A Love Gone Sour: A Nineteenth Century Tale

Love is a funny thing. It doesn’t always work out and in June of 1874 the Boston Globe reported on a missing bride and a love gone sour. According to the Globe:

“Somewhat more than six weeks ago, Stephen W. Laidler, and English gentleman, was married to Louise Bennett, the forewoman of a bookbinding establishment in New York. The ceremony was performed by the Rev. Mr. Halliday, Henry Ward Beecher’s assistant, at the bride’s boarding-house on Bridge street, in Brooklyn.”[1]

The nuptials happened between a 60-year-old gray haired man and his blushing bride, Louise Bennett, a mere maiden of 22. Unfortunately, the marriage quickly unraveled, and local newspapers picked up the story which the public unanimously designated “fraught with considerable interest”:

“Stephen W. Laidler, and Englishman of education, removed from his family, some four years ago, from East New York to Brooklyn. Here he took rooms in the upper story of No. 87 Fulton street. He managed to make a living as a lawyer’s clerk and copyist in New York. His family consisted of a wife and three children. Mrs. Laidler was a most attractive woman, but shortly coming to Brooklyn her mind became affected, and two years ago, this Summer, she died. Mr. Laidler continued to occupy the same apartments, his daughter, a young lady of nineteen years, taking charge of the household duties.

Mr. Laidler is an active Christian, and a leader in the Plymouth Bethel. He was even for a time a regularly ordained minister in England, and scattered the good seed in missionary work. Quite by chance, in his capacity of a Christian laborer, Mr. Laidler met with Miss Louise Bennett. She attended Plymouth Bethel, and she listened with admiration to the words of wisdom that flowed from the lips of Mr. Laidler.

By and by, Mr. Laidler began to call upon Miss Bennett at her boarding-house. She was not averse to this, and now and then they strolled home from church together, and talked religion and a future life, and the power of love. Things came about as things do sometimes, Mr. Laidler fell in love with the young lady, and, despite his gray hairs, asked her to become his wife. This was on a Sunday. She took till Tuesday to deliberate, and then, while returning from a prayer-meeting at Plymouth Bethel consented.

The marriage took place on Friday evening of the same week. Mr. Laidler brought his wife to the apartments on Fulton street the next day, and then the trouble began. Louisa had married her husband under the delusion that he was rich. When she found that he was very poor, she out-Juliaed the heroine of the honeymoon, and did nothing but sulk. Mr. Laidler was grieved, but he could not give [her] … money when he had no money to give.

At the end of two or three weeks they removed from the Fulton street rooms to No. 153 Adams street. A week ago last Tuesday, Mr. Laidler returned home in the evening and found the young wife missing. She had taken her clothing and all her worldly possessions. She had gone ― completely gone. Mr. Laidler instituted a thorough search, but has found no trace of his bride. Whether she has eloped or whether she has gone off to seek her fortune alone, no one can tell.”[2]

In mid-July the Omaha Daily Bee provided an update on Laidler’s missing wife. The paper noted that he had found Louise and noted, “We congratulated him on his find, but he didn’t seem at all happy. He said she refused to live with him longer.”[3]

Believing that an interesting story could be found the Bee decided to send a reporter to Monroe Street in New York, which is where it was said Louise was residing. When the reporter rang the doorbell, she answered and “eyed” him suspiciously. The reporter wrote:

“She is a splendid-looking girl, and has evidently been accustomed to high living and excellent society. When the writer had assured the lady that he was neither an officer nor an emissary from her venerable husband, she consented to talk about her flight from her husband [and stated] ‘I was a fool to marry that man; I don’t know what made me do it.’”[4]

Love gone sour - Currier and Ives image

Currier and Ives image titled “The Lover’s Walk.” Courtesy of Library of Congress.

When the reporter asked Louise if Laidler misrepresented himself or wondered if he had claimed he was wealthy she replied:

“Well, I’ll tell you how he used to talk. He would say ‘Now, Louise, I am not as wealthy as I wish I was, but I guess you won’t have any cause to complain when we are married.’ … The very first night, He took me to some garret rooms on Fulton street: just think of that ― garret rooms! …

He only gave me twenty-five cents a day to provide for a family of four. And then, after I had been living with him for three weeks he really had the cheek to tell me that he had given me eighteen dollars every week. …

When I found out that he was poor, I said to him it was wrong to marry me if he couldn’t support me, and he said: ‘You didn’t marry me for money, did you?’ I told him I married him for love, but love wouldn’t feed or clothe anybody. Then he talked bible to me.  He said we must lay up treasures in this world. … When I asked him for money he would quote Scripture to me, until I said that a ton of Bibles wouldn’t satisfy me when I was hungry. …

One time I staid with my aunt … because Laidler had left me nothing to get tea with. Then he would accuse of me being too gay. You see we went to a picnic together and I danced five rounded dances with some gentlemen, and that almost killed Laidler; he said I was all the talk among the members of the Plymouth-Bethel, just because I danced at that picnic. … I couldn’t be hugging and kissing him all the while … I couldn’t bear to be obliged to sit on his lap and cuddle him every time I wanted a cent.

He found out where I was, and came to see me the other night, and we had it between us. He said something about my folks. I just raised my hand and went for him, but he threw his arm up and backed off. …

I’ll tell you [why I left him] although it’s not a bit … nice. One morning I noticed the girl washing the dishes in the foot-tub. He came to wash himself and the water spattered on to the dishes. That was one too many for me, and I objected to any further proceedings … Laidler took offense, and I left. But I didn’t elope. … one thing more. I am not going to live with that man again.’”[5]

In summing up the love gone sour and failed marriage The Boston Globe stated:

“Only this is certain that Louise has deserted her husband [once and for all]. Mr. Laidler remains at No. 153 Adams street. His daughter and one son are with him. Bereft of the idol of his maturer affections, he contents himself now with placing his love where it is sure to be returned … leading the meetings at Plymouth Bethel.”[6]


  • [1] The Boston Globe, “A Missing Bride,” June 30, 1874, p. 2.
  • [2] Ibid.
  • [3] Omaha Daily Bee, “Love in a Cottage,” July 13, 1874, p. 3.
  • [4] Ibid.
  • [5] Ibid.
  • [6] The Boston Globe, p. 2.

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