The Trial of Mary Ann Tocker, For an Alleged Libel, On Mr. Gurney, Vice-Warden...With the Defence Verbatim as Delivered by the Defendent
London: Printed & Published at the Request and for the Benefit of Miss Tocker by Henry White, 1818. First edition. One of two issues with no clear priority, which constitutes the first account of the libel charges against Tocker as she became the first woman to represent herself in British court. Measuring 202 x 132mm in modern wraps and collating complete including frontis: , viii, 9-40. Internally clean and unmarked. Exceptionally scarce; of the 8 copies reported by OCLC, none are in North America.
The present scarce work is the first documentation of Mary Ann Tocker's rise to becoming the first woman to represent herself in British court -- taking on a corrupt official and proving her own innocence against his retaliatory libel charges. "Mary Ann Tocker successfully defended herself in the libel case by invoking constitutionalist language and the principles of English liberty" at a time when "courtrooms were undoubtedly gendered spaces"; and she became an example of "the ways women could circumvent and contest the unequal power relations implicit in the nineteenth century legal process" (Parolin). When Richard Gurney, placed in a lucrative post by his influential father, ran up staggering debts against the Tocker family with whom he was boarding, he fled to the Continent to avoid making settlement. Their eldest daughter Mary Ann, inspired by her own father's work as an attorney, printed in a newspaper a letter exposing Gurney's corruption both as an individual and in his position as Vice-Warden. Enraged, Gurney charged her with "committing a most serious offence, in slandering the character of a gentleman in high judicial situation, by imputing to him practices of greatest criminality, in a letter published." With the support of her family, Tocker would successfully and convincingly argue her corner with the use of evidence and logic; rather than falling back on gendered stereotypes of innocent femininity, she drew on the Constitution, as well as legal philosophers Locke and Blackstone.
Tocker's self-advocacy continued after her favorable verdict, as Gurney began a pamphlet war in an attempt to win over the court of public opinion. Responding to him, Tocker raised her public profile as well as raising funds to support herself and her family. She authored, published, and sold the two pamphlets that bookend the present collection. These allow readers not only first-hand access to the transcripts and evidence as presented; they also preserve Tocker's own thoughts on the events before and after the trial. Fine (Item #5309)