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Source: Bell's Weekly Messenger, No.1779, Sunday, May 2, 1830.

Mildmay v. Knapp


This was an action brought against the defendant to recover compensation in damages for a criminal conversation, which took place between the defendant and the wife of the plaintiff.
Mr. Serjeant Wilde stated the case. The plaintiff was a Captain in the army. He had married his present wife about twelve years ago, while with his regiment in the East Indies, where he had met the lady; he was then about twenty-three years of age, and she was eighteen years of age. They were living at Southampton very happily until the unfortunate transaction took place which gave rise to the present action. Captain Mildmay was obliged to go to Ireland with his regiment, where he remained for about ten months, and returned to Southampton. He, however, was obliged to go to London to see Lady Mildmay, his relation, where he remained but a very short time, and returned home. In his absence, however, the defendant contrived to get acquainted with his wife, and a criminal conversation was the consequence.
The three first witnesses merely proved the affectionate state in which the plaintiff and his wife had lived together until this unfortunate occurrence took place.
Henry Life—Was in the service of Captain Mildmay, at Southampton; entered the service in August last; they were out of town; there were three female servants in the family, and four children; Captain Mildmay left home on the 18th of October, for London, in a stage coach; returned home about eight days after; the day Capt. Mildmay left home was a Sunday; the Captain and his lady slept up stairs : the window of the bed-room looked into the garden; he went to bed at half-past ten o'clock on the night Captain Mildmay left; forgot putting the plate away, and after being asleep for about an hour, he awoke and got up, for the purpose of bringing the plate to his room; on going out of his room, he saw his mistress on the stairs below him, and perceived her go down, and subsequently the hall door was opened, and he heard footsteps, which ceased at his mistress's door, which he heard lock; he went to the street door and found it undone; after locking it he went to the kitchen, and got a light, and passed by his mistress's room, where he heard whispering and a footstep; he lit the lamp near the hall door; he remained upon the stairs about two hours, when he saw his mistress, who had a light; she went into the drawing-room — then to the kitchen — then to the hall-door, which she unlocked; then into her room, and he thought he heard her say, "there was nobody about;" afterwards saw his mistress and a man come out of the bed-room; that man was Knapp, the present defendant, who, when he got out, ran away; witness followed him, and thought to have taken him; he met his master three days afterwards at Shorefold, but did not tell him anything of what occurred then; about the 28th of the same month, when his master was again going to town, he told him of the circumstance; never saw Mr. Knapp in his master's house before the night in question; saw his mistress and Mr. Knapp walking together on the evening of the Sunday, and in the course of the next day.
Marianne Teague examined—Was servant in Mr. Mildmay's family; attended Mrs. Mildmay and her children; went into the service in 1822, left the service on Saturday last; knew Mr. Knapp, the defendant, about nine or ten years; never saw the defendant call upon Mrs. Mildmay; after the Captain had gone to Ireland, except once, when he brought some flowers to the children; the Captain was about two months gone when the defendant called with she flowers : had seen Mrs. Mildmay and the defendant walking together very often when the Captain was from home; recollects the Captain having returned from Ireland in August, when he remained for about two months at Southampton; recollects the Captain going to London on the 16th of October; witness went to bed on that night about half-past 12 o'clock, in consequence of Mrs. Mildmay sending her word that she might go to bed; was in the habit of undressing Mrs. M. when going to bed. After she went to bed heard a noise, was afterwards disturbed by a greater noise, between two and three o'clock, which induced her to leave her bed; went to the window, and saw the defendant in the front of the house, apparently going out at the front door very fast; the Captain was always kind and affection towards his wife, and very fond of his children; they always seemed to live on the best terms; Mrs. Mildmay used to receive letters constantly from the Captain when from home.
Cross examined by Mr. Thessiger—Has seen her mistress walking with other gentlemen as well as the defendant, who is very young, and has rather a boyish look; Capt. Mildmay used to be absent from home frequently.
Two other servants were examined, who proved that the defendant was in the habit of calling during the absence of Captain Mildmay.
Edward Drummond, private secretary to the Duke of Wellington, proved that letters passed between Capt. Mildmay and his lady during the absence of the former in Ireland twice or thrice a-week.
Mr. Sergeant Spankie? addressed the Jury on the part of defendant, in the course of which he did not attempt to deny the charge brought against his client, but contended that is was much more likely Mrs. Mildmay was the seducer than the defendant, for she was a woman about thirty-two of age, and married twelve years, and he was what be termed a boy just taken from College, about twenty-two or twenty-three years of age. He also contended that the Captain's conduct towards his wife was anything but as could be expected from a kind or loving husband who cared much for the affections of his wife, as it was clearly proved that he was repeatedly absent from home, leaving, perhaps, a beautiful and interesting woman subject to the arts of any man who pleased.
The Chief Justice then briefly charged the Jury, who requested to retire from the box, in order to give the case its consideration.
The Jury, after an absence of one hour returned a Verdict for the plaintiff—Damages, 4001.