First published in 1855, Boadicea; the Mormon Wife belongs to a sub-genre of crime fiction that flourished in the Eastern United States during the 1850s. Boadicea has become increasingly important to scholars of Mormonism because it gives us a glimpse of the Mormon image in literature immediately after the Church's public acknowledgement of plural marriage. Over the next half century, this image would be sharpened and refined by writers with different rhetorical goals: to end polygamy, to attack Mormon theology, or just to tell a highly entertaining adventure story. In Boadicea, though, we see these tropes in their infancy, through a prolific author working at break-neck speed to imagine the lives of a strange people for readers willing to pay the "extremely low price of 15 cents" for the privilege of being amazed by stories of polygyny and polyandry, along with generous helpings of adultery, seduction, kidnapping, and no fewer than fourteen untimely but spectacular deaths: people are shot, stabbed, bludgeoned, poisoned, hanged, strangled, and drowned. No other novel of the nineteenth century comes anywhere near Boadicea in portraying Mormon society as violent, chaotic, and dysfunctional.
Virtually unavailable until now, Michael Austin and Ardis E. Parshall's fresh transcription, introduction, notes, and appendices enable readers to rediscover this intriguing and salacious outsider's view of early Mormonism.