Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

The incident in the kitchen illustrated right comes from a volume containing accounts of six such trials, among them The Surprising Adventures of a Female Husband...

Published c.1815 and illustrated with a double-page coloured engraved plate by George Cruikshank, this tells the tale of the amatory career of a Miss M. Hamilton, alias Mr G. Hamilton, who was tried for taking three wives.

Found guilty at the Somerset Summer Sessions of 1752, Hamilton was “whipped four several times, in four market towns... notwithstanding on the evening of the first day of her [his] exposure, she [he] attempted to bribe the gaoler to procure her [him] a fine young girl to gratify her [his] most monstrous and unatural[sic] propensity”.

The other illustration is taken from a volume containing a 1782 account of the trials of the Hon. Mrs Catherine Newton, who had been charged with the crime of adultery with Isham Baggs, a Young Oxonian – and with Mr Brett, a Player at Bath, and Thomas Cope, Mrs Newton’s Coachman, and Isaac Hathaway, her Footman, and even John Ackland of Fairfield in Somerset. “With all the interesting scenes, full and minutely, and circumstantially displayed...”, this mixed third/second edition set of what was obviously a popular scandal of the day made £280.

Sold at £440 to Chris Johnson was A Complete History of the Life, Intrigues and Death of that Celebrated Lady of Pleasure Sally Salisbury..., showing how she came to be debauched, her stabbing of a person of honour [?!],d her subsequent trial at Newgate, her confinement and death.

Not everything was in this vein. Accounts of two cases concerning disputed lands in Ireland, one relating to church lands in Derry that had been excluded from a grant to the City of London, c.1695, went to £650.