““Where’s Eliza?” Everybody, a few weeks ago, was asked this question. On every dead wall in the metropolis these words were shrieked to the passer-by in huge letters of black or blue. At all turns and corners the demand was again made of you. The cry for the lost Eliza seemed shouted everywhere by voices full of alarm. It was taken up and carried on by the ends of unfinished houses, by wooden walls, and projecting beams of skeleton buildings. All London, and no doubt all England, was roused by the hue and cry after this mysterious Eliza. “Where’s Eliza, where’s Eliza?” Voices in the air seemed screaming it; viewless creatures seemed posting over tower and steeple in the hot pursuit of the lost one. Everybody’s Eliza seemed missing; every family disconsolate; every lover broken-hearted. The cry was everywhere, and nowhere any answer but “Ask Strange, of Paternoster-row.” It was a strange answer. What was everybody’s Eliza doing in Paternoster-row? Our artist has at length answered the ubiquitous query. The missing creature was in the Gin-Palace.” --William Howitt, Howitt’s Journal, p. 18, 1 Jan 1848.
The melancholy question, appearing on billposters all over London, was never answered, but the trope did enter the street culture as a metaphor for all the lost Elizas’ who made the journey from country to city only to end up in the gin-house or the brothel. “Strange” was a reference to William Strange, a penny publisher and bookseller situated in Paternoster-row. Strange was the publisher of Figaro in London (1831-1839) and Moll Cutpurse, the Lady Pickpocket (1846). Perhaps the advertisement was touting a proposed romance in penny numbers. In 1853 the working-class writer Charles Manby Smith contributed an article titled “The Billsticker,” to Chambers’s Edinburgh Journal, in which he recalled the popular question; “Where’s Eliza?,” and proposed another solution:
“Some years ago, too, we beheld him struggling on a very windy day in the flapping folds of a monster-sheet, upon which were printed the two words, in letters a foot long each, ‘WHERE”S ELIZA?’ and nothing more. Who Eliza was he could not inform us, and he shook his shaggy head in a way sufficiently ominous when we asked him for the information. It was evidently a poser, as well for him as for us; and it is a remarkable event in the annals of billsticking, that that pertinent inquiry and public interrogation has remained unanswered to the present moment. We should like to know who Eliza was, in order that we might become more interested in her whereabouts; but after indulging in painful speculations on the subject, we can come to no other conclusion than one which may be nothing more than conjecture after all. It may be -- we cannot vouch for it -- but it may be that Eliza is the Christian name of some modern Thisbe unhappily lost in the wilderness of this great Babylon, for whose restoration her love-lorn and bewildered Pyramus distractedly appeals to London Wall through the medium of the billsticker.”
“Popular murders,” as they were called by the Catnatchian authors of the Seven Dials broadsheets, frequently inspired popular phrases among the public such as “Who murdered Begbie?” and “Who murdered Eliza Grimwood?”
On 10 May 1837 Eliza Davis, a young Welsh barmaid at the King’s Arm Wine Vaults, Regent’s Park, was discovered lying on the floor with her throat cut, by a thirsty mechanic named Hall, in search of a beer. Davis had opened the public-house at six in the morning and no sounds of struggle were heard by the inmates. Nothing was stolen and the crime was never solved, although one suspect was described as a “foreigner residing in Bath.” The curious thing about the murder of Eliza Davis was that almost a year to the day, 26 May 1838, another Eliza, Eliza Grimwood, was murdered in her room in similar circumstances, found with her throat cut, and the murderer never brought to justice. No one ever made any connection between the two murders; poor Davis was forgotten, a one day wonder, while the Grimwood murder caused a sensation remembered to this day. One modern writer recently proposed that Charles Dickens based villainous Bill Sykes murder of Nancy, in Oliver Twist, on the Grimwood case.
Joseph Irving wrote of Eliza Grimwood in The Annals of Our Time:
“26 May 1838.-- Eliza Grimwood found murdered in her bedroom, Wellington-terrace, Waterloo-road. She was wounded in several places, but the immediate cause of death was a wound in the neck, extending nearly from ear to ear, and severing the windpipe. Her left thumb was cut, as if she had struggled with the murderer. The unfortunate woman lived with a person named Hubbard, a bricklayer, separated from his wife, and had been in the habit of taking persons home with her from the theatres. On the Friday night she was said to have met with a person in the Strand, who had the look of a foreigner, and dressed like a gentleman. At the inquest, the person able to speak to Eliza Grimwood’s latest movements was a companion named Catherine Edwin, who was with her in the Strand when the foreigner came up. He was an Italian, but could speak English fluently, and had been acquainted with the deceased for months. He frequented the neighbourhood of the “Spread Eagle,” Regent-circus, and wore a ring given him by deceased, bearing the words “Semper fidelis.” He also carried a clasp-knife, with which the wounds might have been inflicted. With this person she entered a cab, and drove home about midnight. He was not afterwards seen, and how or when he left the house was never ascertained. Hubbard slept in an apartment, alone, and discovered the body (he said) when going out to work in the morning. He awoke a commercial traveler who slept in the house with another woman, and then alarmed the police. The deceased was about twenty-five years of age, of sober habits, and had saved a little money. At the inquest a verdict of wilful murder against some person or persons unknown. On the 11th June Hubbard was committed to Horsemonger-lane prison, in consequence of an anonymous letter purporting to come from the person who accompanied Eliza Grimwood home, but no evidence being forthcoming before the magistrate he was discharged, and afterwards went to America. On the 13 June the effects of the murdered woman were sold on the premises, and realized high prices.”
Irving’s encapsulation of events is mostly true, except that Catherine Edwin’s testimony was subsequently discovered to have been completely false. It was the opinion of the coroner that a wound on the back of the neck “was perpetrated after that in the throat for the purpose of severing the head from the body.”
The murder of Eliza Grimwood inspired various catchpenny broadsheets from Jemmy Catnatch and other Seven Dials publishers of dying confessions and broadsheets. One was titled Murder of the Beautiful Eliza Grimwood in the Waterloo-road. The Weekly Chronicle for 3 Jun 1838 contained full details of the murder as well as a woodcut illustration representing the murdered woman’s apartment with the body of Eliza Grimwood occupying the foreground.
The most curious production was an anonymous penny blood printed and published in 40 weekly numbers by B. D. Cousins titled Eliza Grimwood, a Domestic Legend of the Waterloo Road with biographical notices of her fair companions; also sketches of Dukes, Lords, Hon. M. P.’s, Magistrates, and her Murderer. The title-page carries no date. Arthur Edward Waite and Montague Summers dated it 1844, while Louis James guessed it as being contemporary with the crime in 1839. The only advertisement I could find for the title was from 1844, under a variant title, Eliza Grimwood, or; the Waterloo Road Murder.
The title-page featured two quotes:
“Out Damned Spot!” -- Lady Macbeth.
“Who Murdered Eliza Grimwood?” -- Popular Question.
The first chapter described the scene of the crime, the Waterloo Road, on the Surrey side of the Thames, which took its name from the Waterloo Bridge. The anonymous author was very familiar with the city of London and described the Waterloo Road as “chiefly inhabited by persons in the line of life which the unfortunate subject of this history followed.” The adjoining streets were tenanted mainly by prostitutes, pimps, and procurers. “The bridge having a toll, and being wide and supplied with recesses on each side, is a place where people whose love of life is worn out, can end the heartbreak. It is the place of all others, in short, where Londoners or those who wander to, and become weary of life in the great Babylon, seek relief by plunging in the Thames. It leads to the Strand and the other streets in which are situated the gay haunts of fashion and dissipation; hence it is in every way the best suited of all the bridges for that purpose which many seek it for.”
The chapter ended with the disingenuous promise “that though threading our way among scenes and persons of prodigal life, it will be our constant study to omit everything that would in any way offend virtuous delicacy. --- We shall exhibit some of the fairest traits in human nature, and some of the most hideous. --- And we have little doubt that by the time the “Legend of the Waterloo Road” is finished; we shall throw some light on the question of “WHO MURDERED ELIZA GRIMWOOD?”
Benjamin Davey Cousins penny blood Eliza Grimwood has been discussed at length in two excellent critical works; Louis James’ Fiction for the Working Man 1830-1850 (1973) and Iain McCalman’s Radical Underworld: prophets, revolutionaries, and pornographers (1988). James noted the anonymous author’s familiarity with the Grub Street publishing underworld of penny-a-liners and radical publishers and the use of real-life people as characters in the tale. One of these characters is John Benjamin Brookes, who published pornographic titles like The Lustful Turk from the Opera Colonnade and 9 Bond Street between 1820 and 1832. Another was J. Hucklebridge, another pornographic publisher.
James noted of the Eliza Grimwood author that “a description he gives of the ‘Lushington’ club, held at the Harp tavern, Little Russell Street, Covent Garden, where members seated themselves according to their financial condition, and those in ‘suicide’ ward received charity, exactly tallies with a description of it in The Town. This and the gratuitous details he gives of various people suggest he was drawing a highly libelous picture of the London he knew.”
McCalman placed Eliza Grimwood in the tradition of books by courtesans like Mary Anne Clarke and Harriet Wilson which were published with explicit blackmailing intent. The abrupt ending of Eliza Grimwood “hinting darkly at forthcoming revelations” -- “sounds as if the publisher was fishing for suppression bribes.” This idea caught my imagination because one of the leading radical blackmailers of the period was the publisher of the 7d. scandal sheet The Satirist, Barnard Gregory, who was rumored to have also been editor of B. D. Cousin’s Penny Satirist, and thus an ideal suspect for the identity of the author of Eliza Grimwood, a Domestic Legend of the Waterloo Road. There is no evidence for this assumption however; I recently discovered that the editor of the Penny Satirist in 1838 was not Barnard Gregory at all, but "Shepherd" Smith, the celebrated Universalist.
Still, on Jun 23 1843 Gregory was convicted of libeling Charles, the Duke of Brunswick, insinuating in print that the Duke was the murderer of Eliza Grimwood (McCalman, in an otherwise excellent chapter makes the mistake of identifying the target of the libel as the Duke of Cumberland.) Moreover, Gregory continuously repeated the accusations. On May 6, 1846 Gregory was sentenced to 8 months imprisonment in the Queen’s Bench for 4 libels (again involving Eliza Grimwood) on his nemesis, the Duke of Brunswick. The Satirist came to an end on 15 December 1849, and on June 13, 1850 an unrepentant Gregory was again gaoled for 6 Months for libels against Brunswick. Perhaps, after all, Gregory was the hidden author of the penny blood Eliza Grimwood. If the real date of publication was 1844, rather than 1839, this is a real possibility. It’s also possible that Gregory was editing Cousins’ Penny Satirist at this late date.*
The Duke of Brunswick is not identified as the murderer in the penny blood, however, the murderer is a man named Percy Davidson, a myrmidon of the monstrous Lord Rakemore, who seduces the innocent Eliza, ruins her sisters, then sets them up in a London brothel on the Waterloo Road. Rakemore also has the assistance of several penny-a-liners who concoct anonymous letters to the authorities to help cover up the identities of the real perpetrators. The book ends at the fortieth number, page 318, with the following:
“On the resumption of the inquest a number of witnesses were examined relative to the Italian; and other rumours, most of which rumours were set afloat, and kept swimming by the reporters for their own benefit. The jury returned a verdict of “willful murder against some persons unknown,” and the confederated perpetrators of the crime commenced attacks in the columns of their newspapers on the police for not having detected the murderer. These complaints are reiterated to this day.”
So did the publishing of Eliza Grimwood have an ulterior motive: fishing for bribes from the powerful Duke of Brunswick, under threat of unmasking him as a craven murderer? It is true that various mysterious letters were written to the authorities but the letters reproduced in Eliza Grimwood, when compared to the letters reproduced in newspaper accounts prove to be a fiction. Indeed the whole story is a romantic fiction, probably the use of some real people as characters was meant as a joke, or to add to the impression that the concocted fiction was a true story. The truth will probably never been known, doubts linger still.
I have speculated that Barnard Gregory was the author of Eliza Grimwood, but then why would he beat around the bush disguising Brunswick as Lord Rakemore? Gregory was never one to mince words, fines and imprisonment meant nothing compared to his blazing hatred of the Duke of Brunswick and the “Oligarchy.” In 1832 Gregory was linked to another anonymous publication titled The Authentic Records of the Court of England for the last seventy years. The publisher, Josiah Phillips, sued for libel by the Duke of Cumberland, sold copies “from the shop or office for sale of the Satirist newspaper.” According to The Authentic Records the Duke of Cumberland, in 1814, was surprised in an act of sodomy on his servant, Neale, by another servant, Sellis, which led the Duke, fearful of exposure, to murder Sellis by cutting his throat. In the Satirist (8 Jan 1832) Gregory pulled no punches. “Well now, as to Sellis, it is not denied that the man had a pretty wife, or that the Duke might have had some liking for her, or that the man was a little jealous, or that he might have observed the Duke and her in an unequivocal situation, or that some other struggle ensued between the former and Sellis, or that they very foolishly wounded one another; but then, as to the Duke’s having anything to do with Sellis’s throat that is quite ridiculous; for it was cut quite secundem artem -- exactly in the regular way --just, in short, as men always cut their throats when they do it themselves; namely, through neckcloth and all!”
In an article in the Satirist on 14 Jan 1840 Gregory (or one of his writers) commented on the attempted assassination of Queen Victoria by Oxford, laying the blame on Ernest, brother of Queen Victoria’s husband Albert. “Now it is curious that among the few papers found upon him or at his lodgings, was one in which a list of names was written, containing the nicknames of the conspirators, and that one of these was nicknamed Ernest --- We do not mean to insinuate that Ernest bribed this fellow to fire off those pistols. On the contrary we are quite sure that if the attempt had succeeded, and that King Ernest had, by means of it, been placed upon the throne, that nothing would have come to light to implicate him, and that his first act would have been to hang Oxford -- still, there is something very strange about it, and an ignorant pot-boy may not have known what the policy of Kings is under such circumstances.”
The writer went on to say that “no one would have been benefited but King Ernest and the Tories,” and ended with a question echoing the question “WHO MURDERED ELIZA GRIMWOOD?” from B. D. Cousins penny blood-- “we inquire with some interest, and we should very well like to know -- WHO WERE THE INSTIGATORS?” Barnard Gregory certainly had no fear of reprisals, or of calling a spade a spade, or of naming names, which makes it unlikely (but not improbable) that Eliza Grimwood, a Domestic Legend of the Waterloo Road, was the work of his hands.
It’s hard to tell if Barnard Gregory was the originator of the rumour that Brunswick was the murderer of Grimwood or not. The rumour may already have been floating in the air based on descriptions of the perpetrator as a gentleman, even worse, a foreign gentleman.
Charles, Duke of Brunswick was born in 1804, son of the Hanoverian Duke Frederick William, who died at Waterloo. His father had a sister, Princess Caroline, who married George IV and later made an unsuccessful claim on the throne of England. Young Charles had a brother, Duke William born in 1806. On the death of their father the two boys were entrusted to the care of George IV. Charles was educated in Vienna and placed on the throne of his Duchy in 1826. His subjects found his conduct trying, he was “a strange compound of misanthrope and dandy --- As a dandy he was accustomed to lace himself up in stays, and to use rouge, pearl-powder, and other feminine cosmetics. He turned night into day in his way of life, and spent the afternoon in the curious and unkingly way of making up his face and figure for nightly show at balls and theatre.” In 1830 the Brunswickers could endure him no longer and rose up in revolt, burning his palace to the ground. Charles made no effort to flee, and might have been murdered had not a popular actress, “one of his pets,” thrown a shawl over his head and spirited him out of the city, through crowded streets of disgruntled subjects, in her carriage. Charles then took refuge, first in France, and finally London, where he lived in a “large house encompassed by a high Brick wall, nearly fronting Marleybone Church, in what is now called the Euston-road.” Duke William succeeded Charles to the Duchy.
William Augustus Fraser gave the following description of Duke Charles in his Reminiscences:
“Of all the grotesque beings that I have seen off, and I think I may say, on the stage, Charles Duke of Brunswick was the most remarkable. I have never seen any human being who had any resemblance to him: his face painted a deep red; his eyelashes and eyebrows dyed: a massive head of hair of an intense blue-black: and a thick beard of the same tint, he hardly looked like a human being. I well remember as a child looking at him with a mixed feeling of amusement and awe. I believe that he liked to inspire this sentiment: certainly his ‘make up’ was elaborate: and must have had some purpose.
He drove a C-spring cabriolet: his horse was a good one; with a redundancy of plate on the harness. I do not remember ever to have seen him walking nor riding: he attended Drury Lane Theatre every night; and occupied the proscenium box on a level with the stage on the prompter’s side. He was accompanied invariably by a lady, whose revolting ugliness did not redeem his character from well-founded suspicion. Finding, I assume, that the nightly performance of the Play or Pantomime, and probably the company of the same lady, monotonous, his Highness armed himself with ‘The Times’ newspaper: which he perused during the greater part of the evening.
As regards his diamonds, they were displayed in profusion on his evening dress; his shirt-studs, his wrist-studs, and, bigger than all, his waistcoat buttons were all of a size incredible to anyone who had not actually seen them: they were the Crown jewels, which at his expulsion from his dominions he put into his pockets.”
It was Charles’s profuse facial adornment (most native Britons frowned at full beards) and nightly presence in the theatres of the Strand that led to the rumours that he was the “foreign gentleman” who picked up Eliza Grimwood, accompanied her home, and then slaughtered her in a jealous rage with a Spanish switch-blade, in May 1838. Just for the record I don’t believe that Brunswick had anything to do with the murder of Eliza Grimwood. My main reasoning is the fact that Brunswick had numerous enemies and never would have been stupid enough to prowl the streets alone in the early morning hours looking for women, unaccompanied by his bodyguards, one of whom was the famous pugilist Jem Mace.
Eliza Grimwood’s cousin Hubbard was arrested after being fingered in a letter signed by a supposed eye-witness signing himself as “John Waters Cavendish,” and transported to Horsemonger-lane gaol. While awaiting transportation he was assailed by the mob with cries of “there goes the murderer!” before being rescued by police and taken away by coach. He was later exonerated and set free; a few blood-stain drops were found on his clothing but the coroner believed that the perpetrator would have been covered in blood, and there were no signs of Hubbard having changed his clothing or washed up. A search had been made for his missing razor, which was found, but again the coroner stated that the wounds were made with a Spanish switchblade with a blade about one half inch thick.
After Hubbard’s exoneration a “curious incident” occurred while police were making arrangements to hustle Hubbard out the back entrance to avoid an ugly crowd. Hubbard “retired to the further extremity of the office, and while sitting there he was addressed by the Duke of Brunswick, who was present during the proceedings that had previously taken place. The Duke, in imperfect English, expressed his regret, if Hubbard were innocent, that he should have been subjected to imprisonment and the other privations which he must necessarily have suffered since the discovery of the murder. The Duke then, possibly with a view of facilitating Hubbard’s exit from the office without molestation from the crowd, said, “If I were you Hubbard, I would cut off those whiskers and that would disguise you sufficiently to enable you to get away without risk.” Hubbard has a well cultivated set of whiskers. He had no conception at the time as to the rank of the individual by whom he was addressed, and his reply was, seeing that the Duke wore large mustachios, “If I were you I would cut off those black patches you wear upon your upper lip, and I think it would improve your beauty.” The Duke said “But it is my fashion.” Hubbard -- “Well, if it is your fashion to wear so much hair over your mouth, it is my fashion to wear the pair of whiskers you now see, and I will not cut them off, for I have done nothing of a criminal nature that should make me attempt to disguise myself.”
The identity of the “fiend in human form” who took the life of Eliza Grimwood will forever be unknown. One possible answer to the enduring mystery appeared in an obscure Victorian working-man’s newspaper called The Operative on 7 April 1839:
THE MURDER OF ELIZA GRIMWOOD.
On Friday a letter of which the following is a copy, was received at Union-hall police-office, on the subject of the above mentioned female, all the circumstances attending which excited such an extraordinary degree of interest at the time of its perpetration. The letter ran thus:-
“Thursday evening, March 28, 1839.
“Gentlemen -- before you receive this hurried note the body of the murderer of Eliza Grimwood will be in the Thames. Yes, I, and I alone, am the guilty villain who perpetrated the hellish deed, and in a few hours will receive my deserts. Stricken in conscience, and shunning all mankind, I add to my character the name of a suicide, rather than meet with an ignominious death on the scaffold. With my death will all particulars be in eternal oblivion, as no human eye saw poignard pierce her. The assassin’s name, to shield a worthy family from irreproachable disgrace, will be forever a secret. Do not imagine the writer to be some brain struck man. I am wretched. I can go on no further.”
The above letter, which was addressed to the magistrates, was written in good handwriting, and on examining the postmark it was found to have been forwarded from the two-penny post office, City-road.
Soon after the receipt of the above epistle, information was given at the office that the body of a respectably dressed man was found in the river, within a short distance of Broken-wharf, Upper Thames Street, but that no memorandum or document was found in his possession by which to ascertain his name or the residence of his friends. On Saturday Inspector Field, of the L division, attended at Union-Hall on other business, when Mr. Edwin, the chief clerk, handed him the above letter. Inspector Field, having been made acquainted with the finding of the body of a gentleman in the Thames on Friday morning, proceeded to the station-house in Watling-street, and from subsequent inquiries ascertained that the name of the deceased was George Green, that he had formerly been captain of a ship, but had latterly led a very dissipated life. The Inspector had no opportunity, however, of seeing a specimen of the deceased’s handwriting, to compare with the letter. At all events, it is rather a remarkable coincidence that the body of a well-dressed man was found in the river on the morning the letter was received by the magistrates.
On Saturday night an inquest was held on the body, when it appeared that about seven o’clock on Friday morning the deceased was found lying on his face in the mud, about four feet from shore, between some barges, and that on searching him a silver hunting watch, marked Marshall, 213, Oxford-street, and nine shillings and a halfpenny were found upon his person. He had also a half-pint bottle of sherry in one of his pockets. On stripping him, his shirt was discovered to be quite dry. It had been subsequently ascertained that the deceased had been captain’s steward on board of the Victory, east India trader, but that for the last three years, being in bad health from a liver complaint, he had been without an engagement, and had been living on what money he had saved; that he had, nevertheless, led a dissipated life, and had had his head-quarters at 151, High-street, Wapping. On examining his lodgings, a large quantity of Indian copper money, as well as a singularly extensive wardrobe of linen and general clothing were found. There were not, however, any papers which could lead to further discoveries. The deceased had quitted his lodgings on Thursday morning and had not since been home. He frequently drank to excess; but it was stated by the waiter of the Bengal Arms, Birchin-lane, where he had been in the habit of going for the last twelve months, that he left that house quite sober Thursday. The inquiry was adjourned to Wednesday.
*Update: Since I first posted this Marie Léger-St-Jean has discovered that the author of Eliza Grimwood was Scottish-Canadian Alexander Somerville (1811-1885) author of Autobiography of a Working Man. Somerville's story can be read in a 1982 article HERE.
**My thanks to Louis James and Mike Dash