Mr Dunn BL in Prison for Love, October 1838

Mr Dunn’s Belle Dame Sans Merci, Angela Burdett-Coutts

From the Tuam Herald and the Sheffield Independent, 13 October 1838:

The Irish Gentleman (Mr Dunn, the Irish Barrister) alluded to in our paper a few weeks ago, is now at Knaresboro’ in the custody of a police officer from London, on the charge of annoying a certain rich young lady, Miss Burdett Coutts. He was brought before the magistrates at Knaresborough, and Miss Coutts appeared to complain of his outrageous conduct. The case was adjourned to Friday, when the bench ordered Mr Dunn to enter into his own recognisances and find sureties to keep the peace towards the complainant and all other of her Majesty’s subjects.  The ‘gallant’ declared that the lady had shown her attachment towards him on more than one occasion, that his advances had been received, and bitterly complained of the treatment he had experienced.  The law however, like the lady, was inexorable, and in default of finding sureties, he was committed to York Castle, until the West Riding Sessions, which commence at Knaresborough on the 16th of October.  

York Castle Prison, where Mr Dunn and his law library spent a couple of weeks in October 1838

Miss Coutts left Harrogate, we understand, on Tuesday morning, for town; so that it is probably she will not appear against him further, but that he will be discharged on the 16th inst, in the usual course of law.  Mr Dunn was received into the Castle, on Saturday, he is a fine-looking young man, about the middle size and of genteel appearance; he has brought with him an extensive library of law books; and declares that he is a very ill-used man.   Since the transaction above referred to he has written a very long letter to Sir Francis Burdett, explaining his honourable intentions towards his daughter, and concluding with the emphatic declaration ‘Never fear, Sir Francis, but at length I shall come off with flying colours!’

We observe it stated that this devoted martyr to his amorous disposition, was, not long ago, the persevering, or rather we should say dunning, suitor of the present Countess of Clonmel, the beautiful Miss Burgh, on which occasion he was also taken into custody.    Mr Dunn is confined to the New Prison, in the same ward as those committed for trial.  Love in this instance, at least, will not laugh at Locksmiths, and we think that the strict discipline of York Castle will ring the enamoured lover to the soberness of reason.”

The Crown Inn, Knaresborough, today.

According to the Leeds Mercury, the case had been heard at the Crown Inn, Knaresboro, in a private room, with Mr Dunn defending in person, and there was much disappointment at the hearing having been private.

Meanwhile, the Limerick Chronicle of 3 November 1838 contained the following poem, possibly penned by one of Mr Dunn’s erstwhile colleagues, and entitled “From Miss Burdett Coutts to Mr Dunn, the Irish Barrister,”

“Waste not your arrows on my heart, for this, Sir, you may know

To penetrate my breast, the dart must spring from my own beau

So save your shafts for other maids, for this I’ll tell you true

My beau, unlike the bows of old, is certainly not yew.

Nor can I think I’ve pierced your heart (Pray do not take affront)

When you well know the only dart I have for you is blunt.”


The Burdett-Coutts mansion in Stratton Street, directly across from the new Dunn abode at the Gloucester Hotel.

It seems that Mr Dunn was released from York Castle, as predicted, in mid-October 1838. By 17th November 1838 the Preston Chronicle informed its readers that Miss Burdett-Coutts, who had returned to town immediately after the above proceedings, had not long enjoyed the summer quiet of the metropolis before ‘the gentleman of the long robe’ arrived at the Gloucester Hotel, Piccadilly, a location affording him every opportunity of frequently beholding his beloved, the windows of the apartments occupied by him commanding those of the Burdett-Coutts’ mansion at the corner of Stratton Street. The same paper reported that

“Mr Dunn is of rather a gentlemanly appearance, but unfortunately has the brogue of his native land.  During last week he was repeatedly observed walking past the residence of the lady, who we understand, has two constables constantly staying within the hall, in case of any emergency.”

What would happen next?  Would Miss Burdett-Coutts relent?  Would Mr Dunn find himself back in prison?  Would there be more xenophobic commentary on his Irish origins? Click here for instalment no 4 in the Dunn BL saga!

For new readers, instalments no 1 and 2 may be found here and here.

Image Credits: (top) (top middle) (bottom middle) (bottom)

Leave a Reply