ON an evening in April, 1779, the play, “Love in a Village” was being performed at Covent Garden Theatre before a large audience. In the front row of the boxes sat two ladies, one of them young and handsome, the other not so young and not so beautiful—a dark-faced, dark-eyed woman whom no one could mistake for any nationality except Italian. Three gentlemen who sat behind them were plainly of their party—elegant gentlemen of fashion, one of them an Irish peer. Every person of quality in the theatre and a good many others without such a claim to distinction, were aware of the fact that the most attractive member of the group was Miss Reay, a lady whose name had been for several years closely associated—very closely indeed—with that of Lord Sandwich, the First Lord of the Admiralty, and one of the most unpopular men in England. She had driven to the theatre in his lordship's carriage, and two of the gentlemen with whom she conversed freely in the box were high officials of the department over which his lordship presided.

Almost from the moment of her arrival, Miss Reay and her friends were watched eagerly by a hollow-eyed, morose gentleman in black. He looked as if he had not slept for many nights; and no one observing him could have failed to perceive that he had come to the theatre not for the sake of the play which was being performed, but to watch the lady. He kept his fierce eyes fixed upon her, and he frowned every time that she turned to make a remark to one of her friends; his eyes blazed every time that one of her friends smiled over her shoulder, and his hands clenched if she smiled in return. Several times it seemed as if he found it impossible to remain in his place in the upper side box, where his seat was, for he started up and hurried out to the great lobby, walking to and fro in great agitation. More than once he strode away from the lobby into the Bedford Coffee House just outside the theatre, and there partook of brandy and water, returning after brief intervals to stare at Miss Reay and her companions in the front row of the boxes.


At the conclusion of the play, he went hastily into the vestibule, standing to one side, not far from the exit from the boxes; but if he intended to be close to Miss Reay while she walked to the main exit, his object was defeated by reason of the crush of people congregating in the vestibule, the people of quality waiting for their carriages to be announced, the others waiting for the satisfaction of being in such close proximity to people of quality.

Among the crowd there was a lady who had recently become the wife of a curious gentleman named Lewis, who some years later wrote a grisly book entitled The Monk, bringing him such great fame as cancelled for posterity the names of Matthew Gregory, given to him by his parents, and caused him to be identified by the name of his book only. This lady made a remark to her neighbour in respect of a lovely rose which Miss Reay was wearing when she left the box exit and stood in the vestibule—a beautiful rose early in the month of April might have excited remark in those days; at any rate, Mrs. Lewis has left the record that at the very moment of her speaking, the rose fell to the floor, and Miss Reay appeared to be profoundly affected by this trifling incident, and said in a faltering voice, “I trust that I am not to consider this as an evil omen!” So Mrs. Lewis stated.

A few moments later Lord Sandwich's carriage was announced, and Miss Reay and her companion made a move in the direction of the door. The gentlemen of the party seem to have left earlier, for on the ladies being impeded by the crush in the vestibule, a stranger, named Mr. Macnamara, of Lincoln's Inn, proffered his services to help them to get to the carriage. Miss Reay thanked him, took his arm, and the crowd opened for them in some measure. It quickly opened wider under a more acute persuasion a few seconds later, when the morose gentleman in black pushed his way among the people until he was within a few feet of the lady and her escort. Only for a second did he pause—certainly he spoke no word to Miss Reay or any one else—before he pulled a pistol from his pocket and fired almost point-blank at her before any one could knock up his hand. Immediately afterwards he turned a second pistol against his own forehead and pulled the trigger, and fell to the ground.

The scene that followed can easily be imagined. Every woman present shrieked, except Miss Reay, who was supported by Mr. Macnamara. The ghastly effects of the bullet were apparent not only upon the forehead of the lady where it lodged, but upon the bespattered garments of every one about the door, and upon the columns of the hall. Above the shrieks of the terror-stricken people were heard the yells of the murderer, who lay on the ground, hammering at his head with the butt end of his weapon, and crying, “Kill me! Kill me!”

A Mr. Mahon, of Russell Street, who was said to be an apothecary, was the first to lay a hand upon the wretched man. He wrested the pistol from his grasp and prevented him from doing further mischief to himself. He was quickly handed over to the police, and, with his unfortunate victim, was removed to the Shakespeare Tavern, a surgeon named Bond being in prompt attendance. It did not take long to find that Miss Reay had never breathed after the shot had been fired at her; the bullet had smashed the skull and passed through the brain. The man remained for some time unconscious, but even before he recovered he was identified as James Hackman, a gentleman who had been an officer in the army, and on retiring had taken Orders, being admitted a priest of the Church of England scarcely a month before his crime. There were rumours respecting his infatuation for Miss Reay, and in a surprisingly short space of time, owing most likely to the exertions of Signora Galli, the Italian whom Lord Sandwich had hired to be her companion, the greater part of the romantic story of the wretched man's life, as far as it related to Miss Reay, was revealed.

It formed a nine days' wonder during the spring of the same year (1779). The grief displayed by Lord Sandwich on being made acquainted with the circumstances of the murder was freely commented on, and the sympathy which was felt for him may have diminished in some measure from his unpopularity. The story told by Croker of the reception of the news by Lord Sandwich is certainly not deficient in detail. “He stood as it were petrified,” we are told, “till suddenly, seizing a candle, he ran upstairs and threw himself on the bed, and in agony exclaimed, 'Leave me for a while to myself, I could have borne anything but this!' The attendants remained for a considerable time at the top of the staircase, till his lordship rang the bell and ordered that they should all go to bed.”

Before his lordship left the scene of his grief in the morning Sir John Fielding, the Bow Street magistrate, had arrived at the Shakespeare Tavern from his house at Brompton, and, after a brief inquiry, ordered Hackman to be taken to Tothill Fields Prison. In due course he was committed to Newgate, and on April 16th his trial took place before Blackstone, the Recorder. The facts of the tragedy were deposed to by several witnesses, and the cause of the lady's death was certified by Mr. Bond, the surgeon. The prisoner was then called on for his defence. He made a brief speech, explaining that he would have pleaded guilty at once had he not felt that doing so “would give an indication of contemning death, not suitable to my present condition, and would in some measure make me accessory to a second peril of my life. And I likewise thought,” he added, “that the justice of my country ought to be satisfied by suffering my offence to be proved, and the fact to be established by evidence.”

This curious affectation of a finer perception of the balance of justice than is possessed by most men was quite characteristic of this man, as was also his subsequent expression of his willingness to submit to the sentence of the court. His counsel endeavoured to show that he had been insane from the moment of his purchasing his pistols until he had committed the deed for which he was being tried—he did not say anything about “a wave of insanity,” however, though that picturesque phrase would have aptly described the nature of his plea. He argued that a letter which was found in the prisoner's pocket, and in which suicide only was threatened, should be accepted as proof that he had no intention of killing Miss Reay when he went to the theatre.

The Recorder, of course, made short work of such a plea. He explained to the jury that “for a plea of insanity to be successful it must be shown not merely that it was a matter of fits and starts, but that it was a definite thing—a total loss of reason and incapability of reason.” Referring to the letter, he said that it seemed to him to argue a coolness and premeditation incompatible with such insanity as he described.

The result was, as might have been anticipated, the jury, without leaving the box, found Hackman guilty, and he was sentenced to be hanged.

Mr. Boswell, who was nearly as fond of hearing death-sentences pronounced as he was of seeing them carried out, was present in the court during the trial, and to him Mr. Booth, the brother-in-law of the prisoner, applied—he himself had been too greatly agitated to be able to remain in the court—for information as to how Hackman had deported himself, and Boswell was able to assure him that he had behaved “as well, sir, as you or any of his friends could wish; with decency, propriety, and in such a manner as to interest every one present. He might have pleaded that he shot Miss Reay by accident, but he fairly told the truth that in a moment of frenzy he did intend it.”

While he was in the condemned cell at Newgate he received a message from Lord Sandwich to the effect that if he wished for his life, he (Lord Sandwich) had influence with the King, and might succeed in obtaining a commutation of his sentence. Hackman replied that he had no wish to live, but he implored his lordship to give him such assurance that those whom Miss Reay had left behind her would be carefully looked after, as would, on meeting her in another world, enable him to make this pleasing communication to her.

He spent the few days that remained to him in writing fervid letters to his friends and in penning moralisings, in a style which was just the smallest degree more pronounced than that which was fashionable at his period—the style of the sentimental hero of Richardson and his inferior followers.

His execution at Tyburn attracted the most enormous crowds ever seen upon such an occasion. The carriage in which the wretched man was conveyed to the gibbet could only proceed at a walking pace; but still, the vehicle which followed it, containing the Earl of Carlisle and James Boswell, arrived in good time for the final scene of this singular tragedy, which for weeks, as the Countess of Ossory wrote to George Selwyn, was the sole topic of conversation.

And, as a matter of course, Horace Walpole had something to communicate to one of his carefully-selected correspondents. Oddly enough it was to a parson he wrote to express the opinion that he was still uncertain “whether our clergy are growing Mahometans or not”; adding sagely, “they certainly are not what they profess themselves; but as you and I should not agree, perhaps, in assigning the same defects to them, I will not enter on a subject which I have promised you to drop, all I allude to now is the shocking murder of Miss Reay by a divine. In my own opinion we are growing more fit for Bedlam than for Mahomet's paradise. The poor criminal, I am persuaded, is mad, and the misfortune is the law does not know how to define the shades of madness; and thus there are twenty out-pensioners of Bedlam for one that is confined.”

Most persons will come to the conclusion that the judge who tried Hackman made a most successful attempt to expound to the jury exactly where the law drew a line in differentiating between the man who should be sent to Bedlam and the man who should be sent to Tyburn, and will agree with the justice of the law that condemned to the gallows this divine of three weeks' standing for committing an atrocious crime, even though the chances are that Hackman spoke the truth when he affirmed that he had brought his pistols down to the theatre with no more felonious intent than to blow out his own brains in the presence of the lady and to fall dead at her feet. At the same time one is not precluded from agreeing with Walpole's opinion that the people of his period were growing more fit for Bedlam than for Eblis.

The truth is that an extraordinary wave of what was called “sensibility” was passing over England at that time. It was a wave of sentimentality—that maudlin sentimentality which was the exquisite characteristic of the hero and heroine of almost every novel that attained to any degree of success. To people who have formed their ideas of the latter half of the eighteenth century from studying Boswell's Life of Johnson, every page of which shows a healthy common sense; or from the plates of Hogarth—robust even to a point of vulgarity—it would seem incredible that there should exist in England at practically the same time a cult of the maudlin and the lachrymose. Such a cult had, however, obtained so great a hold on a large section of society that all the satire of Smollett, Sterne, and Goldsmith, was unable to ridicule it out of existence.

And the worst of the matter was that the types of these weeping sentimentalists were not unreal. They began by being unreal, but in the course of a short time they became real, the fact being that people in all directions began to frame their conduct and their conversation upon these flaccid creatures of the unhealthy fancy of third-rate novelists and fourth-rate poetasters. More than once, it may be remarked, even in our own time “movements” have had their origin in the fancy of a painter—in one case of a subtle caricaturist. An artist possessed of a distorted sense of what is beautiful in woman has been able to set a certain fashion in the unreal, until people were well-nigh persuaded that it was the painter who had taken the figures in his pictures from the persons who had simply sought a cheap notoriety by adopting the pose and the dress of the scraggy posturantes for whose anatomy he was responsible.

So it was that, when certain novel-writers in the eighteenth century, having no experience of the life which they attempted to depict, brought forth creatures out of their own unhealthy imaginations, and placed them before their readers as types of heroes and heroines, the public never failed to include quite a number of readers who were ready to live up to all those essentials that constituted the personages of the fiction.

And not alone over England had the sighs of a perpetually sighing hero and heroine sent a lachrymose flood; France and Germany, if not actually inundated, were at least rendered humid by its influence. The Sorrows of Werther was only one of the many books which helped on the cult of the sentimental, and it was as widely read in England as in Germany. Gessner's Death of Abel had an enormous vogue in its English translation. The boarding-school version of the tale of Abelard and Heloise was also much wept over both in France and Germany; and the true story of James Hackman and Martha Reay, as recorded by the correspondence of the pair, published shortly after the last scene in the tragedy had been enacted, and reissued with connecting notes some twelve years ago, might pass only as a somewhat crude attempt to surpass these masterpieces of fancy-woven woes. James and Martha might have been as happy as thousands of other Jameses and Marthas have been, but they chose to believe that the Fates were bothering themselves with this particular case of James and Martha—they chose to feel that they were doomed to a life of sorrowful love—at any rate, this was Martha's notion—and they kept on exchanging emotional sentiments until James's poor head gave way, and he sought to end up their romance in accordance with the mode of the best models, stretching himself a pallid corpse at the feet of his Martha; but then it was that Fate put out a meddlesome finger, and so caused the scene of the last chapter to take place at Tyburn.

The romance of Mr. Hackman and Miss Reay would never have taken place, if Lord Sandwich had been as exemplary a husband as George III or Dr. Johnson or Edmund Burke—the only exemplary husbands of the eighteenth century that one can recall at a moment's notice. Unhappily his lordship was one of the many examples of the unexemplary husband of that period. If the Earl of Chesterfield advanced the ill-treatment of a wife to one of the fine arts, it may be said that the Earl of Sandwich made it one of the coarse. He was brutal in his treatment of the Countess, and never more so than when he purchased the pretty child that Miss Reay must have been at the age of thirteen, and had her educated to suit his tastes. He went about the transaction with the same deliberation as a gourmand might display in ordering his dinner. He was extremely fond of music, so he had the child's education in this direction carefully attended to. His place at Hinchinbrook had been the scene of the performance of several oratorios, his lordship taking his place in the orchestra at the kettledrums; and he hoped that by the time he should have his purchase sent home, her voice would be equal to the demands put upon it by the most exacting of the sacred soprano music of Handel or Gluck.

As it turned out he was not disappointed. Martha Reay, when she went to live at Hinchinbrook at the age of eighteen, showed herself to be a most accomplished young lady, as she certainly was a very charming one. She was found to possess a lovely voice, and was quite fitted to take her place, not merely in his lordship's music-room, but also in his drawing-room to which he advanced her. To say that she was treated as one of his lordship's family would be to convey a wrong impression, considering how he treated the principal member of his family, but certainly he introduced her to his guests, and she took her place at his table at dinner parties. He even put her next to the wife of a bishop upon one occasion, feeling sure that she would captivate that lady, and as it turned out, his anticipations were fully realised; only the bishop's lady, on making inquiries later on, protested that she was scandalised by being placed in such a position as permitted of her yielding to the fascinations of a young person occupying a somewhat equivocal position in the household.

It was when she was at Hinchinbrook, in October, 1775, that Miss Reay met the man who was to play so important a part in her life—and death. Cradock, the “country gentleman,” tells in his Memoirs the story of the first meeting of the two. Lord Sandwich was anxious that a friend of his own should be elected to a professorship at Cambridge, and Cradock, having a vote, was invited to use it on behalf of his lordship's candidate, and to stay for a night at Hinchinbrook on his way back to London. He travelled in Lord Sandwich's coach, and when in the act of driving through the gateway at Hinchinbrook, it overtook a certain Major Reynolds and another officer who was stationed on recruiting duty in the neighbourhood. Lord Sandwich, being acquainted with Reynolds, dismounted and invited him and his friend to a family dinner at his lordship's place that evening. Major Reynolds expressed his appreciation of this act of courtesy, and introduced his friend as Captain Hackman. The party was a simple affair.

It consisted of Lord Sandwich, Miss Reay, another lady, the two officers, and Mr. Cradock. After coffee had been served two rubbers of whist were played, and the party broke up.

This was the first meeting of Hackman and Miss Reay. They seem to have fallen in love immediately, each with the other, for the first letter in the correspondence, written in December, 1775, contains a good deal that suggests the adolescence of a passion. Hackman was a man of education and some culture, and he showed few signs of developing into that maudlin sentimentalist who corresponded with the lady a year or two later. He was but twenty-three years of age, the son of a retired officer in the navy, who had sent him to St. John's College, Cambridge, and afterwards bought him a commission in the 68th Foot. He was probably only an ensign when he was stationed at Huntingdon, but being in charge of the recruiting party, enjoyed the temporary rank of captain.

He must have had a pretty fair conceit of his own ability as a correspondent, for he kept a copy of his love letters. Of course, there is no means of ascertaining if he kept copies of all that he ever wrote; he may have sent off some in the hot passion of the moment, but those which passed into the hands of his brother-in-law and were afterwards published, were copies which he had retained. Miss Reay was doubtless discreet enough to destroy the originals before they had a chance of falling into the hands of Lord Sandwich. It is difficult for us who live in this age of scrawls and “correspondence cards” to imagine the existence of that enormous army of letter-writers who flourished their quills in the eighteenth century, for the entertainment of their descendants in the nineteenth and twentieth; but still more difficult is it to understand how, before the invention of any mechanical means of reproducing manuscript, these voluminous correspondents first made a rough draft of every letter, then corrected and afterwards copied it, before sending it—securing a frank from a friendly Member of Parliament—to its destination.

Superlatively difficult is it to imagine an ardent lover sitting down to transcribe into the pages of a notebook the outpourings of his passion. But this is what Ensign Hackman did, although so far as the consequences of his love-making were concerned, he is deserving of a far higher place among great lovers than Charlotte's Werther, or Mr. Swinburne's Dolores. Charlotte we know “went on cutting bread and butter” after the death of her honourable lover; but poor little Miss Reay was the victim of the passion which she undoubtedly fanned into a flame of madness. Ensign Hackman made copies of his love-letters, and we are grateful to him, for by their aid we can perceive the progress of his disease. They are like the successive pictures in a biograph series lately exhibited at a conversazione of the Royal Society, showing the development of a blossom into a perfect flower. We see by the aid of these letters how he gave way under the attack of what we should now call the bacillus of that maudlin sentimentality which was in the air in his day.

He began his love-letters like a gallant officer, but ended them in the strain of the distracted curate who had been jilted just when he has laid down the cork lino in the new study and got rid of the plumbers. He wrote merrily of his “Corporal Trim,” who was the bearer of a “billet” from her. “He will be as good a soldier to Cupid as to Mars, I dare say. And Mars and Cupid are not now to begin their acquaintance, you know.” Then he goes on to talk in a fine soldierly strain of the drum “beating for volunteers to Bacchus. In plain English, the drum tells me dinner is ready, for a drum gives us bloody-minded heroes an appetite for eating as well as for fighting.... Adieu—whatever hard service I may have after dinner, no quantity of wine shall make me let drop or forget my appointment with you tomorrow. We certainly were not seen yesterday, for reasons I will give you.”

This letter was written on December 7th, and it was followed by another the next day, and a still longer one the day following. In fact, Corporal Trim must have been kept as busy as his original in the service of Uncle Toby, during the month of December, his duty being to receive the lady's letters, as well as to deliver the gentleman's, and he seems to have been equally a pattern of fidelity.

Hackman's letters at this time were models of good taste, with only the smallest amount of swagger in them. His intentions were strictly honourable, and they were not concealed within any cocoon of sentimental phraseology. One gathers from his first letters that he was a simple and straightforward gentleman, who, having fallen pretty deeply in love with a young woman, seeks to make her his wife at the earliest possible moment. Unfortunately however, the lady had fallen under the influence of the prevailing affectation, and her scheme of life did not include a commonplace marriage with a subaltern in a marching regiment. One might be disposed to say that she knew when she was well off. The aspiration to be made “a respectable woman” by marriage in a church was not sufficiently strong in her to compel her to sacrifice the many good things with which she was surrounded, in order to realise it. But, of course, she was ready to pose as a miserable woman, linked to a man whom she did not love, but too honourable to leave him, and far too thoughtful for the career of the man whom she did love with all her soul ever to become a burden to him. She had read the ballad of “Auld Robin Gray”—she quoted it in full in one of her letters—and she was greatly interested to find how closely her case resembled that of the wife in the poem. She had brought herself to think of the man who had bought her just as he would buy a peach tree, or a new tulip, as her “benefactor.” Did she not owe to him the blessing of a good education, and the culture of her voice, her knowledge of painting—nay, her “keep” for several years, and her introduction to the people of quality who visited at Hinchinbrook and at the Admiralty? She seemed to think it impossible for any one to doubt that Lord Sandwich had acted toward her with extraordinary generosity, and that she would be showing the most contemptible ingratitude were she to forsake so noble a benefactor. But all the same she found Hinchinbrook intolerably dull at times, and she was so pleased at the prospect of having a lover, that she came to fancy that she loved the first one who turned up.

She was undoubtedly greatly impressed by the ballad of “Auld Robin Gray,” and she at once accepted the rôle of the unhappy wife, only she found it convenient to modify one rather important line—

“I fain would think o' Jamie, but that would be a sin.”

She was fain to think on her Jamie whether it was a sin or not, but she did so without having the smallest intention of leaving her Auld Robin Gray. So whimsical an interpretation of the poem could scarcely occur to any one not under the influence of the sentimental malady of the day; but it served both for Miss Reay and her Jamie. They accepted it, and became deeply sensible of its pathos as applied to themselves. Ensign Hackman assured her that he was too high-minded to dream of making love to her under the roof of Lord Sandwich, her “benefactor.”

“Our love, the inexorable tyrant of our hearts,” he wrote, “claims his sacrifices, but does not bid us insult his lordship's walls with it. How civilly did he invite me to Hinchinbrook in October last, though an unknown recruiting officer. How politely himself first introduced me to himself! Often has the recollection made me struggle with my passion. Still it shall restrain it on this side honour.”

This was in reply to her remonstrance, and probably she regretted that she had been so strenuous in pointing out to him how dreadful it would be were she to show herself wanting in gratitude to Lord Sandwich. She wanted to play the part of Jenny, the lawful wife of Robin Gray, with as few sacrifices as possible, and she had no idea of sacrificing young Jamie, the lover, any more than she had of relinquishing the many privileges she enjoyed at Hinchinbrook by making Jamie the lover into Jamie the husband.

It is very curious to find Hackman protesting to her all this time that his passions are “wild as the torrent's roar,” apologising for making his simile water when the element most congenial to his nature was fire. “Swift had water in his brain. I have a burning coal of fire; your hand can light it up to rapture, rage, or madness. Men, real men, have never been wild enough for my admiration, it has wandered into the ideal world of fancy. Othello (but he should have put himself to death in his wife's sight, not his wife), Zanga are my heroes. Milk-and-water passions are like sentimental comedy.”

Read in the light of future events this letter has a peculiar significance. Although he became more sentimental than the hero of any of the comedies at which he was sneering, he was still able to make an honest attempt to act up to his ideal of Othello. “He should have put himself to death in his wife's sight.” It will be remembered that he pleaded at his trial that he had no design upon the life of Miss Reay, but only aimed at throwing himself dead at her feet.

Equally significant are some of the passages in the next letters which he wrote to her. They show that even within the first month of his acquaintance with his Martha his mind had a peculiar bent. He was giving his attention to Hervey's Meditations, and takes pains to point out to her two passages which he affirms to be as fine as they are natural. Did ever love-letter contain anything so grisly? “A beam or two finds its way through the grates (of the vault), and reflects a feeble glimness from the nails of the coffins.” This is one passage—ghastly enough in all conscience. But it is surpassed by the others which he quotes: “Should the haggard skeleton lift a clattering hand.” Respecting the latter he remarks, “I know not whether the epithet 'haggard' might not be spared.” It is possible that the lady on receiving this curious love-letter was under the impression that the whole passage might have been spared her.

But he seems to have been supping off horrors at this time, for he goes on to tell a revolting story about the black hole of Calcutta; and then he returns with zest to his former theme of murder and suicide. He had been reading the poem of “Faldoni and Teresa,” by Jerningham, and he criticises it quite admirably. “The melancholy tale will not take up three words, though Mr. J. has bestowed upon it 335 melancholy lines,” he tells the young lady. “Two lovers, meeting with an invincible object to their union, determined to put an end to their existence with pistols. The place they chose for the execution of their terrible project was a chapel that stood at a little distance from the house. They even decorated the altar for the occasion, they paid a particular attention to their own dress. Teresa was dressed in white with rose-coloured ribbands. The same coloured ribbands were tied to the pistols. Each held the ribband that was fastened to the other's trigger, which they drew at a certain signal.” His criticism of the poem includes the remark that Faldoni and Teresa might be prevented from making proselytes by working up their affecting story so as to take off the edge of the dangerous example they offer. This, he says, the author has failed to do, and he certainly proves his point later by affirming that “while I talk of taking off the dangerous edge of their example, they have almost listed me under their bloody banners.”

This shows the morbid tendency of the man's mind, though it must be confessed that nearly all the remarks which he makes on ordinary topics are eminently sane and well considered.

A few days later we find him entering with enthusiasm into a scheme, suggested by her, of meeting while she was on her way to London, and it is plain from the rapturous letter which he wrote to her that their plot was successful; but when she reached town she had a great deal to occupy her, so that it is not strange she should neglect him for a time. The fact was, as Cradock states in his Memoirs, that the unpopularity of Lord Sandwich and Miss Reay had increased during the winter to such a point that it became dangerous for them to show themselves together in public. Ribald ballads were sung under the windows of the Admiralty, and Cradock more than once heard some strange insults shouted out by people in the park. It was at this time that she spoke to Cradock about appearing in opera, and he states that it reached his ears that she had been offered three thousand pounds and a free benefit (a possible extra five hundred) for one season's performances.

Now if she had really been in love with Hackman this was surely the moment when she should have gone to him, suffered him to marry her, and thus made up by a few years on the lyric stage for any deficiency in his fortune or for the forfeiture of any settlement her “benefactor” might have been disposed to make in her favour. But she seems to have shown a remarkable amount of prudence throughout the whole of her intrigue, and she certainly had a premonition of the danger to which she was exposed by her connection with him. “Fate stands between us,” she wrote in reply to one of his impetuous upbraiding letters. “We are doomed to be wretched. And I, every now and then, think some terrible catastrophe will be the result of our connection. 'Some dire event,' as Storge prophetically says in Jephtha, 'hangs over our heads.' Oh, that it were no crime to quit this world like Faldoni and Teresa... by your hand I could even die with pleasure. I know I could.”

An extraordinary premonition, beyond doubt, to write thus, and one is tempted to believe that she had ceased for a moment merely to play the part of the afflicted heroine. But her allusion to Jephtha and, later in the same letter, to a vow which she said she had made never to marry him so long as she was encumbered with debts, alleging that this was the “insuperable reason” at which she had hinted on a previous occasion, makes one suspicious. One feels that if she had not been practising the music of Jephtha she would not have thought about her vow not to marry him until she could go to him free from debt. Why, she had only to sing three times to release herself from that burden.

Some time afterwards she seems to have suggested such a way of getting over her difficulties, but it is pretty certain she knew that he would never listen to her. Her position at this time was undoubtedly one of great difficulty. Hackman was writing to her almost every day, and becoming more high-minded and imperious in every communication, and she was in terror lest some of his letters should fall into the hands of Lord Sandwich. She was ready to testify to his lordship's generosity in educating her to suit his own tastes, but she suspected its strength to withstand such a strain as would be put on it if he came upon one of Mr. Hackman's impetuous letters.

She thought that when she had induced her lover to join his regiment in Ireland she had extricated herself from one of the difficulties that surrounded her; and had she been strong enough to refrain from writing to the man, she might have been saved from the result of her indiscretion. Unhappily for herself, however, she felt it incumbent on her to resume her correspondence with him. Upon one occasion she sent him a bank-note for fifty pounds, but this he promptly returned with a very proper letter. Indeed, all his letters from Ireland are interesting, being far less impassioned than those which she wrote to him. Again she mentioned having read Werther, and he promptly begged of her to send the book to him. “If you do not,” he adds, “I positively never will forgive you. Nonsense, to say it will make me unhappy, or that I shall not be able to read it! Must I pistol myself because a thick-blooded German has been fool enough to set the example, or because a German novelist has feigned such a story?”

But it would appear that she knew the man's nature better than he himself did, for she quickly replied: “The book you mention is just the only book you should never read. On my knees I beg that you will never, never read it!” But if he never read Werther he was never without some story of the same type to console him for its absence, and he seems to have gloated over the telling of all to her. One day he is giving her the particulars of a woman who committed suicide in Enniskillen because she married one man while she was in love with another. His comment is, “She, too, was Jenny and had her Robin Gray.” His last letter from Ireland was equally morbid. In it he avowed his intention, if he were not granted leave of absence for the purpose of visiting her, of selling out of his regiment. He kept his promise but too faithfully. He sold out and crossed to England without delay, arriving in London only to find Miss Reay extremely ill.

His attempts to cheer her convalescence cannot possibly be thought very happy. He describes his attendance upon the occasion of the hanging of Dr. Dodd, the clergyman who had committed forgery; and this reminds him that he was unfortunately out of England when one Peter Tolosa was hanged for killing his sweetheart, so that he had no chance of taking part in this ceremony as well, although, he says, unlike George S.—meaning Selwyn—he does not make a profession of attending executions; adding that “the friend and historian of Paoli hired a window by the year, looking out on the Grass Market in Edinburgh, where malefactors were hanged.” This reference to Boswell is somewhat sinister. All this letter is devoted to a minute account of the execution of Dodd, and another deals with the revolting story of the butchery of Monmouth, which he suggests to her as an appropriate subject for a picture.

At this time he was preparing for ordination, and, incidentally, for the culmination of the tragedy of his life. He had undoubtedly become a monomaniac, his “subject” being murder and suicide. His last lurid story was of a footman who, “having in vain courted for some time a servant belonging to Lord Spencer, at last caused the banns to be put up at church without her consent, which she forbad. Being thus disappointed he meditated revenge, and, having got a person to write a letter to her appointing a meeting, he contrived to waylay her, and surprise her in Lord Spencer's park. On her screaming he discharged a pistol at her and made his escape.”

“Oh love, love, canst thou not be content to make fools of thy slaves,” he wrote, “to make them miserable, to make them what thou pleasest? Must thou also goad them on to crimes?”

Only two more letters did he write to his victim. He took Orders and received the living of Wiveton, in Norfolk, seeming to take it for granted that, in spite of her repeated refusals to marry him, she would relent when she heard of the snug parsonage. This was acting on precisely the same lines as the butler of whom he wrote. When he found that Miss Reay was determined to play the part taken by the servant in the same story, the wretched man hurried up to London and bought his pistols.

The whole story is a pitiful one. That the man was mad no one except a judge and jury could doubt. That his victim was amply punished for her indiscretion in leading him on even the strictest censor of conduct must allow.

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