The Newgate Calendar - THE REV. JAMES HACKMAN

THE REV. JAMES HACKMAN

Executed at Tyburn, 19th of April, 1779, for murdering Miss Reay outside Covent Garden Theatre

Illustrations:
Double portrait of Rev Hackman and Miss Reay
Rev Hackman shooting Miss Reay and himself

THIS shocking and truly lamentable case interested all ranks of people, who pitied the murderer's fate, conceived him stimulated to commit the horrid crime through love and madness. Pamphlets and poems were written on the occasion, and the crime was long the common topic of conversation.

The object of Mr. Hackman's love renders his case still more singular.

Miss Reay had been the Mistress of Lord Sandwich near twenty years, was the mother of nine children, and nearly double the age of Mr. Hackman.

This murder affords a melancholy proof that there is no act so contrary to reason that men will not commit when under dominion of their passions. In short it is impossible to convey an idea of the impression it made; and the manner in which it was done created horror arid pity in every feeling mind.

It is probable that Mr. Hackman imagined that there was a mutual passion -- that Miss Reay had the same regard for him as he had for her. Love and madness are often little better than synonymous terms; for, had Mr Hackman not been blinded by a bewitching passion, he could never have imagined that Miss Reay would have left the family of a noble lord at the head of one of the highest departments of the state, in order to live in an humble station. Those who have been long accustomed to affluence, and even profusion, seldom choose to lower their flags. However, he was still tormented by this unhappy, irregular, and ungovernable passion, which, in an unhappy moment, led him to commit the crime for which he suffered.

MR JAMES HACKMAN was born at Gosport, in Hampshire, and originally designed for trade; but he was too volatile in disposition to submit to the drudgery of the shop or counting-house. His parents, willing to promote his interest as far as lay in their power, purchased him an ensign's commission in the 68th Regiment of Foot. He had not been long in the army when he was sent to command a recruiting party, and being at Huntingdon he was frequently invited to dine with Lord Sandwich, who had a seat in that neighbourhood. There it was that he first became acquainted with Miss Reay, who lived under the protection of that nobleman.

This lady was the daughter of a staymaker in Covent Garden, and served her apprenticeship to a mantua-maker in George's Court, St John's Lane, Clerkenwell. She was bound when only thirteen, and during her apprenticeship was taken notice of by the nobleman above mentioned, who took her under his protection, and treated her with every mark of tenderness. No sooner had Mr Hackman seen her than he became enamoured of her, though she had then lived for nineteen years with his lordship. Finding he could not obtain preferment in the army, he turned his thoughts to the Church, and entered into orders. Soon after he obtained the living of Wiverton, in Norfolk, which was only about Christmas preceding the shocking deed which cost him his life, so that it may be said he never enjoyed it.

Miss Reay was extremely fond of music, and as her noble protector was in a high rank we need not be surprised to find that frequent concerts were performed both in London and at Hinchinbrook. At the latter place Mr Hackman was generally of the party, and his attention to her at those times was very great. How long he had been in London previous to this affair is not certainly known, but at that time he lodged in Duke's Court, St Martin's Lane. On the morning of the 7th of April, 1779, he sat some time in his closet, reading Dr Blair's Sermons; but in the evening he took a walk to the Admiralty, where he saw Miss Reay go into the coach along with Signora Galli, who attended her. The coach drove to Covent Garden Theatre, where she stayed to see the performance of Love in a Village. Mr Hackman went into the theatre at the same time, but, not being able to contain the violence of his passion, returned to his lodgings, and having loaded two pistols again went to the playhouse, where he waited till the play was over. As Miss Reay was ready to step into the coach he took a pistol in each hand, one of which he discharged against her, which killed her on the spot, and the other at himself, which, however, did not take effect.

He then beat himself on his head with the butt-end, in order to destroy himself, so fully bent was he on the destruction of both. After some struggle he was secured, and his wounds dressed. He was then carried before Sir John Fielding, who committed him to Tothill Fields Bridewell, and next to Newgate, where a person was appointed to attend him, lest he should lay violent hands on himself. In Newgate, as he knew he had no favour to expect, he prepared himself for the awful change he was about to make. He had dined with his sister on the day the murder was committed, and in the afternoon had written a letter to her husband, Mr Booth, an eminent attorney, acquainting him with his resolution of destroying himself and desiring him to sell what effects he should leave behind him, to pay a small debt; but this letter was not sent, for it was found in his pocket.

On the trial Mr. Macnamara deposed that, on Wednesday, the 7th day of April, on seeing Miss Reay, with whom he had some little acquaintance, in some difficulties in getting from the playhouse, he offered his assistance to hand her to her coach; and just as they were in the Piazzas, very near the carriage, he heard the report of a pistol, and felt an impression on his right arm, which arm she held with her left, and instantly dropped. He thought at first that the pistol had been fired through wantonness, and that she had fallen from the fright, and therefore fell upon his knees to help her up; but, finding his hands bloody, he then conceived an idea of what had happened, and, by the assistance of a link-boy, got the deceased into the Shakspeare Tavern, where he first saw the prisoner, after he was secured. He asked him some questions relative to the fact and the cause; and his answer was, that neither the time nor place were proper to resolve him. He asked his name and was told Hackman: he knew a Mr. Booth, in Craven Street, and desired he might be sent for.

He asked to see the lady; to which he (the witness) objected, and had her removed to a private room. From the impression he felt, and the great quantity of blood about him, he grew sick, and went home; and knew nothing more about it.

Mary Anderson, a fruit-woman, deposed that, just as the play was over, she saw two ladies and a gentleman coming out of the playhouse, and a gentleman in black following them. Lord Sandwich's coach was called. When the carriage came up the gentleman handed the other lady into it. The lady that was shot stood behind, when the gentleman in black came up, laid hold of her gown, and pulled two pistols out of his pockets: the one in his right hand he discharged at the lady, and the other, in his left, he discharged at himself. They fell feet to feet. He beat himself violently over the head with his pistol, and desired somebody would kill him.

Richard Blandy, the constable, swore to the finding two letters in the prisoner's pocket, which he delivered to Mr. Campbell, the master of the Shakspeare Tavern, in Covent Garden.

Mr. Mahon, an apothecary, corroborated the evidence of the fruit-woman: he wrenched the pistol out of his hand, with which he was beating himself, as he lay on the ground -- took him to his house, dressed his wounds, and accompanied him to the Shakspeare.

Denis O'Brian, a surgeon, examined the wound of the deceased, and found it mortal.

Being called upon for his defence, he addressed the Court in the following words:-- "I should not have troubled the Court with the examination of witnesses to support the charge against me, had I not thought that the pleading guilty to the indictment gave an indication of contemning death, not suitable to my present condition, and was, in some measure, being accessory to a second peril of my life; and I likewise thought that the justice of my country ought to be satisfied by suffering my offence to be proved, and the fact established by evidence.

"I stand here this day the most wretched of human beings, and confess myself criminal in a high degree; yet while I acknowledge, with shame and repentance, that my determination against my own life was formal and complete, I protest, with that regard to truth which becomes my situation, that the will to destroy her, who was ever dearer to me than my life, was never mine till a momentary frenzy overcame me, and induced me to commit the deed I now deplore. The letter, which I meant for my brother-in-law after my decease, will have its due weight, as to this point, with good men.

"Before this dreadful act, I trust nothing will be found in the tenor of my life which the common charity of mankind will not excuse. I have no wish to avoid the punishment which the laws of my country appoint for my crime; but, being already too unhappy to feel a punishment in death or a satisfaction in life, I submit myself with penitence and patience to the disposal and judgment of Almighty God, and to the consequences of this inquiry into my conduct and intention."

Then was read the following letter:-

My DEAR FREDERICand desiring him to sell

what effects he should leave behind him, to pay a small debt; but this letter was not sent, for it was found in his pocket.

On the trial Mr. Macnamara deposed that, on Wednes day, the 7th day of April, on seeing Miss Reay, with whom he had some little acquaintance, in some difficulties in getting from the playhouse, he offered his assistance to hand her to her coach; and just as they were in the Piazzas, very near the carriage, he heard the report of a pistol, and felt an impression on his right arm, which arm she held with her left, and instantly dropped. He thought at Iirst that the pistol had been fired through wantonness, and that she had fallen from the fright, and therefore fell upon his knees to help her up; but, finding his hands bloody, lie

then conceived an idea of what had happened, and, by the assistance of a link-boy, got the deceased into the Shakspeare Tavern, where he first saw the prisoner, after he was secured. He asked him some questions relative to the fact and the cause; and his answer was, that neither the time nor place were proper to resolve him. He asked his name and was told Hackman: he knew a Mr. Booth, in Craven Street, and desired he might be sent for.

He asked to see the lady; to which he (the witness) objected, and had her removed to a private room. From the impression he felt, and the great quantity of blood about him, he grew sick, and went home; and knew nothing more about it.

Mary Anderson, a fruit-woman, deposed that, just as the play was over, she saw two ladies and a gentleman coming out of the playhouse, and a gentleman in black following them. Lord Sandwich's coach was called. When the carriage came up the gentleman handed the other lady into it. The lady that was shot stood behind, when the gentleman in black came up, laid hold of her gown, and pulled two pistols out of his pockets: the one in his right hand he discharged at the lady, and the other, in his left, he discharged at himself. They fell feet to feet. He beat himself violently over the head with his pistol, and desired somebody would kill him.

Richard Blandy, the constable, swore to the finding two letters in the prisoner's pocket, which he delivered to Mr. Campbell, the master of the Shakspeare Tavern, in Covent Garden.

Mr. Mahon, an apothecary, corroborated the evidence

of the fruit-woman: he wrenched the pistol out of his hand, with which he was beating himself, as he lay on the ground

-took him to his house, dressed his wounds, and accom panied him to the Shakspeare.

Denis O'Brian, a surgeon, examined the wound of the deceased, and found it mortal.

Being called upon for his defence, he addressed the Court in the following words:- "I should not have troubled the Court with the examina

tion of witnesses to support the charge against me, had I not thought that the pleading guilty to the indictment gave an indication of contemning death, not suitable to my present condition, and was, in some measure, being accessory to a second peril of my life; and I likewise thought that the justice of my country ought to be satisfied by suffering my offence to be proved, and the fact established by evidence.

"I stand here this day the most wretched of human beings, and confess myself criminal in a high degree; yet while I acknowledge, with shame and repentance, that my determination against my own life was formal and com plete, I protest, with that regard to truth which becomes my situation, that the will to destroy her, who was ever dearer to me than my life, was never mine till a momentary frenzy overcame me, and induced me to commit the deed I now deplore. The letter, which I meant for my brotherin-law after my decease, will have its due weight, as to this point, with good men.

"Before this dreadful act, I trust nothing will be found in the tenor of my life which the common charity of mankind will not excuse. I have no wish to avoid the punishment which the laws of my country appoint for my crime; but, being already too unhappy to feel a punishment in death or a satisfaction in life, I submit myself with penitence and patience to the disposal and judgment of Almighty God, and to the consequences of this inquiry into my conduct and intention."

Then was read the following letter:--

My DEAR FREDERIC,
When this reaches you I shall bhe no more; but do not let my unhappy fate distress you too much: I have strove against it as long as possible, but it now overpowers me. You well know where my affections were placed: my having by some means or other lost hers (an idea which I could not support) has driven me to madness. The world will condemn me, but your good heart will pity me. God bless you, my dear Frederic! Would I had a sum to leave you, to convince you of my great regard! You was my only friend. I have hid one circumstance from you, which gives me great pain. I owe Mr. Knight, of Gosport, one hundred pounds, for which he has the writings of my houses; but I hope in God, when they are sold, and all other matters collected, there will be nearly enough to settle our account. May Almighty God bless you and yours with cormfort and happiness; and may you ever be a stranger to the pangs I now feel! May Heaven protect my beloved woman, and forgive this act, which alone could relieve me from a world of misery I have long endured! Oh, if it should ever be in your power to do her an act of friendship, remember your faithful friend.

J. HACKMAN.

The jury inimediately returned their fatal verdict. The unhappy man heard the sentence pronounced him with taint resignation to his fate, and employed the very short time allowed murderers after conviction in repentance and prayer. During the procession to the fatal tree at Tyburn he seemed much affected, and said but little; and when he arrived at Tyburn, and got out of the coach and mounted the cart, he took leave of Dr. Porter and the Ordinary. After some time spent in prayer, he was turned off, on April the 19th, 1779; and, having hung the usual time, his body was carried to Surgeons' Hall for dissection.

Such was the end of a young gentleman who might have been an ornament to his country, the delight of his friends, and a comfort to his relations, had he not been led away by the influence of an unhappy passion.

 

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