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MOORSOM v CLARKE - WHITBY 1791

(Please note that spellings and punctuation are as published, so may not be correct in modern usage)

1791

King's Bench, Westminster Hall.

Before Lord Kenyon, and a special jury

___ Moorsom, jun: Esq., against Henry Clarke, Esq., for Crim. Con.

This report is too long for me to transcribe so I have summarised the gist of it below :-

The action was brought by the plaintiff, Moorsom, agaist the defendant, Clarke,
for criminal conversation with his wife. Defendant pleaded not guilty.
Mr. Mingay, for the plaintiff, said that Mr.Moorsom was a gentleman of property,
and in the mercantile line in the County of York. The defendant, Mr.Clarke, was
likewise a gentleman of very large fortune, a Magistrate, and very active in the
execution of his office: he was a married man, had a family of children, and
lived in the same town with the plaintiff.....The plaintiff was also the son of a
man of very large fortune, and all their families had been, for a very great 
length of time, in habits of the most perfect confidence and friendship. The plaintiff,
a few years ago, married a most beautiful and accomplished young woman, then only 
eighteen, the daughter of a gentleman also living there, and having a large fortune; 
he married her from affection; and had not the defendant broken in upon the plaintiff's peace of mind, and seduced the affections of his wife, Mr Moorsom had great expectations from his father-in-law, and would certainly have received a portion of that very large fortune ............ but all hopes of that sort had been cut off in consequence of the defendant's conduct.......... 
The defendant pretended to be extremely fond of his (Moorsom's) company, when in
fact he was only fond of his wife. And he had not the plea of youth on his side,
being near fifty, and this unfortunate lady only between twenty two and twenty
three years of age. Defendant persuaded the lady that her beauty and
accomplishments could never be recognised living in the country, and prevailed
on her to go to London. 

The first witness for the plaintiff was the Rev. Mr.Archer, who had married the
couple and knew them both. He said that as far as he knew they had been a happy
couple.

Second witness was Mr. David Mercer, who kept the Angel Inn, at Whitby, who 
recalled that the defendant had asked him to order a carriage and four horses
to be ready in the evening at 5.30. Mr. Clarke and Mrs. Moorsom were to drive
to a place near Whitby (which he could not remember). Whitby was the town where
both the plaintiff and defendant lived. He did not know why Mr. Clarke and Mrs.
Moorsom had driven off together. When cross-examined he said he also kept the
Assembly room but could not say whether Mr. Clarke and Mrs. Moorsom danced
together as he never went inside.

Next witness was the Rev. Mr. Marsham, He lived at Whitby and was very intimate 
with the plaintiff. The plaintiff's father also lived at Whitby. He (Marsham)
also knew the defendant and his family. Mrs. Clarke was a most amiable,
respectable woman. Mr. Clarke was a Magistrate for the County. The plaintiff 
did not admit many visitors into his family as he was a very busy man. He had
one son by his wife. This boy was about five years old. The witness lived in
intimacy with the plaintiff and his family and never found them not to be happy
together. The defendant visited the Moorsom house frequently, but Mrs. Clarke
only on formal occasions. The witness had never seen Mrs. Clarke at the Moorsom
house. The plaintiff and defendant had known each other as friends for about two
years. The witness had attended the Assembly rooms, and Mrs. Moorsom also
attended. She was a gay woman. He could not say for certain whether she "painted
or not" but he thought she sometimes wore a little rouge. The witness said that 
when he went to the Assembly it was not as a clergyman and he took an interest
in what was going on around him. The witness had been going to the Assembly for
the past two years and it had been a topic of conversation there that Mr. Clarke
paid so much attention to Mrs. Moorsom, and little to his own wife.

William Skilton said he was the driver who drove Mr. Clarke and Mrs. Moorsom to 
an Inn at Northallerton. He knew them.

Elizabeth Rumbey was a chamber-maid at this Inn. She said that the gentleman and 
lady that Skilton had brought there arrived about 4 o'clock in the morning
and slept in the same bed. There was only one bed in the room and it looked as
though two people had slept in it.


The defence made a speech in mitigation.

Lord Kenyon summed up saying that it only remained for the amount of damages to
be decided. Two things should be born in mind - first the need to make a
suitable satisfaction to the plaintiff, and secondly, to make the damages such
as to discourage such "vicious excesses" as guardians of the morals of the
public.
Lord Kenyon drew the attention of the jury to the most important areas of the
evidence, and the jury retired for about an hour. They brought in a verdict for
the plaintiff, with damages of 3,000. 




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