The Lanyons… a tragedy [?]

It was not long before Conway Lanyon found living with his mother-in-law very trying, and being a man of firm and instant decisions where his own comfort was concerned, Mrs Scorrier found herself on the stage coach without being quite certain how the baronet had managed it. Naturally she was filled with indignation at his unnatural behaviour towards her but some recollection of a conversation involving a small competence that would disappear if she ever came within a mile of Yorkshire was enough to make her set her head to finding some connection with whom she might stay who would do as a sympathetic ear for her treatment at the hands of Sir Conway.

Charlotte, bereft of her mama and suffering from her pregnancy was surprised to find her husband frequently absent; Sir John Denny could have told her where he was, but as Sir John remarked grimly to his lady, you do not tell a young bride in an interesting condition that her husband has a very prime article under his protection in York.

Charlotte was duly brought to bed with a sickly daughter; and over the next six years proceeded to suffer fourteen pregnancies, many of them miscarriages, and progressively losing her bloom and health with each. In the end she had one rather weakly daughter – not her first, who had died in infancy – and a son who had inherited the same hip defect that affected Aubrey. Unable to even look at the baby, Charlotte left him in the care of Mrs Priddy which was probably the best that could have been done. Conway was often angry at her for her deficiencies and the way she still shrank from his dogs and Charlotte thought her lot could never be more miserable.

She was wrong.

Conway, one of the most selfish men to be found, wished to combine the life of a country gentleman with his other sporting pursuits and indoor riding skills, and proceeded to install his current mistress in Undershaw. The said mistress – supposedly a companion to Charlotte – was a brassy creature called Viola who would, Aubrey declared derisively, when he rode over from Elliston Priory one day, resemble Charlotte's mother one day. Charlotte could see that, but she wished he would not refer to her and Viola as 'Charlotte and harlot'.

It was accounted a sad tragedy when Sir Conway died so suddenly, and his mistress with him, vomiting blood.


It was proven at the inquest that the cooking pot had lost most of its tinning gradually without anyone being aware, and the suggestion by the cook that it had been fine and there were extra scouring marks was held to be her carelessness of not noticing before; for which she was censured by the crowner. However it was clearly a case of accidental death by copper poisoning, and just unfortunate that Lady Lanyon had ordered a meal that involved stewing in vinegar that heightened the effects. Lady Lanyon had partaken but little of the meal, but this was not unusual as her digestion had been delicate; Sir Conway and Viola had been laughing and feeding each other and drinking large quantities of wine. Indeed the decanter had been emptied and Lady Lanyon had sent it out with the butler to have the leas washed out and be refilled.


Mrs Scorrier was not invited to the funeral and nor was she invited to rejoin her daughter; indeed she had a solicitor's letter forbidding her to approach Undershaw, fuel to complain to the long suffering connection she was now staying with, having quarrelled with three and taken umbrage at four in the meanwhile.

Charlotte however regained some at least of some of her health, gave the dogs away, and might be seen to live peacefully and quietly.

And if the bailiff mentioned that he had missed some copper nails and if the butler ever wondered about the amount of sediment in that decanter of wine, well, accidental poisoning by copper vessel was a well known cause of death, and who could suspect so meek a lady as Lady Lanyon of anything untoward?

It was just a tragedy…..