Executed for the murder of her godmother, 18th June, 1712
THIS wretched woman was born at Melton Mowbray, in Leicestershire, and, while very young, was conveyed by her friends to Sutton, near Peterborough, in Northamptonshire; from whence, at the age of seven years, she was brought to London by Mrs. Scoles, who told her she was her godmother; and with this lady and her sister, Mrs. Cholwell, she lived, and was employed in household work; but, having conceived an idea that she should possess the fortune of her mistresses on their death, she came to the horrid resolution of removing them by poison.
On Thursday in Easter-week, 1712, being sent of an errand, she went to a druggist's shop, where she bought a quantity of yellow arsenic, on the pretence that it was to kill rats. On the following morning she mixed this poison with some coffee, of which Mrs. Stoles drank, and soon afterwards, finding herself extremely ill, said her end was approaching, and expired the next day in great agonies. Mrs. Cholwell receiving no injury from what little coffee she drank, the girl determined to renew her attempt to poison her; in consequence of which she went again to the same shop about a fortnight afterwards, and bought a second quantity of arsenic, which she put into some water-gruel prepared for Mrs. Cholwell's breakfast, on the following morning. It happening, providentially, that the gruel was too hot, the lady put it aside some time to cool, during which time most of the arsenic sank to the bottom. She then drank some of it, found herself very ill, and, observing the sediment at the bottom of the basin, sent for her apothecary, who gave her a great quantity of oil to drink, by the help of which the poison was expelled.
Unfavourable suspicions now arising against Elizabeth Mason, she was taken into custody, and, being carried before two justices of the peace, on the 30th of April, she confessed the whole of her guilt, in consequence of which she was committed to Newgate.
On the 6th of June, 1712, she was indicted for the murder of Jane Scoles, by mixing yellow arsenic with her coffee; and, pleading guilty to the indictment, she received sentence of death, in consequence of which she was executed at Tyburn on the 18th of June, 1712.
In the case of this malefactor we see, in a striking light, the fatal consequences of lying; for if, after she had first defrauded her mistresses, she had possessed grace sufficient to have acknowledged her crime, she would probably have been forgiven, and her repentance would have secured her peace of mind during her future life: but the concealing her faults by lying naturally led her to the commission of greater crimes, which ended in her final destruction. Of all crimes lying is one of the meanest, and ought to be studiously avoided by those who wish to be happy in this world or the next. Very true is the observation of the poet:
'But liars we can never trust,
Tho' they should speak the thing that's true;
And he that does one fault at first,
And lies to hide it, makes it two.'