Monson v Eardley
Monson v Eardley
(Based on a report in The Norfolk News, 5th November 1859)
Eardley Gideon Culling Eardley, a
Monson was seeking to recover payment for three portraits, a map, and a visit to Haslingfield. The first of the portraits was of Dr J W Donaldson, an eminent classical scholar who was a tutor at Trinity; the second was of the Very Reverend Harvey Goodwin, until recently the Vicar of St Edward’s,
Eardley had reached the age of 21, and he had pretensions to being a scholar and a gentleman. In addition to being a budding author he was, he explained, a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, a member of the Antiquarian Society of Denmark and a prospective member of the Society of St Luke at
But his father, Sir Culling Eardley, had no wish to bail out his son and heir yet again. Mr Naylor, Eardley’s lawyer, argued that, if Sir Culling were to ‘yield to all the extravagant claims on his son’, it would eat into the inheritance due to his other children, since the defendant’s bills for ‘such trifles’ amounted to around £16,000.
Sir Culling, a prominent evangelical and a fierce campaigner for religious freedom, then took the witness stand himself. His son, he explained, was allowed £400 a year, which ought, in his view, to be ‘abundantly sufficient for all his expenses’. The baronet had already paid out considerable sums in liquidation of the young man’s debts, and (being free to dispose of his own property entirely as he wished) he had frequently threatened to disinherit his son if he continued to indulge in such expensive habits. He had already ordered the sale of a great proportion of Eardley’s possessions, thereby recovering £124, and some of the ‘persons’ who had supplied the youth with ‘useless things’ had
been persuaded to take them back.
Monson’s lawyer, Mr Cockerell, resented the implications of ‘extravagant claims’, ‘trifles’ and ‘useless things’. Photographic portraits such as those produced by his client were, he contended, 'reasonable necessities for a gentleman in Mr Eardley’s position’. Sir Culling’s religious scruples might reasonably have been offended if the defendant had ‘adorned the walls of his sitting room with pictures of ballet girls and so forth’; but it was inconceivable that he should object to ‘portraits of that high classical authority Dr Donaldson and the universally respected Dr Goodwin’.
The jury – no more inclined that Mr Cockerell, it seems, to class photographs as fripperies – found in favour of Monson for the full amount claimed.
[Dr Goodwin went on to be appointed Bishop of Carlisle. Dr Donaldson died two years later, quite possibly from overwork, with his definitive Greek dictionary uncompleted. Sir Culling, who was subsequently a founder of the Evangelical Alliance, died in 1863. Eardley inherited his father’s title and became 4th baronet. Five years later he was tried for bigamy, found guilty, and sentenced to 18 months with hard labour. The baronetcy became extinct on his death in 1875. A short while after winning his case, Edward Monson returned to Ipswich, where he had opened his first studio. But he later gave up professional photography altogether.]
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