[Victorian fraud: Philip Bliss, Registrar of the University of Oxford; William Okill, agent for Thomas Hudson, claimant to the Dukedom of Devonshire.] Unsigned Autograph notes by Bliss, on Autograph Letter Signed to him by Okill.

Philip Bliss (1787-1857), Registrar of the University of Oxford and Principal of St Mary Hall, antiquary; William Okill of Liverpool, agent for Thomas Hudson, claimant to the Dukedom of Devonshire
Philip Bliss
Publication details: 
ONE (Okill's ALS): '2 Duke Street / Liverpool 30th. June 1848'. TWO (Bliss's Unsigned Autograph notes): Without date or place.
SKU: 25838

This forgotten case of identity fraud predates the celebrated Titchborne case by more than a decade. The only other refence to it located is in a document in the Derbyshire Records Office: a copy of a printed circular appeal for money from Okill, dated 13 October 1849 (a little more than a year later than the present item), on behalf of Thomas Hudson, whose claim to the Dukedom of Devonshire is ‘said to be inherited through grandmother Lady Mary Garget claimant of property left in trust by 4th Duke for his Duchess and Daughter imprisoned for life as lunatic by Trustees with further specious undated details’. For the recipient Philip Bliss, see his entry in the Oxford DNB. Both letter and response are on a 12mo bifolium. It is in good condition, lightly aged and worn. ONE: ALS to ‘Revd Doctor Bliss / &c &c &c’, signed ‘William Okill’. 2pp, 12mo. Fifty-four lines. Neatly and closely written, on the first leaf of the bifolium. Begins: ‘Revd Sir / I have before me your kind communication to my friend Mr. Joshua Hainsworth of Sunnyside Rawtenstall in this County under date Feby 24th. 1848 / We have again to trespass upon your attention for another poor Gentleman who is claiming the Title dignity and Estates of his Ancestor the last rightful Duke of Devonshire - The present possessor & his reputed Father are not Cavendishes, but Smiths - the last was a steward on the Estates and we have affidavits from the old Tenants who knew him as Mr. Smith and also afterwards when he had usurped the name & assumed the Title of Duke’. Should Bliss wish to know more he is enclosing (not present) ‘Hudson’s Petition to Her Majesty requiring her aid in his behalf and which has been referred to Her Attorney General for his report’. He goes into great detail about a ‘Pedigree of the Ducal Line’, ‘remodelled to bring in these Smiths but is has been compiled in so slovenly a way that the plastering or patching up is as visible as new cloth upon an old Garment’. He asks various questions in relation to ‘the different Sons who were entered at the university of Oxford’. He asks Bliss to insert the names ‘as you did in detail as you did [sic] the “Leighs” for it is rather important that we have the Christian name of the Dukes as they occur thus / “John Son of William Earl of Devonshire &c”. Ends: ‘Please to state your charge & it shall be remitted by a Post Office order in due course - / Mr. Ainsworth desires his kind respects’. TWO: Bliss’s notes. 1p, 12mo. On recto of second leaf. Unsigned, but in Bliss’s unmistakable elegant hand. Apparently made by Bliss for his own purposes, while retaining Okill’s letter. (Punctilious to a fault, Bliss would certainly have conveyed the information in a letter to Okill.) Ten lines, in Latin, comprising three entries regarding matriculation of members of the Cavendish family in 1715, 1724 and 1755. See Image of pp.2/3