Sacred Texts  Sagas and Legends  English Folklore  Index  Previous  Next 


"News from Penryn, in Cornwall, of a most bloody and unexampled Murder."

SUCH was the title of a black-letter pamphlet of eight pages referred to by Lysons. This curious book does not appear to be in existence.

Mr Davies Gilbert, who possessed much property in the parish of Gluvias, was especially interested in the farm of Bohelland, the place which has been rendered for ever notorious, as having been the scene of Lillo's tragedy of "Fatal Curiosity."

From a work entitled "The Reign and Death of King James of Great Britain," Mr Gilbert quotes as follows:-

"He had been blessed with ample possessions and fruitful issue, unhappy only in a younger son, who, taking liberty from his father's bounty, and with a crew of like condition, that wearied on land, they went roving to sea, and, in a small vessel southward, took boot from all they could master. And so increasing force and wealth, ventured on a Turk's man in the Streights; but by mischance their own powder fired themselves, and our gallant, trusting to his skilful swimming, got on shore upon Rhodes, with the best of his jewels about him; where, offering some to sale to a Jew, who knew them to be the Governor's of Algier, he was apprehended, and, as a pirate, sentenced to the galleys among other Christians, whose miserable slavery made them all studious of freedom, and with wit and valour took opportunity and means to murder some officers, got on board of an English ship, and came safe to London; where his misery, and some skill, made him servant to a surgeon, and sudden preferment to the East Indies. There, by this means, he got money; with which returning back, he designed himself for his native county, Cornwall. And in a small ship from London, sailing to the west, was cast away upon that coast. But his excellent skill in swimming, and former fate to boot, brought him safe to shore; where, since his fifteen years' absence, his father's former fortunes much decayed, now retired him not far off to a country habitation, in debt and danger.

"His sister he finds married to a mercer, a meaner snatch than her birth promised. To her, at first, he appears a poor stranger, but its private reveals himself, and withal what jewels and gold he had concealed in a bow-case about him; and concluded that the next day he intended to appear to his parents, and to keep his disguise till she and her husband should meet, and make their common joy complete. Being come to his parents, his humble behaviour, suitable to his suit of clothes, melted the old couple to so much compassion as to give him covering from the cold season under their outward roof; and by degrees his travelling tales, told with passion to the aged people, made him their guest so long by the kitchen fire, that the husband took leave and went to bed. And soon after his true stories working compassion in the weaker vessel, she wept, and so did he; but compassionate of her tears, he comforted her with a piece of gold, which gave assurance that he deserved a lodging, to which she brought him; and being in bed, showed her his girdled wealth, which he said was sufficient to relieve her husband's wants, and to spare for himself and being very weary, fell fast asleep.

"The wife tempted with the golden bait of what she had, and eager of enjoying all, awakened her husband with this news, and her contrivance what to do; and though with horrid apprehensions he oft refused, yet her puling fondness (Eve's enchantments) moved him to consent, and rise to be master of all, and both of them to murder the man, which instantly they did; covering the corpse under the clothes till opportunity to convey it out of the way.

"The early morning hastens the sister to her father's house, where she with signs of joy, inquires for a sailor that should lodge there the last night; the parents slightly denied to have seen any such, until she told them that he was her brother, her lost brother; by that assured scar upon his arm, cut with a sword in his youth, she knew him; and were all resolved this morning to meet there and be merry.

"The father hastily runs up, finds the mark, and with horrid regret of this monstrous murder of his own son, with the same knife cuts his own throat.

"The wife went up to consult with him, where, in a most strange manner beholding them both in blood, wild and aghast, with the instrument at hand, readily rips herself up, and perishes on the same spot.

"The daughter, doubting the delay of their absence, searches for them all, whom she found out too soon; with the sad sight of this scene, anti being overcome with horror and amaze of this deluge of destruction, she sank down and died ; the fatal end of that family. The truth of which was frequently known, and flew to court in this guise; but the imprinted relation conceals their names, in favour to some neighbour of repute and kin to that family. The same sense makes me therein silent also."--Gilbert," vol. ii. p. 100

Mr Harris of Salisbury, in his "Philological Inquiries," says of Lillo's tragedy :-

"It is no small praise to this affecting fable that it so much resembles the 'Oedipus Tyrannus' of Sophocles. In both tragedies, that which apparently leads to joy, leads in its completion to misery; both tragedies concur in the horror of their discoveries, and both in those great outlines of a truly tragic revolution (according to the nervous sentiment of Lillo himself)--

'The two extremes of life,
The highest happiness the deepest woe
With all the sharp and bitter aggravations
Of such a vast transition.' "

Next: Goldsithney Fair and the Glove