Sunday, January 15, 2012

Deluged in Blood

I've written previously about the suicide of Thomas STEVENS (1782-1832), whose mother was first cousin to the Right Honourable John Lord Rolle of Stevenstone. An account of his death in The Annual Register describes how he cut his own throat and died in the arms of his wife, "deluged in blood flowing in torrents."

Far less melodramatic, and probably far more accurate, is this account from Trewman's Exeter Flying Post:
Trewman's Exeter Flying Post, Thursday, 19 Jan 1832

THE LATE THOMAS STEVENS, ESQ.
     It is with feelings of grief to which we are at loss for words to give utterance that we announce the death of this gentleman. Educated for the Bar, he early displayed talents of a superior order, and having been selected by Mr. Courtenay, Recorder of this city, on several occasions, in his unavoidable absence, to officiate as his deputy, his services were thought so highly of, that on the resignation of that gentleman, in 1820, was invited by the Chamber to fill the situation in his stead. How he has performed the duties of it is known to the whole city. Indefatigable in the prosecution of these, he was ever at hand to advise and direct, and his instructions to the different Grand Juries, were marked by sound sense, a thorough knowledge of the state of society and its best interests, as well as of the law. The melancholy event by which the public are deprived of the services of such a man, is no subject for comment; that such a mind should have given way under, unquestionably, great mental excitement, is one of those circumstances that must remain inscrutable to human understanding, and should teach us all how weak and dependent, even at the best, we are. As a country gentleman, Mr. Stevens had ever taken an active part in the business of the district in which he resided, and long held the commission of Major, in the North Devon Regiment of Yeoman Calvary, in which situation, as in all others, he was beloved and respected. The deceased was 49 years of age, a remarkably affectionate husband, and tender father; a good and considerate landlord, and kind master. Possessed of feelings like these, late events in his neighbourhood had much distressed him, and threats towards one who designed nothing but good, preyed upon his mind. He had been subject to walk in his sleep, and it is imagined that having in this way quitted his bed, under apprehensions that the conspirators were attacking his mansion-house, and the servants (at that hour,) not instantly answering his call, he first fired a loaded pistol in the direction of the shrubbery, and with a razor cut his throat. This sad event, as will been seen by the evidence, took place at his seat,—Cross, near Torrington, about half-past one o'clock, on the morning of Saturday last, the 14th inst. On the same day, an inquest was taken before Francis Kingdon, Esq., Coroner,—when
     Edmund Herring Caddy, Esq., of Great Torrington, Surgeon, was the first witness examined:—Saw the deceased on Thursday last, at Great Torrington, his spirits appeared very low and dejected; saw him again on Friday, between the hours of 4 and 5 in the afternoon, he appeared still more dejected in mind and very low in spirits—he stated that he had not slept for several nights, and that his mind had been much harrassed; advised deceased to put his feet in warm water and go to bed, and that he would send him some medicine; deceased complained of a pain in his head, and said that his stomach was in a disordered state from bile; was again send for between the hours of 1 and 2 o'clock on Saturday morning when he found him dead, deceased was lying on his back in his dressing-room which was covered with blood, an open razor on his bowels, and a pistol on the floor; on examining the body found a large wound on the throat extending from ear to ear, which had divided the carotid arteries and the windpipe, the wound extended back to the vertebrae; of the neck, which must have caused immediate death, and which the cause of the death of the deceased; found no other wound on the body, nor any marks of violence; has no doubt that the deceased died by his own act; the symptoms under which the deceased has labored very frequently produces delirium and temporary derangement of mind.
     Thomas Sandford, a servant to the deceased; have observed my master has failed in his appetite for some time past, and that on Friday he appeared quite melancholy, that he was continually passing from room to room, and was so weak that he could scarcely walk upright; remarked to the servants the state in which my master was in; my master retired to his bed about 5 o'clock in the evening; about half-past 1 my master's bell rang continually which awoke me; wend down in my small clothes and Mary Elsworthy who had answered the bell called "he is killed, he is killed;" saw nothing more until Mr. Caddy arrived, who examined the body; is quite sure that no person could come into the house as he had himself secured the house, and is of opinion died by his own act.
     John Upstone, heard my master's bell ring about half-past 1 on Saturday morning; struck a light and went down to my master's dressing-room, and entered it with Mary Elsworthy the maid servant; saw the deceased lying on the floor covered with blood; his throat was cut from ear to ear; lifted him up with the assistance of Mary Elsworthy; saw no sign of life left but heard on laying him down again a rattle in the throat of deceased three times; saw a razor on the upper part of the thigh which was covered with blood; washed the body after Mr. Caddy, which was covered with blood; washed the body after Mr. Caddy, surgeon, had examined it; there is no possibility of any person entering the room of the deceased by the window; has no doubt deceased died by his own act; there was also a pistol lying on the floor, but did not examine it.
     The evidence being gone through, and the Coroner having summed up, the Jury delivered their verdict, That the deceased labouring under a grievous disease of body, and being delirious and out of his mind, had inflicted on himself a mortal wound of which he died.
     Mr. Stevens has left a widow, and two daughters, of tender years, who with numerous relatives, and still more numerous friends, mourn this great bereavement.
Thomas married Sophia LE MARCHANT (1798-1860), daughter of Joshua LE MARCHANT (1763- ?) and Sarah Susannah GLUBB, at Sidmouth, Devon on 14 May 1821. Thomas and Sophia had two daughters. Sophia (1822-1892) and Louisa Annie (1828-1868).

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