The Campden Wonder
"Time, the great Discoverer of Truth, shall bring to Light this dark and mysterious Business"
 
 

Sir Thomas Overbury's "True and Perfect Account", 1676.

The story of the Campden Wonder is best known from a pamphlet published by a local Gloucestershire magistrate Sir Thomas Overbury, in 1676, some 15 years or so after William Harrison's disappearance. Many have speculated that Sir Thomas may well have been the magistrate who investigated the case and interrogated John Perry. Certainly the account which Harrison gives of his adventure, as published in the pamphlet, was addressed to Overbury. Whatever Overbury's actual involvement in the case, the account carries the stamp of authority and gives the impression its author was well informed about the case. 

For the modern reader Overbury's tale can be difficult to read. The language is archaic and unfamiliar; the punctuation and spelling is old-fashioned; pronouns multiply confusingly; sentences stretch to ridiculous lengths; paragraph breaks are painfully infrequent. Rather than change the original text, however, I have decide to reproduce it, warts and all, then to provide a separate "modern-language" version of the tale of my own in an attempt to help the reader grasp the story in all its complex detail.

Overbury's account is in five sections: a short preamble; the account of Harrison's disappearance; Harrison's own explanatory letter; Overbury's concluding paragraph and a postscript, which seems likely to have been written by someone other than Overbury, probably Shirley.


Section 1: Preamble

A TRUE and perfect account of the Examination, Confession, Trial, Condemnation, and Execution of Joan Perry, and her two sons, John and Richard Perry, for the supposed Murder of William Harrison, Gent. being one of the most remarkable Occurrences which hath happened in the Memory of Man, sent in a Letter (by Sir T. 0. of Burton, in the County of Gloucester, Knight, and one of his Majesty's Justices of the Peace) to T. S. Doctor of Physick in London. Likewise Mr. Harrison's own Account, how he was conveyed into Turkey, and there made a slave for above two Years; and then, his Master, which bought him there, dying, how he made his Escape, and what Hardship he endured; who, at last, through the Providence of God, returned to England, while he was supposed to be murdered; of which John Perry his manservant was accused, who falsly impeached his own Mother and Brother as guilty of the Murder of his Master; they were all Three arraigned, convicted, and executed on Broadway-hills in Gloucestershire. 

London, printed for Rowland Reynolds, next Arundel-gate, over- against St. Clement's Church in the Strand, 1676.  

Commentary


Section 2: The Story

Upon Thursday, the sixteenth Day of August, 1660, William Harrison, Steward to the Lady Viscountess Campden; at Campden in Gloucestershire, being about Seventy Years of Age, walked from Campden aforesaid, to Charringworth, about two Miles from thence, to receive his Lady's Rent; and, not returning so early as formerly, his Wife, Mrs Harrison, between Eight and Nine of the Clock that Evening, sent her Servant, John Perry, to meet his Master on the Way from Charringworth; but, neither Mr. Harrison, nor his Servant John Perry, returning that Night, the next Morning early, Edward Harrison, William's Son, went towards Charringworth to enquire after his Father; when, on the Way, meeting Perry coming thence, and being informed by him he was not there, they went together to Ebrington, a Village between Charringworth and Campden, where they were told by one Daniel, that Mr. Harrison called at his House the Evening before, in his Return from Charringworth, but staid not; then they went to Paxford, about Half a Mile thence, where, hearing nothing of Mr. Harrison, they returned towards Campden; and on the Way, hearing of a Hat, Band, and Comb, taken up in the Highway, between Ebrington and Campden, by a poor Woman then leesing in the Field; they sought her out, with whom they found the Hat, Band, and Comb, which they knew to be Mr. Harrison's; and being brought by the Woman to the Place she found the same, in the Highway, between Ebrington and Campden, near unto a great Furz-brake, there they searched for Mr. Harrison, supposing he had been murthered, the Hat and Comb being hacked and cut, and the Band bloody; but nothing more could be there found. The News hereof, coming to Campden, so alarmed the Town, that Men, Women, and Children hasted thence, in Multitudes, to search for Mr. Harrison's supposed dead Body, but all in vain.

Mrs. Harrison's Fears for her Husband, being great, were now much increased; and having sent her Servant Perry, the Evening before, to meet his Master, and he not returning that Night, caused a Suspicion that he had robbed and murthered him; and thereupon the said Perry was, the next Day, brought before a Justice of Peace, by whom being examined concerning his Master's Absence, and his own staying out the Night he went to meet him, he gave this Account of himself: That, his Mistress sending him to meet his Master, between Eight and Nine of the Clock in the Evening, he went down to Campden Field, towards Charringworth, about a Land's Length, where meeting one William Reed of Campden, he acquainted him with his Errand; and further told him that, it growing dark, he was afraid to go forwards, and would therefore return and fetch his young Master's Horse, and return with him; he did to Mr. Harrison's Court-gate, where they parted, and he staid still; one Pierce coming by, he went again with him about a Bow's Shot into the Fields, and returned with him likewise to his Master's Gate, where they also parted; and then he, the said John Perry, saith, he went into his Master's Hen-roost, where he lay about an Hour, but slept not; and, when the Clock struck Twelve, rose and went towards Charringworth, till, a great Mist arising, he lost his Way, and so lay the rest of the Night under a Hedge; and, at Day-break, on Friday Morning went to Charringworth, where he enquired for his Master of one Edward Plaisterer, who told him, he had been with him the Afternoon before, and received three and twenty Pounds of him, but staid not long with him: He then went to William Curtis of the same Town, who like-wise told him, he heard his Master was at his House the Day before, but, being not at Home, did not see him: After which he saith, he returned homewards, it being about Five of the Clock in the Morning, when, on the Way, he met his Master's Son, with whom he went to Ebrington and Paxford, & as hath been related.

Read, Pearce, Plaisterer, and Curtis, being examined, affirmed what Perry had said, concerning them, to be true.

Perry being asked by the Justice of Peace, How he, who was afraid to go to Charringworth at Nine of the Clock, became so bold as to go thither at Twelve? Answered, That at Nine of the Clock it was dark, but at Twelve the Moon shone.

Being further asked, Why, returning twice Home, after his: Mistress had sent him to meet his Master, and staying till Twelve of the Clock, he went not into the House to know whether his Master were come Home, before he went a third Time, at that Time of Night, to look after him: Answered. That he knew his Master was not come Home, because he saw Light in his Chamber-window, which never used to be there so late when he was at Home.

Yet, notwithstanding this, that Perry had said for his Staying forth that Night, it was not thought fit to discharge him till further Inquiry were made after Mr. Harrison, and accordingly he continued in Custody at Campden, some-times in an Inn there, and sometimes in the common Prison, from Saturday, August the Eighteenth, unto the Friday following; during which Time, he was again examined at Campden, by the aforesaid Justice of Peace, but confessed nothing more than before; nor, at that Time, could any further Discovery be made what was become of Mr. Harrison. But it hath been said, that, during his Restraint at Campden, he told some, who pressed him to confess what he knew concerning his Master, that a Tinker had killed him; and to others, he said, a Gentlemanís Servant of the Neighbour-hood had robbed and murdered him; and others, again, he told, That he was murdered, and hid in a Bean-rick in Campden, where Search was in vain made for him: At length he gave out, that, were he again carried before the Justice, he would discover that to him he would discover to no Body else: And thereupon he was, Friday, August the twenty-fourth, again brought before the Justice of Peace, who first examined him, and asking whether he would yet confess what was become of his Master; he answered, he was murdered, but not by him: The Justice of Peace then telling him, that, if he knew him to be murdered, he knew likewise by whom he was; so he acknowledged he did; and, being urged to confess what he knew concerning it, affirmed, that it was his Mother and his Brother that had murdered his Master. The Justice of Peace then advised him to consider what he said, telling him, that he feared he might be guilty of his Master's Death, and that he should not draw more innocent Blood on his Head; for what he now charged his Mother and his Brother with might cost them their Lives; but he affirming he spoke nothing but the Truth, and that if he were immediately to die he would justify it; the Justice desired him to declare how and when they did it.

He then told him, that his Mother and his Brother had lain at him, ever since he came into his Master's Service, to help them to Money, telling him, how poor they were, and that it was in his Power to relieve them, by giving them Notice when his Master went to receive his Lady's Rents; for they would then way lay and rob him; and further said, That, upon the Thursday Morning his Master went to Charrington, going of an Errand into the Town, he met his Brother in the Street, whom he then told whither his Master was going, and, if he way-laid him, he might have his Money: And further said, That, in the Evening his Mistress sent him to meet his Master, he met his Brother in the Street, before his Master's Gate, going, as he said, to meet his Master, and so they went together to the Church-yard about a Stone's Throw from Mr Harrison's Gate, where they parted, he going the Foot-way, Cross the Church-yard, and his Brother keeping the great Road, round the Church; but in the Highway, beyond the Church, met again, and so went together, the Way leading to Charringworth, till they came to a Gate about a Bow's Shot from Campden Church, that goes into a Ground of the Lady Campden's, called the Conygree (which to those, who have a Key to go through the Garden, is the next Way from that Place to Mr Harrison's House) when they came near unto that Gate, he, the said John Perry, saith, he told his Brother, he did believe his Master was just gone into the Conygree (for it was then so dark they could not discern any Man, so as to know him) but perceiving one to go into that Ground, and knowing that there was no Way , but for those who had a Key, through the Gardens, concluded it was his Master; and so told his Brother, if he followed him, he might have his Money, and he, in the mean Time, would walk a Turn in the Fields, which accordingly he did; and then, following his Brother about the Middle of the Conygree, found his Master on the Ground, his Brother upon him, and his Mother standing by; and being asked, Whether his Master was then dead? answered, No, for that, after he came to them, his Master cried, Ah Rogues, will you kill me ? At which he told his Brother, he hoped he would not kill his Master; who replied, Peasce, Peace, you're a Fool, and so strangled him; which having done, he took a Bag of Money out of his Pocket, and threw it into his Mother's Lap, and then he and his Brother carried his Master's dead Body into the Garden, adjoining to the Conygree, where they consulted what to do with it; and, at length, agreed to throw it into the great Sink, by Wallington's Mill, behind the Garden; but said, his Mother and Brother bade him go up to the Court, next the House, to hearken whether anyone were stirring, and they would throw the Body into the Sink: And being asked whether it were there, he said, He knew not, for that he left it in the Garden; but his Mother and Brother said they would throw it there, and, if it were not there, he knew not where it was, for that he returned no more to them, but went into the Court-gate, which goes into the Town, where he met with John Pearce, with whom he went into the Field, and again returned with him to his Master's Gate; after which, he went into the Hen-roost, where he lay till Twelve of the Clock that Night, but slept not; and having, when he came from his Mother and Brother, brought with him his Master's Hat, Band, and Comb, which he laid in the Hen-roost, he carried the said Hat, Band, and Comb, and threw them, after he had given them three or four Cuts with his Knife, in the High-way, where they were after found: And being asked, What he intended by so doing? said, He did it, that it might be believed his Master had been there robbed and murdered; and, having thus disposed of his Hat, Band and Comb, he went towards Charringworth, &. as hath been related.

Upon this Confession and Accusation, the Justice of Peace gave Order for the apprehending of Joan and Richard Perry, the Mother and Brother of John Perry, and for searching the Sink where Mr. Harrison's Body was said to be thrown, which was accordingly done, but nothing of him could be there found; the Fish-pools likewise, in Campden, were drawn and searched, but nothing could be there found neither; so that some were of Opinion, the Body might be hid in the Ruins of Campden-house, burnt in the late Wars, and not unfit for such a Concealment, where was likewise Search made, but all in vain.

Saturday, August the Twenty-fifth, Joan and Richard Perry, together with John Perry, were brought before the Justice of Peace, who acquainting the said Joan and Richard with what John had laid to their Charge, they denied all, with many Imprecations on themselves, if they were in the least guilty of any Thing, of which they were accused: But John, on the other Side, affirmed, to their faces, that he had spoken nothing but the Truth, and that they had murdered his Master; further telling them, that he could never be at Quiet for them, since he came into his Master's Service, being continually followed by them, to help them to Money, which they told him he might do by giving them Notice when his Master went to receive his Lady's Rents; and that he, meeting his Brother Richard in Campden Town, the Thursday Morning his Master went to Charringworth, told him whither he was going, and upon that Errand: Richard confessed he met his Brother that Morning, and spoke with him, but nothing passed between them to that Purpose; and both he and his Mother told John he was a Villain to accuse them wrongfully, as he had done; but John, on the other Side, affirmed, that he had spoken nothing but the Truth, and would justify it to his Death.

One remarkable Circumstance happened in these Prisoners Return from the Justice of Peace's House to Campden, viz. Richard Perry, following a good Distance behind his Brother John, pulling a Clout out of his Pocket, dropped a Ball of Inkle, which one of his Guard taking up, he desired him to restore, saying, It was only his Wife's Hair-lace; but the Party opening of it, and finding a Slip-knot at the End, went and shewed it unto John, who was then a good Distance before, and knew nothing of the Dropping and Taking up of this Inkle; but being shewed it, and asked, whether he knew it, shook his Head and said, Yea, to his Sorrow, for that was the String his Brother strangled his Master with. This was sworn upon the Evidence at their Trial.

The Morrow being the Lord's-day, they remained at Campden, where the Minister of the Place designing to speak to them (if possible to persuade them to Repentance, and a further Confession) they were brought to Church; and in their Way thither, passing by Richard's House, two of his Children meeting him, he took the lesser in his Arms, leading the other in his Hand; when, on a sudden, both their Noses fell a bleeding, which was looked upon as ominous.

Here it will be no impertinent Digression, to tell how the year before Mr. Harrison had year before Mr. Harrison had his House broken open, between Eleven and Twelve of the Clock at Noon, upon Campden Market-day, while himself and his whole Family were at the Lecture; a Ladder being set up to a window of the second Story, and an iron Bar wrenched thence with a Ploughshare, which was left in the Room, and Seven-score Pounds in Money carried away, the Authors of which Robbery could never be found.

After this, and not many Weeks before Mr. Harrison's Absence, his Servant Perry, one Evening, in Campden-Garden made an hideous Out-cry; whereat, some who heard it, coming in, met him running, and seemingly frighted, with a Sheep-pick in his Hand, to whom he told a formal Story, how he had been set upon by two Men in white, with naked Swords, and how he defended himself with his Sheep-pick; the Handle whereof was cut in two or three Places, and likewise a Key in his Pocket, which he said, was done with one of their Swords.

These Passages the Justice of Peace having before heard, and calling to mind, upon Perry's Confession, asked him first concerning the Robbery, when his Master lost Seven-score Pounds, out of his House, at Noon-day: Whether he knew who did it? Who answered, Yes, it was his Brother. And being further asked, Whether he were then with him? He answered No, he was then at Church; but that he gave him Notice of the Money, and told him in which Room it was, and where he might have a Ladder that would reach the Window; and that his Brother after told him he had the Money, and had buried it in his Garden, and that they were, at Michaelmas next, to have divided it; whereupon Search was made in the Garden, but no Money could be there found.

And being further asked concerning that other Passage of his being assaulted in the Garden; he confessed it was all a Fiction, and that, having a Design to rob his Master, he did it, that, Rogues being believed to haunt the Place, when his Master was robbed, they might be thought to have done it.

At the next Assizes, which were held in September following, John, Joan, and Richard Perry had two Indictments found against them; one for breaking into William Harrison's House, and robbing him of One-hundred and forty Pounds, in the Year 1659; the other for robbing and murdering of the said William Harrison, the Sixteenth Day of August, 1660. Upon the last Indictment, the then Judge of Assizes, Sir C. T. would not try them, because the Body was not found; but they were then tried upon the other Indictment for Robbery, to which they pleaded, Not guilty; but, some whispering behind them, they soon after pleaded Guilty, humbly begging the Benefit of his Majesty's gracious Pardon, and Act of Oblivion, which was granted them?

But though they pleaded Guilty to this Indictment, being thereunto prompted, as in probable, by some who were unwilling to lose Time, and trouble the Court with their Trial, in regard the Act of Oblivion pardoned them; yet they all afterwards, and at their Deaths, denied that they were guilty of that Robbery, or that they knew who did it.

Yet at this Assize, as several credible Persons have affirmed, John Perry still persisted in his Story, that his Mother and Brother had murdered his Master; and further added, that they had attempted to poison him in the Jail, so that he durst not eat nor drink with them.

At the next Assizes, which were the Spring following, John, Joan, and Richard Perry were, by the then Judge of Assize, Sir B. H. tried upon the Indictment of Murder, and pleaded, thereunto, severally, Not Guilty; and, when John's Confession, before the Justice, was proved, Viva Voce, by several Witnesses who heard the same, he told them, he was then mad, and knew not what he said.

The other two, Richard and Joan Perry, said they were wholly innocent of what they were accused, and that they knew nothing of Mr. Harrison's Death, nor what was become of him; and Richard said, that his Brother had accused others, as well as him, to have murdered his Master; which the Judge bidding him prove, he said, that most of those, that had given Evidence against him, knew it; but, naming none, not any spoke of it, and so the Jury found them all three Guilty.

Some few Days after, being brought to the Place of their Execution, which was on Broadway-hill, in sight of Campden; the Mother (being reputed a Witch, and to have so bewitched her Sons, they could confess nothing, while she lived) was first executed; after which, Richard, being upon the Ladder, professed, as he had done all along, that he was wholly innocent of the Fact for which he was then to die, and that he knew nothing of Mr. Harrison's Death, nor what was become of him; and did, with great Earnestness, beg and beseech, his Brother, for the Satisfaction of the Whole World, and his own Conscience, to declare what he knew concerning him; but he, with a dogged and surly Carriage, told the People, he was not obliged to confess to them; yet, immediately before his Death, said he knew nothing of his Master's Death, nor what was become of him, but they might hereafter possibly hear.

Commentary


Section 3: Harrison's Own Account

For Sir T. 0. Knight.

Honoured Sir,

In Obedience to your Commands, I give you this true Account of my being carried away beyond the Seas, my Continuance there, and Return Home. On a Thursday in the Afternoon, in the Time of Harvest, I went to Charringworth, to demand Rents due to my Lady Campden; at which Time the Tenants were busy in the Fields, and late before they came Home, which occasioned my Stay there till the close of the Evening. I expected a considerable Sum, but received only Three-and-twenty Pounds, and no more. In my Return Home, in the narrow Passage amongst Ebrington Furzes, there met me one Horseman, and said, Art thou there? And I, fearing that he would have rid over me, struck his Horse over the Nose; whereupon he struck at me with his Sword, several Blows, and run it into my Side, while I, with my little Cane, made my Defence as well as I could; at last another came behind me, run me into the Thigh, laid hold on the Collar of my Doublet, and drew me to a Hedge, near to the Place; then came in another: They did not take my Money, but mounted me behind one of them, drew my Arms about his Middle, and fastened my Wrists together with something that had a Spring-lock, as I conceived, by hearing it give a Snap as they put it on; then they threw a great Cloke over me, and carried me away: In the Night they alighted at a Hay-rick, which stood near to a Stone-pit by a Wall-side, where they took away my. Money; about two Hours before Day, as I heard one of them tell the other he thought it to be then, they tumbled me into the Stone-pit; they staid, as I thought, about an Hour at the Hay-rick, when they took Horse again; one of them bade me come out of the Pit, I answered, they had my Money already, and asked what they would do with me; where-upon he struck me again, drew me out, and put a great quantity of Money into my Pockets, and mounted me again after the same Manner; and on the Friday, about Sun-setting, they brought me to a lone House upon a Heath, by  a Thicket of Bushes, where they took me down almost dead, being sorely bruised with the Carriage of the Money. When the Woman of the House saw that I could neither stand nor speak, she asked them, Whether or no they had brought a dead Man? They answered No, but a Friend that was hurt, and they were carrying him to a Surgeon; she answered, If they did not make Haste, their Friend would be dead before they could bring him to one. There they laid me on Cushions, and suffered none to come into the Room but a little Girl; there we staid all Night, they giving me some Broth and Strong-waters: In the Morning, very early, they mounted me as before, and on Saturday Night they brought me to a Place where were two or three Houses, in one of which I lay all Night, on Cushions, by their Bedside: On Sunday Morning they carried me from thence, and, about Three or Four o'clock, they brought me to a Place by the Sea-side, called Deal, where they laid me down on the Ground; and, one of them staying by me, the other two walked a little way off, to meet a Man, with whom they talked; and, in their Discourse, I heard them mention seven Pounds; after which they went away together, and about Half an Hour after returned. The Man (Whose Name, as I after heard, was Wrenshaw) said, he feared I would die before he could get me on Board; then presently they put me into a Boat, and carried me on Ship-board, where my Wounds were dressed. I remained in the Ship, as near as I could reckon, about six Weeks, in which Time I was indifferently recovered of my Wounds and Weakness. Then the Master of the Ship came and told me, and the rest who were in the same Condition, that he discovered three Turkish Ships; we all offered to fight in the Defence of the Ship and ourselves; but he commanded us to keep close, and said he would deal with them well enough: A little Wile after he called us up, and, when we came on the Deck, we saw two Turkish Ships close by us; into one of them we were put, and placed in a dark Hole, where how long we continued, before we landed, I know not: When we were landed, they led us two Days Journey, and put us into a great House, or Prison, where we remained four Days and an Half; and then came to us eight Men to view us, who seemed to be Officers; they called us, and examined us of our Trades and Callings, which everyone answered; one said he was a Surgeon, another that he was a Broad-cloth Weaver, and I, after two or three Demands, said I had some Skill in Physick: We three were set by, and taken by three of those eight Men that came to view us: It was my Chance to be chosen by a grave Physician of Eighty-seven Years of Age, who lived near to Smyrna, who had formerly been in England, and knew Crowland in Lincolnshire, which he preferred before all other Places in England: He employed me to keep his Still-house, and gave me a silver Bowl, double gilt, to drink in; my Business was most in that Place; but once he set me to gather Cotton-wool, which I not doing to his Mind, he struck me down to the Ground, and after drew his Stiletto to stab me, but, I holding up my Hands to him, he gave a Stamp, and turned from me, for which I render Thanks to my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who staid his Hand, and preserved me. I was there about a Year and three Quarters, and then my Master fell sick, on a Thursday, and sent for me; and, calling me as he used, by the name of Boll, told me he should die, and bade me shift for myself: He died on Saturday following, and I presently hastened with my Bowl to a Port, almost a Day's Journey distant; the Way to which Place I knew, having been twice there employed, by my Master, about the Carriage of his Cotton-wool: When I came thither, I addressed myself to two Men, who came out of a Ship of Hamborough, which, as they said, was bound for Portugal within three or four Days; I inquired of them for an English Ship, they answered there was none; I intreated them to take me into their Ship, they answered they durst not, for Fear of being discovered by the Searchers, which might occasion the Forfeiture, not only of their Goods, but also of their Lives: I was very importunate with them, but could not prevail; they left me to wait on Providence, which, at length, brought another out of the same Ship, to whom I made known my Condition, craving his Assistance for my Transportation; he made me the like Answer as the former, and was as stiff in his Denial, till the sight of my Bowl put him to a Pause: He returned to the Ship, he came back again accompanied with another Sea-man, and, for my Bowl, undertook to transport me; but told me, I must be contented to lie down in the Keel, and endure many hardships; which I was content to do, to gain my Liberty; so they took me Aboard, and placed me below in the Vessel, in a very uneasy Place, and obscured me with Boards and other Things, where I lay undiscovered, not, withstanding the strict Search that was made in the Vessel; my two Chapmen, who had my Bowl, honestly furnished me with the Victuals daily, until we arrived at Lisbon in Portugal; where, as soon as the Master had left the Ship, and was gone into the City, they left me on Shore money-less to shift for myself: I knew not what course to take, but, as Providence led me, I went up into the City, and came into a fair Street; and, being weary, I turned my Back to a Wall, and leaned upon my Staff; over against me were four Gentlemen discoursing together; after a While, one of them came to me, and spoke to me in a Language that I under, stood not. I told him I was an Englishman, and understood not what he spoke; he answered me, in plain English, that he understood me, and was himself born near Wisbeech in Lincolnshire; then I related to him my sad Condition, and he, taking Compassion on me, took me with him, provided for me Lodging and Diet, and, by his Interest with a Master of a Ship bound for England, procured my Passage; and bringing me on Shipboard, he bestowed Wine and Strong- waters on me, and, at his Return, gave me eight Stivers, and recommended me to the Care of the Master of the Ship, who landed me safe at Dover, from whence I made Shift to get to London, where being furnished with Necessaries, I came into the Country. Thus, honoured Sir, I have given you a true Account of my great-Sufferings, and happy Deliverance, by the Mercy and Goodness of God, my most Gracious Father in Jesus Christ, my Saviour and Redeemer; to whose Name be ascribed all Honour, Praise, and Glory. I conclude and rest

                                                                Your Worship's

                                                                        in all dutiful respect,

                                                                                WILLIAM HARRISON.  

Commentary


Section 4: Overbury's Concluding Paragraph

Sir, It has not been any forgetfulness in me, you have no sooner heard from me; but my unhappy Distemper seizing on my right Hand, soon after my Coming down into the Country, so that till now I have been wholly deprived the Use of it. I have herewith sent you a short Narrative of that no less strange, than unhappy Business, which some Years since happened in my Neighbourhood; the Truth of every Particular whereof I am able to attest, and I think it may very well be reckoned amongst the most remarkable Occurences of this Age: You may dispose of it as you please, and, in whatever else I can serve you, you may freely command me, as, Sir,

Your most affectionate Kinsman,

and humble Servant,

 

                                                                                                       THO. OVERBURY.

Burton, Aug. 23, 1676.

Commentary


Section 5: Postscript

Many question the Truth of this Account Mr. Harrison gives of himself, and his Transportation, believing he was never out of England: But there is no Question of Perry's telling a formal false Story to hang himself, his Mother, and his Brother: And since this, of which we are assured, is no less incredible than that of which we doubt; it may induce us to suspend hard Thoughts of Mr. Harrison, till Time, the great Discoverer of Truth, shall bring to Light this dark and mysterious Business. That Mr. Harrison was absent from his Habitation, Employment, and Relations, near Two Years, is certain; and, if not carried away (as he affirms) no probable Reason can be given for his Absence; he living plentifully and happily in the Service of that honourable Family, to which he had been then related above fifty Years, with the Reputation of a just and faithful Servant; and, having all his Days been a Man of sober Life and Conversation, cannot now reasonably be thought in his old Age, so far, to have misbehaved himself, as in such a Manner voluntarily to have forsaken his Wife, his Children, and his Stewardship, and to leave behind him, as he then did, a considerable Sum of his Lady's Money in his House; we cannot, therefore, in Reason or Charity, but believe that Mr. Harrison was forcibly carried away; but by whom, or by whose Procurement, is the Question. Those, who he affirms did it, he withal affirms never before to have seen; and that he saw not his Servant Perry, nor his Mother, nor his Brother, the Evening he was carried away; that he was spirited, as some are said to have been, is no Ways probable, in Respect he was an old and infirm Man, and taken from the most Inland part of the Nation; and if sold, as himself apprehends he was, for seven Pounds, would not recompense the Trouble and Charge of his Conveyance to the Sea-side.

Some, therefore, have had hard Thoughts of his eldest Son, not knowing whom else to suspect; and believe the Hopes of the Stewardship, which he afterwards, by the Lord Campden's Favour, enjoyed, might induce him to contrive his Father's Removal; and this they are the more confirmed in, from his Misbehaviour in it; but, on the other Side, it is hard to think the Son should be knowing of his Father's Transportation; and consequently, of these unhappy Persons Innocency, as to the Murder of him, and yet prosecute them to the Death, as he did; and, when condemned, should be the Occasion of their being conveyed above Twenty Miles, to Suffer near Camp den, and to procure John Perry to be there hanged in Chains. where he might daily see him; and himself to stand at the Foot of the Ladder, when they were all executed, as likewise he did.

These Considerations, as they make it improbable the Son should be privy to his Father's Transportation, so they render the whole Matter the more dark and mysterious, which we must therefore leave unto him, who alone knoweth all Things, in his due Time to reveal and bring to light.