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Bennett's Divorce


SOURCE: THE GLOBE and Traveller, Wednesday, May 26, 1852.

Globe and Traveller

Bennett's Divorce


The lords present today were the Lord Chancellor, the Earl of Rosse, the Marquis of Normandy, and Lord Southampton.

Mr MEREWETHER said he had the honour to appear in support of the second reading of this bill. The petitioner, Mr. William Anthony Burlton Bennett, sought by the means of this bill to be divorced from his wife, Marianne Colmore Bennett, to whom he was married on the 15th of April, 1833. Mrs. Bennett's maiden name was Cregoe. Two sons formed the issue of that marriage, aged respectively eighteen and fifteen. The parties lived together after the marriage, first residing in the metropolis, and afterwards in different parts of the Continent. Mr. and Mrs. Bennett resided together until 1844, occupying temporary residences, and in the autumn of that year the petitioner made arrangements to go to Scotland on a shooting excursion, and it was arranged that Mrs. Bennett, instead of taking any permanent residence, should pay a visit to a friend who lived at Hitchen, in the county of Hertford. At the period Mr Bennett set out for Scotland, he, together with his wife, were residing at Worthing, and from thence Mrs. Bennett was to go to Nonsuch Park, and from thence to proceed to Hitchen on a visit to a relative; and she was to have remained at the last mentioned place until the return of the petitioner from his shooting excursion. Accompanied by her second child Mrs Bennett proceeded to Nonsuch Park, which place she quitted suddenly in the month of August 1844, taking with her the child. It would be shown that she carefully concealed her intended place of destination. The fact of her departure having been communicated to the petitioner, he at once commenced a rigorous search with the view of discovering his wife. At length after the most diligent inquiries, a clue was gained as to the course Mrs. Bennett had taken, and accordingly he first traced her to Lyons, and from thence, by way of Marseilles and Genoa, into Italy. Mrs. Bennett had assumed the name of Barnard. From Italy the petitioner followed her to Spain, and on her arrival in that country he discovered that she had adopted the name of Freemantle. During the month of December he found that his wife was living in Valencia. In consequence of this discovery he had an interview with her, and urged her to return home, but in that request he was not successful. During the progress of the petitioner's inquiry at Valencia he ascertained that Mr. John Hastings Touchett, with whom he and his wife had been acquainted while in England, was sojourning at the French Hotel, in Valencia, under the assumed name of Shirley, and it was this gentleman, the house would presently find, who was charged with the commission of adultery with Mrs. Bennett. At the time of the discovery of Mrs. Bennett at Valencia she was not residing in the same house as that occupied by Mr Touchett. The petitioner, having been supplied with the information that his wife was acting under the advice of Mr. Touchett, assaulted that gentleman, and in consequence he fell into the hands of the local authorities. It having been ascertained, however, that Mr. Touchett was travelling under an assumed name he was ordered to leave the country. It would appear that the petitioner had made diligent inquiries while he was staying at Valencia for the purpose of learning the course his wife's conduct during her residence at that place; but he had been unable to obtain any information of facts sufficiently strong to warrant at accusation against her of adulterous intercourse with Mr. Touchett. The petitioner renewed his entreaties that she would return home, but this she as strenuously as before declined to do. It would appear that Mrs. Bennett quitted Valencia and proceeded to Paris, where, and in other parts of France, she continued to reside; and although the petitioner entertained suspicions that an adulterous intercourse, subsisted between his wife and Mr. Touchett, he had not beet able to obtain any positive information upon the subject until the month of August in the last year. The learned counsel then proceeded to state that, singular as it might appear, the petitioner had, without any previous knowledge on his part, observed Mr Touchett, while he was travelling by the South Eastern railway, waiting at the Reigate station. Having heard from his son that his wife was going to return to England, it occurred to his mind that Mr Touchett might be waiting to receive her as she came up from Folkstone, on her route from Boulogne, and therefore when he arrived at the next station he got out of the down train and returned to Reigate by the next up train. On again arriving a Reigate he ascertained that the gentleman he had described had received a lady who had alighted from the preceding up train, and that they had gone on together to Horsham. The petitioner followed and discovered that they had engaged apartments as the King's Head, though not as man an wife. The petitioner placed a watch upon them, and in the course of that night Mr. Touchett was observed to quit his own bedroom and enter that of Mrs. Bennett, where he remained the whole of the night. Here, then, it was that an adulterous intercourse was committed, and from that period to the present time the petitioner had not had any communication what ever with his wife. On the 29th of August the petitioner brought an action against Mr. Touchett, in the Court of Queen's Bench. The defendant allowed judgement to go by default, and the damages were assessed at 500l. The damages had been paid, and the necessary proceedings were instituted in the Ecclesiastical Court, where a sentence of divorce a manse et thoro was pronounced on the 26th of February last. The learned counsel concluded by expressing a hope that, after hearing the evidence, the house would grant the petitioner the full relief which he sought.

Several witnesses were then examined— among whom was

Mr. Richard Monckton Milnes, M.P., who said that Mr. Bennett was related to Lord Galway. In the year 1844 he, as well as Mr. and Mrs. Bennett, were invited to Lord Galway's. Mr. Bennett came, but he apologised for the absence of his wife. He said she was staying with a friend whom she did not like to leave at that time. In the autumn of that year he heard she had left her husband. He had been informed by Mr. Bennett that he had some reason to suppose she had gone to Italy or Spain. He was applied to by Mr. Bennett to procure letters from the Foreign Office to the agent's of this country abroad, to assist in the search and inquiries for Mrs. Bennett. He had given Mr. Bennett a letter to Sir H. Bulwer, at Madrid. Mr. Bennett was making search for his wife at the latter end of the year 1844. He saw Mrs. Bennett in Paris in 1848; her way of life was very decorous, and he had presented her to several English acquaintances of his. In the following year he again saw her, she was in a very bad state of health. He had then, as before, urged her to return home. Her conduct was to all appearance decorous and correct. Lady Galway had expressed a willingness to see her, and to use every means to promote a reconciliation between Mr. and Mrs. Bennett. In 1851 he had seen Mrs. Bennett in Cambridge terrace.

By the LORD CHANCELLOR—He had never seen Mr. Touchett that he was aware of.

The further hearing of the case was then adjourned.