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Pasteur v Pasteur Divorce Case                                                          Home


There’s nothing very newsworthy about a divorce case these days. In 1821, however, such proceedings were very rare, owing partly to the cost, and partly to the notoriety and shame involved.


Ann Pasteur was born Ann Adams, the oldest daughter of William Adams of Towcester. The family seem to have been fairly comfortably off, owning property in London. Ann was married to John Lewis Pasteur in 1804. John Lewis Pasteur was born in Melbourne, Derbyshire in 1781 (La Galaxie Pasteur, , and followed the trade of a grocer in Stony Stratford.


The Times of 17 Nov 1821 takes up the tale:

This was a suit of divorce by reason of adultery, promoted by the husband against his wife.


It appeared from the depositions that John Louis Pastier, proving unfortunate in business, removed to Hoxton, in the neighbourhood of London, where he again opened business. From the continued pressure of his embarrassments, he enlisted, in July 1812, as a soldier, and in December of the same year he embarked for India.


His wife, by whom he had four children, remained in England. She had a little provision of her own of £30 a year, which was afterwards, by a legacy bequeathed to her by an uncle, increased to £50 per annum. She went to reside among her friends in the country at a place called Osterbourne, where she was near her relations. It was proved by the evidence of a Mrs Mary Butcher, who with her husband kept an inn called the George and Dragon, in the same village, distant about four miles from Northampton, that when Mrs Pastier came to reside in her neighbourhood, she had with her four female children; she seemed to have no acquaintance in the place, but appeared to walk about like a lonely and disconsolate woman.


The same witness deposed that she very well knew Mr John Brown, since deceased; he had been in the habit of dining  with the deponent and her husband at Towcester; that he afterwards (in 1815) went to live next door to Mrs Pastier, of whom she believed that before that time Brown had no knowledge whatever. That soon afterwards she discovered that an improper intercourse subsisted between these parties. But previously, so little did the deponent suspect Mrs Partier of any thing like adultery, that she imagined her “to be a very different sort of woman”.


One evening, however, in the month of April, 1815, this deponent and her husband being out walking, they met upon the turnpike-road the said Ann Pastier returning from Towcester, where she had been to see her sisters, and to leave her eldest child at school. The deponent observing her to be in tears, requested to know the cause; and aster some hesitation, Mrs Pastier said that her sisters had forbidden her ever to enter their house again. The witness then demanded the reason of this prohibition, but without effect, Mrs Pastier continuing to cry very bitterly. At length the witness induced her, some time afterwards, by threatening to leave and forsake her, at which she appeared much agitated, to acknowledge that she was three months advanced in pregnancy by the said Brown. The deponent then severely reproached her, and asked her, how she could ever hope to face her husband again, when he should return? To which she replied, that she hoped her husband never would return from India, that she would rather make away with herself than see him again.: she also candidly acknowledged that Brown was the father of the child with which she was pregnant, and that she loved him infinitely more dearly than she loved her husband. In the month of September 1815, Mrs Pastier was delivered of a female child; and the entry of its baptism on the church register stated it to be an illegitimate child. There was a variety of other evidence to a few special facts, which were noted by the Court in it’s judgement.


Sir John Nicholl said, that had he not carefully read over the whole of the evidence in this case himself, he should have thought it a matter of duty that it should now be read by counsel; and more especially as it always behoved the Court, acting for the interest of the public, that evidence in cases of this sort should not be admitted but upon good and sufficient proof; but as the Court had already read it, it was not necessary that counsel should be put to the trouble of formally repeating it. The fact of marriage and cohabitation was proved in the usual way; the fact of the husband’s enlisting and embarking as a soldier for India in December 1812, and of his arrival out, in May 1813, was amply proved by the evidence of comrades who accompanied him on his voyage, or joined him at his destination.


The arrival of the husband in England again, in 1817, was equally established, so that this party was clearly proved to have been absent, out of the kingdom, during the years 1813, 1814, 1815, and 1816. On the other hand, it was in proof that the wife, with the four children which she had by her husband, remained all this time in England; that during her residence at Osterbourne, in the month of September, 1815, she was delivered of a female child. But it being shown that here was a physical impossibility of the husband's being the father of that child; here was therefore demonstrative proof of the wife's adultery. Now upon the husband's coming back in 1817, and being informed by his sister of Mrs Pastier's infidelity, he did not return to cohabit with her. Neither, indeed, did he immediately institute a suit against her, but that arose from his want of the pecuniary means. He called twice, it appeared, at the wife's house; but the Court thought it was very clearly proved that no connexion was renewed between them on either of those occasions; and that it was proved that the husband called merely to enquire after the sister. Besides, he remained no longer than an hour on either occasion; and, under all the circumstances, the court saw nothing improper to impute to him. But it seemed that in 1820 Mrs Pastier was delivered of a second child, the father of which was a butcher in her neighbourhood; Brown, the father of her former illegitimate child, having died in January 1816. Now the case being so perfectly clear as a case of unquestionable adultery on the facts, and the Court holding those facts to be entirely made out in evidence, felt itself bound to pronounce the sentence of separation as prayed.


After the case

Ann Pasteur continued to live in Pattishall until she died in 1847. Her younger illegitimate child, Matilda, also died aged one.

John Lewis Pasteur re-married in 1823, but died within 2 years.