Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Execution of the Mannings

“Finally, I am wholly unable to make up my mind as to whether a personage, once very familiar to me, is extant in these days of new journalism, or whether he has vanished from the Press world—I mean the penny-a-liner—strictly, the term itself is a misnomer, as the occasional reporter of all kinds of scraps and snippets of information was paid at the rate of 1½d. per printed line; but does the individual himself exist, and retain his original status, or has he, like the so-called Bohemian of the present decade, become a master, arrayed in the popular sable garb with the due white cravat and the indispensable flower in his coat button-hole? When I was young the penny-a-liner, indefatigably industrious as he was, rarely presented the appearance of one who was a favourite of fortune. He was in truth usually a seedy, grubby person, who, for all his labouriousness, seldom seemed to obtain any advancement in his calling. It is true that a first-rate murder and plenty of additional particulars turning up morning after morning, sometimes obtained for him a brief spell of worldly prosperity. I remember at the time of the murder of an Irish exciseman, by that choice pair of rascals, George Frederick and Maria Manning—both of whom by the way, I saw hanged over the gate of Horsemonger Lane Goal—a penny-a-liner whose real name I have long since forgotten (Malcolm J. Errym), but whom we used to call “Ada the Betrayed,” for the reason that he had once written a “penny dreadful” with the title just given, but which, after running through four successive numbers of the “Weekly Ghoul,” came to a sudden termination. The proprietor of “The Ghoul” eloped to Texas, and “Ada, the Betrayed,” like Lord Ullin in the ballad, was left lamenting.

“The crime of the Mannings brought for a time splendid grist to “Ada’s” mill. Prior to the discovery of the exciseman’s body under the stones of the kitchen in Bermondsey, he had been a man all tattered and torn, but so soon as the remains of poor Patrick O’Connor had been identified through the dentist’s number on the gold of the false teeth which he wore, the lucky reporter blossomed into a brand new coat of Newmarket cut, new plaid pantaloons followed, a glossy silk hat shone upon his head, Wellington boots adorned his lower extremities, and the bows of a satin neck-tie floated on his chest. The only thing he lacked was a waistcoat, but alas! the Manning’s were hanged ere “Ada, the Betrayed” had secured that much coveted vest, and afterwards, murders being rare, he drifted gradually into his old and normal condition of dismal seediness.”—George Augustus Sala (24 November 1828 – 8 December 1895) “London Up to Date” 1894.

The “lucky reporter” was James Malcolm Rymer, author of “Varney the Vampyre; or, the Feast of Blood,” “The String of Pearls; or, The Barber of Fleet Street,” and “Ada the Betrayed; or, The Murder at the Old Smithy.” Rymer died in 1884 leaving his family well off, but he certainly never made his fortune writing penny bloods for Edward Lloyd.

The obvious place to look for Rymer’s penny-a-liner accounts of the trial and execution of the Mannings, (they were “turned off” on Tuesday, November 10, 1849), would be in Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper. On December 9, 1849, a month after the double hanging, we find Lloyds Weekly advertising The Trial of the Mannings, with their portraits, at sixpence -- but if “Lloyd’s Edition” was asked for it was a mere three pence.

George Augustus Sala’s biographer, Straus, credits Sala with writing the Lloyd’s Weekly accounts of the murders but at that time Sala was employed as an illustrator and wood engraver on various publications: police, crime, and comic periodicals. Most likely Rymer supplied the text and Sala supplied the portraits and illustrations. Rymer was still working for Lloyd on March 7, 1852 when his last penny blood for that publisher, “Phoebe; or, the Miller’s Maid,” was issued in penny numbers. Rymer hints in his accounts of the execution of the Manning’s that this was not his first viewing of a public hanging. Considering the low rates of pay for writing penny bloods it’s likely that Rymer had always moonlighted as a penny-a-liner covering fires, murders, suicides and public hangings.

Following is what I believe to be James Malcolm Rymer’s description of the execution as it appeared in Lloyd’s Weekly newspaper on November 18, 1849. Rymer wrote a stunning amount of prose on the trial and execution. Lloyd seems not to have edited a word although Rymer’s accounts also appeared in other weekly papers such as The Era where the editor’s hacked his words down to a manageable level. The practice was for a penny-a-liner to submit his accounts to five or six papers at the same time thus raising his chances of a decent remuneration, “splendid grist to “Ada’s” mill.” >

The Execution November 18, 1849

The last scene of this horrible tragedy, which, during the last three months, has occasioned so much painful excitement in the public mind, closed on Tuesday, with the ignominious death on the scaffold of Frederick George Manning and Maria, his wife: two culprits whose atrocities may truly be described to have been rarely, if ever, equalled in the criminal annals of Great Britain.

The crime for which they suffered was committed on the 9th of August, and between the act and its punishment three months and three days have elapsed, thus affording another great proof, if such were wanted, that justice in this country pursues its victims with footsteps swift and sure, and that, though deeds of violence and blood may be concocted with the greatest premeditation, they can rarely escape the detection and punishment even of a n earthly tribunal. O’Connor’s grave was dug a month before it received his body. The intimacy between him and his murderers gave them unusual facilities for taking his life with impunity. No eye saw, nor did hear, when the death wound was given. His mangled remains were buried in a bed of quicklime to hasten the progress of decomposition, and every method that the ingenuity of the criminals could suggest was taken to destroy the traces of their guilt. The chances of flight even were afforded to them. The woman had one and the man three weeks’ start of their pursuers when the track they had each taken was discovered. The woman especially had ample means at her disposal for accelerating her escape, nor was the male convict so destitute of money as to be unable to continue his flight. Yet it was all in vain. They were discovered by their predominant vices, Manning by the quantity of brandy which he drank, his wife by the insatiable avarice which tempted her to offer the murdered man’s scrip for sale at Edinburgh. The evidence produced against them when tried was entirely circumstantial, yet never was guilt made more clearly manifest. Down to the minutest details their murder of O’Connor was proved. The purchase of the quicklime and the crowbar was established, and even the pistol with which the fatal shot was fired was produced in court. Though the character of the murdered man could hardly quicken the desire to avenge his death, and left society little reason to regret his loss, yet the majesty of the law, and the sanctity of human life, were completely vindicated. His murderers were compelled to suffer the penalty of their enormous crime, and on Tuesday they were publicly hanged upon the scaffold.

The almost unprecedented spectacle of a husband and wife executed for murder has naturally excited much speculation as to the extent of their guilt respectively. Although, in the eye of the law, there is no question of degree where murder is the charge proved, yet mercy often steps in to save , and the moralist recognizes different phases of sin in a deed which must always be enormous. With the Mannings, however, it is useless, and perhaps improper, to pursue such inquiries. They were both clearly guilty of a diabolical and cold-blooded murder, and it cannot be for a moment doubted that they both deserved the ignominious fate which has overtaken them. The confessions of dying criminals often receive a degree of credit to which they are by no means entitled; for the mass of mankind are reluctant to believe that words of repentance spoken in that awful hour, when all the hopes of this world are at an end, can be anything but truthful. The statements made by Manning, therefore, will probably be received by many as trustworthy, and it will be thought, as he has represented, that he was a mere tool in the hands of his wife, whose uncontrolled temper and impetuous will, working upon his weak and corrupted, but not cruel disposition, dragged him after her into the abyss of crime. The whole tenor of his confessions is exculpatory of himself, and his wife is made to bear nearly all the odium of a crime in which she might, perhaps, be the chief actor without being the greatest culprit. Manning’s wife died without confession, up to the last moment denying her guilt, or at least refusing to acknowledge it, and exhibiting an amount of courage and nerve which contrasted strangely with the terror-stricken aspect of her husband. There has been a diabolical character of energy displayed by her throughout, which has attracted to her conduct a still larger share of public attention than to that of Manning. Her handsome figure, foreign origin, and various other considerations, contributed to this effect, and it is due to her to say that no man could have borne himself more firmly than she did in the terrible part which she had to perform. Yet, as will be seen from the narrative which is subjoined, there were some traces at last disclosed by her of a heart not utterly callous. The scene in the chapel before the process of pinioning commenced, and again the final farewell between the guilty couple ere the drop fell, were singular illustrations of the truth that there is no human being, however fallen, in whom some sparks of feeling and sympathy do not linger.

These introductory observations may perhaps prepare the reader to form a juster appreciation of the following facts connected with the last moments and execution of the criminals.

As the evening of Monday drew on, the excitement increased, and when night had closed upon the scene the road in front of the gaol and all the thoroughfares leading thereto were thronged with spectators, who had evidently arrived with the intention of taking up the most favourable position for viewing the dreadful spectacle to be enacted upon the morrow. The erection of strong barriers in double lines along the front of the gaol, with cross rows at short intervals, was completed early in the evening, and almost fortunate it was that this excellent arrangement was carried out, for, as the result proved, had it not been for the protection thus afforded to the crowd, several fatal accidents must inevitably have taken place. The police arrangements under the direction of Mr. Superintendent Hayes, were beyond all praise. The whole force of the M division, with about 150 reserve constables of the A division, under Inspector Otway, forming a body of nearly 500 officers, were upon the ground at ten o’clock on Monday night, and by the careful disposal of this force, notwithstanding the immense crowd of spectators, a free passage was kept in front of the gaol, and thus parties occupying houses in the neighbourhood were not, as they otherwise might have been, confined exclusively to their dwellings. There was another advantage also in this arrangement, though certainly not a matter of much importance, viz.- that those lovers of the horrible who had secured seats at the windows, and in the gardens of the houses opposite the prison, were enabled to reach their respective localities without much inconvenience.

If a person could on Monday night have placed himself upon some high eminence, and have obtained a clear perspective view of London, he would have seen, wending their way along the principle thoroughfares, between the hours when the great city is ordinarily hushed in silence, people of all classes and of both sexes, seemingly bent upon one and the same destination. Perhaps at a considerable distance from the general place of rendezvous, the echo of the streets was only disturbed by the hurried tramp of solitary parties of pedestrians, but as the distance grew less the number of persons in the street increased, and the actual spot to which, as it were, the different streams of moving humanity ran, was one dense and gigantic mass of people, filling the roads and thoroughfares, and covering some of the houses to their very tops. Strange it is, that the morbid tastes and feelings of the people to witness to witness a public strangulation are so great, that remaining throughout the night in the streets, in cold foggy weather, squeezed on all sides by the mob, and first pushed one way and then another, and the probability of being seriously injured or robbed, are not thought too great risks to encounter, in order to witness the terribly real drama of which Horsemonger-lane gaol was the scene on Tuesday morning.

Thousands of people, as we have said, had assembled at an early hour on Monday night, and they kept gradually increasing in numbers until daybreak, when all approaches to the place of execution were completely blocked up. The rushing and swaying to and fro of the crowd was terrific, as every now and then the police had to renew their efforts to keep clear the space immediately in front of the scaffold and to prevent the approach of the gradually thickening mob to the barricades which had been placed across the entrances of the different streets. Here were stationed policemen mounted on horseback, and the kicking and plunging of the animals they rode were not sufficient to keep back the crowd. Many who had strength enough to keep their feet, and bear up against the constant pressure of pushing and kicking which they were subject to throughout the night, were at break of day so exhausted as to be compelled to quit their positions and give them up to those who had more recently arrived.

Notwithstanding the interference of the magistrates of the district, and the efforts of the police authorities to remove the frail platforms and scaffoldings which had been hastily thrown up during the previous few days in the vicinity of the gaol, a large amount of accommodation of this kind was to be obtained by such as were willing pay to exorbitant sums to procure the gratification of a morbid propensity to witness, if not to gloat over, the dying struggles of their fellow creatures. The proprietors of these stands were busily and incessantly occupied throughout the night in soliciting the patronage of every decently-dressed person whom they encountered, clamorously soliciting attention to the strength, security and cheapness of their structures, and chanting praises of the “splendid view” of the scene which was to be had from them. For two or three hours after midnight the crowd was not so dense as to prevent freedom of motion, and the gin-shops and night-houses in the neighbourhood were filled to overflowing, and doubtless reaped a rich harvest. In the meantime the masses who had determined to “rough it” sub dio, relieved the tedium of their night-watch with rude mirth, course pleasantries, and the most repulsive description of vulgar facetiousness, with speculations respecting the hour at which the execution was fixed to take place -- the appearance of the culprits together or separately upon the gallows -- the chances of their being reprieved, and similar topics. Conversation, however, contributes but little to a comfortable circulation of the blood on a cold winter’s night, and many groups becoming aware of the fact resolved themselves into dancing parties and executed quadrilles, polkas, or jigs, according to their respective tastes or capabilities. Nor was the demeanour of their “betters,” who crowded the windows and platforms, more consonant with the dreadful scene a morbid curiosity had led them to witness. Some we were told formed themselves into card parties and smoking and drinking relieved the tedium of the night.

The scene which the exterior of the gaol presented shortly after dusk on Monday night, until long after midnight, was one which, since its erection, has perhaps never been witnessed by the inhabitants of the neighbourhood. The hammer and pickaxe were going in all directions. About fifty carpenters and labourers were employed in erecting long barricades along the whole length of Winter-terrace, across the outlets to the different streets, and immediately in front of the entrance to the prison. Others were as busily engaged in knocking up seats in the fronts and tops of houses, and some might have been seen perched on the fronts of the roof hammering away at the scaffolding by the light only of a torch or a flambeau. The noise, of course, must have penetrated the cells of the Mannings, and have given them awful warning of their rapidly approaching fate. The dreaded note of preparation for the morrow did not, however, seem to have any other effect than that of bringing together numbers of idle loungers, whose bearing was anything but suited for the solemnity of the occasion. The whole place had the appearance of the outskirts of some country fair, or of the streets at the West-end on the evening of a general illumination. Boys and girls -- the refuse of the neighbourhood, or of the Mint -- labouring men, respectable-looking mechanics with their wives, and no inconsiderable portion of persons of a higher class, formed the motley assemblage until about eleven o’clock. Vendors of brandy balls, hot potatoes, and pies, pursued their vocation with great success, and “Cheap Johns” took advantage of the opportunity to dispose of their wares.

Occasionally the roar of voices, which always accompanies the assemblage of large numbers of people, swelled into a chorus to the burden of some vulgar doggerel -- a sort of “gallows Marseillase” - which the depraved multitude caught up with avidity; but there were exceptions to the rule, and the behaviour of the crowd altogether was rather more decorous than is usual on similar occasions. The same remark, we regret to add, will not apply to the more-favoured night seers, whose purses had enabled them to secure places in the adjoining houses. In many of these habitations the boisterous mirth of revelry was heard throughout the night, and large parties, including men whose position in society might have induced them to avoid appearing in such a character, were constantly observed parading the gardens in front of Winter-terrace.

At another spot we saw a lot of big boys, little urchins, and girls of all sizes, assembled round a large plank lying in the road, and laughing most heartily at the people who every now and then stumbled over it, the reflector of a brilliant gas-light throwing it into the shade, and preventing it being seen. Everyone in fact, instead of being impressed with the awful nature of the scene, seemed to look upon it with a degree of pleasant excitement; and singular, strange, and outrageous were some of the observations that met the ear. Some sympathised with the criminals, saying, “What fools they were; they did everything to lead to their detection; why didn’t they wet the slack lime, it would have burnt everything, bones and all, and left no trace of the body.” Others said, “I wonder if she will die game, or confess; she’s a brave one, and no mistake.” The chief conversation seemed to turn upon the probability of their being hung together; some thought the beam was too small for the purpose, and that one would be allowed to see the other executed first; and it was said, if they both appeared together on the scaffold, the female would try to take revenge upon her husband. Round the prison door a large collection of boys amused themselves by attempting jokes upon persons coming out, some of which were of a very callous and obscene nature.

As midnight advanced, however, the character of the mob materially altered, and it was chiefly composed of men who alone could keep their position and withstand the pressure. The night was cold, damp and foggy, and the stoutest heart must have been exhausted and worn out by daylight. The morning broke with a fine clear sky, slightly tinged with red, and continued bright until sometime before the execution. The whole area in front of the prison then appeared to the gaze of those who had but dimly seen it throughout the night and from one end of it to the other there was nothing to be seen but a floating mass of heads. Persons who had seats to let had posted up large bills, intimating the fact to the crowd below, and those who had not let them at a late hour in the morning adopted the expedient of stating the price which would be charged.

The public-houses in Blackman-street and the neighbourhood were filled with customers, many of whom had been up all night; touters from every corner invited to seats commanding a view of the execution; every house was lighted, and shops of all kind were open; and hundreds of itinerant basketmen were crying Manning’s biscuits and Maria Manning’s peppermints for sale. A mob composed of the lowest rabble had collected in Swan-street and under the drop, where squibs and crackers were flying through the air, and every low cry and oath was to be heard. As the prison-bell rang six o’clock, cabs were arriving in Trinity-street (the nearest approach permitted) in great numbers, as many as twenty having been counted in ten minutes.

The barriers, three in number, which had been erected in Swan-street, were of great assistance to the police, but the same precaution had not been observed in other streets, where the truncheon ill-supplied its place. By keeping the whole pathway in Winter-terrace and its adjoining streets in their exclusive possession, the police were able to maintain a thorough and efficient communication and access to every part of the crowd. All entrance to Horsemonger-lane from Blackman-street was peremptorily denied except on production of tickets, and many were the collisions in consequence.

About seven o’clock the crowd was greatly swelled by the arrival of large numbers of the artisan class, who thronged Church-square, Trinity-street, and Blackman-street, until eight. At this hour every spot from which the gallows could be seen was occupied. In front of the drop was seated a party of seven persons, who had come up from the West of England to see the execution of one whom they had previously known. At half-past eight the swaying and pitching of the crowd in Church-street was terrific, and a person who had endeavoured to strengthen his position by inserting his right leg in one of the iron palisades sustained a fracture of that limb. It was here the police experienced the greatest difficulty, and although assisted by the mounted patrols, were unable to preserve the slightest order. Union-road, Swan-street, and Church-street, were crowded with men and women unable to see the spectacle, and the number to whom this horrid gratification was denied must have been at least from one to two thousand. It is to be observed that the behaviour of the crowd greatly improved after daybreak, for their energies had been somewhat exhausted.

Shortly after seven o’clock the executioner and several assistants made their appearance on the gallows, and minutely tested the efficiency of the apparatus. Their appearance elicited no manifestation from the crowd, which at the time was in a state of unrestrained hilarity provoked by the efforts of several luckless individuals to escape from the tremendous pressure which they were enduring, by scrambling over the heads of the compact mass by which they had been surrounded.

The gallows was erected immediately over the porch of the prison. It was firm and substantially constructed, but it lacked the black cloth covering that is usually placed over the trap and planks of the drop of the Old Bailey. Of course it was the grand point at which all eyes were directed for hours before the fatal period of the execution. Little can be said of the form, shape, and appearance of the gallows itself, further than in point of strength and position it was well adapted for its fatal purpose. It occupied nearly the whole of the roof of the entrance gate to the prison, and from the north it could be viewed with great distinctness. A number of chimneys built in stacks are to be seen at the back and sides of the roof, but with the exception of those at the back they did not seem to be in use. Strange to say one of those caught fire some half-hour before the execution, and for a time the gallows was completely enveloped in smoke.

Passing from the exterior of the prison we now proceed to record the incidents attending the last moments of the wretched culprits within its walls. The rev. chaplain, who had been unremitting in his endeavours to bring the convicts to a due sense of their awful position, visited the female prisoner at eight o’clock on Monday night, and remained closeted with her for more than two hours. During this long period Mr. Rowe impressed upon the wretched woman the importance of making her peace with God, and as the only means of doing this effectually, he urged upon her the necessity of relieving her conscience of any guilt that might affect it. The convict received the rev. gentleman’s exhortation in a becoming manner, but instead of making any admission of her guilt, she repeated a statement so utterly inconsistent with any reasonable hypothesis that Mr. Rowe found it quite impossible to attach any credence to what she said. The gist of the statement was that the murder had been committed by a young man from Jersey, whom her husband knew, and that she herself was wholly ignorant of the circumstances. She gave no description of the individual she referred to, nor did she attempt to account for the possession of O’Connor’s keys and property after death. It must be manifest, therefore, that no credibility could attach to her statements, and Mr. Rowe left her for the night without having affected any favourable change in her conduct. Before taking leave the chaplain again mentioned the desire of her husband to have an interview with her, and Manning’s great anxiety to know that she bore him no ill will. She replied that she thoroughly forgave him for all that he had done, but that she must decline to see him unless he relieved her from the charges he had made against her. After the chaplain had left, she undressed herself and retired to bed, but slept very little, rising up occasionally, and exhibiting great uneasiness.

After leaving the female culprit, Mr. Rowe proceeded to Manning’s cell, for the purpose of offering him spiritual consolation. Manning, in reply to the chaplain, expressed himself quite resigned, but at the same time said he had a great desire to know whether his wife had confessed. Mr. Rowe not feeling it his duty to satisfy him on this point, Manning became very petulant, and complained of the reserve exhibited to him in this matter. The chaplain very kindly pointed out to him that whatever his companion in guilt might have said could not concern him in his position -- that he had only one all-important duty to perform, and that was to make his peace with God. After passing nearly two hours with the convict, Mr. Rowe retired for the night, Manning remarking, as he left the cell, that he hoped to see him at five o’clock in the morning. The wretched man exhibited great uneasiness after the chaplain had left, and could be neither prevailed upon to retire to rest nor to sit down and read. After some time he did attempt to do the latter, and on opening the Bible, read aloud a portion of the 51st psalm, which he said he considered very applicable to his case. He still manifested great disinclination to go to bed, and taking up a pen wrote several little memorials for presentation to the officers of the prison, in acknowledgement of their kindness to him since his incarceration. One of these, addressed to Mr. Moore, the chief officer of the prison, ran thus:-

“Frederick George Manning, born at Taunton, in the county of Somersetshire, in the year 1821, April 16. Died at Horsemonger-lane Prison, on Tuesday, November 13th, 1849. May the Lord have mercy on this poor soul! Amen. With Frederick George Manning’s compliments to Mr. Moore.”

To Mr. Taylor, one of the turnkeys of the prison, who had been very constantly in attendance upon him, the convict presented a small Bible, in which he inscribed his name and the date of its presentation; and to Mr. Maynard, another of the officers, he gave a memento in his handwriting as follows:-

“Frederick George Manning, died at Horsemonger-lane Prison, on Tuesday, Nov. 13, 1849. I have now only three hours more to live in this world.”

The wretched man threw himself down on the bed two or three times, but would not undress, and his attendants state that they believe he did not close his eyes during the night. He made frequent inquiries as to the degree of bodily suffering occasioned by the death he was doomed to die, and appeared to dread it very much.

At seven o’clock, the visiting magistrates, among whom we observed Sir T. Newby Reeve, Knight, Mr. T. Puckle, Mr. Freshfield, Mr. Ledger, and Mr. Francis, with Mr. Abbott, the under-sheriff, arrived at the prison, which they entered by the sessions-house, for the purpose of attending to their official duties. The reverend chaplain was early in his attendance upon the male convict, visiting his cell at half-past six. Manning appeared pleased to see Mr. Rowe, and remarked, in reference to what had passed on the previous night, that he feared he had been very petulant, but he hoped the chaplain would forgive him, and make some allowance for the for the situation in which he was placed. Mr. Rowe assured him that he freely forgave him, and regretted that the awful duty he had to perform rendered it necessary that he should be firm as well as kind in his monitions and instructions. After joining in prayer, the chaplain left Manning, to visit the female prisoner, the male convict meantime eating sparingly of breakfast consisting of tea and bread and butter, and subsequently taking walking exercise in the yard. While doing this, he, for the first time, heard the distant roar of the populace assembled outside the walls. He made no remark to his attendants on the subject, but appeared faint, and very soon, by his own request, retired into the chapel, where he sat down until the period arrived for him to receive the sacrament.

The chaplain, on entering the female convict’s cell, found her in a very depressed state, arising from the irregular rest she had had during the night. His first act was to importune her solemnly, as she was now so soon to appear before her God, where no falsehood could avail her, and where the opinions of mankind were no longer of any importance, that if she had anything to say, or unsay, or any requests to make, she would at once do so. The wretched woman replied that she had nothing to add to her former statements, the truth of which she asseverated; but she had one request to make -- namely, that the chaplain would write a letter to two noble ladies, whose names she mentioned, conveying them her earnest and heartfelt thanks for their kind consideration and exertions on her behalf, though unhappily they had not availed her. The chaplain promised to accede to her wishes, and having offered up a prayer, left the cell while the convict partook of breakfast.

Manning, while in the chapel, expressed to the turnkeys in attendance a strong desire to see his wife; and at twenty minutes past eight o’clock, by a previous arrangement, the wretched woman was introduced, and took her seat on the same bench with her husband, one male and one female turnkey being seated between them. While in this position, and before the reverend chaplain had entered the sacred edifice, the first friendly recognition between the convicts took place. Manning, apparently unable to contain his feelings longer, leaned forward towards his wife, and in the most imploring accents said: - “I hope you are not going to depart this life with feelings of animosity towards me?” The appeal was too much for her, and, leaning towards him, she said “I have no animosity towards you.” He said, “Will you not kiss me then?” the female convict said “Yes;” and, both parties having arisen, they shook hands and kissed each other several times.

The reverend chaplain here entered in his robes, and having taken his place at the altar, he administered the Sacrament to both the convicts. This sacred right occupied nearly half an hour, and at its close the wretched pair were permitted to meet again. Manning embraced his wife with great fervour and said, “God bless you! I hope we shall meet in Heaven!” His wife returned his embrace, and sobbed audibly. As the prison bell had now peeled solemnly for some minutes, Mr. Keane, the governor of the prison, was under the painful necessity of reminding Manning that the time had arrived. The wretched man, having taken a parting embrace, was conducted to an adjoining room, in order to undergo the process of pinioning. On entering, he observed two or three persons in the apartment, and inquired of the turnkey, who was the hangman? Calcraft at once stepped forward and Manning resigned himself into his hands. While undergoing the dreadful process, Manning asked Calcraft if he should suffer much pain? Calcraft said, if he would keep himself still he would suffer no pain at all; an assurance which appeared to give the culprit considerable satisfaction. The convict was now conducted to the chapel yard, where he awaited the arrival of his wife.

The female prisoner had retired when Manning left, and was conducted to a room on the opposite side of the chapel, where it was arranged she should undergo the process of pinioning. When Calcraft entered this room, and her eye first rested upon him, the wretched woman nearly fainted, and it was necessary to administer some brandy to her. On recovering herself, she took out of her pocket a small black silk handkerchief, which she requested might be placed over her eyes before she left the room. Mr. Harris, the surgeon of the prison, who was in attendance, took the handkerchief from her, and bound it carefully over her eyes, after which, at her request, he threw over head a black lace veil, which was tied tightly under her chin. Calcraft then approached, and performed his painful office, which the wretched woman bore with great fortitude. The hangman suggested that she should wear a cloak over her shoulders, in order to hide the ropes with which her arms were pinioned, but she objected strongly to do this, and it was dispensed with. At this awful juncture the scene was so affecting, that one of the female turnkeys wept audibly, upon which the convict remarked with great coolness, “ Do not cry, but pray for me.” Everything being in readiness, the woman was now led out into the chapel-yard, where her husband already awaited her. The procession now moved towards the scaffold, headed by Mr. Keane, the governor of the prison, Mr. Moore, the chief officer, and Mr. Garland, the high constable of the district. The chaplain walked immediately in advance of Manning, who was supported by Taylor and Hallett, two of the turnkeys, and about two paces behind came the female convict, supported on one side by Mr. Harris, the surgeon, and upon the other by Mr. Wheatley, an officer of the gaol. The wretched creatures strength somewhat failed her as she walked along the passages of the prison, and Mr. Harris was more than once compelled to support her. She walked with some hesitation from being blindfolded, and more than once requested Mr. Harris to be careful she did not come in contact with anything. She complained also, during her progress to the scaffold, that the cords with which her hands were tied hurt her wrists. In the progress of the wretched pair through the chapel corridor, they passed over their own graves, in which was placed a coating of lime, an instance of retributive justice for the crime of which they had been righteously convicted. The male prisoner walked with a feeble and tottering step, and, but for the support of the two turnkeys, who walked on either side of him, he would hardly have been able to proceed. A ghostly pallor overspread his face, and he ejaculated, as he went, “Lord have mercy upon me!” The ascent of the narrow staircase to the roof of the prison was a dreadful undertaking, but it was accomplished with far less difficulty than anticipated. On reaching the top of the staircase a momentary delay took place while Calcraft removed Manning’s neckerchief. The next moment the pale face and emaciated frame of the miserable man was observed by the crowd, from whom, though there could not have been less than 50,000 spectators within view of the prison, not a murmur arose. As he ascended the steps leading to the drop his limbs tottered under him, and he appeared scarcely able to move. He first turned his face to the east, apparently reluctant to eye the gaping crowds assembled to watch his last mortal agony. A gleam of sunshine fell upon his features while in this position, and showed that the pallor of his countenance still continued. When his wife approached the scaffold he turned more round, with his face towards the people, while Calcraft proceeded to draw over his head the white nightcap and to adjust the fatal rope. In the meantime the female prisoner had reached the drop, mounting the steps which led to it with a firm, but, owing to the bandage on her eyes, not a rapid step, and, when at last placed under the fatal beam, standing as fixed as a marble statue. Her appearance, contrary to expectation, excited no outburst of feeling; and in truth they must have had adamantine hearts who could have witnessed, unmoved, the dreadful scene presented at this moment. Manning, whose head was enveloped in a nightcap, finding that his wife was also on the scaffold, leaned over as far as the rope would allow, and whispering something to her, held out his pinioned hand to bid her a last farewell. One of the turnkeys brought them into contact with those of the wretched woman, and the dying pair took leave for the last time. Calcraft having now completed his attendance upon manning, turned to the female, and pulled a cap over her head, but, we regretted to observe, with considerable difficulty, in consequence of the handkerchief and veil in which it was already enveloped. The chaplain all this time was standing on the scaffold, and reading the service for the burial of the dead which he had commenced when the procession moved from the chapel. When Calcraft had completed his dreadful office, Mr. Rowe leaned forward and asked the female convict if she had anything to say. The wretched woman, then on the brink of eternity, replied firmly, “Nothing, except to thank you all for your kindness.” The next moment the drop fell heavily, and both the convicts appeared to us to die without a struggle; at any rate there was far less muscular action than is usual.

The male convict wore a dress of plain black, similar to that in which he had appeared at the trial; and he had his shirt collar turned over and loosened, so that the rope might be the more easily adjusted, and do its office without impediment. Mrs. Manning wore a handsome black satin gown, and had omitted nothing of that care for her personal appearance which marked her when pleading for her life at the bar of the Old Bailey. She complained, it is said, as she advanced towards the scaffold, that the cord with which she was pinioned hurt her wrists.

After hanging an hour, the bodies were taken down, and casts having been taken of the heads, the remains of both were interred, side by side, during the afternoon, in the corridor leading to the chapel.

The sincerity of the female convict’s forgiveness of her wretched partner in guilt may be estimated from the fact that at a late hour on the night previous she addressed a letter to her guardian, in which, reiterating her innocence, she says that she has been murdered by her husband, and that he will have to answer to God for her blood.

*Appended to this newspaper report was The Confession of George Frederick Manning.

No comments:

Post a Comment