Jarvis, Edwin 1878 August 10th East Harnham
On Wednesday morning the inhabitants of the little village of East Harnham were aroused from the usually quiet state of their every day life into a condition of unwonted excitement, owing to the news having been circulated in their midst that one of their number had attempted to destroy himself. Unfortunately the news proved to be only too true, for it was quickly ascertained that the poor fellow, who, while undoubtedly in a state of temporary insanity had attempted to commit suicide, was Edwin Jarvis, who for some months past had been the foreman of our city scavengers. The instrument with which he committed the deed, was a pistol, which, we are led to understand, was purchased at Mr Evans’, in Catherine-street, on last Friday morning, and with which he shot himself behind the ear on the right side of the head. Death was not instantaneous, but after lingering in an unconscious state for about three hours he died at 10am.
The inquest on the body was held on Thursday by Mr R M Wilson, county coroner, at the house which the deceased had inhabited. The body having been viewed, the following evidence was adduced,
Mrs Jarvis, wife of deceased, stated that she believed her husband was 41 last March, and he was foreman of the city scavengers. She had been married to him about 19 years. During that time (we believed that she meant while he was away at work) she heard of his being in an infirmary or hospital for some time, owing to his having received injuries in his head through being thrown form a trap at Bath. This was after her marriage. He was only in the hospital long enough to get three cuts sown up.
George Newman, labourer, working for Mr Rogers, of Harnham, said he knew but little of Edwin Jarvis from his youth, but he believed he was a Fovant man. He had been in the habit of seeing him frequently, but only by his passing his (witness’) door. On Wednesday morning at about 20 minutes to seven he was standing close to the gate of the deceased’s house, when his attention was attracted by some frightful screams, and Mrs Jarvis rushed out of the house, and exclaimed, “Jarvis has shot himself.” He made as much haste as he could to enter the house, and found deceased lying on his back on the floor of the room on the right-hand side going in. After he had been there a few minutes he breathed painfully two or three times. He was quite insensible. He saw the pistol produced underneath the table, and he then saw that he had shot himself in the head. He was bleeding very much from a wound behind his right ear. He should say that he saw some brains lying on the table.
By a juryman : I never noticed anything particular in the appearance of the man, except a down-cast look, as if he had something upon his mind.
Jeremiah Moore was next called, and stated that he was of no occupation at present, but was formerly a commercial traveller. He had lived in the house adjoining that in which deceased lived for more than four years, and Jarvis had lived in his house for about three years. He was in his own house on Wednesday morning, when he heard the alarm, and he hurried as fast as he could into deceased’s house. Mrs Jarvis said, “Jarvis has shot himself,” and a daughter said, “Father has shot himself.” When he came into the room in which the jury had seen the body, he saw the deceased lying on the floor by the side of the fender. He did not die for three hours, but he was insensible to everything, and he should fancy he suffered no pain. He had a wound on the right side of the head behind the ear. He expired exactly at a quarter past ten, and he remained with him the whole of the time at the request of Dr Blackmore.
When he first entered the room he saw a pistol on the floor, and he lifted it up to see if the – he imagined it had two barrels – other barrel were loaded. It had, however, only one barrel. He had no doubt that the wound to the head was caused by a pistol shot. He believed that for the last five weeks he had been drinking a great deal. He had noticed that whenever deceased was under the influence of liquor he would brace himself up, probably for the purpose of not letting people know the condition he was in. He never heard him threaten self-destruction, but he had observed a kind of depression in the man, and had often remarked to his wife that something serious would happen to Jarvis one day.
By the Coroner : When he didn’t drink I believe he was a very good workman, and attentive to his business.
Mrs Kate Pennell, wife of Solomon Pennell, landlord of the “Pheasant” Inn, at Salisbury, stated that she was no relative of deceased, but was acquainted with him and was friendly with his wife. During the last four or five weeks she had seen him frequently, and he seemed to be in rather a depressed condition owing to his being a great deal in debt, through, she believed, betting, and engaging in horse racing, and other transactions. He was in constant work, and had good wages; but she had been in the habit of letting him have money. Three weeks ago he came to her and stated that he was in debt to some extent, and that £7 would free him, and added that unless she let him have that sum he would destroy himself.
By a juror : She had let him have money on several occasions. Some time ago he told her he had received a County Court summons for £4, and, by his request, she lent him that sum to pay off the debt.
Mrs Jarvis was, at this point of the inquiry, re-called, and the Coroner inquired of her, “What state was your husband in yesterday morning?”
Mrs Jarvis : Very bad, sir.
The Coroner : Had he been drinking on Monday and Tuesday? On Monday he went to Woodford to see his brother, but, I believe, he didn’t have very much then; and on Tuesday he went to work.
The Coroner : What was his condition on the Tuesday? He was very low; but he was in that condition for the last fortnight. It is a fact that he has been drinking for the last fortnight.
The Coroner : Did he go to bed on Tuesday night? Yes.
In answer to further questions, she said that whilst he was in bed he appeared to sleep well. He got up at about a quarter to six, and went downstairs without dressing himself, taking his trousers in his hand. She dressed herself as quickly as she possibly could, and followed him. When she got down he said that he was going to do away with himself, and enjoined her not to touch his trousers, as he had something in the pocket. Afterwards he took the pistol out into his hand. On former occasions he had threatened to commit suicide, but this was when he was in a low condition. The next morning, however, he always seemed all right, and she never said any more about it.
Dr Blackmore deposed that on Wednesday morning about 7 o’clock, he was called to see the deceased, and at ten minutes after he was in attendance upon him. He was lying on the floor in the room in which the jury had viewed the body, breathing and bleeding from a gun-shot wound on the right-side of the head. He noticed that there was a small portion of the brains lying on a table. From the character of the wound in the head the pistol must have been fired off close to the skull. The pistol was lying under the table by his right hand. Deceased was dressed in his flannel shirt, collar and necktie, the collar and necktie being carefully arranged. He had no shoes and stockings or other garments on. There was soil on the bottom of his feet, which led him to suppose that he had been walking in the garden.
There was no doubt in his mind that the wound was self-inflicted, and he also believed from the evidence – that his mind was affected – he would not say that he was suffering from delirium tremens, but he was in that depressed state that he was glad to get rid of himself in any way, and that being so he should say that it exhibited an unsound state of mind.
A juror : On Tuesday night I saw him and he said his head was bad. This was at about 20 minutes to 6.
The Coroner : Did he seem to have been drinking?
The juror : He had evidently had some drink.
Another juror : He was seen walking up and down the hill during the evening.
The Coroner : If a person drinks incessantly for two or three weeks, it is very likely that it will have an effect upon him.
A third juror remarked that he passed the deceased in a passage on the same night, and by some means he fell against him. He (the juror) begged his pardon, but he made no answer, and appeared to be entirely lost.
The Coroner : I daresay if we adjourned this inquest we should simply have a corroboration, that this unfortunate man has, as we can judge from the evidence of Mrs Pennell, given way to gambling, and habits of intemperance, which have been too much for him, and he had destroyed himself. (A Juror : Of course.) He has been a very good workman, and a very respectable man, understood his duties perfectly, and had good wages; but it is bad if people give way to gambling and drinking, and they cannot stand it. The only questions for you to determine are, as to what state of mind he was in when he did this; and did he know he was doing this? or was he of unsound mind?
The jury were of opinion that he was in a state of unsound mind, and returned a verdict accordingly.