Monday, February 20, 2017

"Extraordinary Conduct for a Clergyman."

Clarence House, London
On a rainy and cold January night in 1849, a sentry stood under the portico of London's Clarence House. A well-dressed gentleman scurried past, heading toward St. James' Park. A few moments later, the man returned, stopping for shelter from the rain. Lighting a cigar, the man said, “Tis a wet night, isn’t it, soldier?” After a few pleasantries, nodding toward the house behind, the stranger wondered who lived in such a grand place. "This is the home of the Queen's mother, the  Duchess of Kent, sir.” The man then leaned closer to whisper, “Ah, I see, the Duchess of C**t.” The next thing the startled sentry knew he felt the vulgar stranger’s hand as it slipped beneath his tunic, reaching for his private parts.  

Not on his watch; the sentry barked and quick-marched the attacker off to the guardhouse where he made the statement quoted above. 

The Rev. Henry Seller, a curate from Send, a small Surrey village near Woking, would face charges for a gross assault upon Private Joseph Cooper of the Scot's Fusilier Guards. The clergyman, 32 and married, protested his innocence. He admitted to first giving a false name but purely from the shame such a charge, however false, would bring upon him. In Bow Street Police Court, the sentry failed to appear and the magistrates had no choice but to dismiss the Rev. Seller with a caution. 

It seems like Private Cooper was in trouble of his own. Disobedient to an officer, he was put in the cells but escaped. Back in custody, several fellow guardsmen testified to his villainy. Cooper had boasted of threatening numerous gentlemen in the park, who from fear would pay up with some money, a ring, or maybe on a good night, even a watch. Rev. Seller returned to testify at Cooper's trial. The soldier had the crafty Old Bailey hand Sergeant Ballentine who put up a lively defense. What was this country curate doing out, darting back and forth, in the darkened parks on such a night in London? Seller said he was walking to Pimlico to visit a friend. An unmarried male friend. Why had he left the gas-lit streets for the gloom of the park? Why would a Cambridge-educated clergyman spend even three minutes in conversation with a private soldier? Ballentine suggested it was "extraordinary conduct for a clergyman." 

In the end, the evidence against Cooper was overwhelming. He had engaged in a “system of wickedness" and was ordered transported for fifteen years. The Rev. Mr. Seller was praised for his bravery in coming forward in such an unpleasant affair. Seller spent most of the rest of his long clerical life living blamelessly in Trull, near Taunton, in Somerset.

For those who have inquired, Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series, Volume 2 will be published this spring. In addition to e-Book, it will also be published in an Amazon paperback. Watch here for further details. Thank you.

Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series, Volume 1 is still available, of course. For U.K. readers, click here.

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