In the April of 1899 a case came before the Under-Sheriff’s Court at Dorchester.
It concerned a breach of promise, that was back in the day when people declared themselves engaged…it really meant something! Not like the business of today where it seems to be a question of how many engagement rings they can accumulate.
This was between Frank William Dodd and Eva Rosina Case.
The case had already been before the High Court, where it was decided that Frank did had a case to answer, this court was to decide how much damages he should pay the fair lady for his breech of promise and her broken heart!
The young(ish) lady in question was Eva Rosina Case, she had been born in Weymouth, 1870 to John and Susan, middle class Weymouth folk. Daddy owned his own business, a furniture retailer, and house agent. The family lived at Belle Vue, a very nice district indeed. Twenty eight year old Eva was a highly educated young woman, she helped in her father’s business, looking after the books. Her solicitor in court described her as “eminently fitted to be the wife of Mr Frank Dodd, or any gentlemen whatever his position.”
Eva in other words was a good catch for a gentleman!
The young, or maybe not quite so young man, was 34-year old Frank William Dodd.
Frank worked at the Whiteheads Torpedo Works, in fact he not only worked there, he was the work’s manager. A position of great trust and with a good outlook. He had previously worked for the company at Fiume in Austria, where they had been based before opening the works in Weymouth, he was well educated, spoke numerous languages.
Frank had first gone into Eva’s fathers shop to buy furniture in the June of 1895…Eva had caught his eye. Over the next few days Frank returned time and time to the shop on the pretext of buying more items, his house was fast filling up!…what he really wanted though was Eva.
Now Eva liked the chap, but it didn’t do to be too forward, she was a respectable and sensible lady, Eva made him wait a while before she would finally agree to “walk out with him”.
At first they would take pleasant, romantic strolls in the summers evening light, nothing too serious.
But, things changed, on the 22nd September, Frank got down on one knee and asked for her hand in marriage…he was desperate to claim Eva as his own true love.
She wasn’t quite so sure though, as much as she liked the chap, he was perfectly respectable, had good prospects, was a gentleman, he would be prefect marriage material for her…just not yet, it was far too soon.
In October, Franks sister came over to visit him, the two girls met and got on well, this bode well for Frank.
He asked Eva again to marry him, he had already got permission from her Mother, this time Eva agreed quite willingly, yes…this was the man for her. In 1895 the couple were engaged.
Things weren’t all sweetness and light though as far as Eva was concerned, by April of next year, all her friends were enquiring of her where her engagement ring was. Eva was beginning to wonder that too, so she wrote to Frank asking him why he hadn’t brought her one…being put on the spot, Frank had no choice but to go and purchase his fiance (not a word you hear often these days) the ring. They went together and purchased the ring from an old well established Weymouth jewellers in town, a shop that I can vividly recall from my childhood, as the shop front was a shiny jet black, and the windows were filled with gleaming silver objects, the top shelf lined with huge shining trophies.
At the end of 1896 Frank was promoted to works manager, this gave him a good salary £364 a year, not only that, but also a house. Things were looking good for the couple. They saw each other often. his parents came over and met Eva and her family, they were very happy with his choice, he had chosen well, a girl that befitted his station in life.
A little later things started to go wrong. Frank discovered that Eva had distant relatives who lived at Wyke, members of the Hannay family, nothing wrong with them, they were perfectly respectable people. Their son it seems worked at the Torpedo works, but for some reason Frank took umbrage at this. He felt that it might affect his chances of promotion.
At this point, Frank fell out with Eva, claiming that she had not disclosed her relationship to this family…and why should she? She hardly knew them.
Things soured further between the couple, with contact only being made by now via the post and letters.
Was Frank maybe looking for an easy way out of this relationship?
In the March of 1898 Eva received a letter from Frank
“Dear Eva,-Your letter of Monday last to which you ask me to reply is not very clear. It seems to impute to me a meaning which I have never expressed. Having had your repeated assurance you had no relations up here (Wyke) I consider I was fully entitled to complain when I ascertained the real state of the case. It would be under certain circumstances a serious hinderance to ne professionally, particularly if I remain here.”
Goodness only knows what Franks problem was…was it people who live at Wyke, or this chap in particular?
Eva’s solicitor suspected that now Frank had, in his eyes, gone up in the world, he no longer saw Eva as quite such a good catch…the bounder was getting above himself!
Letters went back and forth between the couple…he seemed to be trying his best to upset Eva. Was he trying to get her to call off the engagement?
Now, things were getting serious, and a desperate Frank wrote again
” I see no hope of any real reconsiliation between us, and therefore I consider that I am fully entitled to be released from my engagement to you, as there are several matters already discussed, and some in which I was considerable misled. (Back to the old Wyke rellies again!) I am sorry I have to insist upon my rights in this way, but I am certain that it will be best in the long run.”
There, we have it…Frank does want to end his relationship with Eva, he was looking for a cowards way out, trying to make her finish the relationship.
Eva was having none of it!
“Dear Frank,-I received your letter, and in reply think it quite time that I insisted upon my rights. I do not feel disposed to release you from your long engagement, as your plea of my deception is wholly imaginative.”
Frank totally ignored this letter…maybe he was panicking, realising that being taken to court for a breech of promise wouldn’t look too good on his C.V.
Eva wrote a second, sterner letter, this time spelling it out in no uncertain terms what would happen if Frank continued on this course of action;
” Dear Frank,-As you have totally ignored me for the last two months, and not yet acknowledged my letter, I have to ask you whether you propose to carry out your promise to marry me or not. If I do not receive any answer I shall conclude that you do not, and shall place the matter in my solicitor’s hands.”
He had to reply now;
“I would never have entered into any engagement had I known the facts, and I asked you to release me when I knew them. Even could I believe that there had been no willing deception, the bare withholding of facts which you must have known, and which were of the first importance to me, would be quite unjustifiable, and such a line of conduct would not be countenanced in an ordinary business transaction.”
The pomposity and cold heartedness just oozes out of this fellow…
He ended the letter with a chilling phrase;
“I will not prolong the correspondence, and shall consider myself absolutely free.”
Poor Eva, I think at this point she realised that it was no longer any point trying to keep hold of this man,
“You have caused me so much pain and suffering, and I shall never be happy until everything is made clear. You must remember that you were the informant of the ‘all important fact’ which you are ever ready to bring forward. As regards your asking for release, I cannot remember your doing so; but now I see, had I not been blind, what your variations of conduct during the latter part of last year menat. If you mean what you say in the letter it is plain that you misled me…The attitude I take up is that of any honourable woman, that of defending myself against that which unjust and causes injury.”
With that terse response ringing warning bells well and clearly in Franks ears, Eva handed the matter over to her solicitor, and a course of correspondence started between the two men.
Frank’s first reply to the solicitors opening letter rather gets the measure of the man!
“Re my former engagement to Miss Case, I have no intention of marrying Miss Case, and have told her so most implicitly on many occasions during the past 12 months. The engagement was commenced at the express desire written or otherwise, of Miss Case herself, and was the direct result of serious misrepresentation on her part.”
Frank was certainly no gentleman………..
“I cannot conceive how she can have been put to any expense in the matter, and it will be my unpleasant duty to resist any claim arising out of it under that or any other head.”
This obviously gave the errant fiance a great deal to chew over….he tried another tack…writing again to Eva
“If you would come out and see me we might put matters between us on a happier basis.”
Good old Eva wasn’t having him calling the shots, if he wanted to meet with her, he was going to have to come and meet her, not summons her like a lapdog to his abode!
The two did meet, but the report gives no inkling of their conversation apart from the reply that Frank wrote to Eva after the reconciliation meeting.
“I am prepared to leave Weymouth at once or marry you at any time in January next which you may name. Let me implore you not to ask me to marry you unless you think we can be happy together.”
Later he wrote
“Dear Eva,- I am very happy that we succeeded in putting things on a more satisfactory basis, and feel sure that they will continue so. I should never have pushed matters so far had I not been misinformed by outsiders,(touch of the old Jeremy Kyle here!) and so been inclined to take this serious view of matters, which have now vanished.”
So, all seemed fine on the romance front, but was it? Eva realised she was getting on somewhat, she desperately wanted to be settled, in a little home of her own, and starting a family, she loved children.
They were supposed to be getting married in the January, and by the end of November, Eva is writing again to Frank to ask when the wedding was going to be. Her friends and family were asking if they had set the date…and it seems that Franks hadn’t tied himself down yet to one.
The Frank went away at Christmas, without leaving a forwarding address for Eva to contact him…was he getting cold feet a second time?
Even when he returned to work after Christmas, he still did not go to see Eva…she ended up having to write to him again, but his reply was that he was far too busy, and not at all well.
He then dropped the bombshell, he didn’t want to marry her.
There we have it in a nutshell…Frank had changed his mind, he couldn’t go through with the marriage, no matter the consequences, whether he’d be taken to court, and his good name besmirched.
His offhand, cold and callous disregard for Eva’s feeling had cost him the grand total of £350…no mean total in that day and age.
Not that it was of much consolation to poor old Eva, all she had wanted was to marry and settle down.
Eva never married..she died in Weymouth a spinster in 1951.
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