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Decisions of the Superior Courts of New South Wales, 1788-1899

Monroe v. Perry [1889] NSWSupC 1

breach of promise of marriage

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Stephen J., 18 July 1889

Source: Sydney Morning Herald , 19 July 1889, p. 3

No. 1. Jury Court - (Before his Honor Mr. Justice Stephen and a jury of four.)


Mr. Tarleton, instructed by Mr. J.A. Cahill, appeared for the plaintiff. The defendant did not appear. This was an action brought by Eliza Monroe, widow, who at one time carried on business as a dressmaker, against John Sugden Berry, widower, to recover £500 damages for breach of promise of marriage. From the plaintiff's evidence it appeared that she became acquainted with the defendant, who was then a partner in the firm of Bond, Berry, and Underwood, brewers, of Rocky Mouth, Clarence River, about four years ago, at which time defendant was a married man. Mrs. Berry died in December, 1886, and about six months afterwards he became engaged to the plaintiff, and spoke to several friends about his intended marriage. Shortly after his engagement to plaintiff, defendant left for the Clarence River, in connection with the brewery business, and during his absence he wrote to plaintiff in affectionate terms, and on several occasions referred to their approaching marriage. He also instructed her to get what furniture she wanted, and requested her to join him at the Clarence River. She obtained and packed up the furniture for shipment when she received a communication from defendant stating that he was coming to Sydney to live and intended to dispose of his interest in the brewery business. She thereupon countermanded the order for the despatch of the furniture, and when defendant came to Sydney he continued to be on affectionate terms with plaintiff. After remaining some time in Sydney the defendant proceeded to Melbourne upon business, and when he returned his manner was much colder, and on the 25th February, 1888, in reply to a letter from plaintiff, he wrote from Botany in the following terms:- "Mrs. Monroe, - I have thought carefully over our matter, and not being in a position to keep a wife I have come to the conclusion that this must close our future correspondence. If you have any legal claims on me you are at liberty to take your own course. Your threats have placed me in an unfortunate position with all the branches of my family. I do not wish to repeat several things that have taken place to my annoyance. The ring and pin you seem determined to keep. It is not the intrinsic value they possess, but mementoes of the givers. I lost one through you, and the other through death; so I have come to the determination not to marry anyone. As to your coming to Botany to annoy me, I do not think you will be successful."

Upon receipt of this letter plaintiff instituted the present action for breach of promise of marriage.

His Honor briefly summed up to the jury, and said that the only question was one of damages, as defendant seemed to have broken his promise by mere caprice. They had to consider the position in life of the parties and the means of the defendant. The evidence on the latter point was rather shadowy, and the only evidence was that defendant had a share in a brewery.

The jury, after a short consultation, returned a verdict in favour of the plaintiff, with damages £300.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University