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

Cligny v. Hull [1899] NSWSupC 1

breach of promise of marriage, bankruptcy

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Darley C.J., 17 March 1899

Source: Sydney Morning Herald , 18 March 1899, p. 7


(Before the Chief Justice and a jury of four.)


£2000 Damages Claimed.

Verdict for £500.

Cligny v. Hull. (Part heard.)

Mr. Flannery, instructed by Messrs. Shaw and Jagelman, appeared for the plaintiff; and Mr. Garland, instructed by Messrs. Arnott and Reynolds, for the defendant. This was an action brought by Bertha Cligny against Arthur Francis Basselt Hull to recover £2000 compensation for alleged breach of promise of marriage. The defendant admitted the promise, but pleaded that the plaintiff had exonerated and released him from it. Plaintiff, after calling Caroline Helen Scott, Alice Peck, and W.L. Marienthall as to the relationship which appeared to exist between the plaintiff and defendant subsequently to May 25, 1898, closed her case in chief.

Mr. Garland moved for a nonsuit on the ground that he had succeeded in proving the plea of exoneration and discharge, and further that the letters which had passed between the parties towards the end of June showed that they had been an absolute relase [sic].

His Honor refused to non suit, and said that the question whether the engagement was renewed or not was one entirely for the jury, and he expressed no opinion about the matter.

The defendant was then called, and said that his salary as statistical clerk and librarian in the General Post Office was £240 per annum. He further stated that early in April a controversy arose as to the plaintiff's parentage, and he showed plaintiff a letter which he had received from his sister on the subject. She denied the charges, and seemed very much troubled about it, and defendant in consequence wrote a very stiff letter to his sister, which caused an estrangement. He informed plaintiff that he did not believe the allegations, and he did all he could to assist her in disproving them. When he questioned her as to her reason for changing her name from Cligny to "Cligny de Boissac," she said that while travelling on the Continent her effects had been stolen, including her cheque-book, and in order to prevent any operation on her banking account she changed the name to de Boissac. After the letter of the 25th May, and the defendants reply there too, he regarded the engagement is terminated, and he never afterwards, by word or deed, led plaintiff to believe that he had renewed the engagement. On May 27, at the plaintiff's request, defendant met her. He had previously telephoned to her asking whether he should post a letter to his sister informing her that the engagement had been broken off, and she said "Yes." After some conversation plaintiff asked him if he knew whether Mrs. Fawns was in town, and the defendant said "No," and asked plaintiff if he could do anything to assist her. Plaintiff replied in the affirmative, and said she would meet him that evening. Accordingly on the evening of May 27 he met plaintiff in King-street, and they went out to the Centennial Park. They had a conversation about her claim upon Mrs. Fawns, and also the plaintiff's threatened action against defendant's sister for alleged slander. He did not know then that Mrs. Fawns had discontinue the allowance to the plaintiff, and did not become aware of it until late in July. He did not state to plaintiff that he did not want the engagement to be broken off, or that he merely wished to see the effect of this letter. It was not true that as they went out to the Centennial Park the engagement was renewed, nor was it true that he said he would not have the engagement broken off and would wait to see Mrs. Fawns and stop her from making certain statements. Plaintiff at the time was extremely hysterical end in tears. He kissed her on that occasion because she was so upset, but he did not conduct himself towards her as a lover. In fact, they did not part in quite as friendly a manner as before. At that time nothing was said from beginning to end about renewing the contract; on the contrary defendant referred to the letter of the May 25 breaking off the engagement, and said to her, "You must bear in mind that we are still disengaged." That was when he kissed her at the time when she was hysterical, and she seemed too much upset to reply. Defendant met plaintiff again by appointment on May 28. They went up the Lane Cove River, about 2.30 p.m., and returned to Sydney about 8 p.m., after having tea at teahouse at Lane Cove. Nothing was then said about a renewal of the engagement.

His Honor: Did you treat her as a lover on that occasion?

Witness: Not more so than on the previous occasion.

His Honor: Did you kiss her?

Witness: Yes.

By Mr. Garland: On that occasion she was occasionally hysterical, but not so much so as before. On June 3, defendant telephoned to plaintiff and asked her whether she would like to see the town during the posting of the results of the elections. Plaintiff assented, and he went to Allora and brought her to town. Witness further described what took place during the visit with the plaintiff to Mrs. Webb's, and stated that he did not give the Webbs to understand that the engagement was still in existence. He allowed plaintiff to weigh the engagement ring on that occasion at her own request, as she said she did not wish to be troubled with questions. On the way home in the train plaintiff appeared to be out of temper and would not speak to him, and upon parting he told her to telephone to him, when she recovered her temper, if there was anything he could do for her. On the 27th June plaintiff wrote a letter to him which he replied to, stating that the charges were unfounded and gratuitously cruel and untrue. Sometime afterwards he accidentally met by the plaintiff, when, after some conversation in reference to plaintiff's demand for an apology which defendant did not understand, she asked him to see Mrs. Fawns and ask her to reconsider her decision to discontinue the allowance. He afterwards saw Mrs. Fawns, and pressed her in plaintiff's behalf to continue the allowance. Mrs. Fawns said she was considering the matter, but said plaintiff had shown in gratitude, and that she thought the time had arrived when she should exert herself and do something. He never let the plaintiff to believe that the engagement had broken off on May 25 was renewed. He entirely supported one of his sisters and partially supported another. In cross-examination witness stated that he looked upon the breaking off of the engagement with very little grief, as he had passed the sentimental oh, but he sympathised with plaintiff in regard to the discontinuance of the allowance by Mrs. Fawns, and did all he could to assist her in the matter.

Counsel having addressed the Court, his Honor summed up, and the jury after about 35 minutes' consideration returned a verdict for the plaintiff, with damages £500.

Bankruptcy Court

Registrar Hull, 28 September 1899

Source: Sydney Morning Herald , 29 September 1899


(Before the Registrar, Mr. Arthur Henry.)

Certificate applications.

Re Arthur Francis Bassett Hull. Mr. Garland appeared for the bankrupt and applied for a certificate. It appeared from the report of the official assignee that there was an unsatisfied judgment against the bankrupt in an action for breach of promise of marriage. The Registrar made an order granting the certificate conditionally upon the payment by a bankrupt of £30 per year to the official assignee by monthly instalments on the 1st of each month until he had paid 7s 6d in the £ or until further order of the Court.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University