COURT OF KING'S BENCH, April 17
BREACH OF PROMISE OF MARRIAGE.
Coxe v. Anwyl.
Susannah Coxe was the plaintiff, and Robert Anwyl the defendant. The declaration was for a breech of promise of marriage, to which the defendant had pleaded the general issue.
The Attorney-General stated that the plaintiff, who was a young lady of education, had found it necessary to bring this action for the vindication of her character and honour. She was the youngest of three daughters of Mr. Coxe, who resided at Leicester. He was a gentleman who had been formally engaged in business on an extensive scale in the town of Leicester. From that business he had retired for a considerable number of years, on a moderate fortune, which had enabled him to give his daughters an excellent education.... The defendant, Robert Anwyl, was by birth a Welchman. He was the son of a clergyman now residing in North Wales, and was engaged in the silk trade, in partnership with a brother of his, and also in another business with another gentleman of the name of Evans. In both businesses he took a very active part, being engaged in the travelling department, and attending generally to the country businesses of both houses. He had also an agency for another house. According to his own representation, it would appear that he had been successful in both the businesses in which he was a partner, and that he expected a considerable fortune on the death of a relation. Some time toward the latter end of the year 1827, it happened that Mr. Coxe was in a public room in Leicester, and was asking whether any body present was about to proceed to Newcastle-upon-Tyne, as he wished to make some inquiries at that place respecting a vessel in which he was interested, and to send out a power of attorney. The defendant, Mr. Anwyl, was in the room at the time; and addressing Mr. Coxe, of whose name he appeared to have heard, though Mr. Coxe did not know him, said that he was going on business to Newcastle in a short time, and would gladly undertake to be the bearer of any document for him. Mr. Coxe accepted the offer, and Mr. Anwyl promised to call at his house when he should be ready to set out. He did accordingly call, though not quite so soon as was expected, and then renewed his offer to take the document for Mr. Coxe. This introduction of himself induced Mr. Coxe to make some inquiries respecting the defendant; and Mr. Coxe found that he was known in Leicester, and was considered to be a respectable man. In this way the acquaintance commenced. Upon being introduced into Mr. Coxe's house, Mr. Anwyl soon discovered that the daughters were very elegant and accomplished women; and on further acquaintance he professed to be warmly attached to the plaintiff, and did everything in his power to gain her affections. On every occasion of his coming to Leicester, he paid a visit at Mr. Coxe's house, and at length avowed his attachment for the plaintiff to her sister, Miss Sarah Coxe. That lady referred him to her father, and to him at length the defendant communicated his sentiments, having previously obtained the young lady's permission to do so. Mr. Coxe...informed him he could have no objection to the proposal, as he appeared to be a man of good manners and of highly honourable and correct principles; but he said he must give him to understand distinctly, that he could not give his daughters any fortune on their marriage, having expended a great deal on their education, and on that of a son. He added, that at his death his daughter, the plaintiff, would be entitled to something, as he meant to make no difference between his daughters, but it would be so inconsiderable, that it would not be worth his consideration, and that, therefore, in marrying his daughter, he had better consider he was marrying a person without fortune. This was perfectly open, candid, and fair, on the part of the father, and prudent also, inasmuch as no ground for subsequent reflections with respect to fortune could arise. The defendant, who was of an age to be perfectly capable of judging for himself, being about 40, treated the question of fortune as one of no importance, and gave Mr. Coxe to understand that his own situation in life would enable him to maintain a wife in that degree of comfort which he should wish an object of his affection should possess. He said he had already acquired half as much as his utmost ambition aimed at, and that a wife with a fortune was not his object—all he wished for was an amiable and well-educated woman. He disclaimed all sordid motives. He was, he said, already able to maintain a wife in comfort; and that, besides his own accumulations in his business, he had expectations in his family, which he had no doubt would in a short time enable him to support an establishment in some degree of elegance, and to keep a close carriage and horses for the plaintiff. Mr. Coxe, being satisfied with his representations, the defendant was allowed to commence a correspondence with the plaintiff.
After stating the other facts of the case...the Attorney-General concluded by saying that the young lady had suffered greatly in her health and spirits. She had been compelled to bring the present action for the vindication of her character and honour, and she now relied upon the intelligence of the jury to give her that reparation, imperfect as it must necessarily be, to which she was entitled, for having had her honour wounded, and her happiness sacrificed, by the falsehood and treachery of the defendant.
Several of the letters referred to by the learned counsel were now put in and read. The first was the letter of the 1st of September, 1828, which commenced "My dear Susan," and informed the plaintiff that he had had an interview with her father, and that the result was as favourable and agreeable as he could wish. The letter then went on to describe the celestial effects of love, and assured the plaintiff of his sincerity and affection.
The next letter was dated the 7th of September, from York, apologizing for his bad spelling, and stating as an excuse for it that his father had been his only tutor, and he had left him at an early age. He then proposed that the plaintiff should be his future tutor... He then went on to say, that he was passionately fond of music, and he hoped that the plaintiff would become "a greater proficient than any of her (to be) Welsh friends."
After the reading of these and two other letters of the 13th of September, 1828, and 22d of January, 1829, Miss Sarah Coxe, the plaintiff's sister, was called, and examined by the Attorney-General.... She stated that ... the plaintiff's age was 22 [and] first saw the defendant in December, 1827. He called at my father's house, and afterwards visited there repeatedly on his coming to Leicester. His intimacy with the family improved on each visit. He represented himself to be in the silk trade; said he was a man of considerable fortune and good expectations, and was the son of Rev. Maurice Anwyl, who resided in Merionethshire. He had two brothers and one sister at the time his intimacy with our family commenced. He stated that his brother was in the silk trade; and that he was in partnership with him; and that he and his brother were also in partnership with Mr. Evans in the trade, and as distillers.... In August, 1828, the defendant made a declaration of his attachment to my sister.... In September, 1828, and for some months before, my sister was suffering from an injury she had received on her right arm; and Mr. Anwyl was perfectly aware that there was a weakness in that arm. In consequence of the state of her arm, I was her amanuensis. She dictated her letters to me. The correspondence between my sister and the defendant continued down to the close of the year 1828. In February, 1829, the defendant came down to Leicester, and there was a conversation respecting the day on which the marriage was to take place. My sister provided the wedding dresses for the 17th of March, and preparations were made by the family for the wedding. He said his father would come to Leicester to marry them, and that his sister would come and stay with me a few days after the marriage. This was in September or October. In February, my sister asked him whether his father would come to Leicester a he had proposed, and he then said that his father was so advanced in years that the journey would be too far for him, and that his sister could not leave him....
The next letter was from the plaintiff to the defendant, beginning—"Mr Dear Robert," and stating that she and the family expected him on Saturday... "My dress-maker says my bridal dress will be very elegant! What does your tailor say about yours?..."...
The evidence of Miss Coxe was then continued. She stated that the defendant did not come to Leicester at the end of the week as was expected, and no letter was received from him between the 27th of February and the 17th of March. On the morning of that day, she proceeded, I received a letter from him. It is now destroyed. The inkstand was overturned, and the ink spilt upon it, and my sister, therefore, said it was no use to keep it. She had previously written to the defendant to say that she would not consent to any further delay. The defendant, in his letter, wished me to reconcile her to the delay until he had completed the necessary arrangements for their mutual comfort, and said he was going into Wales.... My sister wrote to him several times between the 17th of March and the 10th of May, but no letter was received from him in the interval. On that day he wrote to my sister. The letter was put in and read. It began by alluding to the circumstance of the sister having written the letters for the plaintiff, and complained of the "extraordinary deception" practised upon him. He said that the circumstance had destroyed all confidence in him; and he thought that the plaintiff and her friends would agree with him in thinking that it was "an impediment to that faith and confidence which alone could render the marriage life happy." The defendant requested the plaintiff to write to him, and concluded by subscribing himself "her well-wisher and much wronged." On receipt of that letter, my father, with myself and sister, came to town. My father proceeded immediately to the defendant, leaving us at the inn. He was not at home when my father called, but he came afterwards to the inn, and told my father to prepare "the dear girl" for the interview. When he came into the room he held out his hand to my sister, and said he was delighted to see her, and had never had her out of his mind. She drew back, and said, "How are we to stand each other? What are your intentions?" He replied, "As usual to be sure—to forgive you." She then asked him how he could think of sending her that letter. He said he had never been happy since.... He then took my sister by the hand, and said, "I am not worthy of you; I am a villain." My sister replied, "I do not think so; and I will not hear you say so." He then asked, "why she had not written in her own name." I immediately told him, that the accident in her arm, of which he was well aware, had prevented her from writing herself, and I had therefore written for her. I said "Why did you not mention this at your last visit to Leicester, or before?" And he replied, "I had intended." I said, "Why not mention it, instead of urging my sister to make preparations for the marriage?" He replied, "I don't know; hang the letter—say no more about it." My father then interposed, and asked if the business was now settled to the satisfaction of all parties? The defendant said it was; and added, "I will be at Leicester in the course of a month, or certainly at the end of two months, and marry your daughter." We then parted good friends... The defendant has never been there since. The correspondence finally ceased in September last. He wrote only three letters in the interval. On the 1st of September, I, by desire of my father and sister, wrote him a letter which was returned through the Post-office, it having been refused. My sister's health was most seriously injured....
The letter of the 1st of September was put in and read. It expressed the determination of the plaintiff and her friends not to submit to any further delay; and stated that if the defendant did not immediately answer it; and appoint an early day for the fulfilment of his engagement, her father was resolved to take the necessary steps "for clearing her reputation in the eye of the world." This letter was addressed to the defendant in Bread-street, and a duplicate was sent to Hastings, where it was supposed he might be. The former was returned through the General Post-office, marked "Refused." There were also the words "not at home" upon it....
...She proceeded to state, in answer to further questions, that the plaintiff was a few days ago at the chambers of Mr. Jones, her attorney; that Mr. Anwyl, the defendant's brother, was there, and that she had some conversation with him. She was in a state of dreadful agitation...
In answer to further questions, the witness stated that her father had been in London about a fortnight. Her sister had not been attended by a medical man. It was her mind that was deceased.
Mr. Denman (with whom was Mr. Follett) commenced his address to the jury by observing, that it was impossible for an advocate in his situation to rise without feeling very considerable embarrassment; because the very best feelings of human nature always took part with a young and beautiful woman, who appeared to have been deserted by a man to whom she had given her affections—whose feelings were wounded, and whose hopes of an establishment in the world were put an end to by an insincere and faithless lover. The minds of the jury were no doubt strongly prepossessed by the statement of the Attorney-General, and the evidence of that ingenious and intelligent witness who had just quitted the box..... Let them consider first, what prospect of happiness there could be in an union between a young woman of 22, and a man of upwards of 40,—between whom no acquaintance had subsisted until the gentleman, being met by the father in a public room at Leicester, was introduced to the father's house. He then, of course, became captivated by the charms of the daughter of his hospitable inviter, and immediately professed his attachment to her. He first saw her in December, 1827, and since then he had been travelling about the country. That was his usual occupation, and it was a mode of life which did not hold out any great prospect of happiness for the young lady who had been so carefully brought up under her father's roof, and was so highly educated and accomplished. Her conduct was entirely irreproachable. The defendant disclaimed all idea of casting any reflection upon her character; and wished it to be understood, that the breaking off of the match was imputable to any thing rather than to levity of conduct or impropriety of any kind on her part. It was observable that no communication on the subject of the intended union appeared to have been made to the defendant's father, or to any of his friends; and the jury would ask themselves, whether it was delicate or proper to complete an arrangement of this kind without a full explanation being come to between the parents of the respective parties, and the friends of the lady being satisfied that she would receive a welcome on the part of the father of her intended husband. The interviews between the parties themselves were brief and divined. How, then, was the courtship to be kept up? ...
The defendant's letters showed that he was a man who had become deeply affected by the charms he had seen, and was in the outset anxious to become the husband of the possessor of those charms. He appeared to be a man of extreme sensibility, which might arise probably from his being a native of the principality of Wales, and to have a warmer and more tender heart than other persons born out of that part of his Majesty's dominions. (Laughter.) Many of his letters were written in a warm and affectionate strain, and in some he went to the very heavens for metaphors to describe his celestial affection....
The learned counsel proceeded to comment on the fact of the sister having written the letters for the plaintiff. He said that this was a deception, and it was very natural that the defendant should feel disappointed at finding the letters, which he had supposed were the effusions of the plaintiff alone, were the work of her sister, and that her feelings had been expressed by another mind.... The plaintiff and her friends, therefore, had only themselves to blame for their precipitancy, and he trusted, under the circumstances, that the jury would be of opinion that a very moderate amount of damage would satisfy the justice of the case.
... The Jury, after consulting together in the box for a few minutes, found for the plaintiff—Damages £600.
Leicester Chronicle, 24 Apr 1830
In 1851 Robert Anwyl (62) of Merionethshire, Wales, unmarried, warehouseman, was with his brother Evan and his family at 35 Brighton Terrace, Lambeth, Surrey.
In 1861 Robert Anwyl (73) of Pennal Merioneth, unmarried, landed proprietor, was living in Llugwy, Pennal, Merionethshire. Present was sister Elizabeth Anwyl (68) of Pennal, unmarried.
Robert Anwyl of Llugwy died aged 80 years (burial record)
Administration (with the Will) of the effects of Robert Anwyl late of Llugwy in the County of Merioneth, Esquire, who died 21 June 1867 at Llugwy, was granted 31 Aug 1870 at the Principal Registry to Evan Anwyl of Llugwy Gentleman the Administrator (with Will) of the effects of Elizabeth Anwyl, spinster, the sister, the sole Executrix and residuary legatee. 4