Stealing Mrs Rawlins

The fragments come from The last Dying words and Confession of Haagen Swendsen, who was Convicted and Executed for stealing Mrs Rawlins an Heiress (1702).

That I had a Design to have Mrs Rawlins for my Wife is most true. I was told of her by a Neighbour and Friend of hers and then made a further enquiry, and found her Quality such as I might, without any exceptions, her Father being the Son of a Tradesman, the next was how to get into her Acquaintance, and not knowing how to be introduced, I prevailed with, and persuaded Mrs Bainton to take a Lodging in the same House with Mrs Rawlins, by which means I found easie Access to my wishes, and was as welcome to the Family as if I had been one of themselves.

By degrees I possess’d my self of Mrs Rawlins Attention so far that she seem’d uneasie without me, and frequently importun’d for my speedy return, and oblig’d me to sit next to her at Table, saying that if I did not she would not eat, and treated me with many private caresses, by which Lovers who have not frequent Opportunity of speaking do by signs and tokens express themselves. I do declare that I had as good Reception as a Lover could wish for, and all the Encouragement imaginable; Insomuch that nothing seem’d disagreeable to my intentions, but all things did promise to facilitate my Design with Success, she herself having told me that she was at her own disposal and would Marry to please herself.

My familiarity with Mrs Rawlins before my Marriage was so great that there was no room left for me to practise Violence upon her. Without any force or violence [my wife] declar’d to the Minister that she was at her own disposal, and free to marry me, which the Minister declar’d in open Court at my Tryal. After [the wedding] we had been in Bed [when] in comes one Mr Bennet a Constable, with some of Mrs Rawlins Relations, who requir’d me to go with them before a justice of the Peace. I refused to give Obedience to their Commands, which created some dispute. My Wife, hearing the Noise came out of the Bed-Chamber, desir’d me to be quiet, and let her speak to them, which accordingly she did in these express words: Cousin, I have Married this Gentleman with my own free Consent, he is my Husband, and this is my Wedding Ring, shewing the Ring on her Finger. Then said they, if it be so then God bless you both together, and drank a Flask of Wine or two with me, then departed.

They were no sooner gone but I ask’d her whether she would be willing to appeare and declare what she had said to her Friends to a Justice of Peace, and she said she would with all her Heart, then we went to Mr Justice Baber and declar’d the same to him. The next Day about 11 of the Clock, there came a Constable with a Warrant who said unto my Wife, Alas child, they made you Drunk and you did not know what you did.  To which she answered that there were a great many there present [at the wedding] that knew her Life and Conversation, that knew she did not use to be Drunk. He then ordered me to be pull’d away by force from her, at which she fell a weeping; and after I was Committed to Newgate.

In my Tryal Mr Justice Baber shewed himself coldly in giving his Testimony, and said that my Wife did confess before him that she was Married by her own Consent but at the same time he added that she seemed very much disorder’d. It is to be noted that my Wife did not deny in open Court that she had made the Declaration aforesaid to Mr Bennet the Constable, but said she did not know what she did when she said so, and many other things she positively upon Oath denied at my Trial. Among my many Misfortunes I was represented by my Wife’s Friends to the Court to be a Sharper and a Bully, but I called in and produced several Gentlemen of Repute to give account of my Life and Conversation, who have all accordingly attested the Honesty of my Principles by my Practise.

My Jury disagreed about the Verdict, there was one Mr Johnson who did declare that none of the Evidence did Prove or Swear that I used any Force or Violence to the Gentlewoman.  I am now going to suffer an ignominious Death for a Crime which my own Conscience doth not accuse me of, but the rigour of the Law has made it my unpardonable Crime. And as I forgive all Mankind, so I beg forgiveness of those whom thro’Inadvertency or otherwise I have injured or offended, beseeching God of his great Mercy to vouchsafe them forgiveness whensoever they shall ask it.

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