A FICKLE SWAIN
£300 damages for breach of contract
From Denise Howes
This article was originally published in the December 2010 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society
The following newspaper report from the News of the World 7th October 1900 was sent in by Denise Howes, unfortunately neither Denise or Diana Kennedy can find anything about Minetta Sewell, the subject of the report. Even Charles Henry Strange, the defendant is fairly elusive. He married Maud Beatrice Hunt in 1895; she died aged 23 years in 1898. Both Sewell and Strange seem to disappear after the court case.
At the London Sheriff’s Court, before Mr Under-Sheriff Burchell and a jury, the remitted case of “Sewell v Strange’’ came on for the assessment of damages. This was an action to recover damages for breach of promise of marriage, the plaintiff being Miss Minetta Sewell, formerly assistant manageress at the Royal Kentish Hotel, Tunbridge Wells, and defendant Mr Chas. Henry Strange, who occupied a good position in the same town. Counsel said that the parties became acquainted in May 1897, when plaintiff was at the Royal Kentish Hotel. Three months later defendant proposed, and was accepted, and he gave the plaintiff an engagement ring. Six weeks later plaintiff was told that defendant was a married man. She taxed him with this. At first he denied it, but was ultimately bound to admit it, as he was at that time actually living with his wife in Tunbridge Wells. He pleaded hard with plaintiff that she would wait for him as his wife was dying. As a matter of fact, this was true, and his wife died a few months later. In the meantime plaintiff had been placed in a most terrible position, but defendant vowed that the moment he was free he would make plaintiff his wife, and she consented to wait. Finding, however, her position very false, she left Tunbridge Wells, went to Dover, and afterwards to Folkstone. Mrs Strange died early in 1898, and up till May this year defendant wrote letters of a most ardent, loving character, but then he asked to be released after a three year engagement. Defendant wrote to the plaintiff twice a day sometimes, and there was an ENORMOUS BUNDLE OF LOVE LETTERS.
In July 1897, he wrote:
My darling Min, - You must think me a hard, callous brute, but I tell you candidly, my love, if I cannot have all your confidence I do not want any: half-and-half things will not suit me. Perhaps I carry things too far: if so, my darling, you must put it down to the love I have for you. You are all in all to me; you are my everything. I would rather kill myself than intentionally cause you one moment’s pain or unhappiness. For doing so this afternoon I ask your forgiveness, and if it only makes you love me the more I cannot say I am truly sorry. Let us kiss and be friends, my darling, or I shall never know another moments happiness, - Your own Harry.
Further letters followed, some signed ‘Your own devoted boy, Harry,’ and ‘Your own loving and devoted sweetheart (hubby) Harry’. Counsel further stated that defendant agreed to pay plaintiff £500 in instalments of £5 per month, but she was not satisfied with this, so the action was brought. – Plaintiff, a lady of 34years, who dressed in deep mourning, went into the box and bore out her counsel’s statement. When defendant’s wife died he renewed his promise and gave her a fresh engagement ring, - In cross-examination plaintiff admitted that the photo, produced, was that of her daughter, aged 12 years. – Re-examined, plaintiff swore that she told defendant all her past before she became engaged to him, and counsel read letters showing that defendant knew it and promised most sacredly to keep her secret, - Counsel asked for heavy damages for defendant’s heartless conduct. – Mr Woolley, in defence, urged that defendant was a poor man now, as he had left his father’s employ at Tunbridge Wells. His father kept a hosier’s shop on the Pantiles. – The jury awarded plaintiff the sum of £300. – Judgement accordingly, with costs.
News of the World, 7th October 1900
Return to The Sole Society Home Page