Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Dean of Norwich and an Unwanted Biographer

The Rev. William Lefroy
It may appear from these entries that Victorian clerical scandals were somehow limited to the lowly curates of the church. In 1898, the Rev. William Lefroy was shortlisted in the press, sacred and secular, to be the next Bishop of Liverpool. Lefroy was 63; he'd been born of "humble parents" in Dublin, raised, educated and ordained in Ireland. But his successful church career had been in England, capped in 1889 with his appointment as Dean of Norwich Cathedral. In September 1898, Lefroy crossed the Irish Sea to appear in a Dublin courtroom accusing one Thomas Drum of blackmail. Drum had written a series of letters to the Dean suggesting that he was about to write the clergyman's biography which the public might find very interesting. However - for the sum of £100 - he would "burn" his research and forego the literary work. The would-be Boswell was a bankrupt businessman whose wife had recently died. Drum had written suggestively to Lefroy, "You knew her well as Miss Fanny Nicholson before we were married." Lefroy - who was married - told the court he left Dublin in 1864 and had never met Drum and certainly had no wish to have him write a biography. Drum had to be found and forcibly brought to court. He announced: "I wish to plead guilty. I did not think I was doing anything outside the law. I never would make an imputation on the Dean of Norwich." Drum begged for mercy but the Recorder assailed him for making a series of "cold, calculated threats." Drum was sentenced to six months without hard labour. The Rev. Lefroy was praised for having the courage to confront an obvious black-mailer. But it should be noted, Lefroy was passed over for the Bishop's mitre in Liverpool and died a Dean.

A singularly revolting case of blackmail by a clergyman will be featured in Volume 2 of Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series. Volume 1 is now available on Kindle at and A Kindle app is free and easy for phones & tablets.

Photo: Wikipedia

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