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Times (London)
19 July 1899


This was the petition of Ellen Millicent Ashburner Sickert, née Cobden, for the dissolution of her marriage with Walter Richard Sickert, an artist, by reason of his adultery and desertion.

Mr. Deane, Q.C. (Mr. Llewellyn Davies with him) said that the parties were married at the Marylebone Registry on June 10, 1885. On account of the respondent's occupation the parties were continually travelling abroad on sketching tours, &c. In May, 1895, the wife's suspicions were aroused owing to her finding in her husband's possession a letter signed "Ada." She spoke to him and he admitted his misconduct, but she forgave him. In December, 1898, the petitioner wrote to her husband saying that despite the fact that in September, 1896, he had told her that he had been living an adulterous life ever since they had been married she had hoped against hope that he would reform, but she had been forced by his conduct to abandon that hope for the future. In answer to this letter the respondent wrote, saying, "It is quite true that I have not been faithful to you since our marriage, and it is equally true that during the two years since we parted I have been intimate with several women. As I told you long ago, I cannot continue a life of dissimulation; I have chosen my mode of life and I am unable to alter it. An undertaking to do so on my part would be misleading. Ever your profoundly attached, Walter Sickert." As he persisted in his conduct, and had not supported her for over two years, she determined to live apart from him, and from inquiries which have been made on her behalf it was ascertained that in April and May of this year he had stayed in London and at Newhaven with two different women, and the petitioner then instituted these proceedings. Evidence having been given in support of the charge of adultery, Mr. Justice Barnes inquired how it was proposed to establish the charge of desertion.

Mr. Deane - My submission is that where a man makes it impossible for any decent and self respecting wife to live with him he practically turns her out of the house. The learned counsel cited following cases in support of his argument:- "Graves v Graves" (33 L.J., P. and M., 65); "Pizzala v Pizzala" (12 The Times Law Reports, 451); "Koch v Koch (1899, P., 221).

Mr. Justice Barnes - "Koch v Koch" is no authority for your proposition in this case, for there the misconduct took place in the very house the wife was living in.

Mr. Deane - Yes, it is a much stronger case, no doubt.

Mr. Justice Barnes - The point is an important one. I shall take time to consider any judgement.