Page:Devonshire Characters and Strange Events.djvu/153

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
105
EULALIA PAGE

band; (3) an ecclesiastic his superior, to whom he owes faith and obedience. The punishment of petty treason in a man was to be drawn and hanged, and in a woman to be drawn and burned.

Catherine Hayes was burned alive in 1726 for the murder of her husband. She is the Catherine whom Thackeray took as heroine of the story under that name. In 1769 Susanna Lott was burned for the murder of her husband at Canterbury. A poor girl, aged fifteen, was burnt at Heavitree by Exeter, in 1782, for poisoning her master. A woman was burnt for causing the death of her husband, at Winchester, in 1783.

A writer in Notes and Queries, August 10, 1850, says: "I will state a circumstance that occurred to myself in 1788. Passing in a hackney coach up the Old Bailey to West Smithfield, I saw unquenched embers of a fire opposite Newgate. On my alighting, I asked the coachman, 'What was that fire in the Old Bailey over which the wheel of your coach passed?' 'Oh, sir,' he replied, 'they have been burning a woman for murdering her husband.'"

In 1790, Sir Benjamin Hammett in the House of Commons called attention to the then state of the law. He said that it had been his painful office and duty in the previous year to attend the burning of a female, he being at the time Sheriff of London; and he moved to bring in a Bill to alter the law. He showed that the sheriff who shrank from executing the sentence of burning alive was liable to a prosecution, but he thanked Heaven that there was not a man in England who would carry such a sentence literally into execution. The executioner was allowed to strangle the woman condemned to the stake before flames were applied; but such an act of humanity was a violation of the law,