courier, the King wrote to 'Our most honoured son, the
Prince Stuart, dwelling with the R.P. Jesuits under the name of
Signor de la Cloche.' James may be easy about money. He must be
careful of his health, which is delicate, and not voyage at an
unhealthy season. The Queens are anxious to see him. He should
avoid asceticism. He may yet be recognised, and take precedence of
his younger and less nobly born brother, the Duke of Monmouth. The
King expresses his affection for a son of excellent character, and
distinguished by the solidity of his studies and acquirements. If
toleration is gained, de la Cloche has some chance of the English
throne, supposing Charles and the Duke of York to die without issue
male. Parliament will be unable to oppose this arrangement, unless
Catholics are excluded from the succession.
This has a crazy sound. The Crown would have been in no lack of
legitimate heirs, failing offspring male of the King and the Duke of
If de la Cloche, however, persists in his vocation, so be it. The
King may get for him a cardinal's hat. The King assures his son of
his affection, not only as the child of his extreme youth, but for
the virtues of his character. De la Cloche must travel as a simple
*Ut supra, 275, 278.
On August 29, Charles again wrote to Oliva. He had heard that the
Queen of Sweden was going to Rome. De la Cloche must not meet her,
she might let out the secret: he must come home at once. If
Charles is known to be a Catholic, there will be tumults, and he
will lose his life. Another letter, undated, asks that the novice,
contrary to rule, may travel alone, with no Jesuit chaperon, and by
sea, direct from Genoa. Consulting physicians, the King has learned
that sea sickness is never fatal, rather salutary. His travelling
name should be Henri de Rohan, as if he were of that Calvinistic
house, friends of the King. The story must be circulated that de la
Cloche is the son of a rich preacher, deceased, and that he has gone
to visit his mother, who is likely to be converted. He must leave
his religious costume with the Jesuits at Genoa, and pick it up
there on his return. He must not land at the port of London, but at
some other harbour, and thence drive to town.*
Ut supra, 283-287.
On October 14, d'Oliva, from Leghorn, wrote to Charles that 'the
French gentleman' was on the seas. On November 18, Charles wrote to
d'Oliva that his son was returning to Rome as his secret ambassador,
and, by the King's orders, was to come back to London, bearing
answers to questions which he will put verbally. In France he
leaves a Jesuit whom he is to pick up as he again makes for
*Father Florent Dumas, in a rather florid essay on 'The Saintly Son
of Charles II,' supposes that, after all, he had a Jesuit chaperon
during his expedition to England (Jesuit Etudes de Rel., Hist. et
Lit., Paris, 1864-1865).
The questions to which de la Cloche is to bring answers doubtless
concerned the wish of Charles to be a Catholic secretly, and other
arrangements which he is known to have suggested on another
After this letter of November 18, 1668, WE NEVER HEAR A WORD ABOUT
JAMES DE LA CLOCHE.* No later letters from the King to d'Oliva are
found, the name of James de la Cloche does not occur again in the
Records of the Society of Jesus.
*Ut supra, 418-420.
Father Boero argues that James would return to London, under a third
name, unknown. But it would be risky for one who had appeared in
England under one name in 1665, and under another (Rohan) in 1668,
to turn up under a third in 1669. To take aliases, often three or
four, was, however, the custom of the English Jesuits, and de la
Cloche may have chosen his fourth. Thus we could not trace him, in
records, unless Charles wrote again to d'Oliva about his son. No
such letter exists. In his letter of November 18, Charles promises,
in a year, a subscription to the Jesuit building fund--this at his
son's request. I know not if the money was ever paid. He also asks
Oliva to give James 800 doppie for expenses, to be repaid in six
James did not leave the Society of Jesus, argues Father Boero, for,
had he left, he would have carried away the papers in which Charles
acknowledges him and promises a pension of 500 pounds yearly. But
that document would be useless to James, whether he remained a
Jesuit or not, for the condition of the pension (1667) was that he
should be a Protestant of the Anglican sect, and live in London.
However, Charles's letter of 1668 was in another tune, and James
certainly left THAT with the Jesuits in Rome; at least, they possess
it now. But suppose that James fled secretly from the Jesuits, then
he probably had no chance of recovering his papers. He was not
likely to run away, however, for, Charles says, he 'did not like
London,' or the secular life, and he appears to have returned to
Rome at the end of 1668, with every intention of fulfilling his
mission and pursuing his vocation. His return mission to England
over, he probably would finish his Jesuit training at a college in
France or Flanders, say St. Omer's, where Titus Oates for a while
abode. No James de la Cloche is known there or elsewhere, but he
might easily adopt a new alias, and Charles would have no need to
write to Oliva about him. It may be that James was the priest at
St. Omer's, whom, in 167O, Charles had arranged to send, but did not
send, to Clement IX.* He may also be the priest secretly brought
from abroad to Charles during the Popish Plot (1678-1681).**
*Mignet, Neg. rel. Succ. d'Espagne, iii. 232.
**Welwood, Memoirs, 146.
These are suggestions of Lord Acton, who thinks that de la Cloche
may also have been the author of two papers, in French, on religion,
left by Charles, in his own hand, at his death.* These are
conjectures. If we accept them, de la Cloche was a truly self-
denying young semi-Prince, preferring an austere life to the
delights and honours which attended his younger brother, the Duke of
Monmouth. But, just when de la Cloche should have been returning
from Rome to London, at the end of 1668 or beginning of 1669, a
person calling himself James Stuart, son of Charles II., by an
amour, at Jersey, in 1646, with a 'Lady Mary Henrietta Stuart,'
appeared in some magnificence at Naples. This James Stuart either
was, or affected to be, James de la Cloche. Whoever he was, the
King's carefully guarded secret was out, was public property.
*Home and Foreign Review, i. 165.
Our information as to this James Stuart, or Giacopo Stuardo, son of
the King of England--the cavalier who appears exactly when the
Jesuit novice, James de la Cloche, son of the King of England,
vanishes--is derived from two sources. First there are Roman
newsletters, forwarded to England by Kent, the English agent at
Rome, with his own despatches in English. It does not appear to me
that Kent had, as a rule, any intimate purveyor of intelligence at
Naples. He seems, in his own letters to Williamson,* merely to
follow and comment on the Italian newsletters which he forwards and
the gossip of 'the Nation,' that is, the English in Rome. The
newsletters, of course, might be under the censorship of Rome and
Naples. Such is one of our sources.**
*See 'The Valet's Master,' for other references to Williamson.
**State Papers, Italian, 1669, Bundle 10, Record Office.
Lord Acton, in 1862, and other writers, have relied solely on this
first set of testimonies. But the late Mr. Maziere Brady has
apparently ignored or been unacquainted with these materials, and he
cites a printed book not quoted by Lord Acton.* This work is the
third volume of the 'Lettere' of Vincenzo Armanni of Gubbio, who
wrote much about the conversion of England, and had himself been in
that country. The work quoted was printed (privately?) by Giuseppe
Piccini, at Macerata, in 1674, and, so far, I have been unable to
see an example. The British Museum Library has no copy, and the
'Lettere' are unknown to Brunet. We have thus to take a secondhand
version of Armanni's account. He says that his informant was one of
two confessors, employed successively by Prince James Stuart, at
Naples, in January-August 1669. Now, Kent sent to England an
English translation of the Italian will of James Stuart. A will is
also given, of course in Italian, by Vincenzo Armanni; a copy of
this is in the Record Office.
*Maziere Brady, Anglo-Roman Papers, pp. 93-121 (Gardner Paisley,
It appears from this will that James Stuart, for reasons of his own,
actually did enjoy the services of two successive confessors, at
Naples, in 1669. The earlier of these two was Armanni's informant.
His account of James Stuart differs from that of Kent and the
Italian newsletters, which we repeat, alone are cited by Lord Acton
(1862); while Mr. Brady (1890), citing Armanni, knows nothing of the
newsletters and Kent, and conceives himself to be the first writer
in English on the subject.
Turning to our first source, the newsletters of Rome, and the
letters of Kent, the dates in each case prove that Kent, with
variations, follows the newsletters. The gazzetta of March 23,
1669, is the source of Kent's despatch of March 30. On the gazzette
of April 6, 13, and 20, he makes no comment, but his letter of June
16 varies more or less from the newsletter of June 11. His despatch
of September 7 corresponds to the newsletter of the same date, but
is much more copious.
Taking these authorities in order of date, we find the newsletter of
Rome (March 23, 1669) averring that an unknown English gentleman has
been 'for some months' at Naples, that is, since January at least,
and has fallen in love with the daughter of a poor innkeeper, or
host (locandiere). He is a Catholic and has married the girl. The
newly made father-in-law has been spending freely the money given to
him by the bridegroom. Armanni, as summarised by Mr. Brady, states
the matter of the money thus: 'The Prince was anxious to make it
appear that his intended father-in-law was not altogether a pauper,
and accordingly he gave a sum of money to Signor Francesco Corona to
serve as a dowry for Teresa. Signor Corona could not deny himself
the pleasure of exhibiting this money before his friends, and he
indiscreetly boasted before his neighbours concerning his rich son-
From Armanni's version, derived from the confessor of James Stuart,
it appears that nothing was said as to James's royal birth till
after his arrest, when he informed the Viceroy of Naples in self-
To return to the newsletter of March 23, it represents that the
Viceroy heard of the unwonted expenditure of money by Corona, and
seized the English son-in-law on suspicion. In his possession the
Viceroy found about 200 doppie, many jewels, and some papers in
which he was addressed as Altezza (Highness). The word doppie is
used by Charles (in Boero's Italian translation) for the 800 coins
which he asks Oliva to give to de la Cloche for travelling expenses.
Were James Stuart's 200 doppie the remains of the 800? Lord Acton
exaggerates when he writes vaguely that Stuart possessed 'heaps of
pistoles.' Two hundred doppie (about 150 or 160 pounds) are not
'heaps.' To return to the newsletter, the idea being current that
the young man was a natural son of the King of England, he was
provisionally confined in the castle of St. Elmo. On April 6, he is
reported to be shut up in the castle of Gaeta. On the 20th, we hear
that fifty scudi monthly have been assigned to the prisoner for his
support. The Viceroy has written (to England) to ask what is to be
done with him.
On June 11, it is reported that, after being removed to the Vicaria,
a prison for vulgar malefactors, the captive has been released. He
is NOT the son of the King of England.
Kent's letter of March 30 follows the newsletter of March 23. He
adds that the unknown Englishman 'seems' to have 'vaunted to bee the
King of England's sonne BORNE AT GERSEY,' a fact never expressly
stated about de la Cloche. It is not clear that James Stuart
vaunted his birth before his arrest made it necessary for him to
give an account of himself. Kent also says that the unknown sent
for the English consul, Mr. Browne, 'to assist his delivery out of
the castle. But it seems he could not speake a word of English nor
give any account of the birth he pretended to.' On Kent's showing,
he had no documentary proofs of his royal birth. French was de la
Cloche's language, if this unknown was he, and if Kent is right, he
had not with him the two documents and the letter of Charles II. and
the certificate of the Queen of Sweden. 'This is all the light I
can picke out of the Nation, or others, of his extravagant story,
which whether will end in Prince or cheate I shall endeavour to
inform you hereafter.'
Kent's next letter (June 16) follows, with variations, the
newsletter of June 11:--
Kent to J. Williamson
June 16, 1669.
The Gentleman who WOULD HAVE BEENE HIS MAT'YS BASTARD at Naples,
vpon the receipt of his Ma'ties Letters to that Vice King was
immediately taken out of the Castle of Gaetta brought to Naples and
Cast into the Grand Prison called the Vicaria, where being thrust
amongst the most Vile and infamous Rascalls, the Vice King intended
to have Caused him to bee whipt about the Citty, but meanes was made
by his wife's kindred (Who was Likewise taken with this pretended
Prince) to the Vice-Queene, who, in compassion to her and her
kindred, prevailed with Don Pedro to deliver him from that Shame
[and from gaol, it seems], and soe ends the Story of this fourb WHO
SPEAKS NOE LANGUADGE BUT FFRENCH.
The newsletter says nothing of the intended whipping, or of the
intercession of the family of the wife of the unknown. These points
may be the additions of gossips.
In any case the unknown, with his wife, after a stay of no long time
in the Vicaria, is set at liberty. His release might be explained
on the ground that Charles disavowed and cast him off, which he
might safely do, if the man was really de la Cloche, but had none of
the papers proving his birth, the papers which are still in the
Jesuit archives. Or he may have had the papers, and they may have
been taken from him and restored to the Jesuit General.
So far, the betting as to whether de la Cloche and the Naples
pretender were the same man or not is at evens. Each hypothesis is
beset by difficulties. It is highly improbable that the unworldly
and enthusiastic Jesuit novice threw up, at its very crisis, a
mission which might lead his king, his father, and the British
Empire back into the one Fold. De la Cloche, forfeiting his chances
of an earthly crown, was on the point of gaining a heavenly one. It
seems to the last degree unlikely that he would lose this and leave
the Jesuits to whom he had devoted himself, and the quiet life of
study and religion, for the worldly life which he disliked, and for
that life on a humble capital of a few hundred pounds, and some
jewels, presents, perhaps from the two Queens, his grandmother and
stepmother. De la Cloche knew that Charles, if the novice clung to
religion, had promised to procure for him, if he desired it, a
cardinal's hat; while if, with Charles's approval, he left religion,
he might be a prince, perhaps a king. He had thus every imaginable
motive for behaving with decorum--in religion or out of it. Yet, if
he is the Naples pretender, he suddenly left the Jesuits without
Charles's knowledge and approval, but by a freakish escapade, like
'The Start' of Charles himself as a lad, when he ran away from
Argyll and the Covenanters. And he did this before he ever saw
Teresa Corona. He reminds one of the Huguenot pastor in London,
whom an acquaintance met on the Turf. 'I not preacher now, I gay
dog,' explained the holy man.
All this is, undeniably, of a high improbability. But on the other
side, de la Cloche was freakish and unsettled. He had but lately
(1667) asked for and accepted a pension to be paid while he remained
an Anglican, then he was suddenly received into the Roman Church,
and started off, probably on foot, with his tiny 'swag' of three
shirts and three collars, to walk to Rome and become a Jesuit. He
may have deserted the Jesuits as suddenly and recklessly as he had
joined them. It is not impossible. He may have received the 800
pounds for travelling expenses from Oliva; not much of it was left
by March 1669--only about 150 pounds. On the theory that the man at
Naples was an impostor, it is odd that he should only have spoken
French, that he was charged with no swindles, that he made a very
poor marriage in place of aiming at a rich union; that he had,
somehow, learned de la Cloche's secret; and that, possessing a fatal
secret, invaluable to a swindler and blackmailer, he was merely
disgraced and set free. Louis XIV. would, at least, have held him a
masked captive for the rest of his life. But he was liberated, and,
after a brief excursion, returned to Naples, where he died,
maintaining that he was a prince.
Thus, on either view, 'prince or cheat,' we are met by things almost
We now take up the Naples man's adventure as narrated by Kent. He
Kent to Jo: Williamson
Rome: August 31, 1669.
That certaine fellow or what hee was, who pretended to bee his
Ma'ties naturall sonn at Naples is dead and haueing made his will
they write mee from thence wee shall with the next Poast know the
truth of his quality.
September 7, 1669.
That certaine Person at Naples who in his Lyfe tyme would needes bee
his Ma'ties naturall Sonne is dead in the same confidence and
Princely humour, for haueing Left his Lady Teresa Corona, an
ordinary person, 7 months gone with Child, hee made his Testament,
and hath Left his most Xtian Ma'tie (whom he called Cousin) executor
Hee had been absent from Naples some tyme pretending to haue made a
journey into France to visit his Mother, Dona Maria Stuarta of His
Ma'tie Royall Family, which neernes and greatnes of Blood was the
cause, Saies hee, that his Ma'tie would never acknowledge him for
his Sonn, his mother Dona Maria Stuarta was, it seemes, dead before
hee came into France. In his will hee desires the present King of
England Carlo 2nd to allow His Prince Hans in Kelder eighty thousand
Ducketts, which is his Mother's Estate, he Leaues Likewise to his
Child and Mother Teresa 291 thousand Ducketts which hee calls
Legacies. Hee was buried in the Church of St. Fran'co Di Paolo out
of the Porta Capuana (for hee dyed of this Religion). He left 400
pounds for a Lapide to have his name and quality engrauen vpon it
for hee called himself Don Jacopo Stuarto, and this is the end of
that Princely Cheate or whatever hee was.
The newsletter of September 7 merely mentions the death and the
will. On this occasion Kent had private intelligence from a
correspondent in Naples. Copies of the will, in English and in
Italian, were forwarded to England, where both copies remain.
'This will,' Lord Acton remarked, 'is fatal to the case for the
Prince.' If not fatal, it is a great obstacle to the cause of the
Naples man. He claims as his mother, Donna Maria Stewart, 'of the
family of the Barons of San Marzo.' If Marzo means 'March,' the
Earl of March was a title in the Lennox family. The only Mary
Stewart in that family known to Douglas's 'Peerage' was younger than
James de la Cloche, and died, the wife of the Earl of Arran, in
1667, at the age of eighteen. She may have had some outlying cousin
Mary, but nothing is known of such a possible mother of de la
Cloche. Again, the testator begs Charles II. to give his unborn
child 'the ordinary principality either of Wales or Monmouth, or
other province customary to be given to the natural sons of the
Crown;' to the value of 100,000 scudi!
Could de la Cloche be so ignorant as to suppose that a royal bastard
might be created Prince of Wales? He certainly knew, from Charles's
letter, that his younger brother was already Duke of Monmouth. His
legacies are of princely munificence, but--he is to be buried at the
expense of his father-in-law.
By way of security for his legacies, the testator 'assigns and gives
his lands, called the Marquisate of Juvignis, worth 300,000 scudi.'
Mr. Brady writes: 'Juvignis is probably a mistake for Aubigny, the
dukedom which belonged to the Dukes of Richmond and Lennox by the
older creation.' But a dukedom is not a marquisate, nor could de la
Cloche hold Aubigny, of which the last holder was Ludovick Stewart,
who died, a cardinal, in November 1665. The lands then reverted to
the French Crown. Moreover, there are two places called Juvigny, or
Juvignis, in north-eastern France (Orne and Manche). Conceivably
one or other of these belonged to the house of Rohan, and James
Stuart's posthumous son, one of whose names is 'Roano,' claimed a
title from Juvigny or Juvignis, among other absurd pretensions.
'Henri de Rohan' was only the travelling name of de la Cloche in
1668, though it is conceivable that he was brought up by the de
Rohan family, friendly to Charles II.
The whole will is incompatible with all that de la Cloche must have
known. Being in Italian it cannot have been intelligible to him,
and may conceivably be the work of an ignorant Neapolitan attorney,
while de la Cloche, as a dying man, may have signed without
understanding much of what he signed. The folly of the Corona
family may thus (it is a mere suggestion) be responsible for this
absurd testament. Armanni, however, represents the man as sane, and
very devout, till his death.
A posthumous child, a son, was born and lived a scrambling life, now
'recognised' abroad, now in prison and poverty, till we lose him
*A. F. Steuart, Engl. Hist. Review, July 1903, 'The Neapolitan
Stuarts.' Maziere Brady, ut supra.
Among his sham titles are Dux Roani and 'de Roano,' clearly
referring, as Mr. Steuart notices, to de la Cloche's travelling name
of Henri de Rohan. The Neapolitan pretender, therefore, knew the
secret of that incognito, and so of de la Cloche's mission to
England in 1668. That, possessing this secret, he was set free, is
a most unaccountable circumstance. Charles had written to Oliva
that his life hung on absolute secrecy, yet the owner of the secret
is left at liberty.
Our first sources leave us in these perplexities. They are not
disentangled by the 'Lettere' of Vincenzo Armanni (1674). I have
been unable, as has been said, to see this book. In the summary by
Mr. Brady we read that (1668-1669) Prince James Stuart, with a
French Knight of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, came to Naples
for his health. This must have been in December 1668 or January
1669; by March 1669 the pretender had been 'for some months' in
Naples. The Frenchman went by way of Malta to England, recommending
Prince James to a confessor at Naples, who was a parish priest.
This priest was Armanni's informant. He advised the Prince to lodge
with Corona, and here James proposed to Teresa. She at first held
aloof, and the priest discountenanced the affair. The Prince ceased
to be devout, but later chose another confessor. Both priests knew,
in confession, the secret of his birth: the Prince says so in his
will, and leaves them great legacies. So far Armanni's version is
Mr. Brady goes on, citing Armanni: 'At last he chose another
spiritual director, to whom he revealed not only his passion for
Teresa Corona, but also the secret of his birth, showing to him the
letters written by the Queen of Sweden and the Father General of the
Jesuits.' Was the latter document Oliva's note from Leghorn of
October 14, 1668? That did not contain a word about de la Cloche's
birth: he is merely styled 'the French gentleman.' Again, the
letter of the Queen of Sweden is now in the Jesuit archives; how
could it be in the possession of the pretender at Naples? Was it
taken from him in prison, and returned to Oliva?
The new confessor approved of the wedding which was certainly
celebrated on February 19, 1669. Old Corona now began to show his
money: his new son-in-law was suspected of being a false coiner,
and was arrested by the Viceroy. 'The certificates and papers
attesting the parentage of James Stuart were then produced. . . '
How could this be--they were in the hands of the Jesuits at Rome.
Had de la Cloche brought them to Naples, the Corona family would
have clung to them, but they are in the Gesu at Rome to this day.
The rest is much as we know it, save, what is important, that the
Prince, from prison, 'wrote to the General of the Jesuits,
beseeching him to interpose his good offices with the Viceroy, and
to obtain permission for him to go to England via Leghorn' (as in
1688) 'and Marseilles.'
Armanni knew nothing, or says nothing, of de la Cloche's having been
in the Jesuit novitiate. His informant, the priest, must have known
that, but under seal of confession, so he would not tell Armanni.
He did tell him that James Stuart wrote to the Jesuit general,
asking his help in procuring leave to go to England. The General
knew de la Cloche's hand, and would not be taken in by the
impostor's. This point is in favour of the identity of James Stuart
with de la Cloche. The Viceroy had, however, already written to
London, and waited for a reply. 'Immediately on arrival of the
answer from London, the Prince was set at liberty and left Naples.
It may be supposed he went to England. After a few months he
returned to Naples with an assignment of 50,000 scudi,' and died of
Nothing is said by Armanni of the imprisonment among the low scum of
the Vicaria: nothing of the intended whipping, nothing of the visit
by James Stuart to France. The 50,000 scudi have a mythical ring.
Why should James, if he had 50,000 scudi, be buried at the expense
of his father-in-law, who also has to pay 50 ducats to the notary
for drawing the will of this 'prince or cheate'? Probably the
parish priest and ex-confessor of the prince was misinformed on some
points. The Corona family would make out the best case they could
for their royal kinsman.
Was the man of Naples 'prince or cheate'? Was he de la Cloche, or,
as Lord Acton suggests, a servant who had robbed de la Cloche of
money and papers?
Every hypothesis (we shall recapitulate them) which we can try as a
key fails to fit the lock. Say that de la Cloche had confided his
secret to a friend among the Jesuit novices; say that this young man
either robbed de la Cloche, or, having money and jewels of his own,
fled from the S. Andrea training college, and, when arrested,
assumed the name and pretended to the rank of de la Cloche. This is
not inconceivable, but it is odd that he had no language but French,
and that, possessing secrets of capital importance, he was released
from prison, and allowed to depart where he would, and return to
Naples when he chose.
Say that a French servant of de la Cloche robbed and perhaps even
murdered him. In that case he certainly would not have been
released from prison. The man at Naples was regarded as a
gentleman, but that is not so important in an age when the low
scoundrel, Bedloe, could pass in Spain and elsewhere for an English
But again, if the Naples man is a swindler, as already remarked, he
behaves unlike one. A swindler would have tried to entrap a woman
of property into a marriage--he might have seduced, but would not
have married, the penniless Teresa Corona, giving what money he had
to her father. When arrested, the man had not in money more than
160 pounds. His maintenance, while in prison, was paid for by the
Viceroy. No detaining charges, from other victims, appear to have
been lodged against him. His will ordains that the document shall
be destroyed by his confessor, if the secret of his birth therein
contained is divulged before his death. The secret perhaps was only
known--before his arrest--to his confessors; it came out when he was
arrested by the Viceroy as a coiner of false money. Like de la
Cloche, he was pious, though not much turns on that. If Armanni's
information is correct, if, when taken, the man wrote to the General
of the Jesuits--who knew de la Cloche's handwriting--we can scarcely
escape the inference that he was de la Cloche.
On the other hand is the monstrous will. Unworldly as de la Cloche
may have been, he can hardly have fancied that Wales was the
appanage of a bastard of the Crown; and he certainly knew that 'the
province of Monmouth' already gave a title to his younger brother,
the duke, born in 1649. Yet the testator claims Wales or Monmouth
for his unborn child. Again, de la Cloche may not have known who
his mother was. But not only can no Mary, or Mary Henrietta, of the
Lennox family be found, except the impossible Lady Mary who was
younger than de la Cloche; but we observe no trace of the presence
of any d'Aubigny, or even of any Stewart, male or female, at the
court of the Prince of Wales in Jersey, in 1646.*
*See Hoskins, Charles II. in the Channel islands (Bentley, London,
The names of the suite are given by Dr. Hoskins from the journal
(MS.) of Chevalier, a Jersey man, and from the Osborne papers. No
Stewart or Stuart occurs, but, in a crowd of some 3,000 refugees,
there MAY have been a young lady of the name. Lady Fanshaw, who was
in Jersey, is silent. The will is absurd throughout, but whether it
is all of the dying pretender's composition, whether it may not be a
thing concocted by an agent of the Corona family, is another
It is a mere conjecture, suggested by more than one inquirer, as by
Mr. Steuart, that the words 'Signora D. Maria Stuardo della famiglia
delli Baroni di S. Marzo,' refer to the Lennox family, which would
naturally be spoken of as Lennox, or as d'Aubigny. About the
marquisate of Juvigny (which cannot mean the dukedom of d'Aubigny)
we have said enough. In short, the whole will is absurd, and it is
all but inconceivable that the real de la Cloche could have been so
ignorant as to compose it.
So the matter stands; one of two hypotheses must be correct--the
Naples man was de la Cloche or he was not--yet either hypothesis is
*I was at first inclined to suppose that the de la Cloche papers in
the Gesu--the letters of Charles II. and the note of the Queen of
Sweden--were forgeries, part of an impostor's apparatus, seized at
Naples and sent to Oliva for inspection. But the letters--
handwriting and royal seal apart--show too much knowledge of
Charles's secret policy to have been feigned. We are not told that
the certificates of de la Cloche's birth were taken from James
Stuart in prison, and, even if he possessed them, as Armanni says he
did, he may have stolen them, and they may have been restored by the
Viceroy of Naples, as we said, to the Jesuits. As to whether
Charles II. paid his promised subscription to the Jesuit building
fund, Father Boero says: 'We possess a royal letter, proving that
it was abundant' (Boero, Istoria etc., p. 56, note 1), but he does
not print the letter; and Mr. Brady speaks now of extant documents
proving the donation, and now of 'a traditional belief that Charles
was a benefactor of the Jesuit College.'
It may be added that, on December 27, 1668, Charles wrote to his
sister, Henrietta, Duchess of Orleans: 'I assure you that nobody
does, nor shall, know anything of it here' (of his intended
conversion and secret dealings with France) 'but my selfe, and that
one person more, till it be fitte to be publique. . .' 'That one
person more' is not elsewhere referred to in Charles's known letters
to his sister, unless he be 'he that came last, and delivered me
your letter of the 9th December; he has given me a full account of
what he was charged with, and I am very well pleased with what he
tells me' (Whitehall, December 14, 1668).
This mysterious person, the one sharer of the King's secret, may be
de la Cloche, if he could have left England by November 18, visited
Rome, and returned to Paris by December 9. If so, de la Cloche may
have fulfilled his mission. Did he return to Italy, and appear in
Naples in January or February 1669? (See Madame, by Julia
Cartwright, pp. 274, 275, London, 1894.)
IX. THE TRUTH ABOUT 'FISHER'S GHOST'
Everybody has heard about 'Fisher's Ghost.' It is one of the stock
'yarns' of the world, and reappears now and again in magazines,
books like 'The Night Side of Nature,' newspapers, and general
conversation. As usually told, the story runs thus: One Fisher, an
Australian settler of unknown date, dwelling not far from Sydney,
disappeared. His overseer, like himself an ex-convict, gave out
that Fisher had returned to England, leaving him as plenipotentiary.
One evening a neighbour (one Farley), returning from market, saw
Fisher sitting on the fence of his paddock, walked up to speak to
him, and marked him leave the fence and retreat into the field,
where he was lost to sight. The neighbour reported Fisher's return,
and, as Fisher could nowhere be found, made a deposition before
magistrates. A native tracker was taken to the fence where the
pseudo Fisher sat, discovered 'white man's blood' on it, detected
'white man's fat' on the scum of a pool hard by, and, finally, found
'white man's body' buried in a brake. The overseer was tried,
condemned, and hanged after confession.
Such is the yarn: occasionally the ghost of Fisher is said to have
been viewed several times on the fence.
Now, if the yarn were true, it would be no proof of a ghost. The
person sitting on the fence might be mistaken for Fisher by a
confusion of identity, or might be a mere subjective hallucination
of a sort recognised even by official science as not uncommon. On
the other hand, that such an illusion should perch exactly on the
rail where 'white man's blood' was later found, would be a very
remarkable coincidence. Finally, the story of the appearance might
be explained as an excuse for laying information against the
overseer, already suspected on other grounds. But while this motive
might act among a Celtic population, naturally credulous of ghosts,
and honourably averse to assisting the law (as in Glenclunie in
1749), it is not a probable motive in an English Crown colony, as
Sydney then was. Nor did the seer inform against anybody.
The tale is told in 'Tegg's Monthly Magazine' (Sydney, March 1836);
in 'Household Words' for 1853; in Mr. John Lang's book, 'Botany Bay'
(about 1840), where the yarn is much dressed up; and in Mr.
Montgomery Martin's 'History of the British Colonies,' vol. iv.
(1835). Nowhere is a date given, but Mr. Martin says that the
events occurred while he was in the colony. His most intimate
surviving friend has often heard him tell the tale, and discuss it
with a legal official, who is said to have been present at the trial
of the overseer.* Other living witnesses have heard the story from
a gentleman who attended the trial. Mr. Martin's narrative given as
a lowest date, the occurrences were before 1835. Moreover, the yarn
of the ghost was in circulation before that year, and was accepted
by a serious writer on a serious subject. But we have still no date
for the murder.
*So the friend informs me in a letter of November 1896.
That date shall now be given. Frederick Fisher was murdered by
George Worrall, his overseer, at Campbelltown on June 16 (or 17),
1826. After that date, as Fisher was missing, Worrall told various
tales to account for his absence. The trial of Worrall is reported
in the 'Sydney Gazette' of February 5, 1827. Not one word is
printed about Fisher's ghost; but the reader will observe that there
is a lacuna in the evidence exactly where the ghost, if ghost there
were, should have come in. The search for Fisher's body starts, it
will be seen, from a spot on Fisher's paddock-fence, and the witness
gives no reason why that spot was inspected, or rather no account of
how, or by whom, sprinkled blood was detected on the rail. Nobody
saw the murder committed. Chief-Justice Forbes said, in summing up
(on February 2, 1827), that the evidence was purely circumstantial.
We are therefore so far left wholly in the dark as to why the police
began their investigations at a rail in a fence.
At the trial Mr. D. Cooper deposed to having been owed 80 pounds by
Fisher. After Fisher's disappearance Cooper frequently spoke to
Worrall about this debt, which Worrall offered to pay if Cooper
would give up to him certain papers (title-deeds) of Fisher's in his
possession. Worrall even wrote, from Banbury Curran, certifying
Cooper of Fisher's departure from the colony, which, he said, he was
authorised to announce. Cooper replied that he would wait for his
80 pounds if Fisher were still in the country. Worrall exhibited
uneasiness, but promised to show a written commission to act for
Fisher. This document he never produced, but was most anxious to
get back Fisher's papers and to pay the 80 pounds. This arrangement
was refused by Cooper.
James Coddington deposed that on July 8, 1826, when Fisher had been
missing for three weeks, Worrall tried to sell him a colt, which
Coddington believed to be Fisher's. Worrall averred that Fisher had
left the country. A few days later Worrall showed Coddington
Fisher's receipt for the price paid to him by Worrall for the horse.
'Witness, from having seen Fisher write, had considerable doubt as
to the genuineness of the receipt.'
James Hamilton swore that in August 1826 he bluntly told Worrall
that foul play was suspected; he 'turned pale, and endeavoured to
force a smile.' He merely said that Fisher 'was on salt water,' but
could not or would not name his ship. A receipt to Worrall from
Fisher was sworn to by Lewis Solomon as a forgery.
Samuel Hopkins, who lived under Fisher's roof, last saw Fisher on
June 17, 1826 (June 16 may be meant), in the evening. Some other
people, including one Lawrence, were in the house, they left shortly
after Fisher went out that evening, and later remarked on the
strangeness of his not returning. Nathaniel Cole gave evidence to
the same effect. Fisher, in short, strolled out on June 17 (16?),
1826, and was seen no more in the body.
Robert Burke, of Campbelltown, constable, deposed to having
apprehended Worrall. We may now give in full the evidence as to the
search for Fisher's body on October 20, 1826.
Here let us first remark that Fisher's body was not easily found. A
reward for its discovery was offered by Government on September 27,
1826, when Fisher had been dead for three months, and this may have
stimulated all that was immortal of Fisher to perch on his own
paddock-rail, and so draw attention to the position of his body.
But on this point we have no information, and we proceed to real
evidence. From this it appears that though a reward was offered on
September 27, the local magistrates (to whom the ghost-seer went, in
the yarn) did not bid their constable make SPECIAL researches till
October 20, apparently after the seer told his tale.
'George Leonard, a constable at Campbelltown, stated that by order
of the bench of the magistrates he commenced a search for the body
of the deceased on the 20th of October last: witness WENT TO A
PLACE WHERE SOME BLOOD WAS SAID TO HAVE BEEN DISCOVERED, and saw
traces of it on several rails of a fence at the corner of the
deceased's paddock adjoining the fence of Mr. Bradbury, and about
fifty rods from prisoner's house: witness proceeded to search with
an iron rod over the ground, when two black natives came up and
joined in the search till they came to a creek where one of them saw
something on the water: a man named Gilbert, a black native, went
into the water, and scumming some of the top with a leaf, which he
afterwards tasted, called out that "there was the fat of a white
man" [of which he was clearly an amateur]: they then proceeded to
another creek about forty or fifty yards farther up, STILL LED BY
THE NATIVES, when one of them struck the rod into some marshy ground
and called out that "there was something there:" a spade was
immediately found, and the place dug, when the first thing that
presented itself was the left hand of a man lying on his side, which
witness, from a long acquaintance with him, immediately declared to
be the hand of Frederick Fisher: the body was decayed a little,
particularly the under-jaw: witness immediately informed Mr.
William Howe and the Rev. Mr. Reddall, and obtained a warrant to
apprehend the parties who were supposed to be concerned in the
murder; the coroner was sent for, and, the body being taken out of
the earth the next morning, several fractures were found in the
head: an inquest was held, and a verdict of wilful murder against
some person or persons unknown was returned: witness particularly
examined the fence: there appeared to have been a fire made under
the lower rail, as if to burn out the mark: the blood seemed as if
it were sprinkled over the rails. . . .
'The declaration of the prisoner' (Worrall) 'was put in and read:
it stated that, on the evening of the 17th of June, a man named
Lawrence got some money from the deceased, and together with four
others went to a neighbouring public-house to drink: that after
some time they returned, and the prisoner being then outside the
house, and not seen by the others, he saw two of them enter, whilst
the other two, one of whom was Lawrence, remained at the door: the
prisoner then went down to the bottom of the yard, and after a
little time heard a scuffle, and saw Lawrence and the others drag
something along the yard, which they struck several times. The
prisoner then came forward, and called out to know who it was. One
of them replied, "It is a dog." The prisoner coming up said, "It is
Fisher, and you have prevented him from crying out any more." They
said they had murdered him in order to possess themselves of what
money he had, and bound the prisoner by a solemn pledge not to
'For the prisoner Nathaniel Boom deposed: he knew deceased, and
intended to institute a prosecution against him for forgery when he
'Chief-justice summed up: observed it was a case entirely of
circumstances. The jury were first to consider if identity of body
with Fisher was satisfactorily established. If not: no case. If
so: they would then consider testimony as affecting prisoner.
Impossible, though wholly circumstantial, for evidence to be
stronger. He offered no opinion, but left case to jury.
'The jury returned a verdict of guilty. Sentence of death passed.'
'February 6, 1827. Sydney Gazette.
'George Worrall, convicted on Friday last of murder of F. Fisher,
yesterday suffered the last penalty of the law. Till about 5
o'clock on the morning of his execution, he persisted in asserting
his innocence, when he was induced to confess to a gentleman who had
sat up with him during the night, that he alone had perpetrated the
murder, but positively affirmed it was not his intention at the time
to do so.'
We need not follow Worrall's attempts to explain away the crime as
an accident. He admitted that 'he had intended to hang Lawrence and
It is a curious case. WHY WAS NOBODY INTERROGATED ABOUT THE
DISCOVERY, ON THE RAIL, OF BLOOD THREE MONTHS OLD, if not four
months? What was the apparent date of the fire under the rail? How
did the ghost-story get into circulation, and reach Mr. Montgomery
To suggest a solution of these problems, we have a precisely
analogous case in England.
On October 25, 1828, one William Edden, a market-gardener, did not
come home at night. His wife rushed into the neighbouring village,
announcing that she had seen her husband's ghost; that he had a
hammer, or some such instrument, in his hand; that she knew he had
been hammered to death on the road by a man whose name she gave, one
Tyler. Her husband was found on the road, between Aylesbury and
Thame, killed by blows of a blunt instrument, and the wife in vain
repeatedly invited the man, Joseph Tyler, to come and see the
corpse. Probably she believed that it would bleed in his presence,
in accordance with the old superstition. All this the poor woman
stated on oath at an inquiry before the magistrates, reported in the
Buckinghamshire county paper of August 29, 1829.
Here is her evidence, given at Aylesbury Petty Sessions, August 22,
before Lord Nugent, Sir J. D. King, R. Brown, Esq., and others:
'"After my husband's corpse was brought home, I sent to Tyler, for
some reasons I had, to come and see the corpse. I sent for him five
or six times. I had some particular reason for sending for him
which I never did divulge. . . . I will tell my reasons if you
gentlemen ask me, in the face of Tyler, even if my life should be in
danger for it. When I was ironing a shirt, on the Saturday night my
husband was murdered, something came over me--something rushed over
me--and I thought my husband came by me. I looked up, and I thought
I heard the voice of my husband come from near my mahogany table, as
I turned from my ironing. I ran out and said, 'Oh dear God! my
husband is murdered, and his ribs are broken.' I told this to
several of my neighbours. Mrs. Chester was the first to whom I told
it. I mentioned it also at the Saracen's Head."
'Sir J. D. King.--"Have you any objection to say why you thought
your husband had been murdered?"
'"No! I thought I saw my husband's apparition and the man that had
done it, and that man was Tyler, and that was the reason I sent for
him. . . . When my neighbours asked me what was the matter when I
ran out, I told them that I had seen my husband's apparition. . . .
When I mentioned it to Mrs. Chester, I said: 'My husband is
murdered, and his ribs are broken; I have seen him by the mahogany
table.' I did not tell her who did it. . . . I was always
frightened, since my husband had been stopped on the road." (The
deceased Edden had once before been waylaid, but was then too
powerful for his assailants.) "In consequence of what I saw, I went
in search of my husband, until I was taken so ill I could go no
'Lord Nugent.--"What made you think your husband's ribs were
'"He held up his hand like this" (holds up her arm), "and I saw a
hammer, or something like a hammer, and it came into my mind that
his ribs were broken."
'Sewell stated that the murder was accomplished by means of a
hammer. The examination was continued on August 31 and September
13; and finally both prisoners were discharged for want of
sufficient evidence. Sewell declared that he had only been a
looker-on, and his accusations against Tyler were so full of
prevarications that they were not held sufficient to incriminate
him. The inquiry was again resumed on February 11, 1830, and
Sewell, Tyler, and a man named Gardner were committed for trial.
'The trial (see "Buckingham Gazette," March 13, 1830) took place
before Mr. Baron Vaughan and a grand jury at the Buckingham Lent
Assizes, March 5, 1830; BUT IN THE REPORT OF MRS. EDDEN'S EVIDENCE
NO MENTION IS MADE OF THE VISION.
'Sewell and Tyler were found guilty, and were executed, protesting
their innocence, on March 8, 1830.
'Miss Browne, writing to us [Mr. Gurney] from Farnham Castle, in
January 1884, gives an account of the vision which substantially
accords with that here recorded, adding:--
'"The wife persisted in her account of the vision; consequently the
accused was taken up, and, with some circumstantial evidence in
addition to the woman's story, committed for trial by two
magistrates--my father, Colonel Robert Browne, and the Rev. Charles
'"The murderer was convicted at the assizes, and hanged at
'"It may be added that Colonel Browne was remarkably free from
superstition, and was a thorough disbeliever in 'ghost stories.'"'*
*From Phantasms of the Living, Gurney and Myers, vol. ii. p. 586.
Now, in the report of the trial at assizes in 1830 there is not one
word about the 'ghost,' though he is conspicuous in the hearing at
petty sessions. The parallel to Fisher's case is thus complete.
And the reason for omitting the ghost in a trial is obvious. The
murderers of Sergeant Davies of Guise's, slain in the autumn of 1749
in Glenclunie, were acquitted by an Edinburgh jury in 1753 in face
of overpowering evidence of their guilt, partly because two Highland
witnesses deposed to having seen the ghost of the sergeant, partly
because the jury were Jacobites. The prisoners' counsel, as one of
them told Sir Walter Scott, knew that their clients were guilty. A
witness had seen them in the act. But the advocate (Lockhart, a
Jacobite) made such fun out of the ghost that an Edinburgh jury,
disbelieving in the spectre, and not loving the House of Hanover,
very logically disregarded also the crushing evidence for a crime
which was actually described in court by an eye-witness.
Thus, to secure a view of the original form of the yarn of Fisher's
Ghost, what we need is what we are not likely to get--namely, a copy
of the depositions made before the bench of magistrates at
Campbelltown in October 1826.
For my own part, I think it highly probable that the story of
Fisher's Ghost was told before the magistrates, as in the
Buckinghamshire case, and was suppressed in the trial at Sydney.
Worrall's condemnation is said to have excited popular discontent,
as condemnations on purely circumstantial evidence usually do. That
dissatisfaction would be increased if a ghost were publicly
implicated in the matter, just as in the case of Davies's murder in
1749. We see how discreetly the wraith or ghost was kept out of the
Buckinghamshire case at the trial, and we see why, in Worrall's
affair, no questions were asked as to the discovery of sprinkled
blood, not proved by analysis to be human, on the rail where
Fisher's ghost was said to perch.
I had concluded my inquiry here, when I received a letter in which
Mr. Rusden kindly referred me to his 'History of Australia' (vol.
ii. pp. 44, 45). Mr. Rusden there gives a summary of the story, in
agreement with that taken from the Sydney newspaper. He has
'corrected current rumours by comparison with the words of a
trustworthy informant, a medical man, who lived long in the
neighbourhood, and attended Farley [the man who saw Fisher's ghost]
on his death-bed. He often conversed with Farley on the subject of
the vision which scared him. . . . These facts are compiled from
the notes of Chief-Justice Forbes, who presided at the trial, with
the exception of the references to the apparition, which, although
it led to the discovery of Fisher's body, could not be alluded to in
a court of justice, or be adduced as evidence.'* There is no
justice for ghosts.
*Thanks to the kindness of the Countess of Jersey, and the obliging
researches of the Chief Justice of New South Wales, I have received
a transcript of the judge's notes. They are correctly analysed by
An Australian correspondent adds another example. Long after
Fisher's case, this gentleman was himself present at a trial in
Maitland, New South Wales. A servant-girl had dreamed that a
missing man told her who had killed him, and where his body was
concealed. She, being terrified, wanted to leave the house, but her
mistress made her impart the story to the chief constable, a man
known to my informant, who also knew, and names, the judge who tried
the case. The constable excavated at the spot pointed out in the
dream, unearthed the body, and arrested the criminal, who was found
guilty, confessed, and was hanged. Not a word was allowed to be
said in court about the dream. All the chief constable was
permitted to say was, that 'from information received' he went to
Hayes's farm, and so forth.
Here, then, are two parallels to Fisher's ghost, and very hard on
psychical science it is that ghostly evidence should be deliberately
burked through the prejudices of lawyers. Mr. Suttar, in his
'Australian Stories Retold' (Bathurst, 1887), remarks that the ghost
is not a late mythical accretion in Fisher's story. 'I have the
authority of a gentleman who was intimately connected with the
gentleman who had the charge of the police when the murder was done,
that Farley's story did suggest the search for the body in the
creek.' But Mr. Suttar thinks that Farley invented the tale as an
excuse for laying information. That might apply, as has been said,
to Highland witnesses in 1753, but hardly to an Englishman in
Australia. Besides, if Farley knew the facts, and had the ghost to
cover the guilt of peaching, WHY DID HE NOT PEACH? He only pointed
to a fence, and, but for the ingenious black Sherlock Holmes, the
body would never have been found. What Farley did was not what a
man would do who, knowing the facts of the crime, and lured by a
reward of 20 pounds, wished to play the informer under cover of a
The case for the ghost, then, stands thus, in my opinion. Despite
the silence preserved at the trial, Farley's ghost-story was really
told before the discovery of Fisher's body, and led to the finding
of the body. Despite Mr. Suttar's theory (of information laid under
shelter of a ghost-story), Farley really had experienced an
hallucination. Mr. Rusden, who knew his doctor, speaks of his
fright, and, according to the version of 1836, he was terrified into
an illness. Now, the hallucination indicated the exact spot where
Fisher was stricken down, and left traces of his blood, which no
evidence shows to have been previously noticed. Was it, then, a
fortuitous coincidence that Farley should be casually hallucinated
exactly at the one spot--the rail in the fence--where Fisher had
been knocked on the head? That is the question, and the state of
the odds may be reckoned by the mathematician.
As to the Australian servant-girl's dream about the place where
another murdered body lay, and the dreams which led to the discovery
of the Red Barn and Assynt murders, and (May 1903) to the finding of
the corpse of a drowned girl at Shanklin, all these may be mere
guesses by the sleeping self, which is very clever at discovering
X. THE MYSTERY OF LORD BATEMAN
Ever and again, in the literary and antiquarian papers, there
flickers up debate as to the Mystery of Lord Bateman. This problem
in no way concerns the existing baronial house of Bateman, which, in
Burke, records no predecessor before a knight and lord mayor of
1717. Our Bateman comes of lordlier and more ancient lineage. The
question really concerns 'The Loving Ballad of Lord Bateman.
Illustrated by George Cruikshank, London: Charles Tilt, Fleet
Street. And Mustapha Syried, Constantinople. MDCCCXXXIX.'
The tiny little volume in green cloth, with a design of Lord
Bateman's marriage ceremony, stamped in gold, opens with a 'Warning
to the Public, concerning the Loving Ballad of Lord Bateman.' The
Warning is signed George Cruikshank, who, however, adds in a
postscript: 'The above is not my writing.' The ballad follows, and
then comes a set of notes, mainly critical. The author of the
Warning remarks: 'In some collection of old English Ballads there
is an ancient ditty, which, I am told, bears some remote and distant
resemblance to the following Epic Poem.'
Again, the text of the ballad, here styled 'The Famous History of
Lord Bateman,' with illustrations by Thackeray, 'plain' (the
original designs were coloured), occurs in the Thirteenth Volume of
the Biographical Edition of Thackeray's works. (pp. lvi-lxi).
The problems debated are: 'Who wrote the Loving Ballad of Lord
Bateman, and who wrote the Notes?' The disputants have not shown
much acquaintance with ballad lore in general.
First let us consider Mr. Thackeray's text of the ballad. It is
closely affiliated to the text of 'The Loving Ballad of Lord
Bateman,' whereof the earliest edition with Cruikshank's
illustrations was published in 1839.* The edition here used is that
of David Bryce and Son, Glasgow (no date).
*There are undated cheap broadside copies, not illustrated, in the
Mr. Blanchard Jerrold, in his 'Life of Cruikshank,' tells us that
the artist sang this 'old English ballad' at a dinner where Dickens
and Thackeray were present. Mr. Thackeray remarked: 'I should like
to print that ballad with illustrations,' but Cruikshank 'warned him
off,' as he intended to do the thing himself. Dickens furnished the
learned notes. This account of what occurred was given by Mr.
Walter Hamilton, but Mr. Sala furnished another version. The
'authorship of the ballad,' Mr. Sala justly observed, 'is involved
in mystery.' Cruikshank picked it up from the recitation of a
minstrel outside a pot-house. In Mr. Sala's opinion, Mr. Thackeray
'revised and settled the words, and made them fit for publication.'
Nor did he confine himself to the mere critical work; he added, in
Mr. Sala's opinion, that admired passage about 'The young bride's
mother, who never before was heard to speak so free,' also
contributing 'The Proud Young Porter,' Jeames. Now, in fact, both
the interpellation of the bride's mamma, and the person and
characteristics of the proud young porter, are of unknown antiquity,
and are not due to Mr. Thackeray--a scholar too conscientious to
'decorate ' an ancient text. Bishop Percy did such things, and
Scott is not beyond suspicion; but Mr. Thackeray, like Joseph
Ritson, preferred the authentic voice of tradition. Thus, in the
text of the Biographical Edition, he does not imitate the Cockney
twang, phonetically rendered in the version of Cruikshank. The
second verse, for example, runs thus:
He sail-ed east, he sail-ed vest,
Until he came to famed Tur-key,
Vere he vos taken and put to prisin,
Until his life was quite wea-ry.
He sailed East, and he sailed West,
Until he came to proud Turkey,
Where he was taken and put to prison,
Until his life was almost weary.
There are discrepancies in the arrangement of the verses, and a most
important various reading.
Now sevin long years is gone and past,
And fourteen days vell known to me;
She packed up all her gay clouthing,
And swore Lord Bateman she would go see.
To this verse, in Cruikshank's book, a note (not by Cruikshank) is
'"Now sevin long years is gone and past,
And fourteen days well known to me.
In this may be recognised, though in a minor degree, the same gifted
hand that portrayed the Mussulman, the pirate, the father, and the
bigot, in two words ("This Turk").
'"The time is gone, the historian knows it, and that is enough for
the reader. This is the dignity of history very strikingly
That note to Cruikshank's text is, like all the delightful notes, if
style is evidence, not by Dickens, but by Thackeray. Yet, in his
own text, with an exemplary fidelity, he reads: 'And fourteen days
well known to THEE.' To whom? We are left in ignorance; and
conjecture, though tempting, is unsafe. The reading of Cruikshank,
'vell known to ME'--that is, to the poet--is confirmed by the
hitherto unprinted 'Lord Bedmin.' This version, collected by Miss
Wyatt Edgell in 1899, as recited by a blind old woman in a
workhouse, who had learned it in her youth, now lies before the
present writer. He owes this invaluable document to the kindness of
Miss Wyatt Edgell and Lady Rosalind Northcote. Invaluable it is,
because it proves that Lord Bateman (or Bedmin) is really a
volkslied, a popular and current version of the ancient ballad.
'Famed Turkey' becomes 'Torquay' in this text, probably by a
misapprehension on the part of the collector or reciter. The speech
of the bride's mother is here omitted, though it occurs in older
texts; but, on the whole, the blind old woman's memory has proved
itself excellent. In one place she gives Thackeray's reading in
preference to that of Cruikshank, thus:
Ven he vent down on his bended knee.
Down on his bended knees fell he.
Down on his bended knee fell he.
We have now ascertained the following facts: Cruikshank and
Thackeray used a text with merely verbal differences, which was
popular among the least educated classes early in last century.
Again, Thackeray contributed the notes and critical apparatus to
Cruikshank's version. For this the internal evidence of style is
overpowering: no other man wrote in the manner and with the
peculiar humour of Mr. Titmarsh. In the humble opinion of the
present writer these Notes ought to be appended to Mr. Thackeray's
version of 'Lord Bateman.' Finally, Mr. Sala was wrong in supposing
that Mr. Thackeray took liberties with the text received from oral
What was the origin of that text? Professor Child, in the second
part of his 'English and Scottish Popular Ballads'* lays before us
the learning about Lord Bateman, Lord Bedmin, Young Bicham, Young
Brechin, Young Bekie, Young Beichan and Susie Pie (the heroine,
Sophia, in Thackeray), Lord Beichan, Young Bondwell, and Markgraf
Backenweil; for by all these names is Lord Bateman known. The
student must carefully note that 'Thackeray's List of Broadsides,'
cited, is NOT by Mr. W. M. Thackeray.
*Pt. ii. p. 454 et seq., and in various other places.
As the reader may not remember the incidents in the Thackeray,
Cruikshank, and Old Woman version (which represents an ancient
ballad, now not so much popularised as vulgarised), a summary may be
given. Lord Bateman went wandering: 'his character, at this time,
and his expedition, would seem to have borne a striking resemblance
to those of Lord Byron. . . . SOME foreign country he wished to
see, and that was the extent of his desire; any foreign country
would answer his purpose--all foreign countries were alike to him.'-
-(Note, apud Cruikshank.) Arriving in Turkey (or Torquay) he was
taken and fastened to a tree by his captor. He was furtively
released by the daughter of 'This Turk.' 'The poet has here, by
that bold license which only genius can venture upon, surmounted the
extreme difficulty of introducing any particular Turk, by assuming a
foregone conclusion in the reader's mind; and adverting, in a
casual, careless way, to a Turk hitherto unknown as to an old
acquaintance. . . . "THIS Turk he had" is a master-stroke, a truly
Shakespearian touch'--(Note.) The lady, in her father's cellar
('Castle,' Old Woman's text), consoles the captive with 'the very
best wine,' secretly stored, for his private enjoyment, by the cruel
and hypocritical Mussulman. She confesses the state of her heart,
and inquires as to Lord Bateman's real property, which is 'half
Northumberland.' To what period in the complicated mediaeval
history of the earldom of Northumberland the affair belongs is
The pair vow to be celibate for seven years, and Lord Bateman
escapes. At the end of the period, Sophia sets out for
Northumberland, urged, perhaps, by some telepathic admonition. For,
on arriving at Lord Bateman's palace (Alnwick Castle?), she summons
the proud porter, announces herself, and finds that her lover has
just celebrated a marriage with another lady. In spite of the
remonstrances of the bride's mamma, Lord Bateman restores that young
lady to her family, observing
She is neither the better nor the worse for me.
So Thackeray and Old Woman. Cruikshank prudishly reads,
O you'll see what I'll do for you and she.
'Lord Bateman then prepared another marriage, having plenty of
superfluous wealth to bestow upon the Church.'--(Note.) All the
rest was bliss.
The reader may ask: How did Sophia know anything about the obscure
Christian captive? WHY did she leave home exactly in time for his
marriage? How came Lord Bateman to be so fickle? The Annotator
replies: 'His lordship had doubtless been impelled by despair of
ever recovering his lost Sophia, and a natural anxiety not to die
without leaving an heir to his estate.' Finally how was the
difficulty of Sophia's religion overcome?
To all these questions the Cockney version gives no replies, but the
older forms of the ballad offer sufficient though varying answers,
as we shall see.
Meanwhile one thing is plain from this analysis of the pot-house
version of an old ballad, namely, that the story is constructed out
of fragments from the great universal store of popular romance. The
central ideas are two: first, the situation of a young man in the
hands of a cruel captor (often a god, a giant, a witch, a fiend),
but here--a Turk. The youth is loved and released (commonly through
magic spells) by the daughter of the gaoler, god, giant, witch,
Turk, or what not. In Greece, Jason is the Lord Bateman, Medea is
the Sophia, of the tale, which was known to Homer and Hesiod, and
was fully narrated by Pindar. THE OTHER YOUNG PERSON, the second
bride, however, comes in differently, in the Greek. In far-off
Samoa, a god is the captor.* The gaoler is a magician in Red Indian
*Turner's 'Samoa,' p. 102.
**For a list, though an imperfect one, of the Captor's Daughter
story, see the Author's Custom and Myth, pp. 86-102.
As a rule, in these tales, from Finland to Japan, from Samoa to
Madagascar, Greece and India, the girl accompanies her lover in his
flight, delaying the pursuer by her magic. In 'Lord Bateman'
another formula, almost as widely diffused, is preferred.
The old true love comes back just after her lover's wedding. He
returns to her. Now, as a rule, in popular tales, the lover's
fickleness is explained by a spell or by a breach of a taboo. The
old true love has great difficulty in getting access to him, and in
waking him from a sleep, drugged or magical.
The bloody shirt I wrang for thee,
The Hill o' Glass I clamb for thee,
And wilt thou no waken and speak to me?
He wakens at last, and all is well. In a Romaic ballad the deserted
girl, meeting her love on his wedding-day, merely reminds him of old
kindness. He answers--
Now he that will may scatter nuts,
And he may wed that will,
But she that was my old true love
Shall be my true love still.
This incident, the strange, often magically caused oblivion of the
lover, whose love returns to him, like Sophia, at, or after, his
marriage, is found in popular tales of Scotland, Norway, Iceland,
Germany, Italy, Greece, and the Gaelic Western Islands. It does not
occur in 'Lord Bateman,' where Mr. Thackeray suggests probable
reasons for Lord Bateman's fickleness. But the world-wide incidents
are found in older versions of 'Lord Bateman,' from which they have
been expelled by the English genius for the commonplace.
Thus, if we ask, how did Sophia at first know of Bateman's
existence? The lovely and delicate daughter of the Turk, doubtless,
was unaware that, in the crowded dungeons of her sire, one captive
of wealth, noble birth, and personal fascination, was languishing.
The Annotator explains: 'She hears from an aged and garrulous
attendant, her only female adviser (for her mother died while she
was yet an infant), of the sorrows and sufferings of the Christian
captive.' In ancient versions of the ballad another explanation
occurs. She overhears a song which he sings about his unlucky
condition. This account is in Young Bekie (Scottish: mark the
name, Bekie), where France is the scene and the king's daughter is
the lady. The same formula of the song sung by the prisoner is
usual. Not uncommon, too, is a TOKEN carried by Sophia when she
pursues her lost adorer, to insure her recognition. It is half of
her broken ring. Once more, why does Sophia leave home to find
Bateman in the very nick of time? Thackeray's version does not tell
us; but Scottish versions do. 'She longed fu' sair her love to
see.' Elsewhere a supernatural being, 'The Billy Blin,' or a fairy,
clad in green, gives her warning. The fickleness of the hero is
caused, sometimes, by constraint, another noble 'has his marriage,'
as his feudal superior, and makes him marry, but only in form.
There is a marriage in yonder hall,
Has lasted thirty days and three,
The bridegroom winna bed the bride,
For the sake o' one that's owre the sea.
In this Scottish version, by the way, occurs--
Up spoke the young bride's mother,
Who never was heard to speak so free,
wrongly attributed to Mr. Thackeray's own pen.
The incident of the magical oblivion which comes over the bridegroom
occurs in Scandinavian versions of 'Lord Bateman' from manuscripts
of the sixteenth century.* Finally, the religious difficulty in
several Scottish versions is got over by the conversion and baptism
of Sophia, who had professed the creed of Islam. That all these
problems in 'Lord Bateman' are left unsolved is, then, the result of
decay. The modern vulgar English version of the pot-house minstrel
(known as 'The Tripe Skewer,' according to the author of the
Introduction to Cruikshank's version) has forgotten, has been
heedless of, and has dropped the ancient universal elements of folk-
tale and folk-song.
*Child, ii. 459-461.
These graces, it is true, are not too conspicuous even in the oldest
and best versions of 'Lord Bateman.' Choosing at random, however,
we find a Scots version open thus:
In the lands where Lord Beichan was born,
Among the stately steps o' stane,
He wore the goud at his left shoulder,
But to the Holy Land he's gane.
That is not in the tone of the ditty sung by the Tripe Skewer.
Again, in his prison,
He made na his moan to a stock,
He made na it to a stone,
But it was to the Queen of Heaven
That he made his moan.
The lines are from a version of the North of Scotland, and, on the
face of it, are older than the extirpation of the Catholic faith in
the loyal North. The reference to Holy Land preserves a touch of
the crusading age. In short, poor as they may be, the Scottish
versions are those of a people not yet wholly vulgarised, not yet
lost to romance. The singers have 'half remembered and half forgot'
the legend of Gilbert Becket (Bekie, Beichan), the father of St.
Thomas of Canterbury. Gilbert, in the legend, went to Holy Land,
was cast into a Saracen's prison, and won his daughter's heart. He
escaped, but the lady followed him, like Sophia, and, like Sophia,
found and wedded him; Gilbert's servant, Richard, playing the part
of the proud young porter. Yet, as Professor Child justly observes,
the ballad 'is not derived from the legend,' though the legend as to
Gilbert Becket exists in a manuscript of about 1300. The Bateman
motive is older than Gilbert Becket, and has been attached to later
versions of the adventures of that hero. Gilbert Becket about 1300
was credited with a floating, popular tale of the Bateman sort, and
out of his legend, thus altered, the existing ballads drew their
'Bekie' and 'Beichan,' from the name of Becket.
The process is: First, the popular tale of the return of the old
true love; that tale is found in Greece, Scandinavia, Denmark,
Iceland, Faroe, Spain, Germany, and so forth. Next, about 1300
Gilbert Becket is made the hero of the tale. Next, our surviving
ballads retain a trace or two of the Becket form, but they are not
derived from the Becket form. The fancy of the folk first evolved
the situations in the story, then lent them to written literature
(Becket's legend, 1300), and thirdly, received the story back from
written legend with a slight, comparatively modern colouring.
In the dispute as to the origin of our ballads one school, as Mr. T.
F. Henderson and Professor Courthope, regard them as debris of old
literary romances, ill-remembered work of professional minstrels.*
That there are ballads of this kind in England, such as the
Arthurian ballads, I do not deny. But in my opinion many ballads
and popular tales are in origin older than the mediaeval romances,
as a rule. As a rule the romances are based on earlier popular
data, just as the 'Odyssey' is an artistic whole made up out of
popular tales. The folk may receive back a literary form of its own
ballad or story, but more frequently the popular ballad comes down
in oral tradition side by side with its educated child, the literary
romance on the same theme.
Cf. The Queen's Marie.
Mr. Henderson has answered that the people is unpoetical. The
degraded populace of the slums may be unpoetical, like the minstrel
named 'Tripe Skewer,' and may deprave the ballads of its undegraded
ancestry into such modern English forms as 'Lord Bateman.' But I
think of the people which, in Barbour's day, had its choirs of
peasant girls chanting rural snatches on Bruce's victories, or, in
still earlier France, of Roland's overthrow. If THEIR songs are
attributed to professional minstrels, I turn to the Greece of 1830,
to the Finland of to-day, to the outermost Hebrides of to-day, to
the Arapahoes of Northern America, to the Australian blacks, among
all of whom the people are their own poets and make their own
dirges, lullabies, chants of victory, and laments for defeat. THESE
peoples are not unpoetical. In fact, when I say that the people has
been its own poet I do not mean the people which goes to music halls
and reads halfpenny newspapers. To the true folk we owe the legend
of Lord Bateman in its ancient germs; and to the folk's degraded
modern estate, crowded as men are in noisome streets and crushed by
labour, we owe the Cockney depravation, the Lord Bateman of
Cruikshank and Thackeray. Even that, I presume, being old, is now
forgotten, except by the ancient blind woman in the workhouse. To
the workhouse has come the native popular culture--the last
lingering shadow of old romance. That is the moral of the ballad of
In an article by Mr. Kitton, in Literature (June 24, 1899, p. 699),
this learned Dickensite says: 'The authorship of this version'
(Cruikshank's) 'of an ancient ballad and of the accompanying notes
has given rise to much controversy, and whether Dickens or Thackeray
was responsible for them is still a matter of conjecture, although
what little evidence there is seems to favour Thackeray.'
For the ballad neither Thackeray nor Dickens is responsible. The
Old Woman's text settles that question: the ballad is a degraded
Volkslied. As to the notes, internal evidence for once is explicit.
The notes are Thackeray's. Any one who doubts has only to compare
Thackeray's notes to his prize poem on 'Timbuctoo.'
The banter, in the notes, is academic banter, that of a university
man, who is mocking the notes of learned editors. This humour is
not the humour of Dickens, who, however, may very well have written
the Introduction to Cruikshank's version. That morceau is in quite
a different taste and style. I ought, in fairness, to add the
following note from Mr. J. B. Keene, which may be thought to
overthrow belief in Thackeray's authorship of the notes:--
Dear Sir,--Your paper in the 'Cornhill' for this month on the
Mystery of Lord Bateman interested me greatly, but I must beg to
differ from you as to the authorship of the Notes, and for this
I have before me a copy of the first edition of the 'Loving Ballad'
which was bought by my father soon after it was issued. At that
time--somewhere about 1840--there was a frequent visitor at our
house, named Burnett, who had married a sister of Charles Dickens,
and who gave us the story of its production.
He said, as you state, that Cruikshank had got the words from a pot-
house singer, but the locality he named was Whitechapel,* where he
was looking out for characters. He added that Cruikshank sung or
hummed the tune to him, and he gave it the musical notation which
follows the preface. He also said that Charles Dickens wrote the
notes. His personal connection with the work and his relation to
Dickens are, I think, fair evidence on the question.
I am, dear Sir,
J. B. KEENE.
Kingsmead House, 1 Hartham Road,
Camden Road, N., Feb. 13,1900.
Mr. Keene's evidence may, perhaps, settle the question. But, if
Dickens wrote the Introduction, that might be confused in Mr.
Burnett's memory with the Notes, from internal evidence the work of
Thackeray. If not, then in the Notes we find a new aspect of the
inexhaustible humour of Dickens. It is certain, at all events, that
neither Dickens nor Thackeray was the author of the 'Loving Ballad.'
P.S.--The preface to the ballad says Battle Bridge.
XI. THE QUEEN'S MARIE
Little did my mother think
That day she cradled me
What land I was to travel in,
Or what death I should die.
Writing to Mrs. Dunlop on January 25, 1790, Burns quoted these
lines, 'in an old Scottish ballad, which, notwithstanding its rude
simplicity, speaks feelingly to the heart.' Mr. Carlyle is said,
when young, to have written them on a pane of glass in a window,
with a diamond, adding, characteristically, 'Oh foolish Thee!' In
1802, in the first edition of 'The Border Minstrelsy,' Scott cited
only three stanzas from the same ballad, not including Burns's
verse, but giving
Yestreen the Queen had four Maries,
The night she'll hae but three,
There was Marie Seaton, and Marie Beaton,
And Marie Carmichael and me.
In later editions Sir Walter offered a made-up copy of the ballad,
most of it from a version collected by Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe.
It now appeared that Mary Hamilton was the heroine, that she was one
of Queen Marie's four Maries, and that she was hanged for murdering
a child whom she bore to Darnley. Thus the character of Mary
Hamilton was 'totally lost,' and Darnley certainly 'had not
sufficient for two.' Darnley, to be sure, told his father that 'I
never offended the Queen, my wife, in meddling with any woman in
thought, let be in deed,' and, whether Darnley spoke truth or not,
there was, among the Queen's Maries, no Mary Hamilton to meddle
with, just as there was no Mary Carmichael.
The Maries were attendant on the Queen as children ever since she
left Scotland for France. They were Mary Livingstone (mentioned as
'Lady Livinston' in one version of the ballad),* who married 'John
Sempill, called the Dancer,' who, says Laing, 'acquired the lands of
Beltree, in Renfrewshire.'**
*Child, vol. iii. p. 389.
**Laing's Knox, ii. 415, note 3.
When Queen Mary was a captive in England she was at odds with the
Sempill pair about some jewels of hers in their custody. He was not
a satisfactory character, he died before November 1581. Mary
Fleming, early in 1587, married the famous William Maitland of
Lethington, 'being no more fit for her than I to be a page,' says
Kirkcaldy of Grange. Her life was wretched enough, through the
stormy career and sad death of her lord. Mary Beaton, with whom
Randolph, the English ambassador, used to flirt, married, in 1566,
Ogilvy of Boyne, the first love of Lady Jane Gordon, the bride of
Bothwell. Mary Seaton remained a maiden and busked the Queen's hair
during her English captivity. We last hear of her from James
Maitland of Lethington, in 1613, living at Rheims, very old,
'decrepid,' and poor. There is no room in the Four for Mary
Hamilton, and no mention of her appears in the records of the Court.
How, then, did Mary Hamilton find her way into the old ballad about
Darnley and the Queen?
To explain this puzzle, some modern writers have denied that the
ballad of 'The Queen's Marie' is really old; they attribute it to
the eighteenth century. The antiquary who launched this opinion was
Scott's not very loyal friend, Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe.
According to him, a certain Miss Hambledon (no Christian name is
given), being Maid of Honour to the Empress Catherine of Russia, had
three children by an amour, and murdered all three. Peter the Great
caused her to be, not hanged, but decapitated. Sharpe took his
facts from 'a German almanac,' and says: 'The Russian tragedy must
be the original.' The late Professor Child, from more authentic
documents, dates Miss Hambledon's or Hamilton's execution on March
14, 1719. At that time, or nearly then, Charles Wogan was in Russia
on a mission from the Chevalier de St. George (James III.), and
through him the news might reach Scotland. Mr. Courthope, in his
'History of English Poetry,' followed Sharpe and Professor Child,
and says: 'It is very remarkable that one of the very latest of the
Scottish popular ballads should be one of the very best.'
The occurrence would not only be remarkable, but, as far as
possibility goes in literature, would be impossible, for several
reasons. One is that neither literary men nor mere garreteers and
makers of street ballads appear, about 1719-1730, to have been
capable of recapturing the simplicity and charm of the old ballad
style, at its best, or anything near its best. There is no
mistaking the literary touch in such ballads as Allan Ramsay
handled, or in the imitation named 'Hardyknute ' in Allan's 'Tea
Table Miscellany,' 1724. 'It was the first poem I ever learned, the
last I shall ever forget,' said Scott, and, misled by boyish
affection, he deemed it 'just old enough,' 'a noble imitation.'*
But the imitation can deceive nobody, and while literary imitators,
as far as their efforts have reached us, were impotent to deceive,
the popular Muse, of 1714-1730, was not attempting deception.
Ballads of the eighteenth century were sarcastic, as in those on
Sheriffmuir and in Skirving's amusing ballad on Preston Pans, or
were mere doggerel, or were brief songs to old tunes. They survive
in print, whether in flying broadsides or in books, but, popular as
is 'The Queen's Marie,' in all its many variants (Child gives no
less than eighteen), we do not know a single printed example before
Scott's made-up copy in the 'Border Minstrelsy.' The latest ballad
really in the old popular manner known to me is that of 'Rob Roy,'
namely, of Robin Oig and James More, sons of Rob Roy, and about
their abduction of an heiress in 1752. This is a genuine popular
poem, but in style and tone and versification it is wholly unlike
'The Queen's Marie.' I scarcely hope that any one can produce,
after 1680, a single popular piece which could be mistaken for a
ballad of or near Queen Mary's time.
*Lockhart, i. 114, x. 138.
The known person least unlike Mr. Courthope's late 'maker' was
'Mussel-mou'd Charlie Leslie,' 'an old Aberdeenshire minstrel, the
very last, probably, of the race,' says Scott. Charlie died in
1782. He sang, and sold PRINTED ballads. 'Why cannot you sing
other songs than those rebellious ones?' asked a Hanoverian Provost
of Aberdeen. 'Oh ay, but--THEY WINNA BUY THEM!' said Charlie.
'Where do you buy them?' 'Why, faur I get them cheapest.' He
carried his ballads in 'a large harden bag, hung over his shoulder.'
Charlie had tholed prison for Prince Charles, and had seen Provost
Morison drink the Prince's health in wine and proclaim him Regent at
the Cross of Aberdeen. If Charlie (who lived to be a hundred and
two) composed the song, 'Mussel-mou'd Charlie ' ('this sang Charlie
made hissel''), then this maker could never have produced 'The
Queen's Marie,' nor could any maker like him. His ballads were
printed, as any successful ballad of 1719 would probably have been,
in broadsides.* Against Mr. Child and Mr. Courthope, then, we argue
that, after 1600, a marked decadence of the old ballad style set in-
-that the old style (as far as is known) died soon after Bothwell
Brig (1679), in the execrable ballads of both sides, such as
'Philiphaugh,' and that it soon was not only dead as a form in
practical use, but was entirely superseded by new kinds of popular
poetry, of which many examples survive, and are familiar to every
student. How, or why, then, should a poet, aiming at popularity,
about 1719-1730, compose 'The Queen's Marie' in an obsolete manner?
The old ballads were still sung, indeed; but we ask for proof that
new ballads were still composed in the ancient fashion.
*See, for example, Mr. Macquoid's Jacobite Songs and Ballads, pp.
424, 510, with a picture of Charlie.
Secondly, WHY, and how tempted, would a popular poet of 1719
transfer a modern tragedy of Russia to the year 1563, or
thereabouts? His public would naturally desire a ballad gazette of
the mournful new tale, concerning a lass of Scottish extraction,
betrayed, tortured, beheaded, at the far-off court of a Muscovite
tyrant. The facts 'palpitated with actuality,' and, since Homer's
day, 'men desire' (as Homer says) 'the new songs' on the new events.
What was gained by going back to Queen Mary? Would a popular
'Musselmou'd Charlie' even know, by 1719, the names of the Queen's
Maries? Mr. Courthope admits that 'he may have been helped by some
ballad,' one of those spoken of, as we shall see, by Knox. If that
ballad told the existing Marian story, what did the 'maker' add? If
it did NOT, what did he borrow? No more than the names could he
borrow, and no more than the name 'Hamilton' from the Russian
tragedy could he add. One other thing he might be said to add, the
verses in which Mary asks 'the jolly sailors' not to
'Let on to my father and mother
But that I'm coming hame.'
This passage, according to Mr. Courthope, 'was suggested partly by
the fact of a Scotswoman being executed in Russia.' C. K. Sharpe
also says: 'If Marie Hamilton was executed in Scotland, it is not
likely' (why not?) 'that her relations resided beyond seas.' They
MAY have been in France, like many another Hamilton! Mr. Child
says: 'The appeal to the sailors shows that Mary Hamilton dies in a
foreign land--not that of her ancestors.' Yet the ballad makes her
die in or near the Canongate! Moreover, the family of the Mary
Hamilton of 1719 had been settled in Russia for generations, and
were reckoned of the Russian noblesse. The verses, therefore, on
either theory, are probably out of place, and are perhaps an
interpolation suggested to some reciter (they only occur in some of
the many versions) by a passage in 'The Twa Brithers.'*
*Child, i. 439.
We now reach the most important argument for the antiquity of 'The
Queen's Marie.' Mr. Courthope has theoretically introduced as
existing in, or after, 1719, 'makers' who could imitate to deception
the old ballad style. Now Maidment remarks that 'this ballad was
popular in Galloway, Selkirkshire, Lanarkshire, and Aberdeen, AND
THE VERY STRIKING DISCREPANCIES GO FAR TO REMOVE EVERY SUSPICION OF
FABRICATION.' Chambers uses (1829) against Sharpe the same argument
of 'universal diffusion in Scotland.' Neither Mr. Child nor Mr.
Courthope draws the obvious inferences from the extraordinary
discrepancies in the eighteen variants. Such essential
discrepancies surely speak of a long period of oral recitation by
men or women accustomed to interpolate, alter, and add, in the true
old ballad manner. Did such rhapsodists exist after 1719? Old
Charlie, for one, did not sing or sell the old ballads. Again, if
the ballad (as it probably would be in 1719) was PRINTED, or even if
it was not, could the variations have been evolved between 1719 and
These variations are numerous, striking, and fundamental. In many
variants even the name of the heroine does not tally with that of
the Russian maid of honour. That most important and telling
coincidence wholly disappears. In a version of Motherwell's, from
Dumbartonshire, the heroine is Mary Myle. In a version known to
Scott ('Minstrelsy,' 1810, iii. 89, note), the name is Mary Miles.
Mr. Child also finds Mary Mild, Mary Moil, and Lady Maisry. This
Maisry is daughter of the Duke of York! Now, the Duke of York whom
alone the Scottish people knew was James Stuart, later James II.
Once more the heroine is daughter of the Duke of Argyll, therefore a
Campbell. Or she is without patronymic, and is daughter of a lord
or knight of the North, or South, or East, and one of her sisters is
a barber's wife, and her father lives in England!--(Motherwell.)
She, at least, might invoke 'Ye mariners, mariners, mariners!' (as
in Scott's first fragment) not to carry her story. Now we ask
whether, after the ringing tragedy of Miss Hamilton in Russia, in
the year of grace 1719, contemporaries who heard the woeful tale
could, between 1719 and 1820, call the heroine--(1) Hamilton; (2)
Mild, Moil, Myle, Miles; (3) make her a daughter of the Duke of
York, or of the Duke of Argyll, or of lords and of knights from all
quarters of the compass, and sister-in-law to an English barber,
also one of the Queen's 'serving-maids.' We at least cannot accept
those numerous and glittering contradictions as corruptions which
could be made soon after the Russian events, when the true old
ballad style was dead.
We now produce more startling variations. The lover is not only
'the King,' 'the Prince,' Darnley, 'the highest Stuart o' a',' but
he is also that old offender, 'Sweet Willie,' or he is Warrenston
(Warriston?). Mary is certainly not hanged (the Russian woman was
beheaded) away from her home; she dies in Edinburgh, near the
Tolbooth, the Netherbow, the Canongate, and--
O what will my three brothers say
When they COME HAME frae sea,
When they see three locks o' my yellow hair
Hinging under a gallows tree?
It is impossible here to give all the variations. Mary pulls, or
does not pull, or her lover pulls, the leaf of the Abbey, or
'savin,' or other tree; the Queen is 'auld,' or not 'auld;' she
kicks in Mary's door and bursts the bolts, or does nothing so
athletic and inconsistent with her advanced age. The heroine does,
or does not, appeal vainly to her father. Her dress is of all
varieties. She does, or does not, go to the Tolbooth and other
places. She is, or is not, allured to Edinburgh, 'a wedding for to
see.' Her infanticide is variously described, or its details are
omitted, and the dead body of the child is found in various places,
or not found at all. Though drowned in the sea, it is between the
bolster and the wall, or under the blankets! She expects, or does
not expect, to be avenged by her kin. The king is now angry, now
clement--inviting Mary to dinner! Mary is hanged, or (Buchan's MS.)
is not hanged, but is ransomed by Warrenston, probably Johnston of
Warriston! These are a few specimens of variations in point of
fact: in language the variations are practically countless. How
could they arise, if the ballad is later than 1719?
We now condescend to appeal to statistics. We have examined the
number of variants published by Mr. Child in his first six volumes,
on ballads which have, or may have, an historical basis. Of course,
the older and more popular the ballads, the more variants do we
expect to discover--time and taste producing frequent changes.
Well, of 'Otterburn' Mr. Child has five versions; of the 'Hunting of
the Cheviot' he has two, with minor modifications indicated by
letters from the 'lower case.' Of 'Gude Wallace' he has eight. Of
'Johnnie Armstrong' he has three. Of 'Kinmont Willie' he has one.
Of 'The Bonnie Earl o' Moray' he has two. Of 'Johnnie Cock' he has
thirteen. Of 'Sir Patrick Spens' he has eighteen. And of 'The
Queen's Marie' (counting Burns's solitary verse and other brief
fragments) Mr. Child has eighteen versions or variants
Thus a ballad made, ex hypothesi Sharpiana, in or after 1719, has
been as much altered in oral tradition as the most popular and
perhaps the oldest historical ballad of all, 'Sir Patrick Spens,'
and much more than any other of the confessedly ancient semi-
historical popular poems. The historical event which may have
suggested 'Sir Patrick Spens' is 'plausibly,' says Mr. Child, fixed
in 1281: it is the marriage of Margaret of Scotland to Eric, King
of Norway. Others suggest so late a date as the wooing of Anne of
Denmark by James VI. Nothing is known. No wonder, then, that in
time an orally preserved ballad grows rich in variants. But that a
ballad of 1719 should, in eighty modern non-balladising years,
become as rich in extant variants, and far more discrepant in their
details, as 'Sir Patrick Spens' is a circumstance for which we
Will men say, 'The later the ballad, the more it is altered in oral
tradition'? If so, let them, by all means, produce examples! We
should, on this theory, have about a dozen 'Battles of Philiphaugh,'
and at least fifteen 'Bothwell Brigs,' a poem, by the way, much in
the old manner, prosaically applied, and so recent that, in art at
least, it was produced after the death of the Duke of Monmouth,
slain, it avers, by the machinations of Claverhouse! Of course we
are not asking for exact proportions, since many variants of ballads
may be lost, but merely for proof that, the later a ballad is, the
more variants of it occur. But this contention is probably
impossible, and the numerous variations in 'The Queen's Marie' are
really a proof of long existence in oral tradition, and contradict
the theory espoused by Mr. Child, who later saw the difficulty
involved in his hypothesis.
This argument, though statistical, is, we think, conclusive, and the
other considerations which we have produced in favour of the
antiquity of 'The Queen's Marie' add their cumulative weight.
We have been, in brief, invited to suppose that, about 1719, a Scot
wrote a ballad on an event in contemporary Russian Court life; that
(contrary to use and wont) he threw the story back a century and a
half; that he was a master of an old style, in the practice of his
age utterly obsolete and not successfully imitated; that his poem
became universally popular, and underwent, in eighty years, even
more vicissitudes than most other ballads encounter in three or five
centuries. Meanwhile it is certain that there had been real ancient
ballads, contemporary with the Marian events--ballads on the very
Maries two or three of whom appear in the so-called poem of 1719;
while exactly the same sort of scandal as the ballad records had
actually occurred at Queen Mary's Court in a lower social rank. The
theory of Mr. Child is opposed to our whole knowledge of ballad
literature, of its age, decadence (about 1620-1700), and decease (in
the old kind) as a popular art.
To agree with Mr. Child, we must not only accept one great ballad-
poet, born at least fifty years too late; we must not only admit
that such a poet would throw back his facts for a century and a
half; but we must also conceive that the balladising humour, with
its ancient methods, was even more vivacious in Scotland for many
years after 1719 than, as far as we know, it had ever been before.
Yet there is no other trace known to us of the existence of the old
balladising humour and of the old art in all that period. We have
no such ballad about the English captain shot by the writer's pretty
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