Executed at Tyburn, 20th of September, 1756, for the Murder of his Wife
WILLIAM CANNICOTT was about forty years of age, and had been a livery-servant from a youth, though his parents, who were substantial people, would fain have had him learn a trade.
When he was about twenty years old he married Dorothy Tamlyn, a woman nearly forty years of age, with whom he had lived as fellow-servant; and soon after he set her up in a little haberdasher's shop in Boswell Court. This shop she kept nearly ten years, when Cannicott, being then servant to the late Admiral Matthews, took a house for her in East Street and furnished it to be let out in lodgings.
They lived peaceably, if not happily, together until, without his knowledge, she sold two suits of his best clothes, though she had no reasonable pretence or provocation, for he constantly gave her all his money, and she received, without any account, the profits that arose from the house. Cannicott was naturally passionate, and coming in haste one day to put on a suit of these clothes, upon a particular occasion, he was so exasperatdd to find they had been sold by his wife that he swore he would never come home to her any more. He took a lodging in a distant part of the town instead of going home to his wife, though he still continued to give her his money.
In this new neighbourhood he was of course considered as a single man; and indeed he was soon after hired to a gentleman in Cavendish Square who declared that he would not hire a married man. Among Cannicott's fellow-servants there was a young woman who waited upon his master's daughter, to whom he found a secret pleasure in recommending himself by many little acts of kindness, with which he saw she was pleased. He loved her not only for her person but for her mind, which was continually being improved by the free conversation of her amiable lady. As love is always vigilant and suspicious, he discovered that his master had a design upon her virtue, and that, at the same time, she was also addressed by a young man who would have married her, and whom he thought she would consent to marry, if he did not profit by the influence he had over her by soliciting her for himself. In this situation he determined to gain her if it was possible, let the consequence be what it would. From this time his courtship commenced, and the girl, sincerely believing he had no other connection, consented to have him. When this was agreed he resolved to leave his place, because the girl would not consent to conceal her marriage from her lady, nor would her lady part with her upon that account, though his master would, notwithstanding, think it a sufficient reason to part with him. In pursuance of this scheme he hired himself to the Earl of Darnley, and on the 3rd of June, 1754, he married his new wife at Marylebone Chapel.
He went into Lord Darnley's place the same day, and his wife continued in hers a twelvemonth after they were married, and might have continued there longer if her master had not pursued his design with more importunity than before, notwithstanding the declaration of her marriage, which, upon that account, as well as others, she had determined to make as soon as it should have taken place. As these solicitations made her very uneasy, she complained of them to her husband, and he advised her to give warning. She immediately followed his counsel, but stayed five months longer to oblige her lady, who was very desirous she should go with her to Bath. When they came back, and her master found she was determined to go, and that another maid had been engaged in her stead, he was so enraged at his disappointment that he would scarcely suffer her to stay long enough in the house to put her clothes together. When she had come away Cannicott hired a lodging for her as near him as he could, that he might spend every leisure minute in her company; and he perceived, with unspeakable pleasure, an excessive fondness in her which increased his own.
One Hobson, a coachman in Lord Darnley's family, knew Cannicott when he lived in another place, and knew also his first wife. It happened that the wife of this Hobson had become acquainted with some person in the house where Cannicott had taken a lodging for his second wife, and thus discovered the secret. His second wife, however, she did not know where to find, for she had removed into the country when Cannicott went out of town with his lord, and had not yet returned; but word was immediately sent to his wife, and she took every opportunity to haunt and reproach her husband with his new connection. This made him extremely wretched, not only because it was irksome in itself, but because it kept him in continual dread and solicitude lest they should find out his favourite and interrupt her peace as they had interrupted his. As his fears increased, so did his caution: he took another lodging for his young wife, whom he called Nanny, at a considerable distance, and required her never to call, on any pretence, where she had lodged before. With this request she cheerfully complied, without knowing or inquiring why it was made; but her old landlady, once meeting her by chance, dogged her home, and immediately acquainted Hobson and his wife where she lodged, who with great expedition sent Mrs Cannicott to acquaint her with her situation. Here was an end at once to all the stolen felicity. Nanny, at the next interview, reproached him; but she reproached him with such tenderness as showed less anger than love. She was overwhelmed with grief, and as often as she could find words she entreated that he would never attempt to see her more, but leave her to struggle alone with her misfortunes, and endeavour to get into another place. He could not consent to leave her, but promised to procure her a place. This indeed he attempted, but without success.
She had twice removed her lodging, but was still followed by Mrs Cannicott, who acquainted the neighbourhood with her story. Nanny, therefore, would not suffer Cannicott to visit her in her lodgings, where it was known she could not be his lawful wife; and though he persuaded her sometimes to meet him early in the morning, yet, as it was chiefly in the street, that afforded him no pleasure.
Hobson and his wife in the meantime fomented the difference between Cannicott and his first wife, telling her that he had received his wages, and urging her to solicit him for more money. This she did, with threats of prosecution if he refused, saying that she could and would hang him for having two wives.
As he believed this to be in her power, he restrained his aversion, for fear she should execute it, and therefore appointed to meet her on Thursday evening at the Red Lion, in Berkeley Square, to take a little walk. Being obliged to put up at a public-house near Tottenham Court, by a sudden storm of thunder and rain, she asked him for money, which he refused to give her, when she had recourse first to expostulation, then reproach, and then threatening, which threw him into a dreadful rage, in the midst of which he broke away from her and she followed him. As they were going downstairs he saw a cord hanging over the banisters, upon which he conceived a design to use it as an instrument to murder her, and therefore snatched it up and put it into his pocket. When they came out of the house they went towards home. Bidding her go on, he prepared the cord for the murder. Having tied a noose in one end and passed the other end through it, he walked apace after her and, coming behind her, threw it over her head and drew it tight. She immediately seized it with her hands, and struggled so hard that the cord broke, and he feared she would overpower him. He then thought of his scissors, and, drawing them from the sheath, he thrust them many times into her throat and body, upon which her grasp relaxed, and she soon expired. He was soon afterwards arrested and examined by the justices, and though many circumstances appeared against him, yet the first day he confessed nothing; but the next day, finding that they had found out his second wife, and confined her upon suspicion that she had been accessory to the fact, he immediately accused himself, that she might be discharged; and, having fully disclosed the whole affair, he pleaded guilty at his trial, and died with great penitence and resignation, being executed at Tyburn, on the 20th of September, 1756.