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Trial of Mary Blandy

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Edited By


Author of "Twelve Scots Trials," "The Riddle of the Ruthvens,"
"Glengarry's Way," &c.



[Illustration: Miss Blandy in her cell in Oxford Castle.
(_From an unpublished Sepia Drawing in the Collection of Mr. Horace




In undertaking to prepare an account of this celebrated trial, the
Editor at the outset fondly trusted that the conviction of "the
unfortunate Miss Blandy" might, upon due inquiry, be found to have
been, as the phrase is, a miscarriage of justice. To the entertainment
of this chivalrous if unlively hope he was moved as well by the youth,
the sex, and the traditional charms of that lady, as by the doubts
expressed by divers wiseacres concerning her guilt; but a more intimate
knowledge of the facts upon which the adverse verdict rested, speedily
disposed of his inconfident expectation.

Though the evidence sheds but a partial light upon the hidden springs
of the dark business in which she was engaged, and much that should be
known in order perfectly to appreciate her symbolic value remains
obscure, we can rest assured that Mary Blandy, whatever she may have
been, was no victim of judicial error. We watch, perforce, the tragedy
from the front; never, despite the excellence of the official "book,"
do we get a glimpse of what is going on behind the scenes, nor see
beneath the immobile and formal mask, the living face; but, when the
spectacle of _The Fair Parricide_ is over, we at least are satisfied
that justice, legal and poetic, has been done.

Few cases in our criminal annals have occasioned a literature so
extensive. The bibliography, compiled by Mr. Horace Bleackley in
connection with his striking study, "The Love Philtre" (_Some
Distinguished Victims of the Scaffold_, London, 1905),--which, by his
courteous permission, is reprinted in the Appendix, enumerates no fewer
than thirty contemporary tracts, while the references to the case by
later writers would of themselves form a considerable list.

To this substantial cairn a further stone or two are here contributed.
There will be found in the Appendix copies of original MSS. in the
British Museum and the Public Record Office, not hitherto published,
relating to the case. These comprise the correspondence of Lord
Chancellor Hardwicke, Mr. Secretary Newcastle, the Solicitor to the
Treasury, and other Government officials, regarding the conduct of the
prosecution and the steps taken for the apprehension of Miss Blandy's
accomplice, the Hon. William Henry Cranstoun; a petition of "The
Noblemen and Gentlemen in the Neighbourhood of Henley-upon-Thames" as
to the issuing of a proclamation for his arrest, with the opinion
thereon of the Attorney-General, Sir Dudley Ryder; and the deposition
of the person by whose means Cranstoun's flight from justice was
successfully effected. This deposition is important as disclosing the
true story of his escape, of which the published accounts are, as
appears, erroneous. Among other matter now printed for the first time
may be mentioned a letter from the War Office to the Paymaster-General,
directing Cranstoun's name to be struck off the half-pay list; and a
letter from John Riddell, the Scots genealogist, to James Maidment,
giving some account of the descendants of Cranstoun. For permission to
publish these documents the Editor is indebted to the courtesy of Mr.
A.M. Broadley and Mr. John A. Fairley, the respective owners.

The iconography of Mary Blandy has been made a feature of the present
volume, all the portraits of her known to the Editor being reproduced.
A description of the curious satirical print, "The Scotch Triumvirate,"
will be found in the Appendix.

Of special interest is the facsimile of Miss Blandy's last letter to
Captain Cranstoun, of which the interception, like that of Mrs.
Maybrick's letter to Brierley, was fraught with such fateful
consequences. The photograph is taken from the original letter in the
Record Office, where the papers connected with the memorable Assizes in
question have but recently been lodged.

For the account of the case contained in the Introduction, the Editor
has read practically all the contemporaneous pamphlets--a tedious and
often fruitless task--and has consulted such other sources of
information as are now available. He has, however, thought well
(esteeming the comfort of his readers above his own reputation for
research) to present the product as a plain narrative, unencumbered by
the frequent footnotes which citation of so many authorities would
otherwise require--the rather that any references not furnished by the
bibliography are sufficiently indicated in the text.

Finally, the Editor would express his gratitude to Mr. Horace Bleackley
and Mr. A.M. Broadley for their kindness in affording him access to
their collections of _Blandyana_, including rarities (to quote an old
title-page) "nowhere to be found but in the Closets of the Curious,"
greatly to the lightening of his labours and the enrichment of the


EDINBURGH, April, 1914.



Table of Dates

The Trial--

The Indictment

Opening Speeches for the Prosecution.
Hon. Mr. Bathurst
Mr. Serjeant Hayward

Evidence for the Prosecution.
1. Dr. Addington
2. Dr. Lewis
3. Dr. Addington (recalled)
4. Benjamin Norton
5. Mrs. Mary Mounteney
6. Susannah Gunnell
7. Elizabeth Binfield
8. Dr. Addington (recalled)
9. Alice Emmet
10. Robert Littleton
11. Robert Harmon
12. Richard Fisher
13. Mrs. Lane
14. Mr. Lane

The Prisoner's Defence

Evidence for the Defence.
1. Ann James
2. Elizabeth Binfield (recalled)
3. Mary Banks
4. Edward Herne
5. Thomas Cawley
6. Thomas Staverton
7. Mary Davis
8. Robert Stoke

Motion by Mr. Ford to call another witness refused

Hon. Mr. Bathurst's Closing Speech for the Prosecution

Statement by the Prisoner

Mr. Baron Legge's Charge to the Jury

The Verdict

The Sentence


I. Proceedings before the Coroner relative to the Death of Mr.
Francis Blandy

II. Copies of Original Letters in the British Museum and Public
Record Office, relating to the Case of Mary Blandy

III. A Letter from a Clergyman to Miss Mary Blandy, now a prisoner
in Oxford Castle, with her Answer thereto; as also Miss Blandy's own
narrative of the crime for which she is condemned to die

IV. Miss Mary Blandy's own account of the affair between her and
Mr. Cranstoun, from the commencement of their acquaintance in the
year 1746 to the death of her father in August, 1751, with all
the circumstances leading to that unhappy event

V. Letter from Miss Blandy to a Clergyman in Henley

VI. Contemporary Advertisement of a Love Philtre

VII. Contemporary Account of the Execution of Mary Blandy

VIII. Letter from the War Office to the Paymaster-General, striking
Cranstoun's name off the Half-Pay List

IX. The Confessions of Cranstoun--
1. Cranstoun's own version of the facts
2. Captain Cranstoun's account of the Poisoning of the late
Mr. Francis Blandy

X. Extract from a Letter from Dunkirk anent the death of

XI. Letter from John Biddell, the Scots genealogist, to James
Maidment, regarding the descendants of Cranstoun

XII. Bibliography of the Blandy Case

XIII. Description of the satirical print "The Scotch Triumvirate"


Miss Blandy in her Cell in Oxford Castle Frontispiece
_From an unpublished Sepia Drawing in the Collection of Mr. Horace

Facsimile of the Intercepted Letter to Cranstoun written by Mary Blandy
_From the original MS. in the Public Record Office._

Miss Blandy
_From a Mezzotint by T. Ryley, after L. Wilson, in the Collection
of Mr. A.M. Broadley._

Miss Mary Blandy in Oxford Castle Gaol
_From an Engraving in the British Museum._

Captain Cranstoun and Miss Blandy
_From an Engraving in the British Museum._

Miss Mary Blandy
_From an Engraving by B. Cole, after a Drawing for which she sat in
Oxford Castle._

Miss Molly Blandy, taken from the life in Oxford Castle
_From an Engraving in the Collection of Mr. A.M. Broadley._

Miss Mary Blandy, with scene of her Execution
_From an Engraving by B. Cole, after an original Painting._

Captain William Henry Cranstoun, with his pompous funeral procession
in Flanders
_From an Engraving by B. Cole._

The Scotch Triumvirate
_From a satirical Print in the Collection of Mr. Horace Bleackley._



In the earlier half of the eighteenth century there lived in the
pleasant town of Henley-upon-Thames, in Oxfordshire, one Francis
Blandy, gentleman, attorney-at-law. His wife, nee Mary Stevens,
sister to Mr. Serjeant Stevens of Culham Court, Henley, and of
Doctors' Commons, a lady described as "an emblem of chastity and
virtue; graceful in person, in mind elevated," had, it was thought,
transmitted these amiable qualities to the only child of the
marriage, a daughter Mary, baptised in the parish church of Henley
on 15th July, 1720. Mr. Blandy, as a man of old family and a busy
and prosperous practitioner, had become a person of some importance
in the county. His professional skill was much appreciated by a
large circle of clients, he acted as steward for most of the
neighbouring gentry, and he had held efficiently for many years the
office of town-clerk.

But above the public respect which his performance of these varied
duties had secured him, Mr. Blandy prized his reputation as a man of
wealth. The legend had grown with his practice and kept pace with
his social advancement. The Blandys' door was open to all; their
table, "whether filled with company or not, was every day
plenteously supplied"; and a profuse if somewhat ostentatious
hospitality was the "note" of the house, a comfortable mansion on
the London road, close to Henley Bridge. Burn, in his _History of
Henley_, describes it as "an old-fashioned house near the White
Hart, represented in the view of the town facing the title-page" of
his volume, and "now [1861] rebuilt." The White Hart still survives
in Hart Street, with its courtyard and gallery, where of yore the
town's folk were wont to watch the bear-baiting; one of those fine
old country inns which one naturally associates with Pickwickian

In such surroundings the little Mary, idolised by her parents and
spoiled by their disinterested guests, passed her girlhood. She is
said to have been a clever, intelligent child, and of ways so
winning as to "rapture" all with whom she came in contact. She was
educated at home by her mother, who "instructed her in the
principles of religion and piety, according to the rites and
ceremonies of the Church of England." To what extent she benefited
by the good dame's teaching will appear later, but at any rate she
was fond of reading--a taste sufficiently remarkable in a girl of
her day. At fourteen, we learn, she was mistress of those
accomplishments which others of like station and opportunities
rarely achieve until they are twenty, "if at all"; but her
biographers, while exhausting their superlatives on her moral
beauties, are significantly silent regarding her physical
attractions. Like many a contemporary "toast," she had suffered the
indignity of the smallpox; yet her figure was fine, and her
brilliant black eyes and abundant hair redeemed a face otherwise
rather ordinary. When to such mental gifts and charm of manner was
added the prospect of a dower of ten thousand pounds--such was the
figure at which public opinion put it, and her father did not deny
that gossip for once spoke true--little wonder that Mary was
considered a "catch" as well by the "smarts" of the place as by the
military gentlemen who at that time were the high ornaments of
Henley society.

Mr. Blandy, business-like in all things, wanted full value for his
money; as none of Mary's local conquests appeared to promise him an
adequate return, he reluctantly quitted the pen and, with his wife
and daughter, spent a season at Bath, then the great market-place of
matrimonial bargains. "As for Bath," Thackeray writes of this
period, "all history went and bathed and drank there. George II. and
his Queen, Prince Frederick and his Court, scarce a character one
can mention of the early last century but was seen in that famous
Pump Room, where Beau Nash presided, and his picture hung between
the busts of Newton and Pope." Here was famous company indeed for an
ambitious little country attorney to rub shoulders with in his hunt
for a son-in-law. It is claimed for Miss Blandy by one of her
biographers that her vivacity, wit, and good nature were such as to
win for her an immediate social success; and she entered into all
the gaieties of the season with a heart unburdened by the "business"
which her father sought to combine with pleasures so expensive. She
is even said to have had the honour of dancing with the Prince of
Wales. Meanwhile, the old gentleman, appearing "genteel in dress"
and keeping a plentiful table, lay in wait for such eligible
visitors as should enter his parlour.

The first to do so with matrimonial intent was a thriving young
apothecary, but Mr. Blandy quickly made it plain that Mary and her
L10,000 were not to be had by any drug-compounding knave who might
make sheep's eyes at her, and the apothecary returned to his
gallipots for healing of his bruised affections. His place was taken
by Mr. H----, a gentleman grateful to the young lady and personally
desirable, but of means too limited to satisfy her parents' views, a
fact conveyed by them to the wooer "in a friendly and elegant
manner," which must have gone far to assuage his disappointment. The
next suitor for "this blooming virgin," as her biographer names her,
had the recommendation of being a soldier. Mr. T----, too, found
favour with the damsel. His fine address was much appreciated by her
mamma, who, being a devotee of fashion, heartily espoused his cause;
but again the course of true love was barred by the question of
settlements as broached by the old lawyer, and the man of war
"retired with some resentment." There was, however, no lack of
candidates for Mary's hand and dower. Captain D---- at once stepped
into the breach and gallantly laid siege to the fair fortress. At
last, it seemed Cupid's troublesome business was done; the captain's
suit was agreeable to all parties, and the couple became engaged.
Mary's walks with her lover in the fields of Henley gave her, we
read, such exquisite delight that she frequently thought herself in
heaven. But, alas, the stern summons of duty broke in upon her
temporary Eden: the captain was ordered abroad with his regiment on
active service, and the unlucky girl could but sit at home with her
parents and patiently abide the issue.

Among Mr. Blandy's grand acquaintances was General Lord Mark Kerr,
uncle of Lady Jane Douglas, the famous heroine of the great Douglas
Cause. His lordship had taken at Henley a place named "The
Paradise," probably through the agency of the obsequious attorney,
whose family appear to have had the _entree_ to that patrician
abode. Dining with her parents at Lord Mark's house in the summer of
1746, Mary Blandy encountered her fate. That fate from the first
bore but a sinister aspect. Among the guests was one Captain the
Hon. William Henry Cranstoun, a soldier and a Scot, whose
appearance, according to a diurnal writer, was unprepossessing. "In
his person he is remarkably ordinary, his stature is low, his face
freckled and pitted with the smallpox, his eyes small and weak, his
eyebrows sandy, and his shape no ways genteel; his legs are clumsy,
and he has nothing in the least elegant in his manner." The moral
attributes of this ugly little fellow were only less attractive than
his physical imperfections. "He has a turn for gallantry, but Nature
has denied him the proper gifts; he is fond of play, but his cunning
always renders him suspected." He was at this time thirty-two years
of age, and, as the phrase goes, a man of pleasure, but his militant
prowess had hitherto been more conspicuous in the courts of Venus
than in the field of Mars. The man was typical of his day and
generation: should you desire his closer acquaintance you will find
a lively sketch of him in _Joseph Andrews_, under the name of Beau

If Mary was the Eve of this Henley "Paradise," the captain clearly
possessed many characteristics of the serpent. As First-Lieutenant
of Sir Andrew Agnew's regiment of marines, he had been "out"--on the
wrong side, for a Scot--in the '45, and the butcher Cumberland
having finally killed the cause at Culloden on 16th April, this
warrior was now in Henley beating up recruits to fill the vacancies
in the Hanoverian lines caused by the valour of the "rebels." Such a
figure was a commonplace of the time, and Mr. Blandy would not have
looked twice at him but for the fact that it appeared Lord Mark was
his grand-uncle. The old lawyer, following up this aristocratic
scent, found to his surprise and joy that the little lieutenant,
with his courtesy style of captain, was no less a person than the
fifth son of a Scots peer, William, fifth Lord Cranstoun, and his
wife, Lady Jane Kerr, eldest daughter of William, second Marquis of
Lothian. True, he learned the noble union had been blessed with
seven sons and five daughters; my Lord Cranstoun had died in 1727,
and his eldest son, James, reigned in his stead. The captain, a very
much "younger" son, probably had little more than his pay and a fine
assortment of debts; still, one cannot have everything. The rights
of absent Captain D---- were forgotten, now that there was a chance
to marry his daughter to a man who called the daughter of an Earl
grandmother, and could claim kinship with half the aristocracy of
Scotland; and Mr. Blandy frowned as he called to mind the
presumption of the Bath apothecary.

How far matters went at this time we do not know, for Cranstoun left
Henley in the autumn and did not revisit "The Paradise" till the
following summer. Meanwhile Captain D---- returned from abroad, but
unaccountably failed to communicate with the girl he had the year
before so reluctantly left behind him. Mary's uncles, "desirous of
renewing a courtship which they thought would turn much to the
honour and benefit of their niece," intervened; but Captain D----,
though "polite and candid," declined to renew his pretensions, and
the affair fell through. Whether or not he had heard anything of the
Cranstoun business does not appear.

According to Miss Blandy's _Own Account_, it was not until their
second meeting at Lord Mark Kerr's in the summer of 1747 that the
patrician but unattractive Cranstoun declared his passion. She also
states that in doing so he referred to an illicit entanglement with
a Scottish lady, falsely claiming to be his wedded wife, and that
she (Mary) accepted him provisionally, "till the invalidity of the
pretended marriage appeared to the whole world." But here, as we
shall presently see, the fair authoress rather antedates the fact.
Next day Cranstoun, formally proposing to the old folks for their
daughter's hand, was received by them literally with open arms,
henceforth to be treated as a son; and when, after a six weeks'
visit to Bath in company with his gouty kinsman, the captain
returned to Henley, it was as the guest of his future father-in-law,
of whose "pious fraud" in the matter of the L10,000 dowry; despite
his shrewdness, he was unaware. Though the sycophantic attorney
would probably as lief have housed a monkey of lineage so
distinguished, old Mrs. Blandy seems really to have adored the foxy
little captain for his _beaux yeux_. Doubtless he fooled the dame to
the top of her bent. For a time things went pleasantly enough in the
old house by the bridge. The town-clerk boasted of his noble quarry,
the mother enjoyed for the first time the company and conversation
of a man of fashion, and Mary renewed amid the Henley meadows those
paradisiacal experiences which formerly she had shared with
faithless Captain D----. But once more her happiness received an
unexpected check. Lord Mark Kerr, a soldier and a gentleman,
becoming aware of the footing upon which his graceless grand-nephew
was enjoying the Blandys' hospitality, wrote to the attorney the
amazing news that his daughter's lover already had a wife and child
living in Scotland.

The facts, so far as we know them, were these. On 22nd May, 1744,
William Henry Cranstoun was privately married at Edinburgh to Anne,
daughter of David Murray, merchant in Leith, a son of the late Sir
David Murray of Stanhope, Baronet. As the lady and her family were
Jacobite and Roman Catholic, the fact of the marriage was not
published at the time for fear of prejudicing the gallant
bridegroom's chances of promotion. The couple lived together "in a
private manner" for some months, and in November the bride returned
to her family, while the captain went to London to resume his
regimental duties. They corresponded regularly by letter. Cranstoun
wrote to his own and the lady's relatives, acknowledging that she
had been his wife since May, but insisting that the marriage should
still be kept secret; and on learning that he was likely to become a
father, he communicated this fact to my Lord, his brother. Lady
Cranstoun invited her daughter-in-law to Nether Crailing, the family
seat in Roxburghshire, there to await the interesting event, but the
young wife, fearing that Presbyterian influences would be brought to
bear upon her, unfortunately declined, which gave offence to Lady
Cranstoun and aroused some suspicion regarding the fact of the
marriage. At Edinburgh, on 19th February, 1745, Mrs. Cranstoun gave
birth to a daughter, who was baptised by a minister of the kirk in
Newbattle, according to one account, in presence of members of both
parents' families; and, by the father's request, one of his brothers
held her during the ceremony. In view of these facts it must have
required no common effrontery on the part of Cranstoun to disown his
wife and child, as he did in the following year. The country being
then in the throes of the last Jacobite rising, and his wife's
family having cast in their lot with Prince Charlie, our gallant
captain perceived in these circumstances a unique opportunity for
ridding himself of his marital ties. The lady was a niece of John
Murray of Broughton, the Prince's secretary who served the cause so
ill; her brother, the reigning baronet, was taken prisoner at
Culloden, tried at Carlisle, and sentenced to death, but owing to
his youth, was reprieved and transported instead; so Cranstoun
thought the course comparatively clear. His position was that Miss
Murray had been his mistress, and that although he had promised to
marry her if she would change her religion for his own purer
Presbyterian faith, and as the lady refused to do so, he was
entirely freed from his engagement. With cynical impudence he
explained his previous admission of the marriage as due to a desire
to "amuse" her relatives and save her honour. In October, 1746, his
wife, by the advice of her friends and in accordance with Scots
practice, raised in the Commissary Court at Edinburgh an action of
declarator of marriage against her perfidious spouse, and the case
was still pending before the Commissaries when Lord Mark Kerr, as we
have seen, "gave away" his grand-nephew to the Blandys.

The old attorney was justly incensed at the unworthy trick of which
he had been the victim. He had designed, indeed, on his own account,
a little surprise for his son-in-law in the matter of the mythical
dower, but that was another matter; so, in all the majesty of
outraged fatherhood, he sought an interview with his treacherous
guest. That gentleman, whose acquaintance with "tight corners" was,
doubtless, like Mr. Waller's knowledge of London, extensive and
peculiar, rose gallantly to the occasion. A firm believer in the
L10,000 _dot_, he could not, of course, fully appreciate the moral
beauty of Mr. Blandy's insistence on the unprofitableness of deceit;
but, taxed with being a married man, "As I have a soul to be saved,"
swore he, "I am not, nor ever was!" The lady had wilfully
misrepresented their equivocal relations, and the proceedings in the
Scottish Courts meant, vulgarly, blackmail. Both families knew the
true facts, and Lord Mark's interference was the result of an old
quarrel between them, long since by him buried in oblivion, but on
account of which his lordship, as appeared, still bore him a grudge.
The action would certainly be decided in his favour, when nothing
more would be heard of Miss Murray and her fraudulent claims. The
affair was, no doubt, annoying, but such incidents were not viewed
too seriously by people of fashion--here the captain would
delicately take a pinch, and offer his snuff-box (with the Cranstoun
arms: _gules_, three cranes _argent_) to the baffled attorney.

On the receipt of Lord Mark's letter, Mrs. Blandy, womanlike,
believed the worst: "her poor Polly was ruined." But her sympathies
were so far enlisted on behalf of the fascinating intended that she
eagerly clutched at any explanation, however lame, which would put
things upon the old footing. She proved a powerful advocate; and, in
the end, Mr. Blandy, accepting his guest's word, allowed the
engagement to continue in the meantime, until the result of the
legal proceedings should be known. He was as loath to forego the
chance of such an aristocratic connection as was his wife to part
from so "genteel" a friend; while Mary Blandy--well, the damsels of
her day were not morbidly nice in such matters, more than once had
the nuptial cup eluded her expectant lips, _enfin_, she was nearing
her thirtieth year: such an opportunity, as Mr. Bunthorne has it,
might not occur again. With the proverbial blindness of those
unwilling to see, the old man did nothing further in regard to Lord
Mark Kerr's communication; that nobleman, annoyed at the
indifference with which his well-meant warning had been received,
forbade his kinsman the house, and the Blandys were thus deprived of
their only means of knowledge as to the doings of their ambiguous

For the movements of that gentleman from this time until the first
"date" in the case, August, 1750, we must rely mainly upon the
narrative given by his fair fiancee in her _Own Account_, and,
unfortunately, after the manner of her sex, she is somewhat careless
of dates. This first visit of Cranstoun lasted "five or six
months"--from the autumn of 1747 till the spring of 1748--when he
went to London on the footing that Mary, with her father's
permission, should "stay for him" till the "unhappy affair" with his
_soi-disant_ spouse was legally determined. Pending this desired
result, the lovers maintained a vigorous correspondence.

Sometime after his departure, Mrs. Blandy and her daughter went on a
visit to Turville Court, the house of a friend named Mrs. Pocock, of
whom we shall hear again. While there, the old lady became suddenly,
and as was at first feared fatally, ill. Her constant cry, according
to Mary, was, "Let Cranstoun be sent for," and no sooner had that
insignificant warrior posted from Southampton to the sick-room than
the patient began to mend. She declared, now that he had come, she
would soon be well, and refused to take her medicines from any hand
but his. Mr. Blandy, also summoned in haste, was much out of humour
at "the great expense" incurred, and proposed forthwith to take his
wife home, where "neither the physician's fees nor the apothecary's
journeys could be so expensive"; and whenever the invalid was able
to travel, the whole party, including the indispensable captain,
returned to Henley. On the strength of the old lady's continued
illness, Cranstoun contrived to "put in" another six months' free
board and lodging under the Blandys' hospitable roof, until his
regiment was "broke" at Southampton, when he set out for London.
During this visit, says Mary, her father was sometimes "very rude"
to his guest, which, in the circumstances, is not surprising.

Meanwhile, on 1st March, 1748, the Commissary Court had decreed
William Henry Cranstoun and Anne Murray to be man and wife and the
child of the marriage to be their lawful issue, and had decerned the
captain to pay the lady an annuity of L40 sterling for her own
aliment and L10 for their daughter's, so long as she should be
maintained by her mother, and further had found him liable in
expenses, amounting to L100. The proceedings disclose a very ugly
incident. Shortly after leaving his wife, as before narrated,
Cranstoun wrote to her that his sole chance of promotion in the Army
depended on his appearing unmarried, and with much persuasion he at
length prevailed upon her to copy a letter, framed by him, to the
effect that she had never been his wife. Once possessed of this
document in her handwriting, the little scoundrel sent copies of it
to his own and his wife's relatives in Scotland, whereby she
suffered much obloquy and neglect, and when that unhappy lady raised
her action of declarator, with peculiar baseness he lodged the
letter in process. Fortunately, she had preserved the original
draft, together with her faithless husband's letters thereanent.
This judgment was, for the gallant defender, now on half-pay, a
veritable _debacle_, and we may be sure that the confiding Blandys
would have heard no word of it from him; but Mrs. Cranstoun, having
learned something of the game her spouse was playing at Henley,
herself wrote to Mr. Blandy, announcing the decision of the
Commissaries and sending for his information a copy of the decree in
her favour. This, surely, should have opened the eyes even of a
provincial attorney, but Cranstoun, while admitting the fact,
induced him to believe, the wish being father to the thought, that
the Court of first instance, as was not unprecedented, had erred,
and that he was advised, with good hope of success, to appeal
against the judgment to the Court of Session. Finally to dispose of
the captain's legal business, it may now be said that the appeal was
in due course of time dismissed, and the decision of the
Commissaries affirmed. Thus the marriage was as valid as Scots law
could make it. True, as is pointed out by one of his biographers, he
might have appealed to the House of Lords, "but did not, as it
seldom happens that they reverse a decree of the Lords of Session!"
Nowadays, we may assume, Cranstoun would have taken the risk. The
result of this protracted litigation was never known to Mr. Blandy.

In the spring of 1749, "a few months" after Cranstoun's departure,
Miss Blandy and her mother went to London for the purpose of taking
medical advice as to the old lady's health, which was still
unsatisfactory. They lived while in town with Mrs. Blandy's brother,
Henry Stevens, the Serjeant, in Doctors' Commons. Cranstoun, with
whom Mary had been in constant correspondence, waited upon the
ladies the morning after their arrival, and came daily during their
visit. On one occasion, Mary states, he brought his elder brother,
the reigning baron, to call upon them. This gentleman was James,
sixth Lord Cranstoun, who had succeeded to the title on the death of
his father in 1727. What was his lordship's attitude regarding the
"perplexing affair" in Scotland she does not inform us; but Mr.
Serjeant Stevens refused to countenance the attentions of the
entangled captain. Mrs. Blandy wept because her brother would not
invite Cranstoun to dinner, and it was arranged that, to avoid
"affronts," she should receive the captain's visits in her own room.
But her friend Mrs. Pocock of Turville Court had a house in St.
James's Square. "Hither Mr. Cranstoun perpetually came," says Mary,
"when he understood that I was there;" so they were able to dispense
with the Serjeant's hospitality. One day she and her mother were
bidden to dine at Mrs. Pocock's, to meet my Lord Garnock (the future
Lord Crauford). Cranstoun and their hostess called for them in a
coach, and in the Strand whom should the party encounter but Mr.
Blandy, come to town on business. "For God's sake, Mrs. Pocock, what
do you with this rubbish?" cried the attorney, stopping the coach.
"Rubbish!" quoth the lady, "Your wife, your daughter, and one who
may be your son?" "Ay," replied the old man, "They are very well
matched; 'tis a pity they should ever be asunder!" "God grant they
never may," simpered the ugly lover; "don't you say amen, papa?" But
amen, as appears, stuck in Mr. Blandy's throat: he declined Mrs.
Pocock's invitation to join them, and shortly thereafter returned to

During this visit to town Mary Blandy states that Cranstoun proposed
a secret marriage "according to the usage of the Church of
England"--apparently with the view of testing the relative strength
of the nuptial knot as tied by their respective Churches. Mary, with
hereditary caution, refused to make the experiment unless an opinion
of counsel were first obtained, and Cranstoun undertook to submit
the point to Mr. Murray, the Solicitor-General for Scotland.
Whatever view, if any, that learned authority expressed regarding so
remarkable an expedient, Mary heard no more of the matter; but in
Cranstoun's _Account_ the marriage is said to have taken place at
her own request, "lest he should prove ungrateful to her after so
material an intimacy." How "material" in fact was the intimacy
between them at this time we can only conjecture.

Mrs. Blandy seems to have made the most of her visit to the
metropolis, for, according to her daughter, she had contracted debts
amounting to forty pounds, and as she "durst not" inform Mr. Blandy,
she borrowed that sum from her obliging future son-in-law. By what
means the captain, in the then state of his finances, came by the
money Mary fails to explain. Being thus, in a pecuniary sense, once
more afloat, the ladies, taking grateful leave of Cranstoun, went
home to Henley.

We hear nothing further of their doings until some six months after
their return, when on Thursday, 28th September 1749, Mrs. Blandy
became seriously ill. Mr. Norton, the Henley apothecary who attended
the family, was sent for, and her brother, the Rev. John Stevens, of
Fawley, who, "with other country gentlemen meeting to bowl at the
Bell Inn," chanced then to be in the town, was also summoned. It was
at first hoped that the old lady would rally as on the former
occasion but she gradually grew worse, notwithstanding the
attentions of the eminent Dr. Addington, brought from Reading to
consult upon the case. Her husband, her daughter, and her two
brothers were with her until the end, which came on Saturday, 30th
September. To the last the dying woman clung to her belief in the
good faith of her noble captain: "Mary has set her heart upon
Cranstoun; when I am gone, let no one set you against the match,"
were her last words to her husband. He replied that they must wait
till the "unhappy affair in Scotland" was decided. The complaint of
which Mrs. Blandy died was, as appears, intestinal inflammation,
but, as we shall see later, her daughter was popularly believed to
have poisoned her. However wicked Mary Blandy may have been, she
well knew that by her mother's death she and Cranstoun lost their
best friend. An old acquaintance and neighbour of Mrs. Blandy, one
Mrs. Mounteney, of whom we shall hear again, came upon a visit to
the bereaved family. Mrs. Blandy, on her deathbed, had commended
this lady to her husband, in case he should "discover an inclination
to marry her"--she already was Mary's godmother; but Mrs. Mounteney
was destined to play another part in the subsequent drama.

Miss Blandy broke the sad news by letter to her lover in London, and
pressed him to come immediately to Henley; but the gallant officer
replied that he was confined to the house for fear of the bailiffs,
and suggested the propriety of a remittance from the mistress of his
heart. Mary promptly borrowed forty pounds from Mrs. Mounteney,
fifteen of which she forwarded for the enlargement of the captain,
who, on regaining his freedom, came to Henley, where he remained
some weeks. Francis Blandy was much affected by the loss of his
wife. At first he seems to have raised no objection to Cranstoun's
visit, but soon Mary had to complain of the "unkind things" which
her father said both to her lover and herself. There was still no
word from Scotland, except a "very civil" letter of condolence from
my Lady Cranstoun, accompanied by a present of kippered
salmon--apparently intended as an antidote to grief; but though the
old man was gratified by such polite attentions, his mind was far
from easy. He was fast losing all faith in the vision of that
splendid alliance by which he had been so long deluded, and did not
care to conceal his disappointment from the person mainly

On this visit mention was first made by Cranstoun of the fatal
powder of which we shall hear so much. Miss Blandy states that,
_apropos_ to her father's unpropitious attitude, her lover
"acquainted her of the great skill of the famous Mrs. Morgan," a
cunning woman known to him in Scotland, from whom he had received a
certain powder, "which she called love-powders"--being, as appears,
the Scottish equivalent to the _poculum amatorium_ or love philtre
of the Romans. Mary said she had no faith in such things, but
Cranstoun assured her of its efficacy, having once taken some
himself, and immediately forgiven a friend to whom he had intended
never to speak again. "If I had any of these powders," said he, "I
would put them into something Mr. Blandy should drink." Such is
Mary's account of the inception of the design upon her father's
love--or life. There for the time matters rested.

"Before he left Henley for the last time," writes Lady Russell, to
whose interesting account we shall later refer, "Captain Cranstoun
made an assignation with Miss Blandy to meet her in the grounds of
Park Place, which had long been their trysting-place; and here it
was that in a walk which still goes by the name of 'Blandy's Walk,'
he first broached his diabolical plan." Park Place, according to the
same authority, had shortly before been purchased by General Conway
and Lady Ailesbury from Mr. Blandy, as "trustee" of the property.

A "dunning" letter following the impecunious captain to his peaceful
retreat alarmed the lovers, for the appearance of a bailiff in the
respectable house in Hart Street would, for Mr. Blandy, have been,
as the phrase goes, the last straw. Fortunately, Mary had retained
against such a contingency the balance of Mrs. Mounteney's loan; and
with another fifteen pounds of that lady's in his pocket, the
captain left for London to liquidate his debt.

From that time till August, 1750, the shadow of his sinister guest
did not darken the attorney's door. On the first of that month
Cranstoun wrote that he proposed to wait upon him. "He must come, I
suppose," sighed the old man, and allowed Mary to write that the
visitor would be received. Doubtless, he faintly hoped that the
Scottish difficulty was at last removed. But the captain, when he
came, brought nothing better than the old empty assurances, and his
host did not conceal how little weight he now attached to such
professions. The visit was an unpleasant one for all parties, and
the situation was rapidly becoming impossible. Mary "seldom rose
from the table without tears." Her father spent his evenings at "the
coffee-house," that he might see as little as possible of the
unwelcome guest.

One morning, Mary states, Cranstoun put some of the magic powder in
the old gentleman's tea, when, _mirabile dictu_, Mr. Blandy, who at
breakfast had been very cross, appeared at dinner in the best of
humours, and continued so "all the time Mr. Cranstoun stayed with
him"! After this, who could doubt the beneficent efficacy of the
wise woman's drug?

During one of their daily walks this singular lover informed his
betrothed that he had a secret to communicate, to wit, that over and
above the Scottish complication, "he had a daughter by one Miss
Capel" a year before he met the present object of his desires. Miss
Blandy, with much philosophy, replied that she hoped he now saw his
follies and would not repeat them. "If I do," said Cranstoun, "I
must be a villain; you alone can make me happy in this world; and by
following your example, I hope I shall be happy in the next." A day
or two afterwards, when Cranstoun was abroad, Mary, so far
anticipating her wifely duties, entered his room in order to look
out his things for the wash. She found more "dirty linen" than she
expected. In an unlocked trunk was a letter of recent date,
addressed to the gallant captain by a lady then enjoying his
protection in town. Even Miss Blandy's robust affection was not, for
the moment, able to overlook a treachery so base. She locked the
trunk, put the key in her pocket, and at the first opportunity
handed it to Cranstoun, with the remark that he should in future be
more careful of his private correspondence. A disgusting scene
ensued. For two hours the wretched little captain wept and raved,
imploring her forgiveness. On his knees, clinging to the skirts of
her gown, he swore he would not live till night unless she pardoned
his offence. Mary asked him to leave Henley at once; she would not
expose him, and their engagement "might seem to go off by degrees."
But the miserable creature conjured her by her mother's dying words
not to give him up, vowing never to repeat "the same provocations."
In the end Mary foolishly yielded; one wonders at the strength of
that abnormal passion by which she was driven to accept a position
so impossible for a decent and intelligent girl.

Soon after this incident Cranstoun was summoned to Scotland, where
his mother, Lady Cranstoun, was "extremely ill." "Good God!" cried
this admirable son, "what shall I do? I have no money to carry me
thither, and all my fortune is seized on but my half-pay!" For the
third time Miss Blandy came to the rescue, even giving him back a
miniature of his ugly countenance with which he had formerly
presented her. At six o'clock next morning he set out for the North
in a post-chaise. The old attorney rose early with good heart to
speed the parting guest, and furnished him with a half-pint bottle
of rum for the journey. Mary says they "all shed tears"; if so, hers
were the only genuine tokens of regret. As she waved good-bye to her
lover and watched the departing chaise till it was lost to view
along the London road, she little thought that, although his
sinister influence would remain with her to the end, his graceless
person had passed from her sight for ever.

It was the month of November, 1750, when Cranstoun took final leave
of Henley. In October, a year after Mrs. Blandy's death, divers
curious phenomena had been observed in the old house by the bridge.
Cranstoun professed that he could get no sleep o' nights, in his
room "over the great parlour," by reason of unearthly music sounding
through the chamber after midnight, for two hours at a time. On his
informing his host of the circumstance, Mr. Blandy caustically
observed, "It was Scotch music, I suppose?" from which Miss Blandy
inferred that he was not in a good humour--though the inference
seems somewhat strained. This manifestation was varied by rappings,
rustlings, banging of doors, footfalls on the stairs, and other
eerie sounds, "which greatly terrified Mr. Cranstoun." The old man
was plainly annoyed by these stories, though he merely expressed the
opinion that his guest was "light-headed." But when Cranstoun one
morning announced that he had been visited in the night, as the
clock struck two, by the old gentleman's wraith, "with his white
stockings, his coat on, and a cap on his head," Mr. Blandy "did not
seem pleased with the discourse," and the subject was dropped. But
Mary, mentioning these strange matters to the maids, expressed the
fear that such happenings boded no good to her father, and told how
Mr. Cranstoun had learned from a cunning woman in Scotland that they
were the messengers of death, and that her father would die within
the year.

Whatever weight might attach to these gloomy prognostications of the
mysterious Mrs. Morgan, it became obvious that from about that date
Francis Blandy's health began to fail. He was in the sixty-second
year of his age, and he suffered the combined assault of gout,
gravel, and heartburn. The state of irritation and suspense
consequent upon his daughter's relations with her lover must greatly
have aggravated his troubles. It was assumed by the prosecution, on
the ground of Mr. Blandy losing his teeth through decay, that he had
begun to manifest the effects of poison soon after Cranstoun left
Henley in November, 1750, but from the evidence given at the trial
it seems improbable that anything injurious was administered to him
until the receipt in the following April of that deadly present from
Scotland, "The powder to clean the pebbles with." Mr. Norton, the
medical man who attended him for several years, stated that the last
illness Mr. Blandy had before the fatal one of August, 1751, was in
July, 1750. The stuff that Cranstoun had put into the old
gentleman's tea in August could, therefore, have no reference to the
illness of the previous month, and certainly was not the genuine
preparation of Mrs. Morgan. If Mary Blandy were not in fact his
accomplice later, it may have been sifted sugar or something equally
simple, to induce her to believe the magic powder harmless.

Having at length got his would-be son-in-law out of the house, Mr.
Blandy determined to be fooled no further; he ordered Mary to write
to Cranstoun telling him on no account to show his face again at
Henley until his matrimonial difficulties were "quite decided."
Tears and entreaties were of no avail; like all weak characters, Mr.
Blandy, having for once put down his foot, was obdurate. This
ultimatum she duly communicated to her lover in the North; if we
could know in what terms and how replied to by him, we should solve
the riddle. Hitherto they seem to have trusted to time and the old
man's continued credulity to effect their respective ends, but now,
if Miss Blandy were to secure a "husband" and Cranstoun lay hands
upon her L10,000, some definite step must be taken. Both knew, what
was as yet unknown to Mr. Blandy, that the appeal had long since
been dismissed, and that while his wife lived Cranstoun could never
marry Mary. At any moment her father might learn the truth and
alter, by the stroke of a pen, the disposition of his fortune. That
they openly agreed to remove by murder the obstacle to their mutual
desires is unlikely. Cranstoun, as appears from all the
circumstances, was the instigator, as he continued throughout the
guiding spirit, of the plot; probably nothing more definite was said
between them than that the "love powder" would counteract the old
man's opposition; but from her subsequent conduct, as proved by the
evidence, it is incredible that Mary acted in ignorance of the true
purpose of the wise woman's prescription.

In April, or the beginning of May, 1751, by Miss Blandy's statement,
she received from her lover a letter informing her that he had seen
his old friend Mrs. Morgan, who was to oblige him with a fresh
supply of her proprietary article, which he would send along with
some "Scotch pebbles" for his betrothed's acceptance. "Ornaments of
Scotch pebbles," says Lady Russell, "were the extreme of fashion in
the year 1750." According to the opening speech for the Crown, both
powder and pebbles arrived at Henley in April; Mary says they did
not reach her hands till June. Susan Gunnell, one of the
maidservants, stated at the trial that there were two consignments
of pebbles from Scotland; one "in a large box of table linen," which
came "early in the spring," and another in "a small box," some three
months before her master's death. Cranstoun's instructions were "to
mix the powder in tea." While professing to doubt "such efficacy
could be lodged in any powder whatsoever," and expressing the fear
"lest it should impair her father's health," Mary consented to give
the love philtre a fair trial. "This some mornings after I did," she
says in her _Own Account_.

Of the earlier phases of Francis Blandy's fatal illness, which began
in this month of June, the evidence tells us nothing more definite
than that he suffered much internal pain and frequently was sick; but
two incidents occurring at that time throw some light upon the cause
of his complaint. It was the habit of the old man to have his tea
served "in a different dish from the rest of the family." One morning
Susan Gunnell, finding that her master had left his tea untasted,
drank it; for three days she was violently sick and continued unwell
for a week. On another occasion Mr. Blandy's tea being again untouched
by him, it was given to an old charwoman named Ann Emmet, often
employed about the house. She shortly was seized with sickness so
severe as to endanger her life. That Mary knew of both these
mysterious attacks is proved; she was much concerned at the illness
of the charwoman, who was a favourite of hers, and she sent white
wine, whey, and broth for the invalid's use.

It is singular that such experiences failed to shake Miss Blandy's
faith in the harmless nature of Mrs. Morgan's nostrum, but they at
least made her realise that tea was an unsuitable vehicle for its
exhibition, and she communicated the fact to Cranstoun. Her
bloodthirsty adviser, however, was able to meet the difficulty. On
18th July he wrote to her, "in an allegorical manner," as
follows:--"I am sorry there are such occasions to clean your
pebbles; you must make use of the powder to them by putting it in
anything of substance wherein it will not swim a-top of the water,
of which I wrote to you in one of my last. I am afraid it will be
too weak to take off their rust, or at least it will take too long a
time." As a further inducement to her to hasten the work in hand, he
described the beauties of Scotland, and mentioned that his mother,
Lady Cranstoun, was having an apartment specially fitted up at
Lennel House for Mary's use. The text of this letter was quoted by
Bathurst in his opening speech for the Crown, but the report of the
trial does not bear that the document itself was produced, or that
it was proved to be in Cranstoun's handwriting. The letter is quoted
in the _Secret History_ and referred to in other contemporary
tracts, and the fact of its existence appears to have been well
known at the time. Further, Miss Blandy in her _Own Account_
distinctly alludes to its receipt, and no objection was taken by her
or her counsel to the reading of it at the trial. The point is of
importance for two reasons. Firstly, this letter, if written by
Cranstoun and received by Mary affords the strongest presumptive
proof of their mutual guilt. Had their design been, as she asserted,
innocent, what need to adopt in a private letter this "allegorical"
and guarded language? Secondly, Mary, as we shall see, found means
before her arrest to destroy the half of the Cranstoun correspondence
in her keeping, and it would have been more satisfactory if the
prosecution had shown how this particular letter escaped to fall into
their hands. That she herself fabricated it in order to inculpate her
accomplice is highly improbable; had she done so, as Mr. Bleackley has
pointed out, its contents would have been more consistent with her

On the evening of Sunday, 4th August, Susan Gunnell, by order of her
mistress, made in a pan a quantity of water gruel for her master's
use. On Monday, the 5th, Miss Blandy was seen by the maids at
mid-day stirring the gruel with a spoon in the pantry. She remarked
that she had been eating the oatmeal from the bottom of the pan,
"and taking some up in the spoon, put it between her fingers and
rubbed it." That night some of the gruel was sent up in a half-pint
mug by Mary for her father's supper. When doing so, she repeated her
curious action of the morning, taking a little in a spoon and
rubbing it. On Tuesday, the 6th, the whole house was in confusion:
Mr. Blandy had become seriously ill in the night, with symptoms of
violent pain, vomiting, and purging. Mr. Norton, the Henley
apothecary who attended the family, was summoned--at whose instance
does not appear--and on arriving at the house he found the patient
suffering, as he thought, from "a fit of colic." He asked him if he
had eaten anything that could have disagreed with him; and Mary, who
was in the bedroom, replied "that her papa had had nothing that she
knew of, except some peas on the Saturday night before." Not a word
was said about the gruel; and Mr. Norton had no reason to suspect
poison. He prescribed, and himself brought certain remedies,
promising to call next day. In the afternoon Miss Blandy, in the
kitchen, asked Elizabeth Binfield, the cook, this strange question:
"Betty, if one thing should happen, will you go with me to
Scotland?" to which Betty cautiously replied, "If I should go there
and not like it, it would be expensive travelling back again." That
evening Susan was told to warm some of the gruel for her master's
supper; she did so, and Mary herself carried it to him in the
parlour. On going upstairs to bed, he was repeatedly sick, and
called to Susan to bring him a basin.

Next morning, Wednesday, the 7th, Betty Binfield brought down from
the bedroom the remains of Mr. Blandy's supper. Old Ann Emmet, the
charwoman, chanced, unhappily for herself, to be in the kitchen.
Susan told her she might eat what had been left, which she did, with
the result that she too became violently ill, with symptoms similar
to those of Mr. Blandy, and even by the following spring had not
sufficiently recovered to be able to attend the trial of her
benefactress. When Susan, at nine o'clock, went up to dress her
mistress and informed her of her protegee's seizure, Miss Blandy
feelingly remarked that she was glad she had not been downstairs, as
it would have shocked her to see "her poor dame" so ill. The doctor
called in the forenoon and found his patient easier. Later in the
day Mary said to Susan that as her master had taken physic, he would
require more gruel, but as there was still some left, she need not
make it fresh "as she was ironing." Susan replied that the gruel was
stale, being then four days old, and, further, that having herself
tasted it, she felt very ill, upon which facts Mary made no comment.
She thoughtfully warned the cook, however, that if Susan ate more of
the gruel "she might do for herself--a person of her age," from
which we must infer that Susan was much her master's senior; how,
otherwise, was the old man to take it daily with impunity?

The strange circumstances attending this gruel aroused the maids'
suspicions. They examined the remanent contents of the pan--the aged
but adventurous Susan again tasting the fatal mixture was sick for
many days--and found a white, gritty "settlement" at the bottom.
They prudently put the pan in a locked closet overnight. Next day,
Thursday, the 8th, Susan carried it to their neighbour, Mrs.
Mounteney, who sent for Mr. Norton, the apothecary, by whom the
contents were removed for subsequent examination, the result of
which will in due course appear.

Meanwhile, Mary's uncle, the Rev. Mr. Stevens, of Fawley, having
heard of his brother-in-law's illness, arrived on Friday, the 9th.
To him Susan communicated the suspicious circumstances already
mentioned, and he advised her to tell her master what she knew.
Accordingly, at seven o'clock the following morning (Saturday, the
10th), Susan entered her master's bedroom, and broke to him the
fearful news that his illness was suspected to be due to poison,
administered to him by his own daughter. So soon as he had recovered
from the first shock of this terrible intelligence, the old attorney
asked her where Mary could have obtained the poison--he does not
seem to have questioned the fact of its administration--and Susan
could suggest no other source than Cranstoun. "Oh, that villain!"
cried the sick man, realising in a flash the horrid plot of which he
was the victim, "that ever he came to my house! I remember he
mentioned a particular poison that they had in their country." Susan
told him that Mr. Norton advised that Miss Blandy's papers be seized
forthwith, but to this Mr. Blandy would not agree. "I never in all
my life read a letter that came to my daughter," said the scrupulous
old man; but he asked Susan to secure any of the powder she could

Determined at once to satisfy himself of the truth, Mr. Blandy rose
and went downstairs to breakfast. There was present at that meal,
besides himself and Mary, one Robert Littleton, his clerk, who had
returned the night before from a holiday in Warwickshire. The old
man appeared to him "in great agony, and complained very much." Mary
handed her father his tea in his "particular dish." He tasted it,
and, fixing his eyes upon her, remarked that it had a bad, gritty
taste, and asked if she had put anything into it. The girl trembled
and changed countenance, muttering that it was made as usual; to
hide her confusion she hurried from the room. Mr. Blandy poured his
tea into "the cat's basin" and sent for a fresh supply. After
breakfast, Mary asked Littleton what had become of the tea, and,
being told, seemed to him much upset by the occurrence. When the old
man had finished his meal, he went into the kitchen to shave. While
there he observed to his daughter, in presence of Betty Binfield, "I
had like to have been poisoned once," referring to an occasion when
he and two friends drank something hurtful at the coffee house. "One
of these gentlemen died immediately, the other is dead now," said
he; "I have survived them both, and it is my fortune to be poisoned
at last," and, looking "very hard" at her, he turned away.

Miss Blandy must have been blind indeed had she failed to see the
significance of these incidents. Anything but obtuse, she at once
decided to take instant measures for her own protection. She went up
to her room, and collecting Cranstoun's correspondence and what
remained of the fatal powder, she returned to the kitchen; standing
before the fire on pretence of drying the superscription of a
letter, she threw the whole bundle into the grate and "stirred it
down with a stick." The cook at the moment, whether by chance or
design, put on some coals, which preserved the papers from flaming
up, and as soon as their mistress had left the kitchen, the maids,
now thoroughly on the alert, took off the coal. The letters were
consumed, but they drew out almost uninjured a folded paper packet,
bearing in Cranstoun's hand the suggestive words, "The powder to
clean the pebbles with," and still containing a small quantity of
white powder, which they delivered to Mr. Norton when he called
later in the day. The apothecary found his patient worse, and stated
his opinion to Mary, who asked him to bring from Reading the great
Dr. Anthony Addington (father of Lord Sidmouth). Did she at the
eleventh hour, pausing upon her dreadful path, seek yet to save her
father's life, or was this merely a move to show her "innocence," as
Dr. Pritchard, in similar circumstances, invited an eminent
colleague to visit his dying victims? Both in her _Narrative_ and
her _Own Account_ Mary takes full credit for calling in Dr.
Addington, but she is unable to allude to the episodes of the
parlour and the kitchen.

Dr. Addington arrived at midnight. From the condition of the
patient, coupled with what he learned from him and Mr. Norton, the
doctor had no doubt Mr. Blandy was suffering from the effects of
poison. He at once informed the daughter, and inquired if her father
had any enemies. "It is impossible!" she replied. "He is at peace
with all the world and all the world is at peace with him." She
added that her father had long suffered from colic and heartburn, to
which his present indisposition was doubtless due. Dr. Addington
remained in the sick-room until Sunday morning (the 11th), when he
left, promising to return next day. He took with him the sediment
from the pan and the packet rescued from the fire, both of which
were delivered to him by Mr. Norton. At this time neither physician
nor apothecary knew the precise nature of the powder. Before he
quitted the house, Dr. Addington warned Mary that if her father died
she would inevitably be ruined.

Her position was now, one would think, sufficiently precarious; but
the infatuated woman took a further fatal step. Her "love" for her
murderous little gallant moved her to warn him of their common
danger. She wrote to him at Lennel House, Coldstream, and asked
Littleton, who had been in the habit of directing her letters to
Cranstoun, to seal, address, and post the missive as usual. But
Littleton, aware of the dark cloud of suspicion that had settled
upon his master's daughter, opened it and read as follows:--"Dear
Willy,--My father is so bad that I have only time to tell you that
if you do not hear from me soon again, don't be frightened. I am
better myself. Lest any accident should happen to your letters, take
care what you write. My sincere compliments. I am ever yours."
Littleton at once showed the letter to Mr. Norton, and afterwards
read it to Mr. Blandy: "He said very little. He smiled and said,
'Poor love-sick girl! What won't a girl do for a man she loves?'"

There was then in the house Mary's uncle, Mr. Blandy, of Kingston,
who had come to see his brother, and it was prudently decided, in
view of all the circumstances, to refuse her access to the
sick-room. But on the following morning (Monday, the 12th) Mr.
Blandy sent by Susan Gunnell a message to his daughter "that he was
ready to forgive her if she would but endeavour to bring that
villain to justice." In accordance with the dying man's request,
Mary was admitted to his room in presence of Susan and Mr. Norton.
Unaware of the recovery of the powder and the interception of her
letter, "she thanked God that she was much better, and said her mind
was more at ease than it had been"; but, being informed of these
damning discoveries, she fell on her knees by her father's bed and
implored his forgiveness, vowing that she would never see or write
to Cranstoun again. "I forgive thee, my dear," said the old man,
"and I hope God will forgive thee; but thou shouldst have considered
better than to have attempted anything against thy father." To which
she answered, "Sir, as for your illness, I am entirely innocent."
She admitted having put the powder into the gruel, "but," said she,
"it was given me with another intent." Her father, "turning himself
in his bed," exclaimed, "Oh, such a villain! To come to my house,
eat and drink of the best my house could afford, and then to take
away my life and ruin my daughter! Oh, my dear, thou must hate that
man, must hate the ground he treads on, thou canst not help it!"
"Sir," said Mary, "your tenderness towards me is like a sword
piercing my heart--much worse than if you were ever so angry. I must
down on my knees and beg you will not curse me." "I curse thee, my
daughter," he rejoined, "how canst thou think I could curse thee?
Nay, I bless thee, and hope God will bless thee also and amend thy
life. Do, my dear, go out of my room and say no more, lest thou
shouldst say anything to thine own prejudice"; whereupon, says
Susan, who reports what passed, "she went directly out." Thus Mary
and her father parted for the last time. It appears from this
pathetic interview that the old man purposely treated her as
Cranstoun's innocent dupe, to shield her, if possible, from the
consequences of her guilt, of which, in the circumstances, he could
have entertained no doubt.

[Illustration: Facsimile of the Intercepted Letter to Cranstoun
written by Mary Blandy
(_From the original MS. in the Public Record Office_.)]

Meanwhile Dr. Addington had applied to the mysterious powder the
tests prescribed by the scientific knowledge of the time, which, if
less delicate and reliable than the processes of Reinsch and
Marsh--a red-hot poker was the principal agent--yielded results then
deemed sufficiently conclusive. Judged by these experiments, Mrs.
Morgan's mystic philtre was composed of nothing more recondite than
white arsenic. When Dr. Addington called on Monday he found the
patient much worse, and sent for Dr. Lewis, of Oxford, as he
"apprehended Mr. Blandy to be in the utmost danger, and that this
affair might come before a Court of judicature." He asked the dying
man whether he himself knew if he had "taken poison often." Mr.
Blandy said he believed he had, and in reply to the further
question, whom he suspected to be the giver of the poison? "the
tears stood in his eyes, yet he forced a smile, and said, 'A poor
love-sick girl--I forgive her. I always thought there was mischief
in those cursed Scotch pebbles.'" Dr. Lewis came, and confirmed Dr.
Addington's diagnosis; by their orders Mary was that evening
confined to her chamber, a guard was placed over her, and her keys,
papers, "and all instruments wherewith she could hurt either herself
or any other person" were taken from her. Dr. Addington graphically
describes the scene when the guilty woman realised that all was
lost. She protested that from the first she had been basely deceived
by Cranstoun, that she had never put powder in anything her father
swallowed, excepting the gruel drunk by him on the Monday and
Tuesday nights, that she believed it "would make him kind to him
[Cranstoun] and her," and that she did not know it to be poison
"_till she had seen its effects_." She declined to assist in
bringing her lover to justice--she considered him as her husband,
"though the ceremony had not passed between them." In reply to
further pertinent questions, e.g., whether she really pretended to
believe in the childish business of the "love philtre"? why
Cranstoun described it, if innoxious, as "powder to clean the
pebbles with"? why, in view of her father's grave condition, she
failed sooner to call in medical aid? and why she had concealed from
him (Addington) what she knew to be the true cause of the illness?
her answers were not such, says Dr. Addington, as gave him any
satisfaction. She made, however, the highly damaging admission that,
about six weeks before, she had put some of the powder into her
father's tea, which Susan Gunnell drank and was ill for a week
after. This was said in presence of Betty Binfield. Thus, it will be
observed, Mary Blandy, on her own showing knew, long before she
operated upon, the gruel at all, the baneful effects of the powder.
Her statement that the motive for administering it was to make her
father "kind" both to _herself_ and Cranstoun should also be, in
view of her subsequent defence, remembered.

On Tuesday, the 13th, the doctors found their patient delirious and
"excessively weak." He grew worse throughout the day; but next
morning he regained consciousness for an hour, and spoke of making
his will in a day or two--a characteristic touch. He soon relapsed,
however, and rapidly sinking, died at two o'clock in the afternoon
of Wednesday, 14th August, 1751. So the end for which, trampling
upon the common instincts of her kind and hardening her heart
against the cry of Nature, she had so persistently and horribly
striven, was at last attained--with what contentment to "The Fair
Parricide," in her guarded chamber, may be left to the speculation
of the curious. The servants had access to their mistress's room.
That afternoon Miss Blandy asked Robert Harman, the footman, to go
away with her immediately--to France, says one account--and offered
him L500 if he would do so. He refused. At night, by her request,
the cook, Betty Binfield, sat up with her. "Betty, will you go away
with me?" she cried, so soon as they were alone. "If you will go to
the Lion or the Bell and hire a post-chaise, I will give you fifteen
guineas when you get into it, and ten guineas more when we come to
London!" "Where will you go--into the North?" inquired the cautious
cook; "Shall you go by sea?" and learning that the proposed
excursion would include a voyage, Betty, being, as appears, a bad
sailor, declined the offer. Her mistress then "burst into laughter,"
and said she was only joking! In the _Narrative_, written after her
condemnation, Mary boldly denies that these significant incidents
occurred; in her more elaborate _Account_ she makes no reference to
the subject. Those who saw her at this time testify to her extreme
anxiety regarding her own situation, but say she showed no sign of
sorrow, compassion, or remorse for her father's death.

The person charged with the duty of warding Mary in her chamber was
Edward Herne, parish clerk of Henley, who some twelve years before
had been employed in Mr. Blandy's office, and had since remained on
intimate terms with the family. It would appear, from an allusion in
a contemporary tract, that Herne was that "Mr. H----" whose
pretensions to the hand of the attorney's daughter had once been
politely rejected. If so, probably he still preserved sufficient of
his former feeling to sympathise with her position and wink at her
escape. Be the fact as it may, at ten o'clock next morning,
Thursday, 15th August, Ned Herne, as Mary names him, leaving his
fair charge unguarded, went off to dig a grave for his old master.
So soon as the coast was clear, Mary, with "nothing on but a
half-sack and petticoat without a hoop," ran out of the house into
the street and over Henley bridge, in a last wild attempt to cheat
her fate. Her distraught air and strange array attracted instant
notice. She was quickly recognised and surrounded by an angry
crowd--for the circumstances of Mr. Blandy's death were now common
knowledge, and the Coroner's jury was to sit that day. Alarmed by
her hostile reception, she sought refuge at the sign of the Angel,
on the other side of the bridge, and Mrs. Davis, the landlady, shut
the door upon the mob. There chanced then to be in the alehouse one
Mr. Lane, who, with his wife, were interested spectators of these
unwonted proceedings. Miss Blandy, having "called for a pint of wine
and a toast," thus addressed the stranger--"Sir, you look like a
gentleman; what do you think they will do to me?" Mr. Lane told her
that she would be committed to the county gaol for trial at the
Assizes, when, if her innocence appeared, she would be acquitted; if
not, she would suffer accordingly. On receiving this cold comfort
Mary "stamped her foot upon the ground," and cried, "Oh, that damned
villain! But why should I blame him? I am more to blame than he, for
I gave it him [her father] and knew the consequence." On
cross-examination at a later stage, the witnesses were unable to
swear whether the word she used was "knew" or "know." The
distinction is obvious; but looking to the other evidence on the
point, it is not of much importance. Mr. Alderman Fisher, a friend
of Mr. Blandy and one of the jury summoned upon the inquest, came to
the Angel and persuaded the fugitive to return. Though the distance
was inconsiderable, Mr. Fisher had to convey her in a "close"
post-chaise "to preserve her from the resentment of the populace."
Welcomed home by the sergeant and mace-bearer sent by the
Corporation of Henley to take her in charge, Mary asked Mr. Fisher
how it would go with her. He told her, "very hard," unless she could
support her story by the production of Cranstoun's letters. "Dear
Mr. Fisher," said she, "I am afraid I have burnt some that would
have brought him to justice. My honour to him will prove my ruin."
If the letters afforded sufficient proof of Cranstoun's criminous
intent, it hardly appears how the fact rhymes to Mary's innocence.

That day a post-mortem examination of Mr. Blandy's remains was made
by Dr. Addington and others, and in the afternoon "at the house of
John Gale, Richard Miles, Gent., Mayor and Coroner of the said
town," opened his inquiry into the cause of death. An account of the
proceedings at the inquest is printed in the Appendix. The medical
witnesses examined were Drs. Addington and Lewis; Mr. Nicholson,
surgeon in Henley; and the apothecary, Mr. Norton, who severally
spoke to the symptoms exhibited by the deceased during life, the
appearances presented by his body, and the result of the analysis of
the powder. They were of opinion that Mr. Blandy died of poison, and
that the powder was a poison capable of causing his death. The
maids, Gunnell and Binfield, Harman the footman, and Mary's old
flame, Ned Herne, were the other witnesses whose depositions were
taken. Having heard the evidence, the jury found that Francis Blandy
was poisoned, and that Mary Blandy "did poison and murder" him; and
on Friday, 16th August, the mayor and coroner issued to the
constables his warrant to convey the prisoner to the county gaol of
Oxford, there to be detained until discharged by due course of law.
That night Mr. Blandy's body was buried in the parish church at
Henley. None of his relatives were present, Norton, his apothecary;
Littleton, his clerk; and Harman, his footman, being the only

Miss Blandy was not removed to Oxford Castle till the following day,
to enable her to make the arrangements necessary for a lengthy
visit. By her request, one Mrs. Dean, a former servant of the
family, accompanied her as her maid. Her tea caddy--"the cannisters
were all most full of fine Hyson"--was not forgotten. At four
o'clock on Saturday morning the ladies, attended by two constables,
set out "very privately" in a landau and four, and, eluding the
attention of the mob, reached Oxford about eleven. Mary's first
question on arriving at the gaol was, "Am I to be fettered?" and,
learning that she would not be put in irons so long as she behaved
well, she remarked, "I have wore them all this morning in my mind in
the coach." At first, we are told, "her imprisonment was indeed
rather like a retirement from the world than the confinement of a
criminal." She had her maid to attend her, the best, apartments in
the keeper's house were placed at her disposal, she drank tea--her
favourite Hyson--twice a day, walked at her pleasure in the keeper's
garden, and of an evening enjoyed her game of cards. Her privacy was
strictly respected; no one was allowed to "see her without her
consent," though very extraordinary sums were daily offered for that
purpose. What treatment more considerate could a sensitive
gentlewoman desire? But the rude breath of the outer world was not
so easily excluded. One day the interesting prisoner learned from a
visitor the startling news that her father's fortune, of which, as
he had left no will, she was sole heiress, had been found to amount
to less than four thousand pounds! With what feelings would she
recall the old attorney's boastful references to her L10,000 dower,
the fame of which had first attracted her "lover," Cranstoun, and so
led to results already sufficiently regrettable, the end of which
she shuddered to foresee. How passionately the fierce woman must
have cursed the irony of her fate! But to this mental torment were
soon to be added physical discomfort and indignity. A rumour reached
the authorities in London that a scheme was afoot to effect her
rescue. On Friday, 25th October, the Secretary of State having
instructed the Sheriff of the county "to take more particular care
of her," the felon's fetters she had before feared were riveted upon
her slender ankles; and there was an end to the daily walks amid the
pleasant alleys of the keeper's garden. This broad hint as to her
real position induced a different state of mind. The chapel
services, hitherto somewhat neglected, were substituted for the
mundane pastimes of tea-drinkings and cards, and the prison
chaplain, the Rev. John Swinton, became her only visitor. To the
pious attentions of that gentleman she may now be left while we see
what happened beyond the narrow circuit of her cell.

We are enabled to throw some fresh light upon the doings of the
powers in whose high hands lay the prisoner's life from certain
correspondence, hitherto unpublished, relating to her case. These
documents, here printed for the first time from the original MSS. in
the British Museum and Public Record Office, will be found in the
Appendix. On 27th September, 1751, Lord Chancellor Hardwicke wrote
to the Duke of Newcastle, Secretary of State, advising that, if upon
the examinations there appeared to be sufficient grounds to proceed
against Mary Blandy for her father's murder, the prosecution should
be carried on at the expense of the Crown, an unusual but not
unprecedented practice; and that Mr. Sharpe, Solicitor to the
Treasury, be ordered to take the necessary steps, under direction of
the Attorney-General; otherwise it would be a reproach to the King's
justice should so flagrant a crime escape punishment, as might, if
the prosecution were left in the hands of the prisoner's own
relatives, occur. As it was thought that Susan Gunnell and the old
charwoman, Ann Emmet, material witnesses, "could not long survive
the effects of the poison they partook of," and might "dye" before
the trial, which in ordinary course would not be held until the Lent
Assizes, his lordship suggested that a special commission be sent
into Berkshire to find a bill of indictment there, so that the trial
could be had at the King's Bench Bar within the next term. It
appears from the correspondence that one Richard Lowe, the Mayor of
Henley's messenger, had, shortly after Miss Blandy's committal, been
despatched to Scotland with the view of apprehending the Hon.
William Henry Cranstoun as accessory to the murder. From the address
on Mary's intercepted letter, Cranstoun was believed to be in
Berwick, and Lowe applied to Mr. Carre, the Sheriff-Depute of
Berwickshire, who seems to have made some difficulty in granting a
warrant in terms of the application, though ultimately he did so. By
that time, however, the bird had flown; and Lowe and Carre each
blamed the other for the failure to effect the fugitive's arrest.
His lordship accordingly recommended that the Lord Justice-Clerk of
Scotland be requested to hold an inquiry into the facts. Lord
Hardwicke, in a private letter to the Duke of the same date,
commented on the "extraordinary method" taken to apprehend
Cranstoun, pointing out that a messenger ought to have been sent
with the Secretary of State's warrant, "which runs equally over the
whole kingdom"; _that_ might have been executed with secrecy,
whereas by the course adopted "so many persons must be apprized of
it, that he could hardly fail of getting notice." On receipt of
these letters, Newcastle wrote to Sir Dudley Ryder, the
Attorney-General, that His Majesty would be pleased to give orders
for the prosecution of Mary Blandy, and instructing him to take the
requisite steps for that purpose. The result of the Justice-Clerk's
inquiry, as appears from the further correspondence, was completely
to exonerate Mr. Carre from the charges of negligence and delay made
against him by the Mayor's messenger.

On 4th October the Chancellor wrote to the Secretary regarding a
petition by the "Noblemen and Gentlemen in the Neighbourhood of
Henley-upon-Thames, and the Mayor and principal Magistrates of that
Town, to the Duke of Newcastle," thanking his grace for King
George's "Paternal Goodness" in directing that the prisoner should
be prosecuted at "His Majesty's Expence," stating that no endeavour
would be wanting on their part to render that prosecution
successful, and praying that, in order to bring to justice "the
Wicked Contriver and Instigator of this Villainous Scheme," His
Majesty might be pleased to offer by proclamation a reward for
Cranstoun's apprehension. The signatories included the Mayor and
Rector of Henley, divers county magnates, and also the local
magistrates, Lords Macclesfield and Cadogan, whose "indefatigable
diligence" in getting up the Crown case was specially commended by
Bathurst at the trial. By Lord Hardwicke's instructions the Duke
submitted the petition to the Attorney-General, with the query,
whether it would be advisable to issue such a proclamation? And Sir
Dudley Ryder, while of opinion that the matter was one "of mere
discretion in His Majesty" and generally approving the measure,
thought it probable that the person in question might even then "be
gone beyond sea." Mr. Attorney's conjecture was, as we shall find,

There is an interesting letter from one Mr. Wise to Mr. Sharpe,
Solicitor to the Treasury, giving us a glimpse of Miss Blandy in
prison. The writer describes a visit paid by him to Oxford Castle
and the condition in which he found her, tells how he impressed upon
the keeper and Mrs. Dean the dire results to themselves of allowing
her to escape, and mentions the annoyance of Parson Swinton, "a
great favourite of Miss Blandy's," at the "freedom" taken with his
name by some anonymous scribbler. This was not the first time that
reverend gentleman had to complain of the "liberty" of the Press, as
we learn from certain curious pamphlets of 1739, from which it would
seem that his reputation had no very sweet savour in contemporary
nostrils. Mr. Sharpe, writing to Mr. Wise on 6th December, alludes
to a threatening letter sent to Betty Binfield, purporting to be
written by Cranstoun, from which it was inferred that the fugitive
was lying concealed "either here in London or in the North." A
similar "menacing letter" signed W.H.C. had been received by Dr.
Lewis on 23rd November, which, like the other, was probably a hoax.
Cranstoun, being then safe in France, would not so commit himself.

The last document of the series, "The Examination of Francis
Gropptty," dated 3rd February, 1752, tells for the first time the
story of the fugitive's escape. This was the man employed by the
Cranstoun family to get their disreputable relative quietly out of
England. The delicate negotiation was conducted by the Rev. Mr. Home,
brother of Lord Home, and a certain Captain Alexander Hamilton. It was
represented to Gropptty, who had "lived with Lord Home several years"
and then "did business for him," that such a service would "very much,
oblige Lord Cranstoun, Lord Home, and all the Family," and that, as
there were no orders to stop Cranstoun at Dover, by complying with
their request he, personally, ran no risk; accordingly he consented
to see the interesting exile as far as Calais. On 2nd September
Captain Hamilton produced Cranstoun at Gropptty's house in Mount
Street. Our old acquaintance characteristically explained that he was
without funds for the journey, having been "rob'd" of his money and
portmanteau on his way to town. Gropptty was induced to purchase for
the traveller "such, necessaries as he wanted," and Captain Hamilton
went to solicit from Lord Ancrum a loan of twenty pounds for expenses.
His lordship having unaccountably refused the advance, the guileless
Gropptty agreed to lend ten guineas upon Captain Hamilton's note
of hand, which, as he in his examination complained, was still
"unsatisfied." He and Cranstoun then set out in a post-chaise for
Dover, where they arrived next morning at nine o'clock. On 4th
September they embarked in the packet for Calais, paying a guinea for
their passage; and Gropptty, having seen his charge safely bestowed in
lodgings "at the Rate of Fifty Livres a Month," returned to London.
Informed of the successful issue of the adventure, the Rev. Mr. Home
evinced a holy joy, and, in the name of his noble kinsman and of Lord
Cranstoun, promised Gropptty a handsome reward for his trouble. That
gentleman, however, said he had acted solely out of gratitude to Lord
Home, and wanted nothing but his outlays; so he made out an "Acct. of
the Expences he had been at," amounting, with the sum advanced by him,
to eighteen pounds, for which Captain Hamilton obligingly gave him a
bill upon my Lord Cranstoun. By a singular coincidence this document
of debt also remained "unsatisfied"; his lordship, after keeping it
for six weeks, "returned it unpaid, and the Examt. has not yet recd.
the money"! Thus, in common with all who had any dealings with the
Hon. William Henry Cranstoun, Gropptty in the end got the worse of the

While her gallant accomplice, having successfully stolen a march
upon the hangman, was breathing the free air of the French seaport,
Miss Blandy, in her cell in Oxford Castle, was preparing for her
trial. She had at first entrusted her defence to one Mr. Newell, an
attorney of Henley, who had succeeded her late father in the office
of town-clerk; but the lawyer, at one of their consultations,
untactfully expressing astonishment that she should have got herself
into trouble over such "a mean-looking little ugly fellow" as
Cranstoun, his client took umbrage at this observation as reflecting
upon her taste in lovers, dispensed with his further services, and
employed in his stead one Mr. Rivers of Woodstock. From the day of
her arrest all sorts of rumours had been rife regarding so
sensational a case. She had poisoned her mother; she had poisoned
her friend Mrs. Pocock--how and when that lady in fact died we do
not know; she was still in correspondence with Cranstoun; she was
secretly married to the keeper's son, a step to which the
circumstances of their acquaintance left her no alternative; her
fortune was being employed to bribe the authorities; the principal
witnesses against her had been got out of the way; she had
(repeatedly and in divers ways) escaped; finally, as she herself,
with reference to these reports, complained--"It has been said that
I am a wretched drunkard, a prophane swearer, that I never went to
chapel, contemned all holy ordinances, and in short gave myself up
to all kinds of immorality." The depositions of the witnesses before
the coroner were published "by some of the Friends and Relations of
the Family, in order to prevent the Publick from being any longer
imposed on with fictitious Stories," but both Miss Blandy and Mr.
Ford, her counsel, took great exception to this at the trial.
Pamphlets, as we shall presently see, poured from the press, and
even before she appeared at the bar the first instalments of a
formidable library of _Blandyana_, had come into being.

On Monday, 2nd March, 1752, the grand jury for the county of Oxford
found a true bill against Mary Blandy. The Town Hall, where the
Assizes were usually held, was "then rebuilding," and as the
University authorities had refused the use of the Sheldonian
Theatre, the trial was appointed to take place next morning in the
beautiful hall of the Divinity School. Owing to the insertion
overnight--by a mischievous undergraduate or other sympathiser with
the day's heroine--of some obstacle in the keyhole, the door could
not be opened, and the lock had to be forced, which delayed the
proceedings for an hour. The judges meanwhile returned to their
lodgings. This initial difficulty surmounted, at eight o'clock on
Tuesday, 3rd March, Mary Blandy was placed at the bar to answer the
grave charges made against her. There appeared for the Crown the
Hon. Mr. Bathurst and Mr. Serjeant Hayward, assisted by the Hon. Mr.
Barrington and Messrs. Hayes, Nares, and Ambler. The prisoner was
defended by Mr. Ford, with whom were Messrs. Morton and Aston. The
judges were the Hon. Heneage Legge and Sir Sidney Stafford Smythe,
two of the Barons of His Majesty's Court of Exchequer.

As the following pages contain a verbatim reprint of the official
report of the trial, published by permission of the judges, it is
only necessary here briefly to refer to the proceedings. The trial
lasted thirteen hours. It is, says Mr. Ainsworth Mitchell, in his
_Science and the Criminal_, "remarkable as being the first one of
which there is any detailed record, in which convincing scientific
proof of poisoning was given." The indictment charged the prisoner
with the wilful murder of Francis Blandy by administering to him
white arsenic at divers times (1) between 10th November, 1750, and
5th August, 1751, in tea, and (2) between 5th and 14th August, 1751,
in water gruel. The prisoner pleaded not guilty, a jury was duly
sworn, and the indictment having been opened by Mr. Barrington,
Bathurst began his address for the Crown. Though promoted later to
the highest judicial office, he has been described as "the least
efficient Lord Chancellor of the eighteenth century." Lord Campbell,
in his _Lives of the Chancellors_, says that Bathurst's address was
much praised for its eloquence, and "as it certainly contains proof
of good feeling, if not of high talent and refined taste," his
lordship transcribes for the benefit of his readers certain of its
purpler passages. It was deemed worthy, at the time, of publication
in separate form, with highly eulogistic notes, wherein we read that
by its eloquent appeal both judges and counsel "were moved to mourn,
nay, to weep like tenderest infants." The prisoner, however, heard
it dry-eyed, nor will its effect be more melting for the modern
reader. At the outset the learned counsel observed, with reference
to the heinous nature of the crime, that he was not surprised "at
this vast concourse of people collected together," from which it
appears there were few vacant seats that morning in the Divinity
School. Space will not permit us to accompany the future Lord
Chancellor through his "most affecting oration," which presents the
case for the Crown with moderation and fairness, and concludes with
a tribute to the "indefatigable diligence" of the Earl of
Macclesfield and Lord Cadogan "in inquiring into this hidden work of
darkness." He was followed by Serjeant Hayward, who, employing a
more rhetorical and florid style, was probably better appreciated by
the audience, but added little to the jury's knowledge of the facts.
In an "improving" passage he besought "the young gentlemen of this
University," who seem to have been well represented, to guard
against the first insidious approaches of vice. "See here," said he,
"the dreadful consequences of disobedience to a parent."

We need not examine in detail the evidence led for the prosecution;
from the foregoing narrative the reader already knows its main
outlines and may study it at large in the following report. The
Crown case opened with the medical witnesses, Drs. Addington and
Lewis, and Mr. Norton, who clearly established the fact that arsenic
was the cause of Mr. Blandy's death, that arsenic was present in the
remains of his gruel, and that arsenic was the powder which the
prisoner had attempted to destroy. The appearance of Mrs. Mounteney
in the witness-box occasioned the only display of feeling exhibited
by the accused throughout the whole trial. This lady was her
godmother, and as she left the Court after giving her evidence, she
clasped her god-child by the hand, exclaiming "God bless you!" For
the moment Mary's brilliant black eyes filled with tears, but after
drinking a glass of wine and water, she resumed her air of stoical

Susan Gunnell, "wore down to a Skelliton" by the effects of her
curiosity, but sufficiently recovered to come into Court, was the
principal witness for the prosecution. In addition to the material
facts which we have before narrated, Susan deposed that the prisoner
often spoke of her father as "an old villain," and wished for his
death, and had complained that she was "very awkward," for, if he
were dead, "she would go to Scotland and live with Lady Cranstoun."
Susan gave her evidence with perfect fairness, and showed no animus
against her former mistress. Equal in importance was the testimony
of Betty Binfield, which, perhaps, is more open to Miss Blandy's
objection as being "inspired with vindictive sentiments." When
communicating to the maids Mrs. Morgan's prophecy regarding the
duration of their master's life, the prisoner, said witness,
expressed herself glad, "for that then she would soon be released
from all her fatigues, and be happy." She was wont to curse her
father, calling him "rascal and villain," and on one occasion had
remarked, "Who would grudge to send an old father to hell for
L10,000?" "Exactly them words," added the scrupulous cook, though in
this instance her zeal had probably got the better of her memory. In
cross-examination Betty was asked whether she had any ill-will
against her mistress. "I always told her I wished her very well,"
was the diplomatic reply. "Did you," continued the prisoner's
counsel, "ever say, 'Damn her for a black bitch! I should be glad to
see her go up the ladder and be hanged'"? but Betty indignantly
denied the utterance of any such ungenteel expressions.

The account given by this witness of the admissions made by her
mistress to Dr. Addington in her presence led to the recall of that
gentleman, who, in his former evidence, had not referred to the
matter. The prisoner's counsel invited Dr. Addington to say that
Miss Blandy's anxiety proceeded solely from concern for her father;
the doctor excused himself from expressing any opinion, but, being
indiscreetly pressed to do so, said that her agitation struck him as
due entirely to fears for herself: he saw no tokens of grief for her
father. On re-examination, it appeared that the doctor had attended
professionally both Susan Gunnell and Ann Emmet; their symptoms, in
his opinion, were those of arsenical poisoning. Alice Emmet was next
called to speak to her mother's illness, the old charwoman herself
being in no condition to come to Court. Littleton, old Blandy's
clerk, gave his evidence with manifest regret, but had to admit that
he frequently heard Miss Blandy curse her parent by the unfilial
names of rogue, villain, and "toothless old dog." Harman, the
footman, to whom Mary had offered the L500 bribe, and Mr. Fisher and
Mr. and Mrs. Lane, who spoke to the incidents at the Angel Inn on
the day of her attempted flight, were the other witnesses examined;
the intercepted letter to Cranstoun was put in, and the Crown case

According to the practice of the time, the prisoner's counsel, while
allowed to examine their own, and cross-examine the prosecutor's
witnesses, were not permitted to address the jury. Mary Blandy
therefore now rose to make the speech in her own defence. Probably
prepared for her beforehand, it merely enumerates the various
injustices and misrepresentations of which she considered herself
the victim. She made little attempt to refute the damning evidence
against her, and concluded by protesting her innocence of her
father's death; that she thought the powder "an inoffensive thing,"
and gave it to procure his love. In this she was well advised, for
she was shrewd enough to see that upon the question of her knowledge
of the quality and effect of the powder the verdict would turn.

[Illustration: Miss Blandy
(_From a Mezzotint by T. Ryley after L. Wilson, in the Collection of
Mr. A.M. Broadley_.)]

Eight witnesses were called for the defence. Ann James, who washed
for the family, stated that before Mr. Blandy's illness there was "a
difference between Elizabeth Binfield and Miss Blandy, and Binfield
was to go away." After Mary's removal to Oxford gaol (Saturday, 17th
August), the witness heard Betty one day in the kitchen make use of
the unparliamentary language already quoted. Mary Banks deposed that
she was present at the time, and heard the words spoken. "It was the
night Mr. Blandy was opened" (Thursday, 15th August); she was sure
of that; Miss Blandy was then in the house. Betty Binfield, recalled
and confronted with this evidence, persisted in her denial, but
admitted the existence of "a little quarrel" with her mistress.
Edward Herne, Mary's old admirer, gave her a high character as an
affectionate, dutiful daughter. He was in the house as often as four
times a week and never heard her swear an oath or speak a
disrespectful word of her father. In cross-examination the witness
admitted that in August, 1750, Miss Blandy told him that Cranstoun
had put powder in her father's tea. He had visited her in prison,
and on one occasion, a report having reached her that "the Captain
was taken," she wrung her hands and said, "I hope in God it is true,
that he may be brought to justice as well as I, and that he may
suffer the punishment due to his crime, as I shall do for mine."
Here for the first time the prisoner intervened. Her questions were
directed to bring out that she had told Herne on the occasion
mentioned that no "damage" resulted upon Cranstoun's use of the
powder, from which fact she inferred its effects harmless, and that
the "suffering" spoken of by her had reference to her imprisonment,
though guiltless. For the rest, Thomas Cawley and Thomas Staverton,
friends of Mr. Blandy for upwards of twenty years, spoke to the
happy relations which to their knowledge subsisted between father
and daughter. On her last visit to Staverton's house, Mary had
remarked that, although her father "had many wives laid out for
him," he would not marry till she was "settled." Mrs. Davis, the
landlady of the Angel, and Robert Stoke, the officer who took the
prisoner into custody, said that Miss Blandy did not then appear to
them to be attempting night. This concluded the exculpatory
evidence. For the defence, Mr. Ford protested against the
"unjustifiable and illegal methods" used to prejudice his client,
such as the publication of the proceedings at the inquest, and,
particularly, the "very scandalous reports" concerning her,
circulated since her commitment, to refute which he proposed to call
"the reverend gentleman who had attended her," Parson Swinton. The
Court, however, held that there was no need to do so, as the jury
would entirely disregard anything not deposed to in Court. Mr.
Bathurst replying for the Crown, maintained that it was proved to
demonstration that Francis Blandy died of poison, put in his gruel
upon the 5th of August by the prisoner's hand, as appeared not only
from her own confession, but from all the evidence adduced. "Examine
then, gentlemen," said the learned counsel, "whether it is possible
she could do it ignorantly." In view of the great affection with
which it was proved the dying man behaved to her, the prisoner's
assertion that she gave him the powder "to make him love her" was
incredible. She knew what effects the poisoned gruel produced upon
him on the Monday and Tuesday, yet she would have given him more of
it on the Wednesday. Having pointed out that, when she must have
known the nature of the powder, she endeavoured to destroy it,
instead of telling the physicians what she had given her father,
which might have been the means of saving his life, counsel
commented on the terms of the intercepted letter to Cranstoun as
wholly inconsistent with her innocence. Further, he remarked on the
contradiction as to dates in the evidence of the witnesses who
reported Betty Binfield's forcible phrase, which, he contended, was
in fact never uttered by her. Finally, he endorsed the censure of
the prisoner's counsel upon the spreaders of the scandalous reports,
which he asked the jury totally to disregard. On the conclusion of
Bathurst's reply, the prisoner made the following statement:--"It is
said I gave it [the powder] my father to make him fond of me: there
was no occasion for that--but to make him fond of Cranstoun."

Mr. Baron Legge then proceeded to charge the jury. The manner in
which his lordship reviewed the evidence and his exposition of its
import and effect, indeed his whole conduct of the trial, have been
well described as affording a favourable impression of his ability,
impartiality, and humanity. He proceeded in the good old fashion,
going carefully over the whole ground of the evidence, of which his
notes appear to have been excellent; and after some general remarks
upon the atrocity of the crime charged, and the nature and weight of
circumstantial evidence--"more convincing and satisfactory than any
other kind of evidence, because facts cannot lie"--observed that it
was undeniable that Mr. Blandy died by poison administered to him by
the prisoner at the bar: "What you are to try is reduced to this
single question, whether the prisoner, at the time she gave it to
her father, knew that it was poison, and what effect it would have?"
If they believed that she did know, they must find her guilty; if,
in view of her general character, the evidence led for the defence,
and what she herself had said, they were not satisfied that she
knew, then they would acquit her. The jury, without retiring,
consulted for five minutes and returned a verdict of guilty. Mr.
Baron Legge, having in dignified and moving terms exhorted the
unhappy woman to repentance, then pronounced the inevitable sentence
of the law--"That you are to be carried to the place of execution
and there hanged by the neck until you are dead; and may God, of His
infinite mercy, receive your soul."

It was nine o'clock at night; for thirteen mortal hours Mary Blandy
had watched unflinchingly the "interesting game played by counsel
with her life for stakes"; the "game" was over, and hers was the
losing side; yet no sign of fear or agitation was manifested by that
strange woman as she rose for the last time to address her judge.
"My lord," said she, "as your lordship has been so good to show so
much candour and impartiality in the course of my trial, I have one
favour more to beg; which is, that your lordship would please to
allow me a little time till I can settle my affairs and make my
peace with God"; to which Mr. Baron Legge feelingly replied, "To be
sure, you shall have a proper time allowed you." So, amid the tense
stillness of the crowded "house," the curtain fell upon the great
fourth act of the tragedy of "The Fair Parricide."

On leaving the hall to be taken back to prison, Mary Blandy, we
read, "stepped into the Coach with as little Concern as if she had
been going to a Ball"--the eighteenth century reporter anticipating
by a hundred years his journalistic successor's phrase as to the
demeanour of Madeleine Smith in similar trying circumstances. The
result of the trial had preceded her to Oxford Castle, where she
found the keeper's family "in some Disorder, the Children being all
in Tears" at the fatal news. "Don't mind it," said their indomitable
guest, "What does it signify? I am very hungry; pray, let me have
something for supper as speedily as possible"; and our reporter
proceeds to spoil his admirable picture by condescending upon
"Mutton Chops and an Apple Pye."

The six weeks allowed her to prepare for death were all too short for
the correspondence and literary labours in which she presently became
involved. On 7th March "a Reverend Divine of Henley-upon-Thames,"
probably, from other evidence, the Rev. William Stockwood, rector of
the parish, addressed to her a letter, exhorting her to confession and
repentance. To this Miss Blandy replied on the 9th, maintaining that
she had acted innocently. "There is an Account," she tells him, "as
well as I was able to write, which I sent to my Uncle in London, that
I here send you." Copies of these letters, and of the narrative
referred to, are printed in the Appendix. She sends her "tenderest
wishes" to her god-mother, Mrs. Mounteney, and trusts that she will be
able to "serve" her with the Bishop of Winchester, apparently in the
matter of a reprieve, of which Mary is said to have had good hope, by
reason that she had once the honour of dancing with the late Prince of
Wales--"Fred, who was alive and is dead." "Pray comfort poor Ned
Herne," she writes, "and tell him I have the same friendship for him
as ever." She asks that her letter and its enclosure be returned, as,
being in her own handwriting, they may be of service to her character
after her death. The object of this request was speedily apparent; on
20th March the whole documents were published under the title of _A
Letter from a Clergyman, to Miss Mary Blandy, &c._, with a note by the
publisher intimating that, for the satisfaction of the public, the
original MS. was left with him. The fair authoress having thus fired
the first shot, a fusilade of pamphlets began--the spent bullets are
collected in the Bibliography--which, for volume and verbosity, is
entitled to honourable mention in the annals of tractarian strife. _An
Answer to Miss Blandy's Narrative_ quickly followed upon the other
side, in which, it is claimed, "all the Arguments she has advanc'd in
Justification of her Innocence are fully refuted, and her Guilt
clearly and undeniably prov'd." This was promptly met by _The Case of
Miss Blandy considered, as a Daughter, as a Gentlewoman, and as a
Christian_, with particular reference to her own _Narrative_, the
author of which is better versed in classical analogies than in the
facts of the case. Mary herself mentions a pamphlet, which she cites
as _The Life of Miss Mary Blandy_, and attributes to "a French usher."
This may have been one of the 1751 tracts containing accounts "of that
most horrid Parricide," the title of which she deemed too indelicate
for exact citation, or, perhaps, an earlier edition of _A Genuine and
Impartial Account of the Life of Miss Mary Blandy_, &c., the copy of
which in the Editor's possession, including an account of the
execution, was published on 9th April, three days after the completion
of that ceremony.

The last literary effort of Mary Blandy was an expansion of her
_Narrative_, re-written in more detail and at much greater length,
the revised version appearing on 18th April under the title of _Miss
Mary Blandy's Own Account of the Affair between her and Mr.
Cranstoun_, "from the commencement of their Acquaintance in the year
1746 to the Death of her Father in August, 1751, with all the
Circumstances leading to that unhappy Event." This ingenious, rather
than ingenuous, compilation was, it is said, prepared with the
assistance of Parson Swinton, who had some previous experience of
pamphleteering on his own account in 1739. Mr. Horace Bleackley has
happily described it as "The most famous apologia in criminal
literature," and as such it is reprinted in the present volume. Even
this _tour de force_ failed to convince a sceptical world, and on
15th April was published _A Candid Appeal to the Publick_ concerning
her case, by "a Gentleman of Oxford," wherein "All the ridiculous
and false Assertions" contained in Miss Blandy's _Own Account_ "are
exploded, and the Whole of that Mysterious Affair set in a True
Light." But by this time the fair disputant was beyond the reach of
controversy, and the Oxford gentleman had it all his own way; though
the pamphleteers kept the discussion alive a year longer than its

An instructive feature of Mary's literary activities during her last
days is her correspondence with Elizabeth Jeffries. "That unsavoury
person" was, with her paramour, John Swan, convicted at Chelmsford
Assizes on 12th March, 1752, of the murder at Walthamstow, on 3rd
July, of one Joseph Jeffries, respectively uncle and master to his
slayers. Elizabeth induced John to kill the old gentleman, who,
aware of their intrigue, had threatened, as the Crown counsel neatly
phrased it, "to alter his will, if she did not alter her conduct."
This unpleasant case, as was, perhaps, in the circumstances,
natural, attracted the attention of Miss Blandy. She read with much
interest the report of the trial. "It is barbarous," was her
comment--for, in truth, the murder was a sordid business, and sadly
lacking in "style"--"but I am sorry for her, and hope she will have
a good divine to attend her in her last moments, if possible a
second Swinton, for, poor unhappy girl, I pity her." These
sentiments shocked a lady visitor then present, who, expressing the
opinion that all such inhuman wretches should suffer as they
deserved, withdrew in dudgeon. Mary smilingly remarked, "I can't
bear with these over-virtuous women. I believe if ever the devil
picks a bone, it is one of theirs!" But the murderess of Walthamstow
had somehow struck her fancy, and she wrote to her fellow-convict to
express her sympathy. That young lady suitably replied, and the
ensuing correspondence (7th January-19th March, 1752), published
under the title of _Genuine Letters between Miss Blandy and Miss
Jeffries_, if we may believe the description, is highly remarkable.
At first Elizabeth asserted her innocence as stoutly as did Mary
herself, but afterwards she acknowledged her guilt. Whereupon Mary,
more in sorrow than in anger, wrote to her on 16th March for the
last time. "Your deceiving of me was a small crime; it was deceiving
yourself: for no retreat, tho' ever so pleasant, no diversions, no
company, no, not Heaven itself, could have made you happy with those
crimes unrepented of in your breast." So, with the promise to be "a
suitor for her at the Throne of Mercy," Miss Blandy intimated that
the correspondence must close; and on the 28th Miss Jeffries duly
paid the penalty of her crime.

In _A Book of Scoundrels_, that improving and delightful work, Mr.
Charles Whibley has, well observed: "A stern test of artistry is the
gallows. Perfect behaviour at an enforced and public scrutiny may
properly be esteemed an effect of talent--an effect which has not
too often been rehearsed." This high standard, the hall-mark of the
artist in crime, Mary Blandy admittedly attained. The execution,
originally fixed for Saturday, 4th April, was postponed until
Monday, the 6th, by request of the University authorities, who
represented that to conduct such a ceremony during Holy Week "would
be improper and unprecedented." The night before her end the doomed
woman asked to see the scene of the morrow's tragedy, and looked out
from one of the upper windows upon the gibbet, "opposite the door of
the gaol, and made by laying a poll across upon the arms of two
trees"--in her case "the fatal tree" had a new and very real
significance; then she turned away, remarking only that it was "very
high." At nine o'clock on Monday morning, attended by Parson
Swinton, and "dress'd in a black crape sack, with her arms and hands
ty'd with black paduasoy ribbons," Mary Blandy was led out to her
death. About the two trees with, their ominous "poll" a crowd of
silent spectators was assembled on the Castle Green, to whom, in
accordance with the etiquette of the day, she made her "dying
declaration"--to wit, that she was guiltless of her father's blood,
though the innocent cause of his death, and that she did not "in the
least contribute" to that of her mother or of Mrs. Pocock. This she
swore upon her salvation; which only shows, says Lord Campbell, who
was convinced of her guilt, "the worthlessness of the dying
declarations of criminals, and the absurdity of the practice of
trying to induce them to confess." We shall not dwell upon the
shocking spectacle--the curious will find a contemporary account in
the Appendix--but one characteristic detail may be mentioned. As she
was climbing the fatal ladder, covered, for the occasion, with black
cloth, she stopped, and addressing the celebrants of that grim
ritual, "Gentlemen," said she, "do not hang me high, for the sake of

Mary Blandy was but just in time to make so "genteel" an end. That
very year (1752), owing to the alarming increase of murders, an Act
was passed (25 Geo. II. c. 37) "for better preventing the Horrid
Crime of Murder," whereby persons condemned therefor should be
executed on the next day but one after sentence, and their bodies be
given to the Surgeons' Company at their Hall with a view to
dissection, and also, in the discretion of the judge, be hanged in
chains. The first person to benefit by the provisions of the new Act
did so on 1st July. But although Mary Blandy's body escaped these
legal indignities, as neither coffin nor hearse had been prepared
for its reception, it was carried through the crowd on the shoulders
of one of the Sheriff's men, and deposited for some hours in his
house. There suitable arrangements were made, and at one o'clock in
the morning of Tuesday, 7th April, 1752, the body, by her own
request, was buried in the chancel of Henley Parish Church, between
those of her father and mother, when, notwithstanding the untimely
hour, "there was assembled the greatest concourse of people ever
known upon such an occasion." Henley Church has been "restored"
since Mary's day, and there is now no indication of the grave,
which, as the present rector courteously informs the Editor, is
believed to be beneath the organ, in the north choir aisle.

_Apropos_ to Mary Blandy's death, "Elia" has a quaint anecdote of
Samuel Salt, one of the "Old Benchers of the Inner Temple." This
gentleman, notable for his maladroit remarks, was bidden to dine
with a relative of hers (doubtless Mr. Serjeant Stevens) on the day
of the execution--not, one would think, a suitable occasion for
festivity. Salt was warned beforehand by his valet to avoid all
allusion to the subject, and promised to be specially careful.
During the pause preliminary to the announcing of dinner, however,
"he got up, looked out of window, and pulling down his ruffles--an
ordinary motion with him--observed, 'it was a gloomy day,' and
added, 'I suppose Miss Blandy must be hanged by this time.'"

The reader may care to know what became of Cranstoun. That "unspeakable
Scot," it has regretfully to be recorded, was never made amenable to
earthly justice. He was, indeed, the subject of at least four
biographies, but human retribution followed him no further. Extracts
from one of these "Lives" are, for what they are worth, printed in the
Appendix, together with his posthumous _Account of the Poisoning of
the late Mr. Francis Blandy_, a counterblast to Mary's masterpiece.
This tract includes the text of three letters, alleged to have been
written by her to her lover, and dated respectively 30th June, 16th
July, and 1st August, 1751; but as, after his death, all his papers
were, by order of Lord Cranstoun, sealed up and sent to his lordship
in Scotland, who, in the circumstances, was little likely to part with
them, it does not appear how these particular manuscripts came into
the "editor's" possession. But, in that age of literary marvels,
nothing need surprise us: a publisher actually issued as genuine the
_Original Letters to and from Miss Blandy and C---- C----_, though the
fact that Cranstoun's half of the correspondence had been destroyed by
Mary Blandy was then a matter of common knowledge. In all these
pamphlets, Cranstoun, while admitting his complicity in her crime,
with, characteristic gallantry casts most of the blame upon his dead
mistress. For the rest, he seems to have passed the brief remainder of
his days in cheating as many of his fellow-sinners as, in the short
time at his disposal, could reasonably be expected.

A hitherto unpublished letter from Henry Fox at the War Office, to
Mr. Pitt, then Paymaster General, dated 14th March, 1752, is, by
kind permission of Mr. A.M. Broadley, printed in the Appendix.
After referring to Mary's conviction, the writer intimates that
Cranstoun, "a reduc'd first Lieut. of Sir Andrew Agnew's late Regt.
of Marines, now on the British Establishment of Half-Pay, was
charged with contriving the manner of sd. Miss Blandy's Poisoning
her Father and being an Abettor therein; and he having absconded
from the time of her being comitted for the above Fact, I am
commanded to signify to you it is His Majesty's Pleasure that the
sd. Lieutenant Wm. Henry Cranstoune be struck off the sd.

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