Murderpedia

 

 

Juan Ignacio Blanco  

 

  MALE murderers

index by country

index by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

  FEMALE murderers

index by country

index by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

 

 

 
   

Murderpedia has thousands of hours of work behind it. To keep creating new content, we kindly appreciate any donation you can give to help the Murderpedia project stay alive. We have many
plans and enthusiasm to keep expanding and making Murderpedia a better site, but we really
need your help for this. Thank you very much in advance.

   

 

 

Rev. James HACKMAN

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Jealousy
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: April 7, 1779
Date of arrest: Same day (suicide attempt)
Date of birth: December 13, 1752 (baptized)
Victim profile: Martha Ray, 36 (singer and mistress of John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: London, England, United Kingdom
Status: Executed by hanging at Tyburn on 19 April 1779
 
 
 
 
 
 
photo gallery
 
 
 
 
 
 

James Hackman (baptized 13 December 1752, hanged 19 April 1779), briefly Rector of Wiveton in Norfolk, was the murderer who killed Martha Ray, singer and mistress of John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich.

Early life

Baptized on 13 December 1752 at Gosport, Hampshire, Hackman was the son of William and Mary Hackman. His father had served in the Royal Navy as a lieutenant. Hackman was apprenticed to a mercer, and although according to some accounts he became a member of St John's College, Cambridge, no record of this can be traced at Cambridge.

Career

In 1772, Hackman was purchased a commission as an ensign in the 68th Regiment of Foot, and in 1776 was promoted lieutenant, but by early 1777 he had resigned from the army to become a clergyman. On 24 February 1779, Hackman was ordained a deacon of the Church of England and on 28 February a priest, and on 1 March 1779 was instituted as Rector of Wiveton, a place which he may never have visited.

Martha Ray

In about 1775, while he was a serving army officer, Hackman visited Lord Sandwich's house at Hinchingbrooke and met his host's mistress Martha Ray. She was "a lady of an elegant person, great sweetness of manners, and of a remarkable judgement and execution in vocal and instrumental music" who had lived with Lord Sandwich as his wife since the age of seventeen and had given birth to nine of his children.

Sandwich also had a wife, from whom he was separated, who was considered mad and who lived in an apartment at Windsor Castle. This was the same Lord Sandwich who is said to have called for a piece of beef between two pieces of bread, thus originating the word sandwich. He was a patron of the explorer Captain James Cook, who named the Sandwich Islands after him.

Hackman struck up a friendship with Martha Ray (who was several years older than he was) and was later reported to have become besotted with her. They may have become lovers and discussed marriage, but this is disputed. Although rich, Sandwich was usually in debt and offered Martha Ray no financial security. However, whatever was between Hackman and Martha Ray ended when he was posted to Ireland.

On 7 April 1779, a few weeks after his ordination as a priest of the Church of England, Hackman followed Martha Ray to Covent Garden, where she had gone to watch a performance of Isaac Bickerstaffe's comic opera Love in a Village.

Suspecting that Ray had a new lover, when Hackman saw her in the theatre with William Hanger, Lord Coleraine, he left, fetched two pistols, and waited in a nearby coffee house. As Ray came out of the theatre, Hackman put one pistol to her forehead and shot her dead. With the other he then tried to kill himself but made only a flesh wound. He then beat himself with both discharged pistols until he was arrested and taken, with Martha Ray's body, into a tavern in St James's Street. Two letters were found on Hackman, one addressed to his brother-in-law, Frederick Booth, and a love letter to Martha Ray: both later appeared in evidence at the murder trial.

When Lord Sandwich heard what had happened, he "wept exceedingly".

On 14 April 1779, Martha Ray was entombed inside the parish church of Elstree, Hertfordshire, but her body was later moved into the cemetery. On the instructions of Lord Sandwich, she was buried in the clothes she had been wearing when killed.

Trial

Hackman was quickly committed to the Tothill Fields Bridewell. As "James Hackman, Clerk", he was indicted for "the wilful murther of Martha Ray, spinster" on the inquisition of the coroner.

On 16 April 1779, just nine days after the event, Hackman was tried for murder at the Old Bailey. Despite having previously decided to plead guilty, in the event he pleaded not guilty, explaining that "the justice of my country ought to be satisfied by suffering my offence to be proved".

John McNamara, Esq., gave evidence that on the evening of 7 April, he believed at some time after eleven o'clock, he came out of the playhouse with Martha Ray, and having seen her "in some difficulties at the playhouse", offered his help in handing her to her carriage. She took his arm. As they came out of the passage into the Covent Garden playhouse and were two steps from the carriage, he heard the report of a pistol, while Miss Ray was still holding his right arm with her left hand. She fell instantly. He thought the pistol had been "fired out of wantonness" and that Miss Ray had fainted. He knelt to help her, but found blood on his hands, and got her into the Shakspeare tavern. He did not see Hackman at the time, but after he had been arrested, asked him what had possessed him, and he answered "that it was not a proper place to ask that question, or something to that effect... I asked him his name, and I understood from him that his name was Hackman; I think he pronounced his name with an H. I asked him if he knew anybody. He said, he knew a Mr. Booth, in Craven-street in the Strand, and desired he might be sent for. He desired to see the lady. I did not tell him she was dead; somebody else did. I objected to his seeing her at that time. I had her removed into another room. From the great quantity of blood I had about me I got sick, and was obliged to go home. I know no more about it."

Mary Anderson, a fruit seller, gave evidence that she was standing close by the carriage. She is recorded as saying:

"I was standing at the post. Just as the play broke up I saw two ladies and a gentleman coming out of the playhouse; a gentleman in black followed them. Lady Sandwich's coach was called. When the carriage came up, the gentleman handed the other lady into the carriage; the lady that was shot stood behind. Before the gentleman could come back to hand her into the carriage the gentleman in black came up, laid hold of her by the gown, and pulled out of his pocket two pistols; he shot the right hand pistol at her, and the other at himself. She fell with her hand so [describing it as being on her forehead] and died before she could be got to the first lamp; I believe she died immediately, for her head hung directly. At first I was frightened at the report of the pistol, and ran away. He fired another pistol, and dropped immediately. They fell feet to feet. He beat himself violently over the head with his pistols, and desired somebody would kill him".

Anderson said she had identified Hackman in Tothill Fields Bridewell the next day and she did so again in court, pointing to the prisoner.

Richard Blandy, a constable, gave evidence that he had been coming from Drury-Lane house and that as he came by the piazzas in Covent Garden he heard two pistol shots and then heard somebody say two people were killed. Approaching, he saw the surgeon had Hackman and a pistol in his hand. A Mr Mahon had given Blandy the pistol and asked him to take care of the prisoner and to take him to Mahon's house. The prisoner was bloody, wounded in the head, and very faint. When Blandy came to the corner by the Red Lion, the door was shut, and he was then asked to take the prisoner back to the Shakspeare tavern, where Mr Mahon was. Blandy searched the prisoner's pocket and found two letters, which he gave to Mr Campbell, master of the Shakspeare tavern. He could say nothing else about the letters.

James Mahon, an apothecary, gave evidence that he lived at the corner of Bow Street. Coming through the piazzas in Covent-Garden, he heard two pistols go off. Going back, he saw a gentleman lying on the ground, with a pistol in his left hand, beating himself violently and bleeding copiously. The prisoner was the gentleman. Mahon had taken the pistol away from him and given it to the constable, asking him to take the prisoner to his house for the wound to be dressed. He had seen nothing of the lady until two or three minutes later he saw her lying at the bar, with a mortal wound, and said he could not help her.

Dennis O'Bryan, a surgeon, gave evidence that he had examined Miss Ray's body at the Shakspeare tavern on the night of the murder. He found the wound to be mortal, could find no sign of life, and pronounced the woman dead. The wound was in the 'centra coronalis' (the crown of the head) and the ball had come out under the left ear.

Hackman gave evidence for himself. He admitted that he had killed Ray, but he claimed he had only meant to kill himself. He said:

"I stand here this day the most wretched of human beings, and confess myself criminal in a high degree; yet while I acknowledge with shame and repentance, that my determination against my own life was formal and complete, I protest, with that regard to truth which becomes my situation, that the will to destroy her who was ever dearer to me than life, was never mine till a momentary phrensy overcame me, and induced me to commit the deed I now deplore. The letter, which I meant for my brother-in-law after my decease, will have its due weight as to this point with good men. Before this dreadful act, I trust nothing will be found in the tenor of my life which the common charity of mankind will not excuse. I have no wish to avoid the punishment which the laws of my country appoint for my crime; but being already too unhappy to feel a punishment in death, or a satisfaction in life, I submit myself with penitence and patience to the disposal and judgement of Almighty God, and to the consequences of this enquiry into my conduct and intention".

Hackman's defence counsel submitted to the court that Hackman was insane and that the killing of Martha Ray was unpremeditated, as shown by the letter to her found on him.

William Halliburton was sworn and produced the other letter found in the prisoner's pocket, which he said he had had from Booth. Mahon identified it as a letter taken from the prisoner, which he said Booth had opened and read in his presence. The letter, addressed to "Frederick Booth, Esq. Craven street, in the Strand", was read into the record:

My dear Frederick,

When this reaches you I shall be no more, but do not let my unhappy fate distress you too much; I have strove against it as long as possible, but it now overpowers me. You well know where my affections were placed; my having by some means or other lost her's [sic] (an idea which I could not support) has driven me to madness. The world will condemn me, but your good heart will pity me. God bless you my dear Fred. Would I had a sum to leave you, to convince you of my great regard: you was my only friend. I have hid one circumstance from you, which gives me great pain. I owe Mr. Knight, of Gosport, 100 ℓ. for which he has the writings of my houses; but I hope in God, when they are sold, and all other matters collected, there will be nearly enough to settle our account. May Almighty God bless you and yours with comfort and happiness; and may you ever be a stranger to the pangs I now feel. May heaven protect my beloved woman, and forgive this act, which alone could relieve me from a world of misery I have long endured. Oh! if it should ever be in your power to do her any act of friendship, remember your faithful friend, J. Hackman.

Mr Justice Blackstone, presiding at the trial, summed up the case against Hackman. He told the jury that the crime of murder did not demand "a long form of deliberation" and that Hackman's letter to Frederick Booth showed "a coolness and deliberation which no ways accorded with the ideas of insanity". Hackman was convicted and sentenced to be hanged.

In a newspaper report of the trial, Hackman was described as five feet nine inches tall, "very genteely made, and of a most polite Address".

After the trial, James Boswell told Frederick Booth that Hackman had behaved "with Decency, Propriety, and in such a Manner as to interest everyone present".

Execution

Hackman was hanged at Tyburn on 19 April 1779. He travelled there in a mourning coach, accompanied by the sheriff's officer and two fellow clergymen, the Rev. Moses Porter, a curate friend from Clapham, and the Rev. John Villette, the chaplain of Newgate Prison. James Boswell later denied rumours that he had also been in the coach.

At Tyburn, "Hackman... behaved with great fortitude; no appearances of fear were to be perceived, but very evident signs of contrition and repentance". His body was later publicly dissected at Surgeons' Hall, London.

Aftermath

Hackman's case became famous, and The Newgate Calendar later noted that:

"This shocking and truly lamentable case interested all ranks of people, who pitied the murderer's fate, conceived him stimulated to commit the horrid crime through love and madness. Pamphlets and poems were written on the occasion, and the crime was long the common topic of conversation".

Horace Walpole remarked that the murder fascinated much of London during April 1779. At first, given Sandwich's position as First Lord of the Admiralty, a political motive was suspected. Not long before, Sandwich and Martha Ray had found themselves fleeing from Admiralty House, where a mob was rioting against the government and in particular against what it saw as the mistreatment of Admiral Keppel.

The affair inspired Sir Herbert Croft's epistolary novel Love and Madness (1780), an imagined correspondence between Hackman and Martha Ray. In this, Hackman is dealt with sympathetically. He is represented as a man of sensibility suffering from an extreme case of unrequited love who descends into suicidal and homicidal despair, even to the point that the reader is invited to identify with Hackman rather than with his victim.

Samuel Johnson and Topham Beauclerk debated whether Hackman had meant to kill only himself. Johnson believed that the two pistols Hackman took with him to Covent Garden meant that he intended there to be two deaths. Boswell himself (who had visited Hackman in prison) wrote that the case showed "the dreadful effects that the passion of Love may produce".

In his Mind-Forg'd Manacles (1987), the social historian Roy Porter argues that Hackman was well aware of the madness of his passion.

Likenesses

A mezzotint of Hackman by Robert Laurie, after Robert Dighton, was published in 1779. Another engraving of Hackman (artist unknown) was used as an illustration in The Case and Memoirs of the Late Rev. Mr James Hackman (1779).

Wikipedia.org

 
 

JAMES HACKMAN, Killing > murder, 4th April 1779.

187. JAMES HACKMAN , Clerk , was indicted for the wilful murther of Martha Ray , spinster , April 7th .

He was charged with the like murther on the coroner's inquisition.

JOHN M'NAMARA, Esq. sworn.

You was coming from the playhouse with Miss Ray on the 7th of April. - I was. On Wednesday the 7th of April, seeing Miss Ray in some difficulties at the playhouse, and, being a little acquainted with her, I was induced to offer my assistance to hand her to her carriage; she took me by the arm.

What time of the night was this? - Past eleven o'clock, I believe; I am not precise to the time. As we came out of the passage that leads into Covent-Garden playhouse, when we were in the piazzas, very near the carriage, I heard the report of a pistol.

You was not with her then; you had only handed her to the piazzas? - I came out of the passage with her. I had not quitted her at the time the fatal accident happened; she had hold of my hand at the time. After I came out of the passage in the piazzas I heard the report of a pistol, and felt an impression on my right arm, the arm she held with her left, and which I conceive to be the ball, after it had passed through her head, that had hit my arm; she instantly dropped.

How far had you proceeded from the playhouse door when this accident happened? - Within two or three yards of the front on the outside, in the street, within two steps of the coach; she had got out of the portico; it was in the piazzas that it happened. I thought the pistol had been fired out of wantonness; I had not an idea that there was a ball though I felt the impression on my arm. I stooped to assist her in a fainting fit, as I conceived it to be, through the fright of the pistol.

Did you at any time observe the prisoner? - No, I did not; I do not know he was the person at all, but from what passed afterwards in the Shakspeare. I threw myself upon my knees to attempt to help her up, and found my hands bloody; I then had an idea of the truth of it, and by the assistance of a link-boy I got her into the Shakspeare tavern. Upon the prisoner being secured, I was induced to ask him what could possess him to be guilty of such a deed? or some question of that sort; and he answered me by saying, that it was not a proper place to ask that question, or something to that effect. I am not precise as to his answer. I asked him his name, and I understood from him that his name was Hackman; I think he pronounced his name with an H. I asked him if he knew anybody. He said, he knew a Mr. Booth, in Craven-street in the Strand, and desired he might be sent for. He desired to see the lady. I did not tell him she was dead; somebody else did. I objected to his seeing her at that time. I had her removed into another room. From the great quantity of blood I had about me I got sick, and was obliged to go home. - I know no more abou t it.

When the prisoner heard the lady was dead did he make any observations in your hearing? - I cannot recollect that he made any observation.

MARY ANDERSON sworn.

On Wednesday, the 7th of April, after the play was over, where were you standing? - Close by the lady's carriage.

What are you? - I sell fruit.

Give an account of all that you observed under the piazzas.

I was standing at the post. Just as the play broke up I saw two ladies and a gentleman coming out of the playhouse; a gentleman in black followed them. Lady Sandwich's coach was called. When the carriage came up, the gentleman handed the other lady into the carriage; the lady that was shot stood behind. Before the gentleman could come back to hand her into the carriage the gentleman in black came up, laid hold of her by the gown, and pulled out of his pocket two pistols; he shot the right hand pistol at her, and the other at himself. She fell with her hand so (describing it as being on her forehead) and died before she could be got to the first lamp; I believe she died immediately, for her head hung directly. At first I was frightened at the report of the pistol, and ran away. He fired another pistol, and dropped immediately. They fell feet to feet. He beat himself violently over the head with his pistols, and desired somebody would kill him.

Whereabouts did he beat himself? - Just about the right temple. (Describing it.)

His own head? - Yes.

Did you see him in Tothilfields Bridewell the next day? - Yes.

Was the person you saw there the person who discharged the pistol? - Yes.

Is he here? - That is the gentleman. (Pointing to the prisoner.)

Cross Examination.

You say Mr. Hackman pulled two pistols out of his pocket - do you mean he pulled them both out of one pocket with one hand? - He pulled them out of different pockets with different hands, and they went off just so. (Describing it by claping her hands twice, one immediately after the other.)

Was one taken out first, and the other afterwards? - No; both together.

Was the pistol cocked? - I saw him cock both the pistols at the same time.

Did you see him do any thing to the pistols? - I saw him let them off.

Do you know the make of a pistol? - No.

Did you see him do any thing to the pistol before he let it off? - No.

RICHARD BLANDY sworn.

I am a constable.

Tell what you observed on the evening of the 7th of April? - Coming from Drury-Lane house, as I came by the piazzas in Covent-Garden I heard two pistols go off, and heard somebody say two people were killed. I went up, and saw the surgeon had Mr. Hackman and a pistol in his hand. Mr. Mahon gave me the pistol, and desired me to take care of the prisoner, and take him to his house.

To Mr. Mahon's house? - Yes; when I came to the corner by the Red-Lion, the door was shut. I found the prisoner very faint; somebody called to me, and desired me to bring him back to the Shakspeare tavern; that Mr. Mahon was there, and I brought him back to the Shakspeare.

Cross Examination.

You are a constable? - Yes.

When you saw this gentleman what situation was he in? - All bloody; he was wounded in the head. I searched his pocket and found two letters, which I delivered, as I was desired, to Mr. Campbell, the master of the Shakspeare tavern.

Do you know who they were addressed to? - No.

Nor the contents of them? - I do not.

JAMES MAHON sworn.

I am an apothecary. I live at the corner of Bow-street. Coming through the piazzas in Covent-Garden, intending to go through the passage home, I had just put my foot on the first step when I heard two pistols go off. It struck me that two gentlemen had quarrelled in the boxes, and taken that method to settle the difference. I went back, and saw the gentleman lie on the ground, reclining in this posture (describing it) he had a pistol in his left hand, and was beating himself violently. I understood that his name was Hackman. The prisoner is the gentleman. I wrenched the pistol immediately out of his hand. He bled very much. I gave the pistol to Blandy, the constable, and desired him to take the prisoner to my house that I might dress the wound, and stop the violent effusion of blood. I was going towards my own house; at the corner of Russel-Street I met Mr. Campbell, who keeps the Shakspeare tavern?

It is no matter what passed between you and Mr. Campbell, did you see any thing of the lady? - At first I did not.

When did you see her? - In the space of two or three minutes I saw her lying at the bar, supported by a person I did not know. I perceived the wound was mortal. I said I could give her no assistance.

DENNIS O'BRYAN sworn.

I am a surgeon. I was called upon to view the body of Miss Ray. I saw the body at the Shakspeare the same night soon after the murther; I examined the wound, and found it to be a mortal one. I felt the vessels of sensation, and tried every other way to see if I could perceive any life, and pronounced the woman dead. The wound was received in the front of the head, in the Centra coronalis, and the ball was discharged under the left ear.

PRISONER's DEFENCE.

I should not have troubled the court with the examination of witnesses to support the charge against me, had I not thought that the pleading guilty to the indictment gave an indication of contemning death not suitable to my present condition, and was in some measure, being accessary to a second peril of my life; and I likewise thought, that the justice of my country ought to be satisfied by suffering my offence to be proved, and the fact established by evidence.

I stand here this day the most wretched of human beings, and confess myself criminal in a high degree; yet while I acknowledge with shame and repentance, that my determination against my own life was formal and complete, I protest, with that regard to truth which becomes my situation, that the will to destroy her who was ever dearer to me than life, was never mine till a momentary phrensy overcame me, and induced me to commit the deed I now deplore. The letter, which I meant for my brother-in-law after my decease, will have its due weight as to this point with good men.

Before this dreadful act, I trust nothing will be found in the tenor of my life which the common charity of mankind will not excuse. I have no wish to avoid the punishment which the laws of my country appoint for my crime; but being already too unhappy to feel a punishment in death, or a satisfaction in life, I submit myself with penitence and patience to the disposal and judgement of Almighty God, and to the consequences of this enquiry into my conduct and intention.

Examination to support the Prisoner's Defence.

WILLIAM HALLIBURTON sworn.

This letter (producing the letter found in the prisoner's pocket) was delivered to me by Mr. Bond, at Sir John Fielding 's; he said it was delivered to him by Mr. Booth.

Is Mr. Bond here? - No.

Mr. Mabon. This is the letter that was taken from the prisoner; I remember particularly the hundred pound mentioned in it being written in figures; I read it in Mr. Booth's hand; I saw it taken out of the prisoner's pocket sealed up; Mr. Booth opened it and read it in my presence.

The letter was read, directed to Frederick Booth , Esq. Craven street, in the Strand.

"My dear Frederick,

"When this reaches you I shall be no more, but do not let my unhappy fate distress you too much; I have strove against it as long as possible, but it now overpowers me. You well know where my affections were placed; my having by some means or other lost her's (an idea which I could not support) has driven me to madness. The world will condemn me, but your good heart will pity me. God bless you my dear Fred. Would I had a sum to leave you, to convince you of my great regard: you was my only friend. I have hid one circumstance from you, which gives me great pain. I owe Mr. Knight, of Gosport, 100 l. for which he has the writings of my houses; but I hope in God, when they are sold, and all other matters collected, there will be nearly enough to settle our account. May Almighty God bless you and yours with comfort and happiness; and may you ever be a stranger to the pangs I now feel. May heaven protect my beloved woman, and forgive this act, which alone could relieve me from a world of misery I have long endured. Oh! if it should ever be in your power to do her any act of friendship, remember your faithful friend,

J. HACKMAN."

GUILTY Death .

Tried by the First Middlesex Jury before Mr. Justice BLACKSTONE.

OldBaileyOnline.org

 
 

THE REV. JAMES HACKMAN

Executed at Tyburn, 19th of April, 1779, for murdering Miss Reay outside Covent Garden Theatre

THIS shocking and truly lamentable case interested all ranks of people, who pitied the murderer's fate, conceived him stimulated to commit the horrid crime through love and madness. Pamphlets and poems were written on the occasion, and the crime was long the common topic of conversation.

The object of Mr. Hackman's love renders his case still more singular.

Miss Reay had been the Mistress of Lord Sandwich near twenty years, was the mother of nine children, and nearly double the age of Mr. Hackman.

This murder affords a melancholy proof that there is no act so contrary to reason that men will not commit when under dominion of their passions. In short it is impossible to convey an idea of the impression it made; and the manner in which it was done created horror arid pity in every feeling mind.

It is probable that Mr. Hackman imagined that there was a mutual passion -- that Miss Reay had the same regard for him as he had for her. Love and madness are often little better than synonymous terms; for, had Mr Hackman not been blinded by a bewitching passion, he could never have imagined that Miss Reay would have left the family of a noble lord at the head of one of the highest departments of the state, in order to live in an humble station. Those who have been long accustomed to affluence, and even profusion, seldom choose to lower their flags. However, he was still tormented by this unhappy, irregular, and ungovernable passion, which, in an unhappy moment, led him to commit the crime for which he suffered.

MR JAMES HACKMAN was born at Gosport, in Hampshire, and originally designed for trade; but he was too volatile in disposition to submit to the drudgery of the shop or counting-house. His parents, willing to promote his interest as far as lay in their power, purchased him an ensign's commission in the 68th Regiment of Foot. He had not been long in the army when he was sent to command a recruiting party, and being at Huntingdon he was frequently invited to dine with Lord Sandwich, who had a seat in that neighbourhood. There it was that he first became acquainted with Miss Reay, who lived under the protection of that nobleman.

This lady was the daughter of a staymaker in Covent Garden, and served her apprenticeship to a mantua-maker in George's Court, St John's Lane, Clerkenwell. She was bound when only thirteen, and during her apprenticeship was taken notice of by the nobleman above mentioned, who took her under his protection, and treated her with every mark of tenderness. No sooner had Mr Hackman seen her than he became enamoured of her, though she had then lived for nineteen years with his lordship. Finding he could not obtain preferment in the army, he turned his thoughts to the Church, and entered into orders. Soon after he obtained the living of Wiverton, in Norfolk, which was only about Christmas preceding the shocking deed which cost him his life, so that it may be said he never enjoyed it.

Miss Reay was extremely fond of music, and as her noble protector was in a high rank we need not be surprised to find that frequent concerts were performed both in London and at Hinchinbrook. At the latter place Mr Hackman was generally of the party, and his attention to her at those times was very great. How long he had been in London previous to this affair is not certainly known, but at that time he lodged in Duke's Court, St Martin's Lane. On the morning of the 7th of April, 1779, he sat some time in his closet, reading Dr Blair's Sermons; but in the evening he took a walk to the Admiralty, where he saw Miss Reay go into the coach along with Signora Galli, who attended her. The coach drove to Covent Garden Theatre, where she stayed to see the performance of Love in a Village. Mr Hackman went into the theatre at the same time, but, not being able to contain the violence of his passion, returned to his lodgings, and having loaded two pistols again went to the playhouse, where he waited till the play was over. As Miss Reay was ready to step into the coach he took a pistol in each hand, one of which he discharged against her, which killed her on the spot, and the other at himself, which, however, did not take effect.

He then beat himself on his head with the butt-end, in order to destroy himself, so fully bent was he on the destruction of both. After some struggle he was secured, and his wounds dressed. He was then carried before Sir John Fielding, who committed him to Tothill Fields Bridewell, and next to Newgate, where a person was appointed to attend him, lest he should lay violent hands on himself. In Newgate, as he knew he had no favour to expect, he prepared himself for the awful change he was about to make. He had dined with his sister on the day the murder was committed, and in the afternoon had written a letter to her husband, Mr Booth, an eminent attorney, acquainting him with his resolution of destroying himself and desiring him to sell what effects he should leave behind him, to pay a small debt; but this letter was not sent, for it was found in his pocket.

On the trial Mr. Macnamara deposed that, on Wednes day, the 7th day of April, on seeing Miss Reay, with whom he had some little acquaintance, in some difficulties in getting from the playhouse, he offered his assistance to hand her to her coach; and just as they were in the Piazzas, very near the carriage, he heard the report of a pistol, and felt an impression on his right arm, which arm she held with her left, and instantly dropped. He thought at Iirst that the pistol had been fired through wantonness, and that she had fallen from the fright, and therefore fell upon his knees to help her up; but, finding his hands bloody, lie then conceived an idea of what had happened, and, by the assistance of a link-boy, got the deceased into the Shakspeare Tavern, where he first saw the prisoner, after he was secured. He asked him some questions relative to the fact and the cause; and his answer was, that neither the time nor place were proper to resolve him. He asked his name and was told Hackman: he knew a Mr. Booth, in Craven Street, and desired he might be sent for.

He asked to see the lady; to which he (the witness) objected, and had her removed to a private room. From the impression he felt, and the great quantity of blood about him, he grew sick, and went home; and knew nothing more about it.

Mary Anderson, a fruit-woman, deposed that, just as the play was over, she saw two ladies and a gentleman coming out of the playhouse, and a gentleman in black following them. Lord Sandwich's coach was called. When the carriage came up the gentleman handed the other lady into it. The lady that was shot stood behind, when the gentleman in black came up, laid hold of her gown, and pulled two pistols out of his pockets: the one in his right hand he discharged at the lady, and the other, in his left, he discharged at himself. They fell feet to feet. He beat himself violently over the head with his pistol, and desired somebody would kill him.

Richard Blandy, the constable, swore to the finding two letters in the prisoner's pocket, which he delivered to Mr. Campbell, the master of the Shakspeare Tavern, in Covent Garden.

Mr. Mahon, an apothecary, corroborated the evidence of the fruit-woman: he wrenched the pistol out of his hand, with which he was beating himself, as he lay on the ground -took him to his house, dressed his wounds, and accom panied him to the Shakspeare.

Denis O'Brian, a surgeon, examined the wound of the deceased, and found it mortal.

Being called upon for his defence, he addressed the Court in the following words:- "I should not have troubled the Court with the examination of witnesses to support the charge against me, had I not thought that the pleading guilty to the indictment gave an indication of contemning death, not suitable to my present condition, and was, in some measure, being accessory to a second peril of my life; and I likewise thought that the justice of my country ought to be satisfied by suffering my offence to be proved, and the fact established by evidence.

"I stand here this day the most wretched of human beings, and confess myself criminal in a high degree; yet while I acknowledge, with shame and repentance, that my determination against my own life was formal and com plete, I protest, with that regard to truth which becomes my situation, that the will to destroy her, who was ever dearer to me than my life, was never mine till a momentary frenzy overcame me, and induced me to commit the deed I now deplore. The letter, which I meant for my brotherin-law after my decease, will have its due weight, as to this point, with good men.

"Before this dreadful act, I trust nothing will be found in the tenor of my life which the common charity of mankind will not excuse. I have no wish to avoid the punishment which the laws of my country appoint for my crime; but, being already too unhappy to feel a punishment in death or a satisfaction in life, I submit myself with penitence and patience to the disposal and judgment of Almighty God, and to the consequences of this inquiry into my conduct and intention."

Then was read the following letter:--

My DEAR FREDERIC,

When this reaches you I shall bhe no more; but do not let my unhappy fate distress you too much: I have strove against it as long as possible, but it now overpowers me. You well know where my affections were placed: my having by some means or other lost hers (an idea which I could not support) has driven me to madness. The world will condemn me, but your good heart will pity me. God bless you, my dear Frederic! Would I had a sum to leave you, to convince you of my great regard! You was my only friend. I have hid one circumstance from you, which gives me great pain. I owe Mr. Knight, of Gosport, one hundred pounds, for which he has the writings of my houses; but I hope in God, when they are sold, and all other matters collected, there will be nearly enough to settle our account. May Almighty God bless you and yours with cormfort and happiness; and may you ever be a stranger to the pangs I now feel! May Heaven protect my beloved woman, and forgive this act, which alone could relieve me from a world of misery I have long endured! Oh, if it should ever be in your power to do her an act of friendship, remember your faithful friend.

J. HACKMAN.

The jury inimediately returned their fatal verdict. The unhappy man heard the sentence pronounced him with taint resignation to his fate, and employed the very short time allowed murderers after conviction in repentance and prayer. During the procession to the fatal tree at Tyburn he seemed much affected, and said but little; and when he arrived at Tyburn, and got out of the coach and mounted the cart, he took leave of Dr. Porter and the Ordinary. After some time spent in prayer, he was turned off, on April the 19th, 1779; and, having hung the usual time, his body was carried to Surgeons' Hall for dissection.

Such was the end of a young gentleman who might have been an ornament to his country, the delight of his friends, and a comfort to his relations, had he not been led away by the influence of an unhappy passion.

The Newgate Calendar

 
 

James Hackman

Soldier, Clergyman, Murderer
Born 1752 Died 1779

"there is no act so contrary to reason that men will not commit when under dominion of their passions"

James Hackman was the son of a former naval lieutenant named William Hackman, born most probably towards the end of the year 1752 as he was baptised on the 13th December at the Holy Trinity Church in Gosport, Hampshire. He was originally apprenticed to a mercer, but as this did not suit him, his parents bought him an ensign's commission in the 68th Regiment of Foot in 1772. In 1776 he was promoted to lieutenant but resigned his commission later that year in order to enter the church. Ordained deacon on the 24th February 1779, and priest four days later, he was appointed to the living of Wivetton in Norfolk on the 1st March, although it seems likely that he never set foot in Wiverton.

The reason for this sudden change in career appears to be related to the visit that James had paid in 1775 to the home of John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich at Hinchingbrooke as a member of a recruiting party. There he first met Martha Ray, the Earl's long standing mistress, an acquaintance which James made every effort to renew thereafter. Although the exact nature of the relationship between Martha and James is unclear, it is certain that James was infatuated with her and had proposed marriage. Martha certainly appears to have rejected his proposal of marriage, although whether this was because of her own feelings or simply because she felt unable to free herself from the Earl of Sandwich's clutches is a matter of conjecture.

In any event James became the rejected lover and took to following Martha Ray around London. On the 7th April 1779 he followed her to the Covent Garden Theatre where, together with her friend the Italian singer Caterina Galli, she had gone to see a performance of Love in a Village. James was also one of the audience but at some point during the evening he left the theatre and went home, collected two pistols, and returned to wait at the nearby Bedford Coffee House.

At about a quarter past eleven that evening, Martha Ray and Caterina Galli left the theatre and found a large crowd gathered in front of the theatre. An Irish lawyer by the name of John Macnamara offered to escort them to their carriage, and then led them through the crowd. Caterina Galli was the first to enter and Martha had one foot on the carriage step when James Hackman appeared. According to Horace Walpole, it was at that moment that James "came round behind, pulled her by the gown, and on her turning round, clapped the pistol to her forehead and shot her through the head. With another pistol he then attempted to shoot himself, but the ball grazing his brow, he tried to dash out his own brains with the pistol, and is more wounded by those blows than by the ball." James then threw himself to the ground and began "beating himself about the head" with the butts of his pistols whilst crying, "Oo! kill me!...for God's sake kill me!"

John Macnamara carried Martha Ray's body to the Shakespeare Tavern nearby whilst James Hackman was arrested by a passing constable and taken into custody. His subsequent trial at the Old Bailey on the 16th April 1779 naturally drew a large crowd and a fee of one guinea was charged for admission to the public gallery. James Boswell echoed the feelings of many when he described the affair as "one of the most remarkable that has ever occurred in the history of human nature".

Despite the prima facie strength of the case against him, James Hackman pleaded not guilty to the charge of murder, his defence being one of temporary insanity. James claimed that he had only intended to commit suicide. As he explained to the court in a speech (quite possibly written for him by James Boswell);

I stand here this day the most wretched of human beings, and confess myself criminal in a high degree; yet while I acknowledge with shame and repentance, that my determination against my own life was formal and complete, I protest, with that regard to truth which becomes my situation, that the will to destroy her who was ever dearer to me than life, was never mine till a momentary phrensy overcame me, and induced me to commit the deed I now deplore.

The judge, Mr Justice Blackstone was not impressed and in his summimg up ruled that murder did not require "a long form of deliberation" and argued that the letter found in James' pocket addressed to his brother-in-law Frederick showed "a coolness and deliberation which no ways accorded with the ideas of insanity".

The jury took the hint and James Hackman was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. He was hanged at Tyburn on the 19th April 1779 where it is said that he "behaved with great fortitude; no appearances of fear were to be perceived, but very evident signs of contrition and repentance". His body was afterwards taken to Surgeons' Hall for public dissection in accordance with the Murder Act 1752. One Henry Angelo who viewed the dissection later wrote that the experience had put him off pork chops for life.

"Illicit love now reigns triumphant"

The press have always liked a good murder, and the murder of Martha Ray was a particularly juicy murder, with the victim being the mistress of such an illustrious peer as the 4th Earl of Sandwich, a senior figure in the government of George III.

The murder was of course a very public fair, being carried out before the eyes of a crowd of eyewitnesses and within hours the first newspaper accounts appeared and the story remained on the front pages long after James Hackman met his end. The initial press accounts where largely sympathetic to all three of the main actors as the press relished the story itself without wishing to draw any moral lessons. However James Hackman had his supporters the aforementioned James Boswell among them, who viewed him as a victim of aristocratic corruption. James Hackman's lawyer Mannaseh Dawes, published his own account of the case under the title Case and Memoirs of the late Rev. Mr. James Hackman. He blamed Martha Ray for leading his ex-client on, and the Earl of Sandwich for participating in an illicit and immoral affair which only served to corrupt the morals of the public in general and his former client specifically.

Less than a year after James Hackman's execution a journalist by the name of Herbert Croft published Love and Madness: A Story Too True, which claimed to reproduce the letters that had passed between James and Martha Ray. James Hackman was portrayed as a romantic hero and the work became an immediate bestseller. But despite being hugely influential in defining what the public believed to be the truth of the affair, the work was a complete fake and entirely a work of fiction. Although now categorised as a novel, the 'evidence' was used as a stick to beat the Earl of Sandwich by his political opponents; the London Evening Post proclaimed him as the "villest of men".

During the 19th century the story was revived as an exemplar of the debauchery, extravagance and sheer wickedness of the Georgian Age. To the Victorians James was a killer, Martha Ray was a whore and John Montagu was a moral reprobate and the retelling of the tale served the purpose of emphasising the 'moral progress' that had been made since those dark days. At the end of the 19th century Gilbert Burgess published his The Love Letters of Mr. H and Miss R 1775-1779 which was nothing more than an edited version of Herbert Croft's work. Despite being no less fictional than the original, it was cited as a factual source by a number of late twentieth century female authors eager to rescue the life of Martha Ray from the bounds of patriarchy and who constructed a version of the tale to suit their own particular agenda.

Thus the tale of the unfortunate love triangle between James Hackman, Martha Ray and the 4th Earl of Sandwich has continued to fascinate and has been re-interpreted by succeeding generations to suit the needs of the age.

Everything2.com

 
 

Martha Ray (1742 7 April 1779) was a British singer of the Georgian era. Her father was a corsetmaker and her mother was a servant in a noble household. Good-looking, intelligent, and a talented singer, she came to the attention of many of her father's patrons. She is best known for her affair with John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich. She lived with him as his mistress from the age of seventeen, while his wife was suffering from mental illness. She gave birth to five children, one of whom was Basil Montagu. During this time, she conducted a successful singing career, for which she became well-known, as well as completed her education with Lord Sandwich's support.

Sandwich set Ray up in a residence in Westminster, and gave her a generous allowance, allowing her a place to stay during periods in which she did not wish to remain at his home. In public, although Sandwich was married, the two acted as husband and wife. During this period, Ray was introduced to a soldier, James Hackman, by Sandwich. Hackman became a frequent visitor, and is thought to have proposed marriage to Ray on several instances, but she declined each time. Also by this time, Sandwich was deeply in debt. It is believed that while Sandwich was financially generous to Ray, he did not offer her any longterm financial security, which may have been what led Ray into tolerating Hackman's advances.

In 1779, Hackman left the British Army to join the church. At some point, believed to have been around 1778, Ray and Hackman had become involved romantically, but this affair was short-lived, by most reports due to her believing he lacked the financial means and social status to support her. However, Hackman was completely infatuated with Ray, becoming increasingly jealous, and continued to pursue her.

On 7 April 1779, in the company of a female attendant, Ray left her home to attend an engagement. She had been approached by Hackman earlier that evening, but when she declined to tell him where she was going he followed her to the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden, where he murdered her. Hackman believed that she had taken another lover, William Hanger, Baron Coleraine, whom Hackman witnessed her meeting at Covent Garden. Whether she and Coleraine were involved in an affair has never been established beyond some doubt. Sandwich was devastated by her death. Hackman attempted to shoot himself to death following his murder of her, but only wounded himself, and was arrested. Two days after her 14 April burial, Hackman was sentenced to hang, and the sentence was carried out on 19 April in front of a large crowd in Tyburn, London.

 

 

 
 
 
 
home last updates contact