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William Gaunt

Other Details
Published : 1 Article
Pen Names : None
Date of Birth : N/A
Death : N/A
Views : 1921

Gaunt, John and William Gaunt I Communicated I sons of John Gaunt, confectioner of North Shields. In 1827, after the disappearance of a doctor's apprentice from North Shields, John Gaunt the elder became suspected of having murdered the apprentice for the purpose of selling the body for dissection. The utterly unfounded suspicion led to ostracism and perseuction of the entire Gaunt family. Their confectionery trade was ruined, and the sons John and William, who had obtained work in a glass manufactory, were obliged to support their parents. Towns-people insulted members of the family and solicited the sons' employers to dismiss them. On discovery of the Burke and Hare murders, the Gaunt house was nightly surrounded by a threatening mob, and the family were in danger of being murdered. Seven years after the disappearance of the apprentice, a meeting in North Shields, May 9, 1834, cleared Gaunt of the supicion by bringing to light the fact that the apprentice had enlisted in the service of the East India Company and had died of cholera in 1832.

Elizabeth Gaskell, without taking the precaution of ascertaining whether the facts of the case had been determined, related the disappearance of the apprentice in her H.W. article "Disappearances," June 7, 1851, unmistakably implying that "the poor lad" had been murdered. John and William Gaunt, then old bachelors living in Coatham, Yorkshire, read Elizabeth Gaskell's article and thereupon wrote to H.W., enclosing in their letter an account of the North Shields meeting. H.W. published their letter, with a brief statement of the facts of the case, under the title "[Chip:] A Disappearance Cleared Up" (IV, 513–14. Feb. 21, 1852). Before the publication of their communication, H.W. had already published, in "A Disappearance," June 21, 1851, the letter of a reader which showed the murder-rumour to be without foundation. 
       Despite repeared public announcement of John Gaunt's innocence, the murder-rumour was again revived, apparently late in 1858. Thereupon Morley, in his article "Character-Murder," Jan. 8, 1859, rehearsed the entire case and took opportunity to denounce the public's "morbid thirst for mystery," indulged in at the expense of truth. Too "interesting and familiar to be put aside," the discredited Gaunt murder-rumour had lived and spread, wrote Morley, and had found its way even "into our pages." But he managed, in part, to turn that fact to H.W.'s advantage: the publication of "Disappearances" had motivated the Gaunt brothers' writing to H.W., and the resultant statement of the case in the periodical had provided "a second public refutation of the slander." Morley expressed deep sympathy with the Gaunt family. The two bothers, he wrote, had "borne with Christian patience a heavy cross, and lived without spot to their honour."

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