THE COURT CASE OF SAMUEL RAYNER (1851)
J. L. Roget's History of the Old Water Colour Society reported that:
He left the Society in disgrace, after a judgement given on the 6th of February, 1851, in the Court of Queen’s Bench in a case involving a serious charge of fraud.
The case was reported in the Times newspaper on the 7th of February 1851 as follows:
Our interpretation of this is that William Manser (apparently) wrote a document promising £2000 to his daughter Anne - in effect an open cheque.|
Any money coming this way to Anne would automatically have become her husband’s (Samuel’s) under the prevailing property rights of 1851.
Samuel chose to use the money (or perhaps it was always intended to be used) to make a payment to a Mr Roe, and he therefore endorsed the promissory note to pass the rights to that gentleman. At some point afterwards, payment was refused, with Mr Manser claiming the note was a forgery.
It should be observed that it was William Manser’s signature that was in contention, not Samuel’s.
A number of possibilities arise, including: |
(a) the note was a forgery by Samuel or someone else (and remember Samuel was a skilled artist);
(b) the note was genuine, with Samuel endorsing it and getting caught in the middle when his father-in-law tried to disclaim it;
(c) Samuel was desperate for money or was otherwise coerced into going along with a scheme to defraud Mr Roe;
(d) Mr Manser intended the money for Anne and was furious when Samuel diverted it. He tried to deny the endorsed note to embarrass Samuel, but instead fell foul of the legal consequences.
If Mr Manser could write a note for £2000, he was obviously wealthy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Anne and Samuel were, and it’s possible they were struggling. The court report talks of Samuel being away from home in a way that could be simply a business trip - or evidence of marital discord. We have no evidence either way, and so far as we are aware, this newspaper mention is the only case record.
That Samuel's absence could have been a business trip rather than discord arises in the description of Samuel as an artist and picture dealer, something that hasn’t shown up in other references to his lifestyle. However, it could also explain the diversion of the £2000 to buy a collection of art.
If it was discord, then it may have been an outright forgery by Samuel. We need to bear in mind that he was away from home from some point in December and through January without communicating with his family (and seemingly was not in court). He could have produced the promissory letter, forged his father-in-law's signature, signed it himself, and dated the note for before he left home (otherwise how could he have intercepted a note addressed to Ann? Ann didn't send it on to him: she defended her father's argument that the note was a forgery).
Other points here, though: Ann may have been as furious as her father and supported him even though she'd known the note to be genuine. Also: How long would it have taken the action to come to court, and was Samuel's absence coincidental or fortuitus? Was he around when Mr Roe first presented the promissory note for payment? Did he leave home because he was justly accused of forgery, or because he had (legally) diverted a genuine note to his own needs and left to escape the resulting anger?
Or was the note a third-party forgery, possibly by Mr Roe? This would be risky: it would depend on Samuel not denying his own signature on the note, and would only work if Samuel was in collusion or was away when the case went to court (it seems he was, of course, but the point still remains that it could have been a coincidental absence).
And the remaining question is: who was Mr Roe?
William Manser lost his argument that his signature was a forgery. This recognised the note as genuine (whether it actually was or not), and this in turn leaves it unclear as to what Samuel's crime was. One possibility is that he was seen to be in collusion with his father-in-law in trying to avoid making a payment that was promised, and was thus jointly seeking to defraud Mr Roe.
Beyond that, we would need legal advice!
As Roget again reports: At a meeting of the Society held on the 10th of February, 1851, for the election of candidates, after the ‘attention of the Society’ had been ‘called to his case,’ it was unanimously resolved ‘that Mr. Rayner’s name be erased from the list of Associates.’|
Whether Samuel was a rogue or an innocent, this case was a major turning point in his life, and one he may never have truly recovered from.
Please take note: we claim no art expertise, and in no way do we offer provenance for any paintings. What you see here was compiled out of interest in Louise Rayner's paintings, but is based on sometimes very fragmentary evidence. As such, it is inevitable that there will be errors, though we naturally hope to reduce these over time.
We would gratefully receive any information or corrections that will help us to fill the gaps and resolve unproved links - for example confirmation of dates of birth, death, etc., and details of other addresses the family lived at (and roughly when). Images of any of the family's paintings would also be very welcome. Thank you!