The ‘extraordinary conduct’ of an artist

Edward Hawker had a peculiar obsession, or fetish. At least that’s how we might view this case that reached the Marlborough Street Police Court in early August 1860.

Hawker was an artist ‘and modeller’ and he took a very proactive interest in securing the perfect model for his work. Sadly for him his attempts to create the perfect sculpture of the female form were not appreciated by two ‘respectable’ ladies he approached separately that summer.

1889-06 Petersons dress2

Elizabeth Dolby was promenading along Duke Street (near Manchester Square) when Hawker stopped her. He informed her that her bootlace was undone and then drooped to one knee, took up her foot and placed it on his knee. The magistrate asked Elizabeth if her lace was indeed undone: ‘no Sir’, she replied.

She told the court that Hawker explained that he was a shoemaker and that she ‘had very high insteps’. She asked him to let her go, and he did. But when she reached Edward Street he did same thing again, and this time she called for a policeman had had him arrested.

Charlotte Neale had had a very similar encounter with the artist. She had been out in Cavendish Square (not very far from where Hawker accosted Elizabeth)  when the stranger also approached her and took hold of her leg using the same excuse.

In court the magistrate was told that Hawker had a previous history of behaving like this and had been prosecuted and punished before. His excuse was that he had once been walking in Regent’s Street when a lady asked him to tie her bootlace. When he lifted her leg he saw that it was ‘so beautifully formed that immediately upon his return home he made a model of it from memory’. Ever since he had been trying to discover ‘if another  leg was to be met with in the world’.

Quizzed about his actions in court Hawker denied all of it and said he was merely stopping the women in the hope of having ‘a little conversation with them’, he meant no harm. The magistrate didn’t see it that way and called his behaviour ‘shameful’. It was the duty of the court, he continued, to protect women from the likes of him. Hawker was fined 20s for each of the two offenses or 21 days in the house of correction. He paid the fine.

Edward Hawker may have been an innocent if misguided man who found it hard to approach women in more ‘normal’ circumstances, but he might also have a been a ‘sex pest’. I suspect also that his love of the female foot and leg suggests that he was a fetishist, possibly harmless but in these case certainly disturbing or at the least, annoying.

[From The Morning Chronicle, Friday, August 3, 1860]

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