An Irresistible Temptation

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In 1829 at the Supreme Court in Sydney, the bewitching Jane New was sentenced to death. Her crime: shoplifting a bolt of printed French silk. But was she guilty? Many had their doubts. Although a legal technicality soon quashed Jane's sentence, the autocratic Governor Ralph Darling refused to set her free. Like bees to the honey pot, the gentlemen of Sydney swarmed to Jane's defense including barrister and political agitator William Charles Wentworth and Supreme Court Registrar John Stephen Jr, who were both vigorous and manipulative in their appeals to set her free. An Irresistible Temptation is set against the backdrop of a particularly divisive period in colonial New South Wales. Not only did the scandal titillate Sydney and its legal and political ramifications push the colony to the brink of a constitutional crisis, but it contributed to the savagery of Governor Darling's public vilification and bestowed upon Jane New a place in the annals of Australian colonial history. Compelling and fast-paced, An Irresistible Temptation is a meticulously researched history that takes us from the court docks of industrializing England, to Tasmania's raw penal settlement, the rough-house world of Sydney's Rocks, and eventually back to the rarefied atmosphere of Britain's House of Commons.


Carol Baxter is a Fellow of the Society of Australian Genealogists and one of country's leading genealogical researchers. She has published widely in the area of Australian colonial history.