‘Disgusted by the Details’: Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and the Dublin Castle Scandals of 1884. Back to the Future of Irish Studies, 2010

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  󰀱􀀷􀀶 󰁍󰁡󰁵󰁤 󰁅󰁬󰁬󰁭󰁡󰁮󰁮 ‘Disgusted by the Details’:  Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde  and the Dublin Castle Scandals of 󰀱􀀸􀀸􀀴  󰁊󰁡󰁭󰁥󰁳 󰁈. 󰁍󰁵󰁲󰁰󰁨󰁹 In his 󰀱􀀹􀀹󰀳 book alk on the Wilde Side: oward a Genealogy of a Discourse on Male Sexualities , Ed Cohen investigated the ways in which the trials of Oscar Wilde were reported. Cohen writes that Wilde and his opponent Lord Queensbury were presented very differently in newspaper reports.  Wilde was seen as a dandy and as anti-bourgeois whereas Queensbury was seen as a neutral male. 􀀱  Tus where Queensbury was reported to have his arms folded, Wilde’s were described as limply crossed. 󰀲  Because the sexual allegations could not be directly repeated for the sake of public propriety they were signalled by the absence of normative maleness. In addition, the  very fact that Wilde was consorting with unemployed, working-class men in a context which was inappropriate to his age and social position was taken as a sign of an ‘indecent’ relationship. 􀀳 Te evidence against Wilde in his second trial, as reported, mostly concerned his relationship with these young men. He arranged to meet them in restaurants or in hotels or in rented rooms. Wilde’s presence with them at prestigious locations, such as the Café Royal and Savoy Hotel, and his physical movements between them became a short hand in the public mind for his guilt. When the public read of Wilde travelling on foot or in a carriage to a particular location with a man different from him in age or social position it learned to understand this as proof of a sexual relation-ship between them. Wilde himself had become a metonym for his crime 󰀱 Ed Cohen, Talk on the Wilde Side: Toward a Genealogy of a Discourse on Male Sexualities (New York: Routledge, 󰀱􀀹􀀹󰀳), 󰀱󰀳􀀹.􀀲 Ibid., 󰀱􀀴􀀲–󰀳.󰀳 Ibid., 󰀱􀀸􀀸–􀀹. As Quentin Bell remarks in his biography of Woolf, ‘  Flush  is not so much a book by a dog lover as a book by someone who would love to be a dog’. 󰀲􀀰   In particular, Woolf would love to have a doggish nose. ‘Where two or three thousand words are insufficient for what we see’, Woolf complains, ‘there are no more than two words and one-half for what we smell’. 󰀲􀀱  Woolf, like Joyce, uses the nose to reach beyond the limits of the visible and the audible, and to open up the wordless world of smell. 􀀲󰀰 Quentin Bell, Virginia Woolf: A Biography ,    vol. 􀀲 (London: Hogarth Press, 󰀱􀀹􀀷􀀲), 󰀱􀀷󰀵.􀀲󰀱 Woolf, 􀀸􀀶.  󰀱􀀷􀀸 󰁊󰁡󰁭󰁥󰁳 󰁈. 󰁍󰁵󰁲󰁰󰁨󰁹 ‘Disgusted by the Details’ 󰀱􀀷􀀹  James Ellis French held the rank of County Inspector and the senior  position of Detective Director in the Royal Irish Constabulary. On 􀀲󰀵 August 󰀱􀀸􀀸󰀳 Healy, writing anonymously in United Ireland  , alluded to French’s ‘private character’ in the context of a reference to another homo- sexual of a previous generation. French, who had been suspended from his position because of an internal investigation concerning his conduct  with younger officers, issued a writ for libel. 󰀶  O’Brien, who was privately furious at Healy for the situation, robustly defied French in public in the columns of the paper. As a tactic it worked brilliantly and it convinced French that O’Brien had evidence against him of what were then illegal homosexual acts: in fact O’Brien had no evidence. French seems to have suffered a nervous breakdown and, indeed, claimed symptoms of paralysis. 󰀷   His suit remained unpursued and was eventually thrown out of court. By then, however, O’Brien, had assembled a team to investigate the lives of Dublin homosexuals. Tey now latched onto a man called Gustavus Cornwall, in whom they had initially been interested as a witness against French. O’Brien tried to justify their pursuit of Cornwall because he was ‘an influential figure in the Dublin Castle society of the time’ (  Memories , 􀀲󰀳). However, far from being involved in the administration of justice in Ireland, Cornwall held the more innocuous position of Secretary of the Post Office. He was first mentioned in United Ireland   on 󰀱󰀰 May 󰀱􀀸􀀸􀀴 and was soon to initiate libel  proceedings against O’Brien. Once more O’Brien came out fighting. Te edition of United Ireland for 󰀳󰀱 May contained a picture of Cornwall. Underneath was the phrase ‘yours affectionately’ in Cornwall’s own hand-  writing. O’Brien was letting his opponent know that he had evidence in the form of a letter. Te case of Cornwall v O’Brien, the central one to the Dublin Castle scandals, began on Wednesday, 􀀲 July: Cornwall seeking ₤󰀵,󰀰󰀰󰀰 in dam- ages; O’Brien claiming that his allegations were justified. Te court and its precincts were packed and the sensational case was widely reported in 􀀶 United Ireland  ,   󰀱󰀰 November 󰀱􀀸􀀸󰀳.􀀷 United Ireland  , 􀀸 March 󰀱􀀸􀀸􀀴. in the context of the geographical locations in which he was located with these men. In fact the Wilde trials were not the first time that this had occurred. It had happened in the reports of the 󰀱􀀸􀀸􀀴 Dublin Castle scandals. In addition, a reading of Robert Louis Stevenson’s gothic novella Te Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde , which was published early in 󰀱􀀸􀀸􀀶, against the reporting of the Dublin Castle trials reveals a remarkable congru- ence. Tere has long been some speculation that Stevenson intended that Henry Jekyll and his middle-aged, professional, bachelor friends be read as a group of homosexual men. Tere is no overt indication from Steven-son’s correspondence that he explicitly had the Dublin Castle scandals in mind when he wrote  Jekyll and Hyde . However, both he and his srcinal readers would have been aware that he was using established conventions for covertly describing the lives of homosexual men in his depiction of  Jekyll, Utterson, Enfield, and Lanyon. Tese were conventions moreover that had most recently and sensationally been used in the reporting of the Dublin Castle scandals.Te Dublin Castle scandals themselves presaged remarkably the pat-tern of the Wilde trials eleven years later with failed civil suits leading to criminal prosecutions. Te first half of the 󰀱􀀸􀀸󰀰s in Ireland was the turbu-lent time of the land war and home-rule agitation. Te chief propaganda  weapon in the armoury of Irish nationalists against the Liberal govern- ment was the newspaper United Ireland  , described by its editor William O’Brien, as ‘a weekly insurrection in print’. 󰀴  In this he was ably assisted by another future prominent Irish parliamentarian, im Healy, who wrote ‘we compose out little salads. O’Brien supplies the oil and I pour in the  vinegar’ 􀀵  Chief among their objects was the undermining of the morale of the government in Ireland through exposing putative miscarriages of law and misconduct among officials at Dublin Castle, heart of the British administration. 􀀴 William O’Brien,  Evening Memories  (Dublin: Maunsel, 󰀱􀀹􀀲󰀰), 󰀱􀀴.󰀵 Quoted in William O’Brien,  Recollections (London: MacMillan, 󰀱􀀹󰀰󰀵), 􀀴􀀷􀀴.  󰀱􀀸󰀰 󰁊󰁡󰁭󰁥󰁳 󰁈. 󰁍󰁵󰁲󰁰󰁨󰁹 ‘Disgusted by the Details’ 󰀱􀀸󰀱 in Golden Lane: the list of allegations placed Cornwall in a whole variety of locations, both rich and poor, within the city of Dublin. 󰀹   Te United Ireland   account indicates that the alleged sexual dimension to one of the occasions was explicitly dealt with in court by the inclusion of the sentence, ‘[t]he remainder of the question is unfit for publication’, 􀀱􀀰  in its account. Tis edition of the paper comes closer, though not very close, than any other edition either of United Ireland   or of any other paper in being explicit about sexual details. In doing so it also indicates the combination both of unease and derision which marked the homophobic atmosphere of the court. Tus when Cornwall was asked if he had ever kissed George aylor, one of the witnesses against him, the question was met with laugh- ter. Tere was also laughter when a number of letters were read out, one of which ended with the words, ‘[y]our affectionate friend, Gus’. 􀀱􀀱  Fleet-ing glimpses of a homosexual affectivity, a wider issue than the sex acts on  which the legal cases were focused, emerged from the evidence. Cornwall showed aylor photographs of soldiers, it was alleged. He spoke wistfully about one man with whom he had fallen out. He was he handsomest man he had ever known and the only one had had ever loved. 􀀱󰀲   Reporting in other newspapers of the first day’s evidence generally fell into the patterns that focused on locations, meetings, and movement. Tis, for example, is the Dublin  Daily Express ’s account of Cornwall’s evidence about the alleged incident at Harcourt Street: I may have been at dinner at a house in Lansdowne road in June of last year. I met aylor there, but not at dinner. I did not walk with him on any occasion from Lansdowne road to Baggot street. I did not drive with him on a car to Hatch street. I did not ask him to come home with me for a drink. aylor was with me in my house on one occasion for about ten minutes between half past ten and a quarter to eleven. I asked him would he have brandy and soda, and he said he would have sherry. Witness was then questioned with reference to an offence alleged to have 􀀹  Dublin Evening Mail  , 􀀲 July 󰀱􀀸􀀸􀀴; United Ireland  , 󰀵 July 󰀱􀀸􀀸􀀴.󰀱󰀰 United Ireland  ,   󰀵 July 󰀱􀀸􀀸􀀴.󰀱󰀱  Dublin Evening Mail  , 􀀲 July 󰀱􀀸􀀸􀀴.󰀱􀀲 United Ireland  ,   󰀵 July 󰀱􀀸􀀸􀀴. both Irish and British papers. Stevenson had just returned to England from France as it began, arriving in London on uesday, 󰀱 July. Cornwall took the stand early on. At one of his meetings with O’Brien’s solicitors it had been put to him that he ‘had taken liberties with a gentle-man in a cab’ on going from the Botanical Gardens to the Phoenix Park. 󰀸  Even from this first accusation at the trial a pattern can be detected in the reporting of the evidence. It is reminiscent of what scholars have noted in the later trials of Oscar Wilde and constitutes the principal, though circum- stantial, association between the Dublin trials and  Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde . Because of the loss of the court records it is impossible to say definitely to  what degree there was reticence within the court concerning the sexual evidence. At times, though, it was certainly very explicit. Tough there  were differences in the ways various newspapers reported the proceedings, in general they elided much of the directly sexual material. Tis le the reports concentrating strangely on the geography of locations, of individu- als meetings, and of movements between locations. Bere of details of the sexual activity that accompanied the meetings, these newspaper reports leave a lingering impression of purposeless journeys, or else of a focus on the journey, the journeyers, and the destinations rather than the purpose of the journey. Tus, though vague mention is made here of taking liber-ties what remains sharper in the memory is the cab journey between the Botanical Gardens and the Phoenix Park.  What happened next in the trial confirms this trend. Cornwall was asked to respond to a dozen charges, which O’Brien’s side was seeking to  prove against him. He denied them all. As reported they have the same eerie quality by which meeting and movement substitute for sexual details. Did he meet some young men in November or December 󰀱􀀸􀀷􀀹 at 󰀱󰀱 pm in Graon Street and go with them to 􀀲󰀱󰀳 Great Brunswick St, ‘to commit this offense of ——?’ Did he meet a man at the urinal behind the statue of om Moore and go with him to a laneway in Great Brunswick Street? Cornwall at the Botanical Gardens; Cornwall at his home in Harcourt St; Cornwall at  parties in Lansdowne Road; Cornwall at the General Post Office; Cornwall 􀀸 United Ireland  ,   󰀵 July 󰀱􀀸􀀸􀀴.  󰀱􀀸􀀲 󰁊󰁡󰁭󰁥󰁳 󰁈. 󰁍󰁵󰁲󰁰󰁨󰁹 ‘Disgusted by the Details’ 󰀱􀀸󰀳 ‘conduct’ took place. 􀀱󰀶  Te reporting of it therefore fell into the usual pat-tern of apparently aimless wanderings: During the next two months used you frequently to see Mr Cornwall? Yes, frequently by appointment we used to go for walks. He oen called at my lodgings. 􀀱󰀷 Te trial ended in the dismissal of Cornwall’s libel suit. Accompanied by bands O’Brien was cheered all the way to the Imperial Hotel in Sack- ville Street. As the crowd passed Dublin Castle, though, there were hisses. Several days later Cornwall, French, and half a dozen others were arrested. Now that Cornwall’s civil suit had failed, the government, stung by the homophobic outcry that immediately followed the case, had sprung into action. Rumours spread through Dublin of many more possible arrests and several prominent men le the city. Te criminal trials proved to be a long drawn-out process and one in which poorer defendants, mostly male brothel keepers, fared worse than other, better-off defendants. During a preliminary hearing a magistrate remarked of the evidence that ‘[u]nfortunately, it must ultimately come before the public at the court of commission [high court] and once would be quite enough for the public to be disgusted by the details’. So he asked the press to leave. ‘One of the reporters addressing the magistrate said that personally the members of the Press were thankful to him for making the order’. 􀀱󰀸  At the grand jury the members of the jury sent a note to the judge stating, ‘In the interest of  public morality, we most respectfully suggest that your Lordship should  prevent and forbid the publication of any part of the evidence of the felony cases which had just come before us, and, if possible, make a ruling that any such publication would be a contempt of court’. 􀀱󰀹  While replying that he had no legal powers to do so the judge com- mended self-censorship to ‘the discretion and Christian forbearance of 󰀱􀀶 imes , 󰀵 July 󰀱􀀸􀀸􀀴.󰀱􀀷  Dublin Evening Mail  , 􀀴 July 󰀱􀀸􀀸􀀴. 󰀱􀀸 imes , 􀀲􀀴 July 󰀱􀀸􀀸􀀴. 󰀱􀀹 imes , 􀀷 August 󰀱􀀸􀀸􀀴. been committed by him on that occasion. He denied that any such offence had been committed. 􀀱􀀳  When it was the turn of O’Brien’s defence team to put his case there  was a near initial disaster when for a time their witnesses refused to appear, though they later relented. In his memoirs the incident provokes O’Brien into his own construction of homosexual identity: In one of those sudden gusts of infantile fretfulness which are apt to sweep over per-sons of their peculiar mentality, the three essential witnesses, as they sat in a waiting room adjoining the Court had refused point blank to be examined and proposed to walk away … Ten there came a febrile change as unaccountable as the previous outburst. Tey fell into a fit of hysterical merriment, quizzed each other over their  passionate explosion of a few minutes before as thought it had been some grisly  practical joke at the expense of the dismayed lawyers and now only quarrelled in a competition who should be first to reach the witness chair. 􀀱󰀴 Te words infantile, febrile, and hysterical are obviously intended in a  pejorative sense. As well as what might be called the language of mysteri- ous geography and meetings other sets of conventions were being brought into use by the newspapers in their reporting. Tus the  Dublin Evening  Mail   described Alfred McKernan, one of the witnesses, as ‘a young man fashionably dressed’. 􀀱􀀵  Te reference to his dress indicated his sexuality. Te statement that he was young indicated that he was an accuser, rather than an accused, and thus innocent, perhaps even a victim. Yet McKernan had  worked for the Munster Bank for sixteen years and must have been at least thirty and thus in his early twenties when he had first met Cornwall.Much of McKernan’s evidence about that occasion was deemed unfit for publication by the papers. All the London imes  would say was that they had walked to Harcourt Street, McKernan had had a drink and then 󰀱󰀳  Daily Express , 󰀳 July 󰀱􀀸􀀸􀀴.󰀱􀀴 O’Brien,  Evening Memories , 󰀳󰀰–󰀱.󰀱󰀵  Dublin Evening Mail  , 􀀴 July 󰀱􀀸􀀸􀀴.  󰀱􀀸􀀴 󰁊󰁡󰁭󰁥󰁳 󰁈. 󰁍󰁵󰁲󰁰󰁨󰁹 ‘Disgusted by the Details’ 󰀱􀀸󰀵 cases ten years later emphasize the contrast in the press coverage between Queensbury as the normative, neutral male and Wilde as the effeminate dandy. In the Dublin Castle cases many of the witnesses presented them-selves as dandies. Tey were seen either as being hysterical or, when calm, as being too cool by half. Te hysterical French would thus eventually find himself facing two years hard labour in jail. But Cornwall was notable for always presenting himself in a controlled, normative manner. In public he was ‘a rather distinguished-looking, gray headed man, rather above middle height … with much self-possession’. 󰀲􀀳   Te evidence, however, indicates that when he was free from the mores of society and among his homosexual friends, he, too, chose to adopt an effeminate and camp demeanour. Cornwall used ‘she’ for his friends and  was himself known as the Duchess. Te hostile William O’Brien, alluding to Cornwall’s nickname, confirmed his strength of character. ‘Cornwall  was an aristocrat of quite a ducal presence and with nerves of steel and he  pressed on the trial with … haughty confidence’. 󰀲󰀴  Cornwall ‘delivered his answers [under cross examination] with a majesty that seemed to fascinate the Court’. 󰀲􀀵  And under arrest ‘[h]e presents the same calm and self pos-sessed demeanour’. 󰀲󰀶 o those who believed him guilty Cornwall presented an infuriating  problem. His behaviour was that of a normative Victorian male, whereas in secret he was a homosexual. Tis view was best expressed in a speech by one of O’Brien’s lawyers in Cornwall v. O’Brien. Cornwall was ‘a man of great  physique and powerful frame … within it was a mind more resolute than the body was strong … Mr Cornwall was so steeped in vicious criminality that he had no control over himself’. Cornwall was a ‘whited sepulcher’ because he was able to present ‘his determined and resolute manner’ and deny everything. 󰀲󰀷  Cornwall was a respectable Victorian gentleman with a 􀀲󰀳  Dublin Evening Mail  , 􀀲 July 󰀱􀀸􀀸􀀴.􀀲􀀴 O’Brien,  Evening Memories , 􀀲󰀳.􀀲󰀵 Ibid., 􀀲􀀸.􀀲􀀶 imes , 󰀱􀀶 July 󰀱􀀸􀀸􀀴.􀀲􀀷  Dublin Evening Mail  , 􀀷 July 󰀱􀀸􀀸􀀴. the Press’. Tere was even some discussion in parliament about passing a law to prevent publication of details. Te London imes  disagreed, argu- ing that if responsible papers which had ‘some regard to public decency and morals’ did not report the cases ‘imaginative reports will be furnished by unprincipled persons which will find their way into the papers of the lowest class which feed on scandals and that the object of the court will be defeated and possibly greater mischief done by the circulation’. In the press reporting of the alleged criminal trial of Cornwall differ- ences of age and class supplemented geographical oddity as a substitute for sexual explicitness. One barrister ‘commented on the difference of  position and the difference of age between Cornwall and the two young men, Malcolm Johnston and George aylor, and said it was strange to find them on cars together, in tramcars together, taking their amusement together. Why, even father and son did not take their amusement together, so different were the habits of old and young’. 󰀲􀀰  And again: ‘Cornwall was a man moving in the first circles of Dublin. Seeing the difference in age, in rank; in the circles in which they were moving, what the jury would ask,  was the explanation of the intimacy between Cornwall and Johnston, the latter though respectable being a mere youth, and his father engaged in trade and not going in for fashion and grandeur’. 󰀲􀀱 Yet in court the real evidence had been much more direct, though unreported in the newspapers. As United Ireland   put it, ‘[t]he details set forth in the case were not only disgusting in a moral sense, but they were calculated to make a man physically sick’. Te jury could not agree and Cornwall was retried and acquitted, though this time the jury added the qualification that it had reached its verdict because ‘the evidence produced by the Crown not being considered sufficient’. 󰀲󰀲 In reading the newspaper accounts of the several trials in which Corn-  wall was involved there is a sense that because of his demeanour he would in some way ultimately prevail. As has been noted scholars of the Wilde 􀀲󰀰  Daily News , 􀀲󰀵 August 󰀱􀀸􀀸􀀴. 􀀲󰀱 United Ireland  ,   󰀳󰀰 August 󰀱􀀸􀀸􀀴.􀀲􀀲  Daily Chronicle , 󰀳󰀰 October 󰀱􀀸􀀸􀀴.
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