Extraordinary Inquest (London, England, The Observer, 28 January 1833)

The Observer, 28 January 1833 (London, Greater London, England)


EXTRAORDINARY INQUEST.

On Wednesday evening last an Inquest  was held at the Coach and Horses public-house, Flood-street, Dean's-yard. Westminster, on the body of a person known by the name of Eliza Edwards, who had died the Wednesday before,  in Union-court, Westminster. There being no claimant for the body, it was taken, under the new Anatomy Act, to Guy's Hospital for dissection, where the surgeons of that Institution were astonished to find that it was the body of a perfect man.  A report of the circumstances was made to the Secretary of State, who directed that an Inquest should be held on the body, which in life presented a very effeminate appearance, there being no sign of beard or whiskers, and the hair of the head, which was two feet long, being parted like a woman's.

The first witness examined was a good-looking female, who stated that her name was Maria Edwards ; that she and the deceased lived together; she always considered the deceased her sister ; she generally went by the name of Eliza Edwards, and had been called Eliza Walstein, and Lavinia. Witness was born in Dublin, and is 17 years old; believes the deceased was born there, and that she was 24 years old. Witness had lived with her the last ten years, and mostly slept with her, and solemnly swore that she never knew the deceased was a man ; her mother told her they were sisters ; they had traveled a great deal about the country ; the deceased performed on the stage, and took the first parts in female tragic characters ; she never performed In London ; they were both unfortunate, and had for some time been suffering great distress ; the deceased wanted the common necessaries of life, and was confined to her bed by severe illness ; witness made application to the parish for relief, but received only a trifle.

Last Wednesday night (16th) the deceased appeared to be greatly exhausted, and said to witness, “Maria, I am dying—it has pleased God to call me,” and in about five minutes expired.  Witness was positive the deceased never shaved. Dr. Clutterbuck proved having attended the deceased for a dangerous inflammation of the lungs, under the name of Lavinia Edwards, and had no idea that the deceased was not a woman; he had examined the body since death, and found it to be that of a perfect man.

Several other witnesses were examined, but their evidence related to circumstances which cannot, with propriety, be detailed.

This most extraordinary fact was, however, clearly proved, that the deceased had for some time associated with and led the life of a woman of the town, and even lived under what is called the protection of gentlemen. Letters from them, addressed to the deceased under the apparent  impression that he was a female, were read to the Jury. One of these epistles purported to be from a person who had met the deceased in Regent-street, and who was so fascinated by his feminine beauty and address, that he implored a second Interview.  In that instance, however, the request did not seem to have been complied with.

The Jury ultimately returned a verdict, “That the deceased died by the Visitation of God;” but expressed an opinion that the body should be buried with some marks of opprobrium, in order to exhibit the feelings of society in the respect to the disgusting concealment of sex and abandoned artifices of the deceased. The whole case has excited the greatest astonishment, and is, perhaps, unparalleled in infamy ; although a similar successful disguise was, It will be recollected, used with success, by a female sawyer, at the East end of the town, who was sworn to have lived for ten years with a woman as her husband, and to have remained, in her opinion, of the opposite sex till the period of her death.