Trial of Mary Blandy

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  • 1914
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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 (_From an unpublished Sepia Drawing in the Collection of Mr.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 Bleackley_.)]




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 result.


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 Cranstoun

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 Bleackley._

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 adventure.

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 Didapper.

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 guest.

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 Henley.

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 responsible.

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 defence.

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 find.

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 mourners.

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, correct.

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 bargain.

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 indifference.

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 closed.

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 subject.

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 decency.”

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.