Sussex Tragedies and Romances. 219
adventurous careers of the three Shirley's, whose love of wandering took them into the East and made one of them the favourite of Shah Abbas, are another instance of departure from the home-staying habits of Sussex gentry. But, as a rule, the biography of our Sussex county families furnishes few materials for that romance in which many other counties are so rich; and where the novelist or romance-writer has, like Horace Smith, in his " Brambletye House," or Harrison Ainsworth, in his " Rookwood," made Sussex the scene of his story, it is to his invention rather than to historical or biographical fact that he has been indebted for any exciting or tragical events that may have figured in it.
There is, however, one incident in the history of a Sussex family overlooked by novelists and romancists, and, so far as our knowledge extends, unnoticed by our county annalists, which makes good the saying that " fact is strange—stranger than fiction," and, as it casts no slur on any survivors of those who took part in it, may be told without offence.
In July, 1820, a trial came on in the Court of Queen's Bench, before the Lord Chief Justice and a Special Jury, upon the direction of the Lord Chancellor, to try whether the plaintiff, Eliza Ann Harriet Sergison, was the daughter of the late Colonel Francis Sergison, or whether she was a supposititious child imposed upon the family by the contrivance of his wife.
The Colonel Francis Sergison in question was the second son of Francis Jefferson, Esq., a native of Yorkshire, and who had taken the name and arms of the Sergisons of Cuckfield Place, Sussex, on marrying the heiress of that family, and also of the Wardens. His second son Francis entered the army, and must, in those active times, have seen some service, for he rose to the Colonelcy of the 62nd Regiment. But in the year 1806 he was residing in Dublin upon half-pay, having, we are told, dissipated the greater part of his fortune, and being, in fact, so reduced in circumstances, that he was thrown into the Dublin Gaol for debt. Here he met with a companion