Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Tale Of A Confiding Young Wife

It is a wet, cold, dark Thursday afternoon and there are a dozen jobs that need doing. But yet I find myself browsing through the on-line archives of the Liverpool Daily Post and, at random, reading the edition for Saturday August 7th 1897. I was always of the opinion that the best way to teach history is to give someone an old newspaper. A good newspaper reflects not only the great and the good of the history books but also the daily triumphs and disasters of ordinary people. I don't know why the following article appealed to me, it was just interesting. And for that reason I reproduce it here.

Fortune-Telling At Knowsley
A Confiding Young Wife
At Woolton Petty Sessions yesterday, before Mssrs James Marsh and Holbrook Gaskell, an interesting case of fortune-telling was heard. Mary Boswell, a typical daughter of the picturesque Romany race, was charged with having told fortunes at Knowsley on July 19th.
Marion Jane Airey, a young married woman living in Knowsley, said that the prisoner called at her home on the date named and on two other occasions, and asked her to purchase articles of lace or fancy work. The prisoner also offered to tell witness her fortune and the latter gave her altogether 3s 6d. While in the house the prisoner picked up a dress skirt, several antimacassars, and some chinaware, which she coolly appropriated. She also asked if witness had any gold, saying that her palm should really be crossed with that precious metal in order to tell her destiny properly. Witness, however, had no gold and consequently gave none.
Mr. Riley, who appeared for the prisoner, cross-examined Mrs Airey at considerable length with a view to showing that she gave the Gypsy the articles mentioned voluntarily. Witness admitted that she did not really believe prisoner's power to tell her fortune and she gave the money because she asked for it. It was not true that she took prisoner into her confidence about her troubles, though she offered her a cup of tea. It was understood that the things which the prisoner took were to be returned. She has since got some of them back, but not all.
The Chairman : She is not summoned for taking these things but for fortune-telling. (To witness : Did she tell you her fortune?)
Witness : Yes.
Mr Holbrook Gaskell : She evidently didn't know her own fortune (laughter).
Mr Riley : She advised you not to get into debt without your husband's knowledge?
Witness : Yes, of course.
Mr Riley : And gave you much good advice, I dare say?
For the defence, Mr Riley said the prisoner belonged to one of the principal Gypsy tribes, and had never before been prosecuted. She went to Mrs Airey's house simply in order to sell her wares, and it was at witnesses own request that she told her fortune. The things which prisoner took had been returned and he asked that she might be dealt with under the First Offenders Act.
The magistrates, after retiring to consider their decision, sentenced the prisoner to fourteen days' imprisonment, declining to entertain the suggestion that the punishment should be a pecuniary one."

You could teach an entire term's social history course based on that press cutting alone. At least, you can avoid a little bit of work by reading it.

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