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The Littlehampton LibelsA Miscarriage of Justice and a Mystery about Words in 1920s England$

Christopher Hilliard

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198799658

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198799658.001.0001

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A Craze for This Sort of Thing

A Craze for This Sort of Thing

(p.41) 3 A Craze for This Sort of Thing
The Littlehampton Libels

Christopher Hilliard

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

The campaign of abusive letters led to a successful private prosecution of Rose Gooding by Edith Swan. This chapter explains the legal context of the Littlehampton case, discussing access to justice and the nature of criminal libel. Libel could graduate from a civil matter to a criminal one if public order was involved in some way, even figurative: if the libel touched on ‘infamous’ matters (such as homosexuality); if the libel undermined confidence in public institutions such as the police or the judiciary; or if it was repetitive, part of a harassment campaign that disturbed ‘the peace and harmony of the community’. The practice, and even much of the theory, of this now defunct offence must be pieced together from unreported cases, and the account in this chapter is based on an extensive sample of unpublished case files.

Keywords:   criminal libel, defamatory libel, legal aid, access to justice, private prosecutions, harassment, public order, breach of the peace

The most destructive letter went all the way to Iraq, where Edith Swan’s fiancé was serving with the British occupying forces. In August 1920 Bert Boxall received a letter purporting to be from Edith Russell, the Swans’ neighbour at 49 Western Road. The writer informed Boxall that Constable Russell had ‘gone away with Miss Swan who was expecting a baby by him’. Boxall’s letter was written in the same hand as the libels circulating in Littlehampton. The writer claimed to have found Boxall’s address on some old envelopes that Edith Swan had given to the children of ‘my friend Mrs. Gooding’ to play with, thereby dragging Rose into the matter.1 Boxall believed the story and wrote to Edith breaking off their engagement, though within a few months it was back on.2

Other libels targeted more workaday aspects of Edith Swan’s life. Kate Leggett from the dairy on Western Road received an anonymous letter ‘to the effect that I should not send my washing to Miss Swan’.3 Swan also did laundry for the households of Charles Haslett and William Corse, who were partners in a photographic studio on Western Road for less than a year before moving on, Corse to South America and Haslett to Fulham. At the beginning of September 1920 they received a letter ‘purporting to be signed by Mrs R. E. Gooding and about Miss Swan’. The gist of the letter was that ‘if the people knew what the Swan’s were, they would not let them have their washing’.4 The day the photographers received their letter, Edith dropped by to ask ‘if a slanderous letter had been received from Mrs Gooding who was trying to get her work’. Edith hoped Haslett and Corse would stick with her.5

Struggling to remember the details, Haslett said he thought the letter was left at the studio rather than sent through the post. Though (p.42) many of the libels were mailed in the ordinary way, others were hand-delivered and some posted without stamps, obliging the addressee to pay to receive them. Sometimes the abuse and denunciation came enclosed in an envelope and sometimes on the back of a postcard. With a postcard there was the danger that other members of a household, whether family or servants, would see the message before the intended recipient did. This had been one of the objections to postal cards when they were introduced in 1870. Who, wondered a contributor to Chambers’s Journal, would write ‘private information on an open piece of cardboard that might be read by half a dozen persons before it reached its destination’?6 ‘[T]he post card, p.c., half-private half-public, neither the one nor the other’, wrote the philosopher Jacques Derrida a century later, conjuring with the postcard as a metaphor for the ways writing cannot always be tied to its origin or destination.7

Edith Swan’s brother Ernest was defamed on postcards that most likely passed through several hands at the Beach Hotel before they reached its manager, Ernest’s employer at the time. ‘Mr. Stacey, Manager of the Beach Hotel, received three postcards, all within a week, accusing me of stealing things. The first one he tore up, and the others Mr. Stacey handed to me.’ After an obscene postcard turned up in the Swans’ washhouse, Ernest ‘sat up all night in the wash-house’ in case Rose Gooding put another one there (‘We thought it was Mrs. Gooding who was doing it, because they were signed, “R.G.” ’).8 A subsequent letter taunted the Swans that they would not catch the culprit even if they sat up all night.9

The libels attacked the Swans selectively—Edith’s father never received one himself and none of them mentioned him specifically.10 All the same, the whole family became consumed by the affair. When Mr Bailey of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children made a follow-up visit to the Swan household on Monday 7 June 1920, after Edith had lodged a fresh accusation against Rose Gooding, ‘he was received with complaints about a number of anonymous letters that had been sent to the Swans; to Miss Swans brother’s employers, and to the Police’. The officer of a charity, Bailey of course had no jurisdiction, but he must have fitted the bill of an authority figure that afternoon. This was apparently the occasion, Inspector Nicholls recorded, ‘when old Mr. Swan broke in the conversation and said that Mrs. Gooding was a whore, and that her sister’s (p.43) children were bastards’.11 Perhaps he did not know that Bill Gooding was not Dorothy’s father.

Edith’s father took on the responsibility of confronting the Goodings about the letters. He went to see them the day the postman delivered the first libel, an unstamped letter calling Edith a ‘bloody old cow’ and telling her to mind her own business.12 Mrs Swan recalled: ‘My husband took it to Mr. Gooding, and shewed it to him and asked him what he thought of it. Mr. Gooding said that no one in his house wrote it, and he said that neither he nor his wife had written it, and said, “Do you think that we should let the children do it.” ’13 Edward Swan retorted: ‘If you didn’t write it, you knows who did.’14 One evening later the same month, Mr Swan knocked on the Goodings’ door and handed Bill a letter that he said had been wrongly delivered to the Swans. On looking at it more closely, Bill realized that the letter was indeed addressed to the neighbours and took it back to Mr Swan, who said: ‘Your wife knows all about it, I heard your wife dictating the words to your daughter.’ Bill confirmed that Rose had been dictating a birthday note for her grandmother in Lewes. (Given that Rose wrote many letters herself, it is odd that she was dictating this one. She might have had one of the headaches she suffered from.) Bill Gooding did not ask Mr Swan what was in the offending letter ‘and He did not tell me’.15 And then, on an evening when all the adults were in the front room of 45 Western Road with the door open, Mr Swan threw a letter in over the doorstep. Bill was lying down while Ruth Russell bandaged his ulcerated leg, a chronic affliction for him. Bill told Rose to throw the letter back into the little courtyard where the passage opened out onto their house. She tossed it out and closed the door. Mr Swan was still outside and slid the letter under the door. Bill went to the police station to complain about his neighbour’s behaviour.16

After he returned home, Bill got ready to go out again, this time with Rose and Ruth. At this point Alfred Russell weighed in.17 The constable was at home at number 49, not on duty, though his authority as a policeman did not leave him when he hung up his uniform. He called out to Bill, who went to hear what he had to say. Russell told him he knew that offensive letters were going about and that Mr Swan accused Rose of writing them. Bill denied it. Russell ‘wanted to draw Gooding. I said, “If anyone accused my wife of writing these letters I should go for him,” and that if he did not it would shew guilty’.18 Bill declined to take the bait. He took his leave of Constable Russell and (p.44) headed out with Rose and Ruth. In the street they encountered Mr Swan yet again. ‘I told him I did not want to be accused or my wife or anyone concerning me.’ ‘That’s the one who’s doing it’, said Mr Swan, pointing at Rose.19

Mr Swan gossiped to other neighbours and family friends about the plague of letters. Reuben Lynn, a painter whom Mr Swan had worked with off and on over many years, eagerly became a party to the intrigue. ‘The Swans showed me 2 or 3 letters and I came to know the hand-writing’, he recalled. Lynn needed little persuading that the letters signed ‘R. G.’ really were the work of Rose Gooding. ‘I was at Beach Post Office on an occasion in June or July 1920, posting a paper to my daughter in Durham when I saw the little girl’—he said ‘Rosie Gooding’, but he was talking about Dorothy—‘at the post box. She came up and posted a letter and as she put it in the box I saw the name “Swan” on the letter … I saw Stephen Swan just afterwards in Norfolk Road and said to him:—“There will be another letter for you in the morning. I have just seen the little girl post one.” ’ The following day Lynn ran into Steve Swan again and Steve told him they had indeed received another insulting letter.20

A Craze for This Sort of Thing

Figure 3.1. Postcard sent to Bill Gooding on 30 August 1920. MEPO 3/380, National Archives

The Swans and their supporters appear to have been unaware of other embarrassing letters and postcards circulating at the same time. Rather than attack the Swans in the name of Rose Gooding, these cards and letters attempted to stir up conflict between the Goodings. Bill received two letters at Harvey’s shipyard a week apart. One of them accused Rose of ‘having men’ at the publisher’s house while she was working as a domestic there. The second letter read ‘Ask your wife who she was with on Tuesday afternoon on the Common.’ It bore the initials ‘V. G.’ and gave Pier Road as the sender’s address.21 A different kind of mischief arrived in the form of a postcard from Worthing at the end of August. Though it was addressed to Bill at 45 Western Road, he was unlikely to be the one who saw it first, given that he was out at work six days each week. ‘From your darling Sweetheart Philis’ was the entirety of the message.22 The front of the card depicted a woman in a bathing costume or a skimpy dress sitting on a rock, with the caption ‘Some of the birds down here are going about half plucked.’ The painter was W. Stocker Shaw, who provided the artwork for many of the suggestive postcards that were as much a part of the British seaside experience as rock and donkey rides.23 As ‘Phyllis’ was misspelled, it seems unlikely that the card was actually sent by a girlfriend of that name. It could have been (p.45) (p.46) the work of the Littlehampton libeller or a prank by a workmate. This card and the two letters Bill received at the shipyard were never accounted for in the investigation into the Littlehampton libels.

Apart from these anomalous pieces of mail, the offending letters, postcards, and fragmentary notebooks that circulated in the spring and summer of 1920 all led plausibly back to Rose Gooding. The signatures and initials were not the only identifying features. The libels included words and phrases that the Goodings were alleged to have used and their neighbours not. ‘I have heard them use the language that was on the postcard’, Edward Swan told the police.24 Edith claimed that she had heard Rose Gooding use the phrase ‘bloody old cow’ about her the day before it showed up in that first letter. Edith was in her washhouse while Rose was repeating her injunction to Alice Morgan not to talk to Edith or her mother: ‘they are a thorough bad lot, they are bloody old cows and crafty old mares’.25 Interactions with Rose Gooding had libellous sequels. In August 1920 Littlehampton’s sanitary inspector, Reginald Booker, received a letter ‘purporting to come from Mrs R. Gooding complaining of Mr. Swan’s rabbits and P.C. Russell’s fowls’. Booker paid them a visit and after inspecting the yard told Alfred Russell that he had too many chickens. He thought he told Mr Swan to take the rabbits away, but was not absolutely sure.26 (The rabbits stayed.) The way Russell remembered the encounter, the inspector examined the dustbin under the Goodings’ window and said: ‘If there is anything unsanitary here, it is that dustbin.’ Booker did not see the Goodings or Ruth Russell, but their children were leaning out the window taking in the proceedings.27 The following day, the sanitary inspector received ‘a letter containing abuse signed “R. G.” Western Rd’. He went to confront the Goodings. Booker told Bill he had ‘made investigations on the letter from his wife and that it was not fair that I should receive this abusive letter’. Bill assured him that Rose was not the writer. ‘Old Mr. Swan came out and there were a few words between Gooding and Swan.’ Booker said he was not there to get involved in a neighbours’ quarrel. He informed them that he would report the matter to his committee, ‘with a view of the Town Clerk writing a letter to the Goodings reprimanding them’. The next day he received a letter signed ‘R. G.’ that declared: ‘I don’t care for your Fucking Committee.’28

An officer in the West Sussex police summed up how it looked: ‘Any Person who went and saw Mrs Gooding on any Subject the next (p.47) day received a post card referring to the subject they had called on her about.’29 Constable Russell’s wife Edith registered a variation on this theme: ‘Mrs Gooding on several occasions sent in some cakes to my boy, and on one occasion a piece of fish. She always wrote a nice little note asking me to accept them, and the curious part about it was that on each occasion we received cake or fish, [it] was followed by one of these offensive letters or cards to my husband.’30 Practically all these dealings with Rose Gooding, however, could have occurred within earshot of Edith Swan. (And the Swans had more reason than Rose Gooding to abuse the sanitary inspector after his first visit.) Constable Russell, who was firmly of the view that Rose was responsible for the libels, told Nicholls: ‘I spoke to Mr. and Mrs. Gooding separately about the letters … Mr. Gooding in my garden, and … Mrs. Gooding at the door of her house. The Swans could easily have heard our conversation. About a week later, postcards began to reach me through the post, in dirty abusive language.’31 The witness statements read like monologues, but they are really one side of a dialogue, with the interviewer’s questions left out. The unexpected reference to the chance that the Swans overheard is a sign of Nicholls interrupting Russell’s story to confront him with a possibility that Russell had refused to entertain.

It was not just circumstances that counted against Rose Gooding: there was also the presumption that her family belonged to ‘a slightly rougher class than the Swans, Miss Swan in particular’.32 Frederick Peel of the West Sussex police elaborated with revealing artlessness on his reasons for thinking that Rose Gooding and not Edith Swan must have written the libels. ‘I have made enquiries respecting the character of Miss Swan and find that she bears a very good character, She is a very hard working woman, and what I have seen of her I do not Think that she would write such things about herself and send them through the post on post cards for every one to see, Mrs Gooding and her sister … have both had Illegitimate Children.’33

Peel, a Londoner long resident in Sussex, was the police superintendent at Arundel. The Littlehampton police reported to him (though it was much smaller, Arundel was more established, and Littlehampton was subordinate to it for some administrative purposes). Peel made his inquiries into the character of Edith Swan, Rose Gooding, and Ruth Russell after the Home Office reopened the case. At the time of the first libels, he and the rest of the West Sussex police force kept their distance. At least, this was their official policy: while the senior officer (p.48) in Littlehampton, Inspector Henry Thomas, chose to handle the matter through conversations with the Goodings, Alfred Russell went further.

Russell was an interested party: both he and his wife received obscene letters ostensibly written by Rose Gooding. Some time after the Russells began receiving them, Alfred paid a visit to the photographers Haslett and Corse. Haslett recalled Russell’s suggesting ‘that Mrs Gooding should be brought to our premises by letter and that he should be behind a curtain and when Mrs Gooding arrived, we should produce the letter and ask her whether she knew anything about it’. The photographers ‘refused to have anything to do with this matter’.34 Their defiance suggests they suspected that Russell did not speak for Inspector Thomas when he proposed setting this trap. Russell later approached the same solicitor as Edith Swan about the letters he was receiving, though he opted not to join Swan’s private prosecution.35

The Goodings took the libels seriously even before Edith Swan engaged her lawyers. As new people received inflammatory letters, Bill Gooding went to see them and protest his wife’s innocence.36 Rose confided to Alice Morgan that ‘letters were being sent about to different people in her name, calling them awful names’. Morgan got the impression Rose ‘suspected Miss Swan of writing them, although she did not say that Miss Swan had been doing it’.37 When Bailey called on 7 June in response to the second complaint of cruelty to baby Albert (whom Bailey found ‘happy and cheerful’), Rose ‘was in a dressing gown, with no shoes or stockings on, and was somewhat strange in her manner, and she told him she had been accused of writing anonymous letters, but had not done so’. Ruth Russell spoke to her employer, the solicitor Richard Sharpe, about ‘the unpleasantness with her neighbours … owing to their, the Swans, receiving abusive communications’. Sharpe gathered that ‘the Goodings were very worried about it and appeared anxious to find the author of the letters’.38

Their anxiety deepened in July. At the beginning of the month Edith Swan received two postcards that must have been exceptionally offensive: although at least twenty-six pieces of mail were admitted as evidence in Rose Gooding’s first trial, she was convicted on only two counts of criminal libel, one for each of these two postcards to Swan.39 On 5 July, Swan went with her mother to seek advice from the local justices of the peace, who convened in the Littlehampton council building every second Monday (in alternate weeks they met in (p.49) Arundel). The justices advised Edith to consult a solicitor. That afternoon she met with Arthur Shelley at his office in Beach Road. Shelley was a prominent Littlehampton citizen, serving as clerk to the urban district council and the poor law guardians, among other things.40 After his interview with Edith Swan, Shelley wrote a warning letter to Rose Gooding and began to lay the foundations for a prosecution.41

Shelley dispatched his managing clerk, a Mr Weir, to interview people who had received insulting letters and postcards, and, if possible, collect the libels.42 Ruth Russell asked Richard Sharpe for help. Sharpe agreed to try to sort the matter out informally. He met with Weir and together they went through the accumulated letters and postcards. Sharpe’s guess was some of the children in the house wrote the libels. Ruth Russell refused to believe this, though she confronted the children about it later the same day. The following morning she told Sharpe that all the children denied it.43 Although the Goodings and Ruth Russell felt shaken by the involvement of lawyers, the offensive letters and postcards continued to circulate. Shelley and his client continued to collect fresh libels from their recipients, but otherwise bided their time. Now that Shelley was involved, he started receiving obscene mail.44

In the distant past, most libel cases were criminal matters. Over the course of the nineteenth century, prosecutions declined, as the misdemeanour of libel was displaced by the tort. Paying damages to the victim, rather than going to prison or paying a fine, became the usual sanction the courts imposed on a person who defamed someone else. The decline of criminal libel was part of a general contraction in the scope of the criminal law in the nineteenth century, as Victorian liberal norms of self-government and self-restraint became a social reality.45 By the latter decades of the Victorian era, for an insult or allegation to warrant criminal charges rather than a civil action for damages it had to involve public order in some way. ‘There ought to be some public interest concerned’, explained Lord Coleridge in the most authoritative statement of the law, ‘something affecting the Crown or the guardians of the public peace (likely to be broken by the alleged libel), to justify the recourse by a private person to a criminal remedy by way of indictment. If, either by reason of the continued repetition or infamous character of the libel, breach of the peace is likely to ensue, then the libeller should be indicted; but, in the absence of any such conditions, a personal squabble between two (p.50) private individuals ought not … to be the subject of a criminal indictment.’46 In 1906 Lord Alverstone reiterated the point to a grand jury in Somerset: ‘if it is only of a private character, and there is an absence of circumstance which would show that the publication of the libel would disturb the peace and harmony of the district, the parties should be left to their civil remedies, and should not institute or pursue criminal proceedings for libel’.47

It was a long way down from these general principles to the nitty-gritty of prosecuting. In practice, criminal libel cases could be sorted into three categories. The ones with the highest profile were the also the most exceptional. Oscar Wilde’s prosecution of the Marquess of Queensberry and the dancer Maud Allan’s prosecution of Noel Pemberton Billing after Allan became caught up in the MP’s crusade against a supposed conspiracy to subvert the British state both turned on imputations of homosexuality.48 The circumstances were not substantially different from those in which an award of damages would be an appropriate remedy, but in these cases the ‘infamous character’ of the libels made them worthy of the sanction of the criminal law.49

The second kind of criminal libel case involved public institutions and their integrity—‘something affecting the Crown’, in Coleridge’s usefully loose phrase. Here criminal libel shaded into the territory covered by the law of sedition. People who denounced judges or made allegations about police misconduct could find themselves charged with criminal libel.50 A long disciplinary saga within the Metropolitan Police reached its climax when the former officer at the centre of it, John Syme, attacked the commissioner in a pamphlet, whereupon Syme was charged with criminal libel. Giving evidence at Bow Street Police Court, the commissioner stated that insofar as the defamatory statements affected him personally, ‘he would have been quite ready to ignore them, but in view of the mischievous tendency of the statements and of the apprehension that they might, if continued long enough, affect the efficiency and discipline of the force … it would become necessary to put an end to their further publication’.51 Courts also entertained criminal prosecutions for libels with implications for the smooth functioning of commerce and the professions. Stockbrokers and solicitors accused of corruption prosecuted their critics.52 Even impugning the probity of an electrical engineer or the creditworthiness of a labourer was sufficiently ‘public’ to justify a prosecution for criminal libel.53

(p.51) The last type of criminal libel proceeding, and the one relevant to the matter of Edith Swan and Rose Gooding, involved harassment. These were libels that ‘disturb[ed] the peace and harmony of the district’, in Alverstone’s phrase: writings that caused a ‘breach of the peace’ in a more figurative way than a brawl or a rowdy gathering.54 It was the nuisance the writing caused, not its falsity or its effects on the victim’s reputation, that mattered.55 Late one winter’s evening in 1932, a dock labourer named William Shepherd removed the plugs in the thin wooden partition between his family’s room in a Holborn tenement and that of their neighbour, Wilhelmina Flanagan, who was living apart from her husband. Shepherd ‘played at peeping Tom’, watching her have sex with a young man. The following day he wrote her a letter beseeching her to let him play with her breasts and lick her ‘giggly ball’. Shepherd’s wife would be out until 11 p.m.; if Flanagan was interested, she was to tap three times on the dividing wall. The letter ended: ‘Please burn this.’56 Shepherd delivered the letter in person, saying, ‘Take this & read it & see what you can make of it.’ ‘He went away, back to his room’, Flanagan recalled. ‘I picked the letter up, I started to read it. That was enough for me. I went to a friend & then to the police.’57 Shepherd was charged with criminal libel even though he had not defamed Flanagan (though he had certainly written explicitly about her body) or published it to a third party: his letter was disturbing and invasive, and that was what made it a libel. Shepherd pleaded guilty, saying, ‘I must have been mad.’58 He wrote to the clerk of the Central Criminal Court—the Old Bailey—begging for mercy. ‘I plead ignorant of the law of libel. I never knew how serious it is.’59

In another case from the 1930s, the fact that the defamatory statements were not without foundation proved no bar to a conviction. In Rex v. Gray, the ‘continued repetition’ of the libels was a factor in the decision to prosecute: Charles Gray wrote serially to the victim’s husband, in-laws, neighbours, and golf club. Gray worked in the hosiery trade, and on his travels he met Florence Browning, a buyer for a large firm of drapers. Browning earned a good salary and stayed in her job after marrying a stockbroker and settling in Surrey. She and Gray began an affair, staying together in hotels during business trips. Then Gray lost his job and Florence Browning began giving him money to tide him and his family over. Browning left her husband and went to stay with a friend, while still seeing Gray. After a month she returned to her husband. Gray was incensed and began threatening to disclose (p.52) their affair if she did not keep giving him money. Gray waited for Browning near her home and accosted her at Victoria Station as well as sending threatening letters. She was frightened and took out a loan to pay him off. All up, she gave him around £200, which proved insufficient to ward off the letters detailing their affair.60 And they were detailed: Gray listed the dates and locations of their ‘misconduct’—hotels in London, Nottingham, Wendover, Aylesbury, Amersham; Hampstead Heath, Wimbledon Common, on trains.61

The letters Gray wrote to Browning’s husband and then to others ‘grossly exaggerated’ the affair, but Florence accepted that there was a kernel of truth to his claims. This could well have derailed any civil action for compensation for the damage to her reputation, but it did not prevent the police charging Gray with criminal libel. ‘Mrs Browning brought this trouble on herself’, Chief Inspector John Sands noted at the foot of a police report, ‘but the position has now arisen that we must endeavour to protect her from this obvious blackguard’. Gray was arraigned and pleaded guilty, receiving a sentence of nine months’ imprisonment. Chief Inspector Sands described the result as ‘a satisfactory conviction for criminal libel on what was really—unfortunately the documentary evidence had been destroyed by complainant—a case of demanding money with menaces’.62

The defendant in a criminal libel case was often a former lover, or someone who had hoped to become a lover. A man who failed to strike up a romance with a woman at the printing firm where they both worked ended up charged with criminal libel after he wrote anonymous letters to their co-workers accusing the woman of sluttish behaviour, and to the wives of other men at the works claiming that they were having sex with her (when caught in the act of mailing a letter, he shoved it into his mouth, ‘tore a piece off and threw the remainder over a fence’).63 Rivalries and resentments in other institutions, not just workplaces, boiled over into harassing letters and criminal libel proceedings: local councils, branches of political parties, church congregations, even the Workers’ Educational Association (‘I still say your W.E.A. is a brothel’).64 Neighbourhood grievances, too, were fertile ground for letters that disturbed ‘the peace and harmony of the district’.

In September 1920, the Director of Public Prosecutions was called upon to rule whether there was sufficient ‘public interest’ at stake in the Littlehampton libels to justify criminal charges. Shelley wrote to (p.53) Sir Archibald Bodkin asking him to take up the case. Bodkin replied that ‘as the libels complained of were private libels and the matter was not of general or public importance, the Director did not feel, in view of the limitations under which he acts in prosecutions of this nature, that he would be justified in undertaking the prosecution’.65 Bodkin’s response was ambiguous: the letters to and about Edith Swan were too ‘private’ to warrant a public prosecution, but were they so private that they did not amount to criminal libels at all? Shelley clearly judged that the letters and postcards disturbed the peace enough to call for criminal sanctions. He and his client went ahead with a private prosecution.

This was an extraordinary step for someone from an underemployed working-class family to take.66 The legal bills could easily run to £30, a sum equivalent to more than two years’ rent for Edith’s family.67 The Swans had clearly saved a considerable amount through the tontine club and maybe other schemes, for there was no prospect of public funding to support Edith’s legal campaign. There was little in the way of legal aid available in England at this time. The provisions of the Poor Prisoners’ Defence Act of 1903 were circumscribed and unclear, and some judges simply bypassed them, relying on the old ‘dock brief’ system, whereby a judge could compel a barrister who was hanging around the court robed and ready to work to represent an impoverished defendant for a fee of one guinea. And neither the 1903 act nor the dock brief regime provided support for poor prosecutors.68 They were on their own, or dependent on the charity of lawyers.

With Shelley’s assistance, Edith applied for a warrant, and Rose Gooding was summoned to a police court hearing. A police court, also known as a magistrate’s court, was presided over by a stipendiary magistrate or by several justices of the peace, as was the case in Littlehampton. The justices—also, confusingly, referred to as magistrates—would determine whether there was a case to answer.69 After being served with the warrant, Rose Gooding called on Richard Sharpe ‘in a state of nervous excitement’. She insisted she was innocent and said ‘that she was distracted at these letters’.70 For whatever reason, Sharpe did not represent her.71 Two days before the hearing in front of the justices was scheduled to take place, Bill Gooding walked into the offices of another solicitor, Edward Wannop. He took the case on and instructed the barrister John Flowers, a Hove native who regularly appeared in Sussex courtrooms as both a prosecutor and defence counsel.72 Flowers had (p.54) a reputation as a cricketer and had been good enough to play for Sussex in his youth, though he enjoyed little success at county level.73 Flowers would represent Rose Gooding at both the police court and any subsequent trial. Wannop must have believed that Gooding needed a barrister’s firepower, because it was possible for a solicitor, who could not argue cases in court, to outline the case at the preliminary hearing before the magistrates.74 The hearing was set for the second Monday in September of 1920. That morning Rose Gooding went to her solicitor’s office saying she was unwell and could not attend.75 The justices postponed the hearing and arranged a special sitting the following week. On Wednesday 22 September 1920 Rose Gooding appeared in the Littlehampton council chamber before a bench of three justices of the peace chaired by William Rawson Shaw, a former Liberal MP.

Swan’s solicitor, Shelley, presented the prosecution’s case. Outlining the background to the matter, he mentioned that he himself had ‘received a most abusive and filthy letter from the defendant. Why he should receive such a letter he did not know, for he had never seen the defendant before she appeared in the Court that morning.’ Shelley called Swan to the witness box to tell the story of her complaint to the NSPCC, the subsequent note warning her to mind her own business, and the flood of letters containing repellent expressions that she had overheard Rose Gooding use when telling family and friends to stay away from the Swans. Edith wrote the phrase ‘bloody old cows’ on a piece of paper as she sat in the witness box and gave it to the magistrates rather than have to say the words aloud. Edith evoked the menacing feel of the libels when she described the time someone pushed a letter under her front door. It read: ‘I know I am watched by the Post Office, but there are more ways than that.’76 She told of receiving another at the end of July that warned, ‘You won’t frighten me with your solicitor’s letter’, as well as many unstamped letters that she refused to accept from the postman. Shelley called Charles Haslett and Kate Leggett as witnesses. Reuben Lynn testified that he had seen ‘the little girl Gooding come up to the box and post a postcard. He allowed her to post the card first, while he put on his stamp. He saw the postcard was addressed to Miss Swann.’77 Lynn ‘had seen similar postcards sent to Miss Swann, and that was why he noticed this particular one’. Reginald Booker gave evidence about the letters he had received ‘containing phrases similar to those in the postcards received by Miss Swann’.78

(p.55) Alice Morgan also testified. She had unexpectedly become a focus for suspicion and someone whom both sides at once mistrusted and courted. The day Rose Gooding received her court summons, she sent her son Willie to the restaurant on Western Road where Morgan now worked to ask her to come to the house at once. Morgan was surprised because Gooding had been shunning her. Morgan’s employers allowed her to take a break and go out to see Rose. She apparently did not detect any lingering hostility on Rose’s part. Ruth Russell was at home too, and the three of them talked about the summons. Rose said Morgan would probably have to attend the hearing too. Morgan replied she would not unless ordered to.79 This, at least, is how Morgan described the conversation. Edith Swan told Nicholls she had overheard something very different: Rose telling Morgan to deny knowing ‘anything about the letters and cards’. If she informed on her, Rose reportedly threatened, it would ‘be the worst day’s work you have ever done’.80

A week later Morgan had another visitor at the restaurant: Constable Russell. He showed her a letter with her initials on it. ‘The letter said that Mrs. Gooding had written the letters and I had posted them; and also that P.C. Russell was carrying on with Miss Swan, while his wife was ill.’ Next she had a visit from Weir, bearing a letter addressed to Shelley, levelling the same allegations and signed ‘A. Morgan’. She furnished Weir with a sample of her handwriting. Rose commiserated with her, saying that ‘they’ had finished with her and were now targeting Morgan. By this time Morgan and Rose Gooding were back spending a lot of time together. Yet there are signs that Gooding or others in her family harboured suspicions about Morgan, which may explain why Rose sent for her the day she received the court summons. The two women sat down and wrote out ‘A. M.’ together so that each could see how the other formed the letters. Before the police court hearing, Rose’s mother, visiting from Lewes, asked Morgan straight out what she had against her daughter.81

Morgan had been subpoenaed by the prosecution. On the morning originally set for the pre-trial hearing, the morning Rose stayed away unwell, Morgan encountered Edith Swan, her mother, and Reuben Lynn waiting outside the council building. Edith later asserted Morgan had told them all ‘that she knew that Mrs Gooding had written the letters and that she—Miss Morgan—had posted them … and that she would give her away at the following Weds. week at the hearing’.82 (p.56) Morgan strongly denied this claim when George Nicholls put it to her the following year.83 Even if Edith was lying about Morgan’s confession, Shelley must have thought that Morgan’s testimony could damage Rose somehow. Morgan’s conversation with Rose Gooding in the washhouse and the appearance of the same words used on that occasion in the offensive letter that followed were crucial to Edith Swan’s explanation of why she was sure Rose Gooding wrote the libels. At the hearing before the magistrates Shelley attempted to get Morgan to corroborate this story, but to no avail. Morgan said that she could remember ‘the interview with the accused that took place in the wash house, but she could not swear what the conversation was that took place. She was positive, however, that Miss Swann’s name was not mentioned.’84 She would later tell Nicholls: ‘It is untrue that Mrs. Gooding ever told me that I was not to talk to Mrs. Swan or her daughter, or that she ever said the Swans were a thorough bad lot, and bloody old cows, and crafty old mares. This was put to me at the Police Court, and I denied it.’85 Confronted in court with the letter to Shelley repeating the allegations that Rose Gooding wrote the libels and Morgan posted them for her, Morgan said that the letter was not in her handwriting, and reiterated what she had said to Rose on the subject: why would she ‘write letters to a gentleman she knew nothing of’?86

Gooding’s barrister did not call any witnesses; Flowers announced that Rose would reserve her defence.87 It was routine for defence counsel to decline to disclose their strategy in front of the magistrates and wait until the trial proper, though senior legal figures were heard to say that innocent people should reveal their defence right away, so that it could be investigated (and defendants had to do so if they wanted legal aid).88 All the same, in his cross-examination of the prosecution witnesses, Flowers tried out some lines of attack. He stressed that the handwriting was in dispute and attempted to have some pieces of evidence, such as the letter to Shelley, excluded on that ground. He even asked Edith Swan if she had written any of the documents herself, though when she answered no he did not press further.89

The magistrates committed Rose for trial. They offered her bail if she could find two sureties of £50.90 A carpenter who worked alongside Bill at the shipyard was willing to stand as one guarantor. Appropriately for an upstanding working man born in the nineteenth century, he bore the same name as the Free Trader Richard Cobden.91 (While Cobden’s name is inseparable from Lancashire radicalism, he (p.57) was born in Sussex and was buried in the churchyard at Midhurst.)92 Bill could not find another person to vouch for his wife, so she spent the twelve weeks until her trial in Portsmouth prison. Her solicitor’s clerk, William Smith, consulted Rose’s doctor, Robert Going, and came to the conclusion that this was not necessarily a bad thing. It would give the prison doctor an opportunity to see ‘whether there was anything mentally wrong with her’.93 This was not unusual. Two contemporary critics of the prison system noted that defendants in criminal cases were regularly ‘placed on remand in order that their mental condition may be observed’, and a committee appointed to look into insanity and crime reported to Parliament that ‘In many cases of poor persons charged with crime there is no known medical history and the opportunity of judging his state of mind comes when he is placed in prison on arrest or committal.’94 Generalist medical officers, not psychiatrists, made the judgements about prisoners’ mental health; only in a few places, such as Birmingham and Bradford, did prisons and local magistrates approach mental health ‘on the most enlightened lines of modern criminology’.95 Smith duly asked the governor of Portsmouth prison, Ernest Hall, to keep Rose Gooding under medical observation. Hall acceded, and in mid-November Smith heard from the prison’s medical officer, who ‘could find no mental disease in the woman’.96 The governor would later second this judgement in his letter telling Sir Ernley Blackwell that Rose Gooding had ‘shown no trace’ of insanity in her time at Portsmouth.97

Rex v. Gooding was placed on the docket of the assize court convened at Lewes, Rose Gooding’s hometown, in December 1920.98 Outside London, jury trials took place in courts that sat—the word ‘assize’ derives from the Old French for ‘to sit’—four times a year. Assize courts dealt with civil cases as well as criminal prosecutions, and they were presided over by high court judges on circuit. The south-eastern circuit’s second half was a favourite among the judges. As one of them reminisced: ‘All the four towns are within easy reach of London; it is throughout a single Judge circuit; the work is seldom heavy until Lewes, the last town, is reached, and there are many worse places in which to spend three weeks than in the lodgings at Lewes with a good garden [and] a view right over the valley of the Ouse to Newhaven.’99 The trials took place in the County Hall, erected in 1812.100

The judge on duty in the winter of 1920 was Alexander Roche. Born in Ipswich in 1871, Roche had proceeded from a local grammar (p.58) school to Oxford and on to the bar. His early experience was with maritime commercial cases, especially in the north-east of England. He accepted some criminal briefs as well as shipping cases, but the criminal work quickly fell by the wayside. By the time Roche was appointed King’s Counsel in 1912, his practice was exclusively commercial. When he became a judge five years later, he balanced hearings in the commercial court in London with assize work, which he preferred. Roche believed strongly in the value of the circuit system, and, being a lover of country sport, he appreciated the opportunities circuit work afforded for hunting, shooting, and fly-fishing on non-sitting days.101 He was not the ideal judge for a criminal libel case arising from a dispute between neighbours.

Flowers represented Rose Gooding once more. Shelley had instructed a barrister from Shoreham, Thomas Gates, to present the prosecution’s case. Roche faulted Gates for not providing any expert evidence about the handwriting of the libels.102 Such expertise was not new. The forensic scrutiny of handwriting stretched back to ancien régime France, and its exponents became visible in Britain and the United States in the last third of the nineteenth century.103 Handwriting experts had deployed their skills in English criminal libel cases well before Rose Gooding’s. In 1903, when a publican and his wife prosecuted an acquaintance for criminal libel over anonymous letters, one of which insinuated that the couple were not actually married, they secured the services of a handwriting expert who had been in the business for twenty years.104 Although Roche thought that expert testimony about the handwriting was desirable, he let the charges go to the jury anyway.105

Why did Roche wave the prosecution’s case through? He may have decided, over-cautiously, that if he did not he would be violating the rule that whether a libel had been committed was strictly a question for the jury, not the judge. This principle held a special place in the folklore of civil liberties in Britain, at least among lawyers.106 It dated back to the eighteenth century. Lord Mansfield, the dominant judge of the era, insisted that whether a publication constituted a libel—and he used the term in its old, capacious sense: a document that should be outlawed, whether because it was defamatory or because it was seditious, blasphemous, or obscene—was a question of law, and as such a question for the judge and not the jury, who were to confine themselves to questions of fact.107 It was up to jury to decide whether the (p.59) prosecution had proved that the accused did in fact publish the alleged libel, but the main question—was this pamphlet seditious or defamatory?—was out of their hands. Mansfield’s position was intolerable to many, and in 1792 the Whig leader in the House of Commons, Charles James Fox, successfully introduced a bill ‘to remove doubts respecting the functions of juries in cases of libels’. Fox’s Libel Act stipulated that in any trial for libel (again, in the widest sense) ‘the jury sworn to try the issue may give a general verdict of guilty or not guilty upon the whole matter put in issue upon such indictment or information; and shall not be required or directed, by the court or judge before whom such indictment or information shall be tried, to find the defendant or defendants guilty, merely on the proof of the publication by such defendant or defendants of the paper charged to be a libel, and of the sense ascribed to the same in such indictment or information.’108 The principle was summed up in the textbook formula: ‘Libel or No Libel a Question for the Jury’.109

In Rose Gooding’s, case, though, there was no disagreement about the libellous nature of the insulting letters: it was the fact of authorship and publication, usually a formality, that was the crux of the case. The prosecution adduced no evidence that ‘fixed’ Gooding as the author of the libels: she was convicted ‘mainly on the evidence of Miss Swan and Reuben Lynn’.110 In what the defence regarded as a misdirection, Roche told the jury that if Gooding had not written the letters, Swan must have.111 Asked which woman they trusted more, the jury gave the same answer as the local police.

Roche acknowledged that Gooding had already spent two and a half months in prison awaiting trial. But he thought she must stay locked up a little longer because ‘she needed frightening so that she did not do the sort of thing, of which she had been found guilty, with impunity’.112 He sentenced her to fourteen days’ imprisonment. She would be bound over to keep the peace, and would lose £20 if she failed to do so; Bill Gooding would have to stand surety for another £20.113 Speaking to her husband before addressing the prisoner herself, Roche asked Bill Gooding if he could stop his wife writing such letters. Bill said yes. ‘She seems to have a craze for this sort of thing’, Roche mused. He turned to Rose. Was she content to be bound over? Rose ‘replied in a firm voice: “Yes, sir, I am quite content, as I have always been.” ’114 (p.60)


(1.) Sir Ernley Blackwell, note on minutes page of file 416617/6, 14 June 1921, HO 144/2452, National Archives; Edward Swan, statement, 20 June 1921, MEPO 3/380, National Archives.

(2.) Blackwell, note on minutes page of file 416617/6, 14 June 1921, HO 144/2452.

(3.) Kate Leggett, statement, 22 June 1921, MEPO 3/380.

(4.) Alice Morgan, statement, 21 June 1921, MEPO 3/380.

(5.) Charles Owen Haslett, statement, 20 June 1921, MEPO 3/380.

(6.) Asa Briggs, Victorian Things, rev. edn (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1990), 362.

(7.) Jacques Derrida, The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond, tr. Alan Bass (1980; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), 62;

(8.) Ernest Walter Swan, statement, 20 June 1921, MEPO 3/380.

(p.190) (9.) Argus (Brighton), 22 September 1920.

(10.) Edward Swan, statement, 20 June 1921, MEPO 3/380.

(11.) G. R. Nicholls, ‘Criminal Libel’, report to Superintendent Fred Thomas, 29 June 1921, MEPO 3/380 (cited hereafter ‘Nicholls, report of 29 June 1921’). Punctuation as in original.

(12.) Edith Swan, statement, 19 June 1921, MEPO 3/380.

(13.) Mary Ann Swan, statement, 20 June 1921, MEPO 3/380.

(14.) Edward Swan, statement, 20 June 1921, MEPO 3/380.

(15.) William Henry Gooding, statement, 18 June 1921, MEPO 3/380.

(16.) William Henry Gooding, statement, 18 June, 1921, MEPO 3/380.

(17.) William Henry Gooding, statement, 18 June, 1921, MEPO 3/380.

(18.) Alfred Russell, statement, 23 June 1921; William Gooding, 18 June 1921, MEPO 3/380.

(19.) William Henry Gooding, statement, 18 June, 1921, MEPO 3/380.

(20.) Reuben Lynn, statement, date missing, MEPO 3/380. Nicholls, report of 29 June 1921, makes the point that Lynn meant Dorothy, not Rose.

(21.) William Henry Gooding, statement, 18 June 1921, MEPO 3/380.

(22.) ‘Philis’ to W. H. Gooding, postcard marked 30 August 1920, MEPO 3/380.

(23.) George Orwell, ‘The Art of Donald McGill’ (1941), in The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, ed. Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus, 4 vols (Boston: Nonpareil Books, 2000), 2:155–65, here 155.

(24.) Edward Swan, statement, 20 June 1921, MEPO 3/380.

(25.) Nicholls, report of 29 June 1921; Edith Swan, statement, 19 June 1921, MEPO 3/380.

(26.) Reginald Edgar Booker, statement, 22 June 1921, MEPO 3/380.

(27.) Alfred Russell, statement, 23 June 1921, MEPO 3/380. However, Booker did not see any of their parents that day. Reginald Edgar Booker, statement, 22 June 1921, MEPO 3/380.

(28.) Reginald Edgar Booker, statement, 22 June 1921, MEPO 3/380.

(29.) F. J. Peel to A. S. Williams, 8 June 1921, HO 144/2452.

(30.) Edith Flora Russell, statement, 23 June 1921, MEPO 3/380.

(31.) Alfred Russell, statement, 23 June 1921, MEPO 3/380.

(32.) Travers Humphreys, Criminal Days: Recollections and Reflections (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1946), 124.

(33.) Peel to Williams, 8 June 1921, HO 144/2452.

(34.) Charles Haslett, statement, 30 June 1921, MEPO 3/380.

(35.) Nicholls, report of 29 June 1921.

(36.) Alice Morgan, statement, 21 June 1921, MEPO 3/380 (about Bill Gooding going to see Haslett).

(37.) Alice Morgan, statement, 21 June 1921, MEPO 3/380.

(38.) Nicholls, report of 29 June 1921.

(39.) Typed copy of certificate of conviction issued by Arthur Denman, Clerk of Assize, 19 January 1921, HO 144/2452. The figure of twenty-six exhibits is derived from Nicholls, report of 29 June 1921.

(40.) Kelly’s Directory of Sussex, 1915 (London: Kelly’s Directories, n.d.), 511.

(p.191) (41.) Edith Swan, statement, 19 June 1921, MEPO 3/380.

(42.) Charles Haslett, statement, 30 June 1921; Kate Leggett, statement, 22 June 1921, MEPO 3/380.

(43.) Nicholls, report of 29 June 1921.

(44.) Nicholls, report of 29 June 1921; Littlehampton Observer, 29 September 1920.

(45.) Peter Mandler, ‘Introduction: State and Society in Victorian Britain’, in Mandler (ed.), Liberty and Authority in Victorian Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 1–21, here 13–18; Martin J. Wiener, Reconstructing the Criminal: Culture, Law, and Policy in England, 1830–1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 7–9, 11–12, 60–1.

(46.) R. v. AnonHugh Fraser, Principles and Practice of the Law of Libel and Slander: With Suggestions on the Conduct of a Civil Action, Forms and Precedents, and All Statutes Bearing on the Subject, 5th edn (London: Butterworth, 1917), 315.

(47.) Law of Libel and SlanderWilliam Blake Odgers, The Law of Libel and Slander: And of Actions on the Case for Words Causing Damage: With Evidence, Procedure, Practice, and Precedents of Pleadings, Both in Civil and Criminal Cases, 5th edn (London: Stevens and Sons, 1912), 455–6.

(48.) H. Montgomery Hyde (ed.), The Trials of Oscar Wilde (London: William Hodge & Co., 1948); Lucy Bland, Modern Women on Trial: Sexual Transgression in the Age of the Flapper (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013), ch. 3; Judith R. Walkowitz, ‘The “Vision of Salome”: Cosmopolitanism and Erotic Dancing in Central London, 1908–1918’, American Historical Review, 108 (2003), 337–76, here 370–6; Michael Kettle, Salome’s Last Veil: The Libel Case of the Century (London: Hart-Davis MacGibbon, 1977).

(49.) J. R. Spencer, ‘Criminal Libel—A Skeleton in the Cupboard’, Criminal Law Review (1977),

(50.) Judges: R. v. Doran (1934), MEPO 3/925, National Archives; R. v. White (1939), CRIM 1/1097, National Archives; also Arthur Bettany’s protracted effort to get the Home Office to quash his conviction for criminally libelling a judge in 1940, as detailed in HO 45/25556, National Archives. Police misconduct: R. v. Paul and Workers Publications Ltd (1927), CRIM 1/402, National Archives. See generally Spencer, ‘Criminal Libel’, part 1, 390.

(51.) The Times, 8 April 1914.

(52.) R. v. Crocker (1902), CRIM 1/70/4, National Archives (stockbroker); R. v. Caldwell (1909), ASSI 65/17/1, National Archives; R. v. Brind (1929), CRIM 1/466, National Archives; Gurney v. Wicks (1936), CRIM 1/812, National Archives (solicitors).

(p.192) (53.) R. v. Calcott (1904), CRIM 1/90/4, National Archives (engineer); R. v. Britton (1904), CRIM 1/88/8, National Archives (labourer).

(54.) J. R. Spencer, ‘Criminal Libel—A Skeleton in the Cupboard’, Criminal Law Review (1977), part 2, 465–6.

(55.) Criminal Libel, Law Commission Working Paper no. 184 (London: HMSO, 1982), 45, 192.

(56.) William Shepherd to Wilhelmina Flanagan, n.d., CRIM 1/593, National Archives. Shepherd himself put the phrase ‘giggly ball’ in quotation marks.

(57.) Deposition of Wilhemina Flanagan, 12 January 1932, CRIM 1/593.

(58.) Deposition of Samuel Linden, 12 January 1932, CRIM 1/593.

(59.) Shepherd to the Clerk of the Court, Central Criminal Court, n.d, CRIM 1/593. I have deleted a comma after ‘law’ and before ‘of libel’. A similar case is The Queen v. Adams, 22 QBD (1889) 66.

(60.) A. Kensington [?] to Chief Inspector, 29 November 1935, MEPO 3/927, National Archives.

(61.) Charles Gray to William Browning, 19 November 1934 (copy), CRIM 1/818, National Archives.

(62.) John Sands to Superintendent, 20 November 1935; A. Kensington [?] to Chief Inspector, 13 January 1936; Sands to Superintendent, 14 January 1936, MEPO 3/927.

(63.) R. v. Goodchild (1942), CRIM 1/1467, National Archives. The quotation is from the deposition of Harold Greenstreet, 9 December 1942.

(64.) R. v. Simner (1938), CRIM 1/1033, National Archives (council); R. v. Riley (1947), CRIM 1/1880, National Archives (party branch); Georgina May Rutter to Mr Clitheroe, 15 July 1946, exhibit 3 (copy) in R. v. Rutter, ASSI 52/76, National Archives (WEA). An example involving a church congregation is the Sutton libel case, discussed on pp. 94–7 above.

(65.) [Sir Archibald Bodkin], ‘Observations to Counsel’, July 1921, HO 144/2452.

(66.) Emily Cockayne in Cheek by Jowl: A History of Neighbours (London: The Bodley Head, 2012)

(67.) The legal bill for Rose Gooding’s second trial was at least £30 (see p. 71 above).

(68.) Committee on Legal Aid for the Poor, First Report, Cmd. 2638 (London: HMSO, 1926), 5; William Cornish, J. Stuart Anderson, Ray Cocks, Michael Lobban, Patrick Polden, and Keith Smith, The Oxford History of the Laws of England, vol. 13, 1820–1914: Fields of Development (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 82–3. The scholarly literature on working-class use of the legal system is stronger on the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries than the early twentieth. See for instance Carolyn Steedman, ‘A Lawyer’s Letter: Everyday Uses of the Law in Early Nineteenth-Century England’, History Workshop Journal, no. 81 (spring 2016), 62–83.

(p.193) (69.) On the origins of the system of ‘magisterial justice’, see Margot C. Finn, ‘The Authority of the Law’, in Peter Mandler (ed.), Liberty and Authority in Victorian Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 159–78, here 162–4, 177; and, on its workings in the interwar period, Leo Page, Justice of the Peace (London: Faber and Faber, 1936).

(70.) Nicholls, report of 29 June 1921.

(71.) Alice Morgan reported that the Goodings planned to retain Sharpe as their solicitor: Morgan, statement, 21 June 1921, MEPO 3/380.

(72.) Roland Wild, King’s Counsel: The Life of Sir Henry Curtis-Bennett (New York: Macmillan, 1938), 85.

(73.) Oswald Mosley, My Life (London: Nelson, 1968), 355–6. Flowers batted for three innings in 1905, with a high score of 5 and an average of 3. George Washer, comp., A Complete Record of Sussex County Cricket, 1728 to 1957 (n.p.: Sussex County Cricket Club, 1958), 135.

(74.) Argus, 22 September 1920.

(75.) William Herbert Smith, statement, 22 June 1921, MEPO 3/380.

(76.) Argus, 22 September 1920.

(77.) Littlehampton Observer, 29 September 1920.

(78.) Argus, 22 September 1920.

(79.) Alice Morgan, statement, 21 June 1921, MEPO 3/380.

(80.) Edith Swan, statement, 19 June 1921, MEPO 3/380.

(81.) Alice Morgan, statement, 21 June 1921, MEPO 3/380.

(82.) Edith Swan, statement, 19 June 1921, MEPO 3/380.

(83.) Alice Morgan, statement, 21 June 1921, MEPO 3/380.

(84.) Argus, 22 September 1920.

(85.) Alice Morgan, statement, 21 June 1921, MEPO 3/380.

(86.) Argus, 22 September 1920.

(87.) Argus, 22 September 1920.

(88.) Fields of DevelopmentHoward Levenson, ‘Legal Aid for Mitigation’, Modern Law Review, 40 (1977), 523–32,First Report

(89.) Argus, 22 September 1920.

(90.) Nicholls, report of 29 June 1921.

(91.) William Henry Gooding, statement, 18 June 1921, MEPO 3/380.

(92.) E. V. Lucas, Highways and Byways in Sussex, 2nd edn (London: Macmillan, 1904), 21.

(93.) William Herbert Smith, statement, 22 June 1921, MEPO 3/380.

(94.) Stephen Hobhouse and Fenner Brockway (eds), English Prisons To-Day: Being the Report of the Prison System Enquiry Committee (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1922), 306; Committee on Insanity and Crime, Report of the Committee Appointed to Consider What Changes, If Any, Are Desirable in the Existing Law, Practice and Procedure Relating to Criminal Trials in Which the Plea (p.194) of Insanity as a Defence is Raised, and Whether Any and, If So, What Changes Should Be Made in the Existing Law and Practice in Respect of Cases Falling within the Provisions of Section 2 (4) of the Criminal Lunatics Act, 1884, Cmd. 2005 (London: HMSO, 1923), 10. Mindful of accusations by Irish nationalists that the British prison system drove inmates insane, governors and medical officers insisted that prisons were not mentally unhealthy. Wiener, Reconstructing the Criminal, 352.

(95.) English Prisons To-DayEnglish Prisons To-DayPhilippa Levine, Prostitution, Race, and Politics: Policing Venereal Disease in the British Empire (New York: Routledge, 2003).

(96.) William Herbert Smith, statement, 22 June 1921, MEPO 3/380; Ernest T. Hall to Blackwell, 1 June 1921, HO 144/2452.

(97.) Hall to Blackwell, 1 June 1921, HO 144/2452.

(98.) The case was identified as Rex v. Gooding, not Swan v. Gooding. Private prosecutors’ names sometimes appeared in the case name, but often the prosecution was styled ‘Rex’ or ‘R’, in recognition of the convention that a private prosecutor was enforcing the king’s peace.

(99.) Humphreys, Criminal Days, 63.

(100.) Ian Nairn and Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Sussex (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1965), 555.

(101.) T. G. Roche and Robert Stevens, ‘Roche, Alexander Adair, Baron Roche’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

(102.) Kershaw to Guy Stephenson, 25 May 1921, HO 144/2452.

(103.) Jennifer L. Mnookin, ‘Scripting Expertise: The History of Handwriting Identification Evidence and the Judicial Construction of Reliability’, Virginia Law Review, 87 (2001), 1723–845, here 1747–831; Jane Caplan, ‘ “This or That Particular Person”: Protocols of Identification in Nineteenth-Century Europe’, in Jane Caplan and John Torpey (eds), Documenting Individual Identity: The Development of State Practices in the Modern World (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001), 49–66, here 56 n. 24.

(104.) Pimm v. Cheeseman, deposition of Thomas Henry Gurrin, 28 July 1903, CRIM 1/89/2, National Archives.

(p.195) (105.) Kershaw to Stephenson, 25 May 1921, HO 144/2452.

(106.) See for instance Alfred Denning, Freedom under the Law (London: Stevens, 1949), 43; [James Caunt, comp.], An Editor on Trial: Rex v. Caunt: Alleged Seditious Libel (Morecambe and Heysham: Morecambe Press, n.d. [1947]), 37–9.

(107.) Norman S. Poser, Lord Mansfield: Justice in the Age of Reason (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2013),

(108.) Libel Act, 32 Geo. III (1792), c. 60.

(109.) Fraser, Law of Libel and Slander, 345–6.

(110.) Nicholls, report of 29 June 1921; William Herbert Smith, statement, 22 June 1921, MEPO 3/380.

(111.) William Herbert Smith, statement, 22 June 1921, MEPO 3/380.

(112.) Sussex Daily News, 15 December 1920.

(113.) Peel to Williams, 8 June 1921; typed copy of certificate of conviction issued by Arthur Denman, Clerk of Assize, 19 January 1921, HO 144/2452.

(114.) Sussex Daily News, 15 December 1920.