Especially in December, London's shopkeepers were on their guard for thieves; 'tis the season for "Christmas depredations." On the 18th of December 1890, Thomas Howell was working in the book department at the Army and Navy Stores on Victoria Street. He began to particularly watch a certain browsing shopper. Howell observed the man slip several books into a large pocket of his overcoat. Following this gentleman into the tobacco area, the argus-eyed employee watched two pipes disappear into another pocket. Store security joined the investigation trailing the suspect into a basement lavatory whence he emerged with a large satchel. As was the practice, security waited for the gentleman to leave the store before confronting him on the busy pavement outside.
The following day in the Westminster Police Court, the Rev. Wiliam Luther Leeman M.A. was formally charged with the theft of the two pipes and a large number of books (including the best-seller, In Darkest England, the now classic expose of Victorian poverty.) While "shopping," Leeman was not dressed in clerical attire and gave a false name. But in his rooms in Willesden, police discovered his identity and - by the way - many more books, several 1891 calendars, and 52 Christmas cards, all bearing the mark of the Army & Navy stores.
The Rev. Leeman was 40; his late father had been an MP in Yorkshire. Leeman's appointed counsel apologised for his client's conduct. "It was a terrible thing for a man in his position." He could only state that the accused was in a period of "great mental worry." Given time, Rev. Leeman's family and friends would come forward to speak on his behalf.
|Rosedale Church today|
The efficacy of that year's treatment cannot be determined. It is sad to report that in February 1905, the Rev Mr. Leeman died at the Bracebridge Asylum, Lincolnshire. He was 55.
If you're seeking books for holiday gifting, consider Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series, Vol 2. It's available exclusively thru Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. Thank you.