THE TRIAL OF MR. ROCHESTER
13 Sept. 1809
Edward Rochester was arrested
at his home, Thornfield, in Millcote and was brought to London
for trial under a new law just passed by Parliament. Mr. Rochester
was charged with three counts of Assault by Mental Cruelty towards
his governess, Miss Jane Eyre. He is the first person to be
charged under this new law, passed last month. The law was designed
to protect women who have no one to shield them from villains
who browbeat their victims into committing heinous acts or into
asylums. Details about the indictment are expected to be made
public at the preliminary hearing. This trial will be the test
case for future legislation and will be covered in depth by
15 Sept. 1809
Pandemonium reigned at the courthouse
today as Edward Rochester was brought in for the preliminary
hearing. Men and women craned for a sight of him as he was hustled
into the court. Coverage in the newspapers has made this case
an overnight sensation. The coffee houses and bars are humming
as everyone tries to find a way of attending the trial as soon
as it is decided which court will hear the case. Due to the
nature of the crime and legal technicalities, it was finally
decided to assign the case to the court of Chancery. Details
about what actually happened will have to wait until the trial
since the preliminary hearing was not open to the public. It
is being rumored that the trial will be closed also. However,
members of the press are expected to be admitted. I will continue
to bring you details.
19 Sept. 1809
Feelings are running high concerning
the Rochester-Eyre trial. The Chancellor, fearing a riot in
the courtroom, has banned from the proceedings the general public,
but is allowing the trial to start in a couple of days as soon
as the calendar is cleared. This reporter is one of the press
to be admitted and I will continue to keep my readers apprised
of all the details surrounding this case.
21 Sept. 1809
There were boos and catcalls
as Mr. Rochester was sighted being led into the courthouse.
Any thoughts the crowd had of administering their own justice
was quelled by the dozens of constables and mounted policemen
surrounding the court. Inside, an excited murmur rose in the
press section. This quickly died at a glare from the Chancellor.
After Mr. Rochester was placed in the dock, the barristers took
their positions and the case was started. A plea of not guilty
was entered as Mr. Rochester from the dock. The barrister for
the prosecution, Sir William Bentley, spoke first.
"We intend to prove that on three
separate occasions, Mr. Edward Rochester was deliberately and
maliciously cruel to his governess, Miss Jane Eyre. The first
of these occasions was a house party at Thornfield where he
allowed her to be humiliated by a house guest. The second occasion
was when he told her that he was getting married to Miss Ingram
and that she would have to leave; when all along he had no intention
of marrying Miss Ingram and was just testing Miss Eyre's affections.
The third and final time was when he tried to marry her when
he already had a wife whom he kept locked in an attic and forced
her to leave Thornfield to seek shelter elsewhere. I intend
to call witnesses to prove these charges and show this man for
the monster that he is.
"If it please the court, I would
like to start with the first count and call my first witness."
CALL MRS. FAIRFAX TO THE STAND.
When Mrs. Fairfax had been escorted
to the witness box and sworn in, Sir Bentley asked, "Mrs. Fairfax,
you are the housekeeper at Thornfield?"
"Do you recall a houseparty there
when Lady Ingram, Miss Ingram and others were guests there?"
"Did you have a conversation
with Miss Eyre on the second day of the houseparty about bringing
her pupil into the drawing room that night?"
"Yes, I told Miss Eyre that she
was expected to accompany Miss Adele to the drawing room after
dinner to meet the ladies."
"Did Miss Eyre want to go?"
"No. I thought that she wouldn't
and made mention of this to Mr. Rochester. He said to tell her
that it was his particular wish; and if she resists, tell her
I will come and fetch her in case of contumacy."
"Thank you, Mrs. Fairfax. Any
questions, Mr. Smythe?"
Mr. Smythe, the defense barrister,
rose and replied, "Not at this time."
Bentley proceed to call his next
witness to the stand.
CALL MISS BLANCHE INGRAM TO THE STAND.
"Miss Ingram, do
you recall attending a houseparty at Thornfield?"
"Do you recall a conversation
that you had with Mr. Rochester on the second evening of the
"We had many conversations."
"The conversation was about governesses."
"Oh yes, I remember."
"What did you say?"
"Oh, that I was surprised that
he kept the child at home instead of sending her to school.
After all, school would be cheaper."
"Did you say anything else?"
"Yes, that he should ask my mother
about our governesses."
"Miss Ingram, did you give your
opinion of governesses?"
"What is your opinion?"
"Well. I said that I find them
either detestable or ridiculous. Why, the governesses I had
were all nuisances. My brother and I took delight in tormenting
them, especially Madame Joubert. We'd drive her to extremities
and then we'd sermonize her on the presumption of teaching such
clever blades as we were, when she herself was so ignorant.
We even brought a liaison between my brother's tutor and Miss
Wilson to my mother's attention in order to hoist the deadweights
from the house."
"Miss Ingram, were you aware
that Miss Eyre was in the room and could hear your conversation?"
"Yes, I was."
"Was Mr. Rochester aware of her
"Why yes, I told him myself that
she was behind the window curtain."
"Did he made any comment?"
"Not then, but he did ask my
mother to continue with her remarks about governesses. However,
she asked me to continue them for her."
"Thank you, Miss Ingram. Any
questions, Mr. Smythe?"
"Yes. Miss Ingram, did Mr. Rochester
make any remarks about governesses or give his opinion of them?"
Not then, but, but he did ask
my mother to continue with her remarks about governesses. However,
she asked me to continue them for her."
"Thank you, Miss Ingram, that
will be all."
"I'd like to call my next witness,
CALL LADY INGRAM TO THE STAND.
"Lady Ingram, do
you remember taking part in the conversation about governesses?"
"Yes, of course."
"What did you say?"
"I said I had suffered a martyrdom
from their incompetence and caprice. Thank God I don't have
to deal with them anymore."
"What did Mr. Rochester ask you
"Oh. I had said that I was a
judge of physiognomy and that I could the faults of her class
in the governess, and he wanted to know what they were. I referred
him to Blanche."
"Did Miss Eyre hear your conversation?"
"I neither know nor care. It
would do her good if she did."
"Thank you, Lady Ingram. Any
questions, Mr. Smythe?
"Not at this time."
"At this time, I'd like to call
Miss Jane Eyre to the stand."
CALL MISS EYRE TO THE STAND.
"Miss Eyre, you
are governess to Mr. Rochester's ward, Adele?"
"Do you remember the conversation
that we have been discussing?"
"Yes, I do."
"What were your feelings during
and after this conversation?"
"At first, I drew back, hoping
that no one would notice me. Then, I left as soon as I could
do so unnoticed. I was a bit upset and just wanted to go up
to my room."
"Was Mr. Rochester aware of how
"Yes. He saw me go out and stopped
me on the stairs."
"What did he say?"
"He wanted me to return to the
drawing room. I said I was tired. Mr. Rochester remarked that
I looked depressed and saw that my eyes were teary. He excused
me for that night, but wanted me to be in the drawing room every
night the visitors were there."
"Did he say why?"
"Thank you, Miss Eyre."
The Chancellor called for a break
in the proceedings, and the case will continue tomorrow.
22 Sept. 1809
Torrential rains drove the spectators
indoors today to eagerly await the next installment of testimony,
and the session started without incident. Sir Bentley started
"I would like to call the witness
for the second count at this time. (The second count is when
he tells her that he's getting married to Miss Ingram when he
has no intention of doing so.) I would like Miss Eyre to return
to the stand."
"Miss Eyre, would you please
give us the details of your conversation with Mr. Rochester
concerning to Miss Ingram?"
"It was Midsummer Eve and Adele
had just gone to bed, exhausted from berry picking. I was walking
in the garden when Mr. Rochester joined me there. He told me
that the time had come for me to move on. He expected to be
a bridegroom in about a month's time, and would find me employment
and an asylum. In fact, his future mother-in-law had heard of
a position in Ireland with the O'Gall family. I protested that
it was far away. He said that the bond that joined us would
break with that much distance, and that I would forget him.
I started to sob. I sobbed that I wished I'd never been born
or come to Thornfield. I love Thornfield. I have talked, face
to face, with what I reverence; with what I delight in, with
an original, vigorous, expanded mind. I told him that I didn't
want to be torn from him forever, even though I saw the necessity.
He asked what necessity? I responded: The necessity you have
placed before me in the shape of your bride, Miss Ingram. After
I explained to him in explicit terms that I could not remain
with him and his wife, he confessed to me that he was not getting
married to Miss Ingram; that he wanted to marry me instead.
Miss Ingram was only after his money, whereas he was sure now
that I loved him and he wanted me to marry him."
"Miss Eyre, did you accept his
"Yes, I did."
"Thank you, Miss Eyre. Mr. Smythe,
do you have any questions?"
"Not at this time."
"The final count against Mr.
Rochester is the most serious of the charges. Attempted bigamy
is a capital offense. I wish to call my first witness, Mr. Briggs."
WILL MR. BRIGGS PLEASE TAKE THE STAND.
"Mr. Briggs, what
is your occupation?"
"I am a lawyer."
"And how are you connected to
"I was asked by my client to
stop a wedding between Mr. Rochester and Miss Eyre."
"Why was that?"
"Mr. Rochester was already married
to my client's sister."
"Thank you, Mr. Briggs. Any questions,
Mr. Smythe just shook his head.
"I would like to call my next
witness, Mr. Mason."
CALL MR. MASON TO THE STAND.
"Mr. Mason, were
you present when Mr. Rochester attempted to marry Miss Eyre?"
"Yes, I was the witness that
swore she was alive three months earlier and in residence at
"How come no one knew of her
"Rochester had her locked away
in an attic with a nurse-keeper. Those that knew of her existence
had no idea she was his wife."
"How long were they married?"
"When did she become mad?"
"Shortly after the marriage.
Mr. Rochester told us all and took us to see her. She resembled
an animal more than anything, and she attacked him while we
were there. He told us Miss Eyre knew nothing of the previous
"Thank you, Mr. Mason. Any questions,
As Mr. Smythe rose to start his
questions, Mr. Rochester summoned him to the dock. His features
set into a fierce scowl, he waved aside Mr. Smythe's arguments
and insisted upon something.
"If the Court pleases, Mr. Rochester
would like to change his plea to guilty in order to spare Miss
Eyre additional suffering."
"So be it. I will retire to consider
the sentence. Court will reconvene in two days."
Pandemonium broke out in the
court; as reported, all tried to be out the door first. Rochester
was led away giving one last longing look toward Miss Eyre.
Miss Eyre was being helped from the courtroom by her barrister.
Speculation on what the sentence
will be is running wild. There are those who favor hanging.
This will not help Miss Eyre since it is obvious that she is
still in love with him. I will have details of the sentence
as soon as possible.
24 Sept. 1809
Readers, if I were not at the
courtroom myself, and heard the sentence with my own ears, I
would not have believed it. The Chancellor declared that since
this was a highly unusual case, and since Miss Eyre had no one
to protect her, he, the Chancellor, would provide her with someone.
Now for the details of the sentence.
First, the court is appointing
Mr. St. John Rivers, her cousin, as her trustee. Second, Mr.
Rochester has to relinquish his money and his land to the Crown.
The Crown then awarded said money and land in trust for Miss
Eyre to Mr. Rivers. Third, since Mrs. Rochester perished in
a fire last year, Edward Rochester is ordered by the Crown to
marry Miss Eyre, and he will be dependent on her for his life
At the conclusion of the trial,
a cheer went up as Mr. Rochester freed from the dock went over
to Miss Eyre, Knelt down on one knee, and kissed her hang. There
were cheers and boos heard all over the city. Those that had
favored hanging could not understand the sentence, saying he
got what he wanted all along. However, manacles are manacles
be they of velvet or of steel.
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