…quaffed the enlivening nectar…
A short time ago we visited our Borough Gaol, favoured by the company of a worthy magistrate, who, on the conversation turning upon the various characters sometimes inhabiting the prison, related the following story:-
“Twelve months ago, Mrs. Z. the wife of a respectable tailor, near Pownall-square, was in confinement here several days, under rather curious circumstances. One Saturday, her sister was married, and Mr. and Mrs. Z. went to the marriage feast, at the house of the new couple, in Brownlow-hill. In the course of the afternoon, some young men of the party made a formidable bowl of punch, so judiciously mixed that its strength of spirits which was mischievously great, was disguised in the sweets and acids so predominant in the mild beverage usually prepared for ladies. The party quaffed the enlivening nectar, and Mrs. Z. herself was tempted to a second glass. In the evening, Mr. Z. was suddenly called down town, to take orders for mourning suits in a family in which a death had occurred. As the evening advanced, the merry company gradually separated, and Mrs. Z. who waited till the last, in the hope of her husband’s return, was obligated to go home alone. When she got into the air, she began to feel the effects of the punch, which gradually overcame her, till at length she almost reeled as she walked. In Great Crosshall-street, there was a fight amongst the vulgar, which had attracted the attention of the neighbouring watchmen, and, just as they were apprehending the rioters, Mrs. Z. staggered past the edge of the crowd, and was seized upon as one of the unruly. She was conveyed to Bridewell, slept soundly several hours, and then awoke in a state of amazement and horror, better conceived than described. The whole of Sunday was to her a day of deplorable anguish. She considered the disgrace she had incurred too great for either her own or her husband’s endurance; when he should hear of it all her happiness would be blighted; she trembled at the thought, and waited in aching agitation some crisis in her calamity. On Monday she was brought before the Mayor. Still her husband had not been near. She had no doubt he must have heard of her disgrace, and in justifiable anger and disgust had abandoned her to her fate. She wept; she could not hold up her head to give an account of herself, and the Mayor, supposing her to be one of those unfortunate creatures too frequently brought before him, committed her to gaol for seven days, as a disturber of the peace. Hither she was conveyed, stupefied and heart-broken, and entered this nether world of moral degradation, lost to all self-respect and hope.
“Mr. Z. to whom I must now return, had, on the Saturday evening, executed the business upon which he had been called, but was detained to so late an hour that he went home, expecting to find Mrs. Z. already arrived; he was disappointed; but as it ws now midnight, he supposed, very naturally, that she had waited till every opportunity of escort had passed, and preferred sleeping at her sister’s rather than coming home alone. During the forenoon, of Sunday, he walked up to Brownlow-hill, where, with an astonishment indescribable, he heard she had left there, for home, late on Saturday night. All was mystery, and fearful foreboding. Like one bereft of his senses he hastened to all their relatives throughout the town; she was not to be found; he applied to the Dock Police, and at considerable expense had the northern docks dragged, fearing that by some unaccountable accident she had fallen or had been thrown into the dock. But her body was undiscovered; and he renewed and varied his search in every possible way during that day and Monday. Deprived thus suddenly and mysteriously of the best of wives, he knew not what to do; he put a bill on his window for letting his house and furniture, determined not to lead a miserable existence in the very place in which he had hitherto known only unmixed happiness. On Wednesday his house was let, and on the same day he went to the residence of his sympathizing mother, with whom he again took up his comfortable, but now melancholy, abode.
“On Thursday morning, I came to the gaol, as the visiting magistrate, and the turnkey drew my attention to Mrs. Z. who, he thought was not a prisoner of the ordinary kind. I went to her, and questioned her; after some hesitation, and when she had for a moment subdued the sensations of her grief, she related what I have described, as to her circumstances and imprisonment. I sent for Mr.Z, and, while waiting for him gave an order for Mrs Z.’s discharge. At length he arrived, dressed in deep widower’s mourning, with a countenance gloomy as his drapery; I introduced him to his supposed lost wife, and never was surprise more sudden, or joy more ardent, than that which he manifested in clasping in his arms the beloved partner of his bosom, with whom he again entered the busy world; their gladdened eyes beaming, and their re-united hearts swelling, with unmeasured felicity,” – Liverpool Mercury
Liverpool Mercury etc (Liverpool, England), Friday, May 5, 1820; Issue 464.
Gale Document Number: BC3203930444
Image Source: http://www.liverpoolpicturebook.com/2013/01/WGHerdman.html