Saturday, August 6, 2016

Singular Death of a Clergyman

Stenbock (Wikipedia)
In any of the numerous accounts of late-Victorian "decadence," the name of the "Count" Eric Stenbock will appear. Heir to a Baltic fortune, Stenbock was raised in England, left Oxford early, and lived near Sloane Square writing poetry. He was homosexual, kept an "evil-smelling monkey" and was a great user and proponent of opium. On 31 July 1884, an Oxford chum, the Rev. William Pomeroy Ogle, came up to town from Essex where he was a curate at Brentwood. Whilst at Stenbock's, despite his host's express warnings, Ogle took two, perhaps three, opium pills. He washed them down with some wine and the two young men went out to dine. Later, they caught a train from Liverpool Street as Ogle had the early services the next day. In Brentwood, they shared a bed (not uncommon in the day). Stenbock got very little sleep, between hiccups and Ogle's laboured snoring. But in the morning, he was awakened by the whining of Ogle's dog. Stenbock couldn't wake Ogle whose lips were blue and a brown fluid oozed from his nose. He called for the housekeeper who summoned a doctor but it was no use. The curate was dead at 24. At the inquest, Stenbock insisted that he warned his friend not to take the pills, or certainly not more than one. Two could kill a man, although Stenbock claimed he had developed tolerance for as many as ten. But Ogle, having taken them, was in good spirits all evening and showed no signs of distress. Ogle's father - a clergyman from Devon - said his son had a very weak constitution and a surgeon said death was due to sudden heart failure, and not directly linked to the drug. The jury verdict was death due to syncope. Ogle's death produced a “feeling of pain and gloom” in the town, where his “peculiar charm” had been much appreciated. Stenbock inherited his money and title the following year but died a recluse and an addict in 1895. Yeats described him as "a scholar, connoisseur, drunkard, poet, pervert [and] most charming of men."

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