Saturday, April 16, 2016

Clergyman in the Divorce Court

Sir James Hannen was named President of the Divorce Court in the U.K. in 1872, remaining on that bench for nearly twenty years. He was often called the "Great Un-Marrier," the caption taken from his caricature appearing in the society weekly, Vanity Fair. Hannen conducted his court's business with "quasi-religious solemnity." However raw were the emotions, Hannen would tolerate no histrionics or audience participation before him. "This is not a theatre," he would bark. His long time clerk observed that the judge "usually wore a pained expression of countenance," no doubt brought on by two decades of listening to "lovely women who stooped to folly," often with "bold, bad men." Hannen had heard all the stories, all the excuses, and all the tortuous explanations but yet he was struck by the "Case of the Clerical Correspondent," the Rev. Arthur Robert Morrison Finlayson, erstwhile curate of Alderley Edge. After lengthy testimony of letter drops, bungled assignations, coded letters and secret picnics, Justice Hannen could only conclude: "The ingenuity and assurance of women in putting forward excuses for doubtful conduct and the credulity of husbands has been for ages the sport of authors, but I doubt if anything more extravagant had ever been suggested than the excuses in this case."

The Finlayson case is included in the new E-book collection: Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series, Volume 1. 
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