21 JULY 1866, Page 9


THE very strange circumstances attending the death of Mrs. Warder at Brighton, and the subsequent suicide of her hus- band, have as yet been so ill reported that we are scarcely masters of all the grounds on which the coroner's jury brought in a verdict, of wilful murder against Dr. Warder, who had been at the time of the verdict already a week dead. Still imperfect as our materials are, if the coroner's jury are right in their verdict they suggest very curious speculations as to Dr. Warder's character. That he destroyed himself with prussic acid soon after his wife's funeral, and while the investigation as to the cause of her death was still going on, is certain ; but the coroner admitted that there was no apparent motive for the murder of his wife—no gain to him by her death,— and the physicians who analyzed the body could find no trace of poison. They believed indeed that there was no natural cause of death discovered by the post mortem examination, and they con- sidered all the symptoms of the deceased woman more like those that would have resulted from poisoning by repeated doses of aconite,—which, five weeks previous to her death, on calling in the physician, Dr. Taafe, who attended her, Dr. Warder avowed having given in rather considerable doses to relieve his wife's pain, for which he was blamed by Dr. Taafe,—than from any other known cause, and there is no chemical test for such a vegetable poison as aconite. What added to the cir- cumstances of suspicion, circumstances, however, very ill-repor- ted, was that Dr. Warder's first wife, by whom he had had four children, had been separated from him, owing to some ground of difference between them, had returned to him, and had died within a few weeks of her return to live with him in 1863 ; that his second wife, whose life he had insured, died in 1865, within eight months of their marriage, of symptoms very similar to those from which his third wife afterwards died ; and that both his second and third marriages had been carefully con- cealed,—for what reason is not apparent,—from the relatives of his first wife. But many of these circumstances are only suspicious in the sense of suggesting mystery. Excepting the illness of his second wife, which resembled in its symptoms that of his third (who, by the way, had been till marriage a very healthy woman), none of these peculiarities of the case directly support the hypo- thesis of foul play. It is in evidence that Dr. Warder kept up • confidential relations with the sister of his first wife, and left his children (her nieces and nephews) to her guardianship. It would appear, too, from some of the evidence that his third wife, the lady whom he is found guilty of poisoning, had great confidence in him, and clung to his care to the last moment. " Dr. Warder," said the landlady of the Brighton lodgings, " always remained with her [Mrs. Warder] when she was ill; she could not endure him to leave her for a moment. I never suggested a nurse, for- she told me she preferred her husband to do everything for her.2' It is true that this lady's evidence seems to have been decidedly more- favourable to Dr. Warder than that of her servant, for she supported,. while her servant directly contradicted, the account given by Dr.- Warder of a peculiar and suspicious appearance on the tongue of his wife before her death, which he accounted for by saying that Mrs. Warder took her arrow-root scalding hot, after sucking ice all day to relieve her thirst. The landlady, Miss Lausdell, sup- ported him in this explanation, saying that " the arrow-root and the milk always went up boiling hot, and I have remonstrated with her for drinking it so quickly as she used to do ;" while her servant, Mary Miles, on the other hand, swore positively that on the night chiefly in question Mrs. Warder had had nothing hot at all, and that even when on other occasions the arrow-root or other food was taken up hot, Mrs. Warder was always very careful in cooling it before she drank it. "At the desire of Mrs. Warder it was always poured into a saucer to cool. Witness herself so poured it out twice, and in the evening of the day after that on which Mrs. Warder had had the ice, she saw Dr. Warder pour out some corn- flour which had been made, to cool. Witness never heard Mrs. Warder complain of her throat being scalded." The difference in tendency between the evidence of Miss Lansdell, the landlady, and that of the servant on this small point, on which not a little evidently turned,—a difference to which Dr. Warder was appa- rently quite alive, for his last act was a sort of acknowledgment to Miss Lansdell of her kindness and friendly evidence,—may render the same lady's evidence as to the constant clinging of the dying lady to her husband's nursing, which of course would be a matter on which favourable or unfavourable personal impres- sions could not but bias the judgment, open to some little doubt. During the first attack of her illness in London Mrs. Warder had, it seems, said, " It is the one thought of my life that this is the same illness as poor Annie died of," " Annie " being her immediate predecessor, the second Mrs. Warder ; and on this same occasion, too, she seems to have been in a vague way even a little uneasy about the medicine (aconite) which her husband was then giving her, for she said of it, "This is aconite, a most deadly poison. I would not touch it for the life of me, but he drops it for me." Still, on the whole the evidence goes to prove that Mrs. Warder trusted her husband to the last, and that if he gave a false account of the caused the appearance on her tongue, she either acquiesced in it, in order to prevent further inquiry, which might have ended in forbidding a remedy in the power of which she believed, or really accepted it as correct, for she was present, and did not protest against Dr. Warder's mode of accounting for it to Dr. Taafe.

We insist on these little details, because it is in Dr. Warder's demeanour to and power over the various women around him that the chief peculiarity of his case, if the coroner's jury are right as they probably are, chiefly consists. It is clear that, in spite of his differences with his first wife, and her rather sudden death, he retained the confidence of one of her sisters to the last. His last letters were short notes of instructions to her, written after the murder and before his own suicide, confessing nothing ; but simply business-like, considerate notes, pointing out with great clearness what property there would be for the children, how it would be best invested, and touching on the satisfaction with which he left them to his sister-in-law's care. They are such notes as might have been written by an innocent man dying for a political crime, but not choosing to indulge in emotion, to the natural guardian of the children he was leaving,—notes apparently occu- pied more with consideration for the trouble he was giving to another, and the interests of the children he was leaving behind him, than with himself. Indeed there seems to be no shadow of despondency as to his own fate in the notes to Miss Gunning. The same characteristic belongs to the very curious note which he left behind him for his landlady, Miss Lansdell. With a considerate- ness almost greater than that of Charles II., who apologized to his courtiers for being so long in dying, he left his lodgings, on the night in which he had resolved to commit suicide, for the Bedford Hotel, left something over and above the account which was owing, on the table, and wrote her a note apologizing for the trouble he had already given her in involving her lodgings in a -coroner's inquest and the suspicion of a murder, and explaining to her that his motive in going to the hotel to take prussic acid was to avoid giving her the pain of a new esclandre :—It was addressed,

To be forwarded immediately. To Miss Lansdell, 36 Bedford Square," and was as follows :—

" My dear Miss Lansdell,—You have already suffered enough through me and mine, and another death in your house would of course be worse. When you receive this have the kindness to telegraph to Miss Gunning, 7 Sydney Street, Brompton, London, S.W., to whom you give up what I have left in your house. I have left on the table the cash for the bills, and £3 in addition, as some compensation.—Be- lieve me truly yours, A. W. WARDER. PA—Inquire for my keys and watch."

It may be, as we have suggested, that Dr. Warder was touched with the cordiality of Miss Lansdell's evidence, given in his favour in a way which showed that she had some belief in his character, or it may be, as we rather believe, that he was a man who habitually saw the significance of small things only rather more clearly by the side of great crimes, whose mind was evil rather because he felt that he had an absolute right to carry out his own will universally wher- ever he could, in great things as well as small, than because he liked giving pain for its own sake, a man who felt no compunc- tion and no compassion when he was removing an obstacle or an annoyance out of his own way,, and yet was not incapable of wishing to give pleasure to those who seemed to be flexible in his hands, a man who defined all his own purposes small and great with cold distinct thought, and never passed the bounds which he had thus assigned without a new reason for doing so, a man who trod delicately in the track of his own solitary volitions, without hesitating at good or bad, but who even prided himself on the strict economy of evil with which he could, in immediate view of death, spare the feelings of a lodgiughousekeeper who had been considerate to him, in a matter which was completely indifferent to himself and of some importance to her, while he did not hesi- tate to administer both pain and death in small doses to a wife whose very confidence in him and exigeance in deManding all his care were perhaps embarrassments to him only less great than that of being fretted by small daily squabbles.

If the jury were right in their verdict, as seems probable enough, even on the imperfect evidence we have, Dr. Warder's char-

peter seems to us to exhibit those finer and more delicately carved voluntary features which we so seldom attribute to great criminals, so constantly to the higher grades of virtue. " Unscrupulous " is a word which we are in the habit of attach- ing to all great criminals, without thinking of its precise mean- ing, only remembering that they feel no scruple in doing that at the mere thought of which others feel the greatest possible horror. But it does not follow that men who are iu this sense unscrupulous, whose minds are, as it were, a non-conducting medium for the social morality around thorn, should not be very scrupulous where others are unscrupulous, as well as very unscru- pulous where others are very scrupulous. If we have got any- thing like a true clue to Dr. Warder's crime, the best explanation of it would be that he was a frigid " law to himself," in small things as well as great. When Mrs. Bramwell, the wife of his wife's brother, remonstrated with him for not sending for her husband (who was also a surgeon) when Mrs. Warder became worse, "ie only shrugged his shoulders and said Dr. Taafe was in attend- ance," and all his demeanour seems to have been of the same cold unimpressionable kind. His " usual cheerful manner " on the evening of his own suicide, just before he left his lodgings to accommodate Miss Lansdell by taking the prussic acid in the Bedford Hotel, is particularly noticed. He himself always gave a most minute account of his wife's symptoms to her medical attendant in her presence, and his perfectly collected, cold, calm demeanour seems to have struck Dr. Taafe with a very strong impression of the sobriety and strength of his judg- ment. Now, think of the kind of mind that it would take to explain with some minuteness in the presence of a victim all the dis- tressing symptoms partly caused by poison whioh the expositor was privately giving her, though purposely complicated by other remedies in order to mislead the physician. Does not that imply an excess of power to command the minutest features of a man's own actions, to shape exactly his words and thoughts to his own will, even in a case where a hairsbreadth of deviation from the manner and words he had laid out for himself would have involved an instant discovery, which is perfectly consistent with, nay, almost implies, an immense pride in shaping small things as well as great to an absolutely self-determined end? And such a mind as this would be most likely to test its awn power by laying out a plan includiug considerateness to others when such con- siderateness was not inconvenient or was even a tribute to their adaptation of their thoughts to its wishes, as well as the most absolute indifference to others when their saorifice seemed convenient. Dr. Warder may well have said to himself that while lie despised people capable only of little uu- scrupalousuesses while great unscmpulousnesseJi were no more wicked and far more convenient, he despised equally people capable of great unscrupulousnesses if they were not equally capa- ble of great scrupulousness for others,—that the only man really master of himself was he who could map out his own wishes and intentions clearly before him, whether in smellthings or great, and execute them, who was capable of assigning to himself a great crime or a great series of crimes and carrying them out without a tremor, but who was equally capable of arranging at the same time with equal care and minuteness the little things he-wished to bring about, either as consequences of his crimes or as the second-best possibilities in case of their failure, and who could depend on him- self as completely for not letting a drop brim over from the cup of criminality on which he had determined, as he could on draining without asingle hesitation every drop actuallyin thatcup. To decree for yourself absolutely the bounds of a great crime, " which it shall not pass," so that you shall execute that, and no more, and shall be able to admire yourself for dispensing with the same accurate hand, with which you pour out the poison for an inconvenient wife, the little benevolences that may lie in your way for a convenient sister-in- law or landlady,—must have been the kind of charm most fascinat- ing to Dr. Warder. It was the ambition of feeling himself—within the limits of human knowledge and power--an accurate, arbitrary providence weighing out either pounds or scruples of good and ill as he chose to those to whom he chose, and not missing the scruple of good here because he had successfully administered the pound of evil there, not dismayed at the miscarriage of a great part of his scheme so long as it had not miscarried by any failure of him- self, but quite calm enough to save the few atoms of good still possible even after the wreck of the immense speculation in evil on which he had ventured, that must, we fancy, have occupied his soul. A man aiming to be to himself a God, to determine for him- self, absolutely and arbitrarily, the limits of good and evil by his own mere will, to test himself by exacting from himself small con- siderate benevolences that could matter to no one, even while he was

committing the greatest act of treachery and violence of which he was capable, this, perhaps, was Dr. Warder. And if it were, Dr. Warder was a character so conceivable that it is almost surprising that we have not had more of them among the great known cri- minals of the world.