Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

PREROGATIVE COURT, APRIL 12. Mrs. Dew, various acts of the most

violent and disgusting brutality Dew v. Clark and Clark.

were pleaded to have been repeatSir John Nicoll gave judgment edly committed by the deceased in in this extraordinary case to day. his conduct towards her. He had The deceased in the cause was the conceived, it was said, from her late Mr. Ely Stott, of Hart-street, earliest infancy, an unconquerable Bloomsbury, a surgeon and electri« aversion for her; he described her, cian of some eminence, who died in in the singular jargon in which he the month of November, 1821, habitually expressed himself on aged 72, leaving behind him an such subjects, as a child of Satan, only child, by a former wife, Mrs. and given over, from her birth, to Charlotte Mary Dew his widow, eternal reprobation. He accused Mrs. Mary Stott-and real and her of crimes and these accusapersonal property to the value of tions he was constantly making, 40,0001. and upwards. By his even to his own patients-the comwill, dated 26th May, 1818, after mission of which, was absolutely leaving about 4001. a-year to his impossible at her tender age," in wife, during her widowhood, a few the language of some of the witlegacies to his friends, and altoge- nesses-the lord bishop of Durham, ther 100l. per annum only to his for example. He required of her daughter, he bequeathed the residue a daily written statement and conof his estate to Thomas and Valen- fession of the most secret thoughts tine Clark, his two nephews. This of her heart ; and with a capriciwill was opposed on behalf of Mrs. ousness of feeling only to be equalled Dew, the daughter, on the ground by the barbarity of the treatment of the deceased's delusion and un- to which he subjected her; he soundness of mind in respect to her, would, to-day, shed tears at the and of general unsoundness of mind mention of her name, đescribing on that topic, and all others con- himself as the most afflicted and nected with it. Although the evi- unfortunate of parents, and todence adduced in support of the morrow, strip and flog her with the will, as well as the averments of most savage fury: in a letter to the allegations given in, on the one of his friends, he would eulopart of the nephews, went to make gize her talents and great capabiliout a case amounting only to what ties; in another communication he was termed extreme eccentricity of would impute to her extreme exconduct; it resulted from the cesses of vice. His unfortunate testimony given on both sides, and daughter was accused, by him, of indeed from the admissions of the such offences while she was at counsel of the Messrs. Clark, school; but the witnessés vouched that the conduct of the deceased to this part of the case, did not towards his daughter had been, as attempt to prove any thing beyond it was charged to have been, severe some trivial indiscretion of speech; and even brutal; but it was cori- and, even that having happened tended, at the same time, that these four-and-twenty years ago, they admissions could not affect the could not of course depose to it, general question of the sanity of with any degree of certainty. It deceased's mind, On the part of appeared that the school-mistress

a

found the interference of the dem not within the period compreceased, and his perpetual dissen- hended in the finding of the jury, sions about the “reprobate state” under such inquisition, but at a

“ of his daughter extremely incon- date about three years prior to that venient and troublesome; and period. By the will, he left to his gladly availed herself of an oppor- wife all his household furniture, tunity of getting rid, with poor and other things of that descripMiss Stott, of the importunities and tion; to his nephew, Thomas visionary lamentations of her father. Clark, a legacy of 100l. ; to his The singular eccentricities of the other nephew, Valentine Clark, deceased, the strange intermixture . 150l. ; and various other legacies of religious fervor and downright (including some small annuities) blasphemy in his conversation, his of no very great amount, to differseverity to his servants, his uncon- ent individuals ; especially to a trollable hatred to draymen, drovers, Miss Hey, in acknowledgment of and butcher-boys, his diurnal con- the endeavours she had exerted in tests with offenders in these classes, common with himself “for rehis whimsical notions of the mira- claiming his daughter, after the culous virtue of electricity, by latter had thrice revolted from him, which he at one time proposed to and flung herself from his care and discharge all the functions of an protection." There was a legacỹ accoucheur ! his inordinate opinion in pretty nearly similar terms to of himself, amounting to a belief of his friend, Mr. Daniel Gough; his own infallibility and the per- but the amount was left in blank. severing hatred with which through To his daughter and only child he life he pursued his daughter, were bequeathed, altogether, about 100l. detailed at great length in the evi- per annum only; to his wife, dence. Mr. Stott was originally a Mary Stott, 400l. a-year during footman; and appears to have been the term of her natural life or a manof great natural endowments, widowhood; to his three execuand to have proceeded, with sin- tors 501. each ; and the whole resigular energy, in the acquisition of due of his real and personal estate, his practice and his fortune. in the event of his, the testator's

The learned judge stated the having no other children at the question to relate to the validity of time of his death, to his nephews, the will. Mr. Stott had several Thomas and Valentine Clark, the nephews and nieces, who, as such, parties in this cause.

His wife he would of course not be entitled in joined in the executorship of this distribution. The property of de- will with the three executors beceased at his death amounted in fore alluded to. Such was the subvalue to nearly 40,000l. In the stance of the will; and undoubtmonth of February, 1821, his wife edly it was a testament very applied for a commission of lunacy much to the prejudice of the against him; the inquisition was daughter (the other party in the executed accordingly, and the de- cause) who was his only child, ceased was found to have been of un- and was yet assigned so small a sound mind from the preceding 1st of portion out of this very large proJanuary. The will propounded in perty. It was a will, however, this cause was dated May, 1818; very formally drawn up, and atand had been executed, therefore, tested by three respectable wit

nesses.

[ocr errors]

.

Soon after the death of ground of the opposition was this; the deceased, all the executors re- that though it was the will of the nounced probate; and administra- mind of deceased, that mind was tion,,, with the will annexed, was not a sane, but was an unsound, granted in December, 1821, to the mind —"unsound," in the legal residuary, legatees, Thomas and sense of the term, that is, that deValentine Clark, In April, 1822, ceased was, to a certain extent, de that administration was called in ranged in mind when he made this by the daughter; the residuary will. Now, it was the clear rule legatees were put on the proof of of law, that, where a case of this the will; it was propounded by description was set up, the onus them, and was opposed by Mrs. probandi was on the party by whom Dew, the daughter. The first al- it was so advanced. And the gelegation given in, on behalf of neral tendency of the plea, which Messrs. Clark, merely propounded had been offered on the part of the the paper in the form of a common daughter, might be thus stated : condidit; pleading the factum of that the conduct of the deceased the execution, the death of the towards his first wife, upon the deceased, and the character of his birth of this daughter, had been hand-writing. And if the ques- strongly marked with derangetion now before the Court rested ment; that he subsequently, and on the evidence of the factum, as ever afterwards, manifested strong proved by the witnesses on the indications of a complete hatred and condidit, there could be no doubt antipathy for the daughter herself ; whatever respecting the validity of that in respect of her, in particuthis will. Their evidence, as far lar, he laboured under a delusion as it went, was complete and sa- of mind, imagining her to have tisfactory. The grounds, upon been, from her birth, invested by which the will was opposed, were nature with great and singular not a denial of the intention depravity; and to be an abanof the testator ; or of the execu- doned profligate, a wild and irretion of this paper ; or any sug- claimable being; that he treated gestion that either fraud or circum- her with the utmost cruelty and vention was practised towards him; violence, notwithstanding she on or that any extrinsic influence had all occasions behaved to him with been made use of in order to in- all duty, and endeavoured by every duce, him to make such a. dispo- means to conciliate his affections ; sition of his property. Neither that she had always conducted herwas it suggested that this will had self as a modest, virtuous, and not originated entirely with him- amiable person ;, but that in these self, and had not been prepared and prepossessions against her, and in completed by and under his own other matters respecting her, the directions. It was not charged deceased had shown strong sympthat the attesting witnesses had, in toms of insanity. Now, the adany degree, falsely represented the mission of this plea, which necesfacts they deposed to; or that they sarily went into great detail, had had not given an honest and sin- been opposed by the propounder of cere opinion in respect of the state the will; and the Court on a of the deceased at the time this in- former day had expressed an opinstrument was executed.. But the ion, to which it still adhered, that such a case, as that suggested by chose. Severity in his general this plea, would be one extremely conduct to his daughter, arising difficult of proof; but that if from the natural infirmity of his proved, it might certainly be avail- temper, or accidental excitements, able to render the will invalid. would not prove mental derangeOn the part of the residuary lega- ment, even though it should seem tees, a very long responsive plea to have been excessive severity. also had been given in support of The Court itself must be most the will, setting forth the general careful not to indulge any feelings sanity of the testator in the whole of compassion for the person who of his conduct through life: and opposed the will in question, ala his character, temperament, and though she was an only child and religious opinions, as sufficiently prejudiced by that will, or though it accounting for that kind of irrita- might be shown even that she was tion under which he had at times the most amiable and unoffending treated his daughter with perhaps of her sex. The Court must look extreme severity; that on the part only at the legal aspect of the case, of the daughter, herself, also, there without regarding the small anhad been such misconduct as had nuity with which the deceased had afforded the deceased some rational cut this daughter off; or that fact-grounds for the testamentary dis- perhaps more distressing to her feel positions he had made to her pre- ings as a mother—that he had left judice. In supply of proof of this without any provision any child allegation, many of the deceased's or children of her own, though letters were exhibited ; and several, these could, by no possibility, have likewise, of the daughter's; and offended him by any misconduct these showed, it was contended, on on their part. The deceased, in the one hand, that the deceased was a the exercise of his legal rights, rational person, acting upon rational might give the bulk of his progrounds; and, on the other, that perty, if he thought fit, most unthe daughter under her own hand doubtedly, to public charities, or admitted her past misconduct, and to these nephews, or to still more promised future amendment. This distant relatives, in preference to outline of the case, on either side, his own daughter ; and any mere would suffice to demonstrate the personal considerations, such as the extreme difficulty, in which, as the Court had just adverted to, could Court had observed, this cause was have no legal effect' whatever. involved. It had been truly stated This sort of proceeding might be an by counsel in argument, that the act of injustice, or an act of cavalidity of this will could not be af- price; but the only question which fected, unless the Court should be the Court had to deal with, was morally convinced, that the de- was it an act of insanity? The ceased, when he made it, was a true point now to be decided was, person of unsound mind. Eccen- whether, at the time of making tricity of conduct, if it were no this will, the deceased was a permore than eccentricity, would be son of sound or unsound mind? of no avail to take away from a To the decision of that issue it. man the right which the law con- must direct and confine its atten ferred upon him, of disposing of tion. The first consideration : to his property, after death, as he be determined was the fixing

[ocr errors]

what should be the characteristics of all their actions; and yet after and the test of an unsound mind; gaining the point for which they and the determining at what point had so restrained themselves in the eccentricity and caprice might be presence of those whom they knew said to end, and where derange- to be most capable of detecting the ment commenced. Derangement real condition of their minds, those assumeda thousand different shapes, very individuals had been found to as various as the shades of human labour under the influence of uncharacter. It existed in every diminished insanity. Other peoimaginable variety, from that of the ple, who were most capable of frantic maniac chained to the floor, delivering themselves with great to that of the person who was ap- propriety, and in the most rational parently rational in all his acts, manner, upon most subjects, were and in his conversations on all sub- yet the victims of an utter delujects, excepting one; which de- sion upon others. As far as the lusion on

one subject, though Court's own observation and exdaily present to his mind, would perience went, guided and aided not be elicited, perhaps, but under by those opinions and circumspecial circumstances, and on par- stances which every person must ticular occasions. Thus, we had have occasionally encountered in all heard of persons at large in society, and fortified also by cases Bedlam itself, acting as servants which had occurred in this and in in that public institution; and other courts of justice, or by what even showing the other maniacs, had been laid down on these suband describing them to casual jects by medical and other writers; visitors ; and who, although at the learned judge declared his large and competent to do this, opinion to be this where there were yet, themselves, essentially existed delusion of mind, there mad on some topic or other, all the existed that which was commonly time. We had also heard of the termed insanity. Where persons individual who fancied himself to believed things to exist, which, be the duke of Hexham ; and yet in fact, existed only,_or, at any acted rationally enough as the ser- rate, in the degree in which they vant of his own committee in the supposed them to exist in their management of his own property. own imagination, and of the nonIt was further observable, that per- existence of which neither argusons labouring under a disorder of ment nor proof could satisfy them; the mind, had often a temporary such persons were of unsound power of restriction over theme minds. Or, as one of the learned selves, either from the respect and counsel in support of the will (Dr. awe they felt in the presence of Lushington) had well put it" others; or from a consciousness of was only the belief of facts which the peculiar relations in which no rational person would have beothers stood to them. Extra- lieved, that constituted insane ordinary instances of this faculty delusion.” [Here the learned had occurred, in which they had judge entered into a luminous and even deceived their keepers and elaborate examination of the chamedical attendants, notwithstand- racter of mental delusion generally ing the constant and vigilant ob- --its excess and its modifications servation of the latter, in respect its exciting causes--and, in

_it

« EdellinenJatka »