There are always stories about art imitating life and life imitating art. It’s always amusing when doing your family history to find an event that seems to come out of one of your favourite books. In this case, Pride and Prejudice. We all remember the delight of Elizabeth Bennet’s younger sisters when the army came to town and that in the end it resulted in her sister Lydia running off with the less than appropriate George Wickham.
So imagine my amazement when, on a whim, I went looking for the Greacen name in the British (rather than Irish) newspapers and found this report in the Morning Chronicle of 24 August 1824:
MONAGHAN ASSIZES, AUGUST 3 – An action for damages was brought by Mr N. Greacen, a printer in Monaghan, against the Ensign Unit [think this may be a name, not a military unit], for the seduction of the plaintiff’s daughter. Damages were laid at 3,000L. The case was opened by Mr Holmes in a most eloquent speech. The direct and cross examination of the female (who stated herself to be only sixteen years of age) occupied a considerable time; and the case having closed for the prosecution, Mr Bell proceeded to address the Jury for the defendant, who declined calling any witnesses. The Jury having consulted for some time without coming to any satisfactory decision, it was at length agreed on the recommendation of the Learned Judge, to withdraw a Juror, each party paying its own costs.
Why I didn’t find this in an Irish newspaper? The OCR which indexes newspapers really doesn’t like the word ‘Greacen’ and so it’s one of those things that you need to know you need find! But searching in August 1824 for ‘seduction’ got a lot of results (and not just this case – seduction appears to have been popular in 1824). Most of the Irish newspapers of the time carried the story – word for word as above. Only the Dublin Evening Post of 12 August adds this tantalizing part to the story:
Although this story seemed to have excited extraordinary interest in Monaghan and the neighbourhood, we have, partly out of tenderness to one of the parties concerned, but more particularly from a conviction that its publication would be hurtful to public morals, determined to suppress a report of it which had been prepared for the press.
The other newspapers seem to have followed suit.
Like the long suffering Mr Bennet, my 4x gt-grandfather Nathaniel Greacen had lots of daughters – 7 in total (unlike Mr Bennet, he also had 2 sons). My research on the family so far has managed to find names for all the children, but only details on a few of them.
If we take the 1821 Census Fragment that lists the Greacen family as being fairly accurate in its ages of the children (and that is up for debate as no two documents seem to be the same on this!), then the Miss Greacen is probably daughter Nancy (aged 14 in 1821) or possibly Ellen (aged 11). Neither sister has appeared subsequently in any records I’ve found – so far but the OCR is conspiring against me here.
There is no sign in the newspapers that Miss Greacen married her Ensign. But I have no marriage details for the middle Greacen sisters. But you do have to feel sorry for her as it all went very public and her father’s solution was to sue for damages. At least they didn’t name her. But as we all know from Pride and Prejudice:
Loss of virtue in a female is irretrievable; that one false step involves her in endless ruin; that her reputation is no less brittle than it is beautiful; and that she cannot be too much guarded in her behaviour towards the undeserving of the other sex. – Mary Bennett
As an aside, the lawyer Mr Holmes also presents some interesting suggestions for further research. There was allegedly a marriage between one of Nathaniel’s daughters and a Holmes (and Nancy and Ellen are two I don’t have husbands for!). The Northern Standard, the local Monaghan newspaper, was founded in 1839 by Arthur Wellington Holmes and later run by his bachelor brother John. Just before his death, John sold the newspaper to a William Swan. This may have been Nathaniel’s grandson, son of his daughter Elizabeth and her first husband James Swan.
Children of Nathaniel Greacen and his wife Jane
From the 1821 Census Fragment we have the following children:
James – age 17 in 1821, born c.1804
Newspapers report James’ death in 1845, have not found evidence of family – yet.
Elizabeth – age 15 in 1821, born c.1806
Married James Swan around 1730 and had 4 children. James was tragically killed when a beam in his drapery shop collapsed on him in 1839. Elizabeth then married Richard Foster Blakely in 1841. His will lists 3 sons whom I am currently assuming are hers.
Elizabeth’s daughter Jane Elizabeth Swan married missionary Samuel Kelso and they immigrated to Australia. Her son Nathaniel Walter Swan followed his sister not long after and was a renown author. (See Rootsweb post for further details of their families).
Nancy – age 14 in 1821, born c.1807
Ellen – age 11 in 1821, born c.1810
Sarah – age 9 in 1821, born c. 1812
Jane – age 7 in 1821, born c. 1814
She is referred to in her brother-in-law Richard Foster Blakely’s will in 1891 as being alive and unmarried, but nothing further is known.
Hanna – age 5 in 1821, born c.1816
Newspapers report Hannah’s death at the age of 19 in 1839…
Rachel – age 3 in 1821, born c.1818
My 3xgt-grandmother – family records here in New Zealand have her birth around 1824…
Her brother-in-law Richard Blakely was a witness at her marriage to Robert Black in 1847.
And additionally, post 1821:
Nathaniel – born around 1823 and died in 1877
He married twice. Firstly to Eleanor Henry and then to an Esther who outlived him.