Letter – John Somers – 14 Dec 1838

Document Type: Letter
Date: 14 Dec 1838
Correspondent: John Somers
Archive Source: Misc Newspaper Cuttings
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       On the 24th of January, 1824, Mr. T. W. Beaumont, in an address to the ‘Gentlemen, Clergy, and Freeholders of the County of Northumberland,’ stated that lie found reports concerning him had gained credit which rendered him unfit for acting as their representative. He adds, ‘ I must, therefore, decline any further attendance in the House of Commons until I am able to repel the infamous allegations which have been urged against me.’ I can quite sympathise with the feelings to which Mr. Beaumont gives expression in this letter, although it happens that, in fact, he never afterwards did see fit to endeavour, in any way whatsoever, ‘to repel the infamous allegations urged against him.’ I cannot put myself in his position altogether, for I will not affect to believe that his infamous allegation with respect to me has gained any credit; on the contrary, I find that with regard to my conduct there is but one opinion amongst my friends, my constituents, and all those with whom a gentleman's good name is dear, yet I feel that an explanation of the transaction as between me and Mr. Beaumont should be given. The circumstance of my having been obliged to resort to personal chastisement lends it a prominency in the whole affair which it does not deserve, and of which Mr. Beaumont's French counsel skilfully, though not very honourably, availed himself. No English gentleman practising at the bar would have stated a case to which there was no defence, as the Frenchman did - no English judge would have permitted an advocate who had to deal with a mere assault to indulge in a tirade of abuse against an Individual for the motives which the beaten person, with his back still raw, chose to impute to him. The truth is, that my part in this last affair of Mr. Beaumont's respecting the fair sex, and the character of Ladies with or without ‘supernatural interference’ (he still maintains he was so favoured in the case of Lady Swinburne), is a very brief one. I came in only at the end: first, as a mediator; and then, being myself infamously assailed, and finding it impossible to get either retractation, apology, or satisfaction, as an avenger-so far, at least, as lashing a mere slanderer's back can entitle me to the appellation. This has not yet appeared to the public, and I am well aware that the delay in the promised publication of my case, for other reasons as well as that to which I now allude, must tend to unsettle men's minds with regard to the refutation of the calumnies against me, which I have pledged myself to meet. My friend, Mr. Dillon Browne to whom I entrusted all my papers, and who went for me to Paris, has not yet returned. I am unable to account for his prolonged absence. In all cases in which character is involved time is precious. Slander soon, for the multitude, becomes history. I am therefore anxious to put forth an outline of my case, in respect to Mr. Beaumont, with a simple reference to the contents of documents, which I pledge myself to publish in their entirety upon Mr. Browne's return. The affidavit made by the Honourable Mr. King will form the best introduction to my statement. I have only a copy near me, in which there are blanks for dates. These were filled up in the original. by reference to documents:- 

       The Honourable Robert King, of York-place, Port man-square, in the county of Middlesex, maketh oath and saith, that he is the eldest son of Lord Viscount Lorton, a peer of the Imperial Parliament. That this deponent is married to Anne Gore, the daughter of the late and sister of the present Sir Gore Booth, Baronet, and was formerly a member of Parliament for the county of Roscommon, and was well acquainted with Thomas Wentworth Beaumont, Esq., then member of the Imperial Parliament for the county of Northumberland, and that he had been intimately acquainted with the said Thomas Wentworth Beaumont for some years. That in the month of [space left],in the year one thousand eight hundred and [space left], the said Thomas Wentworth Beaumont was in Ireland, and that deponent met him in the borough of Sligo, near which this deponent then resided. That meeting the said Thomas Wentworth Beaumont, as an old friend, in a strange country, deponent forthwith invited him to his house, where during the space of [space left] he entertained the said Thomas Wentworth Beaumont hospitably. That the said Thomas Wentworth Beaumont, after he had been a few days in this deponent's house, proposed to lend this deponent the sum of £10,000 sterling, which the said Thomas Wentworth Beauniont stated he had then lying idly at his banker's, and that the said deponent declined receiving the aforesaid proffered loan. And this deponent further saith, that having ascertained from his wife that the said Thomas Wentworth Beaumont had made dishonourable proposals, this deponent ordered him to leave his house, and forthwith sent him a hostile message, but that no meeting thereupon could be arranged. And this deponent saith, that the said Thomas Wentworth Beaumont made an ample apology to this deponent for his misconduct, and subsequently wrote a letter to this deponent, now produced to this deponent at the time of swearing this his affidavit, and marked with the letter A. And this deponent further saith, that after having received this letter he considered the affair between him and the said Thomas Wentworth Beaumont at an end, but this deponent subsequently learned that the said Thomas Wentworth Beaumont had, in various societies and in the presence of many people, after lie had made such apologies to this deponent as aforesaid, cast imputations upon the character of this deponent's wife, and stated that he, the said Thomas  Wentworth Beaumont, had received encouragement from this deponent's wife, which induced the said Thomas Wentworth Beaumont to act in the manner he had done towards her. And this deponent further saith, that upon satisfying himself that the said Thomas Wentworth Beaumont had actually spoken of this deponent's wife to the effect above stated, he addressed a letter to John Patrick Somers, Esq., member of the Imperial Parliament, with whom he had been for many, at least fifteen, years on terms of intimacy and confidential friendship, requesting him to obtain an immediate meeting with the said Thomas Wentworth Beaumont. And this deponent most solemnly and positively saith, that he never did in any sort, shape or way whatsoever, authorise the said John Patrick Somers to enter into any compromise of the affair of honour committed to his charge; nor did this deponent authorize the said John Patrick Somers, or any other person or persons whomsoever, to intimate to the said Thomas Wentworth Beaumont, or any other person or persons whomsoever, that in reference to the said matter any question of money could be contemplated, or under any circumstances or in any way whatever entertained.’ 

       This affidavit sets forth the cause of quarrel between Mr. King and Mr. Beaumont. My involuntary participation in the affair lies in a nutshell. Mr. King wrote to me as an old friend to call upon Mr. Beaumont to obtain from him either a retractation of his imputation against Mrs. King, or an immediate meeting. Being well acquainted with both parties I undertook the task, having little doubt that the written denial of a man's own utter baseness might be easily procured, and that the affair might be at once brought to a satisfactory conclusion. I sought Mr. Beaumont in Yorkshire. He had left for Cowes. Thither I followed him, and put Mr. King's letter into his hands. First he denied having spoken lightly of Mrs. King, but when I told him I was aware that Mr. King was well informed on the subject, and upon indisputable authority, he acknowledged that he had ‘in confidence’  talked about Mrs. King to Mr. Fitz-Stephen French, Captain White, and one or two others, and he made some vehement declamation to me in the same strain. I explained to him that he must either again retract and apologise, as he had done before his last slanders were uttered, in a letter to Mr. King (which I will publish on Mr. Browne's return), or he must give him a meeting. He would not do either. I remonstrated with him for a determination which was quite inconsistent with his own conduct and Mr. King's station in life, and entreated him to authorise some friend to act for him in the matter. I told him the affair must get publicity, and put to him how strange it must seem that a gentleman charged with the vilest offence of which a gentleman could be guilty (even supposing what he stated to be true) would neither deny the infamous conduct imputed to him, nor, avowing it, give the gentleman whose hospitality he abused, and whose name he Sought to tarnish, satisfaction. I added, how infamous it must appear to every honourable man that he should have offered to lend a large sum of money to his host at the time that under his roof he was endeavouring to seduce, or, according to his own story, trying to manage an intrigue with, Mr. King's wife! On leaving me Mr. Beaumont agreed to appoint a friend. Capt. White called on me, but I ascertained he had no power either to retract the scandal or to give Mr. King, a meeting. Unwilling to press Mr. Beaumont in a case in which I trusted the dictates of common sense would eventually prevail, I said I would give him ten days to consult his friends and make up his mind what he would do. We both started much about the same time for London. I had not been long there when I learned from Captain White that Mr. Beaumont had written to him, that I, upon the part of Mr. King, offered to compromise the affair of honour if he (Mr. Beaumont) would lend Mr. King a sum of money. I wrote directly to Mr. Beaumont, requesting either a denial or retractation of this stupid and infamous falsehood, or gentlemanly satisfaction. To make the matter short, I could get neither; Mr. Beaumont admitted that he might have mistaken the nature of my allusion to the loan from him to Mr. King, but he would not apologise- he would not explain-he would not fight. He went to Paris – I followed him - I flogged him. That I admit, and will put him to no trouble of the proof. I have already, through the press, proclaimed him to be a coward, a slanderer, and a liar. Let him bring his action in this country if he dare, where before an impartial I judge and twelve honest Englishmen I can justify, and I pledge myself I will justify, and let shame rest on me, and not on him, if I cannot. The documents to which I have alluded shall, I repeat, be put before the public the moment they reach my hand. 

       I have the honour to be, sir, your obedient servant, 

       JOHN P. SOMERS. 

St. James's Hotel, St. James's-street, Dec. 14.
This letter was sent by Somers to the Morning Chronicle and published in their edition of 15th December 1838. It follows the Parisian court case in which he was found guilty of assault (see JSTOR Primary Sources 01-01-1830, Eugene Roch, of 4th Dec 1838 for transcript). Robert King (1804-69) was MP for Mayo 1826-30, whose biography is given in the online History of Parliament.

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