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30 May 2018: The Errington Divorce Case

We always enjoy showcasing our interesting and obscure works. In our library of over 20,000 volumes it may come as no surprise that we have some truly fascinating lesser-known titles. This week we are discussing a work that nowadays would more than likely top the gossip columns and ‘real life magazine’ segments if these media outlets were available at the time.  

If you pictured a law book or legal text, most would imagine large volumes of acts or minutes with complicated terminology - which i'm sure are interesting to those with the intellectual capability. However, this blog post is here to tell you that those preconseptions are not always the case! (Terrible pun entirely intended) 

The Trial of Mrs Harriet Errington… is the depiction of an extremely high-profile divorce case in the eighteenth century. The press became fascinated with the antics of Mrs Errington during her time in Lyme Regis whilst her husband was in Town. The interest in this case was most likely exacerbated due to the Errington's status as Mr George Errington was a wealthy London barrister. 

This work comprises of twenty-one depositions documenting the supposed behaviour and multiple extra-marital affairs of Harriet Errington. There are graphic descriptions from many individuals such as; Jacob Endamaur, a servant of George Errington; Philip Dixon, a clerk to George Errington; and Simon Orchard a foot-boy to one Mr Branston, whose house Mrs Errington stayed during many of the extra-marital affairs. During his testimony Orchard even reported that Errington sexually harassed him whilst he was sleeping. One interesting figure deposed in this work is Robert Browning, the father of the English poet and playwright of the same name. Browning Sr. was a clerk at the Bank of England and, according to his deposition knew the couple well. 

Our copy of this work is likely a spurious edition as its pagination differs from copies held at the ESTC. Despite this, the work is still extremely scarce. The potentially pirated origins of this work just demonstrates how popular this case was. 

The proceedings of this court case were so popular that there were many subsequent publications on the matter including one issued by R Randall, a biographical work titled 'The Memoirs of Mrs Harriot Errington'.  However, it is very unlikely to have been written by Ms Errington herslef. 

The court granted Mr Errington the divorce he required in 1785 before he acquired a Private Act of Parliament in the House of Lord's in 1788 which allowed him to remarry. He did so in 1794. Following the divorce proceedings Mr Errington was far from living a quiet life as, having been married a few short months to his new wife, he was shot dead by his former mistress, Anne Broadrick in the drawing room of his house in Grays Thurrock.  
George Errington was a curious character and the scandal and mystery that surrounded his life has been the subject of many writings. More details on his murder can be found at the Thurrock Local History Society website. 
 
We have many interesting Legal and Law works in our library, feel free to take a look at the category on our website. Feel free to contact us if you have any queries! 

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