An Artist, who was executed in the Haymarket, 4th of April, 1761, for murdering a Woman
This was a murder which also considerably engaged the public mind. Though in the commission of the act itself, there may be some extenuation afforded to the unhappy man; yet the means he took to conceal it, are attended with circumstances horrible to relate. We have to lament that the woman might not have met her death at his hands, had she allotted some discretion to the limits of her tongue -- a weapon, we may call it, often goading a man to a frenzy of the mind, ending in horror.
Theodore Gardelle was a foreigner, a man of education and talents in his profession -- the fine art of painting. That he was not a man of a bad disposition, or given to irregularities, appears from Mrs. King's receiving him back as an inmate, after he had once quitted her lodgings.
He was born at Geneva, a city which is famed for giving birth to great men, in both the arts and sciences. He chose the miniature style of painting, and having acquired its first rudiments, went to Paris, where he made great proficiency in the art. He then returned to his native place, and practised his profession for some years, with credit and emolument; but, being unhappy in his domestic concerns, he repaired to London, and took lodgings at Mrs. King's, in Leicester-fields, in the year 1760.
Some time afterwards, for the benefit of purer air, he removed to Knightsbridge, but finding that place too far from his business, he returned to his former residence, where he was pursuing his business until the fatal cause arose, which brought him to an ignominious death.
The particulars of this shocking transaction, we have collected, partly from evidence adduced on his trial, and partly from the repentant confession of the malefactor.
On Thursday the 19th of February, 1761, in the morning, the maid got up about seven o'clock and opened the fore parlour windows. There is a fore parlour and a back parlour; both have a door into the passage from the street-door, and there is also a door that goes out of one into the other: the back parlour was Mrs. King's bed-chamber, and the door which entered it from the passage was secured on the inside by a drop-bolt, and could not be opened on the outside when locked, though the drop-bolt was not down, because on the outside there was no key-hole. The door into the fore parlour was also secured on the inside by Mrs. King when she went to bed, and the door of the fore parlour into the passage was left open; when the maid had entered the fore parlour by this door, and opened the windows, she went to the passage door of the back parlour where Mrs. King was in bed, and knocked, in order to get the key of the street-door, which Mrs. King took at night into her room. Mrs. King drew up the bolt, and the maid went in; she took the key of the street-door which she saw lie upon the table by a looking-glass; and her mistress then shut the passage door and dropped the bolt, and ordered the maid to open the door that communicated with the fore parlour, which she did, and went out; she then kindled the fire in the fore parlour that it might be ready when her mistress arose, and about eight o'clock went up into Gardelle's room, where she found him in a red and green night- gown at work. He gave her two letters, a snuff-box, and a guinea, and desired her to deliver the letters, one of which was directed to one Mozier in the Haymarket, and the other to a person who kept a snuff-shop at the next door, and to bring him from thence a pennyworth of snuff.
The girl took the messages, and went again to her mistress, telling her what Gardelle had desired her to do, to which her mistress replied, "Nanny, you can't go, for here is nobody to answer at the street-door;" the girl being willing to oblige Gardelle, or being for some reason desirous to go out, answered, "that Mr. Gardelle would come down and sit in the parlour till she came back." She then went again to Gardelle, and told him what objection her mistress had made, and what she had said to remove it. Gardelle then said he would come down, as she had proposed, and he did come down accordingly.
The girl immediately went on his errand, and left him in the parlour, shutting the street-door after her, and taking the key to let herself in when she came back.
Immediately after the girl was gone out, Mrs. King hearing the tread of somebody in the parlour, called out, "Who is there?" and at the same time opened her chamber door. Gardelle was at a table, very near the door, having just then taken up a book that lay upon it, which happened to be a French grammar; he had some time before drawn Mr. King's picture, which she wanted to have made very handsome, and had teased him so much about it, that the effect was just contrary. It happened unfortunately that the first thing she said to him, when she saw it was he whom she had heard walking about in the room, was something reproachful about this picture: Gardelle was provoked at the insult; and as he spoke English very imperfectly, he, for want of a less improper expression, told her, with some warmth, "That she was an impertinent woman." This threw her into a transport of rage, and she gave him a violent blow with her fist on the breast, so violent, that he says he could not have thought such a blow could have been given by a woman; as soon as the blow was struck, she drew a little back, and at the same instant, he says, he laid his hand on her shoulder and pushed her from him, rather in contempt than anger, or with a design to hurt her; but her foot happening to catch in the floor-cloth, she fell backwards, and her head came with great force against the corner of the bedstead; the blood immediately gushed from her mouth, not in a continued stream, but as if by different strokes of a pump; he instantly ran to her and stooped to raise her, expressing his concern at the accident; but she pushed him away, and threatened, though in a feeble and interrupted voice, to punish him for what he had done; he was, he says, terrified exceedingly at the thought of being condemned for a criminal act upon her accusation, and again attempted to assist her by raising her up, as the blood still gushed from her mouth in great quantities; but she still exerted all her strength to keep him off, and still cried out, mixing threats with her screams; he then seized an ivory comb with a sharp taper point continued from the back, for adjusting the curls of her hair, which lay upon her toilet, and threatened her in his turn to prevent her crying out; but she still continued to cry out, though with a voice still fainter and fainter, he struck her with this instrument, probably in the throat, upon which the blood flowed from her mouth in yet greater quantities, and her voice was quite stopped: he then drew the bed-clothes over her, to prevent her blood from spreading on the floor, and to hide her from his sight; he stood, he says, some time motionless by her, and then fell down by her side in a swoon. When he came to himself, he perceived the maid was come in; he therefore went out of the room without examining the body to see if the unhappy wretch was quite dead, and his confusion was then so great, that he staggered against the wainscot, and hit his head, so as to raise a bump over his eye. As no person was in the house but the murdered and the murderer while the fact was committed, nothing can be known about it but from Gardelle's own account; the circumstances related above, contain the sense of what he related both in his defence, and in the account which he drew up in French to leave behind him, taken together as far as they are consistent; for there are in both several inconsistencies and absurdities, which give reason to suspect they are not true.
But however that be, all was quiet when the maid returned, which, she says, was in a quarter of an hour. She went first into the parlour where Gardelle had promised to wait till she came back, and saw nobody. She had paid three shillings and ninepence out of the guinea at the snuff-shop, where she delivered one of the letters; to the other she had no answer; and she laid the change and the snuff-box with the snuff she had fetched in it upon the table; then she went up into Gardelle's room and found nobody, and by turns she went into every room in the house, except her mistress's chamber, whither she never went, but when called, and found nobody. She then made some water boil in the kitchen, made a bit of toast, and sat down to breakfast. In a short time she heard somebody walk over head in the parlour, or passage, and go up stairs, but did not go to see who it was. When she had breakfasted she went and stirred up the fire in the parlour against her mistress got up, and perceived that the snuff and change had been taken from the table; she then went up stairs again to Gardelle's room, to clean and set it to rights as she used to do, and it was now between ten and eleven o'clock. Soon after, Gardelle came down from the garret into his bed-chamber, which somewhat surprised her, as he could have no business that she knew of in the garret. When she first saw him, which was about an hour afterwards, she says, he looked confounded, and blushed exceedingly, and she perceived the bump over his eye, which had a black patch upon it as big as a shilling; he had also changed his dress, and had written another letter with which he sent her into Great Suffolk Street, and ordered her to wait for an answer; she went directly, and when she returned, which was in a quarter of an hour, she found him sitting in the parlour, and told him the gentleman would be there in the evening. He then told her that a gentleman had been in the room with her mistress, and that she was gone out with him in a hackney coach. It appears, by this, that Gardelle knew the maid was acquainted with his mistress's character. The maid, however, though she might have believed this story at another time, could not believe it now; she was not absent above a quarter of an hour; she had left her mistress in bed, and the time would not have permitted her receiving a gentleman there, her being dressed, a coach being procured, and her having gone out in it; besides, when she came back, she knew Gardelle was in her chamber. This gave her some suspicion, but it was of nothing worse than that Gardelle and her mistress had been in bed together. She went, however, and looked at the door of the chamber, which opened into the parlour, and which she had opened by her mistress's order, and found it again locked. About one o'clock another lodger, Mr. Wright's servant, Thomas Pelsey, came and told the maid at the door that the beds must be got ready, because his master intended to come hither in the evening, but did not go in. The maid still wondered that her mistress did not rise; and supposed that, knowing she came in from her errand while Gardelle was yet in her chamber, she was ashamed to see her. Gardelle, in the mean time, was often up and down stairs; and about three o'clock he sent her with a letter to one Broshet, at the Eagle and Pearl in Suffolk Street. As he knew that it would be extremely difficult to conceal the murder, if the maid continued in the house, he determined that he would, if possible, discharge her: but as the girl could not write, and as he was not sufficiently acquainted with our language to draw a proper receipt, he requested Mr. Broshet, in this letter, to write a receipt for him, and get the maid to sign it, directing her to deliver it to him when he paid her; he did not, however, acquaint her with his design. When Mr. Broshet had read the letter, he asked her if she knew that Mr. Gardelle was to discharge her; she said no. Why, says he, Mrs. King is gone out, and has given Mr. Gardelle orders to discharge you; for she is to bring a woman home with her: at this the girl was surprised, and smiled, telling Broshet, that she knew her mistress was at home. The girl was now confirmed in her first thought, that her mistress was ashamed to see her again; and thus she accounted for the manner of her dismissal. She returned between three and four to Gardelle, whom she found sitting in the parlour with a gentleman whose name she did not know: she continued in the house till between six and seven o'clock in the evening, and then Gardelle paid her six shillings for a fortnight and two days wages, and gave her five or six shillings over, upon which she delivered him the receipt that Broshet had written, took her box and went away. As she was going out, Mr. Wright's servant came again to the door, and she told him that she was discharged and going away; that her mistress had been all day in her bed-room, without either victuals or drink, and that if he stayed a little after she was gone, be might see her come out: the man, however, could not stay, and Gardelle about seven o'clock was thus left alone in the house.
The first thing he did was to go into the chamber to the body, which upon examination, he found quite dead; he therefore took off the blankets and sheets with which he had covered it, stripped off the shift, and laid the body quite naked upon the bed; before this, he said, his linen was not stained; but it was much stained by his removing the body. He then took the two blankets, the sheets, the coverlet, and one of the curtains, and put them into the water-tub in the back wash-house, to soak, they being all much stained with blood; her shift he carried upstairs, and putting it in a bag, concealed it under his bed; his own shirt, now bloody, he pulled off, and locked it up in a drawer of his bureau.
When all this was done, he went and sat down in the parlour, and soon after, it being about nine o'clock, Mr. Wright's servant came in without his master, who had changed his mind, and was gone to a gentleman's house in Castle Street. He went up into his room, the garret, and sat there till about seven o'clock: then he came down, and finding Gardelle still in the parlour, he asked if Mrs. King was come home, and who must sit up for her? Gardelle said she was not come home, but that he would sit up for her.
In the morning, Friday, when Pelsey came down stairs, he again asked if Mrs. King was come home, and Gardelle told him that she had been at home, but was gone again. He then asked how he came by the hurt on his eye; and be said he got it by cutting some wood to light the fire in the morning. Pelsey then went about his master's business, and at night was again let in by Gardelle, who, upon being asked, said he would sit up for Mrs. King that night also.
In the morning, Saturday, Pelsey enquired again after Mrs. King; and Gardelle, though he had professed to sit up for her but the night before, now told him she was gone to Bath or Bristol; yet, strange as it may seem, no suspicions of murder appear yet to have been conceived.
On Saturday, Mozier, an acquaintance of Gardelle's, who had been also intimate with Mrs. King, and had spent the evening with her the Wednesday before the murder, came by appointment about two or three o'clock, having promised to go with her that evening to the opera. He was let in by Gardelle, who told him that Mrs. King was gone to Bath or Bristol, as he had told Pelsey. This man, and another of Gardelle's acquaintance, observing him to be chagrined and dispirited, seem to have imagined that Mrs. King's absence was the cause of it, and that if they could get him another girl they should cure him: they therefore were kind enough to procure for him on this occasion; and having picked up a prostitute in the Hay-market, they brought her that very Saturday to Gardelle at Mrs. King's. The worthy, whose name is not known, told her Mrs. King was gone into the country, and had discharged her servant. Gardelle made an apology for the confusion in which the house appeared, and Mozier or Muzard, as he is sometimes called, asked her if she would take care of the house: she readily consented; and Gardelle acquiescing, they left her with him. He asked her what her business was; she said she worked plain-work; he then told her he had some shirts to mend, and that he would satisfy her for her trouble.
All this while the body continued as he had left it on Thursday night, nor had he once been into the room since that time. But this night the woman and Pelsey being in bed, he first conceived a design of concealing or destroying the dead body by parts, and went down to put it in execution; but the woman, whose name is Sarah Walker, getting out of bed and following him, he returned up stairs, and went to bed with her. In the morning, Sunday, he arose between seven and eight, and left Walker in bed, saying, it was too soon for her to rise; she fell asleep, and slept till ten; it is probable that in the mean time be was employed on the body, for when she came down between ten and eleven, he was but beginning to light the parlour-fire. He had spoke to her the night before to get him a chair-woman, and he was in so much confusion he did not ask her to stay to breakfast; she went out therefore and hired one Pritchard as a chair-woman, at one shilling a day, victuals and drink: in the afternoon she brought Pritchard to the house, and found with Gardelle two or three men and two women; Gardelle went up with her and stayed by her while she made his bed, then the company all went out together. The chair-woman kept house, and about ten o'clock they returned and supped in Gardelle's room. She was then dismissed for the night, and ordered to come the next morning at eight. The next morning, Monday, the chair-woman was ordered to tell Pelsey the footman, that Walker was a relation of Mrs. King's, who was come to be in the house till Mrs. King returned; but Pelsey knew that she and Gardelle had but one bed, for when he came down on Monday morning, Gardelle's chamber-door stood open, and looking in, he saw some of her clothes. On Monday night he again enquired after Mrs. King, and Gardelle told him she was at Bath or Bristol, he knew not where; he differed at times in his account of her, yet no suspicion of murder was yet entertained. On Tuesday morning, Pelsey, who was going up to his master's room, smelt an offensive smell, and asked Gardelle, who was shoving up the sash of the window on the staircase, what it was; Gardelle replied, somebody had put a bone in the fire: the truth, however, was, that while Walker was employed in mending and making some linen in the pamlour, he had been burning some of Mrs. King's bones in the garret. At night, Pelsey renewed his enquiries after Mrs. King, and Gardelle answered with a seeming impatience, "Me know not of Mrs. King; she give me a great deal of trouble, but me shall hear of her Wednesday or Thursday;" yet he still talked of sitting up for her, and all this while nobody seems to have suspected a murder.
On Tuesday night he told Mrs. Walker he would sit up till Mrs. King came home, though he had before told her she was out of town, and desired her to go to bed, to which she consented; as soon as she was in bed, he renewed his horrid employment of cutting the body to pieces, and disposing of it in different places; the bowels be threw down the necessary, and the flesh of the body and limbs cut to pieces, he scattered about the cock-loft, where he supposed they would dry and perish without putrefaction: about two o'clock in the morning, however, he was interrupted, for Walker having waked, and not finding him, she went down stairs, and found him standing upon the stairs; he then, at her solicitation, went up with her to bed.
Wednesday passed like the preceding days, and on Thursday he told his female companion, that he expected Mrs. King home in the evening, and therefore desired that she would provide herself a lodging; giving her, at the same time, two of Mrs. King's shifts, and being thus dismissed she went away.
Pritchard, the chair-woman, still continued in her office. The water having failed in the cistern on the Tuesday, she had recourse to that in the water-tub in the back kitchen; upon pulling out the spiggot a little water run out, but as there appeared to be more in, she got upon a ledge, and putting her hand in she felt something soft; she then fetched a poker, and pressing down the contents of the tub, she got water in a pall. This circumstance she told Pelsey, and they agreed the first opportunity to see what the things in the water-tub were; yet so languid was their curiosity, and so careless were they of the event, that it was Thursday before this tub was examined: they found in it the blankets, sheets, and coverlet that Gardelle had put in it to soak: after spreading, shaking, and looking at them, they put them again into the tub; and the next morning when Pelsey came down, he saw the curtain hanging on the banisters of the kitchen-stairs; upon looking down, he saw Gardelle just come out at the wash-house door, where the tub stood. When Pritchard the chair-woman came, he asked her if she had been taking any of the clothes out of the tub, and she said no, she then went and looked in the tub, and found the sheets had been wrung out. Upon this the first step was taken towards enquiring after the unhappy woman, who had now laid dead more than a week in the house. Pelsey found out the maid whom Gardelle had dismissed, and asked her if she had put any bed- clothes into the water; she said, no, and seemed frightened; Pelsey was then also alarmed and told his master.
These particulars also came to the knowledge of Mr. Barron, an apothecary in the neighbourhood, who went the same day to Mrs. King's house, and enquired of Gardelle where she was. He trembled, and told him, with great confusion, that she was gone to Bath. The next day, therefore, Saturday, he carried the maid before Mr. Fielding, the justice, to make her deposition, and obtained a warrant to take Gardelle into custody. When the warrant was obtained, Mr. Barron, with the constable, and some others, went to the house, where they found Gardelle, and charged him with the murder; he denied it, but soon after dropped down in a swoon. When he recovered, they demanded the key of Mrs. King's chamber; but he said she had got it with her in the country; the constable therefore got in at the window, and opened the door that communicated with the parlour, and they all went in. They found upon the bed a pair of blankets wet, and a pair of sheets that appeared not to have been lain in; and the curtain also which Pelsey and the chair-woman had seen first in the water-tub, and then on the banisters, was found put up in its place wet. Upon taking off the clothes, the bed appeared bloody, the blankets also were bloody, and marks of blood appeared in other places; having taken his keys, they went up into his room, where they found the bloody shift and shirt.
The prisoner, with all these tokens of his guilt, was then carried before Fielding, and though he stiffly denied the fact, was committed. On the Monday, a carpenter and bricklayer were sent to search the house for the body, and Mr. Barron went with them. In the necessary they found what he calls the contents of the bowels of a human body, but what were certainly the bowels themselves; and in the cock-loft they found one of the breasts, some other muscular parts, and some bones. They perceived also that there had been a fire in the garret, and some fragments of bones, half consumed, were found in the chimney, so large as to be known to be human. On the Thursday before, he had carried an oval chip-box to one Perronneau, a painter in enamel, who had employed him in copying, and pretending it contained colours of great value, desired him to keep it, saying he was uneasy to leave it at Mrs. King's while she was absent at Bath. Perronneau, when he heard Gardelle was taken up, opened the box, and found in it a gold watch and chain, a pair of bracelets, and a pair of ear-rings, which were known to be Mrs. King's. To this force of evidence Gardelle at length gave way, and confessed the fact, but signed no confession. He was sent to New Prison, where he attempted to destroy himself by swallowing some opium, which he had kept several days by him as a remedy for the tooth-ach. He took at one dose 40 grains, which was so far from answering his purpose, that it did not procure him sleep; though he declared he had not slept once since the commission of the fact, nor did he sleep for more than a fort night after this time. When he found the opium did not produce the effect he desired, he swallowed half-pence to the number of twelve; but neither did these bring on any fatal symptom, whatever pain or disorders they might cause; which is remarkable, because verdigrese, the solution of copper, is a very powerful and active poison, and the contents of the stomach would act as a dissolvent upon them.
On the 2d of March he was brought to Newgate, and diligently watched, to prevent any further attempts upon his life. He shewed strong marks of penitence and contrition, and be haved with great humility, openness, and courtesy to those who visited him.
On Thursday, the 2d of April, he was tried at the Old Bailey; and in his defence, he insisted only that he had no malice to the deceased, and that her death was the consequence of a fall. He was convicted, and sentenced to be executed on Saturday the 4th. The account which he wrote in prison, and which is mentioned in this narrative, is dated the 28th of March, though he did not communicate it till after his trial. The night after his condemnation his behaviour was extravagant and outrageous; yet the next morning he was composed and quiet, and said he had slept three or four hours in the night. When he was asked why he did not make his escape, he answered, that he feared some innocent person might then suffer in his stead. He declared he had no design to rob Mrs. King, but that he removed some of the things merely to give credit to the story of her journey to Bath; he declared too, that be never had any sentiments of love or jealousy with respect to Mrs. King; though it is evident, his friends, who prescribed for his lowness of spirits, supposed that he had.
He affirmed, that he regarded the woman they brought him with horror, but that he did not dare to refuse her, lest it should produce new suspicions with respect to the cause of his uneasiness. It is, however, certain, that he felt the ill effects of her company in more ways than one to his last hour.
He was executed amidst the shouts and hisses of an indignant populace, in the Haymarket, near Panton Street, to which he was led by Mrs. King's house, where the cart made a stop, and at which he just gave a look. His body was hanged in chains upon Hounslow-heath.
One reflection, upon reading this dreadful narrative, will probably rise in the mind of the attentive reader; the advantages of virtue with respect to our social connections, and the interest that others take in what befalls us. It does not appear that, during all the time Mrs. King was missing, she was enquired after by one relation or friend; the murder was discovered by strangers, almost without solicitude or enquiry; the murderer was secured by strangers, and by strangers the prosecution against him was carried on.
But who is there of honest reputation, however poor, that could be missing a day, without becoming the subject of many interesting enquiries, without exciting solicitude and fears, that would have no rest till the truth was discovered, and the crime punished?