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The Newgate Calendar - HENRY MORRIS


Transported for Bigamy

Henry Morris and Mary Ann Murphy

   "FRAILTY, thy name is Woman," says Shakespeare. The immortal bard is right; or how could we find them, in spite of precept and example, still the victims of the dissolute and designing; clinging to their destroyers with a devotional tenacity, which, like their beauty, almost makes us pardon their indiscretion; so accustomed are we to expect virtue where appearances promise all that is commendable. But if we must lament the infatuation of the frailer sex, in what terms can we express our detestation of the villain who calculates on their weakness and simplicity, and, like the veiled prophet of Korassan, exhibits not the hideousness of his natural character until the victim is secured? But, alas! not even then has infatuated woman resolution enough to evince the dignity of insulted virtue; for we too often find them, as in the present instance, become more attached, as their destroyer becomes more worthless.

   Henry Morris, in 1813, was indicted at Green Street, Dublin, for marrying Mary Anne Murphy, on the 15th of May, 1811, having been previously married to Maria Fontaine, on the 7th of August, 1805, who was alive at the time of his second marriage.

   Both marriages being proved, Dennis Murphy, the afflicted father of the last of the prisoner's wives (for he had several), came forward and detailed a narrative of wrongs, that sensibly affected the Court. He first knew the prisoner on the 15th day of October twelvemonth, at a billiard room in Dame Street. He told him of being deeply in love with his daughter, who was then only fifteen years of age; and represented himself as a teacher, of great respectability. Morris was then introduced to Mr Murphy's family, and continued his visits for five or six months; at the expiration of which time he persuaded the credulous girl to elope with him.

   Two months after, the villain Morris wrote the unfortunate father a letter; expressed much contrition for what had occurred; and attributed it to the violence of love, "which would not brook delay." He begged God's and Mr Murphy's pardon; and requested a meeting. A meeting accordingly took place; the parties were reconciled; and Morris and Miss Murphy were legally married. But, before the wounded feelings of the father had been healed, he accidentally acquired information which caused them to bleed afresh. He learned, too surely, that his hopeful son-in-law had several wives; and that he had abandoned four young girls whom he had successively married. The poor man, with tears which bespoke the anguish of his heart, here mentioned that Maria Fontaine had died of a broken heart three weeks before the trial; and said that his unfortunate daughter still continued so attached to her destroyer, that she spent the whole of her time with him in Newgate, coming home occasionally for support, which was given to her; for the unhappy parents could not bring themselves to desert their poor child, under any circumstances; and, if they were to do so, would consider themselves accountable in the eye of Heaven for the crimes she would fall into; as, in case of being turned from the paternal door, she had no alternative but street prostitution.

   The wretched girl, lovely as unfortunate, was in court during the trial, and remained close to the prisoner. When the verdict was pronounced, she burst into the most outrageous expressions of grief; cried out most violently to save him; tore her hair, and clung around his neck, declaring that she would not be separated from him. The judges, however, ordered her to be removed, but directed that it should be done as gently as possible; and she was accordingly carried out of court in a state of utter distraction. Morris was then sentenced to transportation for seven years; the judge remarking that he had often ordered a man to be hanged for an offence much less heinous.

   We cannot omit this opportunity of saying a few words respecting the virtue of prudence, which may be called the guardian of all the other domestic virtues. Without expatiating on its general importance, perhaps, it may be sufficient to remark that affliction of Murphy's family, and the ruin of his miserable child, proceeded directly from the total absence of prudence in the old man. He introduces a stranger; encourages his addresses to his daughter, only fifteen years of age; and then permits them to go out alone; for under pretence of going to prayers they had eloped! Surely he who took such little precaution to guard his child from error deserved to suffer for that child's impropriety. This case, however, will not be unproductive to public benefit. Parents may learn from it to guard their children from the arts of strangers; and the young women may be taught that to trust their ears to the tongue of men, whose character they know not, is to invite the seducer to spread his snares for their ruin.

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