In 1834, a scandalous series of letters appeared in the Limerick Chronicle between Dr Thomas Frewen and his son William Frewen (born 2 Dec 1792 to Thomas and Anne, baptized in St John’s Church of Ireland 16 Dec 1792).
William Frewen of the Royal Shades Hotel, having seen an advertisement in the Limerick Chronicle of last Saturday, in which he is declared not to be the heir at law of Thomas Frewen, M.D., takes leave to lay before the public the following statement of facts.
That his unhappy parent is, at this moment, labouring under the strong mental delusion, owing to the influence of a wretched female, who exercises over him an uncontrolled dominion, and who (through interesting motives) has ever been the relentless enemy of his children.
That, in the year 1831, she accompanied Dr Frewen to Dublin in the character of his niece, both assuming fictitious names : she passing under that of Mrs Geary and he under that of Dr Cash, and residing at the house of Miss Rourke’s, Upper Stephen-street.
That this unhappy man, instigated by this vile female (still striving to entrap him into marriage) forgetting his children, his character and his principle, has, in a moment of delirium, given publication to an advertisement, which, while it attempts to cast an odium on his child, must inevitably and publicly stigmatize himself as an unkind parent and infatuated dope.
That Mr William Frewen has abundant proof to convince those interested that he along is the “heir at law” of his unfortunate parent; and that the deed alluded to in the advertisement, in which he is declared to be such, was drawn up by the late John Fitzgerald, Esq. Attorney-at-Law, and witnessed by Messrs. O’Grady and Fitzgerald, junior – duly and deliberately signed by his father. Doctor Frewen, thro’, as it declares, “his natural love and affection for him” – that it is registered in Dublin, and that no legal form was wanting whereby it should be rendered perfect.
That the “peculiar circumstances” spoken of, are these – a revival of the natural affection of a parent on the sight of a long absent son – a wish to reinstate him in those rights, and a determination, as he himself styled it, “that the brats of his brother should not inherit the portion of his children”. These are the “peculiar circumstances” of which he now thinks expedient to repent.
That Mr. Wm. Frewen invites both the interested and the curious to a full investigation of his rights; that he is determined that the ashes of his mother shall not be rudely scattered by the calumny of a husband (even tho’ it may place the existence of the latter within the pale of outraged law); that he warns society from negotiating with either his father or his uncle, with respect to the lands of Stradbally, without first consulting him; that he will now, persecuted as he is, enter the field with the powerful and the malignant – prove his own honour, and, while he flings the gauntlet of defiance, proudly, but conscientiously, exclaim, “May God defend the right”. William Frewen, Limerick 14 Jan 1834.
A few days later a response from his father was posted in the Limerick Chronicle.
The only answer that Doctor Frewen will condescend to give to the statement contained in Wm Frewen’s advertisement in the Chronicle of the 15th instant, is to declare that it is altogether a tissue of the most malignant and unfounded falsehoods. It is Doctor Frewen’s determination (under advise) not to notice anything further which may appear from the same quarter. Thomas Frewen, M.D. Dublin Jan 23.
The final public correspondence came the following week
To Thomas Frewen, Esq. M.D.
I know not how to address you by the sacred name of Father, when you yourself, in the presecence of an all seeing Judge, in the face of Society, and in defiance of every divine and human law, have rashly attempted to sever ties of the holiest and most affecting nature. Surely, if one spark of affection for your children, if one sentiment of prudence remained – of regard for those who honor is in reality involved, you would not have given publicity to statements which you know (and well you know), are as false, AS IT IS TRUE THAT GOD IS ON HIS THRONE.
You say in the Chronicle of the 25th, that you act “under advice” – Fatal advice! fatal to your conscience, your respectability, your property, and your honour. This indeed has been the main spring of your actions – this has shrouded evert finer feeling, and now, at the closing period of a long life has rendered you an exile from your children – has induced you to commit an act of fatuity as inexcusable as its substance is unfounded.
Were I conscious that your extraordinary advertisements had even the shadow of probability, I would readily “hide my diminished head” beneath the extinguisher which your paternal affection had so promptly and publicly provided; but TRUTH is eternal, immutable, unquenchable. “Hidden this must now become manifest”. Most assuredly will the testimony of the living and the shadows of the dead awake conviction in your bosom, when justice shall wring from you that tardy acknowledgement which your weakness and your worldly respect have caused to linger to long, and willingly, in your bosom.
I also, act “under advice” though differently given, when I determine to preserve in asserting those rights to which no other person, save my brother and my two sisters, have the least legitimate claim. I assert it in the face of Heaven, and in that of Society, and will do, you know, Doctor Frewen, that as attempted refutation would be about as “well advised” as your denial of the “DEED” in which I am declared “your eldest son and heir at late, through your natural love and affection for me &c., &c.,” –signed and sealed by you, registered in Dublin, and witnessed by two respectable individuals!!
I appeal to you – I appeal to the world – whether you have not wantonly attempted to do me the most vital injury. Can I be condemned (while you are hold in shadows, and act “under advice” as very injurious) if I upheld that character which you would blot from the face of society – If I do justice to those names over which, long ago, you should have erected a monument to commemorate her long suffering virtues, is place of attempting to desecrate her ashes. I cannot misuse my feelings to descent further on the subject at present – God and the world shall judge between us – whether you in your moment of infatuation, shall, with impunity, give utterance to the rancour of your advisers – and whether we ought not to render ourselves that justice which is due to us alone, and of which we cannot be deprived, by either your want of paternal affection, or by their malignity.
You have, at all events, effected much good- you have around feelings too long dormant – you have provoked inquiry, hitherto but half satisfied – you have opened the path which leads to certainty, and, seeing “under advice” as you have done, it shall, ere long, be shewn what YOU HAVE NOT DONE, and what you have performed in the presence of God and at his holy Altar. William Frewen, Limerick, February 1.
It is uncertain if this family rift was resolved before Thomas Frewen became an insolvent debter on the 5 July 1834 or even before his death on 12 August 1834 in the home of Mrs Sargent 31 French Street, Dublin.
The original advert referred to in William Frewen’s letter of 14 Jan 1834 has not been located.