Jennifer Carnell

The first photograph is a carte de visite of a daguerreotype taken in Santiago, Chile in 1853 of the real Sir Roger Charles Tichborne. The second is of the Claimant - Arthur Orton from Wagga Wagga and is by by Oldham & Cooper of Birmingham circa 1872. The third picture is of the Dowager Lady Tichborne by the London Stereoscopic Company.

The case of the Tichborne Claimant, in which Arthur Orton, a butcher from Wagga Wagga in Australia, declared himself to be the missing and presumed dead aristocrat Sir Roger Tichborne, fascinated and amused the public in the late 1860s and early 1870s.

The heir to the Tichborne estate in Hampshire, Sir Roger Tichborne, was lost, and presumed drowned, in the shipwreck of the Bella in 1854. Yet in 1867 a butcher from Wagga Wagga, Australia called Arthur Orton arrived in London claiming to be the missing heir. The Tichborne Claimant looked the complete opposite of Sir Roger, was widely believed to be an imposter, but was officially recognised by Sir Roger's own mother, Lady Tichborne, as her missing son.

The resulting dispute over the identity of the Claimant and two trials lasted for many years, and resulted in Arthur Orton being sent to prison. It was during the court case that Braddon's name came to be mentioned.

The false claimant, Arthur Orton, was an admirer of Braddon's novels and, while still living in in Australia, was so struck by one villain's words of wisdom, that he copied them out roughly into his pocket book:

"I should think fellows with plenty of money and no brains must have been created for the good of fellows with plenty of brains and no money."

He signed the quotation 'R. C. Tichborne, Bart.'

The paraphrased words were the philosophy of the first husband of Aurora Floyd, James Conyers. Foolishly, Orton left the notebook in Australia, from where it was later posted to the prosecution in London. When the extract was published, Braddon recognised it and sent a copy of Aurora Floyd to the judge, Lord Chief Justice Sir Alexander Cockburn.

The above autographed manuscript in Braddon's own hand is in my own collection. It is written on a sheet of her writing paper, and gives the full version of the quotation from Aurora Floyd:

"Bless their innocent hearts! I should think fellows with plenty of money and no brains must have been invented for the good of fellows with plenty of brains and no money; and that is how we contrive to keep our equilibrium in the universal see-saw."

The extract was probably written after the court case, and a note on the reverse indicates it may have been for a fundraiser for the Dramatic Author's Society.

1. The Lord Chief Justice of England, Sir Alexander Cockburn was the head judge at the criminal trial of the Claimant.
Cockburn has another Braddon connection - he was advertised as patron to a special night performance when she was an actress.
2. Dr. Kenealey Q.C. The eccentric Edward Vaughan Kenealey acted for the Claimant and was eventually disbarred.
3. Henry Hawkins Q.C. Hawkins, later made Lord Brampton, was the counsel against the Claimant.

'The Gentlemen of the Tichborne Jury'. The civil case jury in a carte de visite by the London Stereoscopic Company
Top row left to right: Captain Gunnell R.N.; P. T. Morgan; Thomas Taylor; Edward Clark; Captain J. Simpson R.N.; Bonamy M. Power.
Bottom row left to right: William H. Crake (foreman of the jury); Henry Deedes; Hon. H. D. Ryder; Colonel Aikman V.C. (Victoria Cross).
(This is a different jury to that which sat through the criminal trial.)

A token depicting the Claimant.

The legal saga inspired the humourist Arthur Sketchley to write Mrs. Brown on the Tichborne Case.

Charles Reade dedicated his Tichborne inspired novel The Wandering Heir to Braddon.

Bibliography and Recommended Reading about Mary Elizabeth Braddon:
Jennifer Carnell, The Literary Lives of Mary Elizabeth Braddon (Sensation Press, 2000).

Robert Lee Wolff, Sensational Victorian: The Life and Fiction of Mary Elizabeth Braddon (New York: Garland, 1979).

Recommended reading on Tichborne: Douglas Woodruff, The Tichborne Claimant (London: Hollis & Carter, 1957).

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