Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Rev. Lambert Foster of Norfolk - A "Driveling Libertine."

Norwich Cathedral
One late winter day in 1852, the Rev. Lambert Blackwell Foster paid a visit to Norwich Cathedral. The Fosters were a prominent family in the county but the 57-year old clergyman no longer held any church employment. He was estranged from his family, living alone in the nearby village of Brundall. He may have come to the Cathedral for prayer but he left in the company of 17-year old Emma Baxter, a "lady of the town." Plainly, the Rev. Foster was besotted with Miss Baxter; soon he took rooms in London's fashionable Belgravia for "Mr. and Mrs. Foster." But the old clergyman worried that pretty young Emma found the West End too tempting so he removed her to a rambling pile, Fritton Old Hall, (now) in Suffolk. He gave Emma carte blanche to furnish the place, where he died in March 1863. Of course, he left no will. Foster's son arrived upon the scene and ejected "Mrs. Foster," who then sued for the contents of the manor - namely furniture, plate and jewelry. The issue came down to her tarnished word: as the Fosters reminded the jury, it was the word of an avowed prostitute and mistress. The jurymen were charmed enough to meet her partway - she got to keep the jewelry and some of the furniture but the family china had to stay. The "painful revelations" in the case were shocking. Had a prostitute actually been picked up in one of the world's great Cathedrals? The Rev. L.B. Foster was declared to have been "a driveling libertine."

Alas, such clerical scandals were not uncommon in Victorian Britain. For more, see the new E-book, Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series, Volume 1.

For the complete story of the Foster scandal, I refer you to Blame it on the Norfolk Vicar.

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