It seems extraordinary that it was twelve years ago that I published an account of the trials and tribulations of Reverend Henry John Hatch. He was the first chaplain of Wandsworth Prison in 1851, and he ended up in Newgate Prison doing four years’ hard labour for indecent assault. He was pardoned after six months, but the experience would have broken many a person of his character and gentile background.
The book, my first ‘literary’ effort, does contain many faults; it is far too long and would have benefited from some radical editing. But it does serve as testimony to the extraordinary indomitability of the human spirit. Here was a man knocked down again and again by circumstance. On each occasion, nothing daunted, he got up, dusted himself down, and embarked on a new venture.
The title of the book, Henry’s Trials, although a rather lame pun is a good description of what happened to the man; here is a list of his ‘trials’:
Henry was released from Newgate after his main accuser, the twelve year old daughter of the Plummers, was found guilty at the Old Bailey for wilful and corrupt perjury. He brought an action for damages against his solicitor for bungling his defence in his trial for indecent assault.
Henry’s reputation had been restored, and he became rector of Little Stambridge in Essex where he stayed for twenty one years ... until the parish itself was abolished as being too small to sustain itself. While he was at Little Stambridge, he contributed some stories and other material to a book. One of the stories, founded on his experience as a prison chaplain, was about a reformed prisoner returned from transportation. After all he had been through, Henry was still proselytizing his Christian values and belief in the basic goodness of his fellow human beings.
Welcome to the Mirli Books blog written by Peter Maggs