If you search through Trove and old news papers you will soon realize that nothing was sacred when it came to the truth and the telling of it.
Not only were the reports about local people, but also news from abroad was descriptive and blatent in its delivery.
I maintain a project on Geni.com for obituaries – colonial news from England and this obituary stands out as an example!
- 1845 On the 10th March, at No. 3, Draycott place, Chelsea. The notorious Harriette Wilson. It will be recollected that in the year 1825, the well known John Joseph Stockdale, published the memoirs of this infamous woman. The book made a considerable stir at the time, the names of several important personages in the country having been given to the world as individuals who had indulged in amours with her. One gentleman, a Mr Blore, an architect, brought an action for libel against Stockdale, and recovered a verdict of £300 damages. Many noblemen and gentlemen, who had paid visits to Harriette, contrived to avoid exposure by paying over to her, at various times, large sums of money, and those payments were actually continued till within a day or two of her death. But her chief dependence was upon an annuity which she received quarterly. Lately, Harriette Wilson was a confirmed brandy drinker; and, until within twenty four hours of her death, she indulged freely in the intoxicating spirit. It became evident, however, to her attendants, that though alcoliolic potations acted as a stimulus for a time, she was sinking under their influence. She expired leaving scarcely any money behind her, although fifty pounds, it is said, were sent for her use, by the Duke of ———, within forty-eight hours of her dissolution.
On the 17th March, the deceased was interred at the cemetery at Fulham, and thus has the grave closed upon the remains of one, who when alive was a thorough disgrace to her sex. Previous to her death, Harriette Wilson embraced the Catholic faith, and outwardly exhibited the sign of a pious penitent woman. She has bequeathed to a priest a Virgin Mary and a Mary Magdalene; and it is believed that this gentleman, anticipating that an undue use would be made of her papers, by those scandal mongers, who are ever ready to prey upon the character of public men has caused many documents to be destroyed which, if publicity were given to thorn, would involve several families in grief and bitter mortification. According to the inscription on the coffin plate, Harrette Wilson was fifty five years of age when she closed her earthly career. For a period of twenty years, by threats of exposure, she managed to draw large sums from those who visited her when the bloom of beauty tinged her cheeks. Independently of the sum we alluded to above, she received £20 from Sir F. ——;£2 from Lord—— , and a gift from the Duke of ——-, within a few days of her death; and it has been intimated to us that the event has been kept snug, in order that more money may be secured, on the plea that is required for Harriette’s use. We think we may safely state, that further exposures will not be made, unless, indeed, the harpies of the press dish up a parcel of lies, and send them forth to the world in the garb of truth. We have one letter before us, written by a clergyman, who had been threatened, we suppose, with exposure, unless he furnished Hariette with money.
The reverend gentleman says, that having to meet his rev. brother, on his arrival from the North, he could not see her that day, but would make arrangements that she should not be disappointed on the following day! We secured this communication, and have since committed it to the flames, together with many little matters which, in the hands of any vulgar scoundrel, might have been worked up to his pecuniary advantage. We have now done with this woman, and we hope no stone will be erected to commemorate her memory, and disgrace the place of her burial.— Weekly Dispatch, 6th April.
- Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington
- William Craven, 1st Earl of Craven
- Prince of Wales
- 4 Future Prime Ministers of England
Even in later times I have come across notices of divorce on trove that also states the reason and names co respondents to the action.
I think we are a lot more conscious of gossip now days, and lets face it, some times some prior knowledge can prevent problems in the future.