Shearsby: July 12, 1813. A deplorable state of outrageous madness

Readers of regional newspapers carrying the story in July 1813 will have been saddened to discover the fate of the unfortunate Elizabeth Weston of Shearsby. She had been found drowned on Monday 12th of July in one of the village’s ponds. At the inquest into her death it was found that pregnant, she had drowned herself after being rejected by the the putative father. A note had been found addressed to this young man ‘replete love, tenderness and forgiveness’. He, it was reported, had tried to copy her actions and only been prevented by his friends’ forcible restraint and remained ‘in the most deplorable state of outrageous madness’.

weston

The Ipswich Journal (Ipswich, England), Saturday, July 31, 1813

What interests me about this tragic story is how it has been shaped before publication. Most likely the case was picked up by people present at inquests in Leicester able to write up events as they took place and circulate them in newspapers. There is in this brief piece of reportage a noticable bias towards reconciliation. There is sympathy, of course, for the unfortunate young lady, but also for the young and unnamed man. While Elizabeth is named and commemorated, the young man is allowed to slip into obscurity and rebuild his life. Those people who knew all too well who he was would have been reminded on one hand of the letter and its words of love, tenderness and forgiveness’ and his remorseful desperation on the other.

Elizabeth Weston herself was buried in the village churchyard and a headstone put up naming her, her proud parents John and Elizabeth and noting the exact day of her passing, so that none should forget. She was 21 years old when she died.

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