Barrister’s Spouse Violated by Briefing Solicitor, 1842

From the Galway Vindicator and Connaught Advertiser, 20 April 1842:

Mr Robert Caldwell, a respectable attorney, was… charged with having… attempted by force to violate Anne Corbet, the wife of Mr Edward Lestrange Corbet, barrister.

Mrs Corbet… deposed that she met Mr Caldwell for the first time in Sept.1840…  Mr Caldwell then sent some law business to her husband, and he was invited to dine at their residence, in Fitzwilliam Street… she never gave him the least encouragement to take improper liberties with her.  On the 12th of March he called at her house, and was shown into the parlour where she was.  He spoke about some law business at first, but after a short time his manner changed, and he praised her eyes, and declared that if she were not married one would love her.

She remarked that such language was unfit to be addressed to a married woman, and that she would call the servant to show him out and was proceeding towards the door for that purpose, when he seized her round the waist and endeavoured to force her into a large chair… In the scuffle he had…exposed his person, and attempted to raise her dress when she succeeded in breaking from him and getting in the hall..  

Several letters were produced by Mr Caldwell’s counsel, signed ‘Charlotte’ and purporting to be written to Mr Caldwell… the first was dated 21st February 1842. It ran thus:- ‘My dearest friend – when I returned, a certain person was there, and had not been out; he questioned me at great length respecting my absence.  For god sake be most careful, as he is suspicious… it would be desirable for you to defer calling upon me for a few days – as meeting out of doors is uncomfortable and hazardous.’  The other three letters were written in the most endearing terms; allusions were made to some disagreeable person called ‘King Richard’, ‘Mr Lamb’ ‘Paul Pry’ etc…

Mr Corbet swore that he did not believe the letters to be in the handwriting of his wife; that he had always lived most happily with her; that she was a woman of very retired habits and modest demeanour… 

The jury, after half an hour’s deliberation, returned a verdict of guilty with a recommendation to mercy, on account of the prisoner’s previous good conduct.

Mr Caldwell, looking ‘extremely pale, and much affected,’  was sentenced to two years in prison, but released after one.   He continued to practice as a solicitor in Great Brunswick (now Pearse) Street for the next two decades.

The Corbets subsequently had four children and moved to Calcutta, where Mr Corbet died of cholera in 1853.  He was 37.  

Poor Mr Corbet! I hope his decision to move to Calcutta was not prompted by any decline in his practice resulting from this incident!

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Author: Ruth Cannon BL

Irish barrister sharing the history of the Four Courts, Dublin, Ireland, and other Irish courts.

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